Turning the page

JGRunsTheCity did a post on her blog called Closing The Book on the Ex. As soon as I saw the title, I knew I had found some inspiration.

You'll recall in my last post that I said I wasn't sure what to do with The Series. I felt like continuing on with all things considered wouldn't be fair to J. His death is putting a lot of stuff front and center for me, that I have to deal with. Emotions I have to reconcile and I have no idea how to do that. That's for my counselor and I to sort out; however, I know one thing I can do.

All at once, J was the love of my life and I hated him; he'd make me smile and cry at the same time. My life was better and yet horrible when I was with him. One time, his mother and I had a long conversation where she told me that she knew in her heart that he was still alive only because of me but that she also knew I needed to get out of the cycle before it sucked the life out of me. A talk I had with one of my closest friends who probably knows more about how I honestly felt for J than anyone (even J) helped me put his life into perspective. J was on a train headed to this very point. My presence in his life delayed that train, but it didn't change it's route. Only J could make the decision to get off; he didn't. He chose to stay on and so here we are.

Even though all of that is true, through his depression and shortcomings, J was a beautiful person. He could be so sweet and caring. He told me one time all he ever wanted to do was make me laugh. He sent me a letter trying to explain his feelings about us no longer being in each others' lives. The first time I read it, I was furious with him for waiting until we got to that point -- where I really couldn't even muster the emotion to care -- to tell me how he felt. The second time I read it, months later, I was touched, but cautiously so. I hadn't read it again until recently and I've read it almost daily ever since. I think in that one letter he told me way more about what it was like to be him than our 4 years together ever could have. The back and forth; the wishing he could be better and not knowing how; secretly hoping somehow we would work out but knowing that it was probably never going to happen. And in learning all that about him, I realized we weren't all that different.

There's always going to be an ellipses at the end of our story. It will never be over because we had a lot of unfinished business. So yes, The Series will forever be this unfinished story; here on this blog and in my life. That's probably exactly how J would've wanted it. He liked keeping people guessing.


To Parent or not To Parent

You guys know what? I need to stop making promises on what my next post will be because rarely is it the right thing.

I'm trying to figure out how to end The Series -- I shouldn't leave you guys hanging, but I don't want to keep going all things considered. Maybe I will leave you hanging until I'm over it? Eh. I don't know.

Meanwhile, I do still have a post ready to go (in my head) to follow up my initial post about the Hofstra rape case; however, subsequent conversations are making me plan some serious alterations to it, so that's not what this is.

Also, I said on Twitter I was working on a post about my middle name. I was (in my head) but then I had a conversation on Twitter that gave me this:

I said (on Twitter - @ASmith86, follow me): "Also, at the risk of offending some, I think ppl who choose to have kids alone are selfish and didnt grow up in a single parent home."

Labor Day weekend, I went up to NYC to visit some friends. That didn't quiiiiiiiiittte work out the way I was expecting it to (which I may or may not expound on later), but it did give me an opportunity to spend some quality time with one friend I haven't seen in a while. One afternoon we decided to go to Central Park and on our walk there we started talking about kids. She told me about a woman she used to babysit for who has 6 month old twins and she's 52. She makes a lot of money working as a lawyer and she's well accomplished. Her children will be well provided for and probably have everything they need... except a two-parent household.

I grew up in a single parent home and I think I turned out great. However, I can tell you, the absence of my father was problematic. Now this conversation plays at the edge of "do children need a mother and father" and I have to say unequivocally that I think children need strong and consistent male and female role models, and that in a perfect utopia both of those models would be their biological parents, but I don't necessarily think that both role models need to be in the household -- even in my perfect utopia.

I don't think there's much about being a parent that looks like a one-person job. Hell, where do you think we get the saying, "it takes a village to raise a child?" A strong and consistent role model, in this capacity, is more than someone you know and admire. It's someone who can chastise you, give you advice, make major decisions that effect you. I had a lot of male models in my life, but none of them fit all those criteria.

There's also the fact that one person can only do so much. My beautiful mother could only make so many school plays and events; she could only cart me off to so many places; she could only be there so much. I don't blame her at all for whatever effects growing up sans a father had on me, because my father's absence was his choice, but I wouldn't wish that for anybody. Money is not everything, but my mom working wasn't about providing the finer things in life, it was about providing the necessities and time was sacrificed so she could do that.

My bottom line is, I understand that there are women out there who wake up one morning (proverbially speaking) and feel like they've accomplished so much but really want to be mothers. They have mothering instincts and it's what they really want and so they go out and use their resources to have their own child, alone. Someone asked me if my thought process applied to adoptive parents. It doesn't, because kids in the foster care system are far better off with one parent than with the foster care system raising them and that's a fact. I understand going out and finding your husband (or wife) right this minute is not an option for a lot of women who really want to be mothers, and I'm not suggesting you have to be married or in a committed relationship to adopt a child. In fact, I think if more people who were in that situation (single but wanting kids) would adopt or at least be a foster care home, a good one, there would be so many more kids who can grow up healthy and happy.

As much as I can help it, if I have kids, they will not grow up without two parents in their lives and fully committed.


Why Do You Lie?

By now we've all heard about and probably discussed the rape case involving a student at Hofstra University.

For those who don't know, google "hofstra rape" and you'll get all the news articles you never wanted.

To sum it up, though, a young woman -- college freshman in fact -- by the name of Danmell Ndonye consented to sex with 5 young men. Afterwards, she claimed to have been raped. An investigation was immediately launched, outraged expressed and sympathy conveyed. Shortly thereafter, when the cops began questioning Ms. Ndonye's inconsistent stories as well as confronting her with the possibility of a tape, she confessed that it had been made up.

Because I understand the real aftermath rape can have, I don't want to make a lot of jokes, but the first thought I had when I read that there was a video was, "I bet a lot more dudes are going to start recording their sexual activity..." I can't say that I'd blame a man if he did that either. Many men are convicted of sexual assault crimes that they didn't commit. I'll be the first to say that sexual assault is not taken as seriously in our society as I think it should be, but anytime a person's life and freedom could be taken away by someone else's lie, it is a problem.

Only Ms. Ndonye knows why she lied, for sure, and perhaps even she doesn't know, but I can take a stab at it. We all know that when (and in this day and age, it's a "when" not an "if") the videotape surfaced (and I believe Ms. Ndonye was probably unaware of the video) we all would have taken to Twitter, facebook and our blogs to comment on the demoralization of our young women. "How could she degrade herself like that," we would've asked. "What's this say to other young women?" others would have chimed in. Ms Ndonye may have asked herself some similar questions right after it happened and may have had immediate and sudden remorse and so she lied.

Perhaps, even, Ms Ndonye did feel raped. Perhaps she woke up the next morning and felt that she'd been violated -- but the fact is, she consented to these sexual acts and the burden of dealing with it was her responsibility, not that of the 5 men or the police officers who got her case.

I sympathize with Ms. Ndonye. I can only imagine what it's like to wake up the next morning and feel violated and know, even if it's just subconsciously, that you're to blame for your own decisions.

Having said that, what I really worry about are the women who have recently been raped and those who will be, who will remember this story and be afraid to come forward. They will stay silent because they fear no one will believe them; they won't talk because somehow they will make it their own fault. What about those women? What can we do to foster a society that allows women to come forward when they've been violated, but also protects men from women who have "buyers' remorse"?

Above all else, I hope that there are other young women out there who saw this story and will really think before they leap; consider how they might feel and what it might be like before they say yes.

I have a follow-up post for tomorrow (what? ASmith's gonna post on a Saturday?!) ok... good point...

Let's see what actually happens, but I DO have a follow-up post.

I just read an article that confirmed what I thought: she lied because she didn't want anyone to think ill of her and to explain to her boyfriend why she was MIA. He convinced her to go to the cops and so the ordeal began.


A New Way

I had a very emotional conversation with my mother yesterday afternoon. This is huge and indicative of where I am emotionally, because my mother and I don't have those types of conversations... ever...

It started because she asked me how I was enjoying being in NYC. I told her I wasn't. I didn't want to come here for Labor Day Weekend. I wanted to relax at home, but I felt pressure. I know my friends want to "coddle" me after the death of my ex and I do appreciate it and I want them to know that, so I agreed. I have got to start listening to myself and prioritizing what I want above everything else.

On the ride up to NY, I started thinking. I thought about my mood and why I've been in such a bad mood off and on for months, now. The anxiety I've started feeling regularly and for almost no reason. The stress and all the things I dislike about my current situation. Let me be clear: I'm currently in a great city, with good friends and having a good time and in 10 years, I'll be glad for all the experiences; however, right now I am not being fulfilled and that I do prioritize pretty highly. Not feeling fulfilled or feeling like I'm working towards anything that will fulfill me is contributing to my horrible mood about life.

The continuous anxiety for seemingly no reason at all woke me up, though. I concluded that I really need to seek counseling. My mom, with no prompting, reiterated that thought when I spoke to her. I almost immediately started crying because I knew she was right. She drove it home for me when she said, "Ashley, you seem to have a lot of stuff built up inside of you and it's going to come out one way or another. If you don't find someone you can be open with and express how you feel and what you think, you're going to blow and it will not be good."

She tried to make me feel better by telling me she'd seen my cousin earlier and how much he praised me for how smart I am and well-rounded and how he believes no matter what I'll get to where I need to be. She also told me what other family members have had to say about me. It felt good, but at the same time, I found myself thinking "wow, why don't I see what everyone else sees when they look at me?" This has long been something I struggled with. My friends want to be around me all the time, strangers I don't know seem drawn to me and I don't understand it. I don't think I'm a bad person at all, but I just don't get what they see.

So when I get back to work Tuesday, I shall began looking for a counselor to see... this new way will be quite an interesting journey.


Story Time...

Telling the story of Rachel and Jenna yesterday reminded me of something else that happened during our planning of this trip. Actually, it all unfolded the day of the trip.

Rachel, Jenna and a third girl who we'll call Nicole all played basketball together in high school. Nicole you'll remember from a previous story. Nicole and Rachel were friends because of proximity moreso than because of compatible character traits. As a result, post-graduation, Rachel didn't do much to keep up with Nicole.

This trip occurs 4 years after our high school graduation, and at least 2 years since Rachel and Nicole last had contact. In the interim 2 years, Nicole and I had very infrequent contact (and of course we were facebook friends). Jenna and Nicole had remained friends and spoke frequently.

As Rachel and I discussed who she wanted to come on the trip, Nicole flashed into my mind, but being very aware of Rachel's opinions of Nicole, I never asked. Later, Rachel would say she thought about inviting her, but decided against it and the events that unfolded the day we left seemed to prove Rachel's instincts correct.

Like I said, Nicole and I had infrequent contact. Mostly random text and facebook messages. I arrived in our hometown (our meetup city) before Jenna did. I went to Rachel's apartment so we could go get the rental car. We had hoped Jenna would call us to say she was in the city about the time we had the car, but she didn't, so we went back to Rachel's apartment to wait on Jenna's call.

At the time, Rachel was living with her boyfriend and her 2 year old son, Jason. I remember thinking it would be very wierd if Nicole called me or text me, but I had no reason to think that she would. I figured eventually she would find out about the trip and I knew she'd be upset she wasn't invited, but I also figured that by the time she found out, it'd be old news and she'd get over it. I'm pretty sure God heard my thoughts and needed a laugh because my phone began ringing and when I looked down, it was Nicole calling.

I knew if I didn't answer, she'd keep calling and I really didn't want her to call while we were on the road, or out together so I answered.

Me: Hello?
Nicole: Hey what's up?
Me: Not much. What are you doing?

About this time, Jason, who I'd been playing with, ran up to me and screamed something.

Nicole: Who was that?
Me: Uhh....
Nicole: Are you at home? Was that Rachel's son? Are you with Rachel?
Me: Yeah, I'm at Rachel's house.
Nicole: Why? What's going on? Jenna told me she was going home this weekend too. Are ya'll hanging out?

At this point, the details of the conversation are fuzzy, but eventually it came out that we were all going to Atlanta. Nicole was instantly pissed, said a few choice words and hung up on me.

Rachel asked me what happened, so I relayed the details. She rolled her eyes and said, "Figures. Everything is always about that girl. This is exactly why I didn't want her to come. I don't want all the drama."

Oh God I thought. This isn't over.

I was right. About the time Rachel and I were heading over to pick up Jenna, the text messages started. All of them conveyed, in not so nice words, how disappointed Nicole was, how hurt she was and how upset she was. Including her infamous "I thought we were better than that..." line (in reference to her relationship with me). Eventually, I just called her back because I couldn't text and drive. I tried to explain, without throwing Rachel under the bus, that it was her birthday, her choice. Nicole wasn't hearing it, but she didn't hang up on me and she did thank me for at least calling her back.

That night as we were all drifting off to sleep I heard my phone buzz on the nightstand. I grabbed it and flipped it open wondering who was texting me and why. It was Nicole. She'd obviously been steaming about the incident all day and had to get one last reiteration of her hurt, disappointment and anger in. At that point, I had to laugh at the situation to keep from crying about how frustrating it was. That was the last time Nicole and I spoke, until the incident I mentioned in the story I told about her last year.

There's a follow-up to that story. I'll share it with you soon.


One Sweet Day...

Keith's post today inspired me as to what to say in my first real post in quite some time.

The story he tells reminded me of something that happened about a year and a half ago.

One of my friends, we'll call her Rachel, wanted to go to Atlanta for her birthday. She wanted it to be me, her and a third friend who we'll call Jenna. The three of us were friends in highschool, Rachel and Jenna played on the basketball team together. Rachel informally put me in charge of working out the individual logistics (making sure everyone knew where to be and when) while she found the hotel she wanted to stay in. We all agreed to split the cost of the trip 3 ways. This included a rental car, gas and the hotel. About 3 weeks before the trip, I called Jenna to try to confirm some things with her (primarily that she was still going). She was sorta all over the place. She told me that the week before our trip was her Spring Break and she was going to Panama City. She wasn't sure she'd have money for our trip. I told her that was fine, but to let me know as soon as possible whether or not she went to Panama.

The next weekend, I called her and asked if she'd gone to Panama. She said she hadn't and that she would go with us to Atlanta the following weekend. The morning of the trip, Rachel called to say that the rental car company needed her to produce utility bills in order to use her debit card for a rental. She asked if I'd be ok renting the car, I agreed. That afternoon, when we picked Jenna up at her mom's home (I drove down from my college and Jenna drove down from hers, to our hometown where Rachel still lived) Rachel told her how much money she owed each of us. Jenna told us that she had not gone to Panama City for Spring Break, but had actually gone to Destin, FL. One of her relatives had promised her some money for the Spring Break trip, but hadn't come through. She was sure, however, on this Friday afternoon, that he would put the money in when she called. As we drove the 2 hours to Atlanta, Jenna made repeated calls to this family member asking for the money. When we got to the city, Jenna didn't have much money and so Rachel ended up buying at least one meal for her, all the while, Jenna promised she'd get us some money.

The next day, one of Rachel's friends called and said she wanted to come down but had no way. I agreed to drive back up to pick up this friend. Jenna asked if we would drop her off at home so she could leave some of her clothes for her mom to wash before she got back and to get some money from her mom to pay us back. An hour after we had been back and just as I was headed from one side of the city to the other to pick up Jenna, she called me to tell me her mom was not letting her go back with us because she (her mom) would not be lending Jenna any money and Jenna couldn't pay us back.

The problem was, however, she had spent at least one night in a nice hotel that Rachel had paid for, and she had ridden down and back in a car I rented and on gas I paid for. There was no getting out of it by staying at home, now. She should have stayed at home before. Rachel quickly got on the phone and demanded her money. "I want my money when I get back, do you understand?" Rachel asked. Jenna said she'd have it for us when we returned; we had to bring her the clothes she left in the hotel.

The morning we left, I text Jenna that we would be back in 2 hours and she should be at home to get her stuff. She said she would. When we pulled up to her house almost 3.5 hours later, there was no one home and there had been no word from Jenna that she wouldn't be there. We left her stuff on the front porch (though Rachel was an advocate for keeping it as collateral) and left.

16 months later, I've forgiven Jenna though we've not ever spoken about the situation. I was horridly disappointed in her response -- not returning phone calls, continuing to promise the money but never sending it, etc... -- but I learned my lesson. Rachel, on the other hand, hasn't spoken to her since the last time she asked for her money, which was 15 months ago. This is a long-time friendship that is, at least for now, dead over money. Life is too short for all that.

2 weeks ago yesterday, my ex-boyfriend, the one I've talked about ad nauseum here, killed himself. I'd long known he was depressed, but actually thought that in the time we'd been a part, he'd found a healthy relationship and was doing better. He never made me think anything different and so I was surprised and saddened to hear of his death. I had a friend commit suicide in high school. The ex was there for that, as well. He and I had many conversations about suicide and we didn't agree on it. He saw it as a gift, I saw it as selfish. Like I said, he battled depression for a long time. It was so hard to watch.

There are countless things I planned to say to him in the next few weeks. Things I wanted him to know but wasn't sure he was ready to hear. I was ready for us to try a friendship again. I was ready for us to put the past behind us and move towards whatever sort of future we had. I had literally just forgiven him, truly forgiven him, for all the stuff he did to me when his mom called me to tell me he was gone.

Life is too short to forget how short it is. I truly thought I was doing him a favor by letting him enjoy his relationship without the added confusion of us trying to be friends again, though he had told me I was wrong about that, before. We all know we shouldn't think we have forever with someone, because the truth is that we don't, but that is a hard lesson to put into practice. We let so much other stuff get in the way.

Like Keith said he learned in his experience, as I learned when my friend committed suicide 5 years ago, as I've been reminded in the death of someone I loved more than even I seemed to realize, life is too short to think you have forever. The breakup of a long-time friendship over a couple hundred dollars sounds reasonable until you put it into perspective. Money can be repaid, life and time can not be recovered. I hope that Rachel and Jenna resolve their differences, but I'm more focused on being sure that I don't let life or time slip through my fingers over things beyond my control and things that, in the big picture, just don't matter...



Every day I say I'm going to post.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I recieved bad news about a week and a half ago...

I know that one way for me to deal with it is to write about it, but I'm not quite ready for it. I will, though... I will.

I'm sure everyone has great Labor Day plans and I hope everyone enjoys theirs. I have plans, but I'm kinda dreading it... I know, I know... makes no sense.

New Brandy leak... I'm loving it. I hear Megan Rochelle recorded it first, so I wanna hear hers, but here's B-Rocka's