Opinions are Like Assholes, Thank Goodness!

It’s so nice to have your own blog so you can type the word “asshole” in the title of your post. CURSE WORDS. FREEDOM. ‘MERICA. I LOVE THEM ALL.

Before I left for California I consulted with Warner’s physician on what I should do. Taking Warner to California wasn’t an option, because in order to bring him with me on a plane he would to pass a health inspection and, well, I’M CHOKING ON IRONY. I could cancel my trip, and I would have, except the doctor told me she was over 50% confident he would be ok at a boarding facility.

I believed this. I showed up at the boarders with a 10 pound bag of meds, food, bribery treats to get Warner to eat and a rawhide bone for the moments he missed home. I called everyday, twice a day to check on him. Each day I was told: “you have the best boy! He’s doing great!”

And then one Thursday, he wasn’t.

Ups and downs are the new “normal” when dealing with Warner’s sickness. One minute he’s acting like a joyful puppy, the next he’s lost 5 pounds and we’re running around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to fix it. But, having a “down” while on the other side of the country was something I was not ready for. The vet at the boarding facility called me and gave me an ear full: why did I leave Warner when he was so sick? Did I realize the stress he was under due to being boarded on top of his illness? What was my vet thinking putting him on such high doses of medication? He said all this while I was in my car on the way to the airport to pick up my middle/high school best friend, who was flying into town for my 30th birthday party. I was in tears. I started calling everyone: Delta to change my flight, Enterprise to see if I could return my rental car early, Tessa to see if she could take me to the airport, the vet (again) to ask him why when I called at 5am that morning to check on Warner he was fine, but 4 hours later he was about to die? It was a frantic hour of trying to organize a very disorganized situation.

And then the vet called back.

“There is a specialist at one of my other clinics and he’s a great man. I’m having him come up and look at Warner. Don’t go anywhere or do anything. We will take care of it on our end.”

Oh ok bro. Let me just change everything I’ve just done. I HATE CHAOS.

I felt guilty. What kind of person was I to leave Warner like that?! Had I really abandoned my baby at the worst possible time?! Here I was, straight west coastin’ and Warner needed me. Never mind that I booked this vacation back in January. No, I was the worst person alive. I had to make some big decisions from very far away.

One ultrasound, a blood test, a urine test and an extra $400 later, I was encouraged to see Doctor Wonderful for a second opinion. It’s like the vet at the boarding facility could sense my desperation: like I was in 11th grade and his name was Justin Baker and I just wanted him to notice me. (That’s really desperate, FYI)

What do I have to lose besides more money (and I don’t have much more of that anyway)? Off to Doctor Wonderful we go.

Yesterday, Warner and I met Doctor Wonderful. He gave Warner a hug, told him he looked better than the last time they met, and Warner thanked him with kisses all over his face. Doctor Wonderful sat patiently as I rattled off my list of questions, petting Warner the entire time. He handed me tissues when I started crying. And then, he spoke words like pure gold:

“I have treated cases PLN before. In fact, I’m seeing a dog this afternoon who was down to 50 pounds from 70 pounds with PLN and we’ve been able to keep him stable and get him back up to 70 pounds. I don’t have all the answers but I can find them. Let’s run a few tests and start over, shall we?”

Doctor Wonderful had momentarily become the man of my dreams and he was going to help the number one man in my life. I had heart eyes. Sorry Kyle, you were almost replaced by a doctor who tucks his scrubs shirt into his slacks.

Doctor Wonderful took Warner off all the nasty medication he’d been taking for 5 months. Apparently, the meds were upsetting his stomach; causing Warner to have no appetite and lose a lot of weight. He told me the immunosuppressive was WAY too intense and insisted we take Warner off it immediately. He changed Warner’s food to and told me the new food had a kidney recovery aid in it and an Omega 3 fatty acid that Warner needed. He ran some tests and asked to see us back in 2 weeks.

Yesterday, we left Doctor Wonderful’s office and we still had no answers. But we had hope. Hope that maybe this doctor will give me more time. Hope that we were on a new path; a path that could be more “ups” than “downs”. Later that night, Doctor Wonderful called to give me Warner’s blood and urine test results. He calmly told me the levels were “not where he wanted them to be” so he adjusted one dose of his medication and told me to stay positive and we would talk again on Monday. No pressure, no stress, no doom and gloom, no adding another pill to our line up; just “have a great weekend and tell Warner to keep eating!” I had heart eyes.

Warner ate 4 cups of food last night. He hasn’t eaten that much in a week.

Boarding Warner was traumatic for both of us: there is no stress like that of leaving your baby in a strange place and counting on them to give him the kind of care you give him at home. But, I am eternally grateful for this boarding facility. Without them scaring the shit out of me I would have never gone for a second opinion. Without their compassion for Warner and I, we would have never been connected with Doctor Wonderful. While we are still very much in the same place we were before I left for California, and we may not have the results Doctor Wonderful’s other patients had, I am thankful for his willingness to try. I am thankful for his second opinion and grateful for the fear that brought us to it.

And now, we pray. And we wait. And we adjust some meds and we pray some more. And we are grateful. And we use the word “asshole” in the title of blog posts because I LIVE RECKLESSLY AS LONG AS IT’S PLANNED RECKLESSNESS.

It’s Easier to Focus on the Bitter

beachThe temperature was 75, the breeze was gentle and the clouds dotted the sky just perfectly. Kyle and I drove home leisurely, making stops at some of my favorite childhood places: The Madonna Inn and Solvang.  We drove my favorite long route home through the mountains to the ocean, only after stopping at his favorite sandwich shop, High Street Deli. We walked the streets with coffee in our hands and I told him about the memories I had from each building we passed. We talked about family, friends and shared college stories. He filmed part of our drive on his Flip Cam.

And I thought about happiness.

That day I could find nothing wrong. Dare I say I was happy? Not just because we were being adventurous but because things were just….good. No where to be, no phones ringing, no drama and the vet had called earlier in the day to let me know Warner was ok at the boarding facility. I was relaxed. Things were good.

Yesterday, I sat with friend and we had a vent session. Quietly, we whispered (can’t let anyone think we’re being ungrateful) about the frustrations in our lives: family drama, boyfriend drama, Warner drama and of course, money drama. We both rambled on and on about how shitty things have been for us lately and grumbled over the idea that things likely won’t get easier any time soon. We talked about different ways we can get through all the things that are making our lives so difficult.

And I thought about happiness.

What is it about the little difficulties in life that make us forget all about the happy things? I could have a million happy things in my life, but as soon as one little difficulty rears its pimply little face I instantly think my life is shit. No matter how hard I look, I can’t find any happiness anywhere.

Just two weeks ago, I felt nothing but happiness. There were still difficulties in my life but I decided to let the joy take over. Yesterday, I could only see the difficulties: I was pissed off and anxious. It’s so much easier to focus on the hard stuff: to let it run my mind into the ground and turn me into an evil little troll. It’s easier to focus on the things I need to fix right away, rather than the things that are solid, and make me happy. It’s a challenge to retrain my brain to focus on the good. I still suck at it, as you can see.

Yesterday, I had to take a step back and remember that perfect day, when I drove home through the mountains. My life is not completely defined by the difficulties I’m facing. Life is about enjoying the things that make me happy, and choosing to focus on them even when things are tough. These joys aren’t always gigantic in nature: something as simple as an iced coffee on a hot afternoon, or a long phone call with a good friend after a long day, or those moments when Warner finishes an entire bowl of food; those are the things I need to focus on. The bad things will take care of themselves; the good things need appreciation to flourish and grow.

I could sit here and list out all the things in my life that make me happy, but let’s face it: no one wants to hear me gush an more than I have these last 2 weeks. I’ll keep my list to myself and you can go ahead and gush away in the comments. Deal? Deal.

Sometimes, the difficult things need to take a break. And for those moments, God invented ice cream.

What We Wanted vs. What We End Up With

ashten in crownThis moment brought to you by 5678 Visual

USC Fan

Tall

Athletic build

College graduate

Good job

Nice car

Likes to work out

Funny

Romantic

Caring

Kind

Likes dogs

This is just a snippet of characteristics I thought the guy I would end up with would have. I crafted my list of important qualities just like any other girl would: while sitting in her room, at her desk, scribbling her dreams down in a diary. I thought my list was thorough, concise and pretty freaking self-explanatory. Meet this laundry list of demands or you don’t stand a chance: that was the motto. Like any girl, I wanted to be swept off my feet. I wanted candles and rose petals; I wanted champagne and poetry. I wanted to be whisked away for the weekend on a moment’s notice all by that funny, kind, caring, athletic USC fan I thought would be my Prince Charming.

And we all had that list, didn’t we ladies? We all tried to imagine what our perfect guy would look like or what things we KNEW would make up the perfect man in our eyes? Don’t lie, you had a “list” too.
The day dream of the “perfect man” filled much of my childhood and teen years, and some of my twenties, too. I clung to this idea of “perfect” as I held my scribbled list in my hand. I called it “high standards”. My friends called “picky”. Hard headed, I rooted myself in my “perfect list” and couldn’t understand why I had trouble dating. No one was ever perfect enough for me. I blamed the men. My friends blamed “the list”. We all grow up with this idea of what the perfect significant other looks like. We want him to resemble JTT or LEO or Ryan Gosling; we want him to have a good job and a nice car and we are convinced that if he doesn’t like dogs the relationship is OVER so help me God.  Above, I listed things that I find to be surface and somewhat materialistic. A good job, a nice car and a fan of my football team are all well and good, but that’s not what really makes someone desirable long term. I found that after awhile, perfect is just an idea we created in our heads of what we THINK is best for us. I’m lucky that what I thought I wanted wasn’t right for me in the end, and what I didn’t think I wanted ended up being just right.

I look at my list now and while some of the things I still hold on to (see: loyal, kind, honest and trustworthy), I find most of the things I used to value are just plain materialistic and unimportant now. I’ve learned to let go of what I thought “perfect” looked like and accept what could potentially be perfect for me. “Perfect” doesn’t come from words on paper. It comes from experiencing different people and seeing what fits. We have to be willing to set aside our ideal and open ourselves up to the real deal. And we’re not perfect either, but we’re perfect for someone out there, who wants exactly what we have to offer.

Except when it comes to LEO because we all know that man is perfection.

SHE RETURNS FROM THE DEPTHS OF VACATION

ventura tavernFor the last 12 days I have been awakened by the California sunshine, the ocean breeze and my best friend’s extremely loud husband as he left for work each morning. I set aside the blog, set aside the work phone and spent some time in the place that made me. I road tripped, drank a lot of coffee, ate at my favorite local spots and spent some quality time with my friends. To say I needed this trip would be an understatement: 2014 has kicked my ass both personally and professional and home girl needed a freaking break.

You don’t want to hear about any of this, do you?

Fine. Here’s the shit you really want to hear about:

I came home from California with a boyfriend.

It’s so official it’s on Facebook.

Stop squealing, your boss can hear you.

He has a face I can touch and a hand I can hold. I know, BECAUSE HE HELD IT. AND HE PLAYED MY JOHN MAYER SONG. And he’s really effing great.

And our first date was a wedding.

Tessa’s mom got married on July 13th: a majority of the reason I was going back to California in the first place. As usual, it was assumed I was Tessa’s date for the festivities and that Kyle would not be attending, since he came into the picture shortly after invites went out.

All this was true until I landed at LAX and was interrogated by every single one of Tessa’s family members wondering when they would get to meet “the Kyle”. Suddenly, our little story became the talk of the pre-wedding festivities, and people were intrigued by our story and wanted to see it unfold in real time. So, tables were shifted, escort cards were rewritten and there was no escape: “the Kyle” was officially invited as my date to the wedding– a first for me in many ways: the first time I would have a real date to a wedding, and the first time I would see Kyle in person.

Have you ever invited a guy you’ve only seen on FaceTime to a wedding with your second family? I don’t recommend it: it’s one of the most awkward things you’ll probably ever do. Making that phone call made me feel like I did back in the 9th grade when I asked a popular senior boy to our Sadie Hawkins Dance. Luckily for me, Kyle is a pretty easy going guy, who likes weddings more than any person should, so when he agreed to be my date, I was basically signing myself up for what would happen if Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn morphed into one person and made a “Wedding Crashers” sequel.

Here’s another thing I don’t recommend: on the day you meet the guy you’ve been talking to via text, phone and FaceTime since April make sure you’re NOT coordinating your best friend’s mom’s wedding.

Picture this, if you will: I’m wearing yoga pants and an old wife beater that says “Beer Me” in bright pink letters, I have a wedding folder in my hand, and I’m directing vendors while putting out fires left and right. My phone rings. It’s Kyle and not only is he early but he’s turning into the parking lot of the wedding venue. Of course, this happened right as I was dealing with a bartender who needed my full attention, so as he stepped out of the car I was using grand hand gestures to show exactly where this bartender needed to go, and yes I looked like an idiot. (An important idiot, but an idiot nonetheless.) Suddenly, there he was. “The Kyle”; with his face and his arms, his ginger hair and his extremely tall figure. There he was; standing in front of me, with a huge smile on his face.

“Thought you might need some help setting up!” he said.

I did. How did he know?!

I didn’t really know what else to do, except jump into his arms like I was in the effing Notebook and hugged him. Our first hug, awww.

in other news I’m going to go puke from cuteness now.

“Give me a minute to get set up and then I’m all yours.” I told him.

A minute turned into 2 1/2 hours and as I moved about the venue I noticed Kyle helping out anywhere he could. He set tables, he moved chairs, he helped the bartender lift all her booze. He did all this with a smile on his face and the occasional wink in my direction.

Tessa’s older sister pulled me over and whispered, “is this guy for real?!”

“I think he’s for real, I really do.” I actually think I believed this when I said it.

“If you mess this up, we’ll all kill you.”

Another first for me: my friends/family actually like someone I’m dating.

A bigger success at a wedding I’ve never seen: Kyle was the perfect date. He brought me mimosas when my glass was empty, he admired my friend’s babies and chatted up my friend’s moms. He even moved tables out of the sun so an elderly lady and her family had some shade. I stood there, flabbergasted at the notion that this guy was interested in a nut job like me. I suppose I felt really, truly lucky for the first time in a long time.

Puke.

And then, home boy made it all official and shit and now we get to take awkward couple pictures like this at most formal functions.

He’s all mine, folks.

Are We There Yet?


On Sunday, Kyle will pick me up and we will head out on a 3 hour road trip to San Luis Obispo to visit some friends. This will be the first time we will see each other since we started talking back in April and we will be stuck in a car together, possibly fighting over the road trip music (I will want to listen to Jay-Z, John Mayer or *NSYNC, he will want to listen to Limp Bizket or Linkin Park). I will lose this fight because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Kyle it’s that he is the DJ and the master playlist maker and I’m the pretty little one who tells the stories and does the embarrassing car dances.

The idea came up one night via text message. “Would you want to take a road trip with me?” he asked. And I was taken aback because no one has ever asked to voluntarily be trapped in a car with me for hours on end (except my ex boyfriend who took me to a Tennessee football game and broke up with me the following weekend). I agreed and we decided (together) the best time to take the trip would be while I’m home, during the two days we set aside as “our days” (weird) and the planning began. And now, I’m packing a bag for two whole days away with a guy who I’ve only seen via Facetime. This all feels very “relationshippy” and very drastic, and there are a lot of mixed emotions that come with this little road trip: “will he like me when he sees me in person?”, “will I really be able to be myself around him?”, “will I let him hold my hand even though I hate being touched?”, “does he even want to hold my hand?!”

He better, just so I have the option of turning him down.

I won’t turn him down.

Most importantly:  “WILL HE JUDGE MY ROAD TRIP SNACKS?!”

All these little things nagging at my brain as I toss pajamas (UMM WHAT THE EFF WILL THE SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS BE?!), a toothbrush (DEAR GOD HE HAS TO SEE ME IN THE MORNING) and my curling iron for mermaid curls (WHAT IF HE THINKS I’M HIGH MAINTENANCE?!) into my bag. All these little things, making me a nervous wreck. Everyone tells me this is normal. And I’m like “THIS DOES NOT FEEL NORMAL. THIS FEELS LIKE SO MUCH GRAVEL IS SITTING IN MY STOMACH!”

But you know what? Everyone is right. There’s a bit of mystery around this trip of ours. The kind of mystery that makes me feel giddy; like I used to feel on Christmas Eve as a little girl. And he’s giddy, too. There’s a bit of nervousness around this little trip of ours, like the way I felt the night before I went to Prom as a senior with a guy I really liked. And he’s nervous, too. Actually, this whole thing is very non-traditional in a traditional kind of way.

Just when you thought I was going to start making sense, I went rogue.

We met through friends, but have only had communication through technology. We have mutual friends, but have never met face to face. We talk all the time, but have never been in the same timezone. We know each other but we don’t “know” each other in person.

And all that is going to change on Sunday, when we’re stuck in a car together for 3 hours.

It’s so strange but at the same time he feels so familiar. And in a weird way, that comforts me. It means while I will fidget and talk too much and probably do everything I can do make him try and hate me (easier to make a clean break that way), I won’t be alone because he will be doing the same, in his own “guy” way. And as we hit the road (WITH SNACKS) things will get more comfortable with every mile.

So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m excited. And we’re going to eat a lot and drink a lot of wine and just be normal for a few days. I can’t wait for normal.

I wonder if I can get him to play this little jam I’m obsessed with right now in the car….if not, you’ll see me hitch hiking on the side of the road.

Uncertainty

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There are a lot of uncertainties around today. A cloud hangs over my head on what should be a day that brings a little relief and one day closer to my vacation. My heart is heavy: like it has a bucket of rocks attached to it that I’m trying to lift with sewing thread. And focus? What focus? My brain is clogged with to do lists and “what ifs?” The joy that comes with those last few days before a well-deserved vacation are gone: I am dreading my flight to California on Thursday.

Our news from the vet on Thursday was anything but good. Warner’s protein loss is at an all-time high and the vet is now worried about his short term life expectancy. Her news, her voice, her words crushed me in a way I didn’t know I could be crushed. Head in hand, I sobbed for all the things I can’t control and all the guilt I felt for planning a vacation, even though I could never have seen this coming. I haven’t cried that hard since my Grandma passed away.

I rushed home to my boy; the boy who finds comfort in my lap and never asked for this to happen to him. He greeted me with a big smile and as he licked the salty tears off my cheeks I reached for my phone and whispered:

“Don’t leave me.”

Warner’s behavior does not match the impending doom I heard in my vet’s voice. There’s a smile on his face and a pep in his step. He is not suffering. I had to call our vet. I can’t make a decision about his life while he’s smiling. Our vet and I agreed that we would make one final effort to give us more time: a pill I’ve been dreading but that has a chance to help my boy.

Our vet and I talked for 45 minutes. She gave me a few reality checks and cautious words of encouragement. The pill Warner is on has gnarly side effects and she encouraged me to lay low with him over the weekend and monitor him closely. She called the vet where Warner will stay while I’m gone (her office doesn’t offer boarding) and brought them up to speed on his condition and his needs. She told me I was one of the best mamas she had ever met; that my courage, bravery and (often forced) optimism has made all the difference thus far. She said Warner’s smile and energy are cause for cautious optimism but we should be prepared for the reality that this new medication is merely buying me more time. She encouraged me to move forward with my vacation as planned.

And this is how I spent my 4th of July.

We are on day 4 of the medication and so far Warner is handling it like a champ. He’s sleepy, but he’s smiling. He’s still maintaining a good quality of life and if you looked at him, you would have no idea he’s sick.

PLEASE NOTE:

Sharing Warner’s “tail” has not been easy. I have endured some criticism from people who want to tell me how to handle his illness, even though they aren’t in my position. As Warner’s future remains uncertain, I ask for your support, not your judgement. I choose to share his story because he’s a big part of my life: I don’t share it to welcome your negativity.

Please be respectful to Warner and I as we try to navigate his uncertain future and know that my #1 priority is his quality of life. He’s the big love of my life and when it’s time for him to go, I will say goodbye with a heart that’s heavy, but grateful for the love he gave me.

I’m not sure there will be a lot going on here in the next few days. Many preparations need to be made to give me peace of mind while I’m gone and I need to keep Warner and his health my #1 focus. I hope you understand.

WARNER IS NOT SUFFERING. HE IS MAINTAINING A GOOD QUALITY OF LIFE. WE ARE MONITORING HIM CLOSELY AND AS SOON AS HE SHOWS SIGNS OF SUFFERING, DIFFICULT DECISIONS WILL BE MADE.

Mistakes Bloggers Make

Every played beer pong on a week night and had to crawl to class the next day? I have. I think I got 3 hours of sleep, yet still made it through a whole day of classes and an evening of work.

I don’t know how I did it, either.

Of course, this was back in my younger years: years when I could get away with such shenanigans and still manage to function the next day. I felt invincible during these days and made a lot of mistakes because of it. Most of them are embarrassing, but a few of them are downright comical.

Today, I’m talking about mistakes bloggers (read: this blogger) make over on A Beautiful Exchange with Hayley. Get your cute little buns over there and read about what a dumbass I am.

Happy Wednesday!

And Here We Go Again

sunshine warnerOver the weekend, Tessa and I met a new neighbor and his boxer puppy, Eve. I fell in love with her in .2 seconds, and when she crawled into my lap and gave me big puppy kisses, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Warner when he was a puppy: such a tiny little body, holding so much personality. I struck up a conversation with Eve’s owner, who shared that Eve wasn’t the healthiest pup. He went on to say that she had been battling some liver/kidney issues and my heart sank. Oh, yes that old chestnut. We know that problem well in our house. As Eve made herself comfortable in my lap, her owner and I traded horror stories. He spoke about that feeling of helplessness I know all too well. He told us he was completely tapped financially (clearly I know how that feels) and he told us how worried he was about her, and what a special puppy she was.

At this point, Eve had decided to gnaw on my hair, and yet she was still adorable.

I pointed to our house: “I live just there,” I told him. “We always have a can or two of extra food if you run out, and I have a great specialist. Feel free to stop by any time!” (Eve and Warner are on the same special diet, which helps them keep weight on and attempts to balance their gastrointestinal levels.) For a moment, I was happy to know I wasn’t entirely alone. For a moment, we were normal.

As he walked away, I recognized the slump in his shoulders: the slump of someone who was tired. Eve innocently trotted along beside him and I said a prayer for them. Eve and Warner seem to be cut from the same cloth and I realized that slump was one I’ve carried on my shoulders lately, too.

When Warner isn’t feeling well, something shifts inside me. I go from relaxed and happy to pure survival mode. My days revolve around his food intake, my thoughts revolve around his weight, my prayers are for his recovery. My mood can only be explained as “tense” and my house is thick with a fog of frustration. Everything seems heavy.

I suppose you’ve figured out by now that Warner isn’t doing well. Again.  His food intake is way down, his weight has slightly decreased and he is drinking an insane amount of water. Sunday night I didn’t sleep because I was watching Warner breathe: worried another emergency room trip was in my future. He remains in good spirits, as usual, but it  just feels like something isn’t right. Perhaps I’m overreacting (as I often do) but when it comes to Warner and treating this disease, my hyper sensitivity is usually for good reason. I feel, suddenly, like we are back to square one after 8 weeks of “normal”.

Here I am, one week away from a glorious 12 day vacation and Warner has decided food is the enemy. Selfishly I wonder: can I not just have a little bit of joy in my life after suffering through 5 1/2 months of absolute hell?

I know Warner’s disease is something we will live with for the rest of his days. I’ve accepted that there’s no cure, that we have no “sure thing” that will make this go away. But dang it our latest run was just so good. I was confident we would be ok, at least for a few more weeks. It feels like running a race, leading the whole time, but then coming in second place. It just sucks.

On top of all this, I was trying to find someone to watch Warner when I go out of town. Want to feel awful in just 5 minutes? Look through your phone and try to find a friend, any friend, who can help you out while you’re out of town and realize YOU DON’T HAVE MORE THAN 2 REAL FRIENDS IN THE CITY YOU LIVE IN WHO CAN HELP YOU AND THEY’RE BOTH GOING ON THE TRIP WITH YOU. Or, check the dog travel policy on your favorite airline’s website. Boxers are on a no-fly list. Superb. The fogs of frustration are thick and murky: lately I wonder when/if everything will be consistent, manageable, not mind-numbing and worrisome.

We’ve decided to board them, because given Warner’s recent health concerns, I want him to be around a vet 24/7 who can be there instantly if things that a turn for the worse. (god-forbid)

Tomorrow, Warner goes to the vet for a recheck and more tests. We will get those results back on Thursday. Last night I spoon fed him his dinner and he would only eat 1/2 a can. Please keep us in your thoughts. We’re back on this scary train again.

For more of Warner’s “tails” click here.

Thoughts on Maturity

Life certainly isn’t fair, and as we get older that becomes more and more apparent. We all have shit we carry around with us, which probably plays into that whole concept that life simply isn’t fair. And doesn’t that suck? That idea that we take partial blame in the notion that life isn’t fair or that the things that happen to us, and the way we react to them, make life unfair? I came to that conclusion this weekend, when a friend came to me with a problem that rocked me to my core and I had to standby and support them, even when I didn’t want to.

I don’t know that much about maturity. I’m 30 years old, and I think tater tots are a food group, I listen to boy bands on a regular basis, I am not entirely sure I can really take care of a baby right now. I also think if I had to live on spaghetti o’s I could make it work. I used to think maturity was for parents and teachers, but suddenly I realized my friends are those parents, my friends are those teachers and we are the grown ups we used to be lectured by not so long ago.

I love my friend very much. They’ve had a bumpy road these last few years, and it’s taken a toll on them. They haven’t dealt with their issues in a way I would deem the most mature, and I have disagreed with it outright. First, I tried lectures. That didn’t work. Then I tried logic. That didn’t work. And so, I sat by and tried to be as supportive as possible but in that quiet way everyone likes, but really doesn’t need. Then, they came to me this weekend and admitted things hit rock bottom, which broke my heart and made me angry all at the same time.

Anger made me want to say “I told you so!” because really, I did tell them so. I was right, and their recent actions validated how right I was. I was angry that all my words had been wasted, and now I was sitting here listening to them tell me their problems, when I had already found solutions months ago. I wanted to yell, curse, or even guilt them for being careless and stupid. Anger made me want to be immature.

You see, for all the acceptance I’ve learned over the years, I am still a judgmental person. Everyone knows that if you want an honest opinion, you ask Ashten. I’m not shy about telling you what I think, and I lost the ability to “sugar coat” years ago. Sometimes people can’t handle this characteristic and I’ve been told it makes me hard to talk to sometimes. But, I value it because when my opinion is asked, I know I’m speaking from my heart with people’s best interest in mind.

I really wanted to give my friend a piece of my mind: tell them my opinion, give them the “why don’t you listen to me” speech. Basically, I wanted them to feel miserable.

Something stopped me.

Rather than go off on my friend, I stopped and made myself think about what they must be going through; how hard it must be to admit such a difficult thing to me (someone who knows them way too well.) I thought about what I would need in their situation, even though I would have handled it much differently. I kindly, but firmly, told them I loved them and begged them to get their shit together and then I told them I would support them no matter what.

I don’t know a lot about maturity, but maybe that’s what it is. Maybe maturity isn’t beating your chest in front of everyone because you have your shit together, or spouting off advice like you’re Oprah. Maybe maturity is not always understanding why people do what they do, but showing empathy for their struggle and trying to support them as best you can. I will never be in my friend’s shoes, but maybe I’m mature enough to realize that, and try to step outside myself enough to try and understand where they’re coming from. Maybe maturity isn’t being the best at adulthood, but being the best at understanding that with age comes wisdom and that wisdom doesn’t look the same for everyone. And maybe sometimes it takes a little longer for some people to gain that wisdom.

Maybe maturity really is stepping outside your normal behavior to put yourself on someone else’s level. Maybe by doing that, you gain more maturity and wisdom. I don’t know a lot about maturity, but I know I love my friend and they’re so important to me that I’ll find a way to support them, even when it’s hard to.

Even when I’m right.

The Importance of Being There

ashten and ashley speech 1Photo taken by HumanArtwork. They are AMAZING.

The day my best friend’s father passed away, I was 2,279 miles away from her. I was also 2,279 miles away when my other best friend’s son was born, when a good friend from college got married, when an old friend’s daughter turned 2, when a friend was sick and needed a break but had her 2 kids to care for. I’m always away and sometimes that sucks.

Away. I’m always away. It’s permanent FOMO (fear of missing out)

I’ve been thinking a lot about distance lately. Maybe it’s because distance now defines a majority of my relationships or maybe it’s because I’m getting ready to go home in 2 weeks and I’m going to have to catch up while being jet lagged. Distance, I’ve come to realize, only exists in my mind. I created a space between me and the people I love that became a gaping hole for my unhappiness and discontent. I filled that hole with sadness and spent lots of my time missing my people. In fact, I’ve actually thought they should all sit on their couches, watching their DVRs and waiting for me to come home before their lives begin again.

I realize that’s selfish, judge me.

By creating this distance between me and my loved ones, a huge part of me was defined. “I miss home.” I would say, “I wish I was there!” I would write on my friend’s photos and status updates ALL. THE. TIME. (Ok I still do this.) But really, I AM there…because I want to be, all the time.

When my best friend’s dad died, I answered her phone call on the first ring. I didn’t have the right words, so I sat there with her while she cried, just like I would have done if I was sitting on the couch next to her.

When my other best friend’s son was born I was one of the first people he called with the news. I was basically in the delivery room.

When my good friend from college got married, he called me on the morning of his wedding to wish me a happy birthday (they got married on my birthday, which I allowed….but only because he’s awesome). I was one of the last people he talked to before walking down the aisle.

When my dear old friend’s daughter turned 2 I sent her a gift, and I received a video of her opening it.

And when my friend was sick and had 2 little ones to care for, I bought her a Groupon so someone would come clean her house for her.

Physical distance is not ideal but now I look at it as a challenge to get creative. I’m more careful with my money so I can plan a vacation or two back home every year, I am FaceTime’s number one fan, I’m notorious for emailing BuzzFeed articles at 5am California time.

I effing love frequent flyer miles!

Distance has made me more accountable to the people I care about. I miss them, so I do what I need to do to feel connected to them.

Distance has allowed some of my closest friendships to become deeper, and more mature. It’s helped me improve my communication skills.

I’ve learned it’s not important HOW you’re there for someone; it’s the importance of BEING THERE that matters. It’s important to answer the phone when my best friend is calling and I haven’t talked to her in a few days, even if I’m tired. It’s important to participate in the birthdays, the weddings, the engagements, no matter how many miles separate me from the ones I love. It’s not important where you are: it’s important that you show up.

It takes work. It takes openness. Sometimes it means sitting on the couch with a tub of potato salad when your friends call you from a BBQ, wishing you were there.

This weekend, I challenge you to be there for your people, no matter where you/they are. Make a phone call, have a FaceTime date, get up early for some coffee together. It doesn’t matter HOW you’re there. Just be there.

Have a great weekend!