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

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Parts of a Whole: The Collage of Who we Are

I have written a great deal about the struggle I have with the relationship with my parents, my father in particular. A lot of the words I have written were almost therapy, a way for me to explore things I remembered, turn them over and over and try to make sense of them. It is easy in an overview to see things as black and white, with a hero and a victim. There are many reasons I have struggled over the years, battled depression, and questioned myself. I do believe with all of my heart that the foundation I was given led me to a struggle with my self esteem and gave me more obstacles to overcome at a young age. However, I do know I can’t blame everything on my upbringing or my father’s alcoholism. I know that I am still responsible for choices I have made, and paths I have chosen.

I have never been good with money. I can remember so vividly being in Mrs. McCune’s math class in middle school crying my eyes out because I could not balance my imaginary checkbook that was given to us as a class assignment. This wasn’t Algebra or Calculus. It was addition and subtraction. And I wasn’t a stupid kid. Outside of the checkbook register, addition and subtraction were easy. Put in the context of paying bills and shopping, I couldn’t make it work.

Some of my struggles over the years with money have been just not having enough of it, working three jobs trying to make ends meet, eating spaghettios almost every night to survive. But as I found career success and made a great salary, I still had issues. Some of it was due to retail therapy and comforting myself because other things were lacking, and some of it was just my lack of money management skills.

My relationship choices did have a predestination quality, we learn what we live—how we are taught to love. But at some point, you have to say to yourself people who hurt me are bad, those who don’t are good, and learn from it. I was a slow learner to say the least.

So, yes, I know that my childhood shaped me, maybe more than I would have liked. But even amidst the pain and at times, bitterness, I know I gained some things from my parents that are the better parts of me.

I have my mother’s heart. My mother’s compassion is a gift I am thankful for, even though it causes me to feel things 100 times more deeply than I should, causes me to cry over small injustices every day. I sometimes wish I didn’t feel things so deeply, and have, over the years, wished I didn’t form such intense strong attachments to people, but I know that the opposite would be worse. I have watched my mother love without worrying about anything in return for much of her life. Although I know it isn’t healthy, it is at times still amazing to watch.

I have my father’s wit and sense of comic timing. In times of stress, I learned to borrow this gift from him to ease tension, or divert everyone away from the negative forces in our lives. Though shy outside the house when I was younger, I could be a clown and a performer at home when I needed to be. Although the circumstances may not have been ideal to grow this trait, I am thankful I have honed my sarcasm over the years, and my ability to always laugh at myself. I think that in particular has helped save me at times.

The weird thing is, all of us grow up in completely different circumstances, some good, some bad, and you can’t ever completely predict how any one person will turn out. There are some psychological profiles that we can expect given certain things, but truthfully, it all seems like a weird lottery to me. Someone who grows up in a family of abuse, neglect, and horror can grow up to be successful, warm, giving, and healthy, while someone from a seemingly healthy, loving home can grow up and lose their way or worse, find a life of crime.

The best and worst of the two people who raised me is the collage of the person I have become. While some people deal with pain by withdrawing, I have expressed it openly in various ways including writing. And writing is like breathing to me. I cannot imagine my life without this need and love for words. I don’t know if I was born to write, or if my circumstances carved this notion into me. Probably a little bit of both. Out of everything I have and am, and even if I never find true success at it, I would not want to lose my love of writing or the ability to do so. Do I wish there were things I didn’t have to see, endure, learn or know to get where I am? Definitely. Are there things I regret and wish I could have handled differently? God yes.

But there is no way to pick and choose the parts you can delete and still remain yourself. Even in my lowest times, when the world seemed so dark to me—I would ask myself—do you wish you were someone else? And I could never answer that question affirmatively. I knew I didn’t want to be in the pain I was in, battling what I was battling, but at the core of it all, I didn’t want to change who I was. Sometimes that still amazes me. That even as flawed and hopeless as I have felt, I wanted this heart, this mind, this body, this face, these gifts, these burdens.

And today as I try to reconcile so many things, I still do. All the pieces, flawed and unblemished, broken and repaired, silent and screaming, loved and forgotten...are why I am here today, finally happy and whole. Loved by myself and others for all those reasons.

What a gift that is.

The amazing collage pictured above was done by Gloria Martin at


Thursday, September 23, 2010


I can barely begin to explain the tumble of emotions I have been through over the last three weeks. There is first and foremost the utter and complete happiness of being with my fiancé and making wedding plans. Plans I thought I would never make with a man I thought I would never meet. The only certainty in my life for so many years was sadness and the belief that it wasn’t going to get any better. I can honestly say that a day does not go by where I don’t stop for a moment at some point during the day and give thanks. I waited a long time for this happiness, and so did he. I sometimes think (and worry) that all brides and grooms must feel this way at the beginning when they walk down the aisle. No one knows for sure if they will last- if they won’t make it. How do I know my situation is different? All I can worry about is the now, and the now is wonderful. And after that, I know I can’t take one second for granted.

Planning my wedding has been more than I ever bargained for. Finding the florist, the photographer, and picking a caterer…all those details are daunting enough. Add a full time job and anything else into the mix and it gets overwhelming quickly. In the past, I have helped friends plan their weddings, have worn more bridesmaid dresses than I care to count, but nothing can compare to planning your own. It is more than picking out a white dress and asking friends to stand up for you. It is more than choosing colors and selecting flowers. There is so much emotion tied to your own wedding. Not just the love and commitment, but all the family decisions and involvement can complicate (or deepen) everything to a place you never imagined.

I have struggled with the situation over whether or not to have my father walk me down the aisle. My mother has been terribly hurt and completely unable to understand why I wouldn’t want him to accompany me at the church in November. Her level of denial still astounds me. She cannot go to a place where she has to see the reality of what my father’s alcoholism has done to our family, and the lasting effect it has had on me. Since I brought up the issue and expressed what I wanted, it has caused weeks of arguing, awkward conversations and tears on both ends. It would be easier, it seems, to give in. Again, it is only 30 feet and maybe 5 minutes, right?

I keep telling myself that. And even though I know it seems to my mother and maybe to everyone else that I am trying to punish or hurt my father, I can honestly say that is far from the truth. My decision is for me. I didn't truly realize it until all the talks with my mother recently. I also believe it won’t really hurt him- except maybe his pride. Maybe no one understands my reasons, and I have a difficult time expressing them. There is bitterness from me towards him, I think that is apparent in my past blog entries. There is pain and anger. A lot of that comes from the years I have spent in therapy and trying to heal. Years I feel that I ‘lost’ in my life because of it all. Going through the pain was enough, but losing time made it all seem to last forever.

But my reason for this decision is apart from that. I made promises to myself growing up—things I would do and have—things I would be one day. The love I would find, the life I would lead. And it has taken me so long to even begin to fulfill those promises. I feel as though now I am leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for the little girl I was, leading her to where I am now. Finally, I am here. All of the pain was worth it. We made it. I made it.

I am proud of myself for getting through everything I have gotten through. I survived. Just barely. I am so thankful I did. And emotionally, I did that myself. I had friends and a therapist who helped me with the tools I needed to be able to fight, who held me up so I could walk through the door. But emotionally I had to get there myself. And I fought hard. I want to walk down that aisle knowing that in order for me to be here, to be in that church and say those vows, and find the peace and joy I have waited so long for, I did it. In spite of my father, in spite of setbacks and heartbreak. Somehow, I did it. And those steps down that aisle belong to me, each one of them.

To me, and the little girl I was, the little girl I made promises to- promises that have finally come true.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Pain vs. Tradition: The Walk Down the Aisle

It’s not that far to walk. Maybe 30 feet I am guessing? It is a small church. And at the end of that walk, a part of my life will be over and a new one will begin. It will take 3 minutes or less. And yet, it is the one thing about planning this wedding that has caused me the most worry, the most heartache. It has been the one argument my fiancé and I have had over anything to do with the wedding.

Will my father walk me down the aisle?

I actually have already talked to my mother about where my father should get fitted for his tux. I have already had a disjointed conversation with her about him walking me down the aisle. I never called her to formally ask. He and I have not really spoken in over a year. The last time we spoke was by necessity at a family gathering for Christmas last year. My mother called me a few months ago once I started to plan the wedding, simply asking what my father should wear to walk me down the aisle.

It seems easy enough to those outside the situation. Knowing my history with my father, knowing my feelings about him, knowing the pain he has caused in my life—NO—he should not have the honor of walking me down the aisle. It seems easy enough.

Do I want him to? No. Mainly because I have had to take care of myself for a long time. I may have done a poor job of it at times, but I have had to find a way to navigate through this world, to honestly survive my relationship with him. It was his voice I heard in my head for the better part of my life. The voice that made me doubt myself, that made me make choices I would not have made otherwise. The voice that told me I wasn’t worth a healthy relationship or belief in myself. The voice that constantly made me doubt myself and at times hate myself. That voice I heard—his voice-- became my voice. I was 36 years old before I even began unraveling that mystery; before I began to try and hear my own self in there. Before I realized it was his voice and not mine I had been hearing.

This isn’t about breaking with tradition. For me, tradition went out the window years ago. I could care less about wedding etiquette or rules, or what people see as right or wrong. A lot of people don’t know the truth about what went on in my house growing up, or who my father was behind closed doors, or who he is now. So yes, there might be questions at the wedding, but that isn’t it either.

It begins and ends with my mother. Although I have wanted to pummel her at times over the years for concentrating on nothing but the fact that I wasn’t married, that I was getting older and was going to end up ALONE, that I was going to get too old to have children—I am happy that she is getting to see this happen. It has worried her to death—almost literally. I know she only wanted my happiness as she completely missed the irony that she was begging for me to enter into an institution that had brought her nothing but pain, disappointment, and loneliness. I know that it will be one of the happiest days in her life to be at my wedding. And I think she has had too few of them. I know if I tell her (because I will have to tell her since my father and I don’t speak) that I do not want him walking me down the aisle, that it will be she who suffers. She will hear him venting, he may refuse to come, and my mother is at times dependent on him when traveling. Not because of any illness or anything like that, she just relies on his opinion, almost his permission, to do anything.

My mother is living in the biggest state of denial I have ever witnessed. Part of this is that in her world, we are the perfect family, have had no issues or dysfunctions to speak of, and every holiday has been a Normal Rockwell painting. My wedding is just another painting in progress, and everything should be in place: the bride in white, the handsome groom, the three tiers of cake, and the father walking the daughter down the aisle.

As much as I want to just let it go, and do the easy thing…I woke up yesterday asking myself who this was easy for. I have, too many times in my life tried my very best to make things good for everyone else. And to be honest, because I grew up living my mother’s denial, I too kept up appearances that everything was normal, if not wonderful in my family for many years. You can learn denial and keeping secrets just like you learn everything else. Everyone at college went home for Christmas and excitedly talked about relatives not seen all year, presents, family meals, and just happiness. At times I even made up stories, or at least very heavily embellished what I had to look forward to. The truth was, Christmas was one of the most painful times of year for me. There were several Christmases that my father either made me leave the house (on Christmas Eve) or things became so explosive that I had to leave. I wasn’t a problem teenager. I didn’t come home with a tattooed boyfriend or a pregnancy announcement or any of the other afterschool-special problems that might send a parent over the edge, even at Christmas. It was as if just my existence, my very being, and all the disappointments I had become were too much for him to handle without loads of alcohol and profanity spewed in my direction. It took me awhile to stop trying to be the last missing piece in my mother’s Rockwell painting, coming home to make it complete for her. Finally, I started taking vacations at Christmastime, saving my vacation time at work, and not always being honest with those who I knew about where I was going. No one wants to hear that you are spending Christmas alone, even if it is in Maui or Paris. It is best to just let people assume you are heading home with the rest of the world.

I took baby steps in trying to preserve my sanity. Not going home for holidays, and then not visiting when my father was home. I felt guilty making things hard on my mother, but had to, at some point, save myself.

And in about two months, I am getting married. It will be one of the most important and happiest days of my life. And though it may seem like an easy decision one way or the other…to spare my mother’s feelings or to say no to someone who doesn’t deserve the honor…it isn’t easy. But, I have waited so long for this. For this love. I honestly had completely given up on it happening for me. And the joy I have had in my life for the almost ten months I have been with my fiancé has changed my life and made me stronger. I honestly believe I had to learn to love again, and my fiancé has taught me. They say you have to love yourself before you can love someone else. I think for the most part, that is true. But sometimes, you can’t see yourself until someone else sees you. Believes in you. Helps you hear their voice and your own above everyone and everything else. And that has happened for me.

The thought of even the gesture of letting my father walk me down the aisle makes my stomach hurt, makes me angry, makes me sad.

The thought of walking myself down the aisle, toward the man I love, toward my new life makes me nothing but happy.

Maybe it is an easy decision after all.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Danny & Annie

Danny & Annie from StoryCorps on Vimeo.

I am so behind with my writing. This is my weekend to write, and I am beginning by taking a little shortcut to share something I came across via Twitter this morning. I am not crazy about the animation style of this, but the story behind it is just beautiful. if you don't know about NPR's StoryCorps, you need to check it out. I cannot count the number of mornings on my way to work that I would have to pull the car over when listening to some of these stories. Just beautiful stuff.



  © Blogger template ProBlogger Template by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP