Monday, November 10, 2014

Happy Ending Guaranteed



For the past 15 or 20 years, many friends have said to me “You need to write a book.” At first, I used to giggle and laugh at the idea, but eventually, I started believing them. I found it exciting, flattering, and interesting that friends from all walks of life came to the same conclusion whenever they’d hear my story. I’ve had friends say I could make a movie with some of my stories. I’ve had friends tell me my stories could make a great sitcom or dramedy script. (And if you knew some of the characters I’ve had in my life, you’d understand.)

One friend I had in my late 30’s used to talk to me a lot about my future book. She enjoyed writing like I did and so it was a fun topic for us to discuss. But we were both on the same page (no pun intended) that I couldn’t write my book just yet because I still didn’t have my “happy ending”. You see, at the time, I was trying to get pregnant with baby #2, and to me, that seemed like the best possible and happiest way that the book of my life-story could end. 

Inside, I hated myself for thinking that way. I hated myself for it because it felt like I was saying that adoption had not been good enough the first time around and that the true measure of success as a mother would only be mine after I had experienced pregnancy, labor, and the birth of my spawn…a little mini-me with my DNA. (Word to the wise: if you know anyone who is waiting to adopt or who has adopted, don’t ever tell them “Watch. Now you’re going to get pregnant!” It’s a huge insult and every adoptive mom I know hates that comment. File that under "Things To Never Say To An Adoptive Parent")

Anyway, after three years of trying to conceive, I threw in the towel and we began the adoption process again. After two more years, we became parents to our beautiful baby girl and we lived happily ever after. The End. No, not really.

You see, baby #2 actually didn’t bring the happy ending I thought it was going to bring me. Of course I was overjoyed, over-the-moon happy, happy, happy. And anyone who saw me then or knows me now can attest to that. She was (is) our little miracle and the answer to our prayers. She completed our family and filled a big void in our lives. What I mean that it wasn’t the happy ending I thought it would be is that I still didn’t think it was book-worthy material or the way I would end my book. I didn’t feel inspired to sit down and start writing my story. Obviously, having a newborn deprives you of the freedom to sit at the computer and write, but even if that hadn’t been the case, my heart still didn’t feel like I had gotten the happy ending I was expecting to feel.


So all day yesterday I pondered, what was it that finally made me feel ready to write my story. What was the happy ending and how did I miss it??? Because I don’t remember feeling like “OOOOHHHH, I got my happy ending! This is what I’ve been waiting for! Now I can write my book!”

I think the happy ending has been rolling out in my life for the past two+ years. Something clicked. Something shifted. Something changed in me. Little by little over the last two years, I opened my heart and opened my mind. I have been trying to say good-bye to old pieces of me that no longer serve me -  like cynicism, criticism, and judgment. I opened my heart to letting go of past hurts. I opened my mind to forgiveness and all the wonderful gifts it brings to the person doing the forgiving. I began to look at life in a new way. I was no longer seeing “Me against the World.” I was seeing “We’re all in this together, just doing the best we can.” Instead of keeping track of the wounds I’ve endured, I started keeping track of the lessons I learned due to those wounds.

*****

When I first moved back in with my dad and Felicia in February 1991, things went really well, as they usually do in the “honeymoon” phase of relationships. I think the honeymoon lasted a good three weeks, maybe four. (Woo hoo!) Also, before my dad and I made plans for me to move back with him, he had informed me that soon we would be moving out of my childhood home to rent it out and we would be moving into Felicia’s house – the one she owned before marrying my dad. I chose to overlook that part; ignore that fact; pretend it wasn’t going to really happen. All I cared about was getting out of my aunt and uncle’s house.

Being back in my childhood home felt good. It felt right. It felt like “home” even though it contained my wicked step-mother, who when she first moved into my house three+ years before, loved to comment on my deceased mother’s poor taste in décor. Back then, she mentioned to me on more than one occasion how the wall color (baby blue) didn’t match the mini blinds (bright lime green in one room) or how she didn’t like the bright yellow and orange floral wallpaper and orange mini blinds in the kitchen. Although I knew she was right about some of the colors clashing, I despised her for saying it out loud…TO ME! And what I despised even more was myself for not telling her to shut the eff up and show some respect for my mother and HER home.  

When I moved back in, I was actually excited to see that my dad had hired painters to re-paint the interior of the house. My dad gave me paint samples to choose a color for my room, which was also baby blue. (Actually, three or four of the rooms in our house were baby blue (another fact my step-mother used to like pointing out as strange. It’s as if when my parents first moved in during the late 60’s they bought a huge barrel of paint and did the whole house with it.) Anyway, I chose a beautiful, pale pink – super girly like me! It was a dream come true for me to get to re-do my room at the age of 20 (soon to be 21 in a week or so) for the first time ever. My room had been baby blue my whole life and I had had a KING size bed since I was about seven years old, when my parents bought a waterbed and I got their old bed. (Back in high school, whenever Jessica and Sara spent the night, we all slept together in my king bed. Maggie slept in my big bed with me too. Same with my cousins. It was convenient like that.)

March 1991 - Celebrating Maggie's 21st birthday
just weeks after my own 21st birthday.
Well, I came home one day to find my room re-painted in the pretty pink I had picked. I absolutely LOVED it. I was so happy and excited! Immediately, I knew I had to get a new bedspread that would match. (At some point the king size bed went away and I got a full size bed). I went to Mervyn’s and applied for a charge card for the first time. I had been hearing adults tell me that I needed to establish credit so I decided that this would be the way to do it. I bought a beautiful (for the times) white bedspread with a large pinkish mauve, mint green, and blue-gray floral print and a navy blue border, matching sheets, and two goose feather down pillows. I remember I paid $100 for all of it and charged it on my Mervyn’s card. I felt like such a grown-up! 

It's probably not hard to believe coming from me,
that I still have (and use) the pillow cases from this set.
They are my favorites - super soft and stay cool to the touch!
I loved my new bed in my newly painted room. I had big plans to get a framed Nagel poster to hang in my new “art deco” room. I felt like things were finally looking up for me. Life wasn’t so bad. I had a great boyfriend who loved me unconditionally. I was getting along (for the most part) with my dad. I was still going to school (part-time) and working (part-time). And I could tolerate my step-mom more than I had before because of DJ. He helped me so much in dealing with her. We’d laugh about what an idiot she was and he validated me for feeling the way I felt about her. He made me feel like I wasn’t crazy for detesting her.

Well, my pretty room didn’t last long. About a week after, maybe two tops, we moved out and went to live at Felicia’s house in Anaheim, near Knott’s Berry Farm. Turns out my dad had been re-painting the house to get it ready to rent out.

My childhood home wasn’t a mansion. It was about 2000 square feet but Felicia’s house was a shoebox. It was 3 bedrooms and 1 bath! ONE BATHROOM! And I just looked it up on Zillow and it’s listed as 954 square feet. I have nothing against tiny homes. Tiny homes are charming and quaint. My current home is small and I’m fine with that. I’ve never been one to need luxury.

My problem was that I was confined in a very small space with a person I hated. And of course, she gave me the ugliest room in the shit-hole. There were two spare rooms. One was small and narrow and had a view of the dirt backyard. The room I was given was larger and faced the front of the house but it had wall-to-wall dark wood paneling, dark wood shutters, blue carpet, and Felicia’s old dark oak furniture. Hideous and depressing doesn’t begin to describe the room. It’s shocking that I didn’t become suicidal while living in that dungeon. 

Halloween 1991 - A friend visiting in my room.
You can see the corner of my bedspread.


So not only was I trapped living in a home not even big enough for the seven dwarfs, but my room made me feel like I was sleeping in a coffin. I tried to nicely ask if I could switch rooms. I didn’t mind the smaller room or the dirt lot view. But Felicia wasn’t having it. That spare room was her “sewing” room. Don’t forget, this is the woman who thought she was fancy, but wasn’t. My childhood home hadn’t been fancy enough for her. My mother’s décor wasn’t fancy enough either. But oh, this gloomy log cabin she had put me in was fit for a queen in her fancy eyes. I guess she needed that other room for all her fancy, frilly, lacy pillows she liked to make. GAG!

Looking back, I really think that room, that house, those living conditions is what sent me over the edge and made me the psycho, angry, lunatic I became. To say that I was miserable is an understatement. I felt I only had two things going for me: a wonderful boyfriend and a pretty bedspread and that was it.

*****

I have spent most of my life chasing after a happy ending. I think most people do. We spend our lives thinking that “if I just find a boyfriend/lose 20lbs/buy a house/get a new job/have a baby then I will finally be happy. I felt that the new paint and bedspread was the answer to my prayers back then. It wasn’t. Then I thought that if I just moved into the other spare room in Felicia’s house, I would be happy. I never got to test my theory, but I’m sure it wouldn’t have made a difference. Because as I now know with 100% certainty, happiness comes from within. The “things” are all temporary band-aids; not permanent cures.

So here’s what I concluded yesterday: When you change your story, your life changes. For years and years, I told my story to friends and family and for years and years, it was a dramatic, sad, and at times tragic story. The details of my story all remain the same but the way I tell it, hear it, see it, feel it is different. My focus is no longer on the injustices in my life, but rather on the gifts those injustices have given me. I realized today that that is how I got my happy ending. I got my happy ending when I was ready to change my story. Change your story = Happy ending guaranteed.

I leave you with this quote from Iyanla Vanzant, the person who has taught me the most about changing my story:  “When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else.”

See the fancy pillows on the couch?
Felicia's fancy phone in the kitchen

Sitting in Felicia's fancy living room with
a fancy teddy bear behind me. WTF.




In my room with what appears a brand-new spiral perm

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