still here

On my last day I will shut the door on this life
Content with what I’ve gained,

but leave my love for you inside our house
to grow and flood our rooms and halls
and surround and envelope you forever

until you bring it back to me
when we meet again

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Boundaries

What sets you apart from everything else in the world? What defines you?

Boundaries between you and a loved one, you and your child, and even boundaries within your own self are vital in discovering your identity.

My therapist has helped me to find a boundary within myself: the line between my wounded inner child and the adult that I now am. A very small part of me is hurt by traumas of the past. I was left feeling emotional, reactive, and an imposter of adulthood. I didn’t feel like I could become a mother, or a wife or any grown version of myself without feeling like I’m stuck in the age of my trauma.

That is my inner child. She is wounded from the past and loves to take the reigns when I’m trying to grow. When I’m anxious about conflict, when I jump after a loud noise, when my stomach churns at any sign of yelling or fighting… That is when she takes over.

I’m learning to create a boundary between her and myself. She is only a very small part of me, not who I am altogether.

Now that I’m an adult, I am responsible for that child. I will give that inner child the love and attention and nurturing it needs because she never got it from her mother. She never will. This is also something I need to teach her. Let go.

Doing this, I think, is my first step in finding my self and living myself. Do you have an inner child you need to nurture?

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Motherless Daughter

I have few memories of my mom from childhood and “before the divorce”, a phrase I use when describing this ephemeral yet idyllic time in my life. I remember when she would rub my headaches away as I laid on her bed. I remember her teaching me about the importance of putting lotion on and brushing my hair. I remember being spanked, hit with wooden spoons, and kicked in the ribs.

I don’t remember shopping with my mom, having the period talk or learning how to dress. I never learned how to do my makeup or act “ladylike”. I wasn’t taught how to cook or to handle boys, and had no one to question about my changing body.

Mom was hardly around when my parents were married. I spent days with dad wondering when she would get back from “bingo”. We were in bed before she tip-toed through the front door each night.

Bingo was just bingo at first, but it evolved into an affair with a man who is now my stepfather. This sparked fights and domestic violence, the darkest period of my childhood. Knives were pulled, furniture was broken, and all out brawls were displayed center stage for my brother and I. This all went on between my dad’s cancer treatment. After an enormous amount of  stress and turmoil for all parties involved, my parents finally split. My boyfriend asked me once, “Do you ever wish your parents stayed together?”

I answer with a resounding, “Hell no! They would have murdered each other!” A half-joke, at best.

Despite the child abuse, which I didn’t dare mention, my mom gained custody of us. Each night she brought this mystery man from the affair into her bed when she thought we were asleep, too afraid to introduce him into our lives.

My dad fought hard to regain custody, and he knew that she was abusive. In the back of the courtroom, they asked me who I wanted to live with. Who else would I choose but the parent who was always there? A moment went by, the judge made a decision, and I walked back into the courtroom to see my mom in heavy tears, an image forever emblazoned into my memory. What have I done? I held on to that guilt until high school.

After moving with dad, my mom wasted no time getting married to this mystery affair man, eventually starting a family with him. She moved to New Mexico and then to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, following her husband wherever he went. I never felt like my brother and I were a priority in my mom’s life, and this was the icing on the cake. I often wonder if this was “abandonment”.

We saw mom once every two years after that move – somehow getting through our teenage years without her. My dad tried his absolute best, but something was always missing. Something only a mother could give to her daughter. Birthday after birthday, I was left to fill that gap with no hint as to where to begin. In a way, I appreciate the opportunity to figure out myself on my own.

She gave birth to my youngest brother and assimilated into my stepdad’s family. They saw and knew her more intimately, and I was jealous. We were secondary – left in the background of my mom’s new life. I envy the mother-child bonds I see around me, wince when I see someone treating their mother poorly, and feel a little down each year on mother’s day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Because of this, my interactions with women are strange and uncomfortable. Dependence and reliance on others is not my cup of tea. I became self-sufficient, often ignoring advice sounding even remotely motherly. It’s very hard for me to feel “girly” and do “girly” things. I have self-esteem issues regarding my body and expressing my “femininity”, a concept that feels foreign. My female friends seem alien, and I study what they do and how they carry themselves. Can’t I just be a normal “girl”?

The good memories are strong enough for me to love and care for her still. At the end of the day, she is my mom. I recognize her attempts to connect and make up for lost time, but when I try to open up my heart, it feels forced and uncomfortable – like we missed a step between. When she calls, I feel plucked out of my own life, putting on a mask to ease the discomfort of knowing what a mother-daughter relationship should be like and living in that discrepancy. It’s like we’re trying to build this massive and complex thing, but it feels too little, too late, and is difficult with the distance.

“You know you can talk to me about anything,” she says. I give a half-hearted laugh and mutter “of course,” as I think about all the years she forgot what grade I was in or how old I was. She is a stranger. The bond is just not what it should be and feels disingenuous.

Should I still attempt a relationship with my mom? I struggle with this question.

She has never apologized to my dad or to my brother and I, nor is she the type to ever admit fault, a trait from a culture that is fueled by pride. I know deep down that she feels regret and lives with the sting of being distant and disconnected from her childrens’ lives. I want to have a conversation with her, but it feels too heavy for strangers, like we’re not on that level. Our conversations float above the surface, never delving into anything too intimate. I have forgiven her in my own mind, however, and I’m considering writing a letter to her that I will never send.

I purchased the book “Motherless Daughters”, a book for those coping with life without a mother. Most of the content is geared toward women whose mothers have passed away, and some of it discusses abandonment.

Sometimes I feel alone in this situation, and wonder if anyone else is experiencing the same. Advice for those who have lost their mother to death does not particularly pertain to me. She isn’t gone, though I hardly feel her presence and have lived most of my life without her. Advice for those who have been abandoned does not exactly address my situation.

My mom did not leave in the middle of the night never to be heard from again. She’s hanging on to our lives by a thread, and those tenuous strings cause a lot of confusion as I get older and think about my own marriage and motherhood. How do you build a relationship that should have been there during your most formative years? Do I strengthen this bond? Do I want to? Will it benefit me? Do we discuss the past or start a clean slate? Do I let go? Would I regret it?

“Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
(W.S. Merwin)

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Another Black American Killed

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Tyre King, Age 13, Shot and Killed by Police in Columbus, Ohio

I am sick to my stomach and my heart hurts thinking about the numerous, appalling, and senseless killings of innocent black adults and children. I fear for my youngest brother’s life, if he were to ever visit or come back to live in the States. I would tell him to never hold a toy gun in his hands. I fear for his side of the family, whom I consider my own. I fear for my friends. I fear for the children who won’t get to live out their lives or the ones who grow up without their parents or siblings – murdered on the street for no good reason.

Institutionalized racism is so very real and racism in general is very much alive today. I’ve experienced it myself. However, it is nowhere near as prominent as it is in the African American community, which has faced and continues to face so much untold hardship. When will we progress past our differences and evolve past this reptilian fear of all that is unlike ourselves? It’s 2016 — 52 years after public segregation in America was abolished and 151 years since the end of slavery, and people are still losing their lives and being treated like sub-humans because of what they look like (and don’t even get me started on the zealotry and prejudice against the Muslim-American community).

I love this country, I love my freedoms, and I love and respect my friends, family and countrymen that fight to keep us safe. I don’t believe sitting during the national anthem is an issue of respect for your country when your heart is hurting for the innocent dead bodies on the street. It’s an issue much bigger, and something that not everyone will understand if you and the generations in your family before you have not experienced roadblocks, barriers, judgments, and subtle differences in how you are treated and spoken to and supported in the community by both regular people and by systems and institutions ALL throughout your life. Everyone can seek to understand, however, and look outside of themselves and what they know and what they grew up with. There is an entire world outside of your own bubble, outside of your own race, religion, country, beliefs, sexual orientations and social class, and it will always be that way. Always. Anyone who is disappointed in the ongoing deplorable treatment of their own kind has every right to exercise their freedom of speech to say so, and if it starts a conversation about the real problems that face America, that is wonderful.

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On Writer’s Block and Unhindered Genius

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I was reading an article about writer’s block and facing the blank page. It was several articles, actually, on Brain Pickings, a blog that I’ve come to really love.

I watched a video in the article which had eight different writers explaining what staring down the blank page meant to them. One writer’s thoughts struck me. American fiction writer Phillipp Meyer said that the blank page doesn’t exist. What exists instead is our insecurity – our insecurities that what we write won’t match our ideal or our insecurities that the conditions in which we want to write are just or right yet. There is no blank page. There is no writers block.

I don’t think “writer’s block” actually exists. It’s basically insecurity — it’s your own internal critic turned up to a higher level than it’s supposed to be at that moment, because when you’re starting a work — when the page is blank, when the canvas is open — your critic has to be turned down to zero… The point is actually to get stuff on paper, just to allow yourself to kind of flow. It is only by writing that you’ll discover characters, ideas, things like this. (Philipp Meyer)

So how do you overcome this self-perceived writer’s block? Just start writing. Write whatever is in your head and keep writing.

As a writer, your job is to write. Anything else, absolutely anything that keeps you from doing this one action, is a hindrance. No worrying. No fucking around, no doting, no twiddling your thumbs. Stop trying to be perfect (you’re not perfect and you will never be). In fact, “perfect” doesn’t exist.

You have to be willing to shovel out crap. That’s why I always think my past writing is embarrassing. Because it is! But guess what? I wrote more back then than I do now. That was back when I could tell everyone I was a writer during those awkward ice breakers and not feel like a sham.

You have to be willing to write like shit. You have to be that unhindered genius: that wide-eyed, curious child that doesn’t know any better and just keeps taking in information and putting out creation, without any of the anxieties and worries that plague us as adults. It reminds me of another Brain Pickings article I read on the genius of childhood.

I look back at the things I did when I was younger and I’m amazed. In high school, I auditioned for a play by singing up on stage and performing a monologue! I rode all sorts of death-defying roller coasters at the theme park King’s Island with fear in my heart but I pushed through it anyway. I even talked to all sorts of people and made all sorts of friends.

Where did that courage go? Or is it a blindness or ignorance to what bad could happen? Is it healthy and safe to have that? Is that where the genius of childhood lies? How can we tap into that again?

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How Many More Unmotivated Saturdays?

Dear Unmotivated Me,

It’s Saturday. It’s been approximately 318 Saturdays since you wanted to start and maintain a blog. Even more since you wanted to write that novel. Don’t forget the 104 Saturdays since you truly wanted to dedicate your life to getting out, exploring, and getting healthy. Aren’t you tired constantly fooling yourself with promises to be a better you when you can’t even remember the first time you’ve said that to yourself? “Tomorrow, I will.” It was years ago. How old are you now? Why do you not feel the sense of urgency here?

“Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don’t know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life. It’s that terrible precision that we hate so much. But because we don’t know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.” (Paul Bowles in “The Sheltering Sky”)

It does seem limitless. Tomorrow does seem easy to come by. How can we overcome feeling like we have all the time in the world?

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