Thursday, February 27, 2014

Let's Hear It For the Girl

I am writing this off of the prompt, "Dear Younger Self" given by Ariana Browning at The Blogging Lounge. I almost didn't accept the challenge because... well... it's kind of been done before. Plus, do I really want to revisit that sad little urchin again? Then I chastised myself. She wasn't always a sad little urchin. Maybe I should go back and point out the things she should celebrate about her life. And, so...


Dear Younger Self,

You were always a curious child. I mean that in a couple of ways. You were curious, as in perplexing, because you didn't think like every other kid on the block or in the classroom. That's because you were curious, as in auto-didactic. Although you weren't very vocal about it, you were the why kid, the how kid. You were the kid who couldn't stand not knowing a thing, and in knowing a thing, you found 27 other things you had to know. You were bright and eager for knowledge. That's why you were allowed to start school when you were four, and that's why you graduated a year younger than most of your classmates.

You were accused of being silly. It was exactly that, too, an accusation. "Oh, you're being silly again." "Stop being so silly." Those who said things like that were idiots and maybe even jealous, or perhaps they were blind and couldn't see what fantastic worlds you were trying to reveal. You weren't silly. Goofy, maybe, but not silly. You were imaginative. Pretending allowed you to dive into places where you couldn't (or wouldn't) otherwise go. You took tiny sparks and built huge fires that lit the night and saved you from darkness. You wrangled thoughts that were too big for your tiny self and put them in an order that made sense to you. How is that silly? Dear girl, that is profound, and mature, and fucking impressive.

You had the ability to feel people's moods before they spoke. Sometimes before they even walked in the room. You had a way of... just knowing. That's not weird and it's nothing to run from. It's a pretty cool gift to have, kiddo. It's called intuition and empathy - not rare gifts, but not all together common either. Hone those and use them. Even though it sometimes feels a little freaky to know what's coming, and sometimes it'll hurt because the weight of what you feel is overwhelming, it'll still help you more than you know. You'll be able to "be there" for people in ways that nobody else can.

You loved to laugh (still do), and you loved to make other people laugh. You liked to entertain, not so much because you wanted the accolades, but because you loved to see people smiling. It's a shame you were told to tone it down, to keep it quiet, to not break out from the rest of the group and let it ring. You had a voice that was true even then. You should have been allowed to stand tall and look 'em all in the eye and sing out.

I remember one beautiful summer day, you were walking home from the neighborhood swimming pool, towel wrapped around your waist, hair dripping water down your back. The sun was shining, the trees were green, and that ubiquitous scent of full-on summer was intoxicating. You were happy and you acknowledged it by singing, "If you're happy and you know it..." All the way home, you sang and clapped and stomped and twirled and whatever else was required to acknowledge your happiness. I'm certain that anybody looking out their windows at the kid dancing and singing her merry way down the street was infected by it. You opened the front door and there was your sister, shaking her head, disapproving, "Oh my god, you're such a dork!" How sad it is that you took seriously the one person whose words you should have brushed off like a pesky mosquito. The world could have used a lot more of your happy singing and clumsy, but sincere dancing.

Back to that unbridled imagination of yours. You don't know it yet, but it's possibly your greatest asset. It will take you everywhere and anywhere. You were making up scenes and stories in your head before you even fully understood that that's what you were doing. You called it, because that's what you were told to call it, "pretending." In truth, it was inventing and creating, and in those things, discovering. Each time you "pretended" you were showing yourself how to understand and cope. You were taking what you had within you and making your world better. Ridiculous? Folly? Impractical? No, child. Intelligence. Gumption. Sophistication.

Remember the time you had the nightmare at Grandma's house? Daddy came to get you and you pressed your chubby little cheek to his rough, whiskery neck, breathing in the scent of cigarettes and coffee and turpentine. Daddy patted your hair, saying, "Shhh... s'okay... Daddy's got you, Punkin...shhh." You've never felt safer than you did in that moment. Nearly 50 years later that moment still shines, because I know now as well as you did back then, that was the real Daddy. That's the Daddy who loved every atom of you and who saw you for the precious girl you were. It's not so surprising that scents of coffee and cigarettes and paint are, to this day, comforting smells.

Here's what's so wonderful, bright, beautiful girl. You're still here. You're still alive and well inside of all this wild imagination and these crazy dreams. You're still the one who delights in the extraordinary of the ordinary day. You still sing. You write. You paint. You play. You laugh. There are probably some people who still don't understand, who still might find you foolish, but this woman you've become has decided that those kind can just go pound sand. You're the one who, every morning, kicks off the covers and belts out (if only inside my mind) the words of Maria von Trapp, "What will this day be like? I wonder..."

I delight in you, little girl. You're my best friend and I love you down to the last atom,

PS Somewhere Over the Rainbow is still our favorite song to sing, but we try not to belt it out while we're on the toilet and our voice is cracking from laryngitis. Well, that's not entirely true. We might just do it, if we're the only one home.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Just When You Thought You Were Safe

It has taken me nearly three days and a couple of nights of scattered sleep to be able to write this.

For those who don't know me or who haven't read anything else on my blog, let me give you a little back story. My father was a raging alcoholic. Emphasis on the raging. Fuck it. Emphasis on the alcoholic too. Let's not mince words at this point in the game. I spent a lot of my childhood feeling scared, cowering, afraid to speak up or out, and ultimately, feeling that I was responsible for everything wrong in the world. If I would be good, if I would be helpful, if I would play piano better, if I would... even though the drunken monster liked to tell us that we were no good.

That was then. I grew up. I spent a lot of time sorting out my feelings and dealing with them, after first deciding that it was okay to have any and all of those feelings. I worked hard at not allowing myself to be a victim. I even got to the point where I could separate the monster from the loving father. I forgave. I forgave both him and myself. I learned to love myself. I learned to be loved by others. I found peace.

*screeching discordant halt*

Fast forward to this past Sunday night at around 11:30. Steve and I were snuggled up in bed, feeding our House of Cards addiction. We heard the front screen door rattle and shut. At first we shrugged it off. It had been a windy day. Then we heard it again, followed by someone fumbling with the dead bolt. Steve launched from the bed and, in what can only be described as ninja panther style, was down the stairs.

I heard him hesitate, listening for a moment. Then, using his foot as a brace to keep the door from opening all the way, he flipped the deadbolt and yanked the door open. The surprised person on the other side thumped against the door, and managed to get an arm inside along with a slurred, "Thfuck?" Steve, baritone voice set on no-nonsense, barked, "What the fuck do you want?! Leave now, I'm calling 911!" The drunk voice answer, "Z'my fuggin' aparmin..." At this point, Steve realized it was our neighbor, Lad. He yelled, "You live two doors down. Get the fuck out of here!" Lad persisted, "Nuhnuhnuh... z'my aparmin... I live ear..." Steve flipped on the light, opened the door and said, "Does this look like your apartment?! It's my apartment. I live here. Now get out and go home." At this point, Lad spied the sofa and decided it was going to be a worthy receptacle for his inebriated ass, "I'm juz gn laydown..." At this point, Steve turned him around and shoved him out the door, slammed the door shut, and shot the lock back into place. It should be noted that Steve has lived here going on 10 years, and Lad has lived in his place for over 5 years. Lad lives in the end unit, we're the third unit in. What I'm trying to say here is that it wasn't a mistake on his part, it was pure, way down deep in the bottle(s) drunkenness.

Steve came back to bed. There was no further incident. We snuggled up and finished the show we were watching.


I've been feeling off the past couple of days. The frightened little girl raised all her concerns again. All it took was a drunk voice and an angry voice, even though neither were directed at me. I wasn't even in the room (but then, I often wasn't even way back when). I've felt unsure of myself. I've been questioning my judgment and ideas. That's not like me, not in this decade. So, I've spent several hours dissecting stuff I thought was long gone, re-suturing and bandaging and murmuring, "It'll be okay. It'll be okay. Shhh... it'll be okay."

What changed it for me was recalling two words that Steve spoke when he came back upstairs. He said, "Poor Lad." As angry as he was, he felt sorry for someone who was that far gone, someone who clearly has no control over his life, no tools to help himself, no joy, no love. Poor Lad. Indeed.

That was when I realized, this isn't mine to claim. I am loved. I am loved and I have someone who will be my advocate. I am loved and the person who loves me will do everything in his power to protect me. I love, and it isn't just a warm-hearted thing. I love - myself, that scared little girl, Steve, poor drunken Lad, my father, my mother, my friends, my enemies - I love all the way out on the limb down to the tiniest, tender branches.

And that is one safe place to be.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Could You Be Loved and Be Loved?

You should be loved.

This isn’t some Valentine’s push to get all the lonely hearts hooked up. I happen to be one of those freaks who really enjoyed being single. Of course, I really enjoy being in a relationship too. Regardless, I’m just saying, you should be loved.

I don’t care if you’re single, married, in a relationship, wondering what if, out on your first date, have lots of friends, are happy that you have lots of cats, or just lookin’. You should be loved.

We don’t deserve to be loved, and I‘m tired of people saying that. No, now. Settle down and hang on a minute. I’ve never liked hearing someone say, “You’re such a good person. You deserve to be loved!” As if love is a reward. As if love is on the same level as, “Thanks for mowing the lawn and pruning the trees. You deserve an extra beer or two!” Love isn’t on the same level as, “I’ve worked out every day this week. I deserve to indulge in a little dessert.” We don’t deserve love.

We should be loved. Simple as that.

I was folding laundry and I felt his eyes on me. I looked up. “I love you,” he said. I was ready to reply with our usual style of banter and say something like, “Yeah, only because I washed the skid marks out of your undies.” But the look in his eyes stopped me, and I only smiled. Well, I gave him the smile.

We should be adored.

We should be adored not because our bodies are in perfect condition, or because we have great hair, skin and teeth, or because we’re smart, or funny, or because we did something nice. We should be adored because something about us sitting there in our old sweats, hair knotted up in an ancient scrunchy, doing some every day, mundane task… something says, “I’m so alive.”

He gets up ridiculously early every morning. He insists that I continue to sleep a little longer. To help with that, he puts his pillows lengthwise on the bed next to me. That way I’ll think he’s still there, stay in my snuggle spot, and snooze on. The first time he did that, I gave the pillows a wry, sleepy smile and muttered, “Tricky bastard.” But then tears sprang to my eyes as a huge wave of love washed over me. In that moment, I knew I was loved, so very loved.

We should be treasured.

We should be treasured not for the car we drive, or the way we dress, or the house we own, or the furniture we have, or for the material things we bring to the table. We should be treasured for the kindnesses we do without even thinking about them. We should be treasured because we have a way of being “there” even when we’re not right there.

I know, you’re rolling your eyes right now. You’re giving me that look that says, “See? Yeah. You’ve got Mr. Perfect. It’s easy for you.” It’s not. Mr. Perfect is human and so am I, and we‘re prone to all kinds of human-type flaws. Besides, it’s not the relationship that is significant here. I could just as easily have written about friendships that touch my life in that same way. I could write about family that touches my life that same way. And… wait for it… I can tell you that I try to treat myself the same way.


Nobody knows as well as I do how difficult it can be to look in the mirror and say, “You are loved. You are adored. You are treasured. You are loved by me. You are adored by me. You are treasured by me.” It took me a long time to even say it. It took me a year before I started to believe it. But once I did believe it? Oh, the amazing, surprising, humbling, profound stuff that started rolling my way… my beloved was part of that. I wouldn’t be able to appreciate the things he does for me and the beautiful person he is in my life if I didn’t also believe that I should be loved, that I should be adored, that I should be treasured.

You should be loved.

By you.