To All the Friends I’ve Lost Along the Way

I have lost many friends over the years. A few were stolen by Death (may they rest in peace), but far more of them I have lost to life.

Some of those losses have been easy; a simple cease of communication was enough to loosen our bonds. Other endings have been sloppy & painful, leaving both parties scorned. Some are intentional, others unintentional. But the common thread among all of them is that they have been necessary.

See, I believe everyone comes into your life for a reason, but not everyone stays. Those exits happen for a reason, too. We cannot expect to be able to keep everyone. We are dynamic, as are what we need and what we want. Our relationships must ebb and flow, too.

So, to those friends who I have moved on from, or that have moved on from me, I wish you the best of luck in life. My absence does not mean I am wishing you ill will; on the contrary, I hope you are soaring. I hope whatever may have caused the gash between us to have healed when your wounds were less fresh. For, it’s true: we cannot find a place for everyone in our lives. But, we can always find a place to wish them well.

Lessons From Mom

As performed in the live show Expressing Motherhood in May and June of 2018

There are things our parents choose to do that stay with us forever. These actions, good or bad, teach us the lessons we carry into adulthood and especially parenthood.

Like the time my older brother found a wallet filled to the brim with cash. I was four and he was seven, but as children of a single mother in the eighties, we already knew the value of a dollar; Mom was never one to shelter us from our reality. I remember my brother handing her the leather square in the narrow aisles of a pharmacy. Mom had just tearfully admitted to the clerk she had only enough money for one antibiotic regimen, but two sick children. After she grew a bit sharp with her tongue, as she sometimes did, she was given back the prescription slip and turned away. Only moments later the Universe delivered her a wallet full of money.

I remember Mom looking around, then stuffing it deep underneath her arm in one swift movement. When we arrived home, she unearthed it from her purse, then began counting out the bills onto our hand-me-down coffee table. When she finished at just over a thousand dollars, she pulled out the Driver’s License within the plastic protectant and picked up the phone beside her. We waited with baited breath, unsure of what her next move would be.

“Operator? Yes. Can I please be connected with a ———– from Studio City?”

Moments later she was chatting with a very worried man who wanted to know the whereabouts of his wallet and missing mortgage payment. She offered him her work address and told him to pick it up the next day, but not before confirming how much dough he expected to be returned to him.

When she had replaced the receiver in its plastic cradle, my brother asked, “Why didn’t you return the wallet to the pharmacy if you weren’t going to take any of the money yourself?” To which she replied, “I don’t know if they would have returned it with everything inside. But, I knew I would. I don’t take what’s not mine, because that would be assuming we need it more.”

And at a very young age of four, I learned what my mom’s credo was: honesty must come before anything, including my own needs.

Speaking of Mom’s honesty, I’ll admit it wasn’t always my favorite. She had little filter, and people were often made uncomfortable by her. For example, she once wrote a letter that would be read to my entire sorority at a graduation-related event, which she knew when set out to write it. Despite this, she described in the note how I matured early, as well as that by the age of five, was already concerned whether I’d “get my period by college or not.” See? You’re uncomfortable. So, yeah, I didn’t always enjoy her openness.

But if Mom’s actions taught me anything it’s that the world needs honesty, even if people have trouble digesting it. There was the time she beat me to picking up the phone, and Corey Feldman was on the other line. At the age of seventeen I began running his website, and over the next four years would help him a great deal with local appearances. But, in this moment, he was my boss, and Mom was my very uncool parent who I obviously still lived with.

When Mom realized the gruff voice on the other end belonged to Corey, she was thrilled. She cooed,”Hey Corey! We actually just finished watching one of your films.” She hit the speaker phone and winked at me playfully.

“Oh, yeah?” he replied. “Which one?”

“Amy? What was it called?” Meanwhile, I have turned a ripe shade of red and was silently begging for the phone. But I whisper my reply nonetheless, “Edge of Honor.” She repeats me, and for a moment things seem O.K. because, hey, she hasn’t embarrassed me. It’s a miracle! Then she concludes, “You looked really drugged out in it.”

My heart fell into my stomach, and I instantly tasted bile. I held my breath as my recently exciting social life flashed before my eyes.

Corey waited a few beats. Finally, he replied, “Well, that’s because I was.” And with that, the floodgate opened. He talked about his difficult childhood and former addictions, and Mom listened. Just before Mom finally disengaged the speaker and handed me the phone, Corey asked her to attend an anniversary screening of The Goonies as his date. Much of the cast would be there, and he was inviting her to sit with them.

And, in all my years as one of Corey’s assistants, this would be the most Corey ever opened up. Thus, driving home Mom’s point that transparency is the most healing policy.

Mom’s emphasis on honesty was the most recurring lesson I ever received from her, and I suppose it is what led me to this point. To being a mother that strives to create children who are fair and thoughtful. And to pursuing a career that is intended to inspire mental health and a more accepting world. But, every parent leaves their children with indelible memories that turn into life lessons.

Maybe my children will be up here in a few decades talking about me, and with any luck, it’ll be positive. Maybe your children will be up here narrating what you did with your time as a parent. What will our actions teach our children? I wonder what sort of world they will create together with these lessons.”

To listen to this via Podcast, click here, but please pardon my opening night jitters.

It Literally Takes a Village

Everyone’s heard the adage, “It takes a village,” in respect to parenting. And thousands of years ago, people did actually have the help of a village in raising their children. Consider our original mode of survival: hunting and gathering. Tribes of people co-existed in relatively small areas and relied on each other in various ways. Everyone shared chores, and goals were reached as a collective effort, including raising all the children. This ensured a maximum survival rate because let’s face it, sometimes just surviving is incredibly hard, and no one can do it all on their own.

Yet, today’s modern parent is expected to virtually do just that. We now live yards (if not acres) away from each other in huge houses with only our immediate nuclear families. We don’t have our closest girlfriends, elders, and a medicine man all living within a ten foot radius of us to help with our burden. Some of us are with our children, with no other real adult interaction, for hours (or even days) on end. We can seek relationships on the internet, but when relative anonymity is an option, it’s pretty much scientifically proven that there is a huge increase in general nastiness. Thus, there tends to be nothing communal about some of those larger Mommy and Daddy groups out there.

So, when I read yet another entry by an aching, isolated woman who feels like she’s losing her battle with Postpartum Depression or something similar, my heart weeps with my sisterhood in Motherhood. I know how isolated and lonely she must feel, especially within those first few years. Sleep deprived, her hormones going haywire and attempting to find equilibrium. She is desperate to find a semblance of who she was pre-baby, while being immersed (OK, more like drowned) in her new world of infinite commitment and consuming love. The fears, the anxieties, the worries. They are overwhelming. No, they are suffocating.

And we all have them. Within the trenches of our swelling hearts, resides the worries. Will I be a good mother? Do I have what it takes? Can I keep them safe? The pressure is immense, but the fact remains: we all feel it. None of us are alone in this journey, even if we assume that we are. We only feel inadequate because we weren’t meant to brave this incredible, life-altering journey in such an isolated manner. We were meant to have a village behind us.

So, for all of you who feel like you’ve lost yourself, who can’t find footing in this sudden onrush of emotions and sleep deprivation and love and pain, just know this: the feeling of trying to stay above the water, but repeatedly being swallowed by the waves… It’s not forever. It will slowly subside over time. We all feel it at some point, to some degree. You are not alone.

And since you are not alone, others have survived. When it feels like you’re alone in this, there’s always someone to turn to. If one of us doesn’t know how to discuss it, she may have someone in her remote “village” that does. And if that doesn’t work, there are professionals who are trained to guide us. Because none of us are alone in our worry and pain. We are a sisterhood in modern Motherhood, and we just have to work a hell of a lot harder to find our village.

 

Why I Gambled the Car Away (And You Should, Too)

letsmakeadeal

It’s a funny thing, being a winner. Even saying it – the act alone leaves me with a heavy pit in my stomach. I spent such a large portion of my life honoring a very opposing schema, and to promote any other image of myself seems like a big, fat life.

Yet, five years ago (less a few weeks) I experienced one of my all-time favorite life experiences in which I was (momentarily) the ultimate winner. I had the chance to appear on CBS’s “Let’s Make a Deal.” And I won. I won big. Within a few seconds of the show beginning, I had been selected from the audience and – shockingly – presented with a brand, new car to take home with me! So, why is it that when the final showcase began (the segment when the biggest winners are given a chance to gamble away their prizes for potentially bigger prizes) did I eagerly give away the CAR that I had just won? I think that might be one of the most common questions I’ve ever received.

As I alluded before, if someone had asked me if I was a winner during my childhood, I would have likely responded, “Oh no, not at all.” Then my cheeks would have feverishly burned with embarrassment. My brother would have piped up and said, “I’m the winner. I win everything.” And he did. He always won any contest he entered. I often hid myself in his shadow so as not to face my fear of rejection. Now, as an adult, it’s undeniable to me that I am in fact a winner. I mean, who else can say they’ve won a car, concert tickets, writing contests, an in-home sauna, a high-resolution camera, household items, a high-end car seat, tons of baby paraphernalia, etc? Not many. And it makes the small portion of younger Amy that still exists blush even more, admitting that I’ve experienced all this good fortune in my adult life. But the question remains – what is the difference between adult me and child me?

Simple: as a child, I was a loser in the truest sense because I never even allowed myself to enter the race. I psyched myself out long before any attempt at success was made.

So, that day on “Let’s Make a Deal” I had hoped that I would win more – I mean, how often do you find yourself on the receiving end of a brand new car? For FREE? And if life is THAT crazy, why couldn’t I walk away with more? I mean, how often would I find myself in that same position? Probably never. So, I seized the opportunity while I had it. I put myself out there. And that, my friends and readers, is the reason I am a winner now. Walking away with a sauna, despite a massive drop in prize worth, was still amazing to me. I don’t think, “Shit, I could have had a car.” I think, “Wow. What an experience! I won a sauna.”

And life has a funny way of proving this to be true. Call it statistics, call it luck – its simply this: the more you put yourself out there, the higher the chance that you’ll win. “I never win anything.” I’ve heard that a million times. I’ve said it far more times than I can count. But I bet right after you proclaimed those self-defeating words, you decided not to enter the race/raffle/audience/whatever. Thus, the secret to winning, is simply allowing yourself to face the possibility of failure.

Worry Wart No More

Although I have several faithful people to rely on, I still prefer to do things on my own. I’ve always been this way, even if I am anxious and worrisome as a result. My mother was a strong, independent woman and I always admired her for these reasons. I try to exemplify these positive attributes of hers even if it stresses me out, and it earned me the nickname of “worry wart.” Thus, I am the woman who left the hospital two days after my c-section. I am also the one who decided it was a good idea to take my toddler and newborn to brunch just three weeks into being a parent of two. As I packed them to go the words of my girlfriend who had become a mommy twice over not long before ran thru my head incessantly, “I didn’t take them out by myself for at least a couple months.” Was it really that bad? I would soon find out; the three minute drive was over and I couldn’t turn back.  As we piled out of the car, I started to sweat.

We walked thru the parking lot and into the quaint little cafe that we frequent quite often without being hit. I call that a success. Our venture continued with us being seated. My luck continues!… And then shit hit the fan. Moments in, and by moments I mean a mere five to seven seconds into our peaceful brunch date, I poked my toddler in the eye. Doesn’t sound so bad, because let’s be real, we’ve all done it. But it actually kinda was. The poke was deep enough to lodge one of her incredibly long eyelashes into her eyeball. The little sucker slid under her lid and it took a good five minutes of crying to dislodge it. But the damage was done. She was in a pissy, whiny mood. You know the, I don’t give a shit about life because I haven’t eaten yet today, Kinda mood? But like, ten times worse because it’s not your husband – it’s your toddler. Thankfully, my only stroke of genius that day was to allow my daughter to bring with her to the restaurant only what she could carry in her tiny, little arms. So she brought a huge puzzle. Was it a logical choice? No. But she’s two. And it ended up being awesome because the very moment I pulled it out, her incessant whining ceased. However, it was then that my three week old started crying.
Enthralled in her puzzle, I was bought some time. She would be occupied for at least ten minutes. Would the food come before that? Would Adam stir in his car seat again once I rocked him back to sleep? Would I have to eat my breakfast over his head while breastfeeding, hoping not to drop runny eggs on him? Why the hell do I always order runny eggs? All of these questions flashed through my mind. As I attempted to quiet my newborn and do a Paw Patrol puzzle with my daughter, I couldn’t help but day dream of being somewhere far, far away. I closed my eyes and imagined mySelf on  a remote island, laying on a chaise lounge, sucking down an incredibly tasty but strong pina colada, listening to Bob Marley. When I gathered the courage to open my eyes again and take it all in, I couldn’t help but laugh. The scene before me was actually quite comical. My first time around I would have worried about having the cranky baby at the brunch table, but this second time at the rodeo is drastically different. I sat back with a silly grin and acted as audience member to my own sideshow. With a diff lens it was actually pretty hilarious, the disheveled woman tending to the the puzzle-doing, eye-rubbing toddler and the hysterical infant. Let me tell you, it felt a whole lot better to laugh than stress about it all.
In the end, I had to nurse my son before the food came. He was still nursing when it got there. And he was not done nursing when I wiped the runny egg off of his onesie. After my daughter got some food in her system she was no longer scary mean either. So, despite having a rough start, all’s well that ends well, I guess. That’s the key to keeping your sanity as a parent, right? Just know that Shit will hit the fan. Pretty often, most likely. But, as Bob Marley said, “everything’s gonna be alright.”

Where Does Hatred Come From?

Where does hatred come from?

I originally answered this question on my blog almost two years ago, but in honor of the twelve lives a shooter stole this morning in Thousand Oaks, I thought I would repost it. This conversation MUST happen.

*A quick disclaimer: I am in no way an expert on this subject. I have no impressive degree from an Ivy League school. However, I grew up in a household in which one of three of its members was filled with a hatred so compelling it sparked violence. Thus, Id like you to consider my theory on the subject as a result of a twenty-two year case study. So, why did my brother come out the way he did?

I am a firm believer that no one is born with the desire to hurt others. We, as humans, naturally need each other to survive. Some of us may be more genetically inclined to be aggressive, but our relationship with others is purely social. So, why is it that some can ruthlessly murder others while others dedicate their lives to improving society? I believe the difference is simple: attachment.

I have been told Jesse seemed “different” as early as the age of three. This was the age my father left our family. This was the same year I was born. The same year my mother was forced to become a single mother. All of these factors would change someone. I have a child who is now just over three. I feel the incredibly strong attachment we have to each other – if I left her now, I am sure it would effect her infinitely. It would cause a little piece of her to disappear – her confidence, stability, and feeling of security in the world would lessen.

But would it cause her to hate others indefinitely? To lash out and desire to hurt people? I don’t believe so. But, imagine the pain she would feel if she was faced with several other experiences similar to this. Times when other people abandoned her or let her down. The more isolation she feels, the less empathy she would possess.

This was my brother’s case.
He was short, he was teased, he was never really accepted by his classmates. He was ostracized for characteristics that were out of his control. He had been diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome as a young child, his tics making him seem even less “normal” than he already was. His behavior became more deviant as time went on, as his laundry list of diagnoses increased. He began to get into fights at school. He was angry and volatile. His school did nothing; this was not in the sensitive days of late. Back then it was “kids will be kids,” and “Do you think he’s cut out for school? Maybe he should get his CHSPE.”

So, in short, as he entered young adulthood and attempted to find connections, everyone but my mother told him he wasn’t worth the trouble. Mom believed in him infinitely. She knew he was capable of so much more than what people had begun to expect of him. The pressure to meet my mother’s standards despite everyone else’s grew too much for him, and he attempted suicide. Twice. Only a few years after, his violent attempts were re-directed at my mom.

Starting in middle school, I watched the trials that both my mom and brother went through. I watched society tell her what she was doing wrong. I watched society tell him how much less value he held because he was different, and how he ought to behave to fit in. I watched them both fail over and over, and everyone around them show them how they were screaming up instead of offering help. It was nearly unbearable for me to witness; I cannot even begin to conceive how hard it was for both of them to go through.

Their increasingly tenuous relationship forced Jesse to leave home for a bit. Unfortunately, his stint away delivered him into a volatile military career. It only took a few months before it came to a screeching halt and his mental illnesses became apparent; he had chosen to stop concealing them under the duress of boot camp. He somehow exited with honorable discharge, and still, very little mental health benefits. Upon his return home to Mom he felt even angrier and isolated.

And, to make an incredibly long and painful history shorter, after twenty-five years of being told he was different, feeling little connection to those around him, and being attached to nothing but his desire to make people feel as little as he had all his life, Jesse killed my mom.

But, quite often people like Jesse hurt strangers. They pack their cars with guns and their minds with plans, and execute others while they’re at school, sitting in movie theaters, or celebrating their freedom. Because people like Jesse, who have never really attached to anyone soundly, often feel the need to show others just how awful this isolation can feel. That’s where the hatred comes from.

So, what can we do to change this? The solution does not lie in any one person’s control. It is not solely our government’s job to restrict guns more. It is not only about how a parent has failed their deviant child. It’s less about guns and parenting (although stricter laws on both cannot hurt our children more than the guns literally have).

This is about love. No matter if you’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Islamic, Atheist, Greek Orthodox, Agnostic, Democratic, or Republican. No matter your gender, sexual orientation or socioeconomic level, our duty as humans is to help others. To open our hearts to others and aide those in pain and in need. Allowing people to feel part of the human race or tribe, rather than an anomaly or a member of a smaller, less important faction, that is what will end the hatred.

As the Red Hot Chili Peppers sing, “Red black or white, This is my fight, Come on courage, Let’s be heard, Turn feelings, Into words.” Let’s start a dialogue that allows the pained to be heard and the isolated to feel accepted. Then, and only then, will we see the hatred begin to melt away. And until we can open our hearts, stay safe, everyone.

The Year of 29

As I round the proverbial bend to 29, I am tempted to do a bit of reflection. My twenties have been filled to the brim with action: college raucousness, my dream job (at the time), betrayal, losing my family to domestic violence, legal battle, travel, fulfilling lifelong dreams, romance, marriage, pregnancy, buying my first home. More than enough action for a lifetime. Or two. But, as I settle into 29, I have to stop and think about what it all means to me. I have to ponder how every heartache and happiness I have endured has led me to where I am today. And then I need to move on.

In the past, I spent the majority of my time attempting to be older, wiser, prettier, more popular. In short, I’ve spent my life desperately trying to be someone and something else. I grew up in L.A., and more specifically Calabasas, a place where image was everything and personality was not. I was persecuted by peers for being different, but the most stifling oppression I faced was being doled out internally. And by starting this blog, I am venturing to come clean and shed my biggest flaw: discontentedness.

As thirty tiptoes closer with each passing day, I know this is the time to work on myself. I am part of a family of three, perhaps one day four, but I am also an individual. An individual who catches herself living in the past, or worrying about the future. This happens so often that, sadly, I find myself missing out on what’s happening right in front of me. A brilliant soul shared a beautiful analogy with me the other day: “If the whole world was to end in one week, would you spend your week worrying about the little time you have left? Or would you revel in it, enjoy it?” I answered immediately, “I would savor every moment!” So she replied, “Then why waste your time worrying about your past or present now?” Touche, old friend, touchĂ©.

Thus, my biggest resolution for this new year (both 29 & 2014) is to, as ridiculously clichĂ© as it sounds, live every moment as if it were my last. To immerse myself in the beauty of my daughter’s giggles, my husband’s unending passion for the Los Angeles Kings, valuable conversations with my girlfriends. I hope to shed the anxiety and worry that I present myself when I think about moments other than the ones I am currently living. I also resolve to take time for myself, for my mental and physical well-being.

And in this crazy life of motherhood and wifehood, I find very little time for myself. I haven’t gotten a haircut for a year, my glasses give me headaches because the prescription hasn’t been accurate for months, and one of my toenails is as long as the nail file itself. But a haircut and a pedicure are only surface fixes. The feeling I get as I write is better than any high. In the land of long hair (don’t care!), helpless glasses, and unattractive feet, I know I won’t find time to post weekly. Or maybe even monthly. Nonetheless, I will promise myself to write when I can. Because every wife-mommy-writer-educator, hell… person… needs a healthy outlet. And apparently sharing my thoughts and feelings with the cyber world is the perfect outlet for me.

Lastly, If you have taken the time to read this, I appreciate you greatly. I also want you to know I didn’t start this blog as means for preaching. Nor did I start it for attention. I decided to start this blog simply to commit. I am committing to taking that valuable me-time. I am committing to purging my thoughts in order to feel catharsis. I am also starting it because although some don’t feel the call to write, those same people may feel the call to read. Finally, I am committing myself to a year of introspection, contentedness, and thus, wholeness. And hopefully, this year is only the beginning.