"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

No Other Way

I am thankful-
for decisions I didn’t get to make…
dreams that fell through-
love lost.

I am thankful-
for all the things that went wrong.
The turns in my life that cut me to pieces-
the long journey back to making myself whole.

I am thankful-
for almost falling into the abyss
Being pulled back against my will-
almost angry that I survived.

I am thankful that I couldn’t imagine
such happiness
because it is sweeter now
that I doubted it with such intensity.

It is easy to be thankful for beauty.
Who would have ever thought I would be so thankful for the very worst things?
The missed chances, defeat, dark places I dare not revisit.

The outcomes I fought with all my might to change-
to bend-
to make what I thought I needed.

But nothing worked.
I lost those battles over and over.

For that I am most thankful.

There was no other way. I know that now.
I found myself again. It’s been a long time.
I am here. Right where I am supposed to be.

And in ways I could never have imagined…

I am thankful.

I have featured this painting before--It is "Rebirth" by Duy Huynh, a local artist. This painting has always held special meaning for me-as does a lot of his other work. Please check out more of his work here: http://larkandkey.com/


Friday, February 12, 2010


My mother called a few days ago, with the pattern of random small talk that I recognize well. She was upset about something. While she chattered on about the weather or her recent purchase of new placemats for the kitchen, she was trying to find the courage to say what was really on her mind.

Finally, in a quiet voice, almost a whisper, she said: You didn’t send us a card for our anniversary. We have been married for fifty years, this was special. I was just surprised.

Fifty years. I knew when their anniversary was. My mother has never been subtle or able to hold back excitement for any holiday or birthday. She is nearly unbearable around Christmastime, walking around in holiday sweaters that embarrassed me growing up and even now. So, for the weeks leading up to their anniversary date, she was dropping hints and asking for my advice on a present for my father, all the time reminding me of the approaching day.

I should be a bigger person. It’s one day out of the year. I could drop a card in the mail with some simple sentiment, nothing too sappy, devoid of anything that makes me sound overjoyed about the occasion. I could send flowers and just sign the card with my name. But I never have been able to make myself do it.

My parents both grew up in poverty in an area of Kentucky that is still a bit lost in time. At that time, in that place, it wasn’t uncommon for people to marry young. My mother was sixteen when they married, my father was twenty.

From day one, and not just because of her age, my mother has been dependent on my father. She is and has always been painfully shy, and doubts everything about herself with such depth that I am shocked when she steps even a millimeter outside of her comfort zone. She didn’t have a driver’s license until the age of 29, and this was after years of marriage and success with my father’s career—and after having two children. They had money for her to have a car. Instead, she waited for my father to take her where she needed to go.

Their marriage showed no evidence of love or respect at any moment since I can remember-- since I knew even a little about what those words meant. My mother has always professed her love for my father. I know she believes that and means it. But how you can truly love someone who has never put you first, has never encouraged you or believed in you, who has belittled you, taken you for granted, ignored your birthdays, squashed your dreams, and expected in turn to be waited on hand and foot—is beyond comprehension for me. She was a child when she married him. He taught her his version of love and she was an excellent student.

Fifty years of marriage for my parents, to me, is not a cause for celebration or special recognition. If I have to label it, I would say it is an accomplishment at best.

My mother survived fifty years of never making a decision without deferring to my father. She managed to put a face on for the world that seemed together and content, when my father’s alcoholism and many affairs were the crippling reality.

I can’t paint her completely as a hero or even a martyr-- as she lived in such denial over the toll my father’s choices and behavior were taking on our family. She chose indifference over action. She chose denial over protecting me.

For the forty years I have lived with or known my parents, their marriage has confused me, saddened me, angered me.

When I was very young, caught up in my mother’s excitement of marking special days on the calendar, I would make homemade cards for their anniversaries out of construction paper and glitter—happily handing it to them on the morning of the big day. But even when I was barely out of grade school, celebrating that day felt false. Not marking that day with some gesture wasn’t done out of bitterness, it just seemed so much like a lie, a betrayal of everything I knew to be true. I couldn’t make myself encourage my mother’s state of denial.

I feel for her. I hurt for her. I wonder so often what my mother could have become, what she would have done with her life had she not married my father—or had she broken away from him when she was young. I sometimes imagine her with someone who would have seen her. Truly seen the person she is, the heart she has. She can’t even see it herself.

So, each year, I let that day in February quietly pass. The square box stares back at me on the calendar. I don’t have to mark it, I know the date.

It is the date that made my mother who she is, and me who I am.

It was the beginning and the end for all of us.

It is the loss of her innocence, the beginning of his betrayals.

It is a mix of love and hate.

It is a contradiction—wishing the union didn’t happen—but knowing I would not be here if it hadn’t.

And there isn’t a card for that.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Weight of Worry

I can imagine a thousand things. My worst nightmares coming true. A scarier outcome than is even possible. I can go night after night without sleep counting the minutes while fretting about everything under the sun. And all of this amounts to nothing. But worry has been my companion for more years than I can count.

I come by it honestly. My mother’s worrying is crippling to her--inhibiting her life in ways I don’t even think she understands. It was by watching her that I was able to scale back my habits a great deal. I saw her day after day getting further weighed down by stressing, thinking, and fretting over things that were either out of her control, or too miniscule to really be a concern. It seemed as if she got smaller every day, swallowed up by the cloud of worry. It made her timid to try new things, to go places, to do things she had always wanted to do. It seemed better to stay safe at home and not risk harm or making mistakes.

Until I was in high school, that was pretty much me, too. I limited myself to things I knew and trusted—never venturing more than a few feet out of my comfort zone. And then I realized I was still worrying incessantly. Even in my supposed “safe zone”, I was losing sleep and having panic attacks. I saw the fruits of my mother’s constant state of anxiety. Miraculously, I was able to reign in some of the intensity, and somehow choose my battles with worry.

It’s almost funny that the more I have had on me—the less I started to worry. In college I was working three jobs, trying to come to terms with the reality of my family problems, becoming the navigator of my own journey—all of it overwhelming. I believe it was definitely a choice of sink or swim. And to even tread water, I had to realize that staying up all night worrying wasn’t going to put money in the bank to pay my power bill. I remember so often saying to myself, “you are doing the best you can, that is all you can do.” It might not have helped my finances or my understanding of my family, but it helped keep me a little closer to sanity, and gave me a few more hours of sleep each night.

But, even at my best, I am a bigger worrier than most and I hate the lessons worry teaches me.

I have learned from worry that nine times out of ten, doing what you love-even what you are meant to do- isn’t going to pay the bills. I know some have made it happen, but for me that hasn’t quite worked out. I have also learned that the financial worry of pursuing those dreams can take away from what you wanted in the first place. That doesn’t mean my dreams are dying, it just means I am realizing they may have to always be an after-hours pursuit instead of the main game.

I have also learned that there is no worry worse than financial worry. From my own experience and my friends' experiences as we have all been affected by the economy, it is the worst form of stress. In so many ways you are helpless, and the ride downhill only accelerates with each passing day.

Over the last few weeks, I have realized that I have let my stress and worry creep in to my happiness. Right now, I do have a lot to be happy about, in more than one area, my life is good—actually great. All of the rest of it will work out I am sure. But I noticed that I haven’t been able to write—it almost felt like a betrayal to let myself write instead of concentrating on my “bigger” concerns. It hit me today that the only way I can steer through everything with my soul intact is to keep doing the things I love--that are me. In fact, I may need to drown myself a little in the things that make me who I am. Better to drown there than the deep dark sea of apprehension.

At the end of all of this, when the dust finally settles and I have somehow solved the problems lurking around the corner, I will have the words I have written, the moments I have created and will, as always, look back and realize that was what got me through.

That is all I can do.



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