If you are easily offended, frightened, or considering offering me a position of employment--ever--return to the home page. It's way funnier. And way easier on the eyes. And heart.*
Know how, when you were a kid, "cleaning your room" meant shoving all your shit so far under the bed or in the back of the closet that your mommy could no longer see it?
Yeah, well, turns out that the accumulation of psychological shit I've shoved into the dark corners has proven a breeding ground for monsters.
They feed on festering sores. Old wounds? Their bread and monster butter.
They survive and thrive in the dark, secluded places you hide from everyone else.
And, no matter how much I implore my mommy and daddy to check the bed/closet for these beasts, I know meem and pater never see what I see. After all, mommies and daddies can't see their children's monsters. Even if they are the ones who brought them home in the first place.
So, my friends, this leaves me with a choice: I can continue to hide from the scaries in my closet. I can brace myself against the monstrosities under my Craftmatic mattress. I can say my little Jew prayers and hold on tight 'til the morning, thankful to wake each day with minimal claw marks that I hide under turtlenecks.
Or I can face them--Sam and Dean Winchester style--with amazing hair and a snarky line.
Will I die? Possibly. But I may just be brought back, phoenix-esque, as something stronger and more beautiful.
It's up to me to brave the dark places. If you wanna come, you can. Just bring a flashlight and smores.
For those interested in an update on my condition:
1. Dr. Fareza Weragoda is a terrible cardiologist. Not only did she withold my diagnosis from me, but it took numerous requests for her office to provide medical records, despite repeated requests. In the end, I had to get another doctor to make the request. And that doctor had to contact Weragoda's office three times to get a response.
2. I have a rare heart "thing" called Mitral Valve Prolapse. This apparently occurs in between 2 - 3% of the population (depending on which source you check). Mild forms are not considered dangerous. More advanced forms can lead to stroke or death. At this time, my regurgitation (a gross term for a backflow of blood that occurs because of the malfunction) is considered mild.
3. I wore a heart monitor for a day. During that day, my heart registered as tachycardic (beating too fast) for something like 23% of the day and as bradycardic (beating too slow) for something like 13% of the day. Which may be one reason to account for me feeling like shit at least 36% of the day.
MVP is sometimes related to dysautonomia - for those who have been following my other health exploits, doctor consensus to this point has been that I have some sort of generalized dysautonomia with polyneuropathy.
Guess we can now add a faulty ticker to the mix.
I am not sure if they can help me, but I have made an appointment with this center in Alabama: http://mvpctr.com/index.php and I also have an appointment with a new, hopefully less shitty cardiologist tomorrow morning.
Wish me luck.
And please pray for me.
I was wholly unready to hear this news.
Also, and for the coup de gras, my hair is falling out. I have a bald spot and my hair is thinning. This is all per my hairstylist. Which is another awesome symptom I have collected. WOO HOO!
There is a powerful scene in the film "Philomena" wherein the title character forgives someone who has done her an unspeakable, undeniable wrong.
Philomena's companion, meanwhile, is justifiably incredulous.
"This person ruined your life," he argues (a paraphrase). "How CAN you forgive this? I am furious!"
"That must be exhausting," Philomena replies.
Friends, I am exhausted.
I've spent countless hours, days, weeks, lamenting both the troubles of my own life and of the world at large. I've raged against injustices I've seen, attempted to educated (or argue), and it's never enough.
Despite these efforts, I am unable to rest.
I have no peace.
The moment my head hits the pillow, my internal monologue begins: There is so much to do. So much wrong to me righted - and how can I sleep when the rhinos are being hunted to extinction and Boko Haram is murdering people by the thousands? I'm furious!
And, Philomena, I'm exhausted...
Like your companion, I can fight but not forgive.
And this is a detriment to my own cause. For how can I continue to fight with no rest? And how can I preach peace when I cannot find any of my own?
Today, I had a panic attack.
It isn't my first.
I am not embarrassed of this fact, really. Or of admitting that I have struggled with depression for at least as long as I have suffered from acne.
Both conditions require chronic prescriptives.
This morning's all-too-familiar feeling of panic - of being completely and totally out of control of my life, surroundings, and therefore future - was brought on by health issues related to our apartment. Put simply, the place is making us sick, but we can't prove it, and the landlord is taking the hard-line on our lease.
Add this to the growing pressures of the upcoming wedding and general job anxieties, and you have the recipe for my present mental meltdown.
As you likely noticed, it is the holiday season. And, at least for me, along with the tinsel and toys, I can also expect another charming family tradition - taunting.
This year, it came (as it often does) in the form of my brother, chiding me for eating ham at the Christmas dinner table (I have been converting to Judaism for years now.) Apparently the irony and personal hypocrisy of celebrating the birth of a Jew who never in his life consumed pork because it was considered "unclean" by preparing and ingesting ham was lost on my brother, who instead decided to earn the approving nods of the table by singling me out as different.
As if I needed a reminder.
My parents like to pretend they don't talk disparagingly about me and my decisions when I am not around. The "black sheep card," which, in other families might be earned by questionable relationships, substance addiction and snake tattoos, in my family was earned by my conversion. That I alone among my siblings moved out at 18 and in large part have supported myself since, made the best grades, maintained my scholarship throughout school, went on to get a second degree, and continue to pursue a faith tradition in any way at all of my own volition holds - on the surface anyway - no merit.
I've always gone my own way.
I was always the outspoken one, despite consequence.
I was always the one to question.
So, in many ways, my status as Oveja Negra was cemented from birth.
Not that that makes it any easier really.
You know that story in the Bible - The Prodigal Son? Where one son stays home and helps his father, and one takes his inheritance and runs? Home son helps out around the house, plows the fields, saves his inheritance. Son two blows his stash and comes home in disgrace.
So what does the father do? Throws the second son a party.
I know there's some lesson in there about forgiveness. About reinstatement after giant screw ups. And about bitterness. Because, Lord knows, son 1 must've been PISSED.
But here's the thing - every time I hear that story, I'm pissed too. Because I AM SON ONE. And it doesn't fucking matter. Because the party? Always goes to son 2.
Yes, I question. Yes, I voice my dissension. But when it comes time to plow the fields or save inheritance, I'm the one who shows up. I'm ol' dependable. And the only party it's ever earned me is the "pity" kind. And I have to host it. Party of 1.
What began as a panic attack about my apartment has spiraled - as it always does - into an internal (now external) rant about injustice (perceived or no) and about my place in this world. The place I've been assigned versus the place I hope to hold. On many occasions, I've felt that, to hold a different place, I must be the son who leaves. But, unlike son 2, I won't be coming home...
As my pulse and mind raced, the only thought I had - the only comfort - was from the Psalms. Specifically, Psalm 46:10 - Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.
Circumstances change and remain the same. But it calms me to know there is a positive constant. Assuming I don't kick hte bucket prior (in which case, fuck it. I'm dead. No more worries) I will, eventually, have a place to live that doesn't make me sick. I will be married, even if everything with the planning process falls through. I will make it through the work day, even if, in doing so, I am driven to the mouth of madness. And, while I cannot change my birth family, I do have the power to create my own.
Everything WILL be okay. If only I can learn to be still.
My father once told me that, if we put all of humanity's sorrows into one pile, and were then offered the ability to choose from among those hardships, we'd each reach into the pile to reclaim our own.
Put simply, if we truly caught a glimpse into the hardships of others, we'd shoulder our own problems gladly.
You never know what burdens your neighbor is enduring. Be kind.
Every month, without fail, I’ll receive at least one email reading something like this: “Hey. You know that deadline we discussed on multiple occasions? The one I assured you I was plugging away at? Yeah. I’m not gonna make it.”
Early in my journalism career, this communiqué was cause for acute and all-consuming panic. Arms flailing, eyes wild, I’d scramble around my office, grasping for something – anything! – to fill the space left vacant by this or that person’s failure to live up to his or her obligations.
Today? It’s so commonplace that such emails elicit little more than a shrug and a sigh of “of course.”
It’s not that it’s become any easier to fill two magazine pages at the last minute, or even that people have become less reliable over the years. It’s merely that I’ve learned to expect the worst. And to plan for it.
At face value – and in a pinch – this is a remarkable skill to have. Like cynical superheroes, those who expect and plan for the worst can swoop in at the last minute, saving the collective, hapless hides trapped in the burning building. (And friends, by this point, I’ve put out so many editorial fires I may as well paint myself red and write “extinguisher” on my forehead.)
But today, a deadline day, I witnessed the downside of my superhero persona. I walked into the office, fully expecting the dastardly deadline ditchers to derail my to-do list once again. Once again, I would stand, arms crossed, at the corner of Clairvoyant Way and Self-righteous Circle, wondering just why I seem to be the only person Stateside that can manage to meet a deadline when – to my astonishment – one of the dastards broke trend.
He came through.
Thorough and on time, this particular dastard deviated from his own norm – and, in doing so, unwittingly revealed to me the error of my ways.
Friends, it’s all well and good to paint yourself red and declare yourself a fire extinguisher. Nine times out of 10, your coworkers, family, and friends might need you in that role. But nine out of 10 still leaves one instance – one instance in which you will not be needed. One instance in which the other person will come through. One instance that could and should reinforce the importance of continuing to bestow one of life’s most precious gifts – the benefit of the doubt.
This morning, thanks to one diligent dastard, I was humbled into recognizing that, by taking for granted that the day would produce the same ol’ worst, I failed to give both the day and the dastard the benefit of the doubt that it could work out for the best. In doing so, I robbed him of a dignity rightfully his, and myself of a joy in collaboration that could have been rightfully mine.
I was hurting him. I was hurting myself.
It was a painful but necessary realization (and rebuke) that stuck in my craw and burned in my cheeks. I wrote it down, lest the blush be buried beneath the body paint.
Every once in a while I reexperience the jarring realization that I have no one to talk to.
Those times, when you really need a listening ear - when you really need focus and no judgement. When you have something inside that simply must make its way out...
Those times, most people call a best friend, family member, or significant other.
But I don't feel I can call any of those.
And that realization - every time it hits me - makes me want to die.
On a regular day, I'd list death as my biggest fear. So what does that mean about my mental state regarding my present state?
As I behold the images of brides - bright-eyed, smiling, surrounded by a circle of family elated that the day has finally come - I feel an unsquelchable pain
Because I? Do not have that. I will never have that.
Despite years of dreaming, hoping, working, praying, I, Erin Lindsey Greer, do not have that circle of family for whom I am "central."
At best, I have always been periphery - something to do when there was nothing else to do, but never a person in whom to invest.
Everyday, I am reminded how lucky I am to have found my fiance, because, at last, I found another human being who thinks that I am worthy and important. Sometimes we have to go outside of our families for such things.
Sometimes, it means redefining whom we count as "family" at all.
In my experience, the death march for most relationships is relatively slow.
Whether brought on by the nefarious - abuse of some sort, drugs, Hispanic soap opera levels of betrayal - or the more banal catalysts of distance, scheduling conflicts, and just plain ole, every day growing apart - the death rattle of a friendship, romantic or familial relationship typically takes time. Time to process. Time to consider. Time to fester (and plot vengeance).
With that time comes perspective and, eventually, an ever-present, incessant intestinal needling that lets you know you got to let go.
That's most of the time.
But this time is not that time.
This time socked me right in the gut.
Since the ideology's social premiere on "Sex and the City," (and its subsequent title role in a terrible movie), audiences everywhere have become familiar with the phrase "He's just not that into you."
He waits a week to call? He's not that into you.
Consistently breaks/makes dates last minute? He's not that into you.
Won't let you meet his friends? Refuses to meet yours? Not that into you, not that into you, not that into you.
There's not one person alive who hasn't experienced this phenomenon at least once, and, as heartbreaking as it is to accept, no matter how awesome your original edition Voltron collection might be, somebody somewhere is not gonna recognize the true magic that is YOU, even if it's right in fronta their stupid face.
And fuck it! To hell with 'em! Who needs 'em!
That's the appropriate response, right?
But what if that person or persons - the ones who break your heart 'cause they're just not that into you - isn't some passing love interest?
What if, rather than being that cute guy you met at Starbucks, that person is someone who, by the very definition of his or her place in your life, is one of those people who is supposed to be that into you?
What if - and I'm speaking from experience here - the person(s) who can't be bothered? Are your parents...
Like an adolescent baring all because "Then he's gonna love me," I consistently bared my naked soul to my parents, only to have them shrug and not call the next day. It's a weird analogy, I know. But that's what it feels like - to, though terrified, offer up the very essence of oneself and one's soul, with the hopes that the value of your offering will be noticed and loved and treasured - and to be devastated as it is unceremoniously dismissed or discarded.
Things that should have mattered - been celebrated, sacrosanct - lay like dirty, broken playthings by the roadside of my life.
Birthday parties? Never had them. Not after age, like, 6 anyway.
The shows I choreographed over months and performed for them? "Looks like a couple of kids acting silly in a basement."
The stories I would write and read aloud to them? "That doesn't make any sense." or "Sounds like a kid wrote it." And that was just from my mom. Often, my dad wouldn't even bother to look up from the tv.
Once, in 8th grade, I wrote a book report on "To Kill A Mockingbird," my father read it aloud - initially because I asked him to proofread it. He scoffed, reading one of my particularly well-written passages, and openly accused me of plagiarism. Because someone like me? Couldn't write something like that.
After recitals I'd be told the mistakes I made.
After tests too.
In fact, the only place I could ever find acceptance was in art. To this day, I believe art saved me - saved me from the times I'd overdose, and wake up hours later, disappointed that I'd failed at yet another thing.
Art kept me after school and away from home - on the field or the stage and away from the abuses. Art placed me with like-minded people. In many cases kind people. People who thought I was worth something.
I moved out of the house when I was 18 - just after high school. It would have been cheaper to live at home, but there are some prices that have nothing whatsoever to do with money, and I wasn't willing to pay those anymore.
My mother and I got in our (hopefully) last physical altercation one summer when I was home from college. The terrifying conclusion of the ordeal echoes in my soul's caverns to this day:
As we stood by my red civic - I had a handful of her hair in one hand, and was fighting with my already bloodied other hand to retrain her from fighting, I remember she looked me in the face - wild-eyed - and screamed, "Do it! Do it!"
She thought I was going to slam her head into the car...
I am no saint. There is no victor in this story. I tell it only now because, for me, it was the ultimate illustration of a decision I made that will hopefully take me on a path divergent of my parents.
I knew if I slammed her head into the car, I might be able to knock her out. Might be able to run away. But I didn't. I didn't do that. Instead, I started screaming.
Screaming and crying.
Screaming for help.
And friends, that day help came to me.
Came to me in the form of a construction crew working nearby.
My deliverance pulled up in a beat up truck...
That day I realized so many things -
I realized that my family was broken, and broken to the point that it was beyond me to fix.
And broken in a way that - while it still made me angry - it also made me sad.
I felt sorry for my mother as she stood there screaming. Sorry for her that she grew up in a home where she, like me, was not valued. In a home where violence was, in fact, the answer.
And I felt sorry for my father - that he could remain so detached. And live in some sort of ideological world where he was and is perpetually the victim.
And I felt sorry for all of us, because we were and are - all of us - so terribly, terribly broken.
And I also made a decision - the conscious decision that I would not choose the choices of my parents. I could. But I'd already seen the outcome of those choices, and I wanted (and want) my outcome to be something different.
That day help came to me. And it came, as it always had, from outside my family...
Looking back, it was always a friend or a boyfriend or a concerned stranger that offered me aid.
I learned at a very early age not to burden my parents with the burden of me. And, whether it be good news or whether it be bad, I learned that the response I would receive from my parents would never be the one I truly desired.
Yes, I learned a whole lot of things, among them what I might want from love...Though it often sent me looking for love in the wrong places.
Yesterday, while in a therapy session, I was discussing the most recent ways in which my family has shown me how little gravity I have in their sphere. I was angry and sad as I always am. And, as I always do, I saw that I had one of two options - neither of them pleasant:
1. Allow things to continue as they are or
2. Have a conversation with my parents (again). Tell them what I need from them. And if they can't provide it, stand firm on the ground that I will let them go.
While contemplating these options, I told my therapist that speaking with them was no use. That I couldn't change their minds and it'd only result in a big fight.
And she said this to me - "These are not just cycles of behavior for your parents. These events have created cycles of behavior in you. And while your parents may deserve the cold shoulder, the write off - some other people in your life - some of those people don't. And won't. But you won't be able to realize that. You won't be able to see it. Because your learned behaviors have you as blind as everyone else. Don't have this conversation to change them. Have this conversation to allow it to change you."
I started this post today thinking about the good things in my life - about the celebrations I've imagined having for years - and the smiling faces on family members as the beam with pride and happiness for me.
I realize I created these images, in the visual likeness of my kin but without the same emotional attributes.I created them, and I continue to be disappointed when the real life people don't act in accordance with their hoped-for counterparts.
And that is my failing.
People will never be anything more or anything less than what they are.
I just wish who I am meant more and not less.
“The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.” ― Neil deGrasse Tyson
I don't believe in Heaven.
Generally speaking, I view belief in an afterlife as a platitude - something to make us feel better about the finite, fragile nature of our existence. Something that, at our lowest moments, makes us feel a little less small.
But in my mind, we are small. Even the greatest among us lives for a fraction of a second, and dies.
And with us die our hopes, dreams, thoughts, loves.
No, I don't believe in Heaven.
But I DO believe in Neil deGrasse Tyson.
I believe in science. And in the power of human intellect.
And if Neil, from his vast knowledge accumulated from the knowledge of the best and brightest scientists our species has produced, tells me that we are all made of stars - that we are all interrelated - that there is a part of me in every part of you and that all of those parts are shared with every living thing over millennia - then that, THAT I CAN BELIEVE.
In that way, all of us - each and every one - lives on. We live on in the very fabric of life as it continues.
And that knowledge is bigger than any individual belief.
That means I will see you again, dear friend.
Every time I open my eyes, every time I feel the sun on my skin, every time I hear the sounds of life all around me.
You live - not because of Heaven - but AS it. You are a celestial being. Your presence permeates the universe.
And because I - little me - carry part of that essence, I will choose to carry it with all the dignity and grace I can manage to muster - a dignity and grace I cannot hope to perfect, but that I can strive to achieve: the dignity and grace befitting a soul sewn from the stars.
I don't trust anything I can't control... I have breakdowns often.
I'm going to a wedding today, and I hate my hair. My skin's not doing me any favors either. And have I dropped any of this extra weight? Of course not.
From the hairs on our heads to the nails on our toes, we have thousands - maybe millions - of body parts. And, due to probability if nothing else, it's very likely we hate at least one (if not a dozen) of those body parts.
Like a little brother with no parental supervision, we pick at these perceived flaws until we're all in collectively bad moods and would rather throw on jammie pants and not leave the house. And why should we attend the various weddings of our lives? Because surely no one on the planet should be mercilessly subjected to our pocked skin and thunder thighs...
But lately I've been thinking...or, rather, obsessing...about just exactly how much I obsess. And, more importantly, how damaging that obsession can be.
It's not that it's bad necessarily, to loathe some aspect of yourself. Such loathing might even inspire you to, say, get up off the couch to do squats or make an about-face on the Little Debbie isle of the grocery store to opt instead for apples.
So what I'm proposing is not a cessation of self-flagellation. Rather, I'm advocating for a break between beatings.
A couple of years ago, I had a modeling and acting contract with a professional agency. I was thin, in wonderful shape, and was being sent on auditions for all the "pretty girl" roles. But when I looked in the mirror, all I saw was nose, nose, nose or ears, ears, ears (I dislike both).
Today, as I have become obsessed with my weight gain, I look back on pictures from those days, and wish I were as slender as I was in 2011. You know, in that time when I didn't appreciate it at all.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is what we do.
We obsess over what's "wrong," while generally paying little or no attention to what's right.
After all, why should we worry about what's right? It's already right. So let's focus on what isn't.
Perhaps this would be fine, if you're the type of person with the internal strength to keep such thoughts from becoming obsessions.
But, friends, I have yet to meet such a person.
In the summer of 2013, I had abdominal surgery to remove a large (but benign) tumor.
In the weeks/months following, I attempted simply to focus on feeling better. But along with the internal healing came the external scars. And I hate them.
Rather than being a sign of overcoming an obstacle, I see them as a hideous eyesore.
Rather than being grateful, I am resentful.
Recent studies have come to light that say the key to longstanding happiness is gratitude.
Think on that for just a moment.
and then realize that this nitpicking we all do - this obsession over whether our thighs are too fat, boobs are too big/small, nose is too crooked, arms are too flabby...
All of it detracts from our happiness, and strands us in a land of ingratitude.
So I propose we make a change.
Not from doing your squats or choosing better foods...
Not even from hating your legs/butt/thighs/nose/arms.
Just a shift in perspective. For a few minutes a day.
Rather than ripping ourselves apart, how about we put down the cat-o-nine-tails for just a second and focus on the things about our appearance we're grateful for.
Not our families or homes or health. I want to keep this a vapid post.
About what you look like.
And then think of a way to congratulate yourself on your genetic perfections.
Hate your thighs but like your feet? I think a pedicure is in order...
Loathe your bosom but love your lips? I heard Sephora has a new gloss and stick line available. Go get you some!
Crooked nose but lovely smile? Crest white strips are $30. Now go out and dazzle with those sparklers.
Not that it has to cost money. A quick Google search can have you knee-deep in new hairdos and wardrobe ideas in seconds...Why the hell else do you think Pinterest is so popular?
The point, my friends, is not to deny that you hate certain aspects. And white teeth will never straighten your nose (though it might distract.)
But the point is not distraction either. At least, not in the way you're thinking.
The point is not to distract others in the hopes they won't notice your nose.
The point is to distract yourself. To pull you away from resentment and toward gratitude...if only for five minutes.
I have to leave for the wedding now. Which means I'll have to don my larger-sized dress and leave the house with this less-than-ideal dye job.
But I'm feeling pretty okay about it.
I like my lips, and I've made sure they're extra shiny. I like my calves, so I'll be wearing some stellar heels.
But most of all, I like that I took a moment out of my weight/skin/hair bashing to acknowledge those aspects of me for which I am truly grateful.
And, even if no one else in the world lays on eyes on me today, I did lay eyes on. And, for the first time in a long time, I took the initiative to point out the good in what I saw.
The gloss shined the lips, and the heels accentuated the calves.
But it was gratitude that made me look like a million bucks.
There is nature. There is nurture. And somewhere in between, the soil, which grows your roots.
My knowledge of roots began with my grandfather, who, when I was diaper dressed and lace clad, would take me to the garden in the back yard, to help him pick the tomatoes that grew there.
"Red balls" I called them, though I have no recollection of this.
What I do remember comes in minute flashes - sensory more than cognitive.
There was a rock in that backyard. One to which I was inexplicably emotionally attached, one whose loss I lamented silently when my grandmother put up the above-ground pool on its place.
Something to do with my grandfather. Some long-forgotten memory that placed me, younger than three, in that geographic mud run where the flat rock lay. Something to do with a paintbrush...
The memory is faint.
And so may I be
When these thoughts come rushing back to me.
There was a tree in the front with a stripe at its base - white paint this time.
I know he put it there, but I don't know why... I know I would sit by it after he died.
Funny, the things you remember even before you know what that word means.
Like The Big Rock. The crackers. Peanut butter.
Or that picture of the troubadour in the living room.
Red and black.
My Aunt Mae's house where my toe was caught in the door...cut and bleeding while they buried him.
I was three.
That man somehow shaped me.
Albums house memories that I can't recall. Ice cream covered faces, yellow rabbits and black bears.
Did I really know this man at all?
It's the stories, you see. They conflict.
Who he was to me isn't the man anyone else could see.
Stories of violence. Of addiction. Of cruelty.
A saint to me.
My mother wasn't one to foster fantasies to much degree...but Christmastime the brightest light on the hospital tree? Was for Harvey.
But really? It was for me.
I learned in adulthood he worked for a bank. But as a child he took me to WKRP.
I know he worked there. I saw it.
But I've never been to Cincinnati...
I've often wondered what would have happened.
If he had lived to see my brothers.
Or to see me grow to an age where I was capable of disappointing.
If his disappointment might have made my mother hate me less.
Or love him more.
But mostly I just wonder who the hell he was.
At his core.
If any of us can be defined in that way.
In March 1984, Harvey Barker was in a coma.
My grandmother, if what she remembered was retold correctly, told him he must wake up, or he would miss my birthday.
On March 16, he awoke from his coma to see me.
After our visit, he slipped back under.
He never came up again.
He was, perhaps, God's first gift to me.
And here it is, 30 years later.
And here I am, 30 more than three.
I derive an obscene amount of pleasure from connecting people to each other.
Whether setting up blind dates, introducing friend groups, or playing matchmaker for jobseekers, I get a bit giddy about the prospect of introducing a person or persons to a perfect match.
And it ALWAYS comes back to bite me in the ass.
Not because I've set up friends with Satan spawn. Quite the opposite.
The pain typically stems from the fact that I match these folks - with other friends, with jobs, with people who share hobbies - and these matches are so successful, that soon the matches become inseperable.
And the bonds are so tight there is no room left for me to squeeze in.
Readers, I cannot tell you the number of times in which Facebook has delivered heartache to my virtual door in the form of happy-faced pics of my matched pairs, enjoying time together, at events to which I was cordially NOT invited.
Scores of movie nights, costume parties, and weddings...featuring folks with whom I would consider myself "close," occur without my knowledge. And yet somehow those folks who wouldn't even know the other folks if it weren't for my "hook up," somehow receive invitations to the fetes.
My friends, it fucking sucks.
Because, while I enjoy my status as intermediary between fabulous groups of people, I somehow have not been able to embrace the message that all of these "friends" are sending me: basically that intermediary is all I am good for.
Need to network? Erin's your girl.
Need a night out with a group of cool chicks or nice fellas? Erin'll arrange it.
But when it comes to birthdays or 1/2 price bowling Wednesdays or poker nights, somehow my invitation is perpetually lost in the mail.
And I fucking hate it.
Fruit snacks and Coke aside, I've never been addicted to anything - but recent dreams have me fiending for a fix:
Specifically, I need to go back to chaos, to drama, to that oh-so-familiar, ever-present, kick-in-my-gut place that was my late teens and twentys.
I have no idea.
Sure, it was a time of discovery. A time when everything was new. And therefore more vibrant. Or more painful. It was before - and during - that period when life beat me down. Back when I liked and hated myself a little bit more.
But boy did I feel ALIVE.
Painfully, gut-wrenchingly, surely-this-is-gonna-kill-me alive.
Ans I loved/loathed every minute of it.
Over the past two years I have made so much progress. I've moved so far from that girl that I no longer have her in my sights. Most days, I can't identify with what she felt, recall the thrills or pains she knew, even when reading my old journals. That girl, it seems, has become a stranger to me.
And I think I miss her.
And her unhealthiness.
Like the friend who did drugs, stole, and eventually wound up in the slammer, she's the girl you once hung with - who you liked despite her obvious bent toward the bad-for-her. She's the one you attempted to assist, berated when she refused to change, and walked away from when you finally got fed up.
But you remembered her always. She's the "I wonder whatever happened to that girl" girl.
And I find myself missing the emotional rollercoaster that was being chained to my twenties self.
My days are made of the magazine. Of pup feeding, laundry folding and restful nights.
My job seems secure. I have a wonderful Jew. A beautiful apartment.
And for once in my fucking emotional life, I'm healthy.
So why do I hearken back to the days when I definitely wasn't?
Why, when I slip into that restful sleep that twenty-something me would've envied, do I dream of days when anti-anxiety medications and the whines of the pup were the only things forcing me from my tear-stained pillow?
Maybe I'm not all better. Maybe I'm not "all fixed."
And why does it make me feel better, to know that I may still be broken?
My parents once told me that, if I had five good friends I could depend on, I should count myself very lucky.
I? Always thought this was bullshit.
An outgoing girl involved in too many activities, high school Erin had what an independent observer might consider "too many" friends.
Major holidays and my birthday (Do I repeat myself?) in high school often resembled my own personal secular Christmas where I was the manger baby the hoards came to see. Often, I could not carry all the presents I received from what was - without exaggeration - multiple dozens of friends. If you'd asked 17 year old me, I would've told you I was friends with damn near everyone in my graduating class of 300+ students.
This sounds like bragging, but I assure you, it isn't. My high school experience (like the experience of many at WHS), could be considered unusual by most counts. My fellow Wolverines likely remember what I'm talking about...
But rather than bore you with tales of friendships a dozen years stale, I'll simply say that 1999 was a friendly class, and this post is a sad remembrance of a still-outgoing girl who can now count her friends - her true, do or die, help you hide the bodies friends - at less than five.
I'm writing today to find out why exactly that is.
I'll be the first to admit I've changed. Life has beaten me down a bit. I've lost a bit of confidence in those areas that used to give me great pride. My edges have hardened a bit.
In other ways, I've softened. Areas that were once so solidly black and white have now given way to 50 shades of grey. Life experiences have both united and ostracized me from others. I stand, distinctly together and distinctly apart, from the rest of the human race.
You've changed too.
You've gotten married. Had children. Gotten divorced. Changed jobs or locations or life goals.
But mostly, I feel like you've just disappeared.
About a week ago, a young woman I've known since sophomore year of bandcamp sent me a message. In it, she referenced a song I used to sing to the girls on the band bus. She said she had never heard the song anywhere else. She said she taught it to her children.
Michelle touched my heart with her message, and I was glad to hear that I had, at least in some small way, touched hers.
But this experience, coupled with several others, got me thinking about what we seemingly all experience with regard to the friendship drift. Namely, why do life and time constraints have to separate us? Why do we stand by as intimacy wanes? And why does it affect folks - like me and The Jew - so much more than it seems to affect others?
Over the past year or so, I've watched as some of my nearest and dearest exited stage left of my life. I screamed and cried and stamped my feet because it was unfair. Because I hadn't harmed these people and yet there they went...driving off in their specialty cars and leaving me in the rear view.
The Jew experienced the same.
Ironically, the abandonment -and how we felt about/handled it- is one of many factors that unite us.
It hurt none the less. Especially as those people to whom I was once so close - those people who maybe I forsook in favor of those specialty car folks - could have been taking the time and heart space of those people who chose to pass on it.
So maybe it's a question of discernment. Of choice. Perhaps my "true friend" numbers have dwindled because I made poor choices about whom to spend my time with.
But I don't think so.
Banally, I chalk much of it up to laziness and life changes.
In the future, rather than let the fair weather folks sap my energy, perhaps that time could better be devoted to the five who remain. And to those folks like Michelle who take the time to remember those things we shared. And who actually take the initiative to reach out about it.
Michelle, I'm writing you next. What are you doing this weekend?
I often lose myself in fantasies where the me of today travels back in time to bequeath some form of profound knowledge on the ELG of yesteryear.
"Oh if I could only go visit!," I pine while picturing the times, as a kid, that I was mean to my brothers. Or a classmate.
"How much heartache I'd save myself!," I bemoan as I think of the years and tears I could have avoided if I hadn't dated HIM or taken that job THERE.
Along the way I've journaled, and penned myself letters in the past, hoping my future would see me through to a brighter place. In the past year, I can honestly tell that Little Lost Soul with notebook and Bic, that things HAVE gotten better. That in hindsight, everything fell into place with perfect timing. That even I couldn't have planned it as well as it's worked out. That He really is listening.
Oh what a difference it would have made to 20 year old me, 30 year old me, last year me, to hear these things! If only I could go back...
Assuming this desire to be a universal one to the human species, yesterday, while on a walk with My Jew, I was relating this unrelenting desire of mine to return to my past to reassure/guide my younger me. I expected some sort of commiseration. Some sort of "Yeah, I know exactly what you mean." Instead, the response I received astonished me.
It was a simple enough question...but one that completely floored me: one - because I never thought to justify the yearning and two - because I thought the answer was so simple. I mean, duh!?!? Obviously going back would ease my pain, Field of Dreams style. What's not to want about that?
I coughed out this justification, still wobbly from the unanticipated question. But Jew's second response knocked me flat like a one-two punch.
"But you're fine now."
I'm certain that, in this instant, I had a blackout moment in the middle of the street. Because until he said so, I guess I hadn't realized that I'd never viewed myself as "fine." Instead, I've always viewed myself as something broken, irreparably flawed that needed...not "fixing," as that was impossible...but justification. Justification that, despite my unwieldy brokenness, that I could be of some use for something. I could be bent and molded and remade into something worthwhile. Justification for my very being.
Until yesterday - and maybe even still today - I lived my life apologizing and trying to "make up" for my flaws. My life has been lived in penance for the sin of my existence. And something about hearing that I am, presently, "fine," was so foreign as to be an alien thought to me.
I stared at my Jew for a moment.
Not only had it never occurred to me that I am (and likely always was) "fine"...it also never occurred to me that (assuming I somehow developed the power to time travel) I might not even have the need for such a device.
As someone who has openly lived a life of regret (see the above about penance for every shortcoming, it truly never occurred to me that I might not need a flux capacitor to go back and undo what's already been done.
Standing on the spot where Brutus et all buried the immortal Caesar, I felt a connection to the event that, for me, transcended time itself. For me - standing on the same hallowed ground - the only thing separating me from them was the tenuous thread of time. And it's such a gossamer thread. Such an easily overcome thing...so small. Surely it can be conquered in the same ways Caesar himself conquered. Surely time can be overtaken. Surely I am the master of my past...
This is the way I think. And it's wrong.
As Jew went on to explain to me, the past is the past, and there's no need to revisit it ever again. Because we can't revisit it in any meaningful way anyway. We can't touch it. Which means we can't change it. Because the past? Isn't real anymore. It's a shadow flicker. It's the brightness behind your eyes after looking at a candle's flame. It's an illusion of something that once was but is no more.
Rather than being this tangible thing which can be attained through magic or imagination or a film by Robert Zemeckis, the past is nothing. It's a memory, and memories are flawed things - colored by one's own faulty remembrances and recollections. The past is an untouchable, tainted point of view. And a scar for me is a smile for you.
But my friends, I've never let it go.
The art of living in the present is a mindset at least as ancient as Buddhism, though I am certain we will one day find cave drawings of the principle as old as time in a cave somewhere someday.
I am notoriously bad at it - living in the present. Rather, I spend my days wishing I could undo the past and my nights fretting what may lie in my future. And this, my dears, is the tragedy of me...and the one My Jew so hopes to help me dispel.
Because living in the past causes guilt and depression. And fearing the future causes anxiety. The present is all that matters. It's all we can control. And if I could go back in time, I would tell myself so...
I have difficulty making decisions - not because I do not know what I want, but because I have a very real fear of "choosing the wrong option and suffering the consequences."
I call this The 'Sliding Doors' Syndrome.
For anyone fortunate enough to not have endured that 1998 anxiety-inducing cinematic "What if?" Fest, I'll summarize: the choices you make - even the most minute (Do I leave NOW and catch the 10 a.m. train? Eh. I'll sleep in another 15 minutes and hit up the 10:30...which just so happens to derail and kill me. Ah well. Shoulda taken the 10 a.m.)- can have a profound impact on the way your life turns out.
It's a lot of pressure. And I just can't take it.
My surgery is scheduled to take place in just over a week. And believe me when I say, I have agonized over the decisions associated with choosing a surgeon/hospital.
This, I don't think, is particularly unusual. What is unusual, however, is that today, 11 days out from surgery, I already have guilt about how I handled the procedure. Not one incision has been made, but I feel an extreme amount of self-responsibility for anything that may go wrong in that operating room. As if my choice of surgeon was somehow responsible for that surgeon's ill-fated finger slip. If I walk out sans organs...or don't walk out at all...it'll therefore be all my fault, asn somehow not the fault of the dope with a scalpel.
Yes, my friends, it's agony in my cranium. To the point I have had insomnia on and off for about a month.
It's ridiculous really. To have guilt over something that, is in so many ways, entirely out of your hands. I know it can't benefit me in the slightest. Buy my brain cannot be silenced.
Fortunately for me, today I solved the "Why the hell do I do this?" mystery.
As is always the way with me, this profound truth came to me out of an experience so trivial as to be...well, trivial: online purchasing.
For the past week or so, my Jew and I have been going back and forth about ordering a cleaning service to come in and spic-and-span the apartment before I go under the ol' knife. I'm a firm believer in recuperating in clean environments, so I've been pressing for this pretty hard.
As plays into stereotypes, my Jew and I have been looking at coupon sites to get the best deal on the service.
Now here's where the lesson comes in - I've been leaning on my Jew to make the purchase (I've already reimbursed him) online, as I am uncomfortable with the online purchase process. Why? It's not like I'm not internet savvy. I built this blog page myself (sure it's a template, but I added pictures and colors and stuff. Geez!), I'm responsible for my magazine's web content. I, you know, can type and Google and stuff. So why the aversion?
I? Am an empirical decider.
What in G-d's name is that?
Simply, it's one who relies on their senses to make decisions.
I'm really good at making decisions in person. Touch, scent, taste...the senses are my guides with regard to potential purchases. And while they sometimes steer me wrong, I'll take empiricism any day over flying blind. And flying blind is pretty much how I view the internet.
Sure, with internet purchases you can see the product. But really, seeing the product on the internet is the same as seeing a Big Mac in a McDonald's ad...and I think we all know that the sammich in the wrapper is NOT the same as the sammich on the sign.
Thus? Anxiety of the online purchase is born.
By now - if not 5 graphs ago - you're likely asking the ever-important "Why should I care about any of this?" question. Rightfully so. After all, what does my neurotic, empirical Sliding Doors Syndrome have to do with you?
The answer is...absolutely nothing. This is my blog, dammit, and therefore about my discoveries. You were just invited along for the ride, so how 'bout you shut your mouth and be courteous to your host?
What it means is, I can't pick someone to clean my house based on pictures on the internet. I need to meet these people, or at least talk to them, so I can infer competency from their voice. And that's just who's gonna mop my floors once. So how much more do you think I'm panicking about some dude who's gonna slice and dice me?
The final deciding factor in choosing my surgeon honestly came down to face time. I do not know which fellow is better (though the guy I DIDN'T choose has performed more of my operation than the guy I DID go with.) What I do know is what I heard and felt when I was in the room with MR. WINNER.
He was kind, modest and - most importantly - honest.
The meeting left me with a good feeling in my gut, which, for an empirical decision maker like me, is telling...especially as that's where he's gonna be hacking away.
I? Just don't get it.
A friend of mine recently got a breast augmentation.
She posted about it on Facebook.
Also a fact.
Numerous female friends voiced not only their support, but their desire to "go, and do likewise."
But I - as mentioned - just don't get it.
Not the body modification aspect. That I understand. Because everybody has something about their appearance they'd like to change. And, if given the wand from The Sorcerer's Apprentice, we'd all do so.
So that's not it.
No...what I don't get is the decision - nay - the excitement - of choosing to go under the knife in a non-life-threatening situation.
Generally speaking, I think it's a pretty universal principle that people don't, as a rule, like to be cut on. It's not normal. It hurts. It's all "bleedy."
And that's at the hands of a deranged psycho.
In the hands of a medical professional? Gotta be better right?
I mean, if you discount the whole "I just put you into a medicinally-induced COMA so I can hack away at your insides" kind of thing. Plus, you know, there's the threat of infection...the "what if something goes wrong and they have to amputate?"...the "Sure, everything looks good now, but three years from today, when I feel that searing pain in my gut and go to the hospital and they cut me open for yet another surgery only to find the bloody gauze from my previous procedure lodged in my..."
You get the drift.
I'm fucking terrified of surgery.
Which doesn't really bode well for me, as I have a NON-elective surgery scheduled in a month.
An unavoidable, gotta-be-done, sucks-to-be-you surgery that could have some real implications on my future.
So I guess I'm feeling a bit vulnerable.
And as we all know, the remedy for vulnerability is to go on the offensive. So I'll go after the elective-surgery crowd - You guys? BLOW. Because you don't HAFTA do it. You CHOOSE to do it. And right about now? I'd give just about anything to have a CHOICE.
I'm mad at you because you have a choice. And I'm mad at you because you seemingly have no fear.
I? Have fear.
And as any frequent reader of this blog can tell you..."fear is the mind killer."
I'm mad at you because you have to save up for it. Like it's a present for yourself. When my surgery? Well, it's a fucked up kind of gift.
I'm mad at you because your results will garner a prettier nose, a bigger bust, smaller thighs. Mine? Will garner me scars. Definite physical scars. Possible emotional ones.
I'm mad at you because dammit - I want to feel something - anything - but this terror that presently plagues me, and will continue to do so in the weeks up to and following my surgery.
I'm mad at you for seeking a pretty outside while I struggle to "work right" on the inside.
I'm mad at you because really...really I'm mad at me.
The way I see it, there are two kinds of people in the world - those who lean toward justice, and those who lean toward mercy. I refuse to count those who can't be bothered to lean either way as "people."
I've harped on this point before, but this morning - applying moisturizer to my now-32 year old eye bags - I came to the conclusion that I might have more to say on the matter. And nothing says "brainstorm on life lessons" like L'Oreal eye cream.
Recently, I have discovered that I may, in fact, be transforming before my very own bag-laden eyes.
My friends, it seems that I - who have, on more than one public occasion prided myself on being a "justice" person - may in fact be morphing merciful.
And I'm kind-of excited about it.
Brought up to expect the most severe consequences for each slip, I often found myself dismayed by any show of mercy. This dismay often manifested itself as guilt - or a secret - like I had somehow managed to squirm my way out of my "just desserts." I was somehow devious and lucky, and the merciful person was somehow a sap... I was wrong and they were weak.
Friends, I didn't know what to do when someone actually let me off the hook for a mistake.
To this day, it's still uncomfortable.
Because mercy carries with it some kinship to unconditional love.
And that concept is so weighty - so fucking unwieldy to me - that I have to put it down for a second.
So, before I go any farther, please allow me to say that this is not a mercy vs. justice death match. One is not necessarily better than the other. Neither is one worse.
I like to think of it this way - were we all to receive what was rightfully coming to us, we'd all be in jail or stabbed in the back because the front's too good for us. Likewise, were we all to receive mercy all the time, we'd live in consequenceless chaos - which ain't good either.
So, like all things in life, I think the key in the justice/mercy argument is balance.
But we're not talking about balance here.
We're talking about me.
And for me, I've started to believe my own personal sense of justice was born out of a bad place.
I judged, as I felt I was judged.
And I'm starting to view my move toward mercy for others as some sort of sign that I am coming to terms with - and having mercy and compassion for - myself.
I recently read a story - nonfiction - about two World War II pilots, one American, one German.
The American pilot and his crew were going down. He could land the plane and save himself, but the bird was busted and he was a sitting duck if anyone saw him.
The German pilot.
As it was against the law of the Reich to see an enemy and not destroy - and as his own brother had been killed by American soldiers - the German pilot was well within rights to exact his own version of justice on the American. (Had the situation been reversed, the American could have claimed similar rights to justice.)
But, as the German pilot approached the Americans' plane, he took his hand off his gun. He got close enough to look the American pilot straight in the face. When he did, he nodded at the American pilot, and then escorted the plane down to safety.
He chose mercy.
Decades later - family in tow - the American pilot reunited with the German pilot. The pair are now friends.
Now I'm not naive enough to think that every behind-enemy-lines encounter would turn out like this.
In fact, I still subscribe to the Malcolm Reynolds' line, "It's my estimation that every man ever got a statue of him was one sort of sonofabitch or another." (Fictional hero. Factual statement.) Just as I believe that justice was and is necessary in many cases - World War II being a prime example.
But just as I am sure the Nazis needed to get what was comin' to 'em, so too have I become convinced that the German people needed protection from the raping Russian forces.
My friends - "an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind."
I've come to truly believe that.
For some, emotional and psychological progress might mean a need to bend more toward the side of justice. The ever-merciful have a tendency to be walked all over (you know who you are.) And it may behoove those folks to "man up" a bit.
But for me - a die-hard, fuck-with-me-and-face-the-consequences-sucka bitch, I think this bend toward mercy is a much-needed step in a forward direction.
Because love of self requires a developed sense of both sides.
And I want to know, first-hand, what that means.
The older I get, the more aware I become that other people's actions have absolutely nothing to do with me.
As a kid, it was always he/she did that because he/she likes/hates me. She talked to me because she likes me and wants to be friends. He won't look at me because he doesn't want to date me and thinks I'm gross.
I spent YEARS of my life believing that the actions of others were somehow hopelessly entwined with my own, and therefore that if I zigged, they would zag ad infinitum.
This ideology is exhausting. And wrong.
Because people often make their choices with little to no regard for you.
And if you really think about it, it's liberating.
Because thinking in that previous way - that every action of yours causes a REACTION in others - carries with it huge amounts of responsibility. And guilt.
That thought process had me lugging around my heavy guilt bag for 30 years. And just recently have I put it down long enough to rest for a while.
Because, my friends, I think I've finally figured out what codependence is. And it isn't what I'd always been told.
Countless mouths have yammered, "You just can't be alone. You need people."
And I always thought they were wrong. Because they were.
I? Have never labored under the delusion that I need people. But I have always - and unknowingly - labored under the delusion that they need me, and that I can control them.
Don't mistake me. I do not mean control by way of being an evil mastermind of human manipulation.(I haven't the mustache for that.)
No, I mean control much in the way the child of an alcoholic assumes control: "If I were just a better kid, daddy wouldn't have to drink. This is all my fault."
Which, of course, is horseshit.
Unless you believe it.
And I always have.
Recently, my friend Tina and I were being interviewed for a reality tv show. Among the gauntlet of questions we had to answer in front of each other was "What is ____'s biggest fault?"
Tina answered that I take things very personally, when they might not be about me at all. She also said that when I do, I get worked up and emotional.
All of this? Is true.
And I had never really thought about it before.
I should have seen it years ago, and the fact that I didn't makes me feel like a bit of a fool, but in retrospect it seems so clear. Like so many children from broken homes, I adopted the attitude that what was wrong was somehow an indictment of me, and, if I were good enough/smart enough/pretty enough/funny enough...that somehow the tides would turn, the seas would calm, and I could right the Greer family ship.
What resulted was a "success" driven miserable me. Because I was the captain of damn near everything in high school, and my parents still got divorced. And every time I fell short of a goal - graduating 6th in my class instead of in the top 5, for example - it was an indictment of my inadequacy. Of my failing. Of my fault.
My brother lives this to this day.
Brilliant, and the youngest of the biological Greers, JOMJ is a beautiful, wonderful young man who takes everything in the world both personally and entirely too seriously. Every comment is an indictment. Every observation, a knife to the gut.
I have often marveled and why he would take seemingly innocuous statements and turn them inward, as some sort of tongue lashing about his appearance, his intelligence, or his character.
Now I know why.
Like myself, JOMJ feels responsible both for and to people. Other people, therefore, operate solely based on a series of action/reaction interpersonal interactions with him. You have no original thoughts or feelings. Your thoughts and feelings are therefore dictated by his stimulus.
And the same goes with me.
It's like my mind somehow bought all stocks in the fiction that you, dear reader, are not responsible for your own actions. I, somehow, like the butterfly effect, move my little wings and what results is a tsunami in your world. It reads like arrogance, but it isn't. It's actually terror. Terror in the mind of the codependent, who feels that your every mood is dependent on his/her actions. You are my little meat puppet, and I have to walk carefully, cautiously...to avoid hurting you. Angering you. Somehow accidentally crushing you.
And that? Isn't arrogance. It's exhausting.
I have to watch what I say because I don't want TO MAKE YOU cry. I so want to MAKE YOU LAUGH.
Likewise I want to MAKE you like me, love me, envy me, fear me...I want to affect an effect on you. And I've always believed that I do.
But again, this comes at a price. A constantly walking on eggshells for both you and others price.
Because whether or not you like me, love me, envy me, fear me...give a damn about me in any regard at all...is only slightly up to me. I can't MAKE you do anything. And I shouldn't have to.
And neither should you be subjected to my repeated attempts.
And I'm sick of feeling responsible for shit I can't control anyway.
You own your own actions. You're responsible for them. If you hit me, it's your fault, not mine. Nothing I could say or do would force you to behave that way. You chose it.
If you hate me, it's your fault, not mine. Because people choose to love their enemy all the time. You didn't make that choice. And I? Don't get to or have to force you.
And if you love me - well, how beautiful to know that that's your fault, and not mine. How beautiful to know I have done nothing, could do nothing, will do nothing to make you love me. You made that choice, completely independent of me.
And how much more rewarding it is to know I am loved by those who will, and I didn't have to earn it.
Of all the people in the world, I didn't expect that my mother would come along and be exactly what I needed at the time. Thanks Ma. Your efforts today have a far-reaching effect.
So today is Feb. 28. Groggy from sleep this morning, I thought it was the 29, so I began to read my devotional for that day. It was a devotional on how loved and lovable I am.
I was overcome with a great amount of gratitude for the sentiment...only to realize halfway in that today is, in fact, the 28. My devotional for this day? Acceptance for the loss of love. For the ending of relationships I value. And asking for the strength to walk away from those relationships and carry on.
1. This placed a pit in my stomach that is, if I had to guess, also the approximate size of my tumor.
2. I took this as a terrible sign - not only of the fact that I am about to lose someone I love, but also for the fact that the day that I am to look forward to? The day I am so desperately loved? Is not on the calendar this year. The day literally does not exist.
So now I am psychotically depressed.
And I think the guy who wrote my devotional is an asshole.
There's a difference between being faithful and being "committed."
I have no doubt you're the first, but very serious doubts that you're the second.
I think I may have been born into the wrong family.
A unique juxtaposition of lies and brutal honesty, fierce loyalty and laissez-faire nonchalance, my family could be counted upon not to be counted upon. Unless, of course, they showed up.
Examples of this are ever-present in my present. And they show up at the worst possible times.
Like this morning, when an incident catapulted me into the oh-so-familair realm of how very little my feelings matter.
More than two decades and several dozen miles later, I was transported back to my little room on Ebeneezer when, having decided I wanted to meet Dorothy Gale, I was unceremoniously told that she was "dead."
I was young...we moved from that house at the end of my second grade year...and, as I remember crying in my room, all day, alone, I know it must've been prior to second grade. Because in second grade brother 1 moved in to my room with me to make room for brother 2.
So I was 6. Maybe.
And told "I don't know what the big deal is," when the tears would not stop streaming down my face.
Because in my mind, Dorothy Gale was a real little girl. And to learn that she had died was a travesty to tiny me.
And my parents didn't bother to explain that Dorothy Gale was an adult who lived a long time ago, and that she died of old age. (Sort of. Judy Garland actually died from an overdose of barbiturates. But old age would've sufficed at 6.)
No, she was just dead and I would have to deal with that. Death, you see, is a part of life, and I might as well learn about it sooner than later.
Around that same time, my school took a field trip to the Etowah Indian Mounds.
Any local kids will remember this field trip. I think every school in North Georgia was somehow contractually obligated to go.
But what you may not remember is, among the flat-topped burial grounds and preserved arrow heads, there was also a skeleton on display.
And I couldn't handle it.
Sitting before me was a tactile reminder of what I had under my skin. His bones were my bones. His past was my future. And, a very sentimental and intelligent child, this moment is sealed in my mind as the first where I truly contemplated my mortality.
There, before me, lay what I would one day become. And the revelation knocked me backward.
None of my classmates seemed to understand the gravity of what we were witnessing. They were too busy wanting to go to the bathroom and pulling each other's hair.
I became very quiet.
That night, I couldn't sleep.
When my parents inquired as to the reasons, and I told them it was because I was "scared by the skeleton at the Etowah Indian Mounds," what erupted was a huge fight.
I, of course, was immediately sent to bed - because my fears and tears, as always, didn't matter.
What did matter was that my mom thought my fright was "stupid," and my dad thought I should be cut some slack because, when he was my age he was "afraid of the abominable snow man."
That my parents didn't understand me was apparent at 6. My grandparents followed soon after. And if you don't understand someone, it becomes nearly impossible to nurture them well. Even if you want to.
My parents loved and love me. This is not in question. And I know my grandmother went to her grave with love in her heart for me. I know I am also loved by a group of friends I am very fortunate to claim (see next post), but the desire to be really understood - cherished as I am - loved, nurtured - continues to feel like an unmet need.
I try to fill it. But - as I grew catywhampus because I was raised catywhampus - my love and needs and means of meeting them are (as you likely surmised) catywhampus.
My parents may argue that is why it's best to have someone around to "give it to you straight."
There's value there. I see it.
But I still want someone to love me catywhampus.
I realized today that I no longer have a best friend.
I needed someone to call today, and reached for my phone...but, suddenly, I felt a great pit in my stomach...instinctively I knew...I had no one to call.
Sure, I have good friends. Friends that - given enough notice - would help me move, or join me for dinner. I have long-time friends that know me in and out and roundabout.
But when it comes to someone who'd go to the trenches for me - someone who'd be there, thick and thin...I realized I have nobody.
And I've never felt more alone.
Today I'd like to address a subject that - with regard to my writing - often falls by the wayside.
Lest I make you wait...Let's talk about weight.
Lately, I feel like I've been walking around in a fat suit. Saddled with saddle bags, I putter about my simple, southern-fried life, remembering the days - too long ago now - where everything below the belt was high and tight, a perfect match to everything above.A time when I still hated the face in the mirror, but would concede that the body below it wasn't too bad, if I had to say so meself.
But as the number on my pant size continues to creep ever-upward and my office continues to provide the florescent scrutiny of "I may be a window, but I act as a mirror between 2p.m. and 5," I can't help but find my still-small hands clutching at the rolls around my ever-expanding waist and wishing I had some form of searing and cauterizing weaponry.
It's not that I'm inactive.
And sure, I eat terribly. But I always have. It's not like that's changed. So why am I changing?
Sure, I've heard all these things.
But I simply refuse to believe that I must be enslaved to these processes over which I have no control.
I refuse to believe I have to live on carrots dangled from sticks at the end of a treadmill to remain in my present-size pants.
Simply put - I'm just too young and hip in the head to be wearing this fat suit.
It's like a prison of poundage tied around my body.
And I want out.
Because, though I have the skin tone to "pull off" orange, I've just never felt the penitentiary was the place for me.
I make the same mistakes today
as I did eons past
Whether door locks or snuzzies or men just like you
Old habits? Die hard and not fast.
I'd tell you I try
to choose different each time
but four rights and four lefts end the same.
I can't wait for the day
when he takes it away
or I'm pulled away screaming
How long eternity. Endless hill. Broken back.
Will I never, ever be free of me?
Before, when asked to meditate for my enemies, I pictured you. Today? I pictured me.
I feel threatened. So, naturally, I lash out at you. Like a child would.
My tantrums change nothing.
If anything, they reinforce my already-held insecurities.
Is it possible that I really hurt this much all the time?
My insecurity doesn't scare me at all. But yours?
Missing you gives me purpose. And who am I without a cross to bear?
It's my fault, but I will continue to hate you for it.
An oft-overlooked symptom of the abused child is that he or she matures having absolutely no idea what real love looks like.
For the abused, love slaps them and then buys them things, or touches them, and then makes them promise to never tell.
An abused child knows his or her worth - nothing.
And then works to compensate for that lack. Work makes for deserving. Work fills the lack. Arbeit macht frei.
With similar consequences, let me assure you. 11-22-12
While others nurse their turkey comas and gravy train wrecks, I sit at home, alone.
My Thanksgiving meal consisted of a box of teriyaki noodles.
My friends, I think I am lamenting the family I never had.
You know the one - with cousins, aunts, uncles, random elderly...all gathered around some table with lit candles. Some handsome but unassuming man is carving a monstrous piece of meat.
The pumpkin pie, the football. The "Erin, when will YOU be getting married?" questions from the great aunt with no couth.
I don't even like pumpkin pie...but I do have this lingering idea of family.
And I have to call it an idea. Because in actuality, for me, it never existed.
Today my mother is at work and, though she gets off at 7 and my step father works from home, there will be no Thanksgiving festivities at her house.
My father will be at his in-laws. As will my brother.
And I sometimes feel sorry for me, and for my youngest brother...because we are the big-hearted thinkers. And we are the ones so often left alone.
Today I mourn the death of the family in my head...because today I gave up on ever truly having it.
I am fortunate in that I choose my friends and they serve as a surrogate family. But today I recognize and speak aloud what has been bothering me for a week: my blood family just cannot be bothered.
I have the fondest memories growing up of Thanksgivings and Christmases spent at my grandmother's house. She did it up right. Family was important to my grandmother, as it is to me.
But today I know that even if I begin my own family and my own traditions, my children will not have the benefit of a grandmother like mine. In all likelihood, my children will witness the same level of ennui from my family that I have endured.
Which means I need to marry a man with strong family ties.
And, as I sit alone on this Thanksgiving day, perhaps it is that lesson for which I am thankful.
Sites like PostSecret show me that not only am I NOT in the wrong by being an unmarried 30-something, I am actually BEING TRUE TO MYSELF and living a life that does not hurt others.
Which obviously means I am better than you.
Apparently even in my dreams I am terrified of being left behind.
They say the best form of vengeance is to live well.
For once, I think "they" might be right.
Because every time i learn of another of your successes, my stomach burns a little.
And while I do not think of you everyday, I do admit to thinking of you sometimes... which is much, much more often than you ever think of me.
I am afraid I completely lack class.
Just when I said I'd never dedicate another song...
"Stones, taught me to fly,
Love, it taught me to lie,
Life, it taught me to die,
so its not hard to fall,
when you float like a cannonball."
Oh my heart! My foolish, foolish heart!
A true page from my diary:
When I was a child, I made "magic" concoctions, certain that when I found the right combination, all things would be possible.
I no longer assemble wild strawberries and rain water to harness my dreams.
It is a bittersweet revelation - acknowledging in maturation that real life is comprised of less magical stuff. More is in your control. But much, much more is outside of it.
I saw a dead bird today.
I stared at it.
Such sights once kicked at my guts and stung in my eyes, dissolving me to fits of tears.
I stared at it.
I felt nothing.
In fifth grade, I got in trouble for writing notes in class. In these notes, I openly criticized, mocked, ridiculed - you pick an ugly word - my classmates.
For no reason.
I was a fucking monster.
One day, while passing a note about Brandon C******m in which I accused him of having "visual, sensuous affairs" with one of my classmates' backsides, the scathing note was confiscated.
This was my second offense.
The first? A completely unwarranted missive mocking a girl in our class, Stephanie, for her acne. That I also had acne, that it caused me unmeasurable embarrassment, or that Stephanie was a truly nice girl who had never done me any harm - all of these facts were completely irrelevant when compared to the small psychological boost I could get at her expense. (I told you. A monster.)
But not only was I a monster, I was also a coward.
When the note was confiscated, I was terrified.
To my teachers, I was a model student. Straight A's. Well-behaved. Never a problem.
But this note-y note smeared that pretty picture I'd painted, revealing the truth of my canvas underneath - I was grotesque. Deformed. Hideous.
And it was all my fault.
The note in question was stapled to a piece of paper describing my offense. To my dismay, I had to take it home to get my parents to sign it. Here, my sins compounded.
Knowing such information would earn me a beating, I took the note to my father, hoping he would shield the offense from my mother, thus sparing my face or arms or trunk or any other piece of my person that she could get her hands on. To this day I do not know if he told her. I don't remember.
What I do vividly remember, however, was the apex action on my mountain of shame - before taking the evidence to my father, I separated the note from the piece of paper provided by my teacher. I couldn't bear to have my parents read the words I had so callously written, penned in my own hand. As if my hand was somehow acting independently of my mind, and - if my parents heard about it from my teacher, but did not have to witness my crime firsthand - that somehow it would...do something. Solve something. Spare something.
As if I deserved to be spared.
Obviously, I lived through the experience. And I can relate it to you now... but it is only in the last few minutes that I have come to truly understand the lessons presented to me from this action.
1. The obvious. BE KIND. Especially to the innocent. That Stephanie never found out about the note remains, to this day, one of the fortuitous hands of fate for which I am most thankful. Not for myself, really, but for her. I thank G-d I wasn't given the chance to harm her self esteem in that way.
2. Words have power. And I continue to use them - sometimes to the detriment of others. It should always bite me in the ass. It will, if there is any justice.
3. From what I remember of the incident, my father was actually remarkably kind. There is a message there about grace. About forgiveness. About understanding. So, naturally, I do not understand it.
4. Punishment. When do we stop punishing ourselves for our mistakes? In fifth grade you are 11. I am now 31. I have, therefore, regretted this trespass for 20 years. I don't see that changing anytime soon.
And now for the truly interesting things that have inspired me to write:
1. G-d no longer speaks to me. He hasn't since I deliberately disobeyed. But I will practice Teshuva on this event regardless, because it is right. It is right by Stephanie. It is right by Brandon. And it is right by Him. And He doesn't even have to acknowledge me.
2. Why did I do this? WHY DID I DO THIS? Even at that young age, children have motivations for their actions, even if they do not realize those motivations until decades later. I did this because I was incredibly insecure.
A performance-oriented creature, I validated my existence with good grades and model behavior (the absence of these would have resulted in violence anyway). But I also had to assert myself in some way. As I was a victim at home, I could be dominant at school. Even if this meant I had to victimize others.
The next year I would receive my come-uppance. The next year would be the year when the rumors were spread about me. The next year it would dawn on me that hurting others because I was hurt was not a sustainable choice. But at this point, at this time, I hadn't learned that lesson. And that others had to pay the price for my ignorance is inexcusable. Even now.
I did this because, even at a young age, I recognized my ability to express myself in ways that were beyond the capabilities of my peers. This information should have been enough for self esteem, but instead,I used it as a weapon to maim anyone who dared take a shot at me.
Which, if you are reading this - and you know who you are - is why I feel so sorry for you. You, my dear, have not yet learned this lesson. You spew bile because that's what's in your soul, not realizing that in harming others you are also burning your own esophagus. I hope you learn this. For yourself and for everyone else. And that's not an attack. It's an honest hope for you.
Stephanie and Brandon, wherever you are, I am sorry. I hope this day finds you happy, healthy and well. And I hope that, following fifth grade, you never spared a second thought for me. But, as is only just, I spend no end of time thinking of you.
I don't even recognize myself in the mirror anymore.
Who is that girl?
And why does she look so...dead?
Am I dying?
There is a sick irony in that those who are open and honest about their pasts are shunned for their scars. Would you not rather know up front? I can't count the times I've heard, "He/She was nothing like this before we were married. But as soon as the ring was on the finger, the crazy came out." I wear my crazy like a bedazzled scarf. And f*ck you if you haven't the fashion sense to see that it's fabulous.
I have what I like to call a "bootstrap mother" and a "bootstrap father."
Put simply, my parents instilled in me the virtues of the warrior: buck up, don't complain, endure, overcome.
Be a karate man. Don't show your weakness.
This skill set has served me well. I am stronger than most. Experiences that would flat ruin some may trip me. But at the end of the day I stand and brush my shoulders off.
"Onward!," I say, as I limp forward to the new day.
In many ways, I am both proud of and defined by this trait. I am the veritable Rasputin of "she ain't gonna die."
But while it's impossible to snuff the Rooster, I have recently noticed a resentment brewing in the breast of this Mad Monk.
I resent my strength. Or, more aptly, its origins.
Because there is an inherent flaw in the bootstrap method --or, at least, the bootstrap method alone. You see, when one is always being told to "walk it off"...one eventually begins to internalize that one's struggles, trials, hurts--they don't matter. They are unimportant. And, my friends, that's just not true.
Ecclesiastes speaks of balance. And it's balance for which I long. (We will return to G-d and such in a moment. But for now:) In my warped view of the "ideal" family (whatever that means), the parents provide a yin and yang of support. There is a bootstrap parent (there should be) but there is also a nurturing parent. Where one urges internal strength and the ability to overcome, one provides external strength, when necessary, to show the child that he or she is loved, taken care of, and not entirely alone.
Both are required for healthy balance.
And somehow I missed out on this.
Why is this important now? Now that I am an adult and responsible for all facets of my own life?
Well, it's affecting the way that I live. And I hate it.
I give myself no slack. No leeway. It's pass or fail, sink or swim, live or die. Always.
And this has affected how I view myself--as valuable only in the product of my output. Worth? Not inherent so much as earned.
And in viewing myself this way, I have come to view others likewise.
I need not tell you how dangerous that is.
My friends, I have become nothing short of a mental fascist.
So there's that--that heap of holy hell I'm dealing with...and (as promised) there's more behind Door Number 2.
We see G-d in the image of our parents.
So, naturally in my case, I've always viewed G-d as a bootstrap dad.
And He is.
That's just not all He is.
For G-d, often heralded as "Father," is all encompassing, and should therefore also possess and exhibit the traits usually attributed to "mother"--kindness, compassion, understanding, healing, nurturing.
My G-d has never been this. He has always been the G-d of the Old Testament. He is Bootstrap, Take Action Yahweh, and you best not get in His way or He'll blow you away.
Today I prayed for a "Mother" G-d.
For an understanding of what it is to be held and loved NOT when I succeed, but when I fail. Because I fail. A lot.
Today marks the first time I have prayed this prayer. Seems in my 31 years I've prayed for damn near everything else, but now, and for the future, I really think I need this.
I have no desire to change my parents. They are who they are and they have their reasons. I have no desire to change G-d, because I can't and because He is not now nor ever was limited to my human definitions.
What I seek to change is me, but I hope to do it by actually experiencing a loving hand.
In the past, I have always turned to friends and boyfriends to have this need met. But friends and boyfriends leave. But a Nurturer? He or She should be forever.
And I am hoping this is one prayer G-d actually grants.
The following email was sent to AIB tv, my present (but not for much longer) employer, by Art Eckman, special assistant to the director of athletics at Kennesaw State University:
While I was flipping through the channels I ran across and stayed with the airing of Vince Dooley’s Atlanta Press Club appearance. It was excellent. I would like to obtain a copy to show Vince and our Athletic Director Vaughn Williams.
Also we are in the midst of putting together a documentary on the process of building a football program here at KSU and would like to request permission to use a minute or two from your production showing the Atlanta Press Club sign over his shoulder. We are currently talking with CSS and Fox Sports South for air time.
Vince has been a wonderful advocate, leader of the exploratory committee, and consultant to Kennesaw State, and we’d love to show him on the scene on our behalf. Thank you for any consideration and direction you might be able to give us. Art
Looks like my footage will be on CNN and Fox Sports South.
They say that -- in feeling powerless over the direction of their lives -- anorexics instead choose to exercise power over what goes in their mouths.
I think I'm really starting to understand that.
What's the difference 'tween cumming and crying?
I don't think I know anymore.
You didn't toss the bouquet before you left, so I took it.
Apparently nothing in my grasp lasts more than a week.
I think I may break up with my therapist. And burn down Billy Joel's house.
But other than that, I am fine.
Fine like Mrs. Lincoln after the play. Fine Like Jackie O after her trip to Dallas. Fine like...someone who isn't fine at all.
Seems I have some deep-seeded beliefs that simply aren't true.
But how does one change what they believe?
Ironically, I have entirely changed faiths. Seems changing what one believes about one's Divine Creator may prove simpler than changing what one believes about onesself.
After all, one can neither see nor touch nor smell the Divine. So redefining Him (Her?) is almost easier.
But how do I go about redefining this self-same human that I see, touch, smell on the daily?
I mean, I know her dreams. I've seen her nightmares. I've held her hand and cursed her name each and every day of her life.
She is what she as as I AM WHAT I AM.
Perhaps the key lies not in changing her, but changing how I see her.
Which, my friends, may well be the exact same thing.
Maybe I don't want to be the strong one anymore.
Maybe I want to find someone to hold me through my weakness.
Why are we so very, very broken?
Today I read the story of Amanda Todd, and I cannot tell you how devastated I am by the levels of hate in this world. By the people who claim love, and show the opposite.
"Oh G-d. Could it be the weather?"
In the sixth grade, my best friend (?) heard that I had spilled the beans about her secret crush (I hadn't.). So, naturally -- as all best friends do -- she spread a rumor through the entire school. As this was the pre FaceBook era, she called everyone in our grade level, telling them that I was a lesbian.
The bullying tactic worked -- to the tune of disgusting voicemails left on the answering machine of my home phone.
That I was forced to attend school the next day -- that I donned sweat pants and a sweat shirt and didn't bathe -- that I kept repeating to myself, "Just keep your head down and don't speak to anyone." -- that BreeAnna Foster invited me to her house under the guise of "being my friend" so we could hang out and she could afterward report "any gay shit" to the school -- that I survived all that says something.
I don't know what it says. But it says something.
Maybe just that things were easier prior to cyber bullying.
Again, I don't know.
"If it's not the weather, hand me my leather..."
My dearest Amanda...My dearest, dearest Amanda...
Yesterday I posted that I don't understand the desire to kill. But I will say that I do understand the desire to shake the shit out of people.
Why are certain things so plain to me, and so seemingly invisible to everyone else?
I don't think I'm brilliant, which means you must be incredibly stupid.
Because what satisfaction comes from knowing you lived a life so cruel as to drive another to end her life?
Yes. I suppose.
But have you no shame?
Where has shame gone? Where is personal accountability?
Like the zealots I despise, I openly admit that what has happened to Amanda -- what happened to Madison -- what has happened at one point in time or other to every child who has ever been bullied, makes me want to flee to my synagogue.
A powerful deciding factor in my conversion was Judaism's insistence on personal accountability. On apology for transgressions.
It was, among so many things, a choice I could make to salve some of the festering wounds still oozing puss in my soul.
One burst today.
Religion is not the answer. Faith? Helps. Accountability is the remedy. But the solution?
We have to start giving a damn.
HOW can I make you care?
HOW CAN I MAKE YOU CARE?
HOW CAN I MAKE YOU CARE?
The depressed are reaching out. The hurting are reaching out. We're all reaching out. We're all screaming.
WHY CAN'T YOU HEAR IT?
WHY DON'T YOU CARE?
For those interested in taking a stand--or those who need help--there are resources here: http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2011/bullying/
"Gutter Snipe" aka. "The 5 Love Languages"
Lame-os worldwide are familiar with "The 5 Love Languages."
I am one of those Lame-os.
And my love language is physical touch.
(Yours could be either physical touch, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service or quality time...but as this blog is not about you, let's get back to me.)
To lowlife gutter snipes, physical touch people are whores. We lay all over everyone. We kissy kissy huggy huggy the masses. We heart us some sex. But if you'd pull your grey matter out of the sewer for 5 fucking minutes, you might just see that this love language--at least in my case--stems from a monster playing happily under my mattress: Abandonment. (Abe, for short.)
As a kiddo, I experienced my fair share. See, my besta friend (my grandpa) died (abandoned me) at the age of 3...mere weeks before my younger brother, the preferred child, arrived on the scene.
Overnight I lost my besta friend and my place as a princess. At least that's how my 3 year old brains saw it.
And it was shortly after this that I started having oral sex with my female friends. Yep. At age 3.
Too much information?
No one's forcing you to read this.
But no one made the connection.
I just did.
Even as a toddler, I associated emotional closeness with physical connection. With literal, physical touch.
Basely, if I could touch it, it was close...it was reliable...it was real.
Prep yourself for another uncomfortable sentence:
I was beaten as a child.
So both love and hate were tied to physicality. Often from the same person.
That this became the breeding ground for my first (and likely strongest) monster is, therefore, hardly any wonder.
That it took me this long to see it is a testament to the level to which I fed said beast.
That I continued pursuing sexual pleasure - positive touch - and inflicting physical harm - negative touch - is a matter of record.
Did DFACS come to my house? Yes. Did I used to punch my friends as often as I would kiss them? Yes. Did anyone ever bother to wonder why? I guess they just had too many other things on their mind.
After I was sent home for "kissing on bottoms" in preschool, my parents asked me where I had learned of such a thing. After a telephone call in 6th grade about my physically abusive behavior, I received another uncomfortable speech. Was there violence involved in each lesson? To the degree that I recall. I usually remember the beginnings of such experiences. The duration and aftermath are often recounted to me by witnesses. I think it's safe to say I've blocked much.
Several years ago, I realized my behaviors were becoming detrimental. (I'm apparently a slow study.) I started attending (I never followed through) behavioral therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder. For those of you that don't know about BPD, here's a quick reference: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001931/
For those of you further intrigued by my neuroses, read on.
Anyway, physical connection. It became a staple and manifested itself in every aspect of my life.
After BPD, I started carrying a box with me in my car. A bejeweled box (foreshadowing?), it contains tiny trinkets from folks who say they love me. That way I can literally have something to physically touch when those people are not around. Having something tactile from those persons signifies to me that said persons are "not going anywhere." That half of the persons represented in the box are no longer in my life is a laughable irony. A tactile paradox. A sick joke, further fueling ol' Abe.
You see, everybody leaves. Nobody loves you enough to stay. Or even if they do, they can be taken.
My sister was taken, but I keep and touch her clothes. I have a clump of her hair. I wear her perfume. And fuck you if you tell me any of it is wrong...
I lay on her grave and feel the distance between us. Six feet is the closest I will ever come. Unless I touch something that belonged to her. Then all that separates us is time...and that is a gossamer, gossamer veil.
My grandmother was taken, but I wear her engagement ring.
You may someday be taken. Or leave. In fact, I am counting on it. But if I have something that belongs(ed) to you...you will never be far from me.
It is a powerful bond - touch. And one that carries, at least for me, more emotional strings than the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
but strings are ties that bind. Bind you to me.
And I must sever them.
Physical Touch will likely always be my love language...
but until I learn to physically let go, I can never know what it means to truly hold someone...