Wednesday, January 4, 2017

no room in society for this kind of grief

Grief.

Before we even begin, let's just breathe for a moment. Can we? Inhale, drawing that breath all the way down, filling all the space. Then hold it. Count to yourself up to seven slowly, then let it out a little at a time until it feels like everything is gone.

Do that a few times, then we'll go on.

I'm being serious.

Posts like this one are draining to read, I know.

Trust me when I tell you that they're even harder to write.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

I also wanted to preface what I am about to write with a warning of sorts.

My words, they're not for everyone. There are a great many people in this world who don't quite know what to do with my experiences or my willingness to share them. Some of them insist that I'm somehow mistaken or wrong, that things surely couldn't have been the way that they were. I've had family members tell me that I was a liar before. I'm sure that it wasn't the last time. I've grown accustomed to what others think of me. Their words, their accusations, their glares that could bore holes through walls...I've gained immunity. Get hurt enough by people you love and you develop these mechanisms, I suppose.

There's a price to pay for writing, and it's a price I'm willing to accept in exchange for the necessity of this exercise. I need to write these words. They need out of my head.

And so, if what I am saying doesn't resonate with you, that's okay.

If my experiences don't mesh with yours, that's okay.

If what I say might seem harsh and vastly different than all that you know, that's okay. In fact, let me say congratulations. I don't wish for people to understand where I've been. I just wish for those who don't to respect my story, my life, my experiences.

This might, and hopefully will, look a lot different than the mother/daughter stories you've lived or read or been told.

Maybe this isn't for you.

For those who understand, this is for you as much as it is for me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Perhaps it is the changeover of the year, the turning of the pages on the calendar. Perhaps it is the season, the one where we're all told that we are supposed to be surrounded by loving and supportive family members and, gasp, happy. Perhaps it is the uncertainty that lingers in the air now like an oppressive fog, makes us reach out for something with which we can firmly root ourselves.

I don't know what the reason is. In fact, I'm not even certain that my observations are wholly legitimate ones. I know that so much of the way I see the world is shaped by the lenses I wear. I see things differently than most people do or ever will.

Regardless, it seems, from my perspective at least, that there is an abundance of things out there in the interwebs about mothers and daughters and the ties that bind them. More than ordinary. More than I've grown accustomed.

Or, perhaps it is just because as time marches forward, more and more of my contemporaries are joining this club. We get older, our parents get older. Well, their parents get older.

Mine never will.

So, maybe it is that we've become older and the natural consequence of our collective aging is the loss of our parents, or at least the impending loss of them. Or, at a minimum, the realization that parents won't live forever, even if once when we were very small, they seemed so sturdy and strong.

Nevertheless, there's an ample supply of these articles and posts and poems and memes in my newsfeed at the moment. I wish sometimes that there was a way to shut out the things in social media that can harm us most deeply, but there isn't.

Besides which, it's only a half-hearted wish. I wouldn't elect to remove myself from the world, even if it protects me to do so. I'm there, eyes wide open, even if they're sometimes filled with tears.

And for me at least, the most damaging things that float through my screen aren't the ones that most people would think. They're quite the opposite, in fact.

The posts about gratitude for mothers, about how women I know and love and respect proclaim to all online that they are who they are because of the strength of their mothers. About how their mothers taught them everything they know about love and family and relationships and how they wouldn't know where they'd be without these women guiding them.

Well, they might be sitting here writing this post, for one.

I push away the bitterness that rises up in my throat when these posts drift by. I try not to be envious of this thing that they have or at least claim to have with their mothers. I struggle with it.

I wish I had those things.

I didn't.

And now, because of the finality of death, there is no chance remaining.

My mother has been gone over three years now. She'd long before stopped being maternal. For too long, the roles reversed and I was trying to help and guide her through the world, shielding her from the things I didn't want her to know, frustrated at my abundant failures.

I know this role now, and I know it well, as the mother of two adolescent daughters myself.

I don't want them to ever be in the place that I was. I don't want that.

I fight with every cell in my body to make sure that they'll never have to experience the things I've lived.

And still, there are no guarantees in life.

I'm certain that when my mother was young, she wanted things to be different than they were. I know that she wanted them to be different than they were at the end, but virtually nothing about her reality (or mine at that time, if I'm being frank), was within the grasp of my control. Anyone who knows me now or knew me then knows that I tried.

I tried.

I tried so goddamn hard.

For nothing.

I made promises to my dying father that I would take care of her.

The only thing he ever asked of me towards the end was for her to be looked after. He wanted assurances that she would be okay in this world without him and she wasn't and no matter what I tried, I couldn't make it be.

There is so much more to the story, one that still, after all this time, trickles out in tiny pieces.

I loved my mother.

I hated my mother.

Those two feelings existed in my life simultaneously. For years.

And when she took her last breath, over a thousand miles away from me, there were tears of sadness and loss and tears of relief.

And no one, least of all me, ever knows quite what to do with that combined reality.

I've been shamed for it, mocked for it, and worse.

Trust me when I say I've beat myself up for it sufficiently.

So much about our society is illusion based. The Rockwellian paintings of how life is supposed to be. The notions of the virginal bride and the faithful marriage and the easy pregnancies and planned number of children. The health, the perpetual youth. The picket fence and the well behaved, but occasionally naughty dog. The gradual rise in career, the picture perfect holidays. The fond relationships with our parents based on gratitude for our solid upbringing and unending support, where they are allowed to grow old.

And sure, maybe some people have those things.

But a lot of us don't.

And when we lose a parent who wasn't what society said she was supposed to be, what other people were given, what we needed, that grief is compounded and twisted and manipulated and complicated.

The day after she died, I wrote about her.

Within hours, a message was sitting in my inbox, from a family member.

The words, how dare you.

I don't expect people to understand. I don't ask for their forgiveness for whatever it is that they believe I've done. I know my truth and I walk in my truth and I write my truth, even knowing what will come.

Instead, I wish that they, and that the rest of this world, could understand that we never really know the whole story.

Sometimes people lie.
Sometimes people manipulate your emotions.
Sometimes mental health issues cloud everything.

Sometimes what you think you understand has just been manufactured, packaged and screened for an audience of one.

You.

I know that she wouldn't have chosen to be the way that she was, if she'd had the choice.

I know that she didn't mean to hurt me in all the ways that she did, or I at least have to be willing to believe that because the alternative is simply too awful to bear.

I know that I wish I had only fond memories.

I know that I wish I didn't cringe every time another post comes into my line of sight.

I know that no matter how much I fight the envy, I envy those who have functional relationships with their mothers.

These are my demons.

And I'm not alone.

I know that there are many more people out there in this world than might ever admit who struggle in these ways. I know that their silence is often intended because it's easier to pretend that things were fine and so you pretend to mourn the loss of the parent everyone thinks you were given.

I know.

I see you.

This one is for you as much as it is for me.

So, to all those out there who can thank their mothers for teaching them coping mechanisms, for teaching them how to firmly draw boundaries, for teaching them that to survive, sometimes they need to eliminate their own flesh and blood from their lives entirely, I salute you.

You aren't alone.

And neither am I.

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 - My Year in Sarcasm, Snark and Silly

Every year, the bloggers of the world get together and write reflective posts. It's a thing. I've done it.

Some years I write about what I wish things might be like the following year. Sometimes I write summary posts including my favorite posts of the year. Sometimes I write a mini-retrospective on what the year was like for me.

Let's just be honest.

2016 was a fucking dumpster fire.

Seriously.

I mean, sure.....there are good things that happened and I am absolutely certain that there are many people out there who had AMAZEBALL years. I'm certain of this because they're telling anyone who will listen this week. They're the people who have to comment on all the "Hooray 2016 is almost over" posts telling everyone to suck it because they got married or had a baby or got a job and they had a great year, so everyone should just understand that since it didn't blow for them, everyone should be fine, so no more whining.

Yeah.

Just because YOU might have had a good year doesn't make this year any less of a dumpster fire for other people.

Tons of people are legitimately scared about what is going on in this country, and just because it might not affect you doesn't mean you get to decide what is and isn't a big deal for someone else. That's called privilege. (and you're welcome)

Just because some good shit happened to you doesn't diminish the bad shit that went down for other people.

No one shows up on your posts about how great things are and tells you to STFU because "I" had a bad year.

Just saying....

There are also the people sharing all the posts about how we're conditioned as human beings to believe that time frames like years are "good" or "bad" and how we're naturally pessimistic, or how we remember only the bad things when really there were a bunch of good things or whatever.

You do you, man. Let other people feel whatever they want and post whatever they want.

Was 2016 the worst year ever?

Probably not. There have been some really fucking terrible years in history. I mean, if you are the kind of dick who has to bring up every awful thing that has happened historically in an attempt to make your friends who are complaining feel like assholes, then maybe you're the asshole.

It's perspective, you guys, and it's not just about things that happened on a societal level, it's about the stuff that goes down in our real lives too - and SPOILER ALERT - people don't always post about that shit on social media, so you really have no clue what someone might be referencing.

And don't come at people with that silver linings bullshit.

FOR THE LOVE.

Let people feel what they want.

Personally for me, 2011 was the worst year in my life. 1999/2000 comes in a close second. Neither had a damn thing to do with current events. So there.

GODDAMN that was a long introduction to this post...obvs I haven't been writing enough rants lately and I have some unresolved anger to type out.

Obvs.

Anyhow, since it's the time for reflection and that, I wanted to write a year-ender too. But this isn't going to be like my top ten most amazing posts or the top ten great things that happened or the top ten inspirational posts I wrote. Nah.

If you've been around, you've read that shit already.

This post is about me being an asshole. A funny one, hopefully.

And that's the thing about being an asshole. For real. I'm about to drop some hard truth on you right now. If you want to be an asshole, no one is going to stop you. Just own your assholish ways. Don't pretend like you aren't being an asshole, don't try to put it onto other people. just own it.

Yep.

This is me.

I'm a giant asshole.

(occasionally)

(okay, so fairly often)

(I even annoy myself sometimes)

So, in consideration of my ways, I offer to you, some inspiration and humor, done my way. Things I actually said or wrote or did this year, along with a pretty picture of something. Enjoy.















And on that note, Happy New Year.

Hopefully we survive this one. Kidding, not kidding.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016 Year End Playlist - All those we lost this year

In case any of you might want the playlist I’m using tonight for work. All songs by artists/band members who died in 2016. And yes, some artists are on there a few times...

  • I Wanna Be Your Lover, Prince
  • Faith, George Michael
  • Somebody to Love, Jefferson Airplane
  • Let’s Dance, David Bowie
  • Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen
  • September, Earth, Wind & Fire
  • Take it Easy, Eagles
  • If We Make it Through December, Merle Haggard
  • People Don’t Get What They Deserve, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
  • Tightrope, Leon Russell
  • We The People, Tribe Called Quest
  • Pretty Women, Alan Rickman
  • Rock Steady, The Whispers
  • Bend Me, Shape Me, The American Breed
  • My Woman’s Love, Jimmy Riley
  • Liar, Rollins Band
  • All the Young Dudes, Mott the Hoople
  • Humanoid, Emerson, Lake & Palmer
  • 1999, Prince
  • Under Pressure, Queen & David Bowie
  • Everybody Knows, Leonard Cohen
  • Let’s Groove, Earth, Wind & Fire
  • Desperado, Eagles
  • Simple Man, Jimmy Van Zant
  • Something in the Air, Thunderclap Newman
  • Love Rollercoaster, Ohio Players
  • I’d Die Without You, PM Dawn
  • Deception, Christina Grimmie
  • Flashlight, George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic
  • Mustang Sally, Wilson Pickett
  • Kryptonite, 3 Doors Down
  • Breakdown, Colourbox
  • Gett Off, Prince
  • Moonage Daydream, David Bowie
  • Set Adrift on Memory Bliss, PM Dawn
  • Shining Star, Earth, Wind & Fire
  • Hotel California, Eagles
  • Okee from Muskogee, Merle Haggard
  • Midnight Rider, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
  • Me & Mrs. Jones, Billy Paul
  • One More Try, George Michael
  • The Space Program, Tribe Called Quest
  • The Whiskey Song, Swamp Dogg & Leon Haywood
  • Unfinished Life, Jimmy Van Zant
  • A Summer Song, Surfer Blood
  • Painkiller, Freestylers
  • Fake King, Prince Buster
  • Inside Out, Emerson, Lake & Palmer
  • You Spin Me Right Round, Dead or Alive
  • Poor Boy, Glenn Yarborough
  • When the Gates Swing Open, Otis Clay
  • 50,000 Names, Joey + Rory
  • My Favorite Things, Florence Henderson
  • Good Morning, Debbie Reynolds
  • I’m the Reason Why You Drink, Candye Kane
  • Va Va Voom, Brett Smiley
  • L.A. Freeway, Guy Clark
  • Tengo Miedo, Emilio Navaira
  • Praying for Time, George Michael

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

That's General Organa to you...

Carrie Fisher died yesterday at the age of sixty years old, less than a week after suffering a heart attack on board a flight from London.

I've been told by more than a few people that I'm ridiculous for allowing the deaths of celebrities to affect me, and this time was no different. The shamers and mockers ever present in this digital age of ours, ready to pounce on the feelings of others.

I'll never really understand why people care so damned much about who we mourn and why.

I digress. I get distracted by assholes on the internet too easily. It's a character flaw.

That's not what I am here to write about.

I'm here to write about her. I'm here to write about what she represents to people out there like me, the ones who were first exposed to her as kids, the image of that metal bikini ingrained in our minds.

Sure, she was a character in a few movies. That's how most people associate with her.

I've seen more than a few of my male friends, particularly the ones around my age, lament her passing as she held a special place in their, ahem, maturing.

And yeah, she was hot as hell in that bikini.

But if that's all you remember her for, and that's all you think is important about her, I've got news for you.

She was so much more than an object to ogle. SO MUCH MORE.

Even her character, if you want to simplify her for the purposes of this exercise, was more than that. She was feisty and raw and the hardest worker in the series. Seriously, where were Han and Luke for all those years leading into The Force Awakens??? Han bailed on her and their son. Luke disappeared, found some island in the middle of nowhere to sit on and mope until someone came to find him. A woman eventually found him, I might add.

And where was Leia all that time? At home, dealing with all the shit the men ran away from.


OF COURSE SHE WAS BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT STRONG WOMEN DO.

That's General Organa to you, now.

I could go on and on about the character issues, but I won't do that here. That's not what I'm writing this for either.

I'm writing this for everything else she was, to me and to so many others, away from the screen.

She was born into the film industry, the child of stars. She could have loafed around, mooched off of their wealth and influence. She didn't. She worked, and then once she had that fame all to herself, she used it for good. She used her position and her privilege and her money and her fame to help not just herself, but others.

She owned her vices. She talked about them openly in a world where such talk is discouraged for fear of ruining reputations. She dragged her inner struggles out into the light. She wrote about them. She admitted them openly. She fought like hell to be a better person. She screamed aloud to the world that she had mental health issues and that it wasn't something to be ashamed of.

She called out the sexist misogynists in the industry. She demanded better for the women who came after her. She mocked the men who objectified her. She shined a light on the fat shaming ageist world called Hollywood.

Then she proved to all of those who've tried to quiet her that she could still utterly steal the show, even though she was old and she carried more pounds than they, the men of the world, wanted her to.

She went from Leia to Organa right on the screen in front of us, and it literally took my breath away as I sat in that audience in tears.

This was what I came back for all those years later. Her.

She had become the true core of the rebellion. She was the one to be reckoned with. And she didn't give any fucks at all about what you thought she should wear or do with her hair or how much she should weigh.

I've said for quite a long while now that I wanted to be just like her when I grow up.

Not Leia.

Her.

Carrie.

She was strong and capable and complicated. She was a fierce advocate. She called it like she saw it, never pulling any punches. She demanded accountability, from herself and from the industry that she occupied. She was willing to stand up and tell the world who she was. She was an addict. She lived with bipolar disorder. She owned all of it, dared all of us to do the same.

And she did it all regardless of what anyone ever thought of her.

She was a hero.

And she was a hero not for what she did on a screen, but for what she did in real life.

As I wrote on my Facebook page yesterday.


"And she was. 


Past tense.

That's the part that's wrong."

Women like her give me the strength to be who I am. They tell me to swallow that lump of fear and hesitation and to scream out loud to the world that I live with PTSD and anxiety and postpartum depression. They tell me that there isn't weakness in admitting these things, that there is power in them. They tell me that I have the ability to help someone else by chipping away at that stigma we're all taught to obey. They tell me that I don't have to wait until I'm thin enough, I don't have to be pretty enough, I don't need to be older or younger or richer or more famous to make a difference in the lives of others. I don't need to fit into the tiny boxes that society tries to put me in. 

I can be who I am, and I can fight. I have the strength. I have the determination. I have the voice and the skills and the passion already. I don't need permission from anyone to be who I am.

And she taught me that.

Carrie taught me that. 

She taught millions of us.

And she did it boldly, often awkwardly, usually toting her dog along beside her. 

I still want to be like her when I grow up.

Thank you, Carrie, for all that you were and all that you gave and all that you taught us. 

May the force be with you.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

What to get for the person who has everything.....for real.....

I have a few people in my life that are impossible to shop for, which always makes the holidays a bit of a challenge. They know who they are.

You know, the people who just buy themselves whatever they ever want or need. The people who have hobbies, but already have whatever they need to engage in those hobbies. The people who always tell you that they don't need anything even though societal norms dictate that there must be a gift exchanged.

Those people.

My two people happen to both be men. They're also related. Neither of them will ever read this post, so we're safe.

And, frankly, they end up usually getting the same thing from us whenever we manage to find something they don't already have, For instance, last year, we got them both freestanding camping hammocks. I cannot even begin to tell you how completely excited we were when we found freestanding camping hammocks.

They are THAT hard to shop for.

Maybe you have someone like this on your list and still can't figure out what to get them this year. Not to fear, I am here to hook you up.

Uncommon Goods is your one-stop online destination for unique and interesting gifts. Committed to sustainability, they offer a wide variety of handmade, recycled and organic products and they are a founding member of B Corporation.

Their website is easy to navigate, with gift guides for everyone on your list.

If you're looking for two impossible to shop for men, like I am, check out these gift ideas.

These glasses are amazing. Like, I want them in my house. Right now.

City Map Glasses

Constitution Glass
There is a Declaration of Independence one too!
If you're looking for gifts for kids, I can totally recommend this game. We have it and every single one of the kids will sit and play with it for hours, from the 2 year old all the way up to the teenagers.

Snap Attack Magnetic Game
Looking for a teenager and have no idea what to get them? Start here.  If you have a music lover, there are guitar pick makers and mobile DJ mixers. There are tons of unusual things for science lovers too, from chromosome pillows to Dino Pets and experiment kits.

Have a wine loving woman with everything in your life? I'd bet she doesn't have a wine purse yet. Yes, this is an actual thing. I swear.

Wine Dispensing Tote
There is an entire section of the website devoted to gifts for women and you can check them out here.  I want the literary scarves. Hint, hint.

Here you'll find all the quirky, fun Christmas gifts you could possibly imagine. 

If you're on a budget (and we ALL are these days, right?), the site is searchable by price as well, with 517 awesome gifts for under $25. FIVE HUNDRED AND SEVENTEEN. Now you officially have no excuse. There has to be something for everyone on this list.

Happy shopping.

If you were to toss a scarf or one of those glasses in your cart and send it my way, that'd be cool with me. Just saying.

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