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.

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You have a beautiful body.

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I think most of my generation was severely damaged by well meaning mothers who still (in a pitiful hold over from a less enlightened era) viewed our looks as our most precious commodity. I think it is time we acknowledged that ugly fact. Not in an effort to hold our mothers accountable for our shattered self confidence…as they did only what they thought was best for us, just like telling us to do our homework, they believed that preserving and maximizing our beauty was ESSENTIAL to providing for our secure futures…but because without the acknowledgement of the price we women paid for this, we cannot fully purge it from our own mothering and grandmothering. I lived my life, until recently, cloaked in “you have a beautiful face but you need to lose weight.” What tragic brainwashing we all received!! I did not pass this on to my daughter. I raised her to know her beauty is not dependent on her flesh but on her heart. The girls in the NOW and in the FUTURE depend on us treating self LOVE as a vital revolution.

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Fresh Start

JOSEP MONCADA JUANEDA

A little beauty (and truth) for the day.

 

2014 was an extraordinary year for me. Lessons I had been learning, bit by bit over the years…the same lessons that came at me in many incarnations but I had not before been mature enough to accept…gelled for me in this fiftieth year. Summing it up: I am emancipated from voices of criticism and judgement. I broke up with them. We are finished, kapoot, done.

I worked diligently for all these fifty years to stand up straight as people picked at me and nipped at my confidence and tried to remove chunks of me that they disapproved of. I fought against those cruelties people often tried to sweetly disguise as “support” or felt it was their right by blood to inflict, but I didn’t ever fight particularly hard. I believed that gently discouraging their behavior would retrain them. I was wrong.

So… I gave my self permission to like myself WITHOUT other people’s approval. What a concept! And that was a great start to something beautiful for me.

I stopped feeling the little nips as acutely and the person that persisted in biting the hardest was simply removed from my life with an honest explanation that their cruelty disguised as friendship would no longer be welcome in my life. I wished them well and bid them adieu. It wasn’t as hard as I imagined it might have been. In fact I felt a long, delicious sigh of relief, one I am still enjoying. Freedom. Finally.

And I still find it surprising that an alpha female like myself, a no nonsense “Big W Woman” as my dear, wise friend, Carolyn Ward once called me, would tolerate this systematic tearing down by any “friend” or family member or a lifetime of them. I won’t waste time chastising myself for not demanding better decades ago but I will gleefully celebrate the beginning of a new personal era.

My life lesson does not have to be yours but if the issue sounds familiar to you I hope you are getting close to a permanent breakup with whoever might play that damaging voice in your life…nothing they take from you in the breakup can come close to what you gain by demanding better for yourself.

Painting by – Joseph Moncada Juaneda

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Sensitivity Training

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Let me introduce myself, I am “one of those sensitive people.”

I am acutely aware of sounds, smells, textures, stimulus of all kinds but I am most especially sensitive to people. Nuance, body language, what is or is not being said…those subtleties have never been lost on me.

I am always paying attention to the human behavior in the room and I’m likely to notice all of it…YES, all of it. Crowds can be emotionally exhausting as each face is not merely an aesthetic but a story and in scant seconds I can be overwhelmed by that story. In recent years I have made a habit of looking at the ground as I am walking through crowded streets so as to preserve some energy for the final destination.

I think it may be hard for someone who is not sensitive in these ways to be close to a “sensitive person.” I think I make people feel too exposed, that I pay THAT close attention to them and their feelings and that I will be able to conjure them back up in later moments might feel like a violation…like, wait, I didn’t expect you to remember that. But I will. When my friend, child, husband or sister tells me their current complaint or problem and finishes with the classic wrap up: “you know what I mean?” Indeed, I probably do. And perhaps that knowledge may not always be welcome but it is there and I couldn’t wash it away if I wanted to.

In high school the first subject that really sparked my interest was sociology. The teacher, Mr. Shermer, taught me to gather together what I knew of human history and human behaviors and look for patterns. He showed his students that through recorded history humans have behaved in very predictable ways. If we take a close look at a historical event; study the circumstances around that event, research the cast of characters, we see that from Genghis Khan to Margaret Thatcher, people behave in pretty predictable ways. Human instinct, basic desires, cultural norms, and personality types, these common threads run through all of us and it’s humbling to see that the more I know about history: ancient, modern and personal, the more I see how often it repeats itself. These repetitions in stories can be referred to as clichés and I’m no different. You can size me up pretty quickly too. I was, and to some degree still am, the insecure daughter of a great beauty, cast by that beautiful mother into the role of the dependable lady in waiting because star status, I was taught, should always be reserved for the truly beautiful. As a child, I was that big doe eyed girl in the room, the one that was just a little too fleshy to be considered conventionally pretty. Steady and sturdy but always on the outside of the inner circle and never believing that I was worthy of a central spot there anyway. No need to consult Freud here people, you got this…you’ve seen it before, you’ll see it again.

I grew up to be shaped very much like the average woman in America. I got to this size in the average American way: a genetic predisposition to largeness combined with a true passion for food and a lack of interest in exercise and I became what I describe as a “round woman” for round is not only kinder but more truthful than “fat.”

I once heard someone say that big women have three options available to them: they can fit into the social slot of “Funny” or “Loud” or accept invisibility. Maybe that’s true and if so I chose loud…or it chose me. I have always been frank. It’s a fact, no apologies. I admire frankness in others and so I cultivated it in myself. If there is a thing that needs to be said I’m likely to say it, especially if I see that nobody else will. People seem to have a strong reaction to frankness. Some see it is as rude and others see it as an asset (I think it’s about 80-20 respectively) but I’ve come to believe that pussyfooting around gets nothing done. Here’s an important clarification though: please don’t mistake frank for unkind. I’m not malicious nor am I a thoughtless blurter. The sensitive person in me would simply not allow that. I would be hard pressed to tell a friend that her dress was an unflattering color even if she begged me to offer an opinion. I am frank about expressing what I feel and think about ME and my experiences, not you and yours. That’s just mean and selfish.

The harder I work at accepting who I am and to grow comfortably into my own skin the more I notice when someone else is working to “fix” me. And I’m not broken. Not my heart and soul and not my size either. If I have surmised that a person’s terms of friendship include mentoring me, then we won’t get very far. I have no desire to spend time with someone who wants to fix me or has a need to assert their “superiority.” And it’s dishonest to call me a friend only to criticize me behind my back. A real friend, the kind I long for (I have one, I want more) and the sort of friend I am, is kind and loyal and will not say one thing to someone’s face and another when they leave the room. And so, I am lonely.

I don’t want to write off friendship entirely and I wish it were socially acceptable to present this (see below) on the front end of a friendship, much like an employer has to have a potential employee sign a paper acknowledging that they are legal citizens of the U.S., because it states acknowledgement of a clear understanding and it could save both parties a lot of heart ache.

• If I grow to love you there is nothing I will not do for you, short of allowing you to tear me down. I am hoping you will offer me a small measure of that kind of dedication.

• I will bolster your confidence at every given opportunity. Not superficial flattery but generous support.

• I will listen to your daily gripes and if asked I will weigh in on the situation but I will never chastise or criticize and I will not butt in.

• I will never tire of your life story. I love to hear people’s stories and I’d be honored if you shared your story with me. You can even tell me the same one again next month if you like and I promise not to point out that I’ve heard it already.

• I can be trusted to keep your secrets. I operate under the belief that any personal conversation has been shared in absolute confidence and that confidence is sacred.

I think it’s sad that I’ve grown to feel I need to spell that out and to come right out and ask that it be reciprocated. When offering friendship all of this, in my opinion, should go without saying. If I like you and I grow to respect you, this is what you can expect from me and I simply want the same. I desperately want someone who can walk with me, who cares to be mindful of a shared pace. If we are walking together and the day arrives when I come to see that the other person cannot be honest, kind, loyal, supportive… then we are done. I advocate for the other person to feel the same way about me and that doesn’t worry me a bit because if I love you I will not fail you. But if you fail me I will cut my losses, lick my wounds and move the fuck on.

What with both my roundness and my frankness it has taken me a long time to come into my own. I spent the first 30 years of my life insecure and apologizing. Emancipation from that crippling feeling of inadequacy finally came in the recognition that we are all very flawed and that perfection is a myth only made worse by Photoshop. I noticed that the writers and artists I admired were NOT without flaws and they were NOT conventionally good looking and get this, they were HONEST about it. These people were NOT striving for anyone else’s sense of perfection and it was freeing to see this self-acceptance as a real possibility for me.

Honesty is so appealing (and I will not say refreshing because that implies a rarity and within relationships honesty should be a given) and I cannot tolerate someone who is false, who puts on airs, pretends to have it all together; that mommy at playgroup who feigns perfection and attempts to make others feel inferior with her unsolicited advice offered in an attempt to hide her own insecurities or the mother-in-law who tears down her son’s wife in order to try to secure her spot at his side or the parent who drones on and on to their child about his or her own glorious, beautiful and achievement filled youth (much of which has been created employing revisionist history) making it clear that the child can never live up to the parent’s expectation of perfection.

I’m confident that this intolerance for dishonesty coupled with my own frank personality accounts for the loss of many friendships. I wonder if Mr. Shermer could point out historical examples echoing my specific interpersonal issues thereby exposing me as the cliché that I’m quite sure I must be.

So, maybe sensitive people are in the minority. Or maybe there are millions of us and we simply need to come out of hiding and own it, and say it, and then band together so we do not feel so alone. Or maybe we need our own social networking site like a Tinder for empaths but I am for now resigned to becoming better at being alone and I am resigned to begin viewing “friendships” as more superficial due to all my past failures. My personal history has proven that my expectations may be unrealistic and I’m not willing to risk the heartbreak of another loss. There it is. Carry on. (And if you too are a sensitive soul, seek me out. I would love to meet you.)

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Natalie Patterson – A New Voice For Twenty First Century Women

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I dare you by Natalie Patterson

I was not always confident enough to speak words the way I felt them
Thought silence would suffocate the pain
It does not
Taught myself to come alive
I wrote and wrote and wrote
Until my mouth could form the words my backbone wouldn’t carry
I wrote until I found the truth of things
Until I saw the light again
There is always light somewhere
Beyond the bruises
And the names you call yourself
Sometimes your worst enemy lives in your own skin
Shares your face and claims to love you
That hateful voice is not love
I promise you
There will come a day (Beloved)
When your fight is bigger than your fear
When you nearly claw your way out of your body to prove you exist
Leave that skin for someone else
And design your own wings
You are a masterpiece
Magnificent in your glory
Have you seen her lately?
The girl with the halo smile and welcome home hands
She is the best thing never seen cuz you are too busy being scared to be great
And I get it
Sometimes your body is as cumbersome as adulthood is
Sometimes you are drowning and wonder if anyone even notices
Read books for answers and nothing speaks to you
We are told our complexity is a burden by people too weak to embrace their own
Conditioned to be selfless
Exist restless, unhappy
and never expected to verbalized it
We are told to balance the uncertainty of this world with grace
in stiletto heels and a perfect complexion
And that is just not realistic
So let’s rewrite these unspoken rules
The ones that shackled us to people we never intended to be
News flash:
You are allowed to fart
Cellulite is the devil
“Get out, you naked girl with cellulite” said no one ever… so get over it
High heels are not a requirement
A flat stomach is not for everyone cuz chips are delicious!!
You are allowed to be as you truly are
There is space for every person on the spectrum
We are dynamic if nothing else
Gorgeously ourselves
We are women of something greater
Speak and the universe will react
Align your actions with your intentions
And watch your life become breathtaking as sunset.
I DARE YOU!

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Born This Way

There was no need for a "before" & "after" photos. She had simply ALWAYS been this lovely.

There was no need for a “before” & “after” photos. She had simply ALWAYS been this lovely. – Concept drawing for “Fantasia”

 

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See How These Three Circles Do Not Intersect…

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