She laughed and smiled, and went home planning to die.
She drank or drugged to feel different, and for several beautiful minutes she felt whole and worthy, but it was so brief, and it didn’t fill the gaping hole of worthlessness.
Justifying her existence became her job. Hiding became her daily pursuit. Hiding in plain sight.
She couldn’t afford to let you know her even though she was desperate to be known, to be loved, to be accepted – to matter.
Every failure confirmed her lack of value, and she told herself that everyone knew she was shit – it was a pheromone radiating off of her.
Shame was her cloak – its vile fabric wrapping its folds so tightly around her.
She didn’t even know she had fallen back into the pit. She had reopened all the old escape hatches, but they didn’t hide her anymore.
Until she remembered, and really understood, that she had to change her self-beliefs – to love her unloveable self, and learn to act differently, nothing could change.
Laughter had become coarse in her ear, it no longer held back the darkness enough, and any praise felt insincere, unearned.
Living was becoming unendurable, but she was still too afraid to kill herself.
In a fog of self-loathing, she was gifted the memory of once having worked hard to like herself – even reaching a sense of love and self-worth.
“No one provides worth or value,” came the small voice. “It is always self-derived. It was never fostered as a child – that shame belonged to others who failed their duties. But it’s still possible,” said the voice.
“Let the flicker become a brilliant blaze, and know that all fires go out if they are not fed. And a fire will burn whatever fuel its given – so feed it worthy fuel.”
Addendum: It’s also okay to borrow fuel from others if all you have is shit to burn.
I heard something today that I heard a long time ago, but keep forgetting: it is none of my business what anyone else thinks of me, and none of anyone else’s business what I think of them. What I think is irrelevant.
Tending to my own life, to my own path, is all that is required of me.
I cannot count on anyone else – it isn’t fair to put that burden on anyone – but it sure is nice to have friends who don’t mind walking beside me time to time through this world.
My job is to meet people where they are and have no expectations of them. It sounds easy, but it’s not.
I hate change, and I hate having to change. LOL
It’s uncomfortable, it’s painful, even, but it’s life.
Is there some being or force overseeing all of this, guiding us, or willing to guide us if we so choose?
I have no idea.
Sometimes I would like to believe that, but in order to accept that I have to also accept that that force or being is also cool with horror. So I stay away.
Let it be.
I don’t want to argue anyone else’s philosophy, or point of view. Evil exists. We see it every day. It’s so enormous that it’s almost paralyzing, and I have to tune it out.
Maybe I’m a coward. Maybe I deserve all that I get.
I don’t know.
I believed in love. I really thought love would change the world. I really thought showing up and speaking out would change the world for the better.
Maybe it has and I can’t see it.
I don’t know. It feels like just a lot of wasted energy.
I have been very naïve my whole life. I was idealistic, I was hopeful. I’m not ready to give into the forces of evil, but they feel stronger than the forces of love lately.
I’m ready to leave the world – whenever my time comes. I believe I have done my best.
My imagination leads me to a quiet place out in the universe somewhere. There is no sight or sound, and no worries. There is no happiness, no sadness, no anger, no hate, but also no love. It’s just energy, I guess. At least that’s what science says. Energy is neither created nor destroyed, and everything must go somewhere.
Once upon a time in a land called the 80’s, I was friends with my next oldest sister. We had always had a tenuous relationship up until our 20’s, but I welcomed being included (embraced even?) by my next oldest sister.
My oldest sister and I had a good relationship then. She was still my oldest sister so I wasn’t exactly a priority in her life, but at least we got along well.
It felt like an honor for my middle sister to accept me as what I thought, an equal, and for several years we related on a level that my oldest sister did not care to dwell. My next oldest sister was rough where my oldest sister was more refined. My oldest sister was more ‘white collar’ whereas my other sister was thoroughly ‘blue collar’. I have no idea what collar I would have been given, but ‘blue’ was more relatable.
Pretty much I just wanted to be accepted. I’m sure I overlooked a lot back then, or was simply clueless, or my next oldest sister really did appreciate my friendship.
It’s hindsight that helps me see what changed so drastically.
I had a child in 1990, and although my relationship with my next oldest sister was still solid for those first few years, it soon changed for her. It was subtle at first, and then I just started making excuses for her behavior toward me.
I didn’t know that it was against the laws of her ordered mind for the youngest sister to have a child before the older ones. It wasn’t like I tried.
It turns out that she was trying to have a child and couldn’t, while my oldest sister saw what a horror she might be as a parent and consciously chose not to procreate – a decision her dive into evangelicalism would come to haunt her – but that’s her story.
So, once again, I became the scapegoat. I didn’t know the rules had changed. I was so clueless.
Didn’t my sister know that being a single parent with a motherfucking asshole absent father was torturous?! Didn’t she know that living on welfare, getting no child support, and constantly being harassed and told I didn’t deserve to live was difficult at best and often terrifying?
No, apparently I had it really good – and she should have been the one to have a child, not me. I didn’t work my ass to the bone like her. That was true. She’s an amazing worker. So am I when working at something I can cope with.
She sucks, however, as a sister.
I just wanted to be included. I wanted to belong. Once she found out that belonging was important to me, she found her super weapon and my Achilles Heel.
I finally learned to let go – mostly. I still hold out hope that one day she will see that I was true. She will see I was real and I cared. It cannot come at my expense though. Life truly is hard enough.
It’s painful. The Buddhists say to not be attached. Attachment causes pain. Good for them, I say. I’m human. I might reach that kind of detachment in another realm, but I suffer here.
It hurts to no longer be invited into my sister’s life in a real way. It sucks to be surface with people I used to believe had depth with me. Or maybe I didn’t need depth then and depth is important to me now?
I hope her birthday is a happy one. I hope she gets all that she needs to carry her through her life. I also hope that her indifference to me will stop mattering someday.
I know I am not what my sister – or anyone really – thinks of me. I am mostly kind, and I am worth knowing. I am a valuable friend. But I cannot keep throwing pearls before swine. That’s on me, and I am strong enough to know and honor my worth. (repeat ad infinitum)
I forgot about the passage of time. I knew it was happening, but I didn’t believe it was real. My body sure knows it’s real.
I didn’t believe I would one day look in the mirror and see my mother as she was at my age – when I thought she was old – but now I know she really wasn’t, at least not in the way I thought of age thirty years ago. It’s all perspective.
It’s also the package deal I accepted by being born. You live, you grow, you age, and then you die.
When I was 12 I saw some illustrations in a book about the human life cycle. One showed a male and the other showed a female going from babyhood to old age. I was so angry and disgusted when I saw aging illustrated, and I vowed it would not happen to me – as though it only happened because some idiot made a drawing of it.
I did not want to become old and wrinkled. I did not want my life to be taken from me. I thought I had beat aging because I remained relatively young-looking for a long time.
I’m certainly not what I assumed about that drawing – that life was over because you’ve aged – but I internalized that. I think I thought that people age because of their attitude. Some people at the commune/cult I lived in actually said that, and I internalized that as well. “You only age because you think you’re going to,” said that 20-something-year-old to the general agreement of the throng of people sitting around.
And I thought we were special. I thought we were “chosen” as I so often heard. I really believed it though. Part of me still believes it despite knowing better.
I failed, I think to myself. I let the world get to me – or I wouldn’t have aged.
I see people give up all the time – otherwise known as acceptance.
I want to fight it. I see people fighting it to the very end. Isn’t that what all the plastic surgery and body modification is about? Isn’t it a wish for immortality?
I have deeper lines and sagging neck skin now. It pisses me off every time I see it. My failure staring back at me.
My mother stopped looking in the mirror and now I know why.
Without the mirror I can feel like I am still young, and believe I look to others as I wish to appear. But then I see that I am somehow cordoned-off from those not-so-young-themselves-anymore, but younger than me, and I am shunted into the next category. It’s just an observation, but sure, it’s sad. It’s probably self-pitying.
The saying: “We’re here for a good time, not a long time,” should pacify me. I repeat many of those type of sayings to myself. “Life is what you make it – always has been – always will be,” – and the woman who said that was about 80 at the time. Grandma Moses – Anna Mary Robertson Moses. It’s just whistling in the dark though. A platitude. A pacifier.
Life happens with or without consent, approval or control. I do my best to be steadfast and positive, but you can only eat so many shit sandwiches before starting to call them what they are.
I am trying to accept my aging in a culture that tells me in a million subtle (and not so subtle) ways that to age is to fail.
I’m a little late to the show but I’m trying to embrace my aging and not just pretend to accept it. How do I do that?
I defy the 12 year-old girl looking at that book making a lifetime judgement through an illustration. She has no right to determine how my life has unfolded, or what my aging means. Fuck her. She’s fucking 12 for god’s sake! I defy the 20-something-year-old know-nothings, no wiser than that 12 year-old, and whose lives unfolded as all life on earth unfolds. They aged, and they died, or they will die. They have health struggles, and memory problems, right along with any wisdom accrued. I defy all the plastic surgery (which I would get in a damn heartbeat if I could afford it), but it’s still an inability to accept aging. It’s also a form of defiance too, though, but it often just looks circus-freakish (no offense to non-conforming circus persons).
So what is wisdom and perspective for? Is it just to talk to myself because the young have no interest in what the old have to say? I don’t know. My son has no use for any wisdom I possess, but maybe my wisdom is just anxiety? I want his life to defy life itself!
Maybe all of our lives do just that in the implausibility of us being here at all.
I heard about taking a year to live as if it’s my last, and I’ve decided to do it. Maybe it really will be, who knows!
My son is getting married in October, and I kind of feel nothing. I guess I’m just neutral? I’ll probably feel more interested or invested at the wedding.
I suppose I could tell my son I am doing this ‘last year to live’ experiment and ask for some time with him, because if it actually were my diagnosis, that is what I would want to have happen.
What do you do with a year to live?
I have made plans to do the things I have always wanted to do – that I can do – and I have started clearing out old files and noticing what continues to have importance to me that someone will have to just dump when I kick it.
When I look back on my life I have so much regret. I did not manage to do the things I said were important to me. Some would say that they couldn’t have been that important or I would have pursued them, but that is not a fair assessment. That is someone looking in from the outside and not chained in a mind like mine.
I understand it’s my own fault in some measure, but I’m also a trauma survivor for whom being able to function has been an achievement of sorts.
We all experience trauma. There is no escaping it. It is what we are able to do in spite of trauma that is our triumph.
Some people who didn’t experience trauma in infancy and continuing through to adulthood might not be as limited by the experience, or maybe they carried on well even if they had intense challenges from the get-go.
That cannot be a measure for everyone else, however. “I did it so you can too,” is one of the most fucked-up things a person can say to another. Tell me how you minimize without telling me how you minimize is what anyone should get from that.
You don’t know me. You don’t know what I’ve lived through, or tried, or continue to work at.
My star was in my ability to laugh and to love.
I did my best to be kind even though I know I’ve been an asshole plenty in my life. I hope that the balance will show more kindness and caring than the opposite.
It is okay to not have reached my goals – at least I had them.
Every time I gave up and railed about life, I got back up.
I lived. I experienced a full range of emotion. I have been a life-long learner. Hell, I’ve been studying Spanish for four years now and I still suck at it – but I haven’t given up. I also tend a garden. I love seeing plants grow – and I love fostering their growth. I adore beauty. Hiking and being in nature fills me with such reverence and joy.
I am with a partner who deeply loves me, and I love him. That was a near miss for me. I had a broken picker for so long when it came to romance that I happily gave it up. Maybe that allowed a space for someone good to come into my life, or maybe I just got lucky.
Sitting outside drinking my coffee on a summer morning with the sun warming me is about as close to paradise as I could imagine.
I will continue to work for peace in this time I have left, and to speak out against injustice.
I’m a bit worried about what’s after this life, if there is anything. I’m not afraid of some terrible god, I’m afraid of being bored. It would probably be good if there is just nothing after this.
“November would be unbearable were it not for knowledge of spring.”
I wish I could remember the author of that quote. An internet search turned up nothing, and I am probably misremembering it, but that is the gist of it at any rate.
I heard it back in my college days, studying literature, and the edge of my brain is saying it was a woman writer in the 19th or early-to-mid 20th century.
I’m thinking of this quote in terms of my mother, beyond this physical world now. I suppose spring represents the mystical realm, where I believe I will see those who mattered to me again. At least the thought sustains me in these darkening days.
The large maple tree in our yard, so recently flush with green leaves – with life – stands bare again as the year cycles. The birth and death of its foliage every year reminds me that I will cycle too, but unlike those leaves, I will not regenerate in the spring – at least not here.
My mother told me once that she heard in her mind: “we’re waiting,” when she stood outside on a frigid winter day, wondering what happens to the leafless trees through the long winter months.
Are you waiting now, Mom?
I glance at that tree through my window, and think about my mother having cycled into the underworld. She is literally under the ground now – no word on what happened to her spirit or soul.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were spirit journalists – envoys from wherever they are now – sending their observations on the work-a-day spirit world back into this physical realm where we could pick up their papers and journals, or read their blogs?
I’d particularly like to read Mark Twain’s (Samuel Clemens’) observations. I’m sure my mother would too.
She had a good sense of humor, and appreciated irony and satire.
I took a trip to my mother’s old trailer, and was depressed about the state of it.
All the wood and the walls and the ceiling and floor are rotting away. All I could think was “as above, so below.” I try not to think about my mother decomposing in her grave – but she always spoke almost reverently about becoming “worm food.”
A grave robber broke into Mozart’s tomb and was shocked to see him sitting there, furiously erasing what looked like one of his symphonies.
“What are you doing?” blurted out the startled robber.
“I’m decomposing!” replied Mozart. (one of my mother’s favorite silly jokes)
Besides missing laughing, joking, and talking with her, it strikes me that I probably never knew my mother as she saw herself, and I didn’t particularly like aspects of my mother that can bring up terribleness even now.
I see my mother through my lens of need, often forgetting that her neglect and dysfunction helped cause much of my disturbed emotional being.
But, I still love her for what she was able to do – for her trying to do better. I remember how she was there for me when my son was born, and throughout his growing up – even though I curse the hell that was wired into my brain, which hurt my ability be the mother I had wanted to be. Even so, I did far better with my son than was done for me.
People like to quibble on the nature vs nurture question, but time and again we see those who mostly had what they needed as children doing far better than those who didn’t. All you need is one appropriate, concerned and loving caregiver to get you through awful circumstances, and perhaps even thrive, but not everyone gets that. Humans are resilient, and I know that we continue on regardless – I and my siblings are proof of that – but we still paid, and in some ways, continue to pay for what we endured.
We are all on a heroes journey. We all suffer, face challenges large and small, and we all have the potential for victory. But those who don’t slay their dragons are not less worthy, they’re just less celebrated, or honored for having done their best. They “failed” to vanquish the darkness, but they still tried.
Sometimes there’s more to love in a loser than in a winner. We can all relate to loss.
I’m noticing that the night-blooming jasmine flowers, that rarely bud out anymore, are budding in a cluster of five or six.
(is that my mother making them bloom now – maybe? or is it my Aunt Lee, checking in on me. Or is it nothing because there is nothing, and they are gone now. All the aunts except my aunt Cathy are gone.)
I pulled out my Halloween decorations yesterday, and I really enjoyed that last year, but I’m having a hard time enjoying anything this year. It’s getting chilly here in Western Massachusetts, so I pulled out my fall and winter clothes too.
(mom kept all her clothes until they were practically rags, and I have the same wardrobe I’ve had for the last ten years, except underwear, of course, and a few shirts and a pair of pants I got from Costco.)
I’m having a coffee, trying to savor it. Be present to now, I think. Be present.
(mom loved coffee. why don’t I feel her? If spirit is real, and true, then why the fuck don’t I feel anyone who has gone on that I loved?)
I like how the steam rises up, and the rich smell of the beans is so delicious. I go out onto the back deck steps on sunny mornings to sit for a few minutes before starting my day in earnest. The willow trees, the small garden, the bright sky – I appreciate all of it. I am grateful for all that I have, for the time I’ve been given on this good Earth.
(and there’s the garden shed where some of mom’s things are that I have yet to go through and try to salvage anything or chuck it all out)
It’s different now. The raw grief has subsided, but sometimes it overwhelms me again. Mostly, it’s just part of me now.
(i think I’m angry with you, Mom. why are you silent? why don’t you visit me in my dreams? why won’t you make your presence known if you still exist? what kind of a shit universe is this?)
All unanswered questions. The Universe doesn’t bend to my will, or care how angry I am. I have to choose what I believe – if anything. I can be as wrong believing as not believing, or as right believing as not believing that there is a point and purpose to all of this.
I’m older now. I didn’t want to get older. I didn’t try to get older. Life just moved on – often without me keeping up – and definitely without my consent. My pain is often because I refuse acceptance too. I try to remember that I only have to accept, not approve. I can yell all I want that this is against my will, but life just doesn’t work like that. Life is neither for nor against me – or any of us – no matter how it seems otherwise.
Mom’s passing was just that. Whether it was ‘her time’, or whatever justification I might throw at it – it’s just a fact. I am on a temporal plane. Do I not enjoy what beauty and camaraderie and joy and struggle there is just because it’s going to end? Do I sit in a corner with my arms crossed until my own death comes? Joy and play are important to me! My people make life tolerable. The right music and free-spirited dancing lifts my spirits. So, I will grow older, and have more difficulty until the end. So will everyone on earth who doesn’t die young.
There is goodness, and there is terribleness. I can be as upset as I want, and rail against life’s ridiculousness – and I can make the best of this nonsensical experience. It’s not either/or for me. It’s all of the above.
Years ago, Susan Skulsky, a college English professor who worked with me to improve to a B from a dismal D in my first year General Literature survey course, told me that my ideas were good, but my grammar was terrible.
I’m sure I confessed to her of having dropped out of school after 8th grade.
I did drop back in for my senior year at the urging of a friend who asked me if I had no better ambitions than to be a store clerk, or a server, all my life. I thankfully decided more education was better. However, I missed a lot of critical grammar work that made my English Language and Literature major hard won.
I should have chosen music or theater, but both subjects intimidated me too much, and my college advisor did not see that I was in the wrong major.
I took an introductory theater class, philosophy, and delved into geology, and oceanography, all of which were fascinating and gratifying, but I still longed to be a writer, and perhaps teacher, so I stayed with English.
I remember another English major describe herself as ‘highly trainable’ several years after we graduated and she was working as an insurance underwriter.
But I was going to write something worth reading, perhaps something worth remembering me for…
I never found ‘my thing’ back then, and I’m not sure I ever have.
Did all of my education go to waste? The experiences certainly didn’t.
I learned more about social strata than I likely would have otherwise, which may have been more valuable in some ways than the academics.
The woman whose daddy was giving her a ‘Jag’ upon graduating. The several women who had never done their own laundry. The ones only there to find a good husband, or because that was their social track.
My dirt poor existence could not have prepared me for the realities of the moneyed world.
The day I got my paper back with that big red D, and its accompanying “make an appointment to see me,” scribbled next to it, I sat in silent shock, while a girl sitting with some classmates at a table behind me was in tears over an A- she received.
What would she have thought had she known there was someone who got a D sitting so near her?
Life moved on, as it does. I survived, and am still standing, even if my dreams did not become reality. I try not to justify my failures as ‘all for the best’. I simply failed.
Maybe it was a brain problem.
My dear friend told me about her daughter’s boss who said something like “Oh, you’re a scholar,” when my friend spoke of her interests and her life. She said it was a freeing statement to hear. She is a scholar.
The sun shines brightly over the brown, leafless trees outside the kitchen window. A breeze ruffles the tan stalks of grass and hay poking up in patches of the neighbors back property like several days of stubble growth on earth’s face. The blue sky rimmed with white and grey clouds gathered near the horizon makes me think of the soft summer days recently erased – an artist ever changing its mind.
The chug of the tractor’s engine is heard well before the machine trundles into view. The stack of wood will warm us as the evening chill descends.
Each day a chance for a different thought, a different choice – until the chugging of my own heart ceases – and all the fuel has left my body.
Until then, my machine needs the same care any aging machine does – I can no longer skimp on maintenance.
Seeing myself with the same respectful reverence I have for that eighty year old tractor is a hard sell for me, but I keep trying.
In the time that’s gone by, I tried to see a reason for us, but ‘it’s one of those things’ is said, and ‘be glad you found it before you’re dead’, and I am.
Thousands of songs and poems say why: ‘it’s not the colors in his eyes, or the way he wears his clothes, or how he knows the things he knows, but it’s in how he thinks of and looks at me.’ It’s how he loves me so thoroughly – it’s so new.
I keep deciding to pull away, to leave and find my life another way, but I’ve started asking what I’m running for, because I truly know that there’s no better than this.
But this is not all there is, I know, and we don’t live to make the best in show; we have found happiness and joy, a port in a storm, a bond I won’t destroy – again.
So settle down I tell myself, this love we’ve found is real and precious.
You are the compass that points true, you are everything I needed but never knew, and if I tell the fear to leave me be, then it will always be you and me, together.
This is my song to you – to us – to love – to life’s joyful expression amidst life’s agony.
Thank you for your love, for your steadfast care and hope, and for giving me a chance to truly love you too.
Andy & me at Yaquina Head light, Oregon, June 2016