In the career of mothering, there seems to be no job advancement.

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Mothering/home keeping just sucks the wind out of me some days. Thankless is the name of the game.
As you read this, if you feel my plight, please chime in as I could use the solidarity.
We have all heard that motherhood is a thankless job but I was foolish enough to think that those mothers that weren’t thanked were simply doing the job wrong and because I was dedicating myself to it wholly, as my profession, I would do the job in a way where I avoided that pit fall of being taken for granted. I would surely raise young people who valued me.
Whatever I do, perhaps whatever any mother does, is met with scrutiny and dissatisfaction and mockery and a lack of appreciation by our children and it actually hurts my heart so. very. much.
I am an evolved person. An empathetic person. A person who is very self aware. I know we are a product of our circumstances and I know the role my own childhood plays in my mothering. I try to balance my needs and expectations of others with the knowledge that my husband and kids have a different foundation of thought and need.
I grew up in a house that was always too messy to enjoy…piles of magazines and mail and laundry and last seasons holiday decorations…obvious, teetering piles, that meant I never felt comfortable in any room and I never wanted to have friends over. I dared not clean or straighten anything as that made me the target for my mother’s fury at not being able to find something, or screaming about the odor of a cleaning product that sent her to her room with a “migraine” or accusations that I had scratched furniture or marred her paint. I couldn’t win.
I knew I wanted a home that made relaxing a priority but I also knew that I didn’t want a careless environment. Now that the kids are grown, I am actively making this house something too can enjoy. I look forward to having an attractive, well appointed and artful place to welcome a guest. A place to sit and read or entertain a friend without chaos on the table next to you. I really like one room to be company ready at all times so we bought a home with a formal living room AND a family room. The family room is where you can take a snack and a drink and watch a movie with little worry. The living room is not.
I make an effort to keep the house “pile free” but I never worry about it being spotless or sanitized. I want order and balance and ease and there are places for all of that in our home. Yet my children ceaselessly mock my efforts to upgrade the living room and dining room into adult spaces…though they are adults themselves. My decorating the living room and dining rooms has been met with endless jabs. As though claiming any space in the house for my own dreams is an affront to them and theirs.
With regard to cleaning the house, I mostly pick up after every member of this family. I alone, with rare exceptions, sweep, dust, mop, cobweb and tidy. I wanted my family members lives to be easy and free of the worries that I had as a child. I demand a few things be done by other members (put your own dish in the dishwasher, take your shoes with you when you leave the room) but mostly, I still do everything myself because, even at 17 and 20, any request to have one of them take their messes to their room, put away the laundry that I washed, dried and folded for them, even clear their plates, is too often greeted with huffs, sighs, claims that they don’t have time or that I am being unreasonable, as the door closes behind them. They are adults but I am still the one who takes care of their messes and I resent it.
I am more accepting that I have created an environment where they have lifelong expectations that I do everything for them than I am that they do not really appreciate any of what I do for them. Add to that, the sad, stinging realization that my kids gang up on me in slight mocking sessions or little insults about how what I asked of them or expect of them is unreasonable or unnecessary. A mini version of “gas-lighting” if you will.
I thought I had created an environment of care, love, and respect but what has become abundantly clear is that no matter the effort or the pure heart behind the effort, the job of mothering and housekeeping is one that is to be dismissed by the beneficiaries, and the mother herself is to be marginalized as not worthy of the emotional care that her children received.
Perhaps this is a necessary step in the children growing up and leaving…taking even the most conscientious mother for granted and tearing her down just a little bit to build themselves up.
Perhaps.
But it is NOT the reward I know I should have justly earned by NOT repeating my mothers mistakes…by keeping my children’s needs in mind in my decisions for our home…by working every day of their lives to be the mother they each needed…by assessing their individual needs, caring for their hearts, their bodies, their minds and tending to the environment that is vital to them flourishing.
I can’t win, and that hurts.
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Posted in Disappointment, Life Lessons, Motherhood, Personal truth, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Beyond ‘You have such a pretty face.’

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At 38, I reached the saturation point. The place where I had taken in all the insults and disapproval there was room for in my head and no more would fit. What a great day it was…so freeing.

Here is the story about those final words…the first ever insult about my weight that did not sting. The words were so deeply insulting and ignorant that I saw in them the end of my need to give a damn what any other person thought about my body.

Picture a big social affair, me confident and happy, visiting with everyone, having a great time…until…some ‘well meaning’ man that I barely know, approaches and greets me with an assessing look up and down followed by a big hug and then, the classic backhanded compliment of “You look great! Have you lost weight?”

I answered with words that were dripping with irritation and were designed to end the topic of my size, my body, my business. I told the fellow that I was sure I had NOT lost weight and besides I was happy just the way I was.

He persisted. He told me that if I ever wanted to lose some weight, keep it off and finally discover what a sexy and beautiful woman I COULD be, he would be happy to help me find the right diet and exercise experts to help me.

Yes. Seriously. This. Happened.

The stupefying nerve he displayed was so absolute that the hundreds of  “You have such a pretty face if you just lost some weight” comments I had received previous to that moment could not equal this idiot’s assertion that in order to be more, I needed to be less.

He thought he was flattering the fat girl by telling her that if she worked just a little harder at dropping some pounds he would find her really fuckable. He thought he was doing me a favor.

Ah… to be shocked into reason!  The intention was to shame me with words disguised as a compliment. I have never flinched since. I have become an expert at one line retorts about how my body, my meal choice, the contents of my grocery cart, my selection of a dress with horizontal stripes, is just not something I am going to allow anyone to comment on.

Maybe it is the confidence I now feel about being exactly who I am that keeps the haters away. I wear the IDGAF as well as I wear the horizontal stripes.

I laid out for you my aha moment. Tell me yours.

I’m really interested in hearing your worst. Bring that hideous shit right out into the daylight and let’s talk about it.

Leave a reply and we can keep the conversation going.

Sharing it is one step away from letting it go.

 

 

 

 

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Lemon Verbena Salt Scrub

Lemon Verbena

Fresh Lemon Verbena

Lemon Verbena Salt Scrub
Lemon Verbena Salt Scrub

 

I thought I would share a fun and easy project with you. Yeah, I know, I write about weighty issues, feelings and shit but I think you will like this so…

A friend of mine, Dawn, often grows more lemon verbena than she can use. Last year when she offered me a bundle I meticulously cleaned the leaves, which you have to dry brush clean because water will wash away the fragrant oil that makes the stuff so potent and fabulous, and I ground up the leaves with cane sugar to freeze for use in shortbread cookies throughout the year. I still have a decent stockpile so I wanted to do something different with this year’s harvest.

I researched online and did not find a recipe using actual leaves, likely because the bits could clog drains, so I looked into infusions and there were a few suggesting infusing into an oil base. So I dove in…

 

Fresh Lemon Verbena Salt Scrub

2 cups Epsom Salts

2 cups Sea Salt

2 cup Coconut oil

1 Tbsp Jojoba oil

2 cups fresh Lemon Verbena leaves

12 drops lemon essential oil

Method:

Inspect your leaves to be certain they are free of any dirt and tiny bugs. Shred them up by hand or grind them in a food processor. (I have a coffee grinder that I use only for herbs) Be sure to get every last bit as the oily residue sticking to the sides of your grinder or food processor is where the real magic is.

Put the ground up paste into a microwave safe dish or a small saucepan. Add the coconut oil and heat until it is melted. Stir the mixture until combined. Leave overnight to meld.

In a large bowl, measure out your salts. You can use just sea salt and double the amount called for omitting the Epsom Salt but I like the health an beauty benefits of magnesium sulfate so I used both.

After the coconut oil has solidified, melt it again and then strain the oil through a piece of linen or an old, clean tea towel to remove the lemon verbena and leave only its essence.

Pour the oil into the bowl with the salts, add your jojoba and essential oils and stir, either with your hands or a spoon. Voila! Super awakening, awesome skin smoothing, magic lemony grime scrubber. I like it for elbows, knees, hands and feet. Give yourself a pedi and then soak in that Epsom goodness. I am putting a jar next to the kitchen sink to scrub off garlic and onion stench. Great in the recipe, peee-eww on the hands. Lemon Verbena to the rescue.

Package in plastic jars for people like me who cannot be trusted with glass in the shower. If you package it in glass jars I would recommend NOT taking that jar into the shower. Maybe spoon out a little into a plastic dish to take in with you. Another caution…the oils that benefit your skin and make this stuff so great to use will leave the shower floor hella slippery so hold onto something as well as use a good cleaner before the next poor sap gets into the shower.

My thanks to Dawn Craghead for the Lemon Verbena and Humboldt Herbals for the Jojoba and essential oils and the nice little blue plastic jars they carry for klutzes like me.

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Posted in Homemade, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Personality Types

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This blog, and my Facebook page, function as my public journal where I can share what is on my mind and what I feel might be beneficial to my friends and readers. Occasionally in both formats, I strike a nerve and the reader comments that follow are eye opening. 99% are of a thumbs-up variety as most civilized people, I find, employ the common sense rule of if you don’t like it, leave it. But the other day somebody posted a comment directed not at the topic of the post but at me personally, and while the comment was insulting and totally socially unacceptable it served as a gift to me in that her words spun me into thinking really hard about personality types, archetypes & patterns of behavior and why we each consistently do what we do. For example, I regularly state my feelings about the world as I see it and she regularly chastises me for it. Her behavior looks less to me like an opinion as it does like a false sense of superiority…the behavior that consistently infuriates me more than any other no matter who is asserting it.

So, let’s start at the beginning.

Two days ago I posted on Facebook a fascinating picture I came across on Pinterest that dramatically captures the unnerving effect that someone who is “two faced” can have on the eyes and the mind of those of us who have been on the losing end of their abuse. Pure genius on the part of the photographer/artist as it leaves the viewer to try to suss out where one feature ends and the manual manipulation of the image begins. Metaphors galore here…seriously great stuff!

Here is the post:

Beware of the person who carries two opposing reputations for they indeed have two faces: One, sugary & sweet and the other manipulative & selfish.
This is the most dangerous type of person. They have mastered hiding their ugly nature from some in order to build a team of people who provide them with the camouflage and defense to further their selfish goals.

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The comments from friends followed as they would with “been there, done that” and “so glad that is behind me” and general recognition of that particular demon.  With two exceptions…and I wish I could just cut and paste those comments here but because I deleted them in haste I cannot share them verbatim, but it went something like this:

Nameless1: You focus so much on the actions of others. Therapy might be very helpful in moving on. In the end we can only change ourselves.

Me: Therapy HAS been very helpful. It taught me to identify abusers and then gave me the courage to cut them out of my life.

(not willing to let it go, Nameless1 makes another comment which gets a reply from another friend that forces me to delete them both because, you know, Facebook is PUBLIC and insults are ugly)

Nameless1: You dwell on this topic above all others. Maybe I am misguided to say this but it seems you must be in great pain.

Nameless2: WTF??? Yes, Nameless 1, you ARE quite misguided. And beyond rude. And easily threatened. You must either BE two faced or enabling your own abuser. Step off and log off.

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Had I not needed to delete those comments, my own reply to Nameless1 would have been;

Me: “Dwell” is an interesting choice of words…no escaping the negative connotation there so that is clearly more about you than it is about me but that being said, I have lost so much precious time to the manipulations of two faced people that I feel a need to point out the danger much like a person who has experienced recurring skin cancer might “dwell” on the hope that their friends see the need for sunscreen.

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My friend, Nameless2, sent me this private message minutes after I deleted both snarky comments on the post. With her permission, here it is:

Sooz,

I saw that you immediately deleted my reply to that awful woman’s hateful comment which she thinly disguised as concern. You were too nice to her. Both by not putting her in her place and by preventing her from getting the slap she so richly deserved from me! I understand though, I remember how fiercely you guard your “virtual living room” against argument no matter how right the finger pointing may be. While I respect your protection of your friends, I had a powerful instinct to protect YOU, sister!

I’m here to tell you how incensed I am that this (Nameless 1) person is even counted among your “friends” as friends do not suggest that you need therapy based on your Facebook post. When you gently brought her back to reality about how therapy had led you to rid yourself of emotional abusers only to have her PUBLICLY impose on you that you talking about the subject means you “dwell” and are “in pain.”  What the hell?

And she suggested therapy for YOU???

I’m going to guess that her totally offensive response to your post was inspired by her being close to one of those narcissists you have, in recent years, culled from your life or maybe she sides with that manipulator you and Mark are battling now or maybe she is a narcissist herself and doesn’t like you offering friends the tools to identify her as one? What else would motivate her to do anything but congratulate you on having the spine to shine a light on the struggles in your life that have made you the powerhouse friend that you are? Seriously, is she close to one of those family members or that former friend?

I don’t know her (damned glad of it) and I admit to scanning through the members of your women’s group to see if she was among them and no surprise, she isn’t because I couldn’t imagine the caliber of women in that group tolerating sanctimony and acid like hers.

Sorry I brought her down so hard but, no I’m not.  😉

I Love You!

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Nameless 1 is who she is. Her motivation for trying to shut me up or steer me away from this topic could come from being trapped in her generation’s dogma of not talking about anything they perceive as negative or from her desire to shield a narcissist in her own life or her possible need to gloss over anything ugly in an effort to keep a grip on her day to day life but clearly it was NOT out of any concern for me. I have no interest in dissecting her whys. Namely because she did not invite me to any more than my post on any topic should have served as an invitation for her to judge my mental health or to discourage my sharing my own opinion.

 She did get me thinking though.

  • What allows me the comfort or the need to be so outspoken about my own life while others stay silent?
  • How much of our behavior is dictated by generational norms and what percentage of the population advances with the times vs stays in their primary decade of influence?
  • Does fear drive people toward denial or does their denial really provide them with happiness? ?
  • What makes a person comfortable to stand in superiority and judgement over others?
  • Why are some people damaged by that judgement while others of us don’t care at all?
  • What drives our patterns of behavior more, nature or nurture?
  • How much does our predisposition to logic vs faith based thinking play into our day to day behavior?
  • Are there in life, as in literature, a handful of character types and an equal and essential need for them all?
  • If so, why are some people so threatened by our different styles?
  • If personality traits are often found in predictable sets, are we born with that imprinted in our DNA?

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I went digging on the internet, starting with traditional archetypes, Jungian archetypes, psychology in classic literature, personality types in the zodiac, and for a few hilarious minutes I perused fantasy and movie examples of archetypes…because you know, all work and no play. (FYI, the Harry Potter analysis is super fun.)

Jungian Archetypes led me to a ton of websites discussing The Big 5 Personality Traits and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI which, I’d wager to say most of us have dabbled in. I spent most of my time reading about the various type combinations using these 6 categories.

  • ESTJ: extraversion (E), sensing (S), thinking (T), judgment (J)
  • INFP: introversion (I), intuition (N), feeling (F), perception (P)

When I had formulated a guess about where I would land at this stage of my life (because it has been different in each decade from late teens, 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and now in my 50’s) I took the quiz again. I landed exactly where I would have predicted I would, given the descriptions. Many sites contain in depth descriptions of personalities including famous people and some literary characters who share your type. It turns out I have something in common with Harry Truman, Barbara Walters, Martha Stewart and much to my pleasure, the fierce “Baby” from Dirty Dancing.

None of what I read gave me the platter full of answers I would have liked but it served to be interesting and entertaining. The Myers-Briggs felt a lot like reading a newspaper horoscope, open ended enough to apply to most readers and we simply love having what we know about ourselves confirmed in print. A personality test is just a tool, and how scientific it is would certainly be debatable but through lifelong observation of my own behavior and deep dissection of my personal history I can tell you that it is my nature to offer up a warning about the dangers I have seen in the world because I really want to take care of the people I love. And it is not my nature to tell another person what to do or to criticize them in any way but rather to share my mistakes in the hopes that my friends can profit from them or at the very least, know that they are not alone in their foibles.

It seems to be Nameless1’s nature to discourage discussion about a topic she feels is too distasteful to be brought out in the light or perhaps too close to home and then to bolster her assertion by suggesting that I need mental health support because I don’t play by her rules. I will consequently keep her at arm’s length because I view her assertions as ugly and intrusive just as she feels that I must be damaged to mention anything ugly or maybe the rule I broke was that I brought it up more than once!

It is clearly Nameless2’s nature to fight against someone who has insulted or wronged her friend and to demand that they cease and desist. I love her for that protection even though I had to delete the comment.

We are all, like it or not, in this life together. And no matter what some might say,  I think there is a need for each one of our personality types. We each serve a different purpose, none more important the the others.

We are who we are and we consistently do what we find works for us… be it the comfort we might find in taking the path of least resistance or the need we might feel to fight against a perceived injustice, to stick our head in the sand to avoid the things we are afraid of, to champion the weak, to expose the dangers we know, to preach the faith that saved us, to shun the teachings that failed us.

I can hear my young, adorable friend, Felicia, say as she often does, “You do you, Boo.” It is a short phrase intended to make it clear to the person she is talking to that being just who they are is welcomed. I told her one day that I don’t wear dresses and heels anymore in favor of jeans and clogs and her response was a broad smile accompanied by, “You do you, Boo.” It is her nature to be accepting and warm.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will never tell another person what to do EXCEPT when it comes to ME. I have a little something in common with Nameless2. I am happy to say, “Step off” when necessary because nobody puts Baby in a corner and nobody tells Suzy how to conduct her own life. That’s my nature. On Facebook and off.

 

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Posted in Personality Types | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Just Say It

Why is it considered good manners to conceal someone’s bad behavior?

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I’ve seen a topic circulate on social media: If you wore a warning label instead of a name tag what would it say?  I guess you can put “Outspoken” on mine.

I have been called that plenty of times in my life. Sometimes by people who admire my ability to advocate for myself and sometimes by people who want to shut me up because my honesty threatens their own carefully curated world view.

For the record, I don’t see myself as outspoken, just…spoken.

When I was a small child and my grandmother read me The Emperor’s New Clothes it provided a meaningful life lesson. The little boy at the parade who pointed a finger and announced that the emperor was naked served as a great example to me. What in the hell was wrong with the rest of those fools???  I too would have just said it: Dude, you’re naked and while that’s fine and I don’t need you to be clothed, the fact is you are naked, everyone sees it, you are fooling nobody but yourself and I’m gonna tell you because apparently nobody else will.

I have never seen any good come from polite silence and so, I say it: from unabashed compliments, admissions of my own flaws, gushing affection, to hard truths about life as I see them, my dislike for a selfish person specifically, my intolerance of bullies generally, my desire for you to s.t.f.u. about your bullshit opinion regarding my life and what you think I might or might not need to be doing to live/look/eat/worship/vote like you.

I won’t sit on a board or committee or at a family dinner table and watch some selfish s.o.b. manipulate the group, mock an innocent, undermine good will, bully behind a smile. I won’t stay quiet about it. I won’t ever try to speak your mind for you but I damned well will speak mine. And if you think it’s rude I would counter that it is necessary. Maya Angelou is quoted as saying:”You teach people how to treat you” and I’ll teach you that if you intend to be mean and selfish you will find no safe harbor in my company.

“Biased” “Arrogant” “Meddler” Make no mistake…these people AREN’T going to put on a name tag for your benefit.  If I’ve been fucked over by someone, I’m gonna talk about it. If my sharing my experience doesn’t match up with your experience I’m not going to try to change your mind. I won’t tell you what to think, who to befriend and who to trust but I won’t keep my experience to myself under the misguided notion of manners. Nope.
It’s not an impulse I can’t control. I don’t have a blurting disorder. It is a choice I act on to create the world I want to live in. I don’t like people who treat me as a pawn in their game. I don’t like cheaters and swindlers. I don’t like narcissists and I don’t think it’s rude to use words to set boundaries.

So, call me out for being the cage shaker, call me outspoken and make me a name tag. I’ll wear it.

Posted in Freedom, Independence, Life Lessons, Personal truth, Self esteem, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Better living through Facebook

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“Facebook is my life” would not be a true statement but it would not be far off.

People, communication, sharing, interaction…these things really matter to me and if the people in your life account for anything, I am a wealthy woman. My friendship circle is made up of a collection of individuals gathered over a 50 year lifespan: from school friends to people I shared my misspent youth alongside to several of my children’s school teachers and the pastor of the church (I do not attend) across the street and there is just no other way to enjoy them together…or maybe, in a few cases, to enjoy them at all. A dinner party with any random group of ten of them could be disastrous but online I get to visit and share any number of them at once.

On Facebook I have instant access to hundreds of friend’s thoughts and celebrations, complaints and victories, gripes and brags and I respond or ignore as it suits me in the moment.  I scroll past the political rants that feel off kilter to me and I chime in when the sentiment resonates. I employ the same code of conduct online as off (criticism is ugly and correction is arrogant and unacceptable) and thus it feels like a more comfortable world that I have better control of than any I experience in person. It is harder, by far, to master ignoring the obnoxious or ignorant viewpoint of someone you otherwise like when you are face to face. Staring back blankly at your friend, the gifted diagnostician that is your F.N.P. at the doctor’s office, while she explains her reasoning for supporting Donald Trump…damn, that’s hard, but using my computer mouse to scroll past her post, easy-peasy.

I’m not delusional. I know that my own “viewership” of my friends online receive me through their own filter and thus, not necessarily as I intend them to. There can be something lost in expressing yourself through typed words and not in person.  The viewers have to interpret my posts as they see them just as I interpret theirs and I’m simply buffering myself from the likelihood that the reader is potentially misconstruing my message by the distance of the Ethernet between us. I am willing to accept that: it’s pretty painless.

Sure, there is the fair cliché complaint about many Facebook users, some of my own “friends” fall into the category of posers who post rosy colored bullshit about their lives but I see it for exactly what it is and it costs me nothing to indulge them in that…unlike if they were in my actual living room rather than my virtual one as the self control it takes to stifle the full body eye roll can leave one exhausted and we are back to the magic that is the scroll feature on the computer mouse. By the same token, my friends have to tolerate my “no filter” style of showing my life, warts and all. An older friend recently complained to me about an article I linked regarding menstruation: “is NOTHING private anymore?  Must everything be discussed these days?” And I responded: “Little is private or sacred to ME and you do have the ability to scroll past it if you don’t like it.”

See, I think openness makes the world a better place. I think secrets and shame and the notion of “private” contribute to the world being a lonely place, lonelier by far than me sitting at home at my computer. I grew up in the era of whispering the words “cancer” and “depression” because they were too grim a reality for genteel people to handle and I never liked that. Facebook has given millions of people a platform to blow the doors off that crap and it probably only offends facebook users who still religiously read Peggy Post in the newspaper…(not that an etiquette columnist and paper news aren’t relevant! 😉

Perhaps we have swapped one world of fakery for another but my hat’s off to the mom who posted about her son’s suicide and the dad who openly grieved the loss of the baby his girlfriend was carrying and the sister who shared feelings of helplessness when her brother came home from Iraq with crippling P.T.S.D. If the price I have to pay for that unvarnished honesty and a window into the authentic lives of real people with real emotions is that I endure one more super mom post about her charming theme snack delivered to her kid’s preschool class in an effort to validate her overblown sense of perfectionism, then so be it.

Sitting at my computer, at home alone while the kids are at school and my husband is at work, I am in control of friendships and interactions, and to some degree, my life,  in a way that when I leave my desk, I accept I never am. It’s my world, and I like it. 3021307-inline-fb-thumbsup-printpackaging

Posted in Personal truth, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Fatherless Day

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Father’s Day has always been a difficult day for me as I had no father. Instead I had some stranger who lived many states away, who long ago participated in a story book wedding with my mother. I only knew that because I had seen the pictures in the bottom drawer of her bedroom bureau. During this marriage he had contributed sperm to produce three children that he promptly abandoned for his gum smacking, hot pants wearing secretary. After leaving my mother and their three daughters his further contribution to us was court ordered child support checks and birthday cards, when he remembered.
I was 8 months old when he abandoned us. When the divorce was final and he moved across town in Tucson from where we lived, but never bothered to visit us, my mother moved us to California. She moved far away both to spare herself from seeing him and his tacky new wife gallivant around town together but also to provide her daughters a legitimate reason why he never came around to see us.
My early childhood was pretty text book I think. I was well cared for, healthy, happy. It is when I entered elementary school that I noticed my life was different than most of the other kids. I had two parental units: my mother and my grandmother, as my grandmother had moved in with us to help my mother with the considerable task of raising three children while working full time as a teacher, but it became glaringly obvious to me, for the first time, that I did not have a father. I would see these dads at school, dads who bent down to kiss the tops of their children’s heads as they dropped them off for the day, dads who came to Back to School Night whereas mine was a stranger appearing in a few old photographs. Seeing fathers on a daily basis made it clear to me that somewhere out there was a man who had LEFT me. That made me different. I was less than any kid who had a mom and a dad because I had been left by someone who was supposed to love and care for me. My father had blithely left me and never looked back.
From this point forward the topic of fathers, and Father’s Day in particular, were a source of real pain for me. The Father-Daughter dances I could not attend, Hallmark commercials for Father’s Day cards, any kid being taught how to do anything by their father; ride a bike, swim, fish, you name it, became a tiny seed of sadness in me. I did not imagine “him” as I had no memory of him but I did imagine that I would feel more whole if he had not left us all.
In early childhood, my only interaction with him came on Father’s Days, during the rare years that he was at home when we called him. On that Sunday, while families were picnicking and barbequing and celebrating together, my mom would dutifully assemble me and my sisters around the three phones in the house and hand one of us his phone number and we would hear his voice for the one and only time in the year, a voice my sisters had some memory of where I had none. This virtual stranger explained that he only had a minute because he and “the family,” comprised of his second wife, her two sons and later their two sons, “the family” had plans. “Thanks so much for calling girls; we’ll be in touch soon.” But we weren’t. Just annually on Father’s Day and always initiated by my mother. Hollow. Empty. Sickening.
My sisters dealt with the loss of our father differently than I did. The eldest sister was 6 or 7 at the time that he left. She took it hard and she felt unlovable and unworthy, after all how could he have left her if she had been anything special? My middle sister seemed determined to defend him, and once we finally saw him in person (we were 17, 14, 11 the first time he made arrangements to visit us) this middle sister sainted him and quickly threw over our mother in favor of this Disneyland Dad and I hated her for it. I was simply skeptical. He had left us and moved on to another family. What kind of person abandons their own flesh and blood? What kind of man does that? How crappy must a person be to justify this? This skepticism naturally impeded the possibility of any bonding. Add to that, he wasn’t particularly likeable: arrogant, superior, and inept with conversation that wasn’t about him and his accomplishments or acquisitions. The fact that this selfish, narcissistic man went into politics should came as no surprise to anyone.
My feelings toward him and towards myself shifted focus on this first visit. I stopped feeling that I had lost something by not having a father in my life all those years and I started hating myself a little bit for anything I might have inherited from him. Half my genes had come from this asshole. I inherited his fair skin, square hands and blocky torso but… Jeezus, what else might I have inherited? I weeded out characteristics with fury. I would apply myself to being nothing like this man who was so morally bankrupt that he could do what he had done. I wanted nothing from him and loathed, until fully removed by me, in me, anything we might have in common. I could do nothing about the physical attributes I had gotten from him but I did quietly hate them and earnestly hide them as though people might recognize these features as signs that I came from his shitty, selfish stock. I wished that I could graft on the hands from my grandmother and my mother’s dark skin so I could erase him completely.
His legacy is painfully obvious. His daughters have all struggled with self-worth or self-loathing. Relationships have presented challenges for each of us. One sought approval from the wrong men, ok, ANY man. One romanticized our father’s flawed character and picked assholes that treated her with the same disregard he did but she makes it her job to defend them anyway. I have never used romantic relationships to work out my “daddy issues” because I never really had daddy issues. I had no idea what having a father might have been like. I had “Me issues.” I applied myself fervently to being nothing like him. I was so terrified that something in my genes would make me selfish, devoid of a sense of responsibility to others that I relentlessly policed myself. Blithe spirits, me-me-me people were cast off as soon as that characteristic reared its ugly head. I didn’t want that influence and I hated those people for being like him. If a person showed me a tendency toward selfishness, a propensity to fish and cut bait, I cut bait first. I wanted, and still want, nothing to do with people who are disloyal or selfish. Neither of those characteristics is fixable. Just ask my mom.
I have come to terms with being made up of 50% genes I’d rather not have. It is impractical to hate half of yourself long term. In all likelihood I made myself a better person because of the effort I put into not being like him. I looked for things in myself that I had inherited from my maternal relatives that I respected and I nurtured those traits instead. My dedication to my family is total and I came to value loyalty in a way I’m not certain everyone else understands.
As for Father’s Day, I still wince a little at those Hallmark commercials but I have celebrated 18 Father’s Days with my husband who also understands dedication to family. He daily contributes to our children’s lives and he has never missed a milestone. Our kids may resent having inheriting a few of his less than perfect characteristics (mine too) but they are accepted with a wink and they are nothing that fills them with shame.
I have healed myself to some degree through parenting. I give of myself every chance I get and I reap the rewards two fold. I will always harbor some hate for my father. He is dead now and I was unable to feel grief when he died and unwilling to feel guilty about that. It is unlikely that my children even know my father’s full name. His branch on the family tree has been erased which is the legacy her deserves. Father’s Day for them will be a day of laughter and barbeques and baseball games, just as it should be.

Posted in Fatherhood, Life Lessons, Personal truth, Self esteem | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments