Posts Tagged With: childhood

Where Were All the Single Ladies?

It’s been a while since my last post, and although a lot has happened since moving into the new house it’s mostly variations on a theme. It’s the same DIY theme that seems to be the vein of ore in my life. As I discussed in the last post I’ve had some great examples for how and why to thrive on self-reliance. Over the last year (and especially in the last few months), the thought has turned to “Why the hell don’t I have any role models for this?”

 

One long, enlightened weekend with Ms Annie in Minnie, we actually said at one point that we wished that as young girls we’d had examples of the independent women we’d grow into. How many examples did we have of women who were satisfied with themselves and their lives without it having to center around kids, or a relationship? The key to happiness is following your passion. Marriage and family can be important and fulfilling, but so can a career, hobbies, and friendship.

 
 

As an adult I’ve had more and more examples of women who are happily self-reliant, ambitious, and good people. As a kid, though, I couldn’t think of any major role models I had who fit this model. Certainly none of my aunts or other older immediate family members  qualified. Even though my aunt went back to school to become a successful nurse and did all right after her divorce, a lot of unhealthy things followed. The next closest example was my cousin Teeny, who worked in a large city for a major corporation and was responsible enough to buy her own house and pay off her school debt. Unfortunately, she’s also a raging alcoholic.

 

So while my mom’s family would be best described as an episode of COPS set in backwoods Appalachia, she did end up having two female friends who were great role models for independence, ambition, and happiness. Despite having lots of strong female friends, most of these women were in abusive relationships, had drug/alcohol problems, couldn’t keep their work life together. (Is that a nice way to say it?) She did have other friends who didn’t have these issues, but I never knew them enough to tell you anything about them now. One woman was a lawyer, I guess she’s survived cancer now? Another one was a professor? Clearly you can tell the impact they had on my life.

 
 

That leaves us with her first best friend Steph, and her now best friend Sassy. (You’ll be happy to know that Sassy is the one who taught Lil Pirate and Lil Bro the proper uses of the word “fuck”.)

 
 

Steph is married, has kids my and my brother’s ages, and used to work with my mom. She’s intelligent, hard-working, responsible, and takes good care of her family. If a kid needed a positive influence for their work life, how to make decisions about money, difficult family situations, or life in general Steph was a good person to know. Nobody’s perfect, but she had a significant impact in our lives.

 
 

Sassy is around 7-10 years older than me, and she became besties with my mom when she went back to college. Lil Bro and I were still young and impressionable and Mom had a lot of friends who were young, intelligent, hard-working, and kind. As time went on people moved on to other cities for jobs, sunk into drugs or alcohol, or else just drifted away. There was a short time where Sassy had a boyfriend, but I distinctly remember her breaking up with him because he was an idiot. We never knew if Sassy was usually single because she has a disability, but it turns out that it really doesn’t matter.

She doesn’t have any high-powered job, she’ll never be a supermodel, and she’ll never have kids of her own. Sassy’s financially independent, takes care of her health problem, is a doting aunt to her nieces and nephews, and stands up for herself.

 
 

These are the only two women I knew who weren’t stuck in a relationship because it was abusive or they couldn’t support themselves, didn’t have drug or alcohol problems, had jobs they were good at and were leading to fulfilling careers, and supported their friends, family, and community. Maybe that’s a long list of requirements. It’s also a long list of unhappy trappings if it’s not what you want.

 

And that was it, until I was in my early 20s.

 

I know I’ll be a trailblazer, if that wasn’t how I was born then it’s an old habit now that will be hard to break. I’ve come to terms with the confusion and the difficulty figuring out what was important to me as a younger adult and I know I’m stronger for it. Resisting following the crowd was hard, because even though money, relationships, family were things I wanted, they weren’t what was right for me at the time. Thinking about future versions of Lil Pirates, I always wonder why the message can’t be “Follow your passion” instead of “School, Job, Marriage, Family”.

 
 

This isn’t an issue only for girls, either. Young boys grow up with these examples of what women will or should be, and if we don’t think to treat people as individuals on their own merits, we run into a very unhappy world.

Of course, that’s a lesson that is greater than gender.

Kids learn by bad examples, so this isn’t a lost cause if people aren’t perfect. But if people don’t have any accessible, real-life examples of being happy and successful doing something different, they might not realise they can be strong instead of sinking into following the crowd even if it makes them unhappy.

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Categories: childhood, family, friends, life lessons, reflection, Workaholic | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Lil Bro’s Wedding – Out of the Tempest

As should be expected, Lil Bro’s wedding was a success. Not only is there a new happy couple, but emergencies both large and small were weathered with all families intact. I’ve copied a few pictures for you from the weekend.

Lil Bro and his Lil Lady

Lil Bro and his Lil Lady

Upon my eventual (and very delayed return) the lovely Miss J asked if the trip was better or worse than I had imagined. Honestly? It was just as bad as I’d feared, but didn’t turn out as disastrously because I’d spent so much time preparing to stay calm and fight the internal craziness. When my dad was being a selfish prick in the face of a severe medical emergency I was the one consoling my mom, rationalizing with her that we shouldn’t be surprised by Dad being a dick anymore and to save our energy for the next shitty thing he’ll do. I had the presence of mind to remind Mom that everyone knows Dad and his wife were being dicks about how the wedding was going, and the only way to make it right would be to be a bigger dick than he is. That doesn’t make anyone happy, and everyone else knows he’s a prick.

<3 Gram <3

❤ Gram ❤

I got left out of being sat with the family in the church – not at all by accident – and had to sneak in the back way to actually see the ceremony despite being involved in the preparations and getting everyone in the church so we could start. At first I was furious and really quite hurt, but I pulled myself together and was able to remind myself that I love Lil Bro more than I was angry about anything that was happening. That got me through the rest of the day and was able to keep Mom off her ledge.

Two and a Half Corpsmen

Two and a Half Corpsmen

There were so many more bouts of madness, but not only did Lil Bro himself keep us together but for once I was able to keep it together on my own. I got to see Gram and spend a little bit of time with her, my stepdad and I were able to spend lots of time together, and Lil Bro’s friends were even pretty awesome. Since when does Pirate overcome the craziness?

Since now, I guess.

Stinky & Pirate

Stinky & Pirate

Categories: commitments, family, road trip | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Lil Bro’s Wedding – the Calm Before the Storm

It’s finally happening, Lil Bro is getting hitched this weekend. I wish I could say it’s against my better judgment (it’s not – I wouldn’t miss being there for Lil Bro for the world), I’m going to be spending a weekend surrounded by our family.

 

Alone.

 

Yes, I’m completely alone, without anyone accompanying me as a distraction, a babysitter, or a crutch.

WTF am I thinking???

 

Well, at first I wasn’t thinking – the first week or two after I got the invitation was a near-constant panic attack. Two months later, leaving Hicktown for the South, I was finally mentally and emotionally prepared for this… thing? I have no idea what to expect. It could be a circus, it could be fine – the only constant I know is that my mom will bring up the old drama, my dad will stonewall me and pretend to be nice, and even though I’m sitting at the family table for dinner I’m going to be the odd one out like all the other family events I’ve been to since I left home. My dad’s wife used to be known for leaving obscene voicemails and doing obscene drive-bys and my mom is known for telling every secret under the sun when she drinks, and then making up more… So who knows?

In the days before I left Hicktown I had a few bouts of anxiety, one of them pretty intense. Eventually I was able to articulate for myself that these crazy jerks don’t even know me so anything they might say to me or about me doesn’t even matter. The usual topics of conversation are just politics-baiting.
Seriously, the two insults I always hear are that I’m a “goddamn liberal” (only half-true, more like I think for myself which is actually pretty verboten on its own) and I’m a lesbian. No, dad, I’m not, but you’re the one who always starts that rumor. And even if I were a lesbian at least I’m not a child molester and don’t sleep with my relatives. Those two practices are actually commonplace in our family.

 

Since my vacation earlier this summer didn’t pan out, in the interest of mental health I took a few extra days off this week and am driving the long way around to stop in a few different cities. Last night I stayed in St Louis, which turned out to be surprisingly fun and relaxing. Road trips have always been me-time, but I met a friend and ended up laughing the night away. Today I slept in, had breakfast, started making my way through Tennessee to arrive in Carolina tomorrow afternoon. Blinding thunderstorms aside, driving was still therapeutic and I was in a groove.

…that is, until I was an hour east of Nashville and started panicking about how I’m going to spend Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon surrounded by family. 48 hours of snide remarks, outright challenges, lies and changed history, new or distant relatives afraid to get to know me because of the inevitable retaliation or my mom being crazy. At my cousin’s wedding 10 years ago I thought I really was the problem until my dad’s wife’s mother told her she will come talk to me regardless of them “forbidding” her to talk to me. Knowing the background makes it easier for my rational mind to process, but under the layers of reason I paint on myself daily is still a scared little kid. Ashamed, afraid, and empty.

 

If you were on eastbound I-40 today and were almost sideswiped by a little black sedan, please let me apologise. Fucking panic attacks, man.

 

The lizard part of my brain that’s still a sad, lonely, scared kid keeps telling me all the likely scenarios I’ll encounter. The logical, Type A part of my brain keeps telling me to calm down, people make a big deal about shit that doesn’t matter, I’m an adult with a good life and I’m a good person, don’t engage, blah blah blah. It’s only working to the extent that I’m not having nightmares and have been able to function in the real world. Success…?

My hope is that I’ll have prepared for nothing. Second to that, maybe the rehearsing how to be calm and collected will kick in and I’ll be able to play the part without the lizard brain taking over.

 

And if that doesn’t work, I’ll just bust out the bruises on my leg and give them all something to talk about.

Categories: reflection, road trip, you gotta be kidding | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Mother’s Day – Insert Something Shitty Here

 

This post is for Amanda.

 

My relationship with my family is practically non-existent on both sides, so why is it I get more shit for skipping Mother’s Day than Father’s Day? Obviously, it’s because we understand the harm of a neglectful, hateful parent more than we understand the danger of a parent who loves too much.

Yep, I said it.

Read more here from people more scholarly than myself: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-legacy-distorted-love/201204/when-mother-s-day-hurts

 

Most people accept that I gave up on any relationship with my dad long ago because the neglect and abuse was clear. As the firstborn, I was what ruined his life – he made a point to tell me several times. I was just as hormonal as a young adult as I am now, but I was also Full IB, in every band possible at my school (half of them prestigious and award-winning) and playing half a dozen instruments, I lettered in curling my first year as a Sophomore, and I had 2-3 jobs at any given time. I was fluent in French by the time I was 16, our drama club advisor would always ask if I could participate, I wrote and directed a one-act play. None of this was good enough for him. I was a fat, lazy, nerdy, emotional loser and I would never amount to anything.

It’s easy to understand why this is toxic. In fact, it’s much easier to sever this part of my life because it is so clear how bad all of these experiences are, and how they’ll never change into anything positive. Being told I need to grovel and beg forgiveness for the abuse I suffered is clearly the wrong answer, and even at 23 I knew I had made the right decision to walk away when I did, six years earlier. That gives me strength.

 

The problem is how we see parents who “love too much”, whose shortcomings are much more impactful than “shortcomings” but get swept under the rug because a parent does it out of love.

On the one hand, I’ve got a mother who’s worked hard to provide for her children despite serious life challenges. Having had similar challenges WITHOUT having children, I can appreciate the difficulty of her experience.

On the other hand… In the words of my friend Amanda, #MyMotherIsBatshitInsane. To my mother, as the firstborn, I was what saved her life. I was her best friend, her ray of light, her reason for living. And I knew this since I was old enough to remember.

 

I’m not going to delve into the sad, crazy, pity-me stories – let me leave you one example so you might understand. When I was 18 I was in a terrible relationship and was too afraid to tell my parents (mom and stepdad) I was being raped because I was afraid I’d be made fun of for it. Eventually I found the courage to get out of that relationship, and that day culminated in the cops being called because the boyfriend was trying to kill me. Through the circumstances I was forced to tell my parents what had happened, and sure as shit, my mom laughed at me. My own mother made fun of me for being a victim – almost a “serves you right” attitude – despite her having told us she’d also been a victim of sexual abuse as a child and young woman.

 

No, I didn’t cut ties with my mother when I was 18. It took another 8 years, but throughout that time I’ve been held hostage to both her past and our family past.

 

My parents divorced when I was in elementary school and through a tumultuous, manipulative time I chose to live with my dad. Even as a young kid I knew that my dad would be best able to provide for me, while my mom only wanted to be my friend. I’ve always said I needed a parent who could be responsible and keep a roof over my head, and even in the thick of the neglect and abuse I again chose my dad’s house of hell over a house where my mom would drink and drive, or maybe the phone or gas bill wouldn’t be paid. Over and over again I’m made to answer for these decisions, for the actions of my dad and stepmother, and for the things that happened to her as a kid.

 

Now, in the interest of having an adult relationship and clearing my own conscience I’ve apologised most sincerely for the hurt and the things I’ve done. I’ve done all I can to atone for the things I was responsible for. It’s still not enough and I don’t know what to do.

If this sat between only me and my mom, maybe it would be easier; the trick is that my younger brother is involved and he takes the hurt and the pain my mom experienced even more personally because he chose to live with her. There were months where my brother and I didn’t see each other because neither of us wanted anything to do with the parents where each other lived. It was painful, and when we were able to be together, my brother was one of my dearest friends. What hurts the most is how my mom uses this emotional dynamic to manipulate my brother and me when she can, either to get her own way or to get us to do something. I don’t think she does it consciously, but it happens. The lies that get told are different enough from reality that it’s not some simple misunderstanding.

 

Yet, all of this happens because my mother loves us too much. She always wants the best for us, her hurt comes from the fact that she’s sacrificed everything if only for us to have a better life. She didn’t get to go to college or have fun as a young adult, so it was on me to make the best of myself. She was always a prisoner to her own neglectful past and her need for us to be comforted that she didn’t get to take care of herself. That didn’t end well – if the self-destructive behaviour wasn’t enough it’s the single thing I can point to that drove me away. I always said I needed a responsible parent more than I needed one who loved me.

 

So few people see this cycle of hurt and guilt as something damaging, something real. My mom isn’t as nuts as Amanda’s, but we’re held hostage not only by our mother’s behaviour but by society’s mandate that we love our parents no matter what. It’s up to us to fix this, parents only do the best they can!

I should rejoice that I have a parent who thinks I can accomplish anything I set my mind to, instead of one who never says I’m good enough! Sure, maybe, but the voices in my head always say I’m never good enough so not having anything constructive to counter those ideas only serves to reinforce them. Let’s be real – there’s no way in Hell I’ve got a shot at marrying Prince William, even if I wanted to.

I should rejoice that the criticism I get is only normal motherly guidance. “You should never have kids, you’re too strict” and “I’ll be surprised if you ever do get married, you probably never will” are things that every mother says to their young adult, right? Clearly those are constructive.

 

I say no. The day when the big fight happened about 4 years ago, I sat down with my stepdad and we had a frank heart-to-heart. He’s seen the drama trauma first-hand and understands that I need boundaries in my life. For the first time I was able to articulate that I can’t actually live a life when I’m dragged into the past every chance she gets. Not only can I not account for anything that happened before I was born, the divorce happened nearly two decades prior and we should all have moved on by now.

I told my stepdad that I can’t have a family like everyone wants because I can’t introduce anyone into the crazy. My mom will spill all the family beans to anyone who will listen, so why would I bring a new person into this mess? Imagine if I had kids, and she started telling them about ANY of the abuse either of us have survived? She did it to my college roommate and made me answer for it. No, that’s not okay.

 

As I get older I’m finding I don’t necessarily want a family. People say that my dog is well-enough behaved and I’ve got a good enough compass to raise well-adjusted kids… but really? Forget all the physical problems I’m still dealing with. I’ve lived with an inner monologue always telling me I’m never good enough, and although in the last ten years or so I’ve learned how to say “FUCK that, I’m awesome”… There’s the worry. Will I swing too far to an extreme, either like my father or mother? How do you raise a family with no history? Certainly the stories about why we don’t visit Gram and Grampa, and why Mom doesn’t call Grampa Dad, aren’t appropriate for little kids.

When will I get past the stigma of being a kid who isn’t grateful for having a parent who loves her so much it drives her to do crazy things?

 

Never, I fear. Luckily, I’ve grown into the kind of adult who mostly doesn’t care what you think. I wish more people understood that neglecting a kid’s needs comes in so many more forms than just calling them stupid or locking them in a crate, but I’ve got my own life as validation.

 

Let’s hope this is a bit of education. Let’s also hope that those of you who’ve been hurt by a parent under the guise of them “loving too much” have the courage to recognise it and do what’s healthy for you.

 

Happy Mother’s Day

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