Alpha Mom » Kristen Chase parenting and pregnancy opinions and information Thu, 07 May 2015 14:54:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Single Mom: Family of Choice Thu, 30 Apr 2015 21:25:24 +0000

I got some tough news last week, which combined with taxes and a lost voice sent me a little bit over the edge.

(We’re all healthy and fine, thanks for asking, and, yes, I know it’s all relative, but it was, well, tough for me).

“I’m fragile right now,” I told my friend. And I was. One little push, heck, nudge even, and I felt like I might break into a bunch of pieces.

I am a worrier by nature, thinking through every possible outcome to most situations, jumping to the worst first, then slowly pedaling backwards. I act first, then think later, which can be as awesome as it is maddening.

To make matters worse, I tackle things alone out of habit, my ability to navigate what I can ask for of my friends (who I consider my family) skewed by a belief that strength comes from independence.

When you’ve never really felt like you’ve had a village, it’s hard to call upon one when you actually do.

But when you do, well, it’s clear why that saying is a saying after all.

I am fortunate, dare I even say blessed, to have people in my life, most of whom I work with on a daily basis, who get me out of my head, who snatch me out of the sky like a balloon floating up to space, and hold onto me when I can’t hold onto myself.

They’re the ones who think everything through before they act, which in some cases, like this, is more awesome than maddening.

They can tell you cliche’ things like “Maybe this is the universe guiding you in a different direction,” and you will listen to them. Mostly. At least after you say “Did you really just say that to me?”

They remind you, by texting “Everything okay?” at just the right time, by taking your kids when you need a little break from the high-pitched “MOMMY LOOK AT THIS!,” by telling you in an eery yet reassuring Godfather style that they will not let anything happen to you, that everything will be alright.

And you believe them. Your village. My village.

So much of what my life is right now is not at all how I imagined it. I coped with my sadness by creating a fantasy world, where alcoholic fathers apologized for what they had done to you before they died, and detached mothers suddenly scooped you up and saved you like you always wished they had.

Where husbands… well, you get the idea.

And so, instead of embracing my reality, my village, I just did it all on my own.

The truth is that my dad is dead. My mom is too busy saving herself to worry about saving me. And I’m not married anymore for a reason.

But I have an amazing family with whom I am not related to by blood. We’re related to each other by love and acceptance. By the ability to say what you feel and know you’re not going to get your head bitten off. To ask for help when you need it and know that they will do whatever they can to make it happen.

I understand now that these people are more than my friends.

They are my family. They are my family. They are my family.

And I will say it over and over and over again until it sets in.

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Finding Your Voice Tue, 14 Apr 2015 13:38:28 +0000

I have no voice.

Like I literally have no voice.

This happens to me about once a year, sometimes twice, usually in tandem with a bad cold, and for a few days I’m left sounding like cross between Bonnie Raitt and a seal.

It’s just as awful as it sounds. (The seal part, not Bonnie Raitt. When it’s just Bonnie Raitt I get asked to create peoples’ voice mail messages for them).

Losing your voice is pretty inconvenient for anyone, but wrangling four kids on semi-permanent silent mode? Well, that’s just downright cruel.

At least I thought it was until I realized that there’s really nothing I can do, and when you realize that you can only gesture, write things (haha, that’s hilarious, especially with two kids who can’t read), or what I’m doing, speak very minimally and quietly (though not whispering, promise), well, you find your life becomes a whole lot calmer, not to mention, quieter.

I can have my yelling moments, like any parent I suppose, so being forced to walk to your kids to speak with them, or requiring them to come to you — with a whistle or a snap — has been, well, eye-opening. As you might guess, having to do this has slowed me down significantly. There’s no yelling for someone upstairs, while running down the stairs to tend to someone else because no one can hear me. It’s been a lot of one-on-one conversations, a lot of face-to-face interactions, and well, I really like it.

Of course on the flip side, I’m really hard to understand on a work call, which is only made worse when it’s a conference call with ten people. I loathe those anyway so to not be able to do anything but squawk, and then have to repeat myself because only about three people could hear me at such a low decibel gets pretty frustrating.

And I have a completely silent laugh that almost hurts when it happens. Without laughter and the joking and the singing at the top of my lungs, I’m just, well, not myself.

These blips of time when I’m rendered silent don’t last very long. And I try not to be the one to read into every situation, every happening like it’s completely full of life meaning. Sometimes you just lose your phone for the entire day or you burn your finger or you just lose your voice because you have a cold-slash-allergies-slash-tax-week.

But I’m also one to take notice when stuff like this happens, at what’s going on around me, in my life, in the life of my kids, and I do take a step back to ponder and meditate, not because I believe that something needs to be resolved, per se’, in order for me to get my voice back. But considering how I tend to see physical symptoms of what’s going on with me emotionally, it’s probably a smart move to slow down and figure out what all this quiet really means in my life right now.




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Dear Former Self, Welcome Back. Tue, 24 Mar 2015 21:23:48 +0000

With my kids with their dad this past weekend, I spent some time with my single-no-kids friend and did all sorts of single-no-kids things.

Remember those?

We wandered aimlessly around New York City, then finally stopped for brunch around 2:30pm.

Yes, my first meal of the day was at 2:30pm.

We sat and ate and talked and ate some more. Absolutely no agenda. No plan. No list or responsibilities or obligations.

I still remember feeling so lost when I had my first child, mourning the loss of my former self, wishing and hoping there would be a time when she would be able to make an appearance again.

It’s not something people talk about because there’s a cute baby in the picture and you’re a parent now and well, you just have to suck up the mesh underwear and the lack of sleep and the cling-on attached to your boob.

I liked my work-filled days, 15-17 hours of them sometimes, my microwaved dinners, and impromptu trips to Paris or Japan. I didn’t like rocking a baby to sleep for 3-hours or wearing her on my body non-stop so I could just get a little peace and quiet.

I didn’t necessarily have some sort of “THIS IS GOING TO BE AWESOME!” expectation when I got pregnant, but I didn’t realize how much I would feel like a stranger in my own body and head.

I was a shell of my former self.

But she –me– has made a comeback, of sorts, with my kids no longer in diapers, all of them able to sleep (mostly), my hands the only body part involved in feeding them. I can crack jokes and poke fun and belt show tunes in my Ethel Merman voice, now for an underage audience who sometimes requires butt-wiping assistance.

I am feeling like Kristen, that Kristen, just now with four kids.

Yes, some of this is a product of divorce and having weekends where I don’t have my children with me so I can. But I think a lot of it is just my kids getting older, their needs changing and thus, my role changing.

Or maybe it’s me finally giving myself permission to be a little selfish.

I don’t know what it was that made me think that gaining a child meant losing myself, but I know that I’m not alone in that line of thought. I envy the women, as criticized as they often are, who keep some semblance of themselves after they have children.

If I could whisper in my own ear ten years ago:

Keep working. Get a babysitter. Find a hobby. Go on date nights. Ask for help. 

And be as much of yourself as you can muster. 

As wonderful as it might seem for you to be the mom you think you should be, your kids need the you that you actually are.

You might not be able to work 15-17 hour days, or take impromptu trips to far-off destinations. But that passion. That spontaneity. 

That’s what makes you their mother. Let them see that person. 

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Thoughts on the Underscheduled Child Wed, 18 Mar 2015 15:06:54 +0000

I’m not sure how I’ve avoided the siren call of extracurricular activities for so long.

Perhaps it’s that my ears have been plugged with memories of my own overscheduled past. Karate, drama, violin, ballet, tennis. Every week day schlepped, albeit happily, to something else.

Or the fear of my plate overflowing, as I’m just barely managing my son’s once weekly hockey practices and games.

And art therapy.

Though, I’m not sure I would count therapy as an activity because then it would be a whole helluva lot cheaper. But hey, there is art involved.

Whatever the cause, the result is that my kids come home from school, do their homework and then play or read or create gigantic messes with glue and cut paper. They hover over gadgets and watch television too. Sometimes at the same time.

I don’t think about it much until the change of seasons, when kids in the neighborhood pack up early for playdates of soccer or softball, ballet lessons or gymnastics and mine are left, again, to their own devices.

Literally and figuratively.

There’s certainly never a dull moment in my home, with Lego castles in constant construction mode and Beanie Boo cardboard communes taking over half the playroom. My oldest is an amazing artist and writer, who’s always creating something, whether it’s a Manga book or kid’s wine out of red food coloring and water.

But now with my younger girls getting older, I think it’s fair they be offered the opportunity to try something beyond chalk drawing on the driveway and scooter races.

It’s not for lack of trying, mind you. I’ve signed them up for ballet and gymnastics. There were violin and piano lessons. Baseball and soccer. They all did plenty of camps last summer. Just ask my bank account.

But nothing ever seemed to grab and hold their interest.

And honestly, I was sick of the managing and scheduling and driving, even in small doses.

When I look back at my own experience as a kid, I realize now that the activities game me a good life, a better life than I had at home. They were my savior from what was a sad, difficult childhood. They gave me the reassurance, the praise, the support, the outlet that I was missing from my family.

I actually think it was healthier for me to be dancing for 8 hours a day or playing in an orchestra all weekend long than being at home with my parents.

But my kids, well, they’re content. Happy.

I’ll always continue to offer them the chance to try something new. I might even give them a little nudge in a one direction or another if I think they might thrive in it. And I’m more than happy to encourage them in whatever it is they might choose.

But maybe for now, at least, they’re getting what they need inside their home.


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Soulmates Thu, 05 Mar 2015 16:11:35 +0000

It was just me and my brother growing up, so the whole big family thing is pretty foreign.

My four children and I are quite an anomaly these days, a spectacle, like a mother hen and her chicks running behind, bystanders pointing, giggling.

I suppose I’ve been too deep in the trenches for so long now, too exhausted and admittedly overwhelmed at times, to even attempt to step back and understand the culture of a big family.

I generally just nod at the hands full comments or I can barely deal with two comments because there isn’t a lot of time for reflection when you’re chasing after four kids.

There isn’t really a lot of time for anything.

But I hear things, from people who grew up in big families, who tell me that holidays will be fun! Think of all the grandkids!

Or like my former babysitter, and oldest of four kids, who told me how much she missed the noise and the chaos of her own family now that she was away at college, which you found the right place, my dear. Welcome to the jungle!

That all seems like light years away from what is my current reality, a tornado of Legos and smashed goldfish and shoes. Chex Mix inside my pillowcase and toothpaste in the bathtub, which I get is pretty much any sort of childhood, but when magnified times four and well it’s like Animal House.

As much as the general consensus among people from big families or who know big families or just feel like imagining what it’s like to be part of a big family is that it’s nothing short of awesome, this shit is hard. It is the best kind of hard, and individually, there is a whole lot of awesome happening.

But collectively, this motley crew of four can kick my ass.

There are rays of sunshine these days, though. Many of them, poking through and shining a light on what’s to come for me.

My youngest is four now, no diapers at all, not even hidden away in strange places for desperate times.

There are no more little blobs of whine (somewhat) and spit (mostly), but rather little people, with words that they sometimes choose to use, still with nearly unbearable tones of voice at times, but words nonetheless.

They cooked lunch the other day, all four of them swishing around the kitchen like little sous chefs, chopping salad, frying potatoes, then leaving me the dishes to run off to play Santa’s Elves, transforming my treadmill into a conveyor belt which dumped toys into boxes to be loaded in Santa’s sleigh.

Yes, oh yes, there is noise and chaos and ridiculous amounts of school papers. Just the thought of the orthodontic bill makes me shiver. And don’t even get me started on college.

But there is a deep, profound love, a need for togetherness that is emerging, something that I have never experienced or been witness to, really.

It is, quite simply, magic.

For the first time I realized that they aren’t just siblings living in the same house. Rather, they’re really, truly, the dearest of friends.


And as for me, well, I’m left to wonder what I did to get so damn lucky in this life.

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Who Cares For The Caretaker? Mon, 23 Feb 2015 19:05:52 +0000

This week was rough.

That’s probably the least poetic, least interesting way to describe what felt like the perfect storm, but it’s about all I have left right now.

I am a full-time caretaker in pretty much all aspects of my life. That means wrangling kids and homework and doctor visits and, well, all the things that comes with being a parent.

But that also means wrangling clients and colleagues for my business as well.

It’s certainly not a coincidence that I find myself in this role, being that I’m motivated by looming deadlines and schedules, satisfied with crossing things off a list. I always have been the one to get things done, the reward being not just the creation of an idea but seeing it through, my hands dirty in the process.

I am the rule-following, responsible one. The first-born child. The type-A personality.

Don’t get me wrong. I like it. A lot.

But juggling four kids and five schedules personally, not to mention running a business, there is a point where you just want, no, where you crave for someone else to take the lead.

I experience an almost palpable feeling of wanting to just be told what to do. Where to be.

Heck, tell me how to do something.

My friend joked that maybe I need a few sessions with a Dominatrix. She might actually be onto something.

The issue of self-care, particularly for caretakers is not a new one, but is certainly riddled with complications known as guilt and fear. That we’re letting people down. That we’ll be seen as selfish. That things won’t be able to function without us.

It sounds ridiculous when I hear people talking about those feelings when they’re trying to rationalize the the chair massage, the television binge-watching sessions, the Thursday happy hour because of course you need to take care of yourself.

Even typing it out seems lame to me because it seems like a universal truth:

A well-cared for version of you will be a better caretaker.

You can’t parent someone or work for someone when you’re laid up. Or, you know, dead.

But translating what you know in your head into action in your own life, particularly when there doesn’t seem to be a tangible end result is challenging.

You run or workout because you’ll be visibly fitter. You get your nails done or your hair coifed because you’ll look more put together.

Or let’s just say it: Prettier.

But what I find that I need on my weekends without my children is complete and utter decompression. I want to hide away in a quiet room with a remote control and just let everything go. I need a place where I don’t have to corral or wrangle or even think.

Where I am, for 72 hours, beholden to absolutely no one. Where nothing needs to get done unless I want to do it. Where I get to make decisions for myself because I choose to.

And maybe someday, it’s also where someone else does stuff for me.

There is no reward. No visible change. In fact, I probably look like I’ve been run over by a train.

But I’m becoming okay with knowing that’s what I need. And expressing that the best I can to the people around me.

Self-care isn’t just about treating yourself to something special. For many people, including me, it’s just giving yourself the simple, everyday necessities you don’t often get when you’re too busy caring for everyone else.


Photo credit: Len Matthews (via Creative Commons license)

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My 1st Single Mom Anniversary: Truth & Misconceptions Tue, 10 Feb 2015 17:15:52 +0000

I’m hitting the one-year anniversary of officially becoming single mom, which on one hand seems a little odd to commemorate, but on the other, well, why the hell not?

Because I spent much of my married life with kids alone anyway, I really didn’t think the transition from solo parent to single mom would be that challenging. And mostly, it wasn’t.

But what I didn’t expect were the perceptions, the misconceptions, and boy, the assumptions made on my behalf, a few most common of which I’m happy to clear up.

Yes, I tried to make it work but staying together would not have been better for the kids. Or me. 

I’m continually surprised by the assumption that single parents did not do their best to try to make their relationship work. But I’m more surprised that people continue to believe that people need to wreck themselves emotionally (maybe even physically) in order to do so. Let’s change the vernacular about divorce from “giving up” to “making a life-saving choice.” And as much as we all want to believe that trying to make a failing relationship work for the kids is the right thing the do, most often, it’s the complete opposite.

No, I’m not desperate to find a “new” dad for my children. 

I can assure you that I’m not on the prowl to find a replacement father for my kids. Hell, I’m not on the prowl at all. There was certainly a level of desperation that hit me because I had gone for so long without companionship, but once that wore off and I realized that being alone is much better than being with the wrong person, well, I was pretty content with deleting the dating apps and just enjoying my single life, which usually entails late nights doing laundry and catching up on “The New Girl” episodes. Plus, it’s going to take someone very special to even crack my “inner circle.” I can offer up my own heart to be broken but I will not do that to my children.

But hey, if you’ve got a cute single guy friend who you think is amazing, then send him my way.

No, I’m not rude. I’m just really really busy. 

I’m not going to argue with anyone about what “busy” means for different people, but suffice it to say that I’ve got a lot on my plate. Along with running my own business, I’ve got four kids to love and feed and manage and chauffeur and there’s just not a lot of time for much else. If there’s a mom’s night out or a neighborhood party, I need to get a babysitter and that costs money. I’d love for my kids to go to all the birthday parties they are invited to but it gets expensive not to mention challenging when you’ve got to be in two places at once. I really do enjoy being around other people, it’s just hard for me to juggle that with everything else I’m doing.

But I will admit that when I hear married people with a couple of kids complain about how crazy busy they are, I do cringe. Hey, I’m only human.

Yes, the kids are alright

I’m not going to lie. The adjustment to life with divorced parents was hard, even though my kids were used to me being their primary parent even while we were married. But with the crying and sadness (theirs and mine), there’s also been a lot of laughter and joy. I am so fortunate to have good friends, wonderful therapists, and teachers (seriously awesome teachers) who are so invested in their well-being. And well, I’m just going to pat my own back because so am I. Beyond any resentment or anger or hurt or confusion I might have had, their happiness trumps it all. Always.

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Five for Fighting Wed, 04 Feb 2015 15:17:38 +0000

This past week I got in a verbal altercation with a friend of a friend.

Even just writing that makes me laugh in a completely embarrassed sort of way. I mean, really. Who gets in a fight with another adult these days?

Okay, don’t answer that. I realize that adults fight, but this one, me here, the grown-up with four children, no way.

The last time I had any sort of verbal spar I was married. Not even in any of my dating relationships over the past few years have I gotten so heated with someone.

And even better (or let’s be honest here, worse), we were in public.

I could tell you the story, in detail, as I have to a few of my friends who were all like “you got in a what with who?” but suffice it to say that my friend had a prior issue with this person, and I ended up having to spend my entire weekend visiting her with this person, and finally, after 24 hours of negativity and passive-aggressive nonsense and finally, verbal lashings towards my friend with me sitting right there in a lovely little chocolate shop, I couldn’t take it anymore.

And so, I gave her a piece of my mind. Well, more like a lot of pieces, which weren’t untrue or necessarily mean (all things considered), but they were said out loud to her and not inside my head or under my breath or even like, in a blog post that she probably won’t ever read.

Nope. Right at her.

I’m not quite sure what it was about this particular situation that sent me over the edge more than the myriad difficult others I’ve found myself in. Well, that’s not exactly true.

It’s hard watching your friend get attacked by someone else, a friend who, like you, has had a very rough time over the last few years but has really pulled through and is finally doing well. She’s happy and in a good place and the things that were being spewed at her were just mean and untrue.

And suddenly I realized it, as I was sitting in my seat, my heart pounding, words firing out at this person. Part of me wasn’t just defending my friend.

Part of me was defending myself.

All the things that I was saying were all things that I really have been wanting to say out loud in my own situation. But the way I’ve handled it was just like my friend did with this person – sitting quietly, not engaging, letting her look like the crazy person.

And as you might guess, that can leave you with a little fire in your belly.

I’m well aware that there were better ways for me to handle the situation, mostly like walking away, even if it was to another part of the restaurant until my friend handled her own battle and we were able to go back to enjoying our evening.

But part of me is thankful for the lesson my outburst taught me (no parties harmed, no egos bruised, by the way). That there’s a time and place for keeping quiet, but there’s also a time and place to speak up and not allow people to treat you a certain way.

Not just when it comes to relationships. But when it comes to life in general.

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True Colors Tue, 20 Jan 2015 13:26:26 +0000

A letter came home from my daughter’s therapist with all sorts of things we needed to do to help provide her with consistency and stability between our two homes even though she’s at mine 95% of the time.

Co-parenting: It’s nice if you can get it to work. 

I’d been waiting for this letter for months now, anticipating what the therapist would recommend. Not surprisingly, there’s nothing in that letter that’s mindblowingly original or different or even anything I didn’t already know or am already trying to do.

Though trust me, I’m not reading through the letter patting myself on the back because I’m so awesome.

It’s all common sense. At least, one would think.

But really, the letter is more like a reminder of how it could be if things were better between me and my ex, which is not something I anticipate ever happening, at least in the near future anyway.

Co-parenting, whether it’s in a marriage or a divorce, isn’t an easy thing because even people who are similar and actually get along well can have wildly different thoughts and opinions about how children should be raised.

Sure, two brains and four hands can be better than one, but they can also be more opinions to entertain and manage and disagree with and fight about.

And it’s not necessarily something you’d ever talk before you got married.

“How do you plan on handling the privacy of your tween?” 


You might cover the big stuff, like religion and education, both of you not knowing that it’s always the little things that screw with you, all of which come into play when your kids get older.

When your kids are little, it’s all fun and games and teething and “when should we ditch the binky?” (awwwww!) but as they get older it’s pretty damn challenging to navigate.

Even harder when you just don’t agree with the parenting values and approaches of the person you decided to procreate with. Or like, you pretty much don’t agree with any part of how that person lives their life (and never really did except you didn’t actually figure that out until it was too late).

And as much as I’d like to co-parent, is it really possible when only one person is actually making an effort to do it? When there’s no communication, no respect, no consideration, well, what do you do then?

I know that so much of parenting, especially when it’s your first headed into the teen years not too far in the future, is a lot of trial and error. But some people will never see their errors. And they will never learn from them.

That’s just how it is.

I will never stop making an effort. I will be cordial. And straightforward. No trash talk, now or ever, especially in front of the kids.

But I certainly will not go out of my way to be extra nice or overly pleasant or ridiculously accommodating towards my ex, unless it’s for the true benefit and well-being of the kids.

Because in the end, some people, some situations, well, they are never going to change. I need to preserve my own sanity so I can actually parent these amazing kids.

And true colors will always shine through, beautiful or ugly.

Cyndi Lauper said it.

And so do I.

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On Being Your Best Self Wed, 14 Jan 2015 16:50:33 +0000

A few months ago I decided to make a few changes in my life. I wish I could say it was because I had some sort of epiphany.

Actually, it was because I kept getting sick and I felt as though it was a direct result of some of the choices I was making. Who I was dating. How I was dating. What I was eating. Or not eating. How I was dealing with my feelings. Or not dealing with my feelings.

And so I quit dating, and I cut my hair.

I decided to just eat whatever I wanted when I was hungry without counting calories or cutting carbs or living on coffee for the better part of the day while “forgetting” to eat until dinner time.

I made a conscious decision to protect my own feelings, which sometimes meant not being nice and appropriate and polite in my dealings with certain people.

And guess what, it worked.

I did feel better physically. I haven’t had a stomach ailment, which had plagued me for many months, since then. Granted, I’ve had a month-long cold turned sinus infection, but I don’t think that’s related to my mental health.

The time I’ve saved by not dating has been used in tackling all sorts of tasks, from small things like creating a budget (or at least, taking a hard look at my personal finances and spending habits. Oh Starbucks and manicures, how I miss thee. 

I’m also much more well rested and pleasant, at least for 3 weeks out of the month, anyway, and even though my work was busy and I had to drop my exercise routine, I was able to hold it together through a pretty stressful month.

And while I’m still a little sad and lonely, they are passing feelings, rarely sticking around for more than a few minutes, the gratefulness I feel about my life squashing them to bits.

But when I look in the mirror, I don’t recognize myself.

I vacillate daily about my short hair. I’ve gained weight.

And I realize now how much of my own self worth I placed squarely on my appearance. That my version of my best self was when I was pretty and thin, without any thought to what was going on inside.

Because I get attention and compliments. And people like me. Or “like” me.

It’s vapid, vain, and completely shallow. And it’s no wonder I’ve found myself in unhappy relationships.

But right now, as I am, I’m pretty sure is my best self, or at least as close to it as I’ve ever been.

I know myself better than I ever had before. I’m doing my best to protect my heart and take care of myself.

Granted, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be healthier, and I certainly need to exercise again for my own sanity’s sake, not just so I can fit my butt in all the pants I bought on a recent shopping spree.

That’s okay too.

And sure, not every hairstyle is going to be the most flattering. But it’s just hair. It grows.

Our best physical selves are easy to change, but really, quite fleeting. Time is not our friend.

But the other stuff, the important stuff, well that’s all that really matters in the end.

The people that love me, the people that I should want to love me, well, they see that. And now, I’m seeing it for myself.


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