After Mother’s Day

Sunday was Mother’s Day. I had an appropriate celebration: breakfast in bed (Nutella crêpes, coffee, a banana, a glass of freshly-cut lilacs), gifts, cards, and dinner with the family at a nice restaurant. We ended the day by sporting goofy faces, of course, for a family selfie.

Some days, it is hard to believe I am a mother. Our daughters are teenagers now, more independent than I  was at that age. Sometimes, I feel as if they could live just fine without me, but that isn’t true. They need me for large notions: moodiness and friendship struggles, college plans, identity approval, and character building. (I don’t tolerate diminishment. This is the singular area where I am quick to scold.)

My mother and I shared texts on Mother’s Day, wishing each other a happy day, telling each other I love you. It was an appropriate interaction. Except my mother sent it as a group text. On a text that I wanted for myself, she included my sisters, one of whom is not a mother. My older sister doesn’t know the challenges of motherhood, nor the reason it was inappropriate years ago to set her large purse on top of my daughter who, at three months old, slept in the car seat while we ate lunch. How do you explain worth to someone so ignorant?

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My older sister replied to my mother with gushy flowers and hearts. It reminded me why I am uncomfortable around my birth family—they are, in my opinion, still children, perhaps the same emotional age as my daughters, but probably not quite. With family, as a mother and a daughter, I am eternally stuck in the middle. One family is age-appropriate, the other is not. Navigating the polarity of emotional terrain comes either with a reward or a struggle. Flowers and hearts from children has a different meaning than flowers and hearts from adults.

I know now that mature love makes the difference. Timeliness makes a difference. As a teenager, I wanted my mother to tell me I was smart, worthy, special. I wanted her to love me as much as she loved my sisters. Instead, I felt ignored, insignificant, betrayed. She simply wasn’t emotionally situated to give me the love I needed.

But she tried.

Now, I can articulate my needs. My mother is trying to meet them, really trying. I hope when my daughters are adults that I will continue to try to meet their needs. Being heard, feeling heard, is how a woman feels loved. It is so much larger than hearts and flowers.

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Do you agree? How do you feel loved?

 

 

 

Words: On Trump, but Mostly My Dad

Politics are not my thing, but a little nagging voice inspired me to write about Trump’s disparaging comments about women. Saturday night, with my laptop on my lap and a glass of wine (from France, of course), I sat down and let my fingers type their way through the messiness to find meaning in the words.

What Trump said out loud wasn’t shocking to me. Nor had I placed him on a pedestal high enough to induce feverish anger. To me, the news was as blasé as hot dogs for dinner.

But I was unhinged about something. The words poured out Helter Skelter crazy with no sensibility to them. The slant finally began to drift toward my father.

Ah yes, my father.

He had been in town last week. Knowledge of his proximity had rendered me into a weak-kneed, vulnerable scaredy cat. My heart raced at the first phone call. I did not answer.

My dad, father to three girls, was known for the opposite of exquisite praise. Fed up with bickering, he would say, “Good God I wish I had boys. One punch and it’s over.” Then he’d shove a triple decker of Saltines with cheese in his mouth.

His method of parenting: insult. He swallowed food. I swallowed anger. As I grew, the words inside me built from Shut up to I hate you! Of course, I never said any of these out loud. Well, maybe I did. Yes, I did. But nothing answered the eternal burn of his influence: What’s wrong with me?CircleRocks

As it is, I love my father. I recognize the gap left by unmet needs that made him violent and explosive, drunk and unpredictable. Still, in his presence I waver between the woman who deserves respect and the daughter who yearns to make her father proud.

I have no say in the latter. I never did. Growing up, my sisters and I were present and vulnerable to his needs—the needs we should never have had to shore up with our innocence. His words diced us into shards just as a fist punches. The pain wasn’t visible, but the scars will last a lifetime.

My father’s words speak of the culture that raised him. He had no say over it. It is forgivable.

But I couldn’t summon the strength to answer the phone the second time he called. I was afraid he would avoid the conversation I need with him. I was afraid I would cave in to his needs and avoid it too. My love for my father is courageous and raw, wild and stray. I no longer want to feed it, but I can let it run.

I know this hurts him. People are wild, we hurt each other. But we can stop hurting with words.

Words make all the difference.

Words: On Childhood*

I should have written a diary. Forgive me for fearing my sisters might find it, which is not to say I had little ability at hiding keepsakes of my inner world. Rather, it is that I excelled at disguising my world. This tactic evolved gracefully, slowly. By adulthood, infused in a concealed version of life, my secrets remained hidden, especially from myself. For this, I must ask my own forgiveness.

It is easy to look back at childhood and see the triumphant casualties of my family, memories emblazoned with red. The pendulum swing through the years leaves me yearning for the moods wedged between childhood’s climactic and sullen moments. How difficult it is to dredge up the gray-timeless hours spent adhering stickers on notebooks, building forts, reading Snoopy, and chasing boys. I want to see the tomcat fumble in the dark. Summer days spread before me like an ocean of time. I rejoiced piecemeal discoveries festooned with tinsel and dust. I want to feel her smallness, expand into the world with thin arms, listen to footsteps with greater importance than my own.

There, I might find recourse in laughter, or perhaps on the duct-taped seat of a bicycle I pedaled nowhere and home again. I would smell anew the lilacs of spring. Time diffuses spirit. Diaries capture it. Maybe, just maybe, mine will visit once again in the walls of my written story.IMG_3465

 

*In response to Day 3 of the 20 Day Challenge One word prompt: Secret

Words: My Top Ten Realizations After One Year of Awareness

I’ll never forget Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014. My eyes bolted open from sleep. The words My God, they are against me, cycled through my brain. Memories played out in a backwards reel: Christmas 2013, France 2005, wedding day 1996, 16th birthday 1987, a broken collarbone 1975.

I had THE AWAKENING I needed, the one I feared most: My family is against me. From this perspective, my life suddenly made sense. Emotional abuse. Neglect. Why hadn’t I seen the collective significance of these events sooner? Each experience was a pearl on the necklace of emotional corrosion. Through the years, the more I resisted its presence, the tighter the necklace squeezed life from me.

I know now that denial and dignity have a very tight grasp on each other. I’ve learned other things as well. Whether or not you’ve experienced abuse in your life, the universal elements of my experience transcend to every person on the planet. I’m happy to share with you:

MY TOP TEN REALIZATIONS AFTER ONE YEAR OF AWARENESS

  1. The power of voice is a gift you give yourself.
  2. Fear is a four-letter word that can go %$#* itself.
  3. Most people are wounded. Most people aren’t doctors. Nobody is required to heal anyone.
  4. Believe in yourself. Believe in yourself. Believe in yourself. Even if no one else does.
  5. God empowers. He lets you scream at the ones who’ve hurt you. Then, you forgive them. (Forgiveness does not mean tolerance.)
  6. Awareness is like mercury, it forms into small balls and rolls all over.
  7. Ignorance is like mercury, it forms into small balls and rolls all over.
  8. Ego is best served like chilled Jell-O: jiggly and resilient to tremors. Otherwise, it stains your shirt.
  9. Mirrors work best when clean.
  10. Life is too short for pain. Don’t take it. Just don’t take it.

Sincerely and with love,

Barbie