Category Archives: ACOA

If You’ve Narcissistic Parents, Take this Quiz

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I’m just sharing a link today, given to me by a dear friend. It’s a quiz for anyone who is the adult child of narcissistic parents.

It’s not one of those “what book are you?” quizzes. It’s actually a profound quiz for those of us who hail from survived those parents.

Please take it and share it. Together, we can get through this.

As for me, I’m going to try to stay positive these days while also doing my best to see things as they are, cut myself some slack, allow truths to emerge and stop glossing over defecate.

I am grateful for many peoples’ support and kindnesses to me both privately and on the comments from my most recent posts.

I’m richer for it and I’m going to take care of myself because while there’s nothing I can do about the past, I don’t have to pretend it never happened or allow the callous and STUPID romantics in my life who saw my mother in a way that suited them and their needs to shame me into seeing things their way because my truth looks too familiar for them.

Fuck them.

I realize I’ve felt silenced and as though my voice didn’t matter and the only crap I could come up with was two massive posts beating the hell out of myself while also editing or quasi-justifying my mother’s atrocious parenting. Let me be clear: you have no idea.

Their bullshit perspectives have fueled my continued recovery and have empowered me in the best possible way… I’m not on fire with vengeance, but I am on fire and it feels good to get some of that back.

So, here’s the link. Take the quiz and take care of yourself.

https://ugeorgia.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_bpUcPJ3CkaLjOPb

Here’s what I drew last night, I’m really enjoying the doodling now. (Although this is more than a doodle… it took me about an hour to get it “right” and although it needn’t be perfect, I would like it to happen more fluidly for me). It was like math… I almost died trying to figure it out. I got all squirmy and sweaty and angsty.

sorry for the cropping. :) NO I'M NOT!

sorry for the cropping. 🙂 NO I’M NOT!

Here’s another link about narcissism and how it affects kids: http://www.alanrappoport.com/pdf/Co-Narcissism%20Article.pdf

Thank you.

Do No Harm.

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My previous post, written mostly as a way to share a voice to those of us who grew up or are in relationships with people existing in tremendous dysfunction, was not difficult to write (although I was taxed heavily by writing it). It was difficult to share. I have tried to maintain a “code” of sorts in my heart, along with my appeals to Archangel Gabriel, that what I write “do no harm” — at least not intentionally.

I feel as though I did not honor that code as effectively as I would have liked. I was filled with regret, an urge to take down the post, and a feeling of shame after writing it. Those feelings were deeply similar to those I would experience after an argument with someone, as though I’d said something horrible, unforgivable to a person, to my mother.

Those feelings were again familiar. I recalled, and have recalled, numerous times when Mom and I would disagree about the course of things, and how I would suffer emotionally for telling her exactly how I felt.

Regarding that post, my greatest wish, to forgive — to actively forgive! — eludes. It’s like some prison I’m in, but it’s not all day, it’s not a life sentence and it’s open. It’s as though the prison gate is ajar and unlocked; there is no key. Yet I go in. I sit there, with my back to the window, avoiding the light. I do not understand it. I have a great life: a loving marriage; beautiful, healthy children; hobbies I thrive in; activities which fulfill my heart … yet … it eludes.

Like she did. She eluded.

Do you know how tired I am of thinking about this?

“Then don’t. Think about something else,” someone I used to know would say all the time about me or other people whose activities or looping thoughts drove her mad. It’s not that simple, or maybe it is. I used to be like that: super black & white. I could flip a switch and move on.

But then I had kids. It all changed after the kids were born. It’s like the DNA was activated: I joke now, but suddenly I cared about China. Like how an addict’s dopamine response to a certain pleasure-giving stimulus was heretofore asleep. I was always hard on Mom, but I could flip the switch when I was younger: lash out and move on.

But once I became a mother, I had a narrower window of forgiveness. It went suddenly from a case of “I don’t know what it’s like” (and to a degree, I will never actually know her life’s depth, so it still applies) to “I know what this is like, and I choose X.”

So back to my premise: do no harm. I feel like I hurt her again. I feel like I was mean to her again and that the shame and the hairshirt of regret I wore was there, cold, stiff and waiting for me to put on again.

I went to sleep that night, fitfully. I woke around 2:30 with a thought based on a quote from Rumi that I read the night before during yoga:

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

I woke with the thought:

Regrets are like bricks that we use to build walls around ourselves to keep love out.

That works. Right? If I stay regretful, then I don’t forgive my behavior which was a reaction to the first behavior. Up goes a brick.

So then I come back to this place of “do no harm” because I am filled with regret about the previous post. Another brick.

But then the comments from readers, and the amount of traffic the post garnered, and I know that people “clicked” to “read” it (about 300 actually) but a few people commented to me privately or on the site (2). Basically, if anyone disagreed with me, they didn’t bother to tell me. Those that were grateful for sharing what I did were extremely supportive and candid and they have my thanks.

So it begs the question: did I do harm? Make no mistake: I loved my mother. Make no mistake, I hated what she became. My dad is largely supportive of me; he’s not driving the bus, but he hasn’t come down on me and that’s just so nice.

It’s like I was still 18. I knew that was kooky, so to do what I could to move forward or investigate my allegations, I decided to open a box I had stored under nondescript stuff and wrapped in tape to supposedly protect it from little peepers since I moved out.

paranoid much?

paranoid much? When you have a situation like I did, with a parent who clearly had self-esteem issues and who mishandled a lot of parenting due to the management of those issues, there is going to be a lot of espionage. She wanted my assessments of things, but she didn’t REALLY want my assessments of things, y’dig?

On top of it all was my diary. Which inside it, was another diary.

Many of the items were from high school and college friends. In some moment of haste, I removed most potentially scandalous content. I discovered a letter from an old beau, telling me he didn’t know what to say about the direction of our relationship, and I found the letter to be a perfect example of what I would want my sons to send to a girl should they find themselves in that predicament. It was heartfelt, written in pen without one mistake, and encouraging.

I found some school papers I wrote and was thrilled to see some comments from my teachers: “Tremendous! Your voice is strong, but the run-ons and fragments made what could have been an ‘A’ paper a ‘B-‘…” (run-ons? P’shaw.) and “Deep characterization, such imagery… this would be better as a novella…” Me again: “run-ons?”   (I’ll write more about that box later, it was interesting!)

I was hopeful that I would find a warm letter from my brother written the month before my marriage but I couldn’t. I remember several years ago my mother citing that letter from him to me (it was about both our possessions of sharpened steel tongues and that we were both blessed to be marrying people who were soft and kind and “normal”), she paid particular attention to my tendency for verbal evisceration. The letter was not there, she took it. I will likely never see it again.

I looked for evidence of my tumult with Mom. There wasn’t much in the way of play-by-play. This both confused and delighted me. I don’t think I gave her much mind then. Well, there was evidence of her tampering: she’d scrawled a phone number on the corner of that old beau’s letter I mentioned, so that broke my heart a little, again. There was a comment from her in my diary, which was a very hard for me to reconcile. She was who she was. The time with that box went very quickly; it was fun, most of it.

I wrote immediately upon closing it all back up:

I read most of the content in here. The diary is full of ramblings, some funny and insightful but mostly just the neurotic, insecure blather of an American, single, young woman. Ennui, strife, doom — it’s how I got through it all. … The sum is that I had a lot of energy and was a lot of work for my parents. [My license was suspended at least twice for speeding and while I commuted to my university, I lived at home as though I were on campus, coming in at all hours.] There isn’t much of anything about Mom or from her [cards, drawings — likely because I actively disliked her during those years … brick] in here. I’m surprised by that — but I’m also relieved because despite the drama I was pretty resilient and self-absorbed. That, or it was all so ‘par for the course’ with her that I didn’t find much of it remarkable; or that I knew she would read everything, why give her an audience? … I feel lighter, not mad at all about Mom now. I saw my college work and I feel as though I’ve been rinsed delicately but completely, like an old garment. … It’s all OK now, I can let it just be…

And then the next day, that stupid regret came back. Brick… About that “actively disliking her” then, hey: that’s OK. That was part of my gig our dynamic then. I crossed that “my gig” out because I have to allow that I wasn’t formed in a vacuum; I was a product of an environment, just as we all are, just as my kids are. That as much as the 47-year-old me wants to understand that we are 1) connected, we are still 2) all our own people with our own choices, she has to allow the 16-20 -year-old me some rebellion, separation, and defense.

What I’m realizing as I write is that this “do no harm” code is foolishly not applied to myself. How much of this do we put upon ourselves? I’m guessing about 90% of it.

My mother had won the affections of SO many people from SO many generations and places in life that it made me wonder if I was the crazy one: she was like this silk scarf; a light and fun Daisy Buchanan butterfly to them and it was so different when we were alone. I compare myself to her as a heavy armored beetle.

I wondered, “Didn’t people see something?” It was the 70s. Who knows. The recurring baseline fear was that my memories were just … hijacked and rewritten. I actually considered calling a cousin for back-up, but I asked her to read the post. She did. She validated me. She saw a lot of it.

To properly understand my mom a little more, I watched Gray Gardens from 1976, and it helped so much. I gleaned from it a comment from Big Edie during one of Little Edie’s wide-ranging rants about how she could have made it on Broadway (something I heard a lot of) and her blame at her parents for her failure. Big Edie said something like this, “That’s the problem with the past. If it were right at the time, she would’ve done it. But something in her didn’t do it; I didn’t stop her… but the fact is that if it were right at that time it would’ve happened. You can’t stop fate…” Now, in all honesty, those women were a tangled mess, but I liked what Big Edie said about perception and timing — if it all was aligned and Little Edie wanted to do “it” then, she would’ve. You can’t blame other people for crap you [don’t] do. And I think that’s where I need to Work on me: I screwed up a lot then, but I was also ‘supposed’ to… the thing is though: I don’t know how much room there was in our household for more than one ‘spirited’ female.   

But the regret comes back and looms. It’s born of biblical guilt: Honor thy Mother and Father (or whatever it’s supposed to say) and I don’t know of many who did when they were teenagers. Probably Jesus was the only one.

That regret is born of my fear of other peoples’ perceptions because I was such an untamed mare then. I worry so much about how I’m perceived, that I either hold things back or I don’t admit them to myself. When I was younger, I didn’t care… I miss part of that spirit, just not the recklessness.

One of my readers suggested I read Anne Lammot’s Small Victories and the chapter on Anne’s struggle to forgive her mother after her death. In typical fashion I downloaded the book, but I will admit this: I am afraid to read it. I don’t know why. No, wait. I do: because something in me only knows Mom one way, in this one-dimensional way, that refuses to let her evolve and refused to allow her other aspects. That is not “do no harm” to anyone. I know it’s a knee-jerk reaction: you hurt me, I’ll hurt you. But I’m supposed to be evolving. And Mom’s gone… so what the what? It’s like that open prison…

Brick, please.

So it’s a lot. I’m tired of this wall building.

It’s nearing the end of the first month of the year. I need to make a change I think, in my writing, if just for a little while. I’m thinking mostly fiction for February. I think I’ll read some of those old stories I wrote and share some, updated and cleaned up. See where that goes.

I bought a new set of technical pens, based on the one I found in the box. I started doodling immediately last night. Here’s my first mandala for the year.

mandala_1

I would like to do one a day. I would like to run out of ink doing them.

I say things like that “would like to” because I fear I won’t keep the commitment. But how hard is it to doodle every day? I guess I will find out.

One of the writing people I subscribe to is Jill Jepson. She has a blog, “Writing a Sacred Path” and she got me thinking about this “do no harm” thing most of all, or rather as I believe, it came to me right on time. I needed something to bring me back to center. I was flinging around so much blame that I was leery of becoming toxic. For the month’s final post on January 26 (it’s not up yet today), she wrote about the concept of writing generously and what it meant. And smack in the middle of the post was this:

boom. thank you, Fate.

boom. thank you, Fate. I don’t if I’ve told secrets that weren’t mine to tell. I’ve certainly been harsh. I don’t know about cruel, but I know I’ve been angry enough to be vindictive, but I don’t know. It’s a delicate balance: where does one story end and the other begin?

To be fair, she also wrote that we don’t have to write sweetly and kindly all the time either or else there’d be no satire or horror. But that’s where my bricks are lately: in that “do no harm” concept. It’s been such a whirly 18 months for me that I guess I can see how I’ve both wanted to dodge some bullets while fire some at the same time.

So there is an in-between; and maybe I’ve struck it, in a lot of what I write. Maybe I struck it in the previous post — maybe I can just move on and stop it already. I think I’ve figured it out (I took an hour away to make chili): I regret the way it all went down. I think I just really have the saddest heart about how my mother and I treated each other and how our family had to cope. That’s a big brick, but I hope it’s the keystone. So I need to let it drop so the wall comes down…

So that’s it… I have to get off this bus, and start something new. The only way to do something different is to do something different. Start some fiction writing again or at least less posts about Mom and anger and shitty experiences. Air out my feathers and have some fun. Fiction or bust. Fiction and mandalas are from the land of Do No Harm. Right?

Thank you.

Grief: Alcoholics are Not Nice. ACOAs Have their Moments Too

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Little known facts:

Before I write publicly, I always take a few breaths and meditate on what I’m about to do.

Each post I write tends to have 20 small revisions before I click “publish” (which really is a misnomer, because I’m sharing, not exactly publishing, but that’s another post sentence paragraph altogether).

For the past year, I’ve not only meditated, but I’ve gone with my gut when I write, doing my best to cast any fear aside so I may best and most freely express myself.

For the past nine months, I have appealed to Archangel Gabriel, the angel of messaging and the one who visited Mary and told her about her pregnancy — to me Gabriel has it going on, and if I can get a smidge of that, I’m happy. What I’ve specifically asked for of Gabriel is three things: candor, humility and humor. Sometimes in differing order; I determined that Gabriel really knows the best way to parse out these things.

Last weekend, I hosted my family for what we call “Second Christmas” — it’s named as such because we don’t all see each other on Christmas. I host every other year. Thanksgiving is all my side of the family and Christmas is my husband’s.

Mom has been gone now about 16 months. Some “holidays” are easier than others; the last time we celebrated Second Christmas at my house, it was February 2013 and the experience was really emotionally profound for me personally. I recall going outside and looking at all the snow which had recently fallen and seeing our outdoor Christmas lights still on our bushes out front light up the snow from beneath it.

The street was silent. The snow, in its big fluffy flakes, was heavy yet soft and I could hear it land on all sorts of surfaces, other flakes, the leaves of the bushes, my jacket, my cheek … and I remember saying to myself that I was really so very happy. I took it all in, privately and alone outside looking in toward my home where everyone I cared for most deeply in all the world was existing, for just that moment, in what I inferred as a state of harmony and presence.

I remember coming back into the house, the contrasting heat and voices rushed over me. I came in from silent, dark yet white to chatty, bright and yellow. I said to everyone, “There could be no finer hour for me again because everyone I love most — in all the world — is safe and here right now.” I am sure one of my brothers made some snarky remark because I can tend toward the sentimental at times (it’s seldom but it happens), or maybe he didn’t, but the truth is that I was in such a state of bliss, it didn’t matter.

That was the last time I hosted and it was the last one Mom attended. She died seven months later of a massive cardiac arrest on her way to get a root beer float.

So this year, we were all together again at my house. I knew it was going to be hard for me; I was twitchy the week before and I knew it was just something I had to push through and I was really happy to do it. My immediate family is one of my most favorite things, but it was still a lot.

During one of our down times, we turned on the previous night’s Saturday Night Live. The musical guest was a former hip-hop artist named Sia and I’d never heard of her because I’m ancient and I listen to Pandora or yoga music. Her first performance was really … just so bizarre that I couldn’t turn myself away from wondering what the hell she was going to do for the encore. She did nothing bizarre, but she sang a song called “Chandelier” which simply took my breath away.

I Googled Sia. I wanted to know about her song, about her as an artist beyond what my family could tell me: she went completely underground for a while, but now she’s back. She obscures her face, in some form of ironic protest to the amount of publicity she gets, so now, instead of having a face everyone can see, she has created more interest in her face because you can’t see it now…I don’t know… People are weird.

Anyway, the song is about alcoholism and it’s an autobiographical anthem and when I say anthem, I mean Anthem: she belts out this song as though her life –and possibly others– depended on it. I could have been Sia; I could have been an alcoholic.

Maybe it’s the chords, or the song’s structure of minor keys and minor chords, but I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by it. It spoke to me about my own mother and the sadnesses she must’ve pushed away in order to perform as much as she could in a real world with real children who have real needs.

Sia isn’t asking for acceptance or your pity in this song. She’s just telling you how it is in the most primal and aggressive and self-sacrificing and beautiful way she can. I don’t know how she can speak after singing that song — not only is it emotionally draining, but her vocal range and thrust of the sounds that come out of her head are insane.

So it got me thinking, after reading about her, the song, her history and as much as I want to give my mother a break — even though she’s dead — for all the shit she put me through as a child and young woman and young adult and middle aged adult, there is a part of me that just … isn’t quite ready.

It’s not that I want to re-live all that hell, and I definitely don’t court it. Simply, part of me can’t move on entirely from it yet because I think I haven’t processed it fully; I haven’t fully accepted and decided that what all the books say about Adult Children of Alcoholics is correct: that we aren’t the cure, the cause, nor can we control it — “it” being the alcoholic’s alcoholism — and that thinking you have some control over someone else’s life choices is a bit of an ego rush, no matter how sick.

As much as I want to let it all go, there’s a hang nail: if I keep it — the pain of being an ACOA — in my chi, then I also keep Mom alive, and that’s really hard to deny, so I don’t bother. If that’s all I had with her, for the most part: her rages, her narcissism, her deflection, her projections, her denial, her lies, her manipulations, her rages and rages and rages — all those things coupled with my fear dressed as anger, then she isn’t really dead is she? And I get to still play a victim to it. (Lots of layers…)

The other thing is that I lived on “alert” about Mom for more than 40 years, so it’s going to take some time to wind down and let it all go and relax.

I have many wonderful people in my life who tell me to let it go, to move on, to forgive her, to let it go to let it go to let it go… and I have, for the most part, but it’s completely impossible, isn’t it: expecting me to release all the pain and fear and hurt and shame and guilt and rage is like expecting me to forget what the sun on my skin feels like. We love it when the sun rests on our skin for a few moments, don’t we? We do. And we recognize it immediately as a good thing, a familiar thing. It powers us, it feeds us vitamin D, it cleanses our senses for just a moment when we are zapped into that moment — from WHATEVER we had going on in our heads — to feel that eight-minute-old blast of heat, nourishment and “celestial love” from our giant blazing gas orb. The sun sustains us.

So it is the same with me and being my mother’s daughter. That relationship lasted almost 46 years. I’m no masochist and so I ask of anyone who knows an ACOA (who admits they are an ACOA) to cut us some slack when we get swept up by a song, a memory, a smell, a sound, a feeling or a silence. Just cut us some slack. This shit’s hard.

Growing up with an alcoholic parent is hard — like, the kind of hard some people can’t even imagine: We have to rely on someone like “Drunk Uncle” to take us to school or make our lunches or wake us for school or bathe us or take us to the doctor… But “Drunk Uncle” is a sloppy drunk; he’s funny and creepy but not super angry. Replace sloppy, funny, and creepy with pissed, snobby, paranoid, mean and morose and that’s what I had. Imagine that taking you to a friend’s house and meeting their parents. Imagine that opening the door or answering a phone call for you.

A part of my being an ACOA denies my mom her affliction because that is too hard to admit: that she chose a substance over caring for me. Plus, I protected my mother like a guard dog from a harsh society and its realities. It’s nuts.

How do we do it? Well, I do it with humor and candor and humility (“There but for the Grace of God go I”) which keeps me as stable as possible and well, slightly more off center than someone who grew up in a “regular” home. But I cheer myself also, because unlike someone who grew up in a regular home, I’ve overcome shit you don’t even understand and while that doesn’t make me better than anyone else, it does mean I’m not a damaged loser either — I’ve overcome it, with a semblance of love, kindness, humor, silent compassion and reality which can astound.

ACOAs are not into trivialities — we don’t have time to bullshit. We hug you because we mean it. We love you because we feel it. We repel you because we feel you’re toxic; we are like human barometers — we don’t have time to suffer your delusions, rationalizations, intellectualizations and obfuscation, excuses and blathering tedium because WE HAVE LIVED THROUGH IT already. So if we cut you out, it’s because we’re done; likewise, if we keep you around, it’s because we love you with a love that is powerful, humble, vulnerable and loyal. When we Do The Work of being an aware ACOA, we are probably one of the best things to have in your life. We’re like rescued pets…

Candor.

My dad asked me yesterday after I ranted about what a wretch my mother could be, about her rages (which he knew nothing about because he and the rest of the world was at work or asleep), “You say you miss your mother…. why do you say that and then say things like this?”

I thought I’d explained it before, but he’s older now and it’s been a rough ride for him — almost 60 years with that woman will take its toll and he has his own health as an aging human — so I cut him slack and say, “Sure. I get it. I know it’s a conflict. The thing is: I always missed her, or what she was supposed to represent: a mother. I mean, I am still here; she didn’t completely jack it all up…” But I don’t miss HER at all. I really don’t. Not for a second.

The worst was some of her AA friends. Mom had all the books, attended all the meetings, even worked the phones for AA at midnight to help people who were suffering as she was, to support them and try to encourage them from taking that drink in the middle of the night. I remember the phone would ring at all hours, waking me up. But I supported it. Some of the people calling were really hammered though. I resented them; I knew she would likely fall to having a drink on the call. The lure was too strong.

And her meetings friends … they were really insufferable, saying all the sayings and using all their codes, nodding knowingly at me as I would walk by, snarling and hissing. They disregarded my pain, the suffering of our family. They said many times that I needed to cool my jets, be a better daughter because my mother was so fragile, that I would toss her over the brink. Many times I told them to go to hell. I see it now, it was a form of self-protection: a tribal “thing”: they were doing the same things to their families and kids, they had to protect her from assholes like me… There was only ONE person I respected in her lineage of sponsors: Ellianet. She was a tall, lean and sporty woman. She was still in Buffalo. She was tough and real and she would allow my anger. Not enable it, but “see” it and she understood it. She was a loving, consistent and firm hand to Mom. Mom thrived with her. I think she was sober for a couple years with her. Then we moved. Even if Ellianet lived here, there was no way she’d hang with some of the cheap-shoe, big-haired, Cadillac-driving poseurs my mother ensnared in her web. I honestly think Mom went to those meetings to recruit actors for her plays and Tennessee Williams readings in our moody, suburban, book-lined living room…

But there were good years for her. Mom worked the program for a bit, she made real changes and I was proud of her. Still bitter as hell, but proud. I knew better than to let my guard down as I became a full-blown teenager. She would help people, staying sober for a few months at a time, maybe even a year or two. She was lovely then. But the relapses… oh, they were crushing.

Humor.

We talked about people on my Facebook page who have much fonder memories of my mother than I was ever blessed with (why they can’t imagine that a person like Judy Garland, Carol Channing or Liza Minelli would ever make a good parent is beyond me). They offer their plastic platitudes and essentially refuse to see the other side of the story — that having an angry Bette Davis for a mother is really, not cool. They would gloss over my pain and ignore the truth I’d love to skywrite on our cyan canopy. I say that says more about them, not her and certainly not me.

These people mean well, I know they do guess, but they have an appreciation of my mother that … simply didn’t exist in my world. That version of Mom was more of a visitor. Dad understood that; lots of people didn’t know my mom. She was a secret wrapped in an enigma disguised as a puzzle. I don’t think she knew herself.

Alcoholics are really difficult people. They booze up to cover their pain which they won’t tell you about because __________ and then they expect you to just rainbows and butterflies deal with it; that you’re the one with the problem if you have a problem with their problem. 

I told Dad, “They say things like “think of her fondly…” and “she was a wonderful woman …” and “she loved you so much… ” or “she was your mother, of course she loved you…” (so all those times she woke me in a rage at midnight 1) to find her things she was convinced I stole; 2) correct or defend a paper or diary entry I wrote; 3) or to clean up a mess I made hours before when she was out of commission was her way of showing love).

I rolled my eyes, laughing in contempt.

He understood it only partially. So I went further. Dad is one of the funniest people I know, and so I portrayed and parodied my response to those platitudes, “Oh! Yes, I can recall those wonderful moments … sure. Give me a second …” and I used my left forefinger to count on my right hand, finger by finger and opening my palm recounting the kindnesses, moments of fearless love, and security my mother selflessly extended to me and I mocked myself, pushed back pain, feigned enthusiasm and difficulty discerning the pleasantries and I counted to four. He laughed and we moved on.

Was it all for effect? Was I performing? Yes and no. Sometimes humor is all I can muster to deal with the reality.

Humility.

Reflecting on that with my dad revealed to me that it was yet another moment for me in my life of now 47 years that I realized that I’m no walk in the park either. I joke with friends, “It’s so nice being perfect…”

I can be super reactive like a viper; I can say some really stupid things — completely without thinking — as a result. I have a sense of “humor” honed by years of pain and hurt and rage which can either lift you up or stun you. I try to apologize when I figure it out. I try to grow.

So I listen to this song by Sia again and again to flush it out of my system and then I get it, as I’ve gotten it so many times before in my life and this won’t be the last time (thanking God)… because

There but for the Grace of God go I…

I’m a lucky person. I am so aware of what this year means to me — when my mother was 47, she was uprooted from her hometown of her entire life and essentially forced to pitch tent in a new place… oh! Hers was an emotional tsunami that no one could’ve ever predicted.

If I ever thought my mother was “weak” (and I have plenty), her defiance of that life we all tried to make in 1981, has shown me otherwise. Mom was not weak, she was a force, but it broke her, that move.

So I will be on my toes for weird stuff this year.

I believe in genetic energies — that when she was 47, I was almost 14. I was her middle child. I am 47, my middle son is almost 14, and this year has lots of messages for me and my son and I plan to do my best to watch it all and stay present and stay humble and stay grateful for the fact that I’ve survived what I did.

I also need to give myself the latitude of knowing that I am NOT her and that if we end up (randomly and unexpectedly) moving this year and start a new life, that it will be OK because I am ME, not her.

I can embrace that whatever lesson my mother had to endure to teach me by example to keep my life together –despite all the pressure and feelings of entrapment and bullshit of life that she and we all endured– that she taught me well.

Mom taught me well. She used to say she was so grateful that I’d escaped alcoholism. She used to say she was proud of me for it, but those conversations only resulted in me being mad that she wouldn’t stop. And then we would fight.

I haven’t had a hangover in 17 years. I’ve never submitted to the “hair of the dog” to convalesce after drinking. Somehow I knew that having a drink because I was sick from having too many drinks was a reeeeeeally bad idea. She would tell me often of how I am genetically marked, that I exist in the crosshairs of a fatal condition.

Will I think only fondly of Mom from now on? No. And please don’t ask me to because I’m messed up too. She didn’t always speak of her mother with 24k golden love either.

For some people, when I write about Mom in this way, they chafe, the shift in their seats, they furrow their brows, they take breaths and sigh… They get mad. That’s on them… that’s their messaging from their own bodies that they need to pay attention to.

If what I say bugs you SO much, I posit to you: why? Why can’t YOU handle me writing about my alcoholic mother in such a fierce way? Is it because to you she was so much more than that? Ok… I’ll allow it. But as much as I allow it in you, I ask you to allow it in me that she (as any alcoholic is) was a fatal, atomic combination. She, in particular, was a talented, entitled, narcissistic artist; an actor; and a drunk. You try growing up in that and let me know how you turn out. Let me know if you fart rainbows.

In her egoic, human state she would want only gorgeous remembrances — that she was more than what I paint her to have been. She would want me to throw her a bone because she refused many times to permit my recollection of the horrors of my life as her child. She never apologized, she never owned her stuff nor allowed that she shaped me. She used to say, “You have anger issues, Maally…” and I’d be thinking in my head, “YA THINK?! I WONDER WHY…”

But as much as she couldn’t allow it in her human state, in her energetic, spiritual state I feel “she” gets it and “she” knows that it’s not so simple: Mother sets the tone — I know this more than anything — as she recalled of her own mother. My mother set the tone and I fell in line, like a duckling. Maybe in some crazy way, she didn’t want me to get too close to her because she was teaching, training and honing me in order for me to stop the cycle.

This is my lemonade.

So this past weekend was the last revolving holiday “tradition” Mom attended and for me, writing about it was cleansing. I feel as though I’ve been able to close the chapter now. Moving on.

Maybe it’s time to think about forgiveness.

Thank you.

While I’m Away …

Standard

I think I’ll be away from here for a bit. My recent posts of addiction and Mr. Hoffman have stirred in me an unrelenting nag or nudge to write about my life and how I’ve overcome some realities. I’ve hinted at it before, writing a memoir — it sounds so lofty, doesn’t it? 

Don’t worry — it is. 

Ha ha. 

My challenge thus has been about the “where” in all of this. 

Where does one begin a memoir? Do you start at the beginning of the central life? What if circumstances which preceded the beginning of that life coalesced to create the reason for the memoir? 

These are the things I get caught up in. These are the moments that keep me from writing it. The nagging distractions and details. 

So instead of dicking around and wondering where I’m supposed to start, I’m just going to begin where I can. Just get it done, right? It’s the one thing that simply won’t go away. I can stop thinking about chocolate, I can stop thinking about a glass of wine to have with that chocolate; I just can’t stop thinking about writing my memoir. 

Every time I write something else, I feel as though I’m cheating on it; as though I am being unfaithful. But unfaithful to whom? To my ego?  No… I figured this much, and it will sound so affected: I am cheating on the truth and telling people that change is possible, that the old story about Ebenezer Scrooge can happen to all of us any time of the year. 

Dickens wrote an entire story about it, forgiveness and kindness and truth; Vonnegut just said this, as my yoga teacher read in class yesterday, and it made such sense. Were I not already seated, it would have knocked me over:

Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.

Then there’s this: WHO THE WHO AM I THAT SHOULD BE READ? I dunno. That’s a distraction from a negative side. Both of you have told me to get on the stick, life is about living and I really love writing, so…   

The other aspect, which is critical, is that writing any of this can’t be about exposing or hurting. It must be about moving forward with some semblance of an end point. I’ve read some memoirs by the adult children of famous writers; Saul Bellow’s son’s memoir comes to mind and I hated it. It’s all yucky and bitter. That’s not how this should go. It’s about healing, forgiveness and that all-too bruised word which means so much and creates anxiety in all of us: “growth.” I just gulped. 

After months and months of wrestling with the concept of a memoir, and my predisposed notion that memoirs really ought to be written by people who are near death or famous, or famously near death, I have determind that the best “memoir” construct I can emulate is that of Joan Didion, per her Blue Nights and The Year of Magical Thinking, which are amazing books if you’re unfamiliar with them. She is self-indulgent in them, absolutely, but aren’t we all?

In those books, Didion collected thoughts, observations and wrote essays about her experiences in the wake of her husband’s death and in the midst of her daughter’s. I don’t think her books “helped” me with anything, other than showing for me, the other side of the world my parents inhabited: the side I didn’t see, the 1970s and 1980s double-knit, sweaty-longneck, chunky-bangled, high-ball, leisure suit lifestyle and parenting style that has caused so many of my peers a form of adult unrest and unease which can only be described as “fucked up.”  

Ahhh… that was funny. 

Didion was already famous. But that didn’t matter, she wrote these things because she simply had to get them out; that she did it brilliantly and in a way that didn’t necessarily require you to jump in on page one “AT THE BEGINNING” caused me ease. It helped me to understand that life needn’t be linear, and our recollections of it are OK — life is a tapestry. Not everyone remembers everything the same way. Isn’t that the point?  

In some way, the memoir I’m writing does reflect a death: the death of my comparisons of myself with others; the death of my crusade to be everything unlike my mother, the death of my hardness against my mother (which was ultimately a hardness against myself; we all get there in our own way, hopefully), and the death of a way of life, codependency and enabling, which stole years from me despite my fervent interest in seeking and speaking truth. 

So if I’m not here, that’s where I’ll be. Working on that. Charlie and Murphy tell me they have some posts planned. Charlie got a new collar, a “Gentle Leader” which is based on a horse’s halter, a “head collar,” and which is supposed to evoke feelings of his mother gently and firmly coaxing him to do what she wants, but Murphy tells me that Charlie just thinks it’s a mother-something. It certainly reminds me of a horse halter because that little 20-pound microBear does some serious bucking when it’s first on. 

Wish me luck; I’ll be appealing to the angels Gabriel, Raphael and Michael to keep me clear, honest, healthy and protected from negativity during this experience.   

Thank you.