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They were kids that I once knew.

11 Mar

I suppose that spring will always remind me.

If a marriage is a bloom, is a growing, breathing creature of change, winter is it’s anathema, spring it’s mother. A marriage develops in similar ways-the new green of yawning trees, the blinding naiveté like that of the lilacs growing in the ditch. (Of course, it also includes the thawing stench of secrets and hidden poos. It just wouldn’t be that certain shade of new without those hidden minefields.)  Then rushes in the burning warmth of late July, with the sweat and the late nights spent staring at the ceiling, too tempered to touch, too tempted to not.

If we’re lucky our marriage falls into autumn, glowing with the flames, cocooned in the comfort of drawing in, drowning in the scents that welcome us home.

If we’re unlucky, we fall prey to winter, and remain frozen in it, immobile and vacant.

My winter is past me now, a year out my limbs are new and wet, glimmering in the brightening light, and I feel renewed, validated and whole. But the memories of that winter, that long, interminable winter linger and drag, a vapour trail of pinched lips and leaking, bitter anger. 

But summer is near. I can smell it. I can feel it.

***

No one starts out that way. I imagine once we mattered to each other, that there was love, something more than teenage lust between us. I always felt that he was a memory I had forgotten, sprung to flesh. Perhaps at 20 or 23 he was, but closer to 30, it was more of a dream turned to nightmare as my mind and body morphed to the left and his roots grew closer to himself. Growth can be value but sometimes, it’s just cancer.

If I’m honest I loved him best as I could, but trapped in my own sadness, my unreasonable anger, my belief that my brokenness defined me. I loved him as a child, I loved him as a half grown feral. But that’s not real love, and that couldn’t break the cold walls. Often I wonder if we wanted it to, content instead to lobby back and forth the barbs and wires, afraid of life outside. Afraid of spring.

It’s easier with what you know, and on dark nights, it can be missed, that person who saw you every day for years and years and years. The strings that tie, not tight but tenuous. A whisper of connection. But not the real one. Not the connection that understands implicitly why tomatoes are so horribly icky outside of those sweet summer weeks when they taste only of the sun and the sweat from your hands.

It was never the connection that understood why my winter anger had to be let loose in silence instead of anger. It was never the connection that understood my strength was in allowing myself weakness. It was never a connection that said “you can, if you want.”

Spring brought me that. And I cannot be angry at the one who couldn’t give it to me, not anymore. He couldn’t. And I never would have let him.

It’s taken a year, a hard winter, and a love I never saw coming to admit that to myself.

It’s my spring gift, my Lenten contribution, my budding flower, this honesty.

***

We were just babies, the spring of our lives, new and blinded, terrified in some ways, excited. The world beckoned and we shrugged. Why not?

I smell spring and I think of our wedding, of the faces saying no, of the hope we had, the throw away faith that somehow it would work.

And like benevolent neglect in my garden each year it did. Until it finally didn’t.

“If you don’t create change, change will create you”

25 May

I want to be alone. I want the gloriousness of a bed to myself, hogging all the pillows. Picking all the paint colors, never having to share the ice cream with another adult. The joy of wandering off somewhere on a Saturday afternoon, just to see where I end up.

I want to be loved. I want someone’s arms around me, their breath hot on my neck. I want to see myself reflected, want to share my world with them, my bookshelves, my dreams. Learn to run together, learn to cook, learn to love. Wake up lazy weekend mornings in the sun, like cats.

I want to share. I find myself intrigued and pulled towards a world where love doesn’t end with two, where my thoughts and dreams and wants are tied to two, where all my little hippie dreams play out, and each little part of me is warmed and full. I envision a life full of the green of this earth, the blackness of it’s dirt and the swelling of my own heart.

I have to pick just one?

***

I’m so not good at this. One day to the next, I don’t know what I want.  A partner maybe. Or just someone to play with. Or a situation far removed from what’s considered normal. Or no one, just me. Then I miss arms to hold me at 2 in the afternoon on a bad day or someone to share a inside joke with or just spend the night talking with and I realize I feel like I’m missing an arm, but have absolutely no idea how to figure out how to find one.

I’m socially inept. I’ve been broken inside in a multitude of ways, and am only now realizing how fucking less than zero I have felt, how hideous I believed myself, and still find myself believing if I’m not careful. I had come to believe I was ugly, an worthless, and unfit to be loved. And who wants that? Who wants to be near anyone who believes these things? Who wants to talk to someone who spent years believing no one really wanted to hear what she had to say, that no one cared enough to hear what she actually thought and believed?

I feel as if a lion has taken up residence in my throat, and is finally learning how to speak.

But I still feel so bloody hideous some days, so unworthy. I cast my eyes down if someone looks my way, and don’t wish to burden them with a visage so revolting.

This is why marriage scares me so, the thought of commitment again. Because it has scarred me in ways I never would have seen, and somedays I wonder if I can ever scrape off the scab to let the new skin grow. Because I have come out the other side feeling so horrendously minimized, made to believe that my desire for a life beyond the now, my desire for dreams and love and togetherness were wrong, naggy and bitchy. And sometimes I feel so weighted down with it all, the staggering size of it, and how tiny I feel compared to it.

I am not perfect. But I know I am not the waste of time and space and love that some would let me believe. I am not her. I have never been her.

But how do I convince myself of this?

***

I can’t imagine telling a guy I like them, not without clear input on their end. I can’t imagine having the nerve to just ask a guy to dinner, my mind’s eye telling me, showing me how they’d laugh with their friends, call me fat and ugly and stupid behind their hands, needy and wasted. How I would again be unworthy.

I want to love again. I want to actually BE loved.

But where do I start?

-Have you started over again? What’s the secret? Extra points to answers from people who aren’t already blessed by the gene pool. My fat ass works against me….

When two people decide to get a divorce, it isn’t a sign that they “don’t understand” one another, but a sign that they have, at last, begun to.

12 Nov

We get along like two old friends, the comfy kind you have from high school who knows what it takes to make you blow root beer out your nose.

I find myself warmed by talking with him-not in the girly flirty way, but in the hey! I like talking to my friend! We get along and he’s funny and he laughs (sometimes) at my jokes and the look in his eyes isn’t cold like it was. kinda way.

I come home without the weight of what or if or should I on my back. No more constantly examining my marriage, no more staring for the flaw, picking at a scab of what was, trying for the sake of it. I come home and look into the eyes of my soon to be ex husband and I think I do love you, after nearly half my life, I love you to the tips of my toes, but you’re right you know, that love isn’t the wifey kind. It’s a warm glass of rum instead of the cold shock of tequila.

And now, on the other side of the table smiling at each other warmly, I am perfectly all right with that.

************************

People gasp when you tell them you’re breaking up.  After all this time! How sad, they tsk, how sad. I suppose that it is, sad that we couldn’t manage to salvage what always made us so right for each other, sad that one, or both of us changed just enough for the other to not recognize any longer. Sad that I got sick, sad that he had to shoulder the burdens of a family alone through it, weather my moods and my ire.

It’s sad that we won’t have more time together, it is.

But that time is long past, the years of love not meaning obligation. The time when things were tender and devoted, not forced. We haven’t lived there in a long time, and I don’t know why. If anything kills me, it’s the not knowing why, why we couldn’t find the right way to this.

I can see the threads now, slipping downhill. I couldn’t see them before, caught up in the now, but I can stare back from here and see where it began to unravel, and all the places where I didn’t stop and pick it up, or where we together kicked the thread aside and moved ahead, without it. So many tiny moments that added up to now, to us both holding the sad dying pieces of a marriage, with the terrible knowledge that we couldn’t put it back together.

I don’t think we mourn it. Maybe it will be worse later, like it was the other day in the supermarket, as each item he liked grabbed me by the chest and nearly started the tears coming with how I’d never buy it for him again, how I’d need to learn what cereal someone else likes best someday. How I wouldn’t have a lover to smile for as I threw chocolate in the cart. I mourn in the strangest ways, the buildings where we sat, the streets we walked down, hands touching softly, the rooms where our new daughters once lay, and the beautific smile that graced his face as he rocked them to sleep.

I will mourn the us that wasn’t, that never could be, the lovers who couldn’t find the pace, get the steps. We tried, and once, we did hold it together, cradled the ball of us in our hands. But it was so very long ago, and life is so easily ran from habit, our hands splitting, letting go.

But we tried. We’ve spent the last few years trying, and finally, I’ve thrown in the towel as well, saying those words he’s so rarely heard from my lips.

You’re right.

Whatever we had, whatever flowered for 2 or 5 or 6 years, it’s long since dried up and become lost as we’ve grown up and apart. Think of it like a firework-beautiful, dangerous, and ultimately, never meant to last.

I like that image of us, exploding into ash to fertilize tomorrow. I like that.

*************************

We get along, and agree and plan and I can see tomorrow, I can see next month, and I’m not that scared! Everyone tsk’s and says they can’t imagine and I’m gleefully clapping my hands and saying But I CAN! see! And it’s not so bad! We divy up the goods and calmly discuss what custody will look like and if his new place will be up the street or down three more and I think I can do this. This isn’t the horrid divorces my friend’s parents had, this is our divorce, as two people who do care for each other, and more importantly, love their children more than life and realize that this, what we do right now, impacts every step of the rest of their lives.

And most importantly, because we will always be a family, drawn together by blood and time. I will always be their mother. He will always be their father.

We will be better this way. I am quite sure of it.

 

We do not know what we want and yet we are responsible for what we are – that is the fact.

10 Mar

Today the sky was a vicious blue, and the air was still. Nothing moved for a moment as I stood at an icy corner, waiting. A pause in a season, to catch it’s sense of self perhaps, shake March a little, like a snowglobe. Winter and spring fighting for their places.

It’s that blue that breaks the tempo after a long winter-the blue that reminds you that all things change, all things come around, nothing, ever, lasts forever.

“…developed a cancer growth in the large intestinal track. The doctor successfully removed a piece of the intestine that had the growth, so all should be well soon.”

In the mail, a letter from my sorta step-grandmother-the woman married to my blood grandfather. The letter came inside a birthday card for Rosalyn, attached to a check. “Don’t worry” it says.

My adoptive mother died of cancer.

My biological grandmother died of cancer.

My biological grandfather has cancer.

Yeah, I’m not worried. Not one bit. Not me, who muttered “well, at least I’m probably in HIS will.”

I’d slap myself for being so crass if it would make a difference.

Thing is, I don’t know how to feel. This man is my family-his blood runs in my veins, my face, briefly, resembles his, the shy smile, the height. I’m his granddaughter-his first born granddaughter, and I can smell the guilt from him a mile away. I’d like to believe it’s not guilt, but love, or at least like. But I’d also like to believe I’ll have a pony and a beach house someday.

He and my grandmother were truly the only people in my biological family who seemed to truly care, who unlike my birth mother, didn’t just throw money in my face to try and fix some perceived slight, 20 years old. My grandparents were the only ones who seemed to truly want to help, to know me. They were the only ones I cared to know, the only two in a large family seemingly disinterested in material’s or money in the bank. The only two who didn’t seem wrapped up in themselves.

My grandmother died, fast, of cancer rocketing through her body. I was 7 months pregnant with Vivian the last time I spoke to her, excited to be carrying their first grandchild, excited to give them that. She told me about everyone else’s problems, told me how proud she was of my half-sister.

She left out the part about the cancer eating her from the inside. She lived 3 weeks past the day Vivian was born. She never knew her name. They told me later that she didn’t want to upset me.

I didn’t cry-what was there to cry for? A body that is technically like mine, DNA I could mimic, follow home? But nothing beyond that point-nothing to say, nothing in common, our lives so very different for only being 40 minutes apart while I grew up.

40 minutes. That’s all that separates a life from another.

My grandmother was one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. But I didn’t know her, and I didn’t feel entitled to grief.

I was not included on the death announcement, still just another hidden secret to be ashamed of.

So to see, on paper, the words that could likely turn into him dying, I just wish I had never looked. I unfriended my half-sister on Facebook since the last time I spoke to her she was, frankly, a bit of a bitch, and how do you explain anything to a 21 year old with a single vision? You don’t.

This man is the last link I have to a family that never wanted me, and has never even tried to fill in the blanks for me, never tried to be there. My birth mother has come and gone at will, rejecting me, pushing away. Occasionally an aunt sends a gift, a letter, then nothing. I sit here wondering if this is what family feels like, and if it is, why anyone bothers? I have more family in my father than I have in that entire group of people.

If my grandfather dies, when he dies, It will bring home how close I am to being an orphan, a story I could avoid telling myself for years. I thought finding my birth family would help me close the holes in my heart, help me move on with life.

It’s done nothing but wound me slowly since the day it happened. The farther I get away from it, the more I wish I had never, ever looked.

All I ever wanted was a family to love me, a normal family that wasn’t broken or strained or lying to itself. Meeting these people at 19 was a lesson well learned, one that continues even now.

Oh, darling, let your body in, let it tie you in, in comfort.

16 Feb

 Diane E. Levin and Jean Kilbourne’s So Sexy So Soon seeks to address this very type of childhood experience: a complete lack of awareness about sex and reproduction coupled with a media-fed understanding of sexiness – that is, as one young girl in the book explains, getting boys to chase you and try to kiss you – that revolves around emulating TV characters and buying as many products as possible.

There’s a great book review of So Sexy So Soon at Feministe-please, go read.

But it got me to thinking.

How much time can we, as parents and mothers, spend blaming the media, the western world, capitalism, Walmart, etc, before we also realize the true impact we have on our daughters?

I firmly believe in openness, to the point of irritation I imagine. Vivian telling me that “that place” feels good when she touches it-that filled me with pride. Pride that she was able to say this to me with no fear or pretense, and that she took such obvious joy in herself. Pride that I’m starting to create a woman who isn’t afraid of herself, knows where all the proper things are, and just exists in this manner.

Because I disagree that this is fully the fault of what Mattel is selling this season, or that sitcoms have taken things too far. I disagree that it’s those damn music videos, or those stars that kids want to emulate. Not fully.

Cues are taken from parents.

How many of us were raised in a don’t ask, don’t tell sort of environment, where the most sex education you received was 2 weeks in Grade 5, and maybe a book left covertly on a counter top by your mother? How many women can’t bring themselves to call a vulva a vulva, or even know that their vagina is only on the inside? How many women can’t bring themselves to orgasm, or help their partner to do so? How many women blush at the thought of talking about all of this? How many of us learned, early on from our parents, that our hands can be dirtied so easily?

When I was Vivian’s age, I liked to rock on a specific doll-I remember, it was a pink stuffy with one of those plastic kewpie doll faces on it. It made me feel good-happy, in touch with myself, like a sun rising, so I wanted to tell my mother. I showed her.

She didn’t hit me. Instead, she looked completely horrified, and I never saw that doll again. Standing in the hallway, my mother stared at me, and held her hand out. I handed it over, cried, and stumbled back to my room, confused.

Later, a few years perhaps, when my neighbour molested me, I remember feeling like I had no control over my body, that it never belonged to me, and I should submit. I could never tell my mother-it would be my fault. I would be punished, and would still not know what was mine in terms of my body. For years I dreamed of being abused by conveyor lines of robots, people. Just my lying there, at the whim of others.

It was my mother’s responsibility to teach my about my body, about myself. It was her responsibility to teach me that there is no shame in acknowledging my humanity in this way, in embracing my sexuality, even at that young of an age.

Make no mistake-we are sexual creatures the day we are born. Which is why as parents we need to step it up right off the bat, in the most normal way, as if explaining how to make bread or why you have an elbow. Blaming media and society for one’s child wanting to dress like a Bratz doll or a 13 year old knocking up a girl-it’s a cop out. It’s easy to say “The school never taught it!” or that “Miley Cyrus made her dress that way!” and turn the other way.

Much more difficult to raise your children with appropriate sexual values and mores, to have those conversations that at times, are less than easy.

Being sexual is part of who we are-and it always has been. We now treat even into mid-twenties like teenagers, so why is it so strange that a seven year old starts to act as they might? Why is starting the mating dance at 12 so odd? What if, biologically, that’s where the drive can start for some. I began menstruating about then-if I can bear children, if I am considered a woman, physically, why can’t society, or parents be bothered to?

I may not necessarily agree with a pre-teen acting out in any way sexually-but I’m raising my daughters with the knowledge to make responsible choices, when appropriate. Will I always win? No, not with two daughters. But I refuse to use the cop-out that the world around me has more bearing on how my daughters come to their womanhood than I do.

It took me years to come to grips with my sexuality, having children being the last nail in that particular coffin. I don’t want that for them. Our bodies are wonderful, beautiful things, and by telling our daughters on what’s bad, and horrible and not allowed because they’re too young/not ready/just can’t only serves to increase the need and make it more attractive.

Refusing to speak to your children out of embarrassment, or fear-to me, that’s worse than all the Bratz dolls and belly tops. Because our parents are our guides, for good or ill. And we do ourselves a grave disservice by leaving our daughters out to dry.

“The ending of sorrow is the beginning of wisdom.”

23 Jan

The questions are simple and familiar. I respond in a cadence I’m not acquainted with. The woman speaking, the woman sitting there, in the most hated of black tights, she’s not someone I’ve known. The answers pour from her mouth like oil, slithering, her laughter meant to charm and bewitch, entwine. Her entire demeanor screams “Like me. I’m fabulous!”

Where the hell she came from is news to me. I haven’t seen this woman in, well, ever.

Days later, having “a serious conversation” about stuff like end dates and payouts, I hear her again, making it clear that I expect what’s deserved by law, and also, by courtesy and fairness. The voice also stands firm and lets it slip in a very subtle way that if the letter of the law isn’t followed, there is no concern in taking it somewhere that could get very complicated.

Her entire demeanor screams “Go ahead. Try and fuck my shit up. I’d enjoy the fight.”

She’s news to me as well. But she fills up my chest like nothing else and I’m perversely proud of the woman who finally found a hill she’s willing to die on. Her back is straight and for moments, I imagine this to be the woman I should have been all along.

Fearless, breathless and utterly charming.

****

Kate wrote  a post last night that hit upon something I’ve been thinking about all week. Sorta.

2009 is twenty years since my mother died of cancer. Grief has underpinned my life so much in the past 20 years it’s not funny-it’s crawled into bed with me, held my hand as I brought new life into the world, rattled my cage at any sign of newness. And it hangs with me still-my need for attention after those formative years spent worrying about everyone else, everyone else thinking I was strong enough and didn’t need to be weak. My fear for my children, my fear for them because of me, my worry that anyone I come close to will screw me over, not might, WILL.

These are itches in my brain that I’ll spend the rest of my life attempting to negotiate and move past. They are part of me. They are no longer strange glitches to acknowledge and then push off the coffee table, they are part of me, and learning to worth with them-that’s the struggle.

But the hardest part, the plain grief, the shuddering quake in my chest, it’s long gone. There are days when I feel wrong almost to be ok with what was, sullen and rude to not still feel that cold hand inside me. Days where it’s easy to imagine she is gone from me, totally and irrevocably lost to my ears and fingers.

The pain allowed the mystery to stay true and follow. Strangely I miss that, the only communion we had, her voice lost amid the trees and the ducks in summer, my ears deafened by children and chili and Sunday mornings lazy in arms.

20 years now, and she is really truly gone from me. I see her everywhere, her image, her doing, her will, her morals, rising up in my like some terrible voice. My thoughts are sometimes her thoughts, and it’s like the years have compressed and for just a second, we are the same people, just two young mothers trying to make it all work. Moments as these are understanding and forgiveness, as years ago they were anger and sadness.

I get it now. Perhaps that’s why the ache is gone. I understand, fully, the sacrifice she had made for us, for herself. I understand the woman who stared at her child, wondering about the years ahead. I understand that for the woman in me to unravel and become, I had to start letting the child die, let her free after holding on to her for dear life for so very long, the only thing I had known was safe and loved me back.

They had to tell my mother to die. In no uncertain terms my father asked her doctors to tell her to let go. Her will was that strong, the fire in her belly and heart so warm and unwavering that she wouldn’t believe she was leaving us, not until there was really no choice, and she made the long trip home to die.

I understand now, that she spoke with a voice she had never heard, and felt it buffer her from the inside, to stay, to last just a little more, the sweetness of life and love just so right. I understand now that this voice is more than just the woman i was meant to be. It’s my birthright.

The last, and most tender gift a mother can give her little girl.

Watch what you twitter, big sister is watching.

4 Jan

 

ETA: comments are NOT closed because I’m cowardly. They are closed on THIS POST ONLY because what needed to be said, ON BOTH SIDES, is said. Nor am I deleting comments.

Those of you who KNOW ME know the relationship I have with my daughters. You know the relationships you have with your children. Loving, frustrated, awed, annoyed, angry, blissful.

Tonight, as always, my evil mini-me did her “not going to sleep without one last hug” routine.

Tonight, as always, I yelled, threatened and cajoled her back into bed.

Tonight, as I’ve done in the past, as other parents have done in many ways, I asked if it was ok to smother her.

Which, if you know me, or anyone with my sense of black humor, is a joke born of frustration, annoyance, and yes, LOVE.

Tonight this woman (link removed because enough is enough), who I foolishly followed on Twitter, who likely doesn’t even know me, had someone in LA call the cops.

ON ME.

I just had to prove that my fucking daughter was all right because some “person” who has never met me, barely exchanged any words with me, couldn’t stop for a minute and think, gee, perhaps she’s like many other mothers, annoyed at bedtime. She couldn’t stop and think, hmmm, an email might suffice.

Oh no, not our saviour. Only the cops will do. Only the cops at 11pm, where I had to open the fucking door to their room as they SLEPT to prove I hadn’t harmed them.

Is this home grown parenting advice? Is this the ultimate end of social networking, the virtual version of the snoopy fucking irritating neighbour?

While I’m really FUCKING glad this wasn’t a friend, there’s no more networking for me. Apparently, my brand of humour and venting isn’t suitable for all audiences, who might be better served searching for child abuses in her OWN neighbourhood, instead of ruining my fucking evening as I sit here enraged that a fucking stranger had the gall.

So lesson learned ladies. Don’t do any venting in public. Don’t network. Don’t show anything LESS than perfect bliss and 400 tweets about contests and fucking blow it out your ass nothing. Because someone, somewhere might call the police on you and you’ll be sitting there in your pajamas watching a cop waste his fucking time, and know it.

Thank you lady, for wasting my fucking tax dollars. If you’ll excuse me, I think they’re still raping and murdering the transgendered in Tennessee if you’re REALLY wanting to protect someone.

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