Envy

It has been months. There have been a lot of unexpected changes in my life and I feel bad for ghosting on my followers through it all. I’ve been debating about posting a personal update on my blog for a few weeks now- not a rant, I’m all out of anger this week. But today I stumbled across an annoying post on one of those mom groups on facebook and it really rubbed me the wrong way. Not enough to rant about it. Just enough to question the way people view the world and the entire fucking meaning of life. Ya know, normal Amber problems.

I obviously am not going to blast some poor mom for her passing judgements on facebook because I’m not that fucking triggered by it, but her post said something to the effect of:

“I don’t understand how so many people are able to go on vacations with their families, drive new cars all the time, and shower their children in new shit. Does anyone else get a little envious of this? I see it all the time, and I KNOW these people do NOT make more money than us.”

Wow. Way to hit the nail on its head. This kind of envy is exactly what social media was created to do to people. If I had been more observant I might have glanced off to the bottom of the screen to see what kind of products were being advertised. Probably a Princess Cruise and a Ford Explorer. I’m not the kind of person to get invested in what people say on facebook. These people aren’t polishing their words in Microsoft office before they share them. They don’t worry much about the repercussions of “offending” people because we live in an age where everyone is offended and nobody even knows why. I did concern myself with the comments though. I glanced through, just to review the response from her “mom peers.”

Most people were polite, explaining that every family has different priorities and different struggles. Some people blamed credit cards or blamed irresponsible parents. Others noted that families often invest and make a lot of money off it. But everyone who commented had one thing in common. They all empathized with having envy.

I’m not going to preach to you about how being envious is a sin. I don’t believe in heaven or hell- or much at all, to be quite honest. Envy is only a sin to someone who believes that god will punishment them for it. We punish ourselves enough with envy.

In February my husband and I decided to start looking for a house. To buy. In San Diego. My husband and I were both 24 years old and had never owned a home before. As many of you know, we moved here from Michigan in 2015 and left our family and our support systems behind in search of a different kind of lifestyle. Nothing will make you feel more isolated than having half the people you know tell you that you are making the wrong choice. But we’re so used to it by now that, when people told us not to buy a house, we used it as motivation to buy one faster.

On February 26th a seller accepted our offer and we began the escrow period for buying our house. I used to wonder how people afforded the things that they had. I used to wonder how they stretched their money out and were able to live happy, fulfilled lives. I wondered how people had the energy to budget their money down to the last penny. But the truth is that if you want to live the lifestyle that someone broadcasts on social media, it’s gonna smack you right in the fucking face.

Over the last two months my life was saturated. I had no time to stop and take a breath, let alone write about it. I started working nights from home and my husband started bringing work home with him. My time was owned by banks and my mind was constantly fleeting from one task to the next. Now that we are settling into our home, I’m taking more time to appreciate what I have. I don’t need to appreciate what someone else has.

Today it is raining. And I am breathing. Please take this as a gentle reminder to value the things that are most important in your life. Do not let those priorities include envy. Envy does not motivate you to be better. It motivates you to value someone else’s success over your own.

A.

The Game of Life

life will chew you up

and spit out the pieces

that it doesn’t like

but those pieces

are the best parts of you

the ones that survived

don’t leave them

lying around

for the world to pick through

Renewing Resolutions

Happy New Year! And welcome to the first week of (fill in year here) where everyone sets ridiculously high expectations for themselves. 2018 turns a fresh page in life, where people are able to reflect on their past year and feel remorse for some of the poor decisions made in 2017. Despite the review of poor outcomes, a trending Millennial view on New Year’s resolutions is to simply not make one. While I stand behind the premise, I think it’s pretty dense to live life entirely void of expectations for yourself. Just take it slow, lower the bar, and plan it out.

2017 was a trying year for me but it was also very rewarding. It’s easy to overlook the successes when they are overshadowed by hardships. Sometimes the best days were a result of the worst months. Deployment was by far one of the largest hurdles I have jumped in my entire life.

Six months of separation from my husband were all resting on one day when we were reunited. I look back at moments from my husbands deployment and think about how difficult life really was for me. Despite all of my trials and tribulations, I always looked to the women who had it harder. It is far too easy to set expectations for life without really knowing what it is going to look like.

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In June of 2017, my husband carried my 11 month old son down the pier and kissed us both goodbye before sailing across the Pacific Ocean. Now, I’m accustomed to be being alone, but it is difficult to swallow the idea of being separated for six months. I’ve watched women crumble at the thought of such a long separation, but at this point in our lives, I find it laughable.

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One of the best pieces of advice I followed was given to me by a woman working full time, while pregnant, taking care of two daughters, and running her own house during her husbands deployment. She told me to never wait to be happy. Deployment is a hurdle- and I had to jump it. Ready or not, happy or sad- there was no “out” for me. There is no easy way out in life, no simple solutions- and no fucking easy street.

There are always going to be hardships with each passing year. If your expectation is to never have difficulty in your life, then your resolutions will shatter by the end of this week. Strength is how we overcome obstacles in life, not how we avoid them.

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Resolve to reorganize. It is easy to allow the modern day conveniences to run your bank account and your life. If you want to get healthy, don’t sign up for a gym membership. Cancel your Netflix subscription and walk around the produce department at the grocery store. Money aside, your resolution should benefit you more than the retail companies marketing the ideas to you.

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Change comes from within us. This year, I resolve to let the house get messy. I want the dishes to pile up and the clean clothes to get wrinkled before I fold them. I want to wear the same sleep shorts for three nights in a row because I don’t give a fuck with the neighbors think of me when I take the dog out in the morning. I resolve to invite people over to my messy house for dinner. I resolve to cultivate relationships in unlikely places, wash my hair a little less, and smile before I’ve brushed my teeth in the morning. I resolve to give myself just as much of me as I give to everyone else. I resolve to kiss my husband with food in my mouth and take myself less seriously when I do it. In fact, I resolve to take everyone less seriously. I resolve to spend more time with my son than I do cleaning up after him.

Let life be messy, enjoy it.

A.

How to Take “Constructive Criticism”

Being a parent is hard. It’s a job that requires no qualifications- but demands 100% effort. Nobody goes to school for this. The most guidance we receive comes from the 90 minute classes on child birthing during the second trimester of pregnancy. The “oh shit” moments don’t start happening until the first night home from the hospital. That’s when we realize that these tiny humans are going to dictate the rest of our lives. Forever. No really. Forever.

The pressure starts before the contractions. Three months into the first trimester, I broke the news to our family. It was a Christmas party. I remember hugging each family member and whispering the news into their ear. The sweetest surprises are the ones that are the most anticipated. Everyone was ecstatic. The putrid droplets of wisdom, long since expired, dropped from their lips like they had been saved, all this time, just for this very moment. But everyone is going to have their own advice. Their own stories. Suggestions.

Parents are good at feeling attacked. It’s not because we are too sensitive or emotional. Becoming a parent is like being signed up to a class, dedicated to telling you that you don’t fucking matter anymore. And every lesson plan is a new piece of advice, conflicting with every other piece of advice you have ever heard. And at the end of each day, you’re told that everything you have done is wrong and that you failed. No matter who you listen to. No matter what tools you use. You are wrong.

Older generations have told me that I am easily offended. I see it every day in the comments section of every controversial facebook meme. I can’t figure out if they honestly believe that their advice is so important that it should be valued above research studies and personal experiences. Social media has allowed opinions to be valued over relationships. It’s easier to delete Aunt Karen on Facebook than to tell her that taking castor oil in labor can literally kill an unborn baby. People want to believe that the advice they followed was the right advice. So much so that they will steer other people to follow it. There is a fight to be right in parenting.

Social media holds my generation accountable for every word we say, every step we take, and every second of our parenting. The more we share, the more we are criticized. There are like, 40 states between my family and everyone I grew up with- but social media makes it feel like they live right next door. I’m faced with the challenge of wanting everyone to be as involved in my son’s life as possible, while not wanting to share the most intimate details and decisions in my life.

I do not let fear of failure or judgement control my decisions. The two faces of facebook became apparent to me when I climbed a mountain with my son when he was 9 months old. My photos exploded with likes and reactions. But my inbox was beaming with questions of criticism and worry.

“Don’t you think that is a little dangerous…”

“What’s the matter with you!? You could have gotten hurt!”

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Why the fuck would I listen to that? Is that my responsibility as a parent? To fucking drown in someone else’s worries and concerns? Because my lifestyle as a parent is to go hiking and mountain climbing with my family, do you honestly believe that it gives you the right to have an unchallenged opinion? News flash: Opinions do not have to be spoken and shared every time they run through your head. You can actually just not say anything at all. There’s this really cool thing that I’m allowed to do as a parent. I’ve been doing it for a while now actually and it’s working out great. I don’t really have a name for it but I highly recommend that you try it. Don’t fucking respond to people’s criticisms or questions. Ignore them. It’s fucking amazing, I’m telling you. I literally get to decide how much negativity people dump into my life. And I do it all by not giving a fuck.

It’s ironic because the generations that are the quickest to accuse millennials of being “too sensitive” are the quickest to get hurt when you don’t accept their opinions blindly. Don’t let social media tell you how happy you are allowed to be.

A.

How to be Successful

Ever since I was old enough to listen, I’ve allowed people to define the way I view my own success. I was born into a generation that was told that we could have anything as long as we wanted it bad enough. But I have spent my whole life wanting and asking and working and every time I find myself within inches of the finish line, I fail.

For awhile I blamed myself. I wondered why I was standing in my own way of success. When I got angry enough, I would blame the world. I started writing when I was 12 years old. My first work: a suicide note. After being bed ridden with an illness that rendered me unable to take care of my own basic needs for 6 months, I could think of nothing else that I wanted more than to go back to school. But when I got back to my 5th grade classroom, I found that my classmates had stolen my possessions. They filled my desk with trash and ripped up my artwork.

My classmates thought I was dying. Maybe they wanted something to remember me by, maybe they wanted to destroy my painful memory. But nothing hurt me like the day that kids started telling me that they wished I was dead. I had just beaten an infectious disease that nobody had ever heard of and that was my reward for such a great success.

I didn’t fucking ask for a participation trophy.

There are defining moments in our lives that shape who we become as individuals. My illness did shape the person that I was going to become. My definition of success shaped my character and my future and fuck, it probably shaped my morals and parenting and just about every other aspect of my life. At 12 years old, I thought it would be better to end it all than to continue living with that fucked up vision of myself. But I didn’t.

I remember my first day of college. I got lost in the science building. I felt like an idiot. My science professor was an asshole. He made every person in that lecture hall feel like a piece of garbage. I wanted to raise my hand and ask him why he had to make us feel inferior in order for him to feel like a successful teacher. I never thought that the teachers were supposed to belittle their students. I left campus feeling pretty shitty about myself that day. I found my car, navigated the one-way roads, went north instead of south on the freeway, and cried “wee wee wee” all the way home.

I approached my parents driveway slowly, wondering how I was going to tell them that I wasn’t cut out for college like I thought I was. I’ll never forget how I pulled in the driveway with tears in my eyes, feeling like the tiniest fleck of shit that had ever graced a public restroom. As I parked my car and wiped my eyes, I looked up to see my father standing at the top of the driveway. I could see his eyes glisten with pride as he smiled. His only child had just finished her first day of college. I had surpassed him in graduating high school and setting out to do things that he never could have imagined for himself.

Defining Moments.

I’ve spent my whole life telling people to fuck off and I’m not going to stop now. If you don’t like the way that someone paints your success, you have every right to tell them to fuck off. Not everyone is going to have the perfect paintbrush to highlight your best features. I’ve been struggling through adult life for awhile now and I’ve learned that age defines the things we hate, not the people we are.

As a teenager, I hated children. I hated that I was forced to transition into a different part of life before I was ready. I hated that I was sexualized before I was fucking ready to be. I hated that children didn’t have to care about what they looked like and I did. I hated that I was forced to be picked last for sports. I hated that I was still treated like a child, even though boys were allowed to touch me in ways that I didn’t even want to touch myself.

My twenties made me hate teenagers. I despise how they make mistakes and don’t learn from them. I don’t understand how they sleep all day and stay up all night and don’t pay attention to the world. I hate how they feel the need to be the center of attention. And then I stop. Because I do not want to be a part of the generation that hates the younger generation.

Every age comes with it’s own challenges and defining moments. When I’m 60, I will not be criticizing the only people who can save me. If I die at 70, a plate of success will be my last supper. I will decide what is on that plate. You can dine at my table or you can fuck off.

A.

Waiting

i am the wife of a man, who lives in a tin can. from the moment i said that ‘i do’, this is the life that i choose. i choose to love the breeze that brings his love to me from what ever fucking fleet that he sails through this week.

but my son didn’t choose this life. he was forced to accept this- like we accepted it, 6 months in, with a bulge between my hips, we cried together when we realized he would miss our unborn sons first birthday.

people tell me to be optimistic but follow it up with, ‘i don’t know how you do it’, and seal my casket off with ‘you chose this, so get over it’.

but i have to be careful with optimism. saying things like, ‘i have a surprise for you’ is a slap on the wrist to a boy with one wish so fatefully diminished. you can seal it with a kiss. but how insulting is it to fill a child’s head with hope, knowing that he is going to feel punished?

A.

Mountains

There is not enough time in the day. Every morning I wake up with the assumption that I alone, will be able to carve apart the mountains that I have built of my challenges. I’ve meticulously planned every day of my life so that I wonder who owns my time. Truly I must, but the mountains that tower over me are so hard to climb. Today I realized that I have planned my own disappointment. In the lists, I have calculated exactly what needs to be done so that I, the creator of my own obstacles, can feel pride. In these lists, I orchestrated my own failure.

But have you ever climbed a mountain? Or even stood at the base of one? Standing at the bottom of a mountain that is over 1000 feet in elevation will realign even the most troubled of priorities. It’s not every day that I can drag myself to the base of a mountain, but on the days that my challenges paralyze me, I find it to be most important. I cannot just flutter through life, half completing my goals every day. Although it is sometimes difficult to imagine, challenges are only pebbles next to mountains.

I’m not a godly woman. I am one of those people who passes through a church parking lot only to collect the pokeballs and any rare pokemon that might be lurking around. I can assume that in 200 years, this type of activity will be written into every holy book as a sin. I wonder if there will be coupons for first-class seats in hell at the end of each holy scripture.

While I busied my mind with the idea of burning in hell for eternity, far in the distance I saw a tree- dead on the top of the mountain. For a moment, I pitied the tree. Having to live through the harsh heat of southern California must be far more challenging than any hurdle I’ve jumped. Then I realized, this tree has no concept of difficulty or pain. This tree managed to grow from rock and clay to fulfill its exact destiny on this planet. The tree is dead- but it died at the summit of a mountain.

I have triumphed through every challenge I have ever faced in my life. I might stumble and fall, but can’t turn back until I’ve reached the peak. All mountain climbers must have a similar philosophy: Make it to the top, or die trying.

A.