Writing Challenge Day 5 -When your past meets your present

Writing Challenge Day 5 -When your past meets your present

About an hour ago I left a presentation on “How to pay less for college”.  In summary, I’m worth more alive than dead.  Actually I have been hyper aware of this for some time.  I also learned I’m a day late and a dollar short, with zero ducks in a row, for this college preparation thing.  Though I noticed from many sighs and rubbing of temples that I’m pretty sure I wasn’t alone in this matter.

The triggers come quickly when I walk into a high school.  The lockers, the hallways, the pictures on the wall of which I was never a part of.  I find tears start welling up in my eyes and I have to work hard at composing myself.  This usually manifests in me looking like an angry bitch, which actually isn’t all that far from the truth.

high-school

I hate being at the high school even though it wasn’t one I attended.  I went to a different high school every year.  Parents divorced my sophomore year and we moved each year after.  When other kids were going to dances, learning to drive and keeping up their grades in hopes of getting into a great college, I was severely depressed, smoking pot, binge eating and planning my suicide.

Going to three different high schools I became lost in the system.  Not bad enough or good enough to hit anyone’s radar.  My father had abandoned me and my mother was lost in her own drama so there was no one to consider my future.  I remember them talking about taking the SAT in my junior year and saying how much it cost. It was a small amount but we were dirt poor so I didn’t believe I could do it.  I was also deeply involved in finding a way to die so I didn’t consider a future.

The gentleman doing the presentation was a financial planner and has been giving these presentations for over twelve years.  He spoke about grants, scholarships and loans and I had to struggle to stay present as my mind brought me back to being a teenager.  Could I have gotten a grant since we were so poor?  Could I have gone to college?

Please don’t ask me what I dreamed of doing or tell me it’s not too late because Grandma Moses didn’t paint her first painting until she was 78.  Don’t tell me this.  The harsh reality is that I stopped dreaming at 15 years old. I’d wanted to be a ballerina and was practicing in the living room one day.  My mother said, “What are you doing?” and I replied, “Practicing.”  She let out a laugh and said, “Why?!?”  I could see the look in her eye and knew better than to share but did it anyway “Because I want to be a dancer.”  She laughed louder this time while looking me up and down, “You will never be a dancer!  You’re too short!”  Now I’d love for this story to end with me proving her wrong and going on to be a prima ballerina.  But no.  Instead I quit ballet and stopped dreaming.

Life became about survival and still is to this day.  “So when you are planning your child’s education…” {Why didn’t anyone plan anything for me?  Why didn’t I matter?} “When filling out the FAFSA….” {Was this even around when I was young?  I don’t know.  I’m confused.  I’m overwhelmed.} “So depending on what percent…” {What could I have done with my life?  Was there any hope anyway?}

I left the school as fast as I could after the presentation was done.  I tried to focus on my car and not see the auditorium or the football field.  Each place is reminder of what didn’t happen for me.

It’s been decades since I was in high school but the pain is still fresh.  I’ve found that things I thought I was over resurface when my child hits the age I was at when some trauma happened.  I wonder if I’ll ever get to the other side or if I’m doomed to a life of flashbacks and triggers.

I send my son pictures of me at my desk with the caption “Don’t let this be you.  Work hard.  Go for your dreams.”  He wants to be a screenwriter and eventually a director.  “How is he going to survive and pay his bills?” You know what; I don’t know.  But I sure as fuck will support him.

 

 

Writing Challenge Days 2 & 3 – Exhaustion

Writing Challenge Days 2 & 3 – Exhaustion

Didn’t make it to the computer to write yesterday.  I wasn’t expecting to be as “not sober” as I was in the evening.  So today I have roughly 35 minutes to make this a double post.  Sadly my mind is blank.  I have two thoughts which trade places in my mind: I’m so completely exhausted and I’m sick of my Facebook news feed.

Lets talk about an easier subject to tackle – my exhaustion.  I’m exhausted for many reasons, the first being my fibromyalgia (or the more technical diagnosis of Seronegative Spondyloarthropathy).  Going from Summer to Fall brings on intense muscular pain.  All season changes hurt but this one is the worst.  I feel like someone took a bat to my entire spinal column.  Yoga helps to keep movement to my body and I also use other “natural remedies” to keep the pain away.  The exhaustive effects are felt mentally as well as physically.  It’s painful to watch others living their lives while being immobile on a couch.  Now given, I am still at a level at which I can push through and not like so many others who truly aren’t able to move.  Yet it wears on me.  It brings me fear as I wonder how much worse it will get.  Though I was assured by my last rheumatologist that I do not have a degenerative disease; I feel the symptoms getting worse.

Feeling like the pain, the immobility, the exhaustion is getting worse then leads to more fear.  How will I take care of myself?  What if I can’t work?  Who will take care of me?  Living in the moment is a nice idea, and preferable to trailing off into my nightmares, but not always a reality when the hurt gets more aggressive.

Admittedly, I’m exhausted from life too.  I’m tired of fighting: fighting to be heard, fighting for my rights, fighting for my boundaries, fighting for those that won’t or can’t fight.  So tired.  I’d love to walk away from it all but that’s not who I am.  Yet I’ve been fighting from birth.  Being born female into a conservative Christian household is a slow torturous hell for someone who was made to be outspoken and vocal.  The fight is constant too.  The worst is when the men in your life, men you find to be good and strong and moral, still make underhanded misogynist comments.  We’re supposed to smile and be nice because “they didn’t mean anything bad” all the while dying a little more inside.

km turned back

I still make myself small when I don’t want to.  Get small to avoid conflict, avoid the fight, avoid the drama.  Make sure everyone around you is happy.  Suck it up, appease each person, be cordial, don’t anger anyone, just shut up.  I would doubt most males could relates to any of what I just said.  Yes, those with strict upbringings may relate to some, but it never hits the level it does when you are female.

So I look for the balance.  Walking the wire between being exactly who I want to be and not stirring up a whole big batch of bullshit.  I want to believe that one day I will no longer feel my survival depends on keeping balance.  I long for the day I jump off to the side that is all my true feelings while flipping off everyone who requested my silence.

This post was all over the place.  Not what I wanted. Not even fully authentic as I saw faces coming to mind as I typed and I worked my words to fit what would be middle of the road for all.  Yet for today ~ this is all I can offer.

beingwhoyouarequote

Writing Challenge Day 1 – Survival

Writing Challenge Day 1 – Survival

“The hard season will split you through. do not worry. you will bleed water. do not worry. this is grief. your face will fall out and down your skin and there will be scorching. but do not worry. keep speaking the years from their hiding places. keep coughing up smoke from all the deaths you have died. keep the rage tender. because the soft season will come. it will come. loud. ready. gulping. both hands in your chest. up all night. up all of the nights. to drink all damage into love.”

~ Nayyirah Waheed, salt.

This is day 1 for me of a 31 day writing challenge.  I should also mention that the challenge officially started 7 days ago, so I’m behind and I will complete it late. Though in my hyper scheduled life I’m early for everything, in the larger life picture I do things later than others.  Please don’t call it being a “late bloomer”, dear fuck, I’m not blooming at all.  I’m surviving.  Survival takes time, energy and more tenacity than would be needed for those who flow smoothly through the seasons of life.

Finding the perfect subject matter and things to say generally leaves me immobile and not writing.  So as was suggested from a blogging friend (with a huge following and much more skill than I): just write for 10 minutes.  So I will warn you this will be straight stream of consciousness and in all likelihood will bunny trail off into the wildness.

I’m sick of surviving.  Life is rarely happy, and certainly not easy, when you are surviving.  Yet survival is the protection my mind devised to keep me sane when the walls of my life collapsed time and time again.  I held on while wanting to die.  I pressed forward with no plan, no dreams and no hope.  I didn’t want to live but could never quite put killing myself as a priority over staying alive.

Survival involves a lot of fear.  Most decisions are fear based.  Even in the moments you try to “live in the moment” and give yourself some joy, the fear will overtake it all saying “You’ll be sorry.  Don’t hope.  Don’t expect too much.  Being happy now will only make tomorrow worse.”

It is interesting now that I’ve left Christianity, and really God too, that I’m actually much calmer about the future than I was when supposedly God had my back and my future was to hang out in heaven with Jesus.  I never felt the peace that passes all understanding.  Not once.  Not with all the begging, pleading and screams of my heart.  Nothing.  Knowing it all rests on me now is an easier place to live.

longer

 

Accepting the present ~ as it is

{be honest}  Types a few words.  {Hey!  not that honest!}  Deletes.  Get it done by 6:43am.  Whoops!  It’s 7:20am.  It’s 9:35am.  It’s 10:22am.  Scroll Facebook feed.  Scroll.  Scroll.  Scroll.  Eat some ice cream.  And a brownie.  Heart racing.  {What are you scared to say?  Admit it.}  Procrastinate some more.

Today is my birthday.  I was born the exact year, day and time that Woodstock was starting.  Did you do the math?  I’m 47.  I immediately got sick as I saw that number.  I’ve worked hard in the past 7 years to hide my age, to pretend I’m younger and to try to portray myself as anything but what is the truth.  Sure there are all the usual reasons of age being mocked in our society and youth is celebrated.  There is shame too.  Shame that I should have been more, done more and not be where I am.  A lot of shame.  Yet at my core I truly look at my age in awe.  I feel so much younger inside, and by younger I do not mean “young in spirit”, no, I mean emotionally immature by a good 10+ years.  I look around all the time for an adult and find I’m the oldest in the room!
Woodstock-1969
So know that stating my age is an act of courage for me.  Though in the past year it’s been thrown in my face time and time again that I was never fooling anyone.  I recently had a 30 year old send me a funny meme that use “AF” and he proceeded to explain to me what “AF” stood for.  My stomach dropped as I realized he thinks I’m an old person that doesn’t understand today’s lingo.  (Was lingo an old word?  Ut oh.)  I quickly responded with “I may be old AF, but I sure AF, know what AF stands for!”  (Hey old timers – it means As Fuck.)  I died inside.  He knows.  They all know.  I’ve had women I looked at as significantly older than me, both in looks and attitude, say, “Well you know how it is for people our age.”  OUR AGE?  No.  No, no, no, no and no!  We are not the same!  I’m spunky and sassy and sexy and you are OLD AF!  Oh, you’re actually younger than me?  Well isn’t that interesting.

So here I am.  47 years old.  Looking up the wrinkled ass of 50.  Ugh.  But I own it.  Today I choose to own it.  No, my life did not turn out as I planned.  In fact, I didn’t have any plans.  I was fully on the Highway to Hell (take this any way you choose to take it) and prepared to die.  So really, if you look at the trauma I lived, I’m doing fucking fantastic!  I’ve heard people stop caring what others think in their 30’s, so I’m a little behind but I’m getting there.  The wisdom I have today is hard won, and you know what, I know a lot.  I can’t change the past or the journey I took.  And would I do it all the same if I had the chance?  Oh fucking hell no!  I hate people that say they are OK with going through horrors because it got them to where they are today.  But I accept it and I’m still breathing.

I’m working hard on staying present.   Trying to live the exact life I want.  Setting boundaries for the first time.  Learning to breathe through the bullshit.  
So as I end this post, which feels scattered and unsure (exactly how I feel at this moment), I encourage you to be honest, to express your truth and to live the life that you want.  As I say frequently these days, “You’re about to die…..what do you really want?

I’m through apologizing for being me

I’m through apologizing for being me

“You love that I debate with you; only you hate that it comes from your daughter and not one of your sons!”
“Yep!”
“Well it sucks to be you.”

As best I can recall, this was the ending to one of the many tiring debates between myself and my father.  I believe I was around 20 years old.  Though I don’t remember the details of this small war, I’m sure it was something about the bible and no doubt how women were treated.  I was female, and due to my lack of penis, I was supposed to shut the fuck up.

While my father was still a pastor, he feared what I would do and say as a teenager.  I was a wild card (no, please stop your snickering pastor’s daughter comments right now), I was vocal and I didn’t fit into the proper mold.  I was told “You don’t want your mother and brothers to end up on the streets because I lost my job due to your actions, do you?”

So I lived a double life.  I attended all mandatory events, put on a sweet smile and tried to suppress who I really was.  Sometimes I even tried really hard to be the good girl.  Who I was certainly wasn’t OK, so I learned to be very sorry and apologetic.

apologize

A good friend posted this picture on my Facebook wall saying, “I imagine this was how you looked as a child.”  In attitude, yes; in looks, well not so much.  Yet the words resonated and pierced me “too big, too loud, too emotional, too edgy”; simply too much.  I’ve always been a little too much.  When you’re too much you learn to acclimate and accommodate.  You take up too much space so you learn to be smaller.

“Calm down!  You’re getting all riled up!”  Too much.

“So tell us how you really feel! Ha Ha Ha.”  Too much.

“Stop being so sensitive!”  Too much.

You lose pieces of your soul, bit by bit, when you have to hold back who you are.  Yet you can only hold it in so long, well I can only hold it in so long before not having the capacity to contain it much more.

So I’m though apologizing for being me.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” ~ Anaïs Nin

 Today is that day.

Back to the grave

“These aren’t about me!  This isn’t me!  These were the things my father said about my mother!”  Therapy is hard work; weeks, months and years can go by without a breakthrough.  It’s still beneficial for slogging through the days of your life, but we all want that light bulb moment.  This was mine.

I’ve been in some form of therapy on and off for years, decades really.  Crying about a father that didn’t want me, facing the traumas and horrors of my teen years and accepting that I did the best I could with what little I was given.  There was emotional release, for a moment, but it was truly the same words being repeated year after year without getting to the other side.

I should disclose that in addition to my psychological therapist; I now have friends who know me well enough, and love me enough, to give just as much guidance and support.  These therapist friends are a Facebook group of people I met through the page Stuff Christian Culture Likes (SCCL).  I found the page accidentally while searching Jonathan Acuff’s – Stuff Christians Like.  Stuff Christians Like was cute but tame; I got some laughs but didn’t really feel understood.  Finding SCCL blew open my world, as I found my people.  People being honest about their doubts, their fears and the atrocities committed by the church.  Through random chance (divine intervention?) I was put into a group of 20 people who have stood beside me in some of the worst times of my recent years.  I believe their presence in my life, along with my therapist, allowed this mind blowing moment.

My therapy homework assignment was to write statements I felt about myself in a specific area.  I did my list 10 minutes before leaving for the appointment as it was too painful to see the statements and hold the emotions for a sustained period of time.  As I read the list I saw my father’s face and was rushed back to a dinner we had shortly after my parent’s divorce.  He went into graphic details of the ways she’d betrayed him, ruined him and broken him.  Healthy boundaries didn’t exist as I had to listen to his tirade about my mother.  He ended is saying, “I have a hard time looking at you because you look so much like your mother.”  I was 16.

As I exclaimed, “These aren’t about me!  This isn’t me!  These were the things my father said about my mother!” I felt my body tingle.  My face became flushed and I started struggling to breathe.  My therapist called me to mindfulness and brought me back to the room, as my memories were swirling and starting to swallow me up.  I said, “I’m going back to the grave with this list.  I need ridiculous dramatic moments to push me along.”  I added, “I’ll do it Saturday, February 13th, the day before Valentine’s day, I want this off of me before then.  I also like that it’s on the 13th.  I was raped on the 13th.  I want that day – that number back.”

It wasn’t as cold on this day back at the grave site.  Not nearly as tumultuous to drive there either; I knew my route and was focused.  Still couldn’t find his damn headstone but I now had a place that I’d designated for my release moments.  I read the list allowed, half crying – half screaming, much angrier than the previous time.  As I ripped the list up and gave his statements about my mother back to him, I stomped and growled.  Felt a bit like a toddler, or someone losing their mind, but it felt right and good.

gravev2.1.jpg

I then drove to my step-mother’s and brought back the key to their house. I’ve held onto it with thoughts of breaking in when my step-mother isn’t there. I didn’t want to take anything. I wanted to snoop. And I wanted to see if my father wrote anything…about me…that’s nice. I kept the key in my purse so I’d be prepared for my moment.  It had to go.  Now in my family when there is an issue we typically write letters back and forth, raging with venom as to why we are right and deserve an apology.  I did nothing this time.  My silence was the statement.  I wrote her name on an envelope, put the keys and a post it saying what they were, and didn’t even sign it.  Be gone.

grave_key

The blogs I’ve read recently tend to end with a bible verse or some statement about how “God did ___”.  I don’t have that.  I was told for years in church that God would reconcile my father and I and make everything new and better.  I was disowned two years before he died, and though I did see him before his death, God didn’t do shit.  As always.

There isn’t a nice way to wrap this up as the journey continues.

The first attempts at releasing my Father

Does Father actually need a capital letter?  I’m not sure.  I was raised mostly in the south so doing things properly is always a concern.  Father is a big word for me so a capitalizing it makes sense, even if it wasn’t needed.  My Father died January 29, 2015 while I was partying with friends in Las Vegas.  Funny that it was my first trip to Vegas, Sin City, and this is the town I’m in when he passes.  My middle brother was by his side, being the golden child of the family fate would of course shine on him to give him this position of honor.  My youngest brother was at work in L.A. and burst out laughing upon hearing that I was in Las Vegas.  You see my father was a pastor, and I was a disappointment, so my being far away from Minneapolis in Las Vegas was truly the only fitting place for me to be as took his last breaths.

I was the first born in my family, so for 2 1/2 glorious years I was the one and only.  When my brother came along, and my father saw what he really wanted from a child, I was demoted.  Being female with a fundamentalist legalistic pastor father was no treat either.  I’ll devote other blog posts to exploring our relationship but for now lets just call it bad.

So a year went by and as the days came closer to the anniversary of his death I became more and more disturbed.  Troubled by thoughts of how long I have left to live and was I being honest with myself.  I wasn’t.  I live in fear and shame and heaps of bitterness.  Stepping one foot in front of the other, without seeing the path, I signed up for a blogging course; committed to show myself in an honest blog and took the first steps in letting my father go.

After a night of making sure I felt nothing (details not necessary), I wrote some pages telling my father how I felt and that I decided that January 30, 2016 was my new birthday, the day after the anniversary of his death, as I started a new life.   I then drove to the cemetery to give them to him.

grave 2

I had movie images in my head of crying at reading his tombstone, crying at his grave, tearing up the pages I wrote and crumbling them over the top. I’d called to find the exact location: Tranquility 4413. LOL! I know they make names like Tranquility, Peace and Eternal Rest to comfort love ones but I find it silly now. So I get there and drive to where I vaguely remember us parking the previous year. The markers in the snow weren’t in order and placed very randomly. Nothing indicated the “Tranquility” area and unless someone had been at the grave recently, they were all covered in snow. I kept driving, stopping and walking around trying to find some rhyme or reason to the marker placement and I couldn’t find any. Looking for my father and unable to find him; I figured there was probably some amazing parallel I should draw from this but it escaped me. I went back to the spot that I expected his grave to be took out the pages I’d written and then ripped them up and covered them in snow. Sobbed for maybe 60 seconds and then I was done. That’s really all that was left.

grave 1

grave 3

I then drove around the area as this was the last town I would have called home, where my father left the church and where my parents divorced. I told myself as I drove past various locations of events of my life, “this is the past – you don’t live here anymore”; our old church, my last real home, my father’s last home where my estranged step-mother lives, the street light I crashed into while drunk at 15, the park I used to swing in after sneaking out of the house to get high, the streets I walked to school and the pool hall of the boy that never wanted me.  

Cathartic? A little. I’m a bit immobilized from it all.