Mother's Day

I know that's right.

This was a disappointing Mother's Day, but it's not the end of the world. I got a last-minute homemade card on printer paper that was thrown together while I took a shower about an hour or two after I woke up. I had already cried on the phone to my own mom about how it felt to wake up to a sleeping-on-the-couch ex-husband and a daughter plopped in front of the television. 

In a way it's better this way, because it's a more honest depiction of what this relationship has been like. I'm not that big on gifts, I'm an "it's the thought that counts," person. So it's never about gifts, it's about the thought, or lack thereof. I always had to do lots of reminders that my birthday was coming, ask for a cake, ask to get to go to dinner, email exactly the gift I wanted well in advance, if there was anything that I had my eye on. So really, I didn't really get a thought that counts. I had to do all the thinking about me for my spouse. Then keep that a secret because he didn't want to look bad in front of others. 

It's all right, he was never malicious. It's just like, a benign negligence. He's not wired that way. And I'm not particularly materialistic so it never used to bother me, until I started thinking that it might be nice to be with someone who occasionally thought of me, and wanted to do something nice for me. Even if it's like, hey I drove by this field that had a bunch of flowers in it, and I know you love flowers so get up, we're going to frolic through a meadow today. 

You know I'm a find a way to drag Will Ferrell gifs into this, people. Y'all KNOW ME BY NOW.

What's funny is that when I got up this morning, there was a part of me that was hoping that he wouldn't have done anything for me, because it feels so fake to do these holidays sometimes when there isn't much substance in your relationship. But when it turned out that he actually hadn't... It stung. Like, I don't want him to love me or anything, but my daughter is too young to do Mother's Day on her own, and since school is closed there was no one else to sit her down in front of some craft supplies and make me something sweet and homemade that would mean the world to me, that I'd put in a box and keep forever. So he's the one who's got to do it. And he didn't. And it's like, you know... I'm not the best housekeeper in the world, but I do a lot for this family. I cook really good meals, I bake bread, I put together little treats, even when we're on lockdown. I open the blinds in the morning and let the sun in, I close them and turn on the lights in the evening, I turn them off and lock the doors at night. I dress my daughter in outfits that are somewhat coordinated-looking and do her hair. I get the day started and give it some structure as it goes on, and wrap it up when it's finished. 

I don't do it the best out of everyone, I whine frequently and ask for help. I'm not a tireless work horse or anything. But I do the things no one else around here does, and a construction-paper card with my daughter's handwriting on it would have meant a lot to me. I still make this place a home even though he lives here and I'd really prefer to be apart, but I don't exclude him from the dinners and treats I make, or make it weird or awkward for all of us to be living together still. 

So, yeah, I called my mom and cried on the phone this morning. Her response was great, "Father's day is next month, and you know what to do then!" Bwahahahahaha...

We were talking about social media and how fake it can be. Last year, I asked him, "Could you maybe post something for Mother's Day?" and he replied, "I already did a post for my mom." And I was like, "No, I meant for me. I know we're not together but it would mean a lot to me if you just wrote a little something." I didn't want to be the only one of my friends who are mothers to not get a little post on there. So he did it and people probably thought that was very generous and noble of him to write something nice about me, even though I was leaving him. 

My mom was telling me not to worry because people are so unbelievably fake on social media and everybody knows it. Comparison is the thief of joy, etc. And she's right. But I've learned some things, and I told her this as we kept talking... People might be fake on social media quite a bit, but I also know people in person and I've observed what other marriages are like, the good and the bad. And there's something that I've realized about my own part in the downfall of mine, and that is that I really shouldn't have married this person in the first place. I don't blame myself anymore, because I really had no way of knowing at that time that I was making the wrong move. I was too immature. I was kind of rushed because immigration played a part in it. If we wanted to stay together we needed to legalize our relationship, so Uncle Sam was sticking his old nose where nobody wanted it. I wasn't really taking marriage seriously. I was turning my nose up at the archaic old tradition, I just figured we'd do it our way, do it differently, and anyone who had a problem with that could go suck an egg. And in the back of my mind, I thought, I can always get out of this. But I didn't think I'd ever really want to get out of it. 

A good friend of mine is a reiki healer, and a darn good one, and I was chatting with her as I booked another session for next week (seriously, she's really good). We were talking about the dream I had had the night before, and she told me that she feels that I really need to separate from him physically in order to fully step into my power, and she's thought that since she first met me a few years ago. It was so validating, because most people try to convince me to stay because they see him as a nice guy being abandoned by a she-devil or something. (He is nice, but I'm genuinely not a she-devil. I'm nice, too.) She told me not to rush into a new relationship before I really come into my own and have that strength and empowerment, and to enjoy the time with just me and my daughter. And I certainly agree that I won't be frivolously dating around, I'm not here for that. But I told her that emotionally I really have been alone for several years now. I haven't been fully *married* the way other people seem to be. We haven't been in a full-fledged, connected, intimate relationship. Huge, important pieces were missing. That's what people don't know, and why would they? It's not something you advertise.

What I know now, that I didn't know when I got married... And I didn't know because nobody told me, because it's hard to describe it in words, and I thought I had all the pieces that I needed, and the people I trusted to give me advice in my life did too. (Now, I would never listen to those same people, knowing what their lives are really like.) But if I get married again, it's got to be totally different. I would want to take marriage seriously, like a covenant. And the depth of the feeling I have for the person I'd marry has to be able to contain that level of commitment. And I'd need to respect them, to feel that they're my equal. Like, when they talk, I listen. To trust their judgment and intelligence enough that I don't feel like I have to make all the decisions for the family by myself, because every time I trust them with something, it falls apart. 

I have to be able to have good conversations! I cannot overemphasize this enough! I didn't really notice it back in the beginning of my first marriage, but we don't have good conversations. I always need to reach out to my friends or my family for a good chat. And I'm a talker. I love the exchange of ideas and information, the mental fireworks, that rapport where they talk and your mind settles into what they're saying and drinks it all in, and you're kind of swimming through whatever they're talking about, and your own ideas form and you share them back and it goes back and forth. He and I don't really like talking about the same things, with a few exceptions, and it's so rare that we get a good flow like that going, we almost never do. It's nobody's fault it's just the way it is. It's such a shitty feeling when you come home at the end of any kind of day, a work day, a day on a trip when you're traveling, from a party or dinner, and there's nothing to say. It's not comfortable silence, it's dead air. The worst. 

Someone who makes me laugh! Good lord! I happen to be funny, if I do say so myself, so I always felt like, well one person is the funny zany one and the other is more reserved, that's the classic dynamic. NO! Wrong! I want to laugh too! Not just at myself, even though I do crack myself up and I find myself hilarious. It doesn't have to be one funny and one serious one! Two funnies absolutely can and should be together. Let the not-funnies hang out and be silent together. Take it from me. 

Also, genuine chemistry. I'll just leave that there. 

"There's nowhere else I'd rather be." That feeling that when I'm around them, I'm not thinking about everything else. I would like to forget where my phone is because I'm not always checking to see what's going on in the world or if my friends have texted, because there's nothing keeping me in the moment where I'm at. And when we take a trip, I'm not wishing it was with someone else, that I'd brought a friend to hang out with. I'm not trying to be harsh, I'm just looking back at warning signs I ignored over the years, and thinking about what I will do differently going forward.

And just being tuned in to one another. Like, they give enough of a shit to notice when you're disappointed about something but trying to be brave, and they're kinda like, "Hey there kiddo, that's a bummer but chin up, buttercup." Or whatever. Like, they notice you and they show it. They go, hey look over there, a thing you'd probably like. Or they put their arms around you spontaneously. Give hugs without needing to be asked. Maybe that stuff fades over time for most people, but I don't want it to fade over time for me. I don't let that kind of thing fade, at least I didn't until I got tired of it being one-sided. 

Most of all... And this is why I no longer blame myself for getting married in the first place... There's got to be the feeling of love. And if people try to tell you that comfort is that thing, then they don't know what they're talking about. There's no way to put it into words, and that's why I can forgive myself. Because I didn't know. 

Guys, how will I ever repay Oprah for all the things she taught me, including this Dr. Maya Angelou quote?

Nobody can tell you what it feels like. It's not just familiarity, having history together, the years building up over time. That's just what "they" want you to think. It's more than that. I'm sitting here trying to think of how to describe it, as if I can do what all the poets who came before me could not. 

I think about my near-death experience, when the beings who greeted me were helping me come to... The feeling not just of gentleness, not just of concern, but of gentle concern intensified. That, to me, is kind of the closest I can come to describing love. It's not like you have to be super gentle all the time, some moments are fun and light-hearted, others are heated and annoyed, others are like...

I wanna be on you.

But when you think of that person, and how they make you feel, it's like gentle concern, lit on fire. Are they all right? Can I help them somehow? Look at them sitting there. Do they need anything? I want to give to them. To be near them and share. Like equals. It hurts to be apart. To be curious about them. To think of them without having to be reminded to do it (because it really is the thought that counts). 

I didn't know any of those things almost a decade ago. I was too young. I had no idea what I was doing. I thought I had it all figured out. I thought that just learning to compromise after a fight without breaking up was a huge step in personal growth. I guess at the time, it was. I thought I had found it. But I couldn't take those vows without squirming a little. I couldn't sign the marriage license without feeling kind of violated by the government. I didn't feel the need to slow dance at my own wedding, or any other time. I rolled my eyes and scoffed at the idea of approaching marriage as something sacred, like a covenant. 

If I could talk to myself on my wedding day, I would say... It's okay, Younger Inga. You were doing the best you could with what you knew, then. I look at you, and you're really scared. You feel like people aren't telling you something, that you're missing a piece of the puzzle. Like your elders are trusting you to know what you're doing, but you don't. You're about to cry a lot of tears, girl. You thought you cried a lot in the years leading up to this? Honey, you don't even know. You're going to go through... so much. 

Oh, Oprah...

But you're going to come out stronger. You really are. It will take a long time, but you're going to be able to look back on this and lean on God and walk into the future knowing it will be better than the past. 

I do know it. I've got this strength inside that wasn't there before. It's a gift from a holy place. What is it? It's this knowledge that I can stand on my own two feet. I can stride upon the earth and there's nowhere I fear to tread. I've got a compass inside that I follow and it never steers me wrong. Never. I earned it the hard way. So I made some mistakes before, but I got my girl out of it, and she's never a mistake. Now I know what I really want and what I deserve, and I'm not going to settle for anything less. Real love. The kind you take seriously, that you don't forget, even in their absence, even for a long time, you don't have to be reminded to think of them. You don't need a day on the calendar or greeting cards to remember the love you have for them. Gentle caring and concern. Lit on fire. 


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