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)

Continue Reading

Another Black American Killed

160915-tyre-king-cleveland-shooting-mn-1605_73f06713307a7b9e6ede526176c6441f-nbcnews-fp-1200-800
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.

Continue Reading

On Writer’s Block and Unhindered Genius

old-1130743_1920

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?

Continue Reading

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?

Continue Reading

Looking into my Late Twenties

Here I am: the late twenties. I just turned 26. Seven years older than my mom was when she had me, as she likes to remind me. Our phone calls become less and less frequent the older and busier I get – our only means of bonding as it has been since my parents divorced 16 years ago. My boyfriend and I, unmarried, are building the lives most twenty-something couples build. We’re also the parents of two dogs, and we just started replacing hand-me-down furniture with our own chosen pieces, and yes, they are from Ikea. And yes, we did have a fight in that same Ikea.

I started decorating the apartment, desperately trying to make it feel like my childhood home. Warm, comfortable, safe. This is the first time I have been on my own, and I’m not on my own. I share a bedroom with someone else. For 24 years, I had a space of my own to which I could retreat. A space to cry, to regroup, to create. A space without the influence of others. A small world I slowly built as I grew, a world that fostered even more growth.

I’m out of school now. I’m half convinced I went into graduate school because I was uncomfortable with veering off the stepping stones of early life. Kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school, college. Some people stop there. I think maybe I didn’t want to face the big, “What’s next?” Now that I’ve got my Master’s, I’m working full time, wondering what to do with myself come 5 PM.

I’m contemplating going back to school, because maybe I’m secretly a busy-body. Maybe I want to stave off my student loans just a little bit more. Or maybe I still can’t handle the big, “What’s next?” In 101 Secrets For Your Twenties, a gift from my boyfriend after my 26th birthday as I lamented crossing over to the “late twenties”, Paul Angone’s 48th tip is one that sinks a twenty-something’s heart straight to the stomach.

The biggest surprise about becoming an adult that no one ever talks about… Adulthood. Never. Stops.

As we go through school, we are used to these predefined periods of time. We go to school, we go from semester to semester, we stress over exams and then summer break hits. We leave town, have fun, try to redefine ourselves and form bonds – our biggest responsibility on hold for two months, and then we do it all over again. But not adulthood. There is no time set aside for a break. The bills don’t stop coming once June or July hits. And that stress from your exams? You feel it tenfold, all the time. There’s no study guide here.

There’s something beautiful about being in your twenties though. It’s the challenge. It’s the resourcefulness we were raised to have, being born into and growing up in the recession. The mess our parents made. It’s the potential we have. The adaptability we obtained through the rapid growth of technology. It’s prime time for redefining.

This is where we plot our trajectory into the stars – all the tools lain before us, It’s where we throw our own stepping stones… where ever we want. It’s the first time we have to deal with “real shit”. The time of our first life crisis – one of many. And for those of us who learn to ride the waves and struggle through it all, making our own way despite fear of failure? We come out beautifully somewhere on the other side of 29. Where I am now? I’m on the cusp of adulthood. The most opportune moment to plot my trajectory. Adulthood is not going to stop and wait for me. No – this train will keep on going. But I will lay the tracks.

Continue Reading

Go easy on yourself, it will give you strength

Are you going easy on yourself? When you look in the mirror, what do you feel about the person staring back? Are you too ashamed to even look? Do you talk down to that person? Blame them or call them lazy for putting off that to-do list for the third week in a row? Do you turn your nose up at them and scowl at their appearance? Their seeming inability to get themselves together? Well this person may have a reason.

They may really be struggling. But they are still there, they have hopes of one day improving, even if it’s slowly and on their own time. So just be a bit more understanding – a bit kinder and a bit more loving. Stepping on the downtrodden will push them further into the ground. Lend your strength to the person you see in the mirror and hoist them up. Give yourself strength. You’re doing the best you can, and that’s all you can do.

Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. (Max Ehrmann)

Haven’t you taken enough of a beating?

Continue Reading

Fear Driven: My Long Awaited Counquering of Driving

This is an archived post from 2010.

Last week was truly a monumental one for me. At last, I assembled my bits of courage collected over the last four years and got my driver’s license. Yes, it took me half way through college before achieving this “rite of passage” and, to be frank, I am still in denial.

As a twenty-year-old student active in her community, I somehow bore the humiliation of being a “ride mooch” who couldn’t drive anywhere, but always had to be somewhere. In four years, I have become a master ride-bummer… not necessarily a good thing.

So why did I wait so long?

Pure fear.

When I was sixteen, I was really excited to drive, but also harbored some paranoia thanks to the morbidity of the news. After being told, “If so-and-so can do it, you can!” many a time, I pushed my fear aside and practiced until it was test time.

Regrettably, the only vehicle we had back then was a very large space-shuttle-like van. Now, I’m only 5 feet tall and barely pushing 100 pounds. Practicing in it was difficult; I could barely see over the dash! There was itty bitty me, high up off the ground in a monstrous and clunking beast, trudging down the main road taking up all available space in my lane. I had no leeway. The van stretched back for miles it seemed, and I was unaware of  where it ended and began. I felt like I needed a “caution: wide turn” signal.

The dreaded test time came. It was my first shot. I wore my most comfortable shoes and sported a “driving outfit” worn for comfort and flexibility. I hopped into the big van with my dad in the passenger’s seat, and we drove off for the examination station in the early hours of the morning.

This is where the seed of my fear was planted. Not too far from our house, I decided to go back. My nerves were getting to me, and I decided my shoes would hinder my driving. Overthinking things, I wanted to head home to change them.  Dad told me to pull the clunker into a driveway and turn around to head home, but as I was backing out I went too far and the enormous van crushed the mailbox across the street tearing it clear out of the ground.

There was a loud crash, we dipped into a small ditch, and the van’s rear bumper was stuck to the mangled pole. It wouldn’t budge.  Dad was at a boiling point, and fear and adrenaline took over. I handed over the wheel, and he cleverly maneuvered us away. I was stressed and nervous beyond belief.

‘Do you still want to take the test?” dad asks.

And in disbelief I respond, “Um, I don’t really think I should be on the road… do you?”

He drove us home, and I stormed into the house furious at myself. I don’t know if my dad ever contacted the owners of the mailbox, but that incident was enough to keep me off the road for four years. I was terrified, and the intense fear was punishment enough.

Just last week, I scheduled my first driver’s exam since. Thanks to my boyfriend’s car and a new vehicle purchase by my dad, I was able to practice in cars much more fitting to my size, which made ALL the difference. I got an adequate amount of practice in, scheduled my exam for the afternoon, and I was ready.

I drove to the exam station with my boyfriend, the nerves making their existence known within my stomach. I walked in, they processed me, and then it was show time. It was a humid and rainy day, but as soon as I walked to the car with the examiner, my emotions turned off and I  was on autopilot.

Where I live, we’re required to take a maneuverability test similar to parallel parking. I did this first with ease save for a few bumps of the markers. Then it was time for the road test. We rode into a neighborhood, and I followed his instructions exactly. He marked me off for a few mistakes, but once we rolled back into the exam station parking lot, it was silent.

“You passed!”

Four years of tension and guilt flowed out of me, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I did it.

My newfound independence has been a godsend. Now my passion for volunteering can blossom in ways that were deemed impossible in the past. I’m already dreaming of the near future where I can pick up my “Little” and be the “Big Sister” I’ve always wanted to be. I no longer have an excuse to have “lazy days” every weekend, and I like it.

So instead of taking this common ability to drive for granted, I’m going to take this privilege of mine and share it with those who can benefit from it. Oh, and I won’t pass up the occasional shopping spree either.

Continue Reading

Poetry: Impeccable Arrow

Bursting reveries
wish for your impulsivity
and no promises destitute,
birthing projects missing ends
Exacting words, the only potion
One simple, harmonic motion:
an impeccable arrow in time
aimed and stamped: “future you”,
a message from the past
saying, “I’ll be there”

(Heavily inspired by Danielle LaPorte’s wonderful article on sticking to your word: “The Secret to Success“. A must read!)

A small update…

It’s Friday and the week is over! For me, the days zoomed by and now a little R&R awaits. My family has planned a two-day camping trip at a beautiful lake, and the weatherman says it’s going to be beautiful out there. As there won’t be any posts at Deliciae this weekend, I wanted to leave you with the short, ingenious article linked above.

It’s all about doing what you say you’re going to do, a message my idealistic self should have tattooed on my forehead! I hope you also enjoy my tiny, quickly written poem inspired by said article. (Thanks to Adam Had’em whose poetry inspired me to start posting my own.)

Have a fantastic weekend!

Image found here
Continue Reading

The Dying Meaning of Compassion

homeless man asking for penny or a smileImage by Joey Lawrence

In today’s world, everything is “fat free”. For some reason we still marry “until death do us part” though divorce rates say otherwise, and on the internet we see articles like ‘10 “Amazing” Dog Houses’ or ‘5 “Amazing” Facts About Chocolate’. Are dog houses really all that “amazing”? These words have one thing in common: they have all lost their meaning. Like “liberalist” and even “love”, their overuse and lack of appreciation takes away their specialty. So what about “compassion”?

Media and politicians love to shove this word down the public’s throat, typically after some national disaster.

“Show compassion, buy this shirt and some of your money will go through our agency and (maybe) go towards helping these people in need!” 

Of course this is not what they say, but this is essentially what it is.

“America, we need to have compassion for those affected by this disaster. Send money to this fund!”

When broken down to its Latin roots, “compassion” stands for “co-suffering”, but by today it simply means “to have a personal connection, empathy, and sympathy with those who suffer”. What many fail to realize is, although the government and charitable agencies help the needy, money alone does not reach the poverty of the soul. I believe we need to restore our original meaning of compassion and take a more personal approach to banishing issues like poverty.

While buying a ticket at my local theatre, the cashier asked if wanted to donate a dollar to a children’s fund. I always give to these requests when possible, but being charitable in this way sparks no true compassion – no personal connection. My donation is out of sight and out of mind once I hand it over. I don’t even get to witness the fruits of my generosity. So I forget all about it, and my good deed is given nothing more than it’s own line on my receipt. Is that compassion?

Of course, money is essential in fixing society’s issues, but giving this way seems to have one of two effects on most people. You can give your dollar and go on your way feeling like you’ve done your part, or you give your dollar and never think of it again because you see and feel no benefit – no bliss in helping others. Unfortunately, in dealing with donors on a daily basis, I know all too well how “compassion fatigued” people get when realizing their money has seemingly been thrown into a void.

Monetary donations are good for immediate and temporary fixes, but it’s going to take the crucial role of compassionate individuals to banish these problems for good. Money is not personal, and when we individuals make no personal connection to those suffering with issues like poverty, the real solutions to these tribulations lay stagnant.

So let’s revive the meaning of “compassion”, let’s deal intimately with poverty. If we all realize that those who are impoverished are just as human with just as deep of feelings; if we learn what we all have in common, we can start teaching the world how to react to the visible poor: not by turning a blind eye, but by reaching into the soul of poverty.

I suggest reading this excellent article on cultivating compassion at ZenHabits. Personally my favorite practice is the “commonalities practice” (#3 in the article). In this, Leo Babauta states:

“At the root of it all, we are all human beings. We need food, and shelter, and love. We crave attention, and recognition, and affection, and above all, happiness. Reflect on these commonalities you have with every other human being, and ignore the differences.”

What do you think, readers?


Update…

Sorry folks for the slight delay of today’s post. I went to a cookout the actual day this post was to be done, and must have gotten food posioning because my stomach was acting in revenge for quite some time. I ended up doing a lot of reading on this particular topic of “compassion”, and wound up ordering a book titled, The Tragedy of American Compassion by Marvin Olasky, which seems to touch upon (in depth, of course) the dying meaning of this word. So I may have more to say on this issue once I get this book in my hands, but for now, have a great day and thanks for reading.

Continue Reading