I saw a friend of sorts a week ago. Someone I hadn’t seen in fourteen years, but have been speaking to more and more over the last two years or so. Our relationship began in our childhood and has been rather complicated, at times intense and messy, at times distant and cold. What keeps drawing us back together, aside from shared history, is a pattern of abuse that we both suffered as children. Abused kids don’t always do adulthood well, and in her case this is particularly true.
Turns out, she thinks I’m boring. I am the reliable, predictable and at times complacent and content person that she doesn’t want to be. She tried to rouse me out of that state, a bit unsuccessfully. But she has no idea why she failed.
This coming Sunday is Mother’s Day in the U.S. The advertising is ramping up and there’s really no escaping it – it’s a big money maker for florists and restaurants and I’d guess jewelry stores as well.
All that keeps going through my head at this time of year is, What’s it like to have a mother? And what’s it like to like her enough that you want to celebrate her?
I had an egg donor in whose home I was raised, but she sure as hell wasn’t a mother.
I was lurking around on a forum I frequent not too long ago, when someone made a comment about how you can’t be a bad parent as long as you love the kid you have. And I realized that that was at the root of a lot of the issues I had with my egg donor – she didn’t love the daughter she had. She had a lot of ideas about what I needed to be, what I owed her, how I was supposed to act, what I was supposed to like…it’s exhausting to remember how much stress I was under as a child, trying to be something that I didn’t completely understand. All I knew is that my mother didn’t really like the actual me. She wanted a different version.
My mother’s “love” – put in quotations because I don’t believe for one second that there’s an ounce of love in that woman’s body – was conditional, and the conditions often changed. Something that was supremely important would become suddenly unimportant the moment I achieved it, and we were onto the next hurdle I needed to overcome to earn my mother’s silence. Because that was the best I ever got – nothing. I never received praise, I was never told that she loved me, I was never encouraged. I was made fun of, yelled at, belittled, bullied, and told things like “if you don’t get straight A’s, don’t even bother coming home, I don’t want you.” What a lovely thing to say to your 9 year old. I started having panic attacks in 4th grade.
I can’t love the mother I had because she was never able to love the daughter she had.
What I can love is the fact that I’m free of her. That I succeeded in doing the things I wanted to do in life despite her. That I’m an independent, functional adult, despite how hard she tried to prevent that from happening.
I was a bit late to work this morning because I stopped at the end of the street to watch a large owl that landed on a neighbor’s roof, and proceeded to look around excitedly for a while. I leave so early in the morning that there were no other cars around, and I could safely idle in the middle of the street for a bit.
Yesterday while taking a break and walking over to a local coffee shop, a coworker and I stopped to watch a squirrel fight with a crow. The squirrel won, though the crow was twice his size. The spat was over a piece of food that it appeared that the squirrel had found and the crow was attempting to steal, so a fair win for the squirrel.
We have some really fragrant flowers blooming on campus just now, and I intentionally take certain paths when walking to meetings so that I can enjoy them.
It occurs to me that while this won’t solve all the horrible things going on in the world, it certainly helps recenter things in my world. Our president has a way of inspiring existential dread, and my Lupus caused me to have to drop a class because I couldn’t handle it. I’m pissed off about living in a country that will elect a hateful narcissistic madman then applaud when he drops bombs that he shouldn’t be dropping. I’m pissed off that I have limits to what I can handle because of my damn immune system.
That’s why it’s so important to stop and look at the owls. Even if all it does is remind you that Not Everything Is Horrible…well, that’s a pretty big Something, I think.
I know I have Lupus, yet I’m always a little bit surprised when I actually have Lupus. The latest case: I’m a graduate student attempting to work full-time and take classes full-time. I’m in my second week of a 10-week quarter, and I’ve realized that it’s not sustainable.
And now I’m super pissed off.
At work, I park in an underground garage. I’m usually one of the first ones in, so it’s mainly empty when I arrive. Empty, and echoing, and a bit creepy.
In the past few weeks, small songbirds have arrived and begun building nests in the various nooks around the structure. I find twigs and and little odds and ends that they drop, and see them swooping in and out as I come and go.
By the time I leave work, there are lots of cars, and people moving about, and background noise. But in the morning there’s nothing – very little movement, and a wide open space. Their bird songs are amplified, so I emerge from my car every morning to a loud symphony of busy little birds who barely notice my presence, and don’t flinch in the least when the sound of my car door slamming momentarily drowns out their chattering.
I suppose that means it’s spring again. These days, instead of just enjoying the changing of the seasons, I find myself wondering…how much longer will we have seasons? The winter was uncharacteristically warm here, and last summer was uncharacteristically wet. We’re experiencing a sea change. We talk sometimes at work about if it’s okay to enjoy mild weather knowing that the reason why it’s happening will have catastrophic consequences in the not-so-distant future. Our pleasures are tinged with guilt.
I carry that anxiety with me, but I don’t think the birds are aware. They carry on with their swooping and their nesting, and creating avian operettas in underground parking garages as if the world around them is just as it’s always been.
Feminism pays off in the most unexpected ways. It’s not just a script I recite or something I put on for decoration, but something that has genuinely helped me cope with a world that is astoundingly and infuriatingly misogynistic, as well as all of life’s unpleasant little surprises…
I have a graduate degree in Literature, and part of obtaining that degree meant taking poetry seminars. In one of those seminars, we did a section on Gertrude Stein.
I’m not sure what to do with Gertrude Stein. We had to read Tender Buttons, and I recall dreading going to class because I just wasn’t sure what to say. Luckily I had a classmate who did engage well with Stein’s work, and carried us a bit – I recall talking about Stein’s poetic formlessness as a type of resistance.
Here’s a snippet from Tender Buttons:
It’s been nearly 12 years since I read this for the first time, and I still have no idea what to do with it.