Crazy.

29 Apr

The other day I was talking to my friend Carol on the telephone and we were having a good laugh over her Dad’s latest shenanigans.

Her sister was in town for the evening and they’d decided to have an impromptu family dinner at a nice restaurant downtown.  They called their dad and agreed on a time to meet up. Carol and her husband arrived in time to meet her sister and they were seated before her dad arrived.  After about half an hour they begin to wonder where their dad was. Carol decided that she would give him a few more minutes before she called him. Finally, worried that something had happened to him, she decided to call and check up on him. No sooner than she’d pulled out her phone her dad walked into the restaurant and quickly found his way to their table.

He apologized for his lateness, explaining that he’d fallen asleep after he got back from his rounds at the hospital. He’d woken up and when he saw the time, jumped in the car and raced towards the restaurant.  He sheepishly grinned as he told them that in his haste, he’d forgotten his shoes.

Carol told me that she waited for the part where he’d say that he’d turned around and had to go back home and retrieve them.  A quick glance, however, showed that her father was indeed only wearing his socks.  He laughed and said that he’d made it through valet parking and all the way to their table without anyone noticing.  Carol told me that she was exasperated but amused and thankfully was able to buy him a pair of sandals at one of the shops that was next door to the restaurant. Her father thought that the entire situation was hilarious and told everyone around him about his mistake. He gleefully told Carol that he planned to tell his friends, also doctors, and would conduct an experiment where they went places without shoes to see who noticed.

I laughed with Carol, and could see her in my mind’s eye, shaking her head with the  memory fresh in her mind.  She told me that her dad was crazy, and I told her that it was no big deal, explaining to her that the affluent are never crazy. Rich people were eccentric.  We laughed and the conversation moved to our kids and husbands, the regular telephone fare.

The story stuck with me, though, and I’ve been mulling over the conversation ever since. For so long, I was really self conscious of my dad’s mental illness. There would be times when would be having a family outing and my dad would do something that I thought wasn’t quite normal.  Mortified I’d always scan my surroundings, checking to see who’d spotted my dad acting not quite right.   My mom and my sisters always seemed oblivious, giggling and playing along, while I held back,  unable to let go.  Forgoing enjoying the moment and instead holding my breath, waiting for the next shoe to drop.

The color of my childhood memories take on a different hue as I look back on them with the perspective of a parent and as I create my own memories with my kids.  Playtime at the park  is sprinkled with laughter as we run, joke and act silly, oblivious to what others might think.  I chuckle as my husband  mockingly sings along with the radio, making my 10 year old son groan with mock mortification. I will also tell you, you haven’t lived until you and your kids have re-enacted Wayne and Garth’s Bohemian Rhapsody in your hatchback, with the sunroof open, music blaring. I don’t know, and don’t care, what people may think- it’s fun and makes us laugh.

So many of these moments remind me of my dad and the things that he would do.  Sometimes I laughed but there got to be a point where I was unable to live in the moment and enjoy myself.  It makes me sad that my fathers illness coincided with my increased awareness of the world around me and really amplified my self consciousness. I wish that I’d hadn’t heard all of the whispers of the family members who “felt so sorry for Juan’s girls.” Everyone who was so sorry and concerned, but never really  enough to lend an empathetic ear, just worried enough to gossip when one of us would “act crazy”. I really wish that someone would have pulled me aside and told me that while my dad was struggling,  and yes there were some really scary times, not every moment was affected. I wish I’d have known that  sometimes parents embarrass you, sometimes parents act silly because it’s fun, and sometimes people think that your parents are weird. I wish that someone would have looked back and told me that some of my life was normal and not every moment was tinged by mental illness.   Maybe it wouldn’t have helped much, but maybe it would have.

My attitude about my dad’s illness changed as I got older and started to learn more about people and I realized that everyone has little idiosyncrasies. I started to notice that everyone had little, and not so little, personality quirks that sometimes made other people give them side eyed looks.  Maybe it was just my way of coping with the new medicated version of my dad- the man who wasn’t quite the same person as when I was growing up but not quite different. I became more defensive of how people treated him and wonder if peoples attitudes would have been different if his shoes had been a little nicer and the collar of his shirt crisp and not frayed.  I know that some people are just assholes and some will treat anyone who deviates from their narrow view of normal badly so it may not have mattered, but I guess that I will never know.

Instead I can enjoy time with my kids, making them laugh, smiling at silly jokes and acting crazy. When they are old enough to get mad at me for embarrassing them I can smile and say, “Sorry kiddo, it’s part of growing up and having parents. One day you will embarrass your own kids”. I will smile because I will know that it’s true.

 

 

 

 

Writers Block or Lack of Discipline?

21 Apr

I’m stuck in a conundrum. Sitting in the confines of a cubicle, I used to joke that my most inspired moments were at 10AM. I’d drive to work in silence (my car ride often the only few minutes of silence in my day) and ideas would begin to take form in my mind. My workday would begin with good mornings, coffee and returning phone calls.  Around 10, my mind would often drift back to those half formed thoughts and I would quickly jot them down in a notebook that I had, full of inspiration, outlining brief sketches of the images in my mind.  I remember the feelings of frustration that I would have, feeling constricted because the few stolen moments would be interrupted by phone calls or the next task that had to be completed.

Now I am a stay at home mom.  I’d let out a big sign of relief as I carried my box of framed pictures and cubicle decorations to my car, elated that I would have time to write and to create.  I would be able to spend time with my daughter, help my son with his homework and use all of my extra time working on a short story that has been in progress longer than I would like to admit. 

My reality, however, is not quite what I thought that it would be. I anticipated a period of transition. I knew that it was going to take a little while to fall into a routine that my children and I would be happy with.  So here I am a full month later and I still feel stuck.  I’ve cleaned the house, figured out a rough schedule for my daughter and I, but the 10am lightening bolt of ideas has vanished.  I am experiencing the conundrum of having more freedom but I haven’t felt the thrill of having inspiration strike. Why the hell am I feeling this block?

So here I am, uninspired and a more than little freaked out about it. I’ve been trying to go through the motions and I have had a couple of good ideas to work with.  I’m really just hoping that I can create balance sooner, rather than later. Perhaps what I need is not inspiration but the discipline to dedicate to writing every single day, even if my mental coffers are dry as a bone. 

My four year old has been begging me to take her to fairy world, so I will have to sign off for now.

 

 

Ch-Ch-Ch- Ch-Changes

6 Apr

2014 is well underway and changes abound.  Spring is here and the spirit of transformation is in the air.  I quit my office job a few weeks ago and I am very thankful to my husband for the opportunity to do so.

I’d been talking about making the break for a while, but the discussion got serious about a year and a half ago.  I hated the feeling of working mother guilt that nagged at me as my children would spend sometimes up to 12 hours in daycare and after school camps.  Too many evenings were spent trying to gather the motivation to pull together a home cooked meal, patience thin as we hurriedly maneuvered through homework, laundry, dishes, each night hoping to have precious few minutes of quiet time to read, watch, write something, create something, anything!,  before bedtime. It had to done within a narrow time frame, get to bed early enough to wake up before the sun, ready to do it all again.  Four hours a night, allotted to cram everything in..it never felt like enough.

I tried to remind myself that I should be grateful that I was even employed as I sat at my desk. I tried to remember that there were so many people who would be overjoyed with the opportunity to do my job.  In spite of my own affirmations of gratitude, I still felt like I was suffocating, pulled down by the minutiae of tasks before me. It was getting hard to breathe.

Finally after a weekend trying tidy the house and keep the children quiet enough so that my husband could sleep (he was working a stint of graveyard shifts), I got back to work to find an email in my inbox stating that I’d already burned through almost half of my paid time off allotment for the year.  I was reminded that I’d used up both my sick time and vacation time last year and had 60 hours unpaid as a result .  The email was a reminder that I needed to be mindful of how I used the remainder of the time I had left since it was only February.  I instantly thought of the doctors appointments that I’d already had scheduled and my stomach sank as I thought of unplanned fevers, upset stomachs and myriad events that could come up. Last year had been punctuated by my youngest spending three days in the hospital, my father falling ill and passing away and the death of my aunt.  The year had ended with me being involved in a fender bender which led to me having to miss out of work.  I felt overwhelmed and the signs all seemed to point in the same direction. It was time to walk away.

I spoke to my husband and we agreed that the time had come to give my two weeks notice. I was nervous about making the leap but thankfully the split was amicable, which made it easier.  I was able to finish working on a very large account and I had enough time to tie up the loose ends that were on my desk.  My last day fell on my father’s birthday, which I took as an omen that I made the right decision.

Life since then has been filled with the business of raising my children.  I’m able to pick up my son and am thankful to have the patience to sit with him and do his homework before baseball practice. I am grateful to be able to spend the day with my four year old daughter, reading, playing and coming up with a loose structure that works for us.  Everything seems precious to me lately. I’m able to stop and enjoy bouts of giggles, an unexpected bout of dancing and I appreciate the fact that I can completely focus on being a mom.  My husband has been thankful for the relaxed vibe in the house when he gets home from work. I won’t say that we aren’t busy, but evenings are less harried when I’ve had time to take care of my to do list throughout the day.

I wish I could say that I’ve had a huge wave of creativity crashing over me, but I’ve been trying to create a sense of order in my house and am still trying to get in the swing of things. I’ve had flurries of activity, so I know that it will come once we get into a schedule.

I’d started out concerned that I was breaking the unwritten feminist code by swapping my office persona for that of a housewife, but after some thought  I’ve come to the realization that this is not the case.  I am following my radical idea that I think that I can raise my children better than someone who I have to pay to do it for me.  If not having it all means that I  can escape the feelings of being overwhelmed and suffocating, then I guess that I can do without.

Black Pearl

16 Aug

My father died in April.

It’s been four months and I am still trying to get my  head around the fact that he isn’t here.  I am trying to adjust to this new normal.

I wake up in the morning, mother my children, go to work and trudge through the paces of my days. I am there but I am not present.

I am looking through a window and there are people talking but I can’t hear and I don’t care what they are saying.

I watch, feeling separate from what goes around me.

I am unhappy. I think too much. I drink too much.

I am lonely but am comforted by my solitude.

Melancholy hangs in the corners of my days and my mind toys with the idea of letting go of the thread that binds me to this reality.

The six year old girl in me wants to hide, cry and pull at her hair in sorrow, grabbing at the crumbling pieces of the myth that was her father.

There are emotions that are bubbling beneath the surface but I don’t know how to communicate in this language of loss, and so I am mute.

Frustrated by my inability to communicate and unable to let off the steam, the heat of my grief is burning through me.

I want to bleed it out, scream it out, but when I tear back the surface all I find is nothing. There is nothing to say.

I light  candles at my alter, burn incense and raise my intentions to the sky but I feel nothing. I am obsessed with death and I try to grab at the spaces between the moments spent with the ones that I love the most.

I dream of my father.

Sometimes he stands at the edges, watching me, like a silent witness.

Once we wandered through an old shopping mall, visiting memories that were for sale like cheap knick knacks in dollar stores filthy with age.

One night he came to me scared and wandering through oblivion, confused, unable to rest and stuck in between the living and the dead.

I try not to call to him. I hold his memory in white light and whisper prayers that he can move on.

In my optimistic moments I wonder if he is visiting me, letting me know that he is still there, like a small anchor to hold onto.

In my most fearful moments, I am afraid that he is lost, his soul still burdened by the illness that plagued his life and he still needs me. He needs me and I am paralyzed by my inability to reach across the chasm that separates us.

This is the  black pearl that is my grief,  wrought from the chafing of the splinters in my soul.  I am just now able to pull it out and observe it, vulnerable with my need for comfort.

April 13, 2013 3:40 pm

22 Apr

I sat beside you and

FELT

You slowly slip away from me.

I read words from sacred books

Raised hymns sang songs whispered prayers.

Trying to find comfort in tradition.

I tried to comfort you.

Hoping.

I was I am

Afraid to acquiesce accept give in. Let go.

I kissed your eyelashes in the soft light.

Eyes like mine. Heart like mine.

Fiery bright and proud.

Slowly racing away from here. From now.

I sat

Tracing matching lines on your hand my hand

Father and daughter

Simian Twin.

I sat watching

Watched

You slip out of the room.

Recognition in your eyes,

Gone now to take your final walk

 Into eternal night

Light ETERNAL

Filtering through the shades.

Now part of the unknown.

Forever.

I kissed your fingers

A bruised soul soothed

Under grey feathered wings.

Hot tears burning on my face

Stinging at my eyes

I was your witness and

I saw you.

There for just a moment,

Once more.

But now that you are

Gone

Who will see me?

Leviathan

22 Dec
Image
Gather tinder for the fire,
Fill the chalices up with wine.
The time to feast is upon us.
The full moon sits on high.
 
Tell the legend of Leviathan,
Dark prince of the seven seas.
Great seven headed serpent,
From his flesh the righteous will feast.
 
Leviathan is the sea beast,
Behemoth will rule the land.
Zezu curses the air all round, and
Hellmouth is where the damned will stand.
 
Tie the virgin to the beams,
Trussed bait to tempt the beast.
Hold her head underwater,
No consequence that she can’t breathe.
 
Hair tangled in the seaweed,
A dark crown to greet her doom. Her
Sheer white gown blows in the night,
Her eyes flutter and her lips are blue.
 
Can you catch him with a fishhook?
Harpoon his head with a fishing spear?
 
The young faun begs for mercy,
She smells his scent, yes the beast is near.
 
Will you tie his tongue with a strong hemp rope?
Make a pet of him, fear to make your enemies choke.
 
The waves, they crash and wane.
The monks, they chant and pray
They waves, they crash and wane.
The monks chant and pray
While she fades away.
 
 

*Image: Thomas Hobbes, Book of Job

To the victims of Sandy Hook, I am so sorry

15 Dec

I am still so saddened about yesterdays events and even more than slightly sickened from all of the pro gun propaganda that I’ve been reading all day. Why are we as a community not discussing the availability of better mental health care with the same gusto that we are rallying for our guns?  Perhaps it is because as a collective we are a sick  and unbalanced society. It’s hard to see the light when innocent children were killed and all people can manage to talk about is how we need more guns. It’s disheartening to say the least.

I’ve spent the day trying to keep my children from watching the news and overwhelmed by the onslaught of media coverage surrounding the events.  Facebook posts mingle pro-gun propaganda with photos of the young victims. 

I didn’t anticipate that this act of mindless violence would affect me so badly.  I mourn for the children who died, and I am so sad scared nervous for my own children.  It frightens me that so many are willing to shrug their shoulders at what they call our New Reality.  I am outraged at people rallying for looser gun restrictions. What could be more calloused than that at a time like this? I liken it to a salesman selling knives at the funeral of a stabbing victim.

At the most all I can hope for is that these little lives can lead us all to the light and open our eyes to the fact that something is very wrong with our society. Unless we can have an open dialogue of how to fix things, I fear that this may indeed be our new reality. 

 

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