CNF: Revision of Child-Like Dreams

Note: I decided to revise the Child-Like Dreams essay from my reflection assignment for University. I felt that due to the overwhelming reaction from my peer reviews – how everyone seemed confused and stated it was all over the place – that this would be the best course for growth and revision. I’ve completely reworked the idea of the piece so that it focuses on one topic and one reason for change. I changed the tone and wrote from the heart. I hope you all can understand this one better than Child-Like Dreams. 

 

New Title: Gratitude

In 2018, I almost died during childbirth. My waters had broken at 15 weeks pregnant and I had been told by every doctor that the baby would die. They told me there was nothing I could do. I took to research, as I do with my novels, and I discovered support groups tooting the slogan ‘Where There’s A Heartbeat, There’s Hope’. I decided to try and see if I could make it further along with the pregnancy. When I was 19 weeks my water broke again and I went into labor. I’ve written about those moments on my blog, on Youtube, on Facebook, on Twitter, everywhere that I think could help other women who have gone through the same experiences: sharing my tale of pain, fear, terror, and eventually anger, regret, distrust in god, and self pity and how it translated to healing, trust, optimism, honesty, and more. What I never wrote about is gratitude. 

Sometimes, there are small moments that truly change our lives. When thinking of an event, that was the catalyst for change, I thought of so many that I piled them all into one essay. As peer reviews were correct in saying, it felt disjointed, much like life itself, and I knew that further reflection was needed. Through introspection, I was reminded of gratitude and what it does for your soul, how it heals your heart, and how it can change your life.

After my near death experience (the placenta had been stuck because I didn’t fully dilate; I began to bleed out on the table, and had to be rushed to the OR for surgery) I sunk into a deep depression. My adoptive mother, who had always been a killer of hopes and dreams, had abandoned me in my time of need. Saying ‘you expect too much out of me as a mother’ when I simply wanted a phone call after losing another baby. My guy was dealing with his own grief, and being filled with shame, I didn’t want to hurt him with my pain. My friends were all having healthy babies, even the ones who hated children. My coworkers pelted me with “I’m sorry”s and “you’re still a mom”s and “at least you can have more children”s. There was no happiness, no baby, and nowhere to turn. 

Then my guy said the same thing he had told me after our first pregnancy loss. “You need to find something that you love and just do it, I’ll help you do anything you want but you’ve got to get out of bed.” At first, I was angry and I lashed out at him. “You don’t understand. She was healthy! She was healthy and my body killed her, failed her.”

I remembered my child-like dreams. I remembered what I always wanted to be. A Writer. Not just a writer but a professor. As a child, I would daydream about standing in the front of the room, at University, with a messenger bag, students with open minds about creative writing, and a notebook filled with ideas and inspirations from all walks of life. I dreamed of having a cabin where I could escape the world, and its tragic intricacies, and write novels. I also wanted an apartment in the city where I could live when doing readings and signings at bookstores for all my bestselling works. Boy, wasn’t I ambitious.

I laughed when I told my guy about this dream I had since I was seven and how it had been derailed by all of those who told me ‘writing isn’t a profession’ or ‘writer’s don’t make any money’. I laughed when I said “How funny would it be if I actually went back to school. Enrolled at University over ten years later. Got my degree, went to graduate school, became a professor, published articles, books, and went to signings and writer’s conferences…”. I laughed. It was incredulous because I was a broken, motherless woman who couldn’t get out of bed. Who still hugged her empty belly at night and smiled during the phantom kicks. Who had no money and hadn’t written in a year. 

“Do it, then,” my guy said. A slogan for the man, if he ever had one. He’d always been supportive of my hopes and dreams. Always pushing me to be better than I am. Always right there when I’m too afraid to just jump in. 

“Ok,” I remember saying. Not in agreeance, but in a snarky way that accompanies an eye-roll and a long sigh that says ‘you aren’t even listening’. Later, I took to research, as I always do, and discovered that with grants, light loans, and a structured schedule I could afford to go back to college and finish what I started. I could enroll: get my degree, go to graduate school, become a professor, publish articles and books, and go to signings and writer’s conferences and, and, and… Then I got out of bed. I took a shower. I made myself, and my guy, a huge breakfast – which I hadn’t done in a long while. I cleaned my apartment and took the pain medicine that helped my body recover. Then, after fighting myself over the decision, my resolve won. I enrolled.

That time, when I almost lost my life, was one of the hardest I’d ever endured. I wanted to keep that inside me, that anger and pain and shame, but I couldn’t. I was grateful for the change. How it woke me up inside and gave me renewed passion about writing, literature, and all things “words”. Gratitude let me know that I am much stronger than I thought. I didn’t need a toxic family to remind me of what I’m not. I didn’t need coworkers to feel sorry for me. I didn’t need to hide my pain from my guy, he was healing too and that was something we needed to get through together, again. I didn’t need to feel ashamed for what my body failed to do. I needed to make myself happy and do whatever would help me achieve that.

I was grateful for what came out of a hard time. I was grateful that I was finally back on track with my childhood dreams. That my soul was no longer crushed. Now, years later, I write this essay for an University course assignment with a smile on my face, with journals piled around me filled with writings from the last few years, and my healthy, sleeping baby in my arms and I feel gratitude. 

CNF: The Times I’ve Lied

I lied when I told my guy I wouldn’t buy any more plants. I knew that I would. That plants make me so happy when they are growing, when they are dying, when they are in my apartment. I lied when I said I would empty the porch and remove the plants that were dying and not replace them with more. I lied when I told him that it was just a phase, before it became a ‘fad’ for everyone else. In reality, I had always wanted them, it just made me nervous to kill yet another plant. Turns out, I was just lazy before and I didn’t admit to myself that I needed to study this subject like any other hobby or skill.

 

I lied to my mother on the phone the last time I talked to her. And the time before that. And the time before that. She didn’t ask me any questions, not really, but I lied all the same. I didn’t tell her how she hurt me, how she made me angry, how I forgave her, how I couldn’t forget, how I often spent time wishing she would treat me better. I lied because I didn’t want to start an argument. I lied because I was afraid to not have a mother anymore. I lied because a motherless world is a scary place and here, I’ve had two chances and they both were a flop and maybe I’m the problem, anyway. Turns out, a motherless world is less scary when a toxic relationship is gone.

 

I lied to the cashier at Joann’s when she asked me if I had coupons. I didn’t, though I said I did, and then I stood there pretending to pull them up on my phone while I was busily googling “Joann’s + Coupons” and hoping I could catch something on accident. I was told “Never go into Joann’s without a coupon” by some rando on Twitter and it saved me $30 last time. Well, nothing worked. Turns out, the coupons only work if you have the app downloaded. 

 

I lied to my guy when I told him that I was worried that I am not a good mother. I love my daughter, and give her as much light, love, and all the kisses I can every single day. I would protect her with everything that I am, with my life if I have to. I make sure she is fed and have sacrificed much to have her. Nearly my life. I lied because I am not as worried about being a good mother as I am at simply being a horrible and useless human being. Can I be both at the same time? Turns out, there are many layers to life and I am not my mother. 

 

I lied to my writing group on Twitter when I said I was working on something good. It’s all trash. Half the time I bang out 10,000 words in one sitting and stumble over the keys because the words flow from me like a luminescent river of god’s tears. The other half I sit clicking my fingertips on the keys, switching back and forth between social media accounts and my empty google docs, hoping that one day I’ll get rich from this gig so that I can provide for my family, so I can achieve my dreams, so I’m not completely wasting my life away. Turns out, most writers do this but that little fact doesn’t make me feel any better.

 

I lied to the insurance company when they asked me if I could pay the $280 to pay for my bill by July 27th. I said no. I do have the money. What they didn’t ask me is if I could “afford” to pay the $280 to pay for my bill by July 27th because honestly, no. As my guy is still waiting on his job to reopen, maybe not for months, and our savings are dwindling and death awaits us outside the doors, and there’s no telling when we’ll be making steady money again: I will continue to lie. I’d rather spend that money on food so we don’t starve, or rent so we aren’t evicted, or utilities so we aren’t in the dark, or hygiene products so we remain healthy, than to spend it on a car I can’t drive to places I can’t go. Turns out, gas is cheap when one tank lasts you over a month.

 

I lied when I told Naomi I was going to bed. Even though she can’t understand me with her baby ears, I try to be honest with her as much as I can. I wanted time to myself, in my own space, lying naked on the bed in spread eagle while watching shows I’ve already seen because I’m happiest in that comfort zone. When my guy went up to play his game, I told him and the baby that I was going to take a nap and I went and basked in some me time that wasn’t Mommy or Honey time. Turns out, it feels good to just lie on the bed and air dry after a long rejuvenating shower.

 

I lied anytime that I’ve ever told anyone that I’m a good listener. I’m not. I’m trying very hard to be and I spend time practicing listening while I’m supposed to be listening and what if they ask me a question and I’m not sure what they’ve said because I spent the entire time thinking of what I can say back. When people are talking, especially about themselves, there is usually a montague of times when I’ve said the wrong thing flying through my head and I begin to create a list of “hmmhmmm”s or “yes, I know you feel like that but what if”s that would suffice. Also, I’m guilty of being the person who thinks of what I’m going to say when you take a breath to let me speak and then when I do I never take a breath to let you speak. I wonder if it has something to do with continuously being told to be quiet as a kid, that nothing I ever had to say matters because I wasn’t an adult, or feeling like my voice was never heard and so I try to get every thought out that I can before the topic moves on and whew….a breath should be taken there. Turns out, therein lies the point. 

 

I lied when I told a writing friend group I’m in that I removed myself on accident. It wasn’t true. I left because they are amazing. They are doing big things and they are banging out words on laptops that turn into deals that become books you can hold in your hands. I lied because although I have some essays published I feel like I am nothing in comparison. That my writing is so far beneath theirs that when they ask for advice or a writing buddy I wonder ‘what in the hell could they learn from me’? I lied because sometimes I’m embarrassed in the glow of their light but I also wanted back so bad because I knew I just wanted to be a part of the crew even if I didn’t measure up. Even now, I write this wondering if any of them will take the time to read this and call me out for the phony that I am and kick me out for good because that’s the luck that I have. But…I have to be truthful about the times that I lied. Turns out, I might just be going somewhere with this lies thing.

 

I lied when I said the truth will set you free. Turns out, nothing sets you free more than revealing your lies. 

 

 

CNF: Child Like Dreams

Title: Child-Like Dreams

I’ve always had big dreams. When I was a child, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I often tell people that the years in between were lost years when I let others tell me what’s best and that I’m finally back on track. It’s true. I wrote my first story when I was seven years old and I knew I wanted to become an author. In high school, I let my parents convince me to change my mind. My mother always knew I loved to write but told me those were child-like dreams. Childish dreams. She said I needed to do something that made money and that “writer’s don’t make money, they struggle, and they can barely pay their bills” and with my soul beaten down, The Great Change happened: I went to school for architecture.

After steps taken backward, and some forward, I found myself 10 years later without a degree, in a new state, fortunately estranged from my family, and unsure of my future and the goals therein. I thought, “why not?” Then there I was, enrolling in school to pick up with the child in me left off: Back at University to become a writer.

Recently, I wrote a piece for an University magazine titled “10 Years Late to University: I don’t Belong Here But I Belong Here” about my experience with being a new mother as well as being a student again, after years in the workforce. It mostly covered my emotions after I enrolled, I had completely overlooked the rest of the story. The Beginning.

When I was seven years old I was already reading the classics, adult books, and fantasy chapter stories. They allowed me to escape the constant barrage of memories circling abuse, neglect, and abandonment dealt to me. I filled my soul with Melusine, The Westing Game, Summer of my German Soldier and The Golden Compass.

In these stories, I thought I had the answer to the rest of my life. I was overwhelmed with the idea of being a writer and wrote my first story. I’ll never forget the joy that filled me when my main characters came to life on the page. A cat and a dog, who were best friends, go on an adventure. It was the simplest plot. The dog died, having been injured, and the cat was unbelievably sad. She spent her days and nights moping over her dead friend, afraid to go on any future adventures. Then, the dog came back to life and the cat was rejuvenated.

As silly as this feels, it was a pivotal moment for me. I didn’t realize, until I became an adult, that this was my way to interpret my own feelings of loss after our family dog, Pepper, died horrifically. After watching my biological brother, and my adoptive nephew, jump the fence many times Pepper jumped while we were at church – not realizing that she still had the chained collar around her neck. A man who had been driving by spotted the dog, knocked on the door, and told my father what he had found. Although they tried to be secret, my brother and I were in hiding and watched as our dog was lifted from where she hung and buried in the backyard.

In this story, I was the cat who couldn’t deal with the loss of the only person who loved her unconditionally. The cat dealt with the same issues with abandonment that I struggled with, that I still struggle with, and wasn’t able to recover on her own. I knew that in the real world animals, and people, couldn’t come back to life but when it came to my writing anything could happen.

Anything. As an adult this felt like a way for me to be ok with the memories of someone after they’ve gone, whether unwilling through death or wiling through my growth. I didn’t realize that in an odd way, I was writing nonfiction.

Ironically, the person who crushed my dreams of becoming a writer, and made me change my mind about my prospective college major when I was in high school, was the same person who tried to crush my writing spirit. My adoptive mother. I let her read this five page story and she destroyed it. She told me animals couldn’t talk, that they didn’t go on adventures, that cats and dogs would never be best friends, and that – most importantly – no one, absolutely no one, ever came back to life.

I was angry and told her that I could write whatever I wanted because it was my book. My writing. I told her I never wanted her to read anything I wrote, ever again. I vowed, that day, to become a writer. I was more determined than ever to create worlds where impossible things could happen. I wanted to write books where the dead would rise, unlikely pairs would come together, and adventures would abound.

Over those years, I would daydream about becoming a professor with a messenger bag and a notebook filled with ideas and inspirations. I dreamed of having a cabin where I could escape the world, and its tragic intricacies, and write novels. I also wanted an apartment in the city where I could live when doing readings and signings at bookstores for all my bestselling works. Boy, wasn’t I ambitious.

Now, ten years after The Great Change, after the shit show that was my first time in college, after I let others push me down and trample my dreams, and destroy my spirit, I am back here. I enrolled at the University and now I’m close to graduation. I will be going to grad school next year. I will publish in both nonfiction and fiction. I will become a professor and I will finally fulfill my child-like dreams.

CNF: The Boy Who Loved Me

 

 

A boy who never grew up told me he loved me. He held my hand in his, touched the back of my head to bring me into a deep hug and kissed my forehead whenever I felt sad. I didn’t get to know him, not in the way he was when he died, as it had been months since we last spoke but I’ll never forget how he tilted toward me when he said the words and I toward him, my hand on his knee, waiting for him to look into my eyes and see the truth. I told him I didn’t feel the same, when he said he loved me, and he understood. We were too young and I hadn’t learned what it meant to be loved yet or how to give it back. 

He brought me flowers, this one time before the end, and I took them warily. I was honest, as much as a teen who knew nothing about the world could be, and I didn’t want him to think that I was changing my mind about my feelings but he shook his head at me, laughed and said I shouldn’t feel ashamed. That it’s ok to not love someone. It’s ok. It’s alright. It doesn’t mean we still can’t be friends.

I was in my room in the house where I had been adopted when I heard. Because I had outgrown the other foster kids, the new ones that came and went on a revolving door, I had been moved down to the den. The bed was large, it filled the small room almost completely, it’s sides nearly touching walls, touching the window, touching the dresser and stopping the drawers. It secluded me there, and it would hold my grief.

 My adopted dad, always the one with the soft heart and a softer voice, knocked on the door just as soft. I told him to come in and I should’ve known from the way his eyes looked down and his mouth drooped at the corners and his cheeks were swiped sideways with wetness, dashed away tears recently spent. I sat up and crossed my legs with the flexibility of an athletic teen. He said my name three times and then was silent. I didn’t know who but I knew what. 

He said the boy who loved me was dead. Murdered. They had found him chopped up and stuffed into a large garbage bag. The suspect had been pushing him in a grocery cart, blood seeping from the side, dripping down onto the ground, onto the street, where others could see and call to the cops ‘Someone is dead!’ I listened but I didn’t reply, didn’t react.

I sat there, my eyes on my father and his eyes on me. His wet eyes for a young boy who’d lost his life, treated like waste. Human waste thrown out with the soda cans and the banana peels and the plastic straws that will ruin the environment and the teeth bitten sunflower seed shells and the other things. Then my dad closed his eyes and I knew he wasn’t through. I knew he had more to say and that whatever it was it hurt him more than it hurt me. But he didn’t say it. So, I tilted my head back and let myself drop.

My head hit the soft comforter and the tears rolled sideways. They dropped into my ears and pooled there and I wished they would fill and fill. My chest shook and then my stomach and then I was rolling sideways. I drew up like a fetus and grabbed at my wrists, my biceps, my shoulders. It wrecked me, what he said, and I sucked in air as fast as I could. Then I coughed. I coughed and I squeezed until my arms hurt and then there he was. My dad. Wrapping his big arms around me, his protruding belly pushing into my back, his tears on my shoulder. 

He spoke about god’s plan but I didn’t want to hear it. I knew he didn’t believe it either. He said a lot of things he didn’t believe, I knew.

Later the real pain came. The words he didn’t want to say were said by my adoptive mother. It was a week later, if I remember correctly but to be honest those days blended together and it could’ve been weeks or months or maybe a summer. She said that the person who had killed him was related to one of the foster girls who would come stay with us – and to one who already had. Their brother. She wanted to know if it was ok. She asked me if it was ok. If I would be ok with that. If I was ok. 

No. I wasn’t ok and I was never ok with that. But I was alone. Everyone else said yes. The other foster kids. No one knew him like I did. They didn’t know that he loved me. That he told me it was ok that I didn’t love him in return. They didn’t know that I had taken it as an out because it meant I didn’t hurt him and he couldn’t hurt me. So, she came to stay. 

And it was my fault, the way I treated her from that moment on. She had her problems, she was dangerous, she fought and scratched and attacked like the other foster kids who came and went and more. But a murderer shared her face and I couldn’t look at her without looking at him and it ate me inside. For the time she was with us it festered in me for the boy it was ok not to love. I couldn’t hate, as it wasn’t my way, but I tried. I wanted to hate her just as much as I wanted to love him.