A Letter of Gratitude to the Most Important Man in My Life

A little over a year ago, I wrote a birthday letter to my then-husband on his birthday. While (at the time), I meant everything I wrote in said letter, it now feels very strange to me that I took so much time to write such a heartfelt piece to a man that had only known me a few short months, rather than to the man who has truly loved me all of my 27 years.

I vividly remember being a very angsty preteen and screaming “I HATE YOU!!” in my dad’s face, to which he responded “I DON’T CARE! YOU DON’T HAVE TO LOVE ME- YOU JUST HAVE TO RESPECT ME!”

So, in honor of those very profound words, which I have never forgotten, I wanted to write a thank you letter to my favorite man in the whole world, and not just because I respect him (and love him). A letter not to the person who said he would love and cherish me no matter what, but to the person who actually did: my dad.

Dear Dad,

Can I have some money? Just kidding.

Thank you so much for all that you’ve done for me. I don’t know how you’ve found the strength each day to still tolerate a child who would aggressively yell at you about her menstrual cramps and walked off the soccer field because she just didn’t like your coaching style. I know it took us a while to get here, but I’m really happy we made it.

Thank you for reminding me how important family is. Thank you for being a young, scared, soon-to-be dad who decided to get a paper route because you wanted to take care of me. You didn’t even know me yet, but you wanted to protect me. Thanks for not getting mad at me for bossing all the boys on the playground around, and for teaching me how to fight. You knew that I’d be short, so you told me to go for their knees and not to tuck my thumb in when I needed to punch someone in the face.

Thank you for never telling me I’m a “princess”, but rather reminding me that I could be a “handful”, and that any guy who wanted to be with me was going to have a lot on their plate. Thank you for always adding that I was worth the work.

It pains me to say it, but I have a list of friends who have never even met their fathers, whose dads decided to skip town, and whose dads don’t even care to know what’s going on in their kid’s life. You have always showed up for me, coached me, and even got teary-eyed when I sang a stupid song from “Oliver” only to become a tap-dancing fork who only had one scene in her first play. Thanks for getting excited at my cheer competitions and telling me that is IS exactly just like “Bring It On”.

Thank you for letting me know that it’s okay sometimes to cry, to be sad, and to be afraid. For someone who spent so much time feeling so alone, it made me feel really good to know that it didn’t bother you when I was sad, and that you understood me. Even when you would tell me to go wash my face and stop crying, I know now that it was because you were worried about me. Because unlike a broken bone or a broken fence, I had wounds that you were unsure how to heal, and keeping me safe was important to you.

Thank you, Dad, for somehow still being able to see the value in me when I can’t find it on my own. It would make me so much happier to bring you over to my house, and introduce you to my kids, but instead I’m sending you screen shots of my over drafted bank account and pictures of my cats. I don’t know if this is the life you envisioned for me, but you’ve never made me feel like you’re not proud.

Thank you so much for always talking about Grandma. I’ve never been able to feel her the way that you do, but when you stay on the phone with me for an hour, and you remind me that I’m not alone, and you ask me about my day, I know that she’s there, in you, and that she’d be really proud of us. Thank you for honoring her everyday and being as amazing of a person as we know she was.

Thank you for taking care of the dogs. If that “Tucker Everlasting” river thing was real, I’d totally make you and Charlie drink from it so I could keep you around forever.

I’ll never be able to thank you enough for what you’ve done for me in the past year. You’ve taught me that life has “mulligans”- that there are do-overs and mistakes, and that it’s ok to make them. You’ve taught me that even though people may seem like they completely have their shit together, they were probably once scared shitless, just like me, wondering when the fuck their life was going to be less hectic.

Thank you for holding me when I was scared on the Haunted Mansion, thank you for pouring hydrogen peroxide in my ears when they would get clogged on the plane, thank you for making me laugh with your Christian Bale Batman voice, and thank you for being my friend- for loving me instead of judging me, for letting me talk about female adversity at the dinner table, and for always secretly whispering that I’m your “favorite” every time we were at a family gathering.

I know that a stupid blog post will never be enough to counteract the countless amounts of dollars and years of your youth you’ve spent taking care of me. I know you’ll never sleep as well as you did before you found out you were having a daughter, but I hope you do know that when you are an old senile potato I will put you in the best nursing home I can find. And I’ll visit you like, twice a month. Just kidding, I love you, Dad.

Thank you for everything, thank you for being my Dad.

I love you crazy and I will forever and ever.

-Kaleena Raye

 

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A Non-Funny Post About Codependency, Marriage, and Feeling Invisible

Even though I’m not a mom and have no desire to be, my freelance work often requires me to bend the rules a bit and write about topics on which I am no expert. This, on my end, requires a decent amount of “mommy blog” reading. Honestly, most of them are dull and whiney and poorly written (IMO), but I can see how women going through that particular experience could find them relatable and helpful. Come to think of it, my blog is dull and whiney and poorly written so, fuck it, they’re great and God bless them.

I recently read a “mommy blog”-esque article about a new mother who took one of her earrings out for 7 months and no one noticed. She wrote that becoming a mom had made her invisible, that her entire identity had been sort of taken over by this new life, and everything about who she was and what she was revolved around the child. I feel pretty certain that this is a feeling shared by many moms, and it was one, I have to admit, I was jealous of.

Since my separation from my husband after only 1 year of marriage, I have begged to be invisible. If I could somehow disappear from the radar of the world and be left alone for a year, I would probably take it. Sure, I could stop writing this blog and get the fuck off social media and go volunteer in Zimbabwe or something but what do I look like, Angelina Jolie?

It took me multiple therapy appointments and a few months of crying in solitude to grasp how strong of a codependent relationship I was in. Before you freak out and think I’m dissing my ex all over again, relax. I am the one with codependency issues of the highest degree. My identity became reliant on my role as his wife, and how people treated me because of it. I didn’t care about the Kalee (Kaley) I was before I met him, I didn’t care about what kind of issues I may have individually, my sole purpose was now to be this person’s wife- and I loved it. I loved it because in comparison, I seemed very together, very loving, very involved, very compassionate, and very kind. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not really any of those things, at least not in excess.

I could measure my greatness by the areas in which my husband lacked. Every time he fell short, I stepped up. Every time he felt lost, I was the compass. This would be cute and sweet if it wasn’t so insanely selfish. I relished in the moments where I was the shining star because of someone else’s inadequacies. Every opportunity presented that allowed me to save the day, I took it.

It is almost as if I willed the failure of our marriage into existence, as if to say: SEE EVERYONE- LOOK HOW HARD I TRIED, LOOK HOW MUCH I WENT THROUGH. I WAS THE WIFE WHO SACRIFICED HERSELF FOR THE GREATER GOOD.

But fuck that, because that’s what I signed up for. I didn’t know the extent of the wounds that would be created in such a short year, but I probably could have guessed. However, my selfish need to be the rescuer, the shoulder to lean on- overcame my need to protect myself.

When the time came that I actually did need help, and was not just filling the role of giving it, I was finally invisible. All the people that claimed to love me, and be so grateful for me, were nowhere to be found. In fact, they only came out of their own hiding to urge me to become even more quiet and less visible. And of course, to blame me more, which I already do everyday.

But that didn’t last long. I don’t know what it’s like to not feel like all eyes are on me now, wondering what kind of meltdown I’m going to have next. People want to know my business without getting close to me, share their opinions of my ex without seeing me tear up, and want me to “move on” and “let it go” without having one ounce of understanding of what actually happened. Did I do this to myself for getting married so fast? For taking on this sick, damaging role of codependency towards someone who would ultimately take advantage (even subconsciously?).

I’d prefer to be invisible, I’d prefer to not be humiliated. I’d love to not be reminded daily that I am no longer a wife, that I’m no longer needed, and my efforts are better spent on rescue pets who can pretty much fend for themselves. I don’t want to date, I don’t want to make new friends. I felt like if I walked around for 7 months with one earring in everyone would point it out and then ask me “how I’m dealing with everything”.

The Kalee (Kaley) I was so eager to leave behind isn’t even here anymore either. I am now this weird, lost, paper mache version of who I used to be, mixed with who I thought I could be. I have no witty words about it, I have nothing brave to say. Congrats to everyone who found the strength to become themselves again after a failed relationship? I wish I was more like you.

Why Traveling With Me Is The Fucking Worst

I want to start this blog post of by saying that OF COURSE I like traveling. Who the fuck doesn’t like traveling? I find it particularly strange that people feel the need to say that about themselves, or add it to some dating bio. Have you ever once heard someone be like: “yeah, I just love being in the same spot constantly, I hope I never had to leave my house.” Actually, that is probably a real thing and I shouldn’t make fun of it, but still- having an affection for seeing the rest of the planet isn’t exactly something to brag about.

I have never once, however, thought to myself: “Oh my god, I would just love to pack all of my shit into an uncomfortably large backpack and wander around a foreign place solo!”. I’ve truthfully never seen the appeal of staying in a hostel, doing things on the fly with no plan, or even going somewhere that I haven’t seen a cool picture of. This does not mean that I don’t enjoy traveling, I just don’t like doing it in the particular way that people my age seem to enjoy.

Since I pay for my own lifestyle, I haven’t had the opportunity to just hop on a plane and go to India or whatever for multiple weeks and take cool Instagram pictures. The few trips I have taken, I’ve had to plan and budget for myself, which mean they are going to go down exactly the way I want them to go:

  1. I’m staying in a hotel/resort. Act like Leo DiCaprio’s character in “The Beach” all you want, but I like beds and I like room service.
  2. I have to speak English. I’m super sorry that I was born in America and didn’t start “learning” a foreign language until 9th grade, but my Google translate is only going to get me so far.
  3. I’m going to be drunk, a lot. From what I’ve gathered about vacationing, it’s supposed to be the opposite of what I do at home. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is something I do at home, sure, but my drinks aren’t cool and tropical with fun garnishes in them.
  4. I want to do nothing. Again, since I like making my travel experiences the opposite of my home life, it’s extremely enjoyable for me to do something different, like lounge by a pool and eat from a nice buffet and not speak to anyone. This is actually a bad example and I don’t know why I’m including it. I do this all the time.
  5. I don’t really mind looking like a tourist. I know “sticking out” in a foreign place is like, the worst, but who am I kidding? I am clearly a white person from America and no amount of drapey clothing or henna tattoos are going to change that. If I have to ask questions, I’m going to ask them. If it means avoiding traditional country experiences because I don’t know what the fuck is going on or how to get there, so be it.

I don’t like haggling, I don’t like feeling uncomfortable, and I certainly don’t like getting lost. I am not particularly blown away by works of architecture, and I am also not an adrenaline junkie who wants to jump off shit or swim with sharks or whatever the fuck else people do when they’re on vaca. This does not make me racist, uncultured, or that I don’t care about places different than my home. First of all, I barely like America, and second of all, if I want to sit at the same cafe in Paris drinking the same wine everyday and people watch, does that really make my experience any less valid than yours?

I have never once asked for a food or venue recommendation whilst traveling, but for some reason everyone wants to send one my way. Like ok, just because you went to Thailand ONE TIME does not mean that you know the BEST place to get Pad Thai. You are not a Thai person, you are just someone who came across a restaurant that you didn’t hate, so calm down.

I have since discovered that this mindset does not make me a fun travel partner, and I’m actually fine with that. I feel confident that someone who wants to lounge around by a fab resort pool, drink tropical beverages, and occasionally check out a wild animal from afar will want to go on a trip with me and we’ll be just fine.

So whatever, “wanderlust” people, I’m so glad you really “found yourself” in Barcelona, but I like my canopy bed and room service better.