If we are friends and we spent time together a year ago, chances are you don’t know me now. My siblings all live in California. I live in Texas. I go home at least once or twice a year. They almost never come here, which is okay, because my house is a bit of a disaster. Some of them read my blog. We talk on the phone. I don’t think they really know who I am anymore.
I am different.
this after-intense-motherhood-gig, person. I am the sum total of all of my experiences. Not many people know all of my experiences.
I am a 53-year-old African-American woman.
I am a wife of nearly 25-years.
I am a mother two autistic young adults.
I am a mother to a 30-year-old son whom I have raised from the time he was 5-years-old.
I am a caregiver to my 79-year-old mother.
I am a writer.
I am a wanna-be-artist.
I am a mother to my precious, sweet dog Harry, who is my favorite child because he does not talk...back.
My friends who follow me on Facebook know more details about my life than they probably ever wanted to know. I tell the truth. I don’t sugar coat my life. I say a lot of things that other people probably wouldn’t say. I love to express my feelings in writing. I laugh at myself, a lot. I live to make others laugh as well. I post pictures of the highlights, smiles, and my dog Harry.
If I’m depressed, you will probably know about it. You just may not know the total extent of it. No one knows the total extent of my depression and anxiety, not even my husband or my by best girlfriends.
There is one person who knows everything about my mental health, or lack thereof --my therapist. She's incredible. I love her. I trust her. She knows the truth, the whole truth, so help me God. She is helping me do the work to figure myself out. She listens to me with complete objectivity and without a personal agenda. She never ever judges me. She doesn't even tell me what to do. She helps me figure out what I really want. She helps me to listen to my own voice and stand up for myself.
A couple of weeks ago in the middle of September, after encouragement from my therapist, I took a break from my life. I called it a much-needed me-cation. All summer long, I had been longing for it. Every hot, treacherous day in Texas made me ache for the breeze of the ocean. Every afternoon, staying indoors because the heat and the mosquitos which are unbearable, made me want to escape. Every evening waiting for the weather to cool down, and it never did, made me hate this place where I live just a little bit more.
Even though my day to day life can be excruciatingly lonely. My phone rings often, but it’s usually my kids with a problem, a want or a need. The appreciation for what I give of myself to them is invisible if it exists at all. I was literally dying to spend some time alone. For a change, I wanted to do whatever I wanted to do without compromising with anyone. Life with this family is one gigantic compromise. There are so many days when I’m doing my best not to run away, for real. As in permanently.
I needed to be able to think my own thoughts, or not think at all. I wanted to not be constantly on call for the play by play of everything that goes on in the days of my young-adult children. I needed time off from being their constant problem solver, listener, and therapist. There’s a reason why therapy is only 45-minutes per session and not 24/7.
I wanted time off from thinking about what all of the adults in my house will eat every day. “What’s for dinner?” is one of the questions I hate most in the world.
My second most hated question is, “Where are you going?” I’m going. Away. From you!
I’ve paid my dues. I’ve been answering these questions for a long time. My children are grown. Enough already.
My mother has suddenly decided that she doesn’t cook anymore. She just sits, and sits, and waits for me to decide something. I’m tired of deciding. I’m all decided out.
Kendal is 23-years-old now. He moved away a few months ago to San Antonio where he lives with his older brother, Adrian. Still, he is relentless. He calls me every day at least twice a day, more like ten times. It would be incessant if I let him. I have learned to turn the phone on "do not disturb" or completely off if I really need peace.
We have a contract to keep his phone calls to once a day. He seldom keeps his end of the bargain. Which means I have to spend a lot of energy pushing back in order to maintain this boundary. I believe that he thinks I was put on this earth to be at his beck and call. For the longest time, I played into that. I’m done. Not anymore. I’m tired.
This time before I left for my me-cation, I front-loaded my family (including my mother) with expectations. First of all, I sent my mother to spend some time with my brother in California. It was his turn to share the love with her.
I told them all shortly before I left, “I’m going on vacation. Alone. I will not be available by phone. Where I’m going they don’t allow cell-phone conversations all day. I can check my phone in the evening, but I would rather you not call at all. Use all other available resources before you call me. If there is something urgent, I will try to get back to you within 24 hours. I will be on a retreat for women. I can not disclose the exact location.”
More specifically, a retreat for one woman. Me. You don’t need to know exactly where. Trust that I have my reasons. I’m sure it will be less expensive than a divorce, going into the hospital or rehab, which is where I’m on my way if I don't get a break.
Only my husband knew my exact location, and he wasn’t one-hundred percent thrilled about it. He would have preferred to be with me. Luckily, he had to work. And honestly, this was something I needed to do for me and for the health of our relationship. We talked or texted every day. I also told him I don’t want to know everything that’s happening while I’m gone. There is plenty that I shield him from when I’m home because I know that he is inundated with work. Which is actually a good defense mechanism for not having to deal with all of the crap.
I have lived on the edge of panic for so long, the amygdala in my brain is on constant alert for fight or flight. At this point, I prefer flight. As in, on an airplane, away from this shit.
I went home to Los Angeles, but it wasn’t my normal kind of visit. I needed a real vacation. At the very last minute, I think 7 days before, I decided that it would be to one of the places where I am most comfortable in the world. I know how to fly in-and-out quickly and easily without dealing with LAX. I use Long Beach Airport where I can walk across the street to rent a car.
I have a love/love relationship with Los Angeles. The longer I’m away from it, the more I realize how important it is to me. I love the beaches. I have so many memories tied almost every beach there, from as far south as San Diego to as far north as Monterey.
For some reason, Manhattan Beach is one of my favorites. That’s the place I think I would like to retire when I’m rich. Ha! I have a special affection for all of the beaches of Southern California. Some people don’t like the Pacific because the temperature of the water can be cold. Some of the beaches can also be full of seaweed to the point where you can’t enjoy them. This was the middle of September and Manhattan Beach was perfect --warm even. The weather overall was perfect. It was close to 80 degrees during the day. Most evenings by the beach, you barely need a sweater.
All summer I thought of the ocean and everything about it that I missed. We needed some time together. I needed to take deep breaths, think, write. To meander about, take my sweet time and not have anyone questioning me.
I spend most days of my life living for others. This was about living for me, for just a few days. It was about meditating to the sounds of the ocean, relaxing and writing, not even necessarily talking.
After last minute texts to my closest girlfriends, they did come out to see me where I was near the beach. My family had their reasons for not being able to come out to my last-minute invitation, and that was perfectly okay. My girlfriends didn’t care that I didn’t give them a big heads up that I was coming to town. They didn’t care that I did not come see them at, or closer to their homes the way that I usually do. They didn’t ask “Why didn’t you plan something with us weeks ago?”
My thought process was, I am my priority. Spending time with anyone else will be icing on the cake. The cake will still be moist and delicious without them.
Still, my girls Jenny, Mary, and Rebecca jumped at the chance to see me at least for dinner. Rebecca took a day off and hung out with me at the pool at the hotel. It made me feel that unconditional flavor of love that only my girls can give.
I’m sure they wondered What is going on in your life? Is your marriage okay? What are you doing here all alone in this hotel? Who does that?
However, they didn’t judge me, not one bit. In fact, Rebecca is also a writer and business owner. She is a big proponent of Self-love and self-care. She was happy to see me doing this for my self.
I sat in the California sun overlooking the marina, next to the pool of this little boutique hotel in Redondo Beach. It was lovely to have time to think clear thoughts, to come to some conclusions about what is next, what needs to change, and what I really want from the next stage in my life.
I tried not to think about my deeply rooted fears for Blue’s life and his future. About how much he still has to learn about life, self-care, medication compliance, and how to maintain a budget.
Thoughts of autism and anxiety seeped through. How autism compounds things and makes simple things seem difficult. I worry about him every-single-day. I question everything that I do as his mother. I thought of how something small can turn into something huge within a blink of an eye. I thought about how much I needed time away from thinking about all of this.
I walked the beach alone, observing the power of the ocean and the beauty of the breathtaking sunset. Every evening I came back to my room, alone and reveled in every-single-moment of quiet. It was my favorite kind of party -silent, party of one.
And Oh My God, there was a bathtub on my private balcony. I soaked in warm bubbles and bath salts each night while I listened to the sounds of the dolphins and seals playing in the ocean. It was such a breath of fresh air in contrast to the sound of complaints and requests for services.
My body was so relaxed. I was in bed most nights by 11 p.m. My sleep was sound and deep. I woke up free of worry. I sat on my private patio and meditated on the sounds. No worries of whether or not an adult child was making it to class on time. My biggest worry was getting down to have breakfast in the hotel's restaurant. I had a regular, healthy appetite. Where at home I drink coffee and avoid eating because eating means thinking of what to eat, and cleaning up after what to eat, and who has the energy for all of that? I would eat near the patio doors and walls made of windows which overlooked the marina. I was alone. No conversation And I didn't want any.
It was the ultimate indulgence in self-love and self-care on my journey so far. I know for sure, I want more of it.
When I checked in to the hotel, I knew instantly I never wanted to leave. I really did not want to leave and go back to my world of responsibilities.
When I checked out, sadly I asked the girls at the front desk, “Do you have a frequent guest club? I would love to join because I will definitely be back.”
If you knew me years ago, I loved to be around people as much as I possibly could. After years of isolation from the home that I love, I would travel near or far to be with the people I truly connect with. This time the most important person I connected with was me, and it was a freakin blast!