LOVE|EVOLution

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1987
I have a kung fu death grip on my Barbie because I have a long day of preschool ahead of me and I don’t want to lose it.  It’s my favorite thing in the whole wide world and she does everything with me.  Breakfast, baths, naps and  you know, all the things five year olds do. My teacher asks me why I won’t let her go during recess.  “Because I love her,” I say.

This is it.  This is love.

1991
I catch my father in the living room, furiously writing down a lot of numbers on a piece of paper.  His brows are furrowed and his toes are tapping.

What’s wrong, Daddy?  What are you doing?
I’m trying to budget.
What does that mean?
Mommy wants to take you to the Philippines again. Going back home makes her happy so I am trying to make that happen.
Why?
Because I love you both and I want you to be happy, always.

This is it.  This is love.

1995
“I’m in love!” I tell my mom, as I cry into a pillow.
“No, Anak, you have a crush.  And if he doesn’t like you as much as you like him, he’s not worth it. I promise.”

Well shit.

This is not it.  This is not love. 

1999
It is my 18th birthday and my parents have thrown me the party of the year.  My friends and family are all in attendance, and my high school boyfriend has flown home from the Air Force to be here with me.  I kiss them all in succession.

“Are you happy?” My parents ask.  “Good, we love you talaga.”
And I believe them, furiously.

“Aren’t you happy I’m here?” My boyfriend asks.  “Me too, I love you.”
I don’t believe him.

This is love.  That is not. 

2002
I like you.
I like you, too.
Will you be my girlfriend?
Sure.
I love you.
I like you, too?
That’s not the right answer.
Boy, bye.

This is not it.  This is not love. 

2006
I am 23 years old and a full blown adult. I know everything there is to know about life and I want to get married!  We’ve been dating awhile and marriage comes after dating so that’s what we’re gonna do!  I do!  We do!  Let’s do it!

This is it.  This is love, right?  Right?! 

2008
Adonis Mateo Quinn

Mateo comes first.  He is small, still. A baby who has been born but has already died.  I refuse to look, afraid of what I will see.   Adonis comes next, 2 lbs 2 oz, but the weight of him is instant and heavy.  I count the seconds of silence.  I need to hear him cry…  18.. 19.. 20.. and there it is.  A sound so beautiful I start to cry myself.  I may still lose him in the upcoming weeks but for now, for always, I am their mother.

I have never loved anything so much and so instantly as I do in this moment. I just met you, Adonis, but I know that you will change me.  I am already changed.

This is fucking it.  This. Is. Love. 

2010
Cancer.

The word is crunchy and foreign, like eating a dirty oyster for the first time. There’s no way that I have cancer. I am young and cool and hip. There is no fuckin way. Yet, here’s a little piece of paper saying all kinds of medical mumbo jumbo that translates to cancer.

We can do this, they said. We can do it together, she said.  I look back at the voices and see the faces of my family. My mama, who is a cancer survivor in her own right. My girls, who wouldn’t let me shut them out. Even my new ex-husband and his family were in my corner. I am overwhelmed. And scared. But mostly, I feel loved.

This is it. This is love. 

2011
My body is attracted to his body, but when he speaks my brain gets confused.   Shhhhhh.  Just shhhhh.

This is not it.  This is not love. 

2012 
It’s my 30th birthday. This dress is too tight but that’s the point and I look great in it if I do say so myself. I’m dancing. My girls need a one dance, my man’s gotta Hennessy in his hand. Out of the corner of my eye I see a face and a look I recognize.  She’s trying to figure me out, who I am and who I am in relation to him.  I know instantly that we’ve unknowingly shared the same person.  I look at him. Why would he invite us to the same place?  On my birthday? He wouldn’t? But I know he would. He did.

I am more than a man’s fool, and this is the last time he will think me for one.

This is not it.  This is not love. 

2014 
It’s been a really really long day.  I am exhausted, emotionally and physically. I climb into his shower because I refuse to get in bed dirty. I try to rinse off this tiredness, this day’s stress.  He joins me.  He lets me stand there awhile, decompressing.  He washes my hair.  HE WASHES MY HAIR.  I am thankful my back is to him because I am crying the kind of ugly tears that don’t know how to hide in the shower water.  How is he so good to me? I say a little prayer as his fingers run though my hair with conditioner.  “Thank you God, for this man.” I whisper, because whispers hide in the shower water quite nicely.

This is it. This is love. 

2016
It’s my best friend’s wedding and I’m standing at the altar next to her trying to keep my shit together cuz I hear my makeup looks great and I paid a lot of money for it. She’s whispering her vows to her husband and I almost lose it. I look over to the back of the church.  All of my other best friends doing numerous things:  1) passing babies and tissues around 2) jokingly checking on our friend, who happens to be the bride’s baby daddy 3) taking lots of photos. 4) smiling really really hard.

I think the following:
Shit, those are my people.
Look how happy they are to be here.  Look how happy they all are in general.
My man looks great in that suit.

This is it. This is love.  

Today
I am in Crazy Town. I wake up crippled with anxiety and fear.  I am usually a reasonable and level-headed person but somedays, like today, reason gets thrown out the window and is replaced with self doubt. A lot of it. Maybe it’s PTSD, maybe it’s shark week, or maybe I’m simply crazy. On these days, I do not own it.  I want to give it all back because I don’t know if I can handle the responsibility of taking care of such precious things. Do I deserve this life?  Am I failing at being a mom? Am I being a bad friend? Do I deserve this man?  Am I enough?

These days are few and far between and are hard as fuck. Sometimes all I can do is put one foot in front of the other and hope for the best.

And then the reminders come in:
Mommy, you’re the best and a weirdo.
I miss you, lets hang out.
Can’t wait to spend the weekend with you, Baby.
I love you.

Yes. I am enough.

This is it.  This is love.  And I live it. 

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