16 February 2021

A New Letter

Just four months before my dad was to come home to an unexpected empty and spouse-less house, which sparked an entire Indian Jones-type boulder of change, emotion, and collision with growth, I had written this letter. It was a letter that, even then, I heavily hesitated about posting. It seems the older I get the less I find appropriate for blogging. (Like, I've been lost for a while now sifting through ideas I think would be interesting to write about versus plain-out dirty-laundry-airing.) And because the subject of the relationship with my father is such a highly contentious (to me), repetitive issue in my life, I didn't feel like continuing to whine about it on a public forum. I had thought about what good it would do. I also thought about the harm it could do. It was always drilled into me, contrary to my behaviour and much to the polar opposite irony that it was my father who drilled NOT griping my airs in pen into us kids, via our great-grandmother's words ("my grandmother always said....")... that what's said in the air goes away with the wind, but what's written on paper with pen stays. It's true. I'm sure it's more poetic in the Spanish my dad may have been translating from memory.

No, this isn't physical paper and yes, I could easily delete or at least un-post the ones that would incur the most controversy, either personally or outwardly, and I have several that have been moved back into my drafts folder. None of them are (were) even remotely close the the level of my scathing letter phase of my 20s, 

But it wouldn't take much for someone to find one or another and print the whole entire row of those which are published, for whatever reason, and thusly force the issue of my actions to the table. Which has happened to me before. Someone printed my blog about a work story and mailed it anonymously to my then-boss when I was in my late 20s. 

The above incident wasn't that long after my having-to-tell-someone-just-exactly-what-I-thought-of-them phase and I learning how not to write long, scathing letters to people. The poison pen, my mom called it. Obviously I still hadn't learned my lesson. Not entirely. About how to use my writing without damning someone or something. True story. I still cringe about it. 

Those letters that are probably still out there. Most likely thrown away. But hard to say if they were or were not. And regardless, forever stuck in the cring-ey, revolting recesses of my brain, the foul dark into which I am wholly mortified to be capable of. Horror made worse by being called into the manager's office about the anonymously mailed printouts of my blog.

But my generation has dealt with things differently and I have found it critical to remember that I am a part of this generation and that having some sort of online journal, for lack of a better term, has been a vehicle for me to force myself to think more through things to a more viable end and put issues to rest or in a healthier perspective. That's not to say I am more in the right now than I was before. I'm sure I'll cringe in a year at all this, and there are still several that I have critically and thoroughly embarrassed myself and need to go back and delete. But the truth remains that I struggle to wade through the fundamentally good and right and true values I was taught versus some of the bool-sheeeeit and old-school mentalities I was raised with, and that's just gonna take some time to wade through myself. Until or unless I can get to a point where I feel like I can trust my dad to be the parent and not the residual warden of my my mind and deeply ingrained responses.

I'm gonna have to write a new letter. And it's gonna have to address changes and developments since originally drafting this entry.



09 June 2019

Mrs. Robinson

Weddings sure take a lot out of a person. Top that with a piano recital and all the preparations and admin work right at the cusp of the last stretch before the wedding and it's a recipe brimming with potential disaster.

At least for me. Because despite having decent organization and planning skills, I have had little to no concept of ALL the details - the sheer AMOUNT of details - that go into planning a wedding. No, scratch that. I didn't have any idea how many details would go into planning MY wedding, the wedding I've been desperately wanting to stay chill. I know how much goes into planning a wedding. I know how much planning goes into organizing a grad. I know how much planning goes into organizing a school dance, a recital, or social event where multiple tiers, people, and deadlines are involved and collaborations needed. The wedding I'm planning was *always*  gonna be low-key and most certainly not involve two-thirds of the frivolous, exorbitant touches the even moderate wedding goes for these days. Not that a glitzy, bedazzled, sequin-riddled, fabric swagged shindig wouldn't be lovely. It's just that the idea of trying to plan that many details is anxiety bottled in a gallon jug. And. It's just not what we're about.

And. Maybe more naively than foolishly, I really anticipated getting to the finish line with very little drama. But for all the reasons why and when this wedding is taking place, I didn't think the people around me would create it. I thought it would be me. So the theory that if I exhibit self-control thereby inhibiting the creation and proportions of drama, voila, no drama. No go. No, no, it's not that bad. It's just not what I was expecting or where I thought it would come from.

And I am SICK of hearing about/getting wind of/catching wafts of details I have and haven't thought about. But to expound on that would be to not recognize the inescapable learning process that is this thing.

Cheers and until the next time....

...quite possibly as Mrs. Robinson...

02 February 2019

Retroactive

SO guess who decided it might be a good idea to go see a counselor NOW? After all of... (*waves hand over all emotional posts behind this one*)... this --- (points to glarby gloop of emotional posts in a group.)

Probably contrary to what it would appear all around and generally, I have quite concertedly and with effort gotten over/suffered through and made it to the other side of most of the majority of my most pressing, wretched hurdles of the emotional kind (yes, I'm aware of the wordiness of that last comment. No, I won't change it. I stand by it.) enough to know I have definitively more control over my own life, my emotions (*ding-ding-ding!), and my behaviour than I ever knew could be possible.

And, to my surprise, more than the average bloke. To the degree that I can breathe fresh air every single day and not be surrounded with the high octane level of stress that not only existed in my days of yore but that most of society seems to be plagued with at any given moment. This has been particularly fascinating to discover because, as the trend has been in my life, I've gotten to a point where I think everyone else is at (a degree of looking around me to glean ideas on how to live better), only to discover that there's hardly a soul who has it figured out any more or less than I did or am doing.

Anyone suffering through, dealing with, or otherwise grappling over things in their lives that have really affected who they are (anywhere along the way) knows, the journey never really quite ends. Self-discovery is a lifelong process. It is a stripping down, building up, stripping back down, rebuilding back up test our whole lives to see what we do with the afflictions we are faced with. I used to get stuck in the middle lots. I think a lot of other people do, too. But I found a little trick. One of many, actually. This one, though, is having quite literally a litany of saints before me who carved out that whole road of oppression and perseverance. People who were as real and as literal as any human, starting off hitting road blocks, struggling with affliction, addiction, trauma, oppression, even possession in some cases that documented their journey and how it could, an absolutely should, involve and include Our Lord in the struggle. Baby steps, continued chin up, continued looking to God, relying on Him, and more of the like...

So as a 'me' looking at 'me' I have an inkling to to laugh at myself and wonder why in the world I'd go see a counselor now, super and duper way after the fact, after those stories are long, long gone. I questioned myself all the way up to sitting in the counselor's office a year after I had gone to see him with T. I really felt like going to see someone for issues I had put away in healthy stock/lots of prayer/lots of learning seemed super indulgent. But this guy, who looks a little like Hank Azaria and speaks in metaphors with stacks of diplomas and certifications on the wall beside him, was exactly the fit for us as a couple. Me, the metaphor lover, and T, the practical, logical, empirical data, prove-it-to-me IT guy. He provided the exact tools and feedback we needed to frame our situation exactly the way we needed to hear it. He would definitely do that for me.

And I certainly was in no position to think I was just 'all good' now.

Which, after only 2 single sessions, I was right. At the first sit down, knowing that he had seen us a couple and being unsure about that affecting what he could do for me, I explained what I was doing. That I was getting counseling in a retroactive way. That I had learned to put away telling the story because of that lost, awkward look I used to get from people in the early days (and even the reaction I get from people today when I decide to share delicately positioned paragraphs) that acted as a red flag of my oversharing. I started to summarize the first few years of my adult life. I went down that road again. The one of telling my story. This time not to just the first person who would listen (or to basically anyone I could hook into listening) (yeah). But to the kind of qualified, educated, and psychologically aware person I should have tried finding a long time ago. I hadn't even gotten to the part of the last half of my marriage before the hour was up.

It not only took that long to get through some of that most unnerving sections for the years that included becoming a single mom at 18 and cramming a marriage into the most volatile time of my life, but to also make sure I could shut up long enough to receive feedback from the counselor, which I needed so much more desperately than to go through hellish recollections.

Without even getting halfway through the story, he had insight to proffer, as well as very seriously placed, examined conclusions. Analyses (and only a couple! very gingerly set down before me) and words that were long overdue, that rang through my very core like the bang of a bell tower. Yes! I wanted to scream at him with the relief and joy. Or cry -- yes, that was me, that was how I felt, yes I wish I would have seen it with that kind of vision back then.

I didn't need to finish or get all the way through. I didn't want to really be whining about this yet again. And with the professionalism and tremendous heart given in that office, he certainly wasn't interrupting me. It was the luckiest shot in the whole world. Finding this person. Finding a scientifically, masterfully educated professional without stoicism and indifference, or cheeky antecdotes. And finding someone with such heart and relateable emotion without being self-indulgent, self-seeking, or flippant.

And finding that perfect helper even after my initial journey was severely skeptical of anyone who put themselves in a mental help category of any kind back in the day. (A severely poisoned attitude, exacerbated by like-minded disdain for the same in my household growing up.)

I should have done this a long time ago.

My apologies to the people I knew up north who EVER had to sit through my story even once.


































10 September 2018

Well, Here We Go Again F***

AS IF THERE COULD BE any amount of time in space that is adequate enough distance to wedge, force, drive, and lock you up away from me! There is NO amount of time. None. Not in a hundred millennia. Not in a hundred millennia would ever be enough distance from you.

AS IF I HAVEN'T DONE everything I could from the thankful end to cut, block, chop you out, and otherwise pinch you out of every colourful opening possible or imagineable!

Have you learned nothing? Does your poisonous narcissism run so thickly vile in your blood that you could not possibly perceive the sheer gall you have in messaging me AFTER being blocked TWICE?

Be warned, fair public! Be warned! Professional gang criminals, Hells Angels kingpins, and societal scum have nothing on you. You. Are more extremely disordered than I could have ever imagined.

All the twisted, conniving, manic, and sociopathic implications aside - writing me AGAIN even though you knew you were blocked, messaging me (you DARE) with yet a NEW i.d., messaging me in FRENCH (you fucking asshole) when you REFUSED to speak in French during our raucous, tumultuous, and repulsive time together, implying that I would be childish not to respond to your seemingly casual message - there is SEVERELY insidious and revolting history by you to be singularly vile and draconian, repugnantly self seeking without recompense. There is NO casualty to you message. None. It is calculated and infinitely (and forevermore will be) ill-timed.

You played the demon from the start, taking advantage of my relationship to God and the Holy Mother, lying to me and inventing stories, planting your seed of filth.

You aided and abetted the ripping up of the family I had, instigating and goading and coercing along the whole way.

You were pleased to take advantage of my self destruction, pretending to be an innocent passerby.

You used me. In every way that you could, you used me. You used me to fulfill your selfish, empty needs. You used me as a human shield. You used me like a plaything, the way the devil does when he's fucking around with people. You saw to it that no end would come to your harassment and abuse - inside closed doors, out in public, on paper, off paper, emotional and psychological and physical haranguing, from the beginning to the very end.

You didn't want to put up with the aftermath of breaking up a family.

You threw shit fits in the middle of traffic-riddled streets in Quebec and in Saskatchewan.

You yelled at me for sobbing.

You consistently tried to trap me physically and financially.

I found out I wasn't the only person you used for the money you could get out of them.

Simon-Pierre was right to move back in with your mom out of fear that you were there.

We fought the most when I stood up for myself.

You are the reason I lost my girls. Twice.

When I tried to get away from you, you insisted you follow, promising things would be better but they never were.

You promised you understood that we were NOT together but came to my work and sucker punched a guy.

You were NEVER loving, only territorial.

You scared the living shit out of me.

You left me to drive 40+ hours by myself with your dog.

You did nothing with your additional schooling. You failed a literature class. IN YOUR OWN LANGUAGE. And made me pay for it.

You whipped nasty surprises like that lots along the way. The bus ticket at the very beginning. The $1000+ failed semester. The $2000 overdraft, then the $4500. You never had money for anything. And I am STILL reeling in the aftermath of that.

None of this, none, begins to present the entire spiritual warfare underlying every single corner that was your wretched presence in my life. I took every intensely deliberate step I could to remove you from my life the first time. And even that time, it was a hellfire process that took MONTHS for you to JUST... GO... AWAY.


26 August 2018

Green Thumb

I have never, ever been particularly apt in the garden. I have tried. I'm not terrible. I've weeded and mowed and trimmed hedges. I even had a small vegetable garden when I was married that I was able to collect fresh carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, and onions from -- that is, until the local paper released the soil reports and I learned there was trace amounts of arsenic in it. Yuh hm. Yes sir, trace amounts of several elements "above recommended...guidelines for human health" (check this out) including arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury. Mmmmm, arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury salad! Yum!

But as for having flowers? Perennials, annuals? Trees, bushes, or house plants? No. I am one of those people who kills unkillable plants. I do not landscape (I can't now anyway), don't fertilize, I didn't even concertedly water my lawn back when I had one. (It helped that the neighbourhood had been built in a marsh, maybe.) I just couldn't be bothered and it never excited me. Sidetrack: now that I am older, I figure that when I'm even older it will and I will. But dead-heading and regular watering and attention to something OUTSIDE my otherwise distracted path? Mmno. Not for me. Yardwork? Mmno. Let's just say it's one of them make-your-weaknesses-your-strength areas of improvement that I've only moderately worked on.

With that in mind and understanding that it came from an I-dun-wannnnn-naa place in my childhood, you can imagine my disgruntled, objecting obligation to help my mom plant trees in the front yard one rather hot sunny day in my youth. Mom had purchased 5 or 6 little evergreen saplings and wanted to plant them at the crest of the half-acre of grass-only-bare yard. I don't remember much of preparation part of it. I just remember being on my hands and knees, in the grass, facing my mom, on her hands and knees, both of us bearing down for the task ahead of us. I remember the spade we shared, the root-bagged sapplings begging to be planted, the sweat pouring off our beet-red faces. We dug into the earth, ripping the grass at the circumferences we made for each tree, moving the black dirt with our spades, each claw or spadeful of dirt as satisfying as the next, and creating the crater where the roots of the sappling would nestle.

We worked into the mid-afternoon, perspiring and blackening our hands, setting the tiny little sapplings into their carved-out cradles, tucking them in with the dirt we had removed, patting the dirt down. We found our pace quickly and finished in good time. We did it. We got through a chore. Somewhere, at some point in the middle of the process I wanted to take the edge off of our tempers that I knew were secretly boiling and, knowing it would make my mom laugh (at least if for nothing because it would force an awkward ha-ha-ness) looked up at her with all the stupidness I could muster, and said, "We're bonding, aren't we!"

It worked. She chuckled whole-heartedly. I think, on a super side-ranging, emotion-be-true-to-Amy tangent, I had never quite clicked with my mother. Not in the emotionally-satisfying way a daughter like me needed, anyway. I commonly felt left hanging. As a child, especially teenager, I felt as though I needed something else, something more, not sure. Couldn't peg it then. And SURE the hell wouldn't have said anything about it then, had I even ventured to guess. But now I know it was a deep, personal connection I needed with her that I wasn't able to appropriate for myself. I got from my father, skewed as it was, because he was deeply emotioned and we could volley that back for each other. With mom, it was a little more difficult.

But she laughed. I got her to laugh. Totally worth the grunty, sweaty chore I had opposed in favor of sitting inside and doing, well, probably nothing. I didn't think we were truly bonding. Not the kind of bonding that is defined as basis for an ongoing mutual attachment or a close friendship that develops as a result of intense experiences, as those shared in military combat. But at least it wasn't nothing.

And for better or worse, the memory was forged. 

A week later, my dad was mowing the lawn and, none the wiser to the teeny beebee trees my mother and I had planted, mowed them over.

Fast forward ten, twelve-ish years later. After the invention of Facebook. And FarmVille. I was married with kids. Mom had remarried. She was in the western states, I was in Canada. Life had settled down. She had built an amazing farm. It was expansive and self-operating. She had the latest, greatest, newest add-ons. Factories and rose gardens and crops galore. Trees of every kind ornamented all her sidewalks, paths, ponds. It was truly a site to behold, especially after having built up my own farm to start procuring FarmVille monies thinking I was really getting traction in the game. I was in truth impressed as hell. I think she was able to finally achieve the wealth she wanted in this alternate reality.

But it was something, even if incomplete, that we could share and spend side-by-side time doing from across the miles. And she could finally have the yard and landscaping she visualized. I followed suit, fishing and harvesting and buying and selling, acquiring things, too. The bigger house, the next acreage of land for planting, the farm truck, a tilapia pond, and finally, if not nothing, my own trees. 

My daughters joined in on the building and expanding at random moments, too, using my account to play FarmVille when, one day, I sat down to harvest my crops and noticed all my trees were missing. I called my oldest over to investigate. She had gotten rid of them to do her own thing. My millisecond of frustration turned into wild, realized laughter. My mom and I could never catch a break. Whether virtual or real, we could not plant trees together without them going away some way somehow.




















25 August 2018

PhanTHomize

When we were little, the three of us kids, our dad had this skull ring that he wore on his pinky. It looked like it might have come from one of the many silver displays at the Sturgis biker rallies. I associated it with those, anyway, because collecting one silver ring for each time I went to the rallies with him was my thing. I had three by the time graduated that I wore on the last 3 fingers of my right hand. For show, of course. A rose, a pair of hands holding a heart, and one that looked like eagle talons wrapping around my finger.



(Not my hands, not my rings)

Our dad was creative, if nothing else, in both his artistic endeavors and in his discipline. Instead of the old-timey spankings, which used to involve the belt, a thin wooden dowel, a wooden spoon, or the metal ruler in the phonebook drawer, there was the occasional wall-sit, the rare kneeling with boots in the hands, and the odd lecture with presentation about needing to appreciate one another. That came complete with getting my little brother to slide underneath the glass coffee table, close his eyes and fold his hands so that we didn't have to use our imaginations to see what it would be like looking at him in a casket. Life is precious. You don't know if you have tomorrow.
Image result for sturgis rally silver display

This ring, this skull ring he had, was pretty cool looking, really, and it had a name. It was the "Phanthom". Yes p-h-a-n-t-h-o-m. With a tee-aych. T. H. Along with flicking us in the face with his middle finger and thumb for mouthing off or a knuckle whip-crack to the head for insolence was this skull ring on his pinky. And when he went to flick his wrist, using his hands as the whip-crack end of his flicking, the skull would thump on our heads.

None of the above methods were consistently used and rarely used the older we got. But as the clump of methods grew to be a memory in the distance, terms for them still reminded us of what used to be. The skull ring -- The Phanthom -- and subsequent flick-smack procured a new verb by our dad. This verb in our house was "Phanthomizing".


Now it would seem pretty terrifying in several respects, most obviously at the moment as a parent myself reflecting in theoretic sheer horror, and more broadly in the perspective of current-day mindsets about what is acceptable discipline and what is not. But I will tell you that the mispronunciation of the word "phantom", to me, has stuck out far more than the punishment, as much then as now, itself.

My mind would always correct him when he said phantom incorrectly, but never once out loud. Phantom, Dad. F-A-N t-u-m. My middle brother and I would heckle and laugh about it in the safety of the basement later, but never in front of him. We knew, however lightly, that correcting him and/or laughing at the quirky addition of a consonant would not be kind. Or tolerated.

We never once stopped to consider how English being his second language may or may not have been a factor. He wasn't the first parent we ever knew to use his or her own words. And he was exceedingly deliberate in his mastery of the English language and losing his accent since before we were even in the womb. There was no guarantee it was a culturally linguistic slip. Our dad prided himself on being able to speak English very well and was expressly good at raising us with proper English. But he was not exempt from our juvenile considerations just because he was Mexican. It was just a kid-to-parent thing. A pair of offspring doing what every other kid does -- rolling their eyes at their parents.


Image result for sturgis rally skull ring silver display




16 March 2018

Update

Life is interesting. So it's been a while since I've gotten on here, even though I have had MORE than enough material to add, most of which I've contemplated blogging. There have been so many changes and shifts in the paradigm of my life's fastly-held perceptions that I could quite easily spend a full-time job's worth of not just recounting the basic stories, but also the implications in them, the psychologies underneath them, and the utter fascination of it all.

But I've just decided that some of them are just too personal to share. Not for me, but for the respect of the people who are in the stories. What I can do, though, for my own selfish reasons, is list what I've been able to accomplish in my week off so far, something that was quite necessary (the time off, that is), and delve into why getting these things done this week were particularly important to me.

Getting the week off originated out of just simply not wanting to have to negotiate ducking out of work sporadically to go and support my piano students at the music festival. I had requested the time off before I knew none of the 8 piano students I have weren't going to participate, and I had prepared for the same with my flute student, in case she wanted me to be her accompanist. But I haven't heard from her in months. And because I would have had to use vacation time before year-end, anyway, I just decided to leave it. Lord knows I needed a break for a quick second because...

There had been a shift at work where the floor supervisor retired and her position made available for application. I never anticipated being a shoe-in, but I did get asked on multiple occasions if I would apply. To some people in the office, it only seemed logical that I would because out of all of the girls on our floor, I had been there, in that particular office, the longest, save for one (who wasn't particularly interested in applying) and so of course I would at least try. So I put my efforts into trying, and I became hopeful about it. I tweaked my resume, I made sure to collect all my thoughts into my memo ap on my phone so I could really sell myself as managerial, researched related interview skills, questioned my nurse manager mom (who would know ALL about hiring within and without a union), and delivered what I thought was a fantastic interview. But one of the newer girls on the floor who came to us from another branch legit had more seniority and got the position. It was one of my very first professional disappointments. And as such, I had to deal with it.

It wasn't easy because I had always tried to control or manipulate an unfavorable outcomes. All my life, up until that point, if something went janky in my job, I'd leave. Or I'd put up a stink bomb about it and then leave. This time it was completely different. I actually had to live with the news and work through it. Because I love my job and I wasn't going to leave. And this wasn't that janky. It was an honest-to-goodness legit 'defeat'.

But I had to deal with it. And it was kind of tough. I knew the girls at work around me could tell I wasn't myself. I didn't want that to show, but I couldn't help it. And it didn't help that the harder I tried to stay positive, both at work and at home, a number of little things kept poking at me from outside of me, like little sprites coming out of the bushes all around me at random to poke me even when I was trying to mind my own business. A comment here, a reaction there, a little tidbit of news there, whatever external extras, from completely random sources, acting like an 'ambush' and only serving to complicate the matter of me digesting my disappointment. I needed a reset.

And so the week off worked out exceptionally well as over the course of the last few months, I've taken on a play, grad committee chair (what American volunteers to head a Canadian graduation committee?? Idiot!), and the continued music lessons, all of which needed some quick and fierce permanence into my own schedule. Things were going to become quite hectic and complicated if I didn't get myself organized AND if I didn't have a chance to separate myself from work for a moment. So, in no predetermined order, I made a to-do list for my week off and have overloaded my cellphone calendar with dates so that I can start ticking off quite a number of items to help myself organize.

#1 Grad votes

They started coming in the mail by the hords. When T would open the tiny little mailbox, envelopes would fall out onto the floor, like a cascade of fan mail, after coming in home from a long day at work. I made as much as joke to Trev ("Hey babe, lookit all your fan mail!") but that fell as flat as the mess of envelopes on the floor. As the chair, the votes would be coming to my address, and my duty was to collect and count all of the information included in the vote package. The voting was for what kind of after-grad festivities students and parents preferred. There wasn't just the vote itself, but volunteer information. I purchased a small black bin for atop the fridge for any grad mail to go into. That way I wouldn't miss any votes coming in and "my" mail wouldn't get misplaced. After putting it off a week, I finally started counting votes and collecting data into a spreadsheet. It took me hours upon hours. I was easily at the comp for four-hour stretches. But I finally did it. I finally entered every piece of information from each piece of paper in every of the hundred-and-some envelopes to come in onto a spreadsheet. From that spreadsheet I was able to make other related data spreadsheets, including contact info, committee assortment, and the like. Praise to my family for having to suffer my momentary check-outs as I scrambled like a mad woman to get everything put together in one organized spot. I got it done and I felt good about getting it done.

#2 Lesson management

Lessons are still ongoing and therefore not in any way exchangeable with anything else going on. I value them above all other commitments outside of work because they were my first, and because music is my passion. Fortunately, all my students are grouped over the first three days of the week, so that as soon as Wednesday is over, I have the rest of the week and the weekend to recover. Not that I need to recover, per se, but time to regroup. In the process, I have also needed to readjust my angle and approach to lessons yet again. Anyone who has tutored or privately taught anything understands the need for this. Teachers know this. You go into it with all the knowledge in your arsenal, attempting to extract only the most necessary information to impart on your student(s) (so as not to overwhelm them), you find a method, a routine, your confidence grows, then it takes a hit. The kid starts acting up or disengaging. Or fidgeting or yawning or letting their eyes wonder. You're losing them. So you make the decision to try something new or risk losing their interest. You can't sing and dance for them and be a puppet, either. They're kids. But you try. The most critical piece of being a teacher that has worked for me is to work on my ability to understand how their minds work, specifically, each one, from one to another, even from sibling to sibling. And so, I have moved all of my students out of their method books and have given them pieces to work on with varying degrees of difficulty (tailored to their knowledge and ability) and am using the method books as supplements only. It has made all the difference. And while a teacher with more experience than me might look at that as a big old "duh", for me I was debating on how out of their comfort zones I wanted to push them. All but two sets of siblings have only been at it a year or less. The biggest stall, actually, was finding pieces that fit each one well, and with accordance to what I've been teaching them. And for one student in particular, I've moved her out of books and off paper completely and we're working on a more studio-esque-type approach. And every single one of my students were smiling this week! Accomplishment!

#4  Saying "yes" to being in a play (after volunteering to be grad committee chairperson. On accident.)

With working full-time and teaching students after work, I felt I was pretty much tapped out on what I could do and was content to not take on any other activity. I have three other people's schedules to think about at home, too, one of whom includes a teenager who can drive, so with my 9 students and a teen's schedule, I knew I was at my max. Therefore, you can imagine my panic when, in trying to be a good involved mom at the grad parent meeting, accidentally volunteered to be the committee chairperson. Like, of the whole thing. The whole thing. I whole-heartedly believed I was volunteering for head of one of the committees. Not for the whole thing. No one raised their hand. No one really moved. After the liaison down front went through her presentation of committees and started back at the top waiting for volunteers, a good, solid 40 seconds or more passed before the principal assured the crowd that volunteers would be supported through the whole process. Nothing. What was the big deal? I wondered. Why was no one raising their hand? Does no one want to volunteer that badly? Someone had to start the process. How hard could it be? I raised my hand. My hand went up slowly but steadily. From the back of the auditorium, where the principal had moved to, I hear him snap his fingers and shout, "We got one over here!" Still reeling in the "what's the big deal?" thoughts and being pointed out so fiercely, heads turn and the liaison on the stage cranes her neck to see who's got their hand up, and within the following seconds, as the meeting moves on and the liaison down front recaps the positions for volunteers, alarming realization washes over me that it was chair for the whole thing. What!? Oh. Oh, s***. I can't do this. I needed to focus on being smart about my involvement. This was not smart. At all. My brain floods with event conflicts galore. I pull out my phone to look at my calendar. I could work it. But no. Wait. Ugh! What did I just do? But wait. I don't back out of things. I don't shrink away at stuff. Fool or no, I would try. The worst that could happen was that I wouldn't be able to handle it and have to back out (although I would have had to decided that then and there that I wouldn't do it and back out by the end of the meeting so I wouldn't leave the grad parents hanging.) But as it stood, I would be getting the lowdown at the end of the meeting. Binders were passed out to all the volunteer heads. So, I held it. I figured if I simply made myself be organized "af", I could arrange what needed to be arranged. So I did that. I came home, cracked the binder open. Skimmed over timelines and critical dates. Entered it into my phone (my quintessential switchboard for the schedule of my life.) And have, to this date, called my first meeting, made my very own first agenda for that meeting, collected and sorted votes and committee volunteers. Big girl adulting! Yay! Score!

In between straining to stay on top of grad essentials, as per my binder and the content from previous years in that binder, I got a message from a lady I know (through C's friend at school and whose husband I work with in my office) asking me if I would be interested in playing a part in a play she was directing. Uh. Sure? No. No? No. I really couldn't commit to something like that, I tell her. It wouldn't be fair to any of the cast for me not to commit to any role, regardless of how small. Hell yes it would be fun! Heck yeah, I'd love to tell my daughter and my very BFF, who are both huge theatre people, hey, guess who took a role! I'd love to do something small and step out into that circuit. I've been intrigued by theatre people ever since my junior year in high school, where a boy I had a crush on was Freddy in our high school's production of "My Fair Lady" and, on the last night of performances, the whole cast came out and dog piled each other out of wild excitement that they had achieved multiple nights of performances. I could mildly relate being a musician. But it seemed ridiculous that I would dust off an old kid intrigue to give it a try. I made one hesitantly but concerted effort to be a family pet dinosaur for a May-term play my second year of university, which C coaxed me into, called "The Skin of our Teeth." I heavily joked with her after agreeing to being the nurse and Mexican woman in "A Streetcar Named Desire" that I could have a write-up that consisted of my extensive theatre experience having been a dinosaur and laughed hysterically at myself. But I consented to the roles. After all, I can speak Spanish. Who needs to audition when you can just be stereotyped after years of playing the "I'm a part-Mexican" card one's whole life, no one caring, and then me finally relenting to being myself, instead of a titled version of myself? It seems ironic. The director assured me that I only had to be a specific rehearsals. I've been to a read-through, a character analysis session, and one stage-blocking rehearsal. I love it. And I'm glad I said yes. And yes, rehearsal dates have all been entered into my phone. And guess what? Wouldn't you be surprised, none of them conflict with lessons or grad stuffs. At least for now. The week of dress rehearsals leading up to opening night is another story, but I can simply give my students a head's up. It's only one lesson per kid. Every kid loves a break. Lifelong intrigue employed!

#5 Translating a kid's book into Spanish (with my dad's help)

Almost quite literally two seconds into being involved in this play, another cast member, who doesn't know me from Eve, approached me with translating a kid's book he wrote into Spanish. JUST because I speak Spanish and was instantly regarded as having total expertise in the language. Or something. I guess. There really wasn't any pressure to do it. I just thought it would be cool to try. But to cut down on time spent translating every single word, I simply translated it online and then promptly read through the translation to correct everything I knew was wrong. As a precautionary measure, I asked my dad to review it after I had tweaked it and got the approval. It was just another thing in the wave of oh-my-goodness-I've-taken-on-way-too-much-what-the-hell-have-I-been-thinking things that ended up really good in the end. Accomplishment!

#6  Planning a trip to Brandon, MB

Long before all of the above and making sure to include dates, birthday surprises like Cirque du Soleil for Tia, Celia's musical production, for which she is tech crew, other massive dates, and grad meetings, was my A's news of being selected for one of the leads in her play Peter and Wendy. Having planned and canceled two trips to Brandon to see her, this one was particularly important. And I realized I could do it if I saved a certain amount of money from my lessons. Which, holding my breath, I did. Fortunately no one canceled for March. So I booked a hotel with a pool (VERY important to my step-daughter!) and free breakfast close to the university. And there's no backing out this time. Major road trip planning feat, check!








26 March 2017

A Letter To My Dad

Well, Dad, I have something to say. And isn't going to be easy because they're things that have gotten in the way of me having a better relationship with you and I feel a ton of shame about the way I have treated you in the past, but you'd have to know what that is to know why they affect me. You'd have to know - and acknowledge - what I felt hasn't ever really been spoken to. But I realize that 1) it's been so long, it feels almost ridiculous to bring it up. So much time has passed, so many things have changed, life has brought growth for all of us. It feels almost counter-intuitive to say, "hey, you may have thought we made amends, but I never did, and here's why" and address something you've long since put away and I haven't. It feels awful to kind of just drop this on your lap. And 2) there is a very real fear of your response about it. I've proven that I can be oversensitive, defensive, and confrontational about a great many things, and when I have tried to approach you before (in my crappy way), it's just been hard to hear your hardened responses when I keep trusting in the loving relationship we claim to have. AND... I have all the proof in the world of how my personality annoys the shit out of all three men (you, E, and now recently M.) But I feel like I've been keeping something from you for a long time - which I swear was for the best intentions - but it's just ended up eating at things in my life outside of myself and I just don't think it's right to keep it from you any more. Even if it's hard.

I have had an impression for some time that our relationship, specifically, hasn't grown as much as I thought it would from when I was at home, and I know that in the truth of it not growing, among the many good and bad reasons, a good chunk of that lies mostly with me. It's not that our relationship hasn't grown at all, it's that I'm still holding onto something that you probably don't know I'm still holding onto. And, here goes, it's about the time period of when I was pregnant with Aurora. Two major things that suck to admit. 1) how much it hurt me that you struggled to talk with me for a long time in the beginning, after we'd built such a friendship while I was in high school, and basically presented your case to me in terms of your feelings, but not showing empathy or outward compassion for what I was going through. And 2) how we have never, ever made our peace about that, or about anything else during that time, in large part because it's always been a difficult subject to approach for the both of us and because I haven't heard you admit that it was at least several weeks (months) before we even started talking; and that the conversation after that was short and clipped and filled with your feelings, not mine. 

I have, for the last 19 years, struggled on and off heavily with this. This is not a new thing for me. And there's no special reason it's coming up now. I just find that it's affected how I see other people and treat them and I see how very long that's been going on (and how very tiring it is.) It's affected how I mother. It affected my thought processes going into the world. It affected my marriage, the ways I have coped all these many years, and my relationship with Trevor very negatively. It's affected my relationships with my friends, my brothers and it's affected my relationship with you, unfortunately. Each time something happens in my life and I revisit this and then re-decide to move on, I find that it always comes back up. Because I put myself and my self worth on the back burner until I explode. And I've had to learn some things about how I express myself, which is deeply rooted in the grudges I've held and the walls I've put up. It's been a heavy price to pay for being unable to say something to you. 
I've held it in for so very long that I haven't known any other way. Holding onto it seemed to be the only way to deal with the situation at the time, but I have become so, so resentful. It has colored every way I have tried to relate to you or stay in touch with you. It's become such an outside-of-me thing now that it affects people around me even when I'm not thinking about it and even when I'm trying to rise above it. It's become such a problem that whether or not I'm successful this time in getting through to you, I have to give you my very best try in expressing how long I've been hurting - in, yes, the hopes that you will respond productively, but largely and wholly so that I can say I gave it an honest go, that I tried letting you know without you feeling attacked or like you have to relive the hard stuff again. That I let you know while we have the capacity to deal with it now. While we're still alive. While we still have the chance to talk about it. While we still have our faculties about us. And before you die or something happens where we can't and we're forced to deal with it in the afterlife.


The truth is that the part about keeping the baby was about making amends for you. Not for me. I wholly agree that we were on the same page about keeping the baby, but when we stood in the vestibule of St. Matthew's and you took an impassioned stance on not giving up Aurora for adoption, it was coming together on an idea, which I was grateful for, but it was not making peace for me with you about the rejection and withdrawal I felt from you. Which came in the form of the floor being dropped out from underneath me when you stopped talking to me, which I remember was for months, and when you looked at my barely formed belly with contempt when I came home for Thanksgiving that year, which aren't exaggerations. Those are memories.

I know you meant well about making peace then, but it wasn't making peace for me. 

The other very big truth also is that I felt abandoned by both parents, but moreso by you, in a time when I needed you more than ever. The truth is I felt like the first time I tested your love, you withdrew it. (Mom, too.) I realized your stand with me on keeping my baby was your way of showing me some (?) colored way of being on my side. But it was not the same as me being able to admit how much I was hurt by your actions after learning I was pregnant and feeling like I'd lost all your protection and wishing you'd speak to understanding that. It hurt more with you than with Mom because you and I were closer. You were the one who introduced the mercy of Jesus to me, the one who talked about tender mercies and loving relationships. You were the one that lectured us kids to get along because life was short and love was important. You were the one who seemed to believe in tenderness. It was a very hard pill to swallow.

I never faulted you for having to deal with it how you needed to because it was a new thing for us all. And I know a trillion other things have happened since then to make this seem so out of left field. I know that you didn't know how to deal with it and that it shook up a lot of your beliefs about me, about life, about disappointments in general. Me getting pregnant was the last thing you expected to happen; and it didn't fall into line with your morals, your perceptions, your ideals, your culture, or even your own historical context of me. None of us had ever been through that before. At least not from the vantage points we were at during that time - you as a dad, mom as a mom, me as the daughter. I understood that with flying colors back then. I understand that perfectly right now.  
But I also managed, even if on accident, to understand it was the worst possible thing that could have ever happened, and not only in the the whole wide world, but to you. Me being pregnant was the worst thing that happened to you and mom. And even though it was far from the life you'd imagined for me and even though we were all new to the earth-shattering shock it brought us all, I was relying on the knowledge that both of you did, however, as former kids yourselves, get yourselves caught up in a similar situation (enough to warrant to marrying Mom) to help me out or help bring sympathy or compassion to the table. And instead, the outpouring of responses to continue on long after the initial reactions was much, much worse than I'd anticipated.  (I've expressed the sheer betrayal I felt to Mom about the fact that she could have easily related to me being pregnant in college but didn't - the miscarriage story - and also didn't bother to elaborate until long after I got pregnant.)

But we haven't been able to ever really talk about it productively and I haven't expressed to you the deep wounds that came from being upset by your initial and subsequent reactions and, much later, by the realization that you and Mom had both been in my shoes (with the miscarriage story) but both struggled to show me compassion. I think it's the latter that hurt for longer than the former. Because it's come to really matter in my relationships, when I would feel ignored or checked out on. I developed very basic, very strong and primal fight or flight response when I feel desperate, angry, or just plain scared. This wound, I'm embarrassed to say, has affected every single relationship I've ever been in, on some level or another. (Some of that does overlap with other things from my childhood, but this was basically the clincher.) 

I've never been able to tell you because I have never been able to find a way. And I've never been able to find a way because I have always been hella embarrassed by the fact that I can't just get over it. I've also never been able to find a way because I "knew" to put my thoughts of being pregnant/life changing/being scared as hell aside, in exchange for thinking about how it all made you and Mom feel. But it just kept coming back up and it just kept going that way until I broke. Both in my marriage and now in this relationship. (It didn't matter with the loser French guy - but it matters now and matters always.) I've done a LOT of damage in handling things the way I do and being resentful. A lot.

This resentment, this harboring of hurt, is also why when I have tried to approach you with it, other terrible crap comes out. Terrible things, awkward things, loaded things that I'm extremely ashamed of like judgment and lectures and whips and chains and just about every terrible, disrespectful way a daughter can be about a hot, emotionally-charged thing. (The emails I've sent, the outbursts I've had with you, and even leaving Kyle the way I did.) It has always gotten in the way. I will always, always own and feel terrible guilt for treating you with disrespect because I wasn't able to be truthful about how much your actions did hurt me because I was afraid of how you'd react (it's easier to go balls to the wall and know you're getting the bull than to ask the bull a question in the arena.) It was easier to be a lame couch shrink than admit something about myself to you. The only difference now is that I've seen how much and for how long it's affected my life apart from you; and I'd rather let you know in this life than the next that I needed someone to care about how freaking traumatized I was about what I was facing as a pregnant woman while trying to manage my parents' feelings, which wasn't my responsibility. 

It wasn't fair to you and it wasn't fair to me. I didn't mean to hold onto this like a thing and I surely regret being disrespectful to you in the past. I realize that the wound is real. It's not gonna go away and I can't pretend it's something else, and I've held onto it for so very long. I don't want that any more. I don't want to be the one holding us back, or being the one preventing us from having an authentic relationship, and I'm sorry. I didn't even realize I was doing it until I started fighting in this relationship and I had to realize why my hardass ways weren't working. I never wanted to be like that. 

Like I said, I hate dropping this on your lap. It's gonna feel of of nowhere and make us revisit some painful moments and for that I'm sorry. Just. This is me trying to find an ultimate way to show you how much I love you. That after all this time, our relationship is still important to me. That before we're too old and before we find out some other rude way in the afterlife, we can still be okay. We can still be real. We can still be authentic. And that we CAN get through terrible moments. This isn't fun, but at least it's easier than a lot of other things.




26 February 2017

Lines

So here it comes. The relenting. The I-don't-want-my-hard-feelings-to-contribute-to-the-overall-hard-feeling jumble mess that is my relationship with each male of my immediate family. I have thought about writing or texting the youngest brother a form of apology that comes from understanding, whether or not he does, my role in the whole being "offended" reaction. After all, as it was painfully and wonderfully put to me, playing the "offended" card is just another way of saying "I can't control what I do with my feelings, you have to change your behaviour" to the other person. And Lord KNOWS how hard a crunching lesson self-control or being controlling has come to be in my life. However, I just can't. I just can't do it. I just can't bring myself to open a door that would be rife with misunderstanding from the onset.

And not in a way that isn't worth working through or attempting to offer an olive branch of any kind, because I still believe that is very much worth it. But that my efforts have been lost on them, either by my own hand or their impression of me; and I don't think that the inevitable sum is worth the means. I can't undo or help the strained lines of communication that have been hacked, massacred, or otherwise impeded by an overwhelming siege of poor communication skills, easy defensiveness, easy aggression, and a plethora of other equally bad habits between us three that have been allowed to sour or curdle over time, most certainly due to the time and space between us, which offers no day-to-day interaction to undo, redo, or reset our impressions of each other. But however I have attempted to try and try again, my efforts have been laced with language that puts them off and a concerted opinion by all three that I am a hysterical and self-righteous bible thumper (I could laugh so hard at this! Except it sucks that that's how they see me and it sucks that they don't know me, either.)

But I just have no idea what more I can do. I haven't done much, and what I have put forth has only added to the toxicity (emails ripping them all together and chopped up moments of boundary-setting that only enforce their perceptions of my "misaligned" hysteria for setting them) and their posturing toward me. I haven't helped myself much in this regard, I realize, but I've also only had just moments of time to squeeze and inject snippets of my own world and my own perceptions in between their own snippets; and it's more than just probable that they just don't care about having a deeper relationship with their sister/daughter. I guess I was just going off the belief that we were raised with (to love each other and be each other's best friends) and the belief that the love we say we have for each other was more than just words. And so there's nothing more to say. Only doing. And there won't be any doing. Because I can't afford to visit them regularly enough to build a comradery and I know they can't afford it, either.


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04 February 2017

Patriarchal bullshit

I know men older than him who come from older times and older societies of thoughts that aren't as hard as he is.

This is hard. I don't want to be the grudge-holder in all of this. And I fear that it will be taken that way. But I simply refuse to welcome all of the same condescending speech patterns and the contemptuous fodder that has been their manner of speaking to me all these years. They don't have to agree with me or think of my position with any respect, but I don't have to keep the door of communication open, either.

I know I don't know them now. Of course I don't know them. I don't know them in an every-day sense. I wouldn't have a clue of how they take their coffee, how they approach budgeting, how they feel about the weather, or how their thoughts and thought processes have changed over the years.

What I do know is that one brother throws it in my face that I don't know him but continues to be an arrogant and disdainful prick. In ten years (or more), he has told me that he doesn't get "as angry" any more, he has implied that he has changed or grown, he has insinuated my own pettiness when I've included random, if inaccurate, disclaimers indicating what he deems is an "old school mentality." (I sent both brothers a video of a dad and daughter singing a Disney song together just a few weeks ago, prefacing the text with what I thought was an easy reference to our harder days - "you gotta crack the tough a moment to watch it. Once you do, it'll melt your heart.") But I still get hot replies and defensive retorts. And aggressive responses. ("I love how you send something sweet and then fuck it up by sending a follow up text with some old school mentality of how you think I am." End quote.) This from a brother who thinks he's somehow improved since his days of his abusive temper, the days of chasing my other brother and I around the house pounding on us, the days of being a frightening maniac who could have easily turned into a news story. Maybe his progression is that he doesn't feel the need to scream at us, to jump up and hit us. But maybe any progression has only been fraudulently achieved because of the physical distance and time. Of course he'd chill out some over time as a natural course to aging - he'd be another whole brand of whacknut if it hadn't. But there's no evidence to support me thinking differently of him than the hardened asshole that I do. This is a guy who, when punching a guy at a bar in the town where I lived, took me down in the recoil, on accident, but never apologized, never had a moment of "oh shit, I'm sorry" when he saw me go down, never had that "oh crap" moment where he realized how out of control he was. Drunk or not, some critical sense of something will still poke through. It did not poke through. I was married with kids at the time. And he was just fresh out of the military himself, divorced, and had a kid himself. We were both adults then, after years of being out of school and a rash of experience. I can appreciate that the physical distance between us would prevent me from knowing how my brother truly "is" now in any definitive circumstance, but how can he not at least understand that the same distance makes his touchy, easily offended responses to me even more apparent? What does accusing me of not knowing him actually accomplish? How does accusing me of not knowing him actually show me the changes he said he's made? I used to think his defensive reactions were hurt ones, hurt by an older, clueless, and mean sister who was too hardened to think of them softly. Now I finally understand, because of my own journey of self-discovery and wound education, it's just him. Still struggling at something and me not helping.

What else I do know is that the other brother used to be the more sensitive of the two and has revealed the glorious influences of our dad and the extreme mentalities of the country around him. In the twenty years since leaving home, he was always kinder to me and spoke in more philosophical tones, if only vague metaphors at first, but was constantly getting hit. From the external, physical influences and abuses of my dad and other brother to the contextual influences around him to the very literal military experiences to the eye-opening experiences of life with his wife and children. It would have only been fair for him to have had enough when I got pissed at him for sending me one of yet another many hundreds of similar inappropriate or vulgar jokes, texts, photos. He's been trying to shed the heavy cloak of guilt for a great many things - mostly misplaced and never his responsibility (parental guilt trips, various guilt trips by others, over time and over many years) - for a great many years. But the colours of my dad's upbringing flashed through his "FUCK OFF WITH YOUR OVERSENSTIVITY" in a heartbeat. It was those words coming my way after finally, finally collecting the pieces of my own self-worth (a hard thing to say even now) and finally finding people in various interesting places to support the idea that I had self-worth and dignity and proposed more than just the mere suggestion that I could be respected, that my ideas could be respected, too, that hit me the hardest. Because it was the old hitting the new. It was a past calling from its grave. Those words were a violent shake to what I'd come to know, surprising and shocking and then, all of a sudden, not the least bit jarring. Of course it wasn't. Of course I was the one out of line. Of course I was the uptight one, the oversensitive one, the feminist, the french-influenced liberal bitch. (Ha HA! I'm not liberal anything. If only knew how little Canada was influenced by French anything.) Of course I was the projection of everything negative about a woman having the actual gall to not only get healed to a place of feeling worthy enough to stand up for herself, but to call out the trend of typical behaviour in all of them. All three men. All three defensive, temperamental, controlling men. The trend of sending, saying, giving, joking their sister/daughter bullshit, inappropriate jokes until the end of time even after being asked not to and could they please not and so on and then freaking the hell out because they did not get the reaction or response they felt they should get. Heaven forbid it actually repulse me and make me feel awkward. Heaven forbid I ask nicely for them not to be like that with me and they actually show enough respect to DO IT without backhanded jabs. (I have actually received "oh, sorry, didn't want to offend you" texts from all three of them in the sore aftermath of incidents where I've said something and they've sent me other jokes that are truly harmless. That's so over-the-top.)

And all of this, ALL of it, nothing much unto itself. Stories here, instances there, dotted and speckled throughout the course of knowing each other in broken ways from damaged people. Every family deals with it. But if they had ever looked at me once as a person whose viewpoint could be respected, I could have felt respected, or felt okay to have views different from theirs, or to have my memories just be that - memories set in the past with one perception, not necessarily wrong even if not accurate and either left there or positively addressed. I know I would not have had to request to not be sent/told/relayed/emailed stupid, ignorant, inappropriate jokes more than once over the course of many years. In fact, it's not even that I can't take the joke as much as it is that there is absolute zero reason for it to be sent to a female family member because it's awkward as fuck. Why can't you weirdo men just fucking get that, why don't you?

And for that, I have struggled my entire life to own what I know, what I say, what I do in attempt to ward off how crazy I feel I am. And it streams down from the malignant ideas of an unwell patriarch. I have assigned every bad experience I've had to another person, all because I've not been able to to address that this is the way it has always been with my dad and my brothers. Hot and defensive and broken and controlling. Heaven forbid we hear, much less entertain a contrasting view point. My brothers, being part of the centralized integral unit I grew up in and hardened as they are (and oh, they are) and contributing to the entire yarn ball of useless, negligent mess between us, still do not even begin to compare to the source of their attitudes, which is the trickle of poison of our dad's neanderthal-like thinking. And that's where the sweeping generalization comes in. Each of these men separate in their own experiences now that they're in the world, but absolutely together in their hatred, their meanness. And even though I still forgive (mostly in the hopes that they can forgive me), I do not have to invite the continued abuse.