Chapter 34

This past Saturday, without much fanfare and while shivering in the chilly November breeze, I welcomed my thirty-fourth year of life by watching my son take part in the local Veteran’s Day parade.

I stood alone on the sidewalk of my small town’s Main Street as vintage cars, Girls Scouts, and a few of the bravest men and women of the Armed Forces passed by.  

The group my son is in, a youth leadership group called iLead, was near the end of the parade. He ended up sitting on the side facing away from me, but I could he see hands waving spiritedly to the people facing him from where I stood.  

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But let’s rewind a bit. Before the parade, before loading up, before trying to get ready, let’s start with that morning.

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I woke up with the day sitting heavy over me like a cloud. I reached for my phone, but unlike every other morning, this time there was a hesitation. I knew what the date was. I knew what day I was waking up to. I had the hope that when I looked at the screen my discomfort would be meet with missed messages and texts from overnight from friends and family wishing me a happy birthday or a simple “I love you”. Instead, I got nothing but the weather.

I’ve filled you guys in on my hesitation with Fall. In some sick twist of fate, the anniversary of son’s death and the anniversary of my birth fall within seven days of each other. So my chances of being able to have a joyous birthday celebration are pretty much forever stamped out. And that’s something I’ve been troubled by recently. I’ve always had an uneasy balance with my birthday.

Because of the nature of my upbringing, birthday celebrations were a double edge sword. They were often the basic celebrations of a typical poverty level child, hotdogs, chips, ice cream, and cake. But because of the issues of my upbringing, they came with strings attached. Most of those little parties left me feeling guilty and ashamed that I would put my mother through so much trouble, or that my friends would be so rude and loud, or that their mothers would look so sourly at her. Because at the end of the day, any shortcomings were my fault of course.  

Once I left that mess behind me and moved on into adult life, I thought for sure it would be easier to celebrate the anniversary of me. I was surrounded by the idea that women could proclaim the entire week of their birthday was theirs to do of their choosing and that everyone had to pay homage to them. I was taken in by that glamour and selfishness. And then November rolled around and…

I was still nowhere near the ascending to the birthday throne. I was just a worker bee. The Queen Bees made sure I was aware of that.

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So life moves on and with it my understanding of things. One, the elders I have been surrounded by for much of my life were idiots. Maybe idiot is the wrong word. The women elders I have been surrounded by are deeply wounded women who have never taken the time to try to heal themselves. Their wounds have become their identity and in turn, their legacy.

THEIR LEGACY.

Not mine.

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So let’s fast forward to now.

I spent my birthday watching my son pay respect to the Veterans of our country. (Of which his father is one) We then came home, warmed up (me with some coffee and him with Xbox) and I attended to the snotty nosed crew that stayed home from the parade. After I did some laundry, and dishes, and sweeping,

and more laundry,

and more dishes,

and more sweeping because someone emptied an entire box of Nerds candy on the floor,

we had dinner and Red Velvet cake.  Afterward, when all the kids were put to bed, I indulged myself with the fancypants new lotion my wonderful husband gifted me and started plans for what is going in the beautiful leather bound soon to be grimoire my #bestwitchforlife sent me.  

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I was proud of my children, proud of my husband, and, dagnabit, proud of my country. If you watch the news, it’s a tough time to be an American. If you see America from the sidewalk of a small Southern town on a Saturday in November while marching bands play and old men and women proudly drive their antique cars and march down the street while saluting one another, then it’s a little easier. 

And shit, even after a few tears, I was a little proud of myself too.

So the beginning of this chapter, this anniversary of my birth, was okay. It was a lesson.  I know that at this point in my life, I need to allow these days to be what they are. Something between just another day and a celebration of the arrival of the wonderful mess that is me.  I also need to let go of the hurt that the ones of the past have caused me.  

I just need to let go. Just let go of so much. 

To anyone who didn’t hear it and who wish they had, I hope your day, be it a birthday, anniversary or just another Tuesday, was a great day. You deserve it. If no one else tells you this today, I believe in you. 

P.S. For good measure, here’s the mural from our Main Street. I used to make fun of it when I was a shitty teenager who wrongfully hated the city (it was a misplaced hate. I hated my home life, not my hometown). But really, it’s pretty neat. Murals are cool. I appreciate it a lot more now that I’m older and have a bit more understanding and lot less piss and vinegar, lol. 

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Inheritance

My family medical history reads like a Cause of Death report

Any one of the illnesses I’m set to inherit

Would be the case close decision

For any dead body in any morgue

Anywhere

And if the high blood pressure, diabetes,

And likelihood of breast and/or ovarian cancer

Doesn’t clock me out early and in excruciating pain

Those genetic mental illnesses will

Double dipped chicken fried depression

Enough borderline to go over the line

[see what I did there?]

With more than a dash of attention deficit disorder

And some potential schizoaffective disorder for good measure

And I’m not even including those addictive personality traits

that course through my family tree

Like sap in the spring

Not that I was ever given any assistance

In learning how to deal with these second-hand things

No one taught me about eating right or exercise

Or even addressed calming techniques to quiet

My brain speeding around like an energy drink loving hamster on a wheel

But my mom did teach me

That chewing up Vicodin makes them work faster

And that drinking beer with a Twizzler is super funny

Both of those lessons came before I turned fifteen

I also learned that it’s okay to throw up after you eat

Its okay to do that in the Ryan’s Steakhouse bathroom during a rare family night out

And that its ok to take so many Oxys that you don’t hear your daughter calling

Or remember how to sign your name on her brand practice logs

I know I won’t be inheriting anything grand when my folks die

At most a couple of used cars,

Maybe an old goat or two

And a trailer overflowing with pill bottles and dust.

And that’s okay,

They’ve already given me enough

 

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Dear Toxic Friend, This Is Goodbye.

I don’t know how to start this. Perhaps my hesitation is from this not being easy or enjoyable to write. So here goes.

This is my goodbye.

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This fragile relationship of ours is no longer good for me. You are no longer good for me. Your passive aggression taints every conversation we have, like second-hand smoke in a sweater.  Somehow, no matter what our conversation is about, you warp and bend it until it reflects light onto that one time, more than a decade ago, when I fell short in your eyes. Our friendship does not make me feel good about myself. If anything, it makes me feel like a scapegoat. I’ve worked really hard to grow as a person and to cast off the shame, guilt, and self-hatred that I carried from my childhood. I can not allow you to undo what I’ve accomplished.

I’ve tried to be a good friend. I’ve tried to honor your feelings and allow you to hold them. But you used your feelings as a weapon. It’s obvious that you still hold on to the anger and pain that befell you in the past. It’s obvious that this hot coal burned its way inside your body and took residence in your heart. While I am not one to tell someone to let go and move on, I feel that for us to have worked, you needed to calm that burn. I supplied apologies as a salve, but they never seemed to soothe enough for you.

You throw shade (as the kids say these days) and make remarks that seem to have no other point than to paint me as a villain and you my victim. They seem to suggest that all your hardships are because of the perceived slight you think I performed. Just to put it to bed, my actions back then were never malicious. You know this. I acted on what my soul called me to do. It was what I personally wanted for once, instead of what was wanted for me. I explain this to you so you understand, I was just trying to live my life. No one should be kept from that OR be made feel bad because of that. Its exhausting explaining time and time again that my actions were not personal attacks. I just wanted sovereignty.

I understand your life has had ups and downs. So has mine. Everyone’s has. I will not say that anyone has had it easier or harder than anyone else. We’ve all made choices and we all deal with their consequences. That being said, you really seem set on winning some imaginary Misery Olympics. I do not support and will not take part in such games. We should be celebrating each other’s successes, not trying to impress others with who hurts the most. Pain is not something that is measurable like that. While I am sorry that your experiences haven’t all been positive ones, I don’t feel that they should be things you wave at me in an attempt to make me feel bad for or to discredit my own.

For my own mental health, I can not allow you lay your sins on me and send me out into the wild any longer. I do not hate you. I do not dislike you. I would very, very much like for us to be close again. I would like for us to have the relationship we assumed we would. But I simply can not with things in their current state. I’m sorry we can’t be the friends we imagined we would always be.

Please have a good life. I wish nothing but the best for you. But I can accept nothing but the best for me.

BBBBBB

 

Selfishness VS Self Care

She was crying.

She was yelling.

She was stomping her feet.

Her hands were fists, shaking with rage.

She was a middle-aged woman. And her day was ruined.

But the thing is, it wasn’t just her day. It was a family day. And not just any random Sunday dinner type family day, but a day that was primarily planned for the children. Those children stood, silently defeated, behind the legs of their mother. Even an outsider could see that this event would be charred into not only their memory, but their future behavioral patterns. It was a lesson on how its perfectly okay to throw a fit when you are not happy. They will carry this event , and all the others like it from her, into every relationship they form as they age.

When having multiple events like the one above in your personal experience tank, it’s hard to distinguish between the ideas of selfishness and self-care. The word selfish ,according to Merriam Webster, is when one is “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself, seeking or concentration on one’s own advantage,pleasure,or well being without regard for others.”

For people who grow up around abusive individuals , self-care often has the same definition. There becomes this idea that time spent taking care of one’s own self is time that could be better allocated to the care of someone else. This idea is planted in the person’s mind until sacrificial acts blossom into their modus operandi. Enjoyment is permanently set aside in hope of pleasing others. And this spreads to every single relationship. Significant others, children, friends, strangers, EVERYONE gets a slice first, until there’s nothing left  but crumbs.

We’ll never get full on crumbs. And we’ll run on those crumbs until there’s nothing left to sustain us. Then the whole ship goes down. This is why self care is important. If we are the foundation upon which we build others, we have to take care of that foundation. If we crumble, they all do. In order to take care of others, we must take care of ourselves. To do this, we must change our understanding of what being selfish is.

Taking care of yourself is not selfish.

Working to feel better, physically and mentally, is not selfish.

Enjoying your favorite foods/movies/music is not selfish.

Napping is not selfish.

Doing your make-up,nails, hair, etc is not selfish.

Wanting alone time is not selfish.

Relaxing is not selfish.

Pampering yourself the same way you pamper others is not selfish.

A castle is only as good as its foundation. Remember to treat yourself with care.

Love others but also, love yourself.

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Icy Roads

I live in the Southeastern United States. Winter, to us, is only a slight reprieve from oppressive damp heat and endless pollen. That being said, I have no idea how to drive on an icy road. If it’s icy, I retreat further into my home and refuse to venture out. I’m a horrible driver on a good day. So when the roads are compromised I’m extra dangerous. It’s not intentional, I’m just a bad driver. Winter weather just adds to my inability.

Sometimes though, you can’t avoid the icy roads. Sometimes you need to go out for milk, or toilet paper, or medicine. And sometimes the icy roads are not actually roads connecting geographic locations. Sometimes those icy roads are genetic paths that connect people.

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I’m on one of those roads right now. I’m revisiting a relationship I had put a Dead End sign on long ago. I’m realizing that so much of the narrative that played in my mind for all these years was not only seasoned by other people’s agendas, but was mostly hypothetical. I had created wars in my head where there were just misunderstandings. The mountains I made and were struggling to carry, actually might have been mole hills.

With that, I’m facing the hard realization that the people I backed never really were backing me. Imagine standing the the corner for someone’s fight only for them to use your battles to hype their own. Someone I thought was a wise and caring person is actually nothing more than a gaslighting soul leech. Narcissistic abuse comes in all shapes and sizes. I realize now that my naivete and gullibility lead me like breadcrumbs through the forest right to the door of a storybook villain.

There’s so much I need to reassess.  So many things I need to judge clearly on my own. So much to unpack.  While I do that, the cold stays and ice continue to form. This road isn’t getting any less clear.

For right now, I’m just trying to stay in my own lane.


Postface: This is not about my significant other. Mr. Conjure and Coffee and I are wonderful. batborder