On Thoughtworms and Mother Wounds

For the last few days, there is this bit of audio that keeps playing in my head. It’s a quote that’s stuck on loop. This often happens to me a lot. If for others the tendency to get songs stuck in your head is called an earworm, my head is one of those little styrofoam cups of nightcrawler for sale in gas stations and bait shops. This is not as fun as the chorus to SOS by Glorius Sons (seriously, listen to this song).

This is a quote on repeat. There is no hook, there is no musical accompaniment. Its just words. And they won’t go away.  I can hear it as clear as day, over and over no matter what I’m doing, no matter what’s going on, no matter whatever else I’m blasting in my ear canals to try to cancel it out. It’s in there, burrowed down deep inside like a parasite.

It’s my mother voice, nasal and deep fried and tainted yellow by cigarette smoke snarking

You see your Hell here on Earth.

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As I’ve said earlier, religion was never a strong point in the household I grew up in. My father was a lazy Methodist. My mother only cared about God when she could use the idea as a means of punishment. So they were Christian in nature but not knowledge. They knew what most ignorant Christians do. In the way that anything other than what they say and what they believe in is wrong. So, people of other races, religions, sexualities, nationalities, etc were wrong. Now we didn’t attend church or pray as a family, but as kids we weren’t allowed to say “bad” words (butt, suck, hate) or cut our hair. And good ole Mom used to brag that she knew more about the Bible than the Jehovah’s Witnesses that would come to my great grandma’s house.  Which is funny because growing up the family Bible was always located in the back of the trailer in the cabinet above where the washing machine was. The laundry detergent spent more time with it then she did.

The core of this is that while she may have put on airs about it, she was not a Godly woman. She was not a woman of Christ. And by that same token, she was not a learned woman either. So her view on where you found your own personal Hell was not as philosophical as it may have sounded. This phrase that she was repeating in front of baby me, enough times to burn it’s way into the core of my memory, was not a lesson in being responsible for your own actions. Or for being aware of what your actions create. It was nothing so beneficial. In fact, it was quite the opposite.

It was a trip wires laid across the field of my childhood. It was the passive-aggressive moanings of an unhappy woman who regretted the decisions she made. It was someone who didn’t want to be there and wanted those around to know that they were the reasons she still stayed. My mother had made her own Hell, and I was a part of it. And no matter how good my grades were, no matter how good my behavior was, and no matter how much I loved her, I couldn’t make Hell any better. And she kept letting me know.

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My issue with the phrase is, as a mother (and trust me, I know the annoyance of using that phrase) why in the world would you use that as arsenal against your own children?i understand there is no making sense of abuse caused by untreated mental illness. I understand there are just people who shouldn’t be parents. But somehow you’d expect that sort of nihilism to be either explained or sugared if it was going to be force fed to children right?

The other thing that is troubling me is that I can not get this out of my head. I do not want to have this woman and her issues taking up any more space than needy in my already cluttered mind. Usually, the only way to rid myself of an earworm is to listen to the full song. Recently, it was “X” by Poppy. I got it stuck in my head and then listened to it a few times and boom, it was out of my head. (At least, until now cause I’m totally listening to it again.) But I can’t do that with a quote from someone I have no interest in communicating with.

Also, it’s kind of hard not to see the world as a being a little bit of Hell right now. Maybe its not coincidence that I started hearing it around the time of the Christchurch shootings. Part of me is wondering if maybe the old bag is right? Maybe we make our own Hell. Despite her own ideas about the afterlife and her facade of belief, is it true that the worst torture we can face is being alive? Is living the ultimate punishment? Is this world the worst place we can be? What’s better than here?

I don’t think I need to go into why giving thoughts like those even a second of time is dangerous. Thinking this world has gone to shit and there’s no relief coming doesn’t leave much room for growth. It doesn’t leave much room for living. It doesn’t leave much room for anything. And that’s not true.

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There is room for love. There is room for life. And there is room for all the good and bad things that come with living. Living is not a punishment. Yes, sometimes it’s hard. And sometimes there are things and people that make it worse, but being alive and being free and being HERE, is not hell.

The idea of Hell, with it’s demons and torture, has no place in our existence here on Earth. We can make decisions. Good or bad, they are all part of our story. We can make better ones and change our path. If we need to be better, we can try. We don’t have to turn our pain into poison to try to sicken those around us.

Look, I’m just shy of my mid 30s.  I feel that I’m almost too old to keep picking at this mother wound. For what it’s worth, it’s smaller than it’s ever been. I feel like it’s got some nice scar tissue forming on it now. I got to test it’s thickness out not too long ago with a chance Wal-Mart encounter and it did just fine. But every once in a while, the damn thing itches. This must be one of those times. Hopefully, talking about it here will exorcism this thoughtworm from my brain and make it go away.

You do not see your Hell here on Earth, Dear Readers. Your existence is not hell. Please believe that. It is the wonderful, messy, beautiful, scary, amazing, thing it is. And it and you are not a bother to anyone. Don’t listen to any entity that makes you feel otherwise. 

 

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Boomerang

She might be tiny, but her voice, especially at such an early hour, is not.

“Mommy! Can you spell DOUGH-DOUGH SIGWA on my Ken-dal?” she yell-asks with just a bit of budding Southern accent in her adorably electric, and often ear-splitting, 4-year-old voice.

“Dough-Dough Sigwa” is actually JoJo Siwa and if you haven’t been introduced to this piece of saccharine sweet, ultra bright, hyper AF pop culture money machine, let me introduce you.

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JoJo Siwa is a 15-year-old dancer, actress, singer, and Youtuber who started on the Lifetime show Dance Moms (not as a mom, but as a kid, duh) and then branched out to create her own brand. That brand now includes a personal vlog, a clothing and bedding line, and a singing and acting career. Her Youtube channel is her go to HQ where she shares her everyday life blogs about her love for her family, her touring schedule, and her obsession with crazy hair accessories. It’s also where she releases her music videos. And that’s what lead to her to being introduced to our house. Because apparently, her songs complete are bangers for the 15 and under crowd.

The one that gets the most play our house is the song “Boomerang”. It gets played multiple times a day. MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY.

The lyrics are uplifting, positive, and talk about persevering no matter what hardships happen. It’s about not caring what people say about you and living your truth. It’s about always coming back no matter what life throws at you and never letting anything get you down. It’s a true hype anthem and really is a good song that breeds positivity and self-love power. 

And it really is fun to see a 4-year-old rock out to.

But in all honesty, I really, really, dislike that fucking song.

It’s so bubble gum sugary pop that I’m pretty sure my ears are getting cavities every time I hear it. While the message is exactly what I feel little (and big!) girls and boys should be hearing, my inner music lover is kind of grossed out by the mass-produced auto tuned side of it.

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I won’t lie. I’m no music saint. I’m not one of those hipsters that likes to tell you that I only listened to it before everyone else started liking it but hate it now and can also detail how your favorite band sold out.  I’ve listened to my fair share of shit music too. But this stuff makes me feel the same way Britney and N’Sync did when they first came out. Like it’s catchy, I get it, but so is the fucking flu.

But that’s the point for things targeted to the under 15 demographic, isn’t it ? It’s all about this shiny new thing and how fast you can get these young people to fall in love with it. As someone who is way older than anyone in that bracket, all of it sounds like hogwash to me.

But me not liking it, doesn’t mean I can’t respect it.

My daughter digs this stuff. And I’m sure thousands of other people’s daughters dig it too.  JoJo Siwa has 9 million subscribers. That’s 9 MILLION!!  And she has a Nickelodeon deal and a tour that is coming near my house in June. ( I will not be telling the young JoJo fan in my house though because tickets start at $121 and gods have mercy, that seems like the most expensive hell I can think of.) So either she or someone who is in charge of her team has some serious hustle.  And on top of all that, her music and videos promote positivity. There’s no hate mixed in there. It’s uplifting, believing in yourself, straight up power.  And that’s what the younger generation needs. Hell, that’s what we all need.

We all have to find places and things to recharge and uplift ourselves. I reread Witch by Lisa Lister, carry around rocks, and listen to 90s grunge when I’m feeling drained. (Note to self: Put on In Utero and read that book again, you’re still running low). My husband likes to go to the range and fire off some rounds. We all need these things that give us our center and bring us to our happiness. And if for my little miss that’s singing and dancing along with this brightly colored decked out 15-year-old wholesome pop star, then so be it.  I can put my taste in music and aesthetics aside and just let the kid have fun.

Let’s pull a page out of Marie Kondo’s book on this one.

Hold this music in your hand.

Was it meant for you?

No?

Then let it go back to who it was and let it bring joy.

It’s not your’s to shit on openly so keep your mouth shut.  

 I will not destroy the happiness of another just because I don’t dig it. It is not some weird power trip for me to flex my better taste muscles on those who like things I do not. It’s not about what I like. It’s about what brings joy to others.  I am not a slayer of joy, and you shouldn’t be either.

There are sometimes that keeping your opinions to yourself pays off. This is the lesson all these annoying things our children love can teach us. This is the lesson we should willingly be able to learn from them. They are often as much as our teachers as we are theirs. This is one of those times. 

So Little Miss is going to keep her JoJo fandom strong. Every day, just like she sings in her song, JoJo is going to come back like a boomerang, and I’ll get to hear it again and again and again. And it will irk me. And I could put on headphones and listen to a million other things. But then, I might miss getting to hear my Little Miss learning how to sing and dance along to a song that makes her heart light up. And that brings me joy.

So I think I’ll keep that.

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The Pizza Man Compromise

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It was around four o’clock when the nine-year-old popped out an earbud and asked, “Hey Mom, what’s for dinner?”

And there it was, the loaded question.

Silence fell across the living room as three pairs of little eyes turned to me. I’ve never been interrogated, but I would imagine it felt a lot like that.

My answer, handmade meatballs with bow tie pasta, was met with a chorus of groans.  

My heart dropped. But I had planned this out! I made dinner around lunchtime that day, just like I do every day the husband works. I packed up some for him to take, and I saved the rest for us to eat after he left. We were supposed to all be in meatball heaven within the next few hours!

As usual, everyone started talking at once trying to find a solution to our nonexistent problem. Then out of the chaos came the tiniest of voices from my soon to be five year old, “You could call the Pizza Man.”

(The funny thing about this is that not once in his little life have I actually CALLED the pizza man. Phone anxiety is my kryptonite so I use online ordering.)

And in that one sentence, dinner’s fate was sealed.The desire for pizza had gone viral. But what about my lovingly created meatballs? What about the bow tie pasta I had already worked out jokes for? What about all the work I did?

I tried to explain that I had dinner already made and it was going to be great! I even broke out a few of the noodles to show them how silly and fun it would be to eat bow ties. A song and dance may or may not have happened.

But my gang of pint-sized mutineers would not let the idea of pizza go. In a last-ditch effort, I turned to the husband for guidance, for wisdom, for some hope that I wouldn’t have to wave the white flag and give in to their demands. While putting on his shoes for work, he shrugged his shoulders, “Pick your battles, babe.”

Pick your battles.

If it’s not the official motto of good mothers everywhere, it damn well should be. As someone who is anxious by nature, I need plans. Plans get me through events and help me keep the feeling of the sky falling at bay. Even though I don’t believe in things having to be perfect, I need to have a plan, a backup plan, and a tertiary plan.

With kids, however, a lot of the time those plans become pretty much obsolete. It’s not so much of constantly giving in to the little monsters, it’s about compromise. It’s my belief that children, albeit still developing, are people too. They deserve the consideration we give other adults when it comes to the things they would like to do. (Of course, this is on the other side of basic safety and health-related items. I’ll tell a kid to take a bath and wear their seatbelt in a heartbeat. I’d tell an adult that too, actually.).

With kids, it’s much better if you don’t create battles out of things that just aren’t that important. If the only reason you are trying obtain a certain outcome is that you want to be the one that’s right, you’ve got bigger issues than what’s for dinner. There’s a line between being a leader and a being a tyrant. You can lead your children to adulthood and finding themselves without breaking them down drill sergeant style.

There’s no shame in assessing a situation and finding that your way is not the way it should go. Bending, not breaking, to the ideas of others, especially your own children, creates an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding. It supports the idea that their ideas are worthy and that they actually have a say over their own existence. It also helps develop their problem-solving skills. Figuring things out instead of just bluntly being told is good for kids. Even if it’s for mundane things like how to clean a room or what to have for dinner.

On the night in question, we did have pizza but we didn’t “call the pizza man”. I broke some frozen pizzas out of my personal stash in the freezer and we had an impromptu pizza party in the living room. The kids were happy, I was happy, and dinner was enjoyable and more importantly, stress-free.

Motherhood is about compromise. Sometimes if you let the mutineers have what they want, they let you keep the ship. But even then, they won’t let you pee alone. BBBBBB

P.S.: We did end up eating the meatballs and pasta the next day. It was not as well received as the pizza, obviously, but it did not go to waste.