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I’m reading this book, little by little, that my anti-mommy gave me for Christmas.  It is called Between Ourselves; Letters Between Mothers and Daughters.  And as I read these letters and these stories about the letters and the love of famous and unknown women alike I wonder why I am made to feel that writing letters is a bad thing.

“What’s wrong with a phone call?”

I could go on for hours on that topic!  I hate the telephone.  I call my dad because he lives so far away and I cannot survive without his advice.  I call my husband because we live together yet I rarely get to see him.

Thousands of years we survived and flourished without the use of the telephone.  There were missives carried on sweating, galloping horseback from one king to another.  There were vows of love hidden in secret places, known only to those amorous enough to find them.  There were entire sacks full of words transferred thousands of miles on bright, shiny-new railways, and there are those delivered by the well-known postman to someone just down the street.  There was dirt and despair of war penned back to light and worried, waiting life across the sea and there are conversations of introduction and getting-to-know-you of pen pals. 

Letters are beautiful things and I love them.  Because they are filled with my favorite things; ink and words (which are themselves made up of letters) put on paper; scrawled or dictated, typed or etched or cut from newspaper and pasted down.  Letters are eternal, yes both the good and the bad.

“What’s wrong with a phone call?”

Oh, but they’re so impersonal!  A sweaty hunk of plastic crammed against my head.  I can’t see your face and if there’s something more interesting right in front of me I can focus on that instead.  Then, when it’s over, what’s left?  Nothing, really.  All the words fade and are forgotten.

Letters take time and patience to craft.  They draw out the truths in revisions when you realized you’ve used the wrong words to say what you mean.  They draw and expel anger away in their writing, and even if some of it falls to the page you can always come back before it’s sent and append or set it to flame and start again.

Mr. Darcy explained all and made Elizabeth finally love him with a letter.  Amelie mended the broken heart of a neighbor with a well-meaning albeit forged letter lost in transit for 40 years.  Fiction, yes, but even fiction is a letter from the author’s soul to the hearts of the rest of the world. 

Writing, when I know saying it out loud will not suffice, does not make me a coward.  It does not signify disrespect or a hit-and-run approach to communication.  Writing, when a phone call could be made, simply indicates that I should have been born into a different time of simpler communication.  Because words fall out of my mouth in a tumbling, disjointed way and I always get things wrong.  When I put pen to paper and have the time to carefully organize my thoughts and the ability to cross out and resay what I’ve said then I appear fluent in my own language.

Letters are beautiful things.

And, as a final, snarky aside, I’d like to point out that Facebook messages are private.  If I have a letter for you in dire need of reading and my email address book contains more than five points of contact because you change your address so often then I won’t be sure where to send it.  Instead, I’ll put it in a place where I’m sure you’ll see it.  Neither my friends nor yours will be any the wiser.

 

And one last appendix, this time of self-criticism, I realize  I could write more letters more often, not just when something is wrong.  That is something I can work on when things have mended or time has passed.  But since I have only realized this fact now, as I’m writing this, I will not beat myself up over past failure.  Instead I will learn from my mistakes.  Already a plan to move forward has seeded itself in the garden of my mind…

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“Do you think you are the only one to feel pain and abandonment?”

NO!

I want to stand at the top of a mountain and scream over and over with a voice drawing strength from the very depths of my soul; No, No, No, No, NO!

No.  I don’t think that.  I am perfectly aware that there are others in the world who have experienced pain.  are some of them in more pain than me?  Yes.  Are some of them in less pain than me?  Yes.  Is their pain, no matter how large or small, no matter how real or superficial valid?

YES!

I am an empathetic person.  I have empathy coming out of my ears.  I am a cancer, it’s what we do.  And while I don’t allow astrology to dictate my life I do accept the fact that everything matters.  Nature and nurture, DNA and the stars’ alignment at the moment you were born.  Everything matters.

Speaking of pain.  it’s not just the understanding of overall, worldly pain in far-off wars, starving children, mourning families of shootings and bombings and natural disasters.  Empathy out my ears; I try not to pay too close attention to those stories, but for the bare facts, or I would sit around and cry all day.  That’s no way to live.

No, I understand pain of others on a close-up scale.

I have a friend who has been transitioning from one gender to another and I was right there with her, spiritually if not physically, during what she says now was the hardest part of her transition.  She tells me over and over how much she loves and appreciates me and what I have done for her.  My reaction is, “Me!?  I am in part responsible for the beautiful person I see before me now?  But I didn’t do anything!”  Still it fills me with joy and pride and light to know that I’ve been so important to her.

I have a friend who is searching her own soul and the confusing and often misleading government documents to find out who she is and who she should have been if not for her trans-racial adoption.  she has educated me deeply and in doing so has opened up to me with incredible amounts of emotion and information.  We have known each other for at least six years.  Only the past two, since she’s been married and I first saw her family, did I know that she was even adopted.  And those two years have meant the world to me as she has allowed me a glimpse into her soul and truth.

That’s what I do.  Part of it, yes, is these different human experiences that I will never have for myself, and I like to collect these stories and learn about people.  But people are made up of ropes of strength braided of what we dredge from the waters of pain that are home to the buoys of hope, silver darting schools of knowledge, and a bright shining sun of joy overhead lighting the way so at least if you do not feel its warmth today, you can see where you’re going for tomorrow.

I jump into those great oceans of pain belonging to other people.  I am a large, sturdy hunk of driftwood; not impervious to the waters, but still apart from them.  I float about, here and there, just waiting for these people I love to swim by and grab hold; take a few moments’ rest to unburden some of what they’re carrying and then dive back in to do some more searching.

“Do you think you are the only one to feel pain and abandonment?”

I’ve already said no, but there’s another point i’d like to make about that statement, most especially because it was the first words I saw following the exposure of my hurt.

No, i’m not the only one hurt or abandoned, but the mere fact that you know that pain as well does not justify your ignoring it in others.  It does not justify your willingness to inflict it, even unknowingly, on others.  knowing that sort of pain actually gives you a special and particular gift; the gift of helping others respond and heal from those wounds and perhaps finding your own healing.

“Do you think you are the only one to feel pain and abandonment?”

the more I look at it, the more sure I am of the abusiveness of this relationship.  Fired off without thought, without pause between this idea and the next, but still not even the first time I’ve heard it.

My emotions don’t matter because you were hurt first.  I don’t think that’s how it works.

I would be a piece of driftwood in your ocean but that body of water has been put away in a tight mason jar and forgotten.  to suggest I do the same is to suggest that I tear apart the very fiber of my being I have spent a life time creating.

“Do you think you are the only one to feel pain and abandonment?”

For the final time, no.  We are all the same and we are all unique.  Every thought, action, word, feeling, voice and expression is valid no matter what the age, gender, race, creed, relationship or opinion of the person its being expressed to thinks.  Everything matters.

 

“feel all this, because it’s real, and it really hurts, but remain true to the most part of it, and the most part of it is that this is not your fault … and you are then to continue on, in your open, loving and brutally honest way of living (and learning) … do not dwell, beyond feeling these initial emotions and processing them. this will all lead somewhere, my lovely one …” my anti-mommy

I would like to say six things.  three about me, and three about her.

Tis an exercise, of sorts.  to prove to myself that i’m not being selfish and it’s not just her I find fault in, but also in myself…

1. I hate that she does not understand me.

2. I hate that I am unable to make her understand.

3. I hate that she tells me to repress and walk away from my feelings.

4. I hate that I can’t ignore my emotions, they rule me; moon and tide.

5. I hate that she turns everything back on me, so i’m the bad guy; that she turns everything back on her, so she’s the victim.

6. I hate that I don’t know that much about her own pain and I won’t make excuses about that, but I’ve never felt that I was welcome to ask those sorts of things.

 

This blog may go quiet for a while, because the line between she and I will be quiet for a while.  I just started another blog.  that’s right, now I have three.  Me, mom of a toddler with a hopeful, new monkey on the way soon, moving to a new house and trying to keep up with two jobs.  I have started a third blog.  Is it insanity that keeps me running?  Probably, but insanity can only get you so far.  The rest must come from diet coke…

 But, then again, I have really loved the other things I’ve posted here.  I like writing about the parenting part, because that is all new and fresh and exciting and fun.  I like writing about my crazy, zany, cuddly, independent, smart, silly, gorgeous croc.  I adore her love of outside and dancing, her tomboyish love of cars and blocks over dolls and kitchen play.  And I want to continue to look at her, as she is.  I do not want some imaginary daughter in my mind forcing me to not see who I really have in front of me.

My original plan for this post headed in a different direction than we’re going today. The longer I mentally composed it, the more things occurred to me to force me to realize what it really was I wanted to say. In the beginning I wanted it to be a story of what it’s like to grow up without a female presence. in the end perhaps it’s what it’s like to grow up with a strong male presence instead. The moment it changed the most drastically was when, at our Easter family gathering my sister-cousin told me to close my eyes and then commented, “You don’t even wear makeup and you know how to put it on. I always feel like mine is the scrawling of a 4 year old.”

That’s one of those things I had to teach myself because I had no one to do it. But I realize that the other deficiencies are minor and few. but the benefit of a fatherly run household are immense. This I realized because of Barbie.

I cannot align myself with the women’s groups who throw a huge fit over the fact that Barbie sets unrealistic standards for little girls. I wonder, does she really? or is it we adults who want to be Barbie and we project our wants on our daughters? Because I never wanted to be Barbie. Did I know subconsciously even as a child that Barbie is not a real representation of a woman? I don’t know. I do know who I wanted to be. Samantha Parkington, my American Girl Doll. I wanted to be her, with her round arms, chubby hands with dimpled knuckles, her soft and squishy middle and charming back story.

I do not have unreal expectations about my body or appearance. Yes, I am currently in the middle of a weight loss event; 16 pounds down 24 to go. But this is croc weight and my goal is neither unattainable nor set in stone. If I find comfort and happiness 10 or 15 or 20 pounds from now, fine. I only want to be at a healthy weight before I start my next pregnancy and have a healthy lifestyle that means I won’t gain as much as last time. I only want to feel good and not uncomfortable, constrained in my clothes. That’s really not actually a hard thing to do; yoga pants and stretchy tank tops are my very best friends.

I think I gained this ability to accept myself as-is because I did not have an example of a woman questing for the unattainable when I was young and impressionable. instead I had my dad; long hair, tattoos, ear piercings, wearing whatever tshirt was on top of the pile; looking the way he looked and not taking shit for it. yes, I wear make up, but it’s eye shadow and mascara, when I feel like it. Yes, I like to dress nicely in bright colors and newer styles, but it’s Old Navy that’s the store eating up all of my clothing budget. And it may be headed in the wrong direction to say this, feminism-wise, but I like causing my husband to think i’m attractive. I don’t want him to think of me as the frumpy hobo who watches his kid.

In the end I hope most that this is what the croc learns from me when she’s looking for a role model in loving of self and finding of beauty in flaws and the confidence to take it all in stride. I hope her eyes land on me and not some silly piece of plastic. I can be her good example and I don’t even have to temper my own actions; watch what I do or say. this is already the way I am; who my dad raised me to be.

And so, as a mom with a daughter, I stand behind Barbie. She is a vet and a doctor, a teacher and a flight attendant, a homemaker, best friend, big sister and mom. And if you can find nothing else positive about that silly piece of plastic, she teaches hella fine motor skills; those tiny velcroed outfits are a bitch to get on and off!

I’ve had this other post formation swirling about in my head, but I haven’t finished it yet.  This one has come first…

I think it was pretty awesome of me, and the way I feel, when I told my mom that she could text or message me at any time if she wanted to Skype with the croc, knowing that for the most part i’d have to do a lot of the talking… croc likes to wave and point and touch the screen, but she doesn’t really get it yet.

And maybe that’d open up a little more between us… that could be a good thing.

so the other day she asked “What about tomorrow?” and we set a time for after her nap; “after three” were the exact words.

Well, tomorrow came and croc’s nap came a little late.  It was just past four when she was awake enough to be alert and not her post-nap-snuggly self and she’d crammed some spaghetti-os down her throat and she was ready to play.  And I texted mom.  And I sent her a FB message to let her know we were ready.

And then I sat at the computer with my phone at my side for half an hour, waiting.

trying to keep croc occupied while we waited for grandma to acknowledge that we were at that time where we’d plan to have a video chat.

waited, waited, waited.

finally, croc looked at me, pointed at the door and declared “side!?”

yes, croc, we’ll go outside.  So I turned to the computer, clicked on the window for my mom’s chat, which i’d never closed, and typed “well, I guess you’re not around.  We’re going outside.  If you are around later send me a text or a message and we can do it tonight.”

to which she immediately responded “okay”

we went outside.  we played for 40 minutes with a little boy neighbor and in a pile of muddy rocks, moving them from one section of the driveway to the other.  Then we came inside and did inside things.  Eventually we went to bed.  And that entire time I remained online.  I checked my phone repeatedly.  I never heard a word from her.

I don’t know why i’m actually surprised.  her inability to follow through on shit like this is her one consistent quality… well, that and showing up an hour later than she promised…