I look at the clock. It’s 4 P.M. Only one more hour and another working day will be done. I text my son Jake to remind him to clean his bedroom and do the laundry because I’m too tired to follow you around, picking up after you like some maid. I reply to a text from my husband Alan telling him that no, I’m not coming home late today and that there’s food in the fridge. Then, I grab a pencil and doodle on a piece of paper. My hand traces a cat with two pointy ears and three whiskers coming out from each side of its face. I hold the paper up, tilt my head and examine my drawing.
I got married at twenty-five. It was a small ceremony with only our parents and close friends. After the wedding, we traveled to Greece for our honeymoon. It was the first time I ever left the country. I promised myself that I would go on a trip to a different country every year. However, after the baby was born, I kept postponing the trip to a time that never came.
I received my Bachelor’s degree at twenty-one years old and immediately “found” a job as an accountant at my father’s woodworking company where I met my to-be husband. He was a contractor who always chose my father’s services for the construction sites he oversaw. At some point, he started coming up with random excuses to visit the office until one day, he finally gathered enough courage to ask me out on a date.
At eighteen, after finishing high school, I took a gap year in order to pursue my dream of becoming an actress. I started following every casting agency on social media. I took acting classes. I got headshots. And I went to hundreds of auditions for TV shows, movies, plays and commercials. I never got a call-back. So the following year, I enrolled in a community college and studied finance.
I got my first boyfriend at sixteen. We went to school together. We were friends first and then we developed feelings for each other. He wrote me a song. He walked me home every day after school. He was handsome and nice and smart and funny. I was so lucky to have found my soulmate at such a young age. We were going to be together forever. He broke up with me seven months into our relationship because he wanted “us” to “see other people”. He was the first person I ever loved, back when I still believed that such a thing as love truly existed.
The year I turned eight years old, Santa Claus stopped coming to our house. Instead, my parents bought me my Christmas presents and set them under the tree for me to find after the Midnight Mass.
“Do we have to go to church tonight, Daddy?” I asked.
“Yes,” replied my dad while helping me put on my coat.
“Why? We go to church every Sunday. Isn’t that enough?”
“God gives us 168 hours each week. We go to church one or two hours every Sunday to give that time back to Him. But tonight we go to celebrate Jesus’ birthday.” My dad smiled and took my hand as we walked out the front door.
When I was seven years old, I lost another one of my baby teeth. I remember going to bed very early that day and without my parents having to ask me, not even once. I put my tooth under the pillow very carefully and I couldn’t wait for the next morning to come. But when the morning finally came, there wasn’t any money under my pillow and my tooth was still there. The tooth fairy never left me any money ever again.
When I was six years old, the teacher asked us to draw an animal of our choice. I got very excited. I quickly grabbed a paper and some crayons. An hour later, the teacher walked across the room inspecting the drawings. I felt very confident and proud about my pink unicorn and couldn’t wait for my teacher to see it.
“Now it’s your turn, Micaela. What did you draw?”
“A unicorn.” I stood up and held the paper for the entire class to see.
“Unicorns are not real animals, Micaela. They don’t exist.” The teacher frowned.
A week later, the teacher asked us to draw another animal. I was eagerly waiting for this second chance and I wanted to make sure to do the assignment right this time. So I grabbed a paper and crayons and I drew a yellow giraffe with brown spots.
“What did you draw for us this week, Micaela?” asked the teacher.
I held the paper to show the class.
“What’s this?” asked the teacher pointing at a small rectangle hanging between what were supposed to be four legs.
“That’s a fifth leg.” I smiled widely. My six year old self naively believed that an animal as big and tall as a giraffe must have a fifth leg to support its weight and keep it balanced.
“Giraffe’s only have four legs, Micaela.” The teacher frowned.
When I was 3 years old, my mama used to give me baths. I would get cold and start shivering and she would tell me to stop thinking about how cold I was and to imagine the warm rays of sunshine. She would tell me to picture myself playing in a field on a summer day.
This is how I learned how much your thoughts can shape your reality. How your body adjusts itself according to your mind. And how easily you can trick your own brain.
This is also how I learned about denial. That if you tell yourself repeatedly, that something is not true, you'll actually start believing it's not. I learned that if you refuse to accept reality, you'll be able to hide it from your conscious mind and in a way, you won't experience it.
And then my mama would lift me up from the bathtub and put me on a towel laid carefully down on the floor and suddenly all the cold sensations would come rushing back to me.