Over Board

 

Since I like to write about life in “metaphors” and “allegory” I would like to directly confront any haters by describing my life as a big Carnival cruise ship.

When you spend 33 years steering your ship with the same beliefs, illusions, escape mechanisms, denial and self defeating behaviors, you know how to steer, because its the way you were taught. It’s the way you always have done, the way your parents and even their parents taught, a map passed down with just one compass, a set group of working members that trust you to steer the way they taught.

Rejecting their way of navigation is to reject them, to question that any idea outside the script they have written for you is rebellious and ungrateful. By asking to maneuver this ship, your own, the way you hope, the way you dream, causes narcissistic panic and rage, for such a request slaps ingratitude, defiance, and no amount of love by either party changes this fact at all.

It is their fear of all fears, to lose control.

But you cannot dance for them, steer for them, look at a map that has nothing to do with you and pretend you are doing a job GOd made you for, not even for the love you feel for them.

It is too great a cost.

Trying only comes with their reminders of your past navigations, life boats of passengers that would leave, that little failed  marriage, financial irresponsibility, their hearts heavy with concern, so naive and desperate for love and approval, you believe them.

The drama and unhealthy anxiety and loss of weight and who had to bear such a thing watching you destroy yourself?

Your heart sickened and you would agree especially when the trump card fell, like how your children were at stake, and as my mother said when I excitedly announced my acceptance to Photography school, “But honey, your children need you. A good mother knows  you can’t ever get back your children’s childhood.”

But I had waited till Lola was in Kindergarten, my heart felt it true that I had real gifts, people had told me about my writing and photography, something my mother claimed she wouldn’t read.

It was just too unbearable for her.

Not to mention being the family laughing joke, the dating disasters, financial dependence, and so you went along, so you laughed with them.

So crazy, how could YOU be qualified to run your own ship?”

They meant to shut up, find a good man, stop causing drama, and do not ask questions that make them feel, look, or examine pain, but one last thing. DO not take front seat or that would mean that they may be put out of a job, a job they invested 33 years in keeping. One thing I have learned is that nothing is more important than their own illusion of control, that you somehow are responsible for the emotions, existence, needs, and life path of another simply by being born.

In your birth, you are their ownership.

But, what if they were right?

They always were.

Could you possibly be that arrogant, even crazy, to believe that something inside you knows more?

Read their map, take passenger seat with their compass, and they promise, you will always be safe, loved, and in God’s loving hands.

In many small moments of defiant self assurance and your own part brave, part powerful, part narcissistic inner guidance, you throw the compass over the side, rip their perfect map and do horrible things like go to school, take on boyfriends not of their knowledge or choosing, at 33 mind you. You refuse calls, break cars, and cry over missing your babies.

They tell you that this is abuse, this defiance of role, the writing, and you failed them by not taking the destination they paid and invested financially and emotionally for you.

In your young naive attempt for all that you have fought for, you throw up the middle finger, rip their map, not just in half with a clean line you can tape back later for emergency, but in many teeny pieces throwing them up in the air.

You clearly have no idea what you have done.

They watch in horror, announce insanity, and so you hear the many heartbreaking lies from the ones who KNEW you, who were watching, who cried and held you, so you dive deep in denial as your reputation is smeared, like a knife you know is cutting and bleeding in your back, but you refuse to pull out.

Sometimes pretending the pain isn’t really there is less painful than the wound itself.

And sometimes, this exact point causes you to never fully examine your wounds, your life, your loved ones, I believe, is a promise that you will in fact, become them.

The repair is not possible you realize as your heart slices to pieces, your children are no longer called or seen, even the ex that supported them is deleted next to you off of facebook, birthdays and holidays are ignored, with the exception of a lovely card, only for the grandchildren, who have been left to you for the explanation of why an entire extended family, aunts uncles and cousins, are gone. I couldn’t bare it. My babies most claimed to being loved were now pawn to a woman who claims I will not let her see them.

And so, you have what you have asked for, a ship, gulp, and no one to control the many anchors and nets, food preparations, or storm safety regulations.

You have a few passengers to take leadership of, all watching with careful scrutiny as to how this captain will maneuver without any map, an illogical quest for certain, and you can feel some of them smug at their obvious belief you will hit the rock of Gibraltar, or drown the entire boat from your selfish, ignorant, irresponsible and reckless decisions.

They are waiting to be right.

The others left are a little scared, with life jackets all on, you notice, a fact that makes you wince, seeing as there is only bright sky and little waves, but they have swimmies, goggles, inner tubes and helicopters on call.

So you will prove them all wrong. You will prove you are the Captain, the first to use an inner guidance and new technology from within. You are living your destiny, you say in the mirror at night, certain the gods will protect you and the ripple effect of your intentions will lead you and your girls to freedom.

You believe with all your might you are called to do so.

And in front of them all, in front of yourself, you run your ship directly into a glacier.

And another one.

You see with terror that the water has began to fill the first cabin of passengers and it is your fault, these passengers you have grown to love as your own family are all affected, their money and resources drained, their thoughts of your motives and choices are murmured below, but you can hear them all.

They are losing trust, amongst the chatter, you feel their worry and anxiety over you, causing great pain and a responsibility greater than you ever knew before.

That is the worst part of being a captain.
Letting down the ones you want nothing more than to love and protect that have no choice but to drown or get hit amongst the rocks with you.

I was in the McDonald’s drive thru, with Lola my cheerleader, Kat my critic, and I saw her eye me in my rear view.

She must have noticed I buy nothing for myself, even food, something she comments on, aware at too young of an age that mommy has had an excruciating break up, must move out without any idea where to live, needs extra work and fast, and is heartbroken mostly over missing them and wondering if in fact, everyone was right, once again.

“Mom,” she said, with authority in her voice, even at 10.

I was scared to look up.

“One day mom, you will have a big house and a man that is your real soul mate, you’ll see. You will go on trips and buy things and mom, you can do it. One day mom.”

“Yeah!” Lola cheered from the back, shouting, “YOU WONT ALWAYS HAVE NO MONEYS!”

She kept eating her fries while I said nothing, afraid to show the tears sliding, the belief they have in me had nothing to do with my past behavior, all to do with what they knew I was capable of.

“And a child shall lead them.”

I had already took on a first captain, one with a snarky spitfire of personality and courage, to test the waves, an open book of brilliance and psychological passion which she has mysteriously gained at such a young age.

Ya’ll know her as Thelma.

I hired her to research and build a new map you see, my courage and passion to my cause quickly passing, so I asked her to find a much better working compass, a growing regret was quickly coming with the realization I threw away with the first one with little indifference at the time.

She has bad news.
She cannot give me a new compass.
She WILL not give you a new compass.
She says it like the truth blazer she is, something I often brag will make her the greatest forensic psychologist of all time, but with me, you see, I demand she change the very core of what makes her beautiful and unique.

I explain carefully that I just want her to say it is okay.

She explains details over my ship with little patience and logical direct blows. She tells me I am the leader of this ship, not her, and not the ones before, and I have a choice. I will lead the ship I call my life, for good or bad, or not.

My knees go weak, not knowing I had unconsciously looked for the exact replacement of what I knew for all my life. I just saw pain, blinding white light, and an evil girl who cut up souls and served them on strawberries.

It took a lot of time to see the real Thelma, not the woman I only projected upon as “mother.”

On many occasions I imagine I might have challenged her to first deck where I would wrestle her lady like uppity ass to the ground, but in fact, something worse happened.

I realized she was right.

What the fuck was I thinking?

I did what all confident self seeking freedom fighters do and cried, begged, demanded she do it, fell faint on the floor from the magnitude of it.

She just rolled her eyes.

Until the breaking.

Something had to be changing for she was evolving into the nurturing and kind friend, the co caption I was used to was not empathetic, even harsh.

It was the first time I saw her as she was, and had always been, but from my own dysfunction and terror of being abandoned had blinded me to ever seeing the real her.

I saw after a year that she had no life jacket on or life boat pulled to the side, nor had she ever.

How could I have missed this?

So this was the breaking, the pounding of my knees to the ground, the layers of unworthy unloved messages and beliefs began to take over, and I had nothing left to fear.

In that moment, I had and was nothing,

The interesting thing about pain is that some pain keeps you stumped for years, and I had the tears of a clown with the make up dripping off, only my true sad self to let through and all of it, all of it, had been not my fault, but my responsibility.

I wasn’t stumped at all. I was aware I had done nothing I had set out to accomplish, that intentions mattered nothing, that I was in fact, the scum on the bottom of the scummiest bottom.

So the reality I had been missing was that she had not changed into anything, for I saw her, my biggest defender, fighter, support and friend. It was I who was the one changing, the parts of me who kept her and the world away were the ego and I had none left, not anymore.

Then I heard some music, coming from bottom deck, Justin Timberlake I believe, blasting on the radio, my girls coming up to shake what their mama gave them, the ship half burned, ship wrecked, void of food.

True deliverance comes not when we are accepting mighty awards in front of all the people who didn’t believe in you, our shadows and ego convinced OUR truth will be rewarded, maybe even a podium or Ted Talk might come our way.

It just is never going to be that way for me.

It is in the destruction, when the tides have turned and all is lost at sea. It is in the shipwreck and pirates who betray again and again, so you find treasure in your laughter, in your glories, in your unforgivable mistakes, and if you have a lucky break, all you can see and feel is just peace.

These are the finest of any treasure a captain can find, when her ship becomes eerily still while the  dolphins came to say hello, jumping in perfect circles. One by one they come, dressed in costume, Kat and then Lola, Thelma and Dad, all the ones who love from a broken heart come to dance.

“You are the captain of your ship, the captain of your soul” is a quote I scribbled down way before I took on this journey, and I will not begin being grateful when I find the destination, the flag, the written map the gods reveal before me.

Sink or swim, with maybe one float left to hold on as I watch my boat burst into flames, it doesn’t matter.
I will dance just the same.

For everyone on board, from past to present to unknown to future known, this is the song I am dancing to, hoping you all are blessed, touched, and loved. It is you who have been God’s touch on my shoulder.

Enjoy!

Michael Franti & Spearhead LIVE

 

Humble Beginnings

When I had lunch with my father for the first time in years, I showed up with no hope for anything less than a migraine, my tone sarcastic and inappropriate, many jokes right on the edge of my tongue.

It is just my way, a nervous tick, bizarre and dark my humor comes to protect me in times of humiliation, terror, and even when death awaits, I can’t help it.

I get the giggles.

The first thing that surprised me was how I had ever forgotten how hard I make my dad laugh. It was strange to have forgotten the way he laughs at my jokes, his hand slapping his knee, the way he grabbed his side as if it were literally hurting.

I missed that.

I asked him if he had a 23 page nuker letter for me, partly to test the waters, partly to make a dig, partly to judge, something I had seem to have become numb to doing. He laughed.

He had aged, white hairs were more visible, a heart attack now ensured an “Ipod” be sewn into him, and he seemed immediately different, soft, much more gentle and patient, like he perhaps had a story of his own.

I wasn’t even skeptical or disrespectful as I had been for so long.

I was plain curious.

It was so odd to be his daughter again, like I had rented him or something, all of the sudden this man I had so grieved as a father was putting gas in my tank till full, checking if I had a seatbelt, not letting me pay for my soda.

I felt nothing.

When I walked into the cabin, I had to die laughing at his bachelor life, the same damn exercise bike still in place but with a mound of clothes covering it to the floor.

I stopped dead in my tracks at his pointing out the book that “changed his life” but doesn’t remember, the 4 agreements I nodded, but It wasn’t that. I saw the books next to it, the ones he hadn’t read but I owned, outlined to death and nearly destroyed after dropping it in the bathtub once.

“Dad, are you reading this?”

He squinted two inches away, trying to remember, but I knew that no way did he find this book on his own.

“My therapist has me reading those, which I am going to start,” a pause, then the kicker, “You know you come from Narcisstic parents.”

“Wait. He even pronounced the word correctly, and was instructed in therapy to read the book that had just recently become my Bible?”

I was feeling nervous now, for it was clear he was not even trying to impress me or make a story, but I had been told he had scammed that Dr. and wasted his time and patience, taking his money instead of using it for therapy.

This began many nervous pause and with a question, my breath trying hard not to show my anticipation.

This was it, the moment to get my questions answered, the ones I stared at in the middle of the night.

“Hey Dad. What ever happened with that grant you got that paid for your insurance?”

He didn’t skip a beat.

“Well, I was without a job and had no insurance because in one month of having my first silent heart attack, my insurance went up from 330 to over 900 dollars. There was just no way. I begged the doc to not make me, you know how I feel about needles.”

I let out my breath finally, my mind spinning.

“I didn’t even ask but the Doc went in his drawer and pulled one document to sign, telling me I qualified.”

Then I realized the ridiculous fiction I passed off as the Bible.

Like a disciple in a cult, I had been repeating that he got pissed his insurance wouldn’t get paid for by a relative, dropped his insurance on purpose to piss that relative off and having no job or money, he had gotten a bloody grant? He had to have scammed it I nodded in agreement, the other heads in unison.

I had been there five minutes and already I could feel in the way he talked and moved, his focus on his Four Agreements book he displayed were one of a billion web shots flashing thru my mind.

I had been right. And oh, horribly wrong, but RIGHT, but how? I had just been certain I had been right. I didn’t know right could feel so wrong.
How could I be angry at my family when I had participated in the same alienation that had been done to him?

And oh God, the blogs, all the public blogs I had written!

I couldn’t go back now, I thought, guilt rising like a hot air balloon.
He had lived here alone, totally ostracized, for YEARS, and I expected him not to change at ALL, not even a teeny bit? How could this have happened? I know enough just being alive I can transform in a day, a moment, and I wrote him off like a bad check.

I decided to ask a lot of questions, strange ones to him I know, and I asked in my poker face just for my own observation, my heart pounding.

I didn’t even have to hear the answers to the questions I had just known would destroy us before we had the chance to start. I knew in five minutes I was in trouble for this wasn’t the man I remembered, not at all.

I was sick as he chatted nonchalantly, this man I had been so afraid of had big tears in his eyes because we were listening to Adele, who always made him cry. He told me about his anger and what that had been like to deal with, how he had just graduated to acceptance of never seeing his children again, how that broke him and he only wanted more than anything just to be able to hug his sons, know his grandchildren.

He spoke of my mom being his best friend, his entire identity had been as mom’s husband, my dad, and without us, he was nothing.

He had to have this lesson to teach him who he was.

I knew my father and I were alike, but in this moment I saw he understood me.

He understood that to work and work for acceptance and respect to sabotage that same love you wanted again and again, along with his communication problems, he had hit rock bottom.

And he needed to.

And so did I.

I didn’t like myself suddenly.

I could feel my stomach tightening, everything in my Spirit saw that I was wrong, and it had almost been three years and I had judged him harshly, removed all contact and yes, he agrees I should have. He had been toxic and in the middle of a horrible divorce, had gone nuts, knew it, owned it.

I hadn’t anticipated that.

I remember that passage from the Bible as a little girl something like, “To enter the kingdom of God you have to become as a little child,” and that was the second harsh lesson of this day.

I hugged him goodbye, him not asking for anything from me and I didn’t care what anyone thought, not anyone for my father had taught me a valuable lesson this day. I had nothing to teach or give, nothing and his inner work humbled me, my pride and investment in being “right” or not being “accepted” had blinded me in a war that had never been mine to fight.

I had been a part of the ugliest divorce in which the children were the missiles, and I had to forgive that. I had to forgive him. I had to forgive myself. And like he said, I had to forgive mom. But first, I loaded Kat and Lola in the car and my tummy turned in anxiety for I knew they had not seen him for years and what would I say? How would I tell them?

I got out the first sentence.

“Girls, we are going to see Papa…”

They interrupted me.

“His colors are good now, mommy?” Kat asked with big wide eyes.

“Papa misses me?” says Lola, and together when I nodded, tears flowing down my cheeks, I didn’t have to ask them forgiveness or explain my reasoning, they looked at each other, squealed, hugged and told me to turn up the radio, putting their hands up in the air like we were on a roller coaster.

And so a child shall lead them.

Tulips

Did you know Tulips symbolize perfect love?

I was so relieved.

One of the reasons I hate roses, especially red, is that my mom is a fragrance woman, a practical woman as well, and a lover of trinkets and Christmas ornaments and books, especially the Classics, and of a nice robe, and she just thought that with four kids and of the many things she needed, it was silly to buy 50 dollars of roses that would just rot and die.

So, every year, on every birthday and every Valentine’s day and every Anniversary since I was about eleven or twelve, being the oldest, I would beg him NOT TO BUY HER RED ROSES.

That is a lot of occasions if you add them up in a year since eleven.

And he would agree every time. And every year, the front door would ring, the dogs would go crazy barking, and she would sigh.

Then, she would look at me and smile sweetly. “Your father,” she’d say. She always arranged them beautifully and put them in a vase, and she never said anything unkind.

He would come in the door, three occasions a year, and say “Hey, did you get the flowers?” and she would say, “Thank you, David, they are beautiful.

And year by year, I would find out little things just by growing older, the remarks of, “Honey, why not get me pink roses? I REALLY love pink roses.”

So, I would say to him, “DAD! GET MOM PINK ROSES, PLEASE!!!!”

And red roses would show up.

And there were the times that were good and then the tough, when I would hear her say, “Honey, please don’t buy me flowers this year, really. I don’t need anything at all and we really need to be saving for this or that,” and the door bell would ring or he would cut cost and walk in with them, like a war hero, waving them in the air like an idiot.

And one day, I came home for a visit from college and there were gorgeous white and pink and lavender roses, and I just looked at her in shock and she would laugh.
“I bought them, sweetie!” she would say.

It became a big joke, for her to have something she wanted for once, because he never ever listened and it would infuriate me.

And I noticed one year that she didn’t have a stocking, while ours were filled and overflowing with Santa love, and I would ask her, “Why, not?” and she would smile and just say she loved watching me open mine.
So, I asked Dad to get her a stocking every year, and my heart would burn every year after that, when she would bring him coffee on Christmas morning and nothing would be there for her.

And then, something strange happened to me in my own marriage. It was a horrible year, and we were doing terrible in every area of life, and quite frankly, its shocking to look back and realize that we screamed the way we did, and how ugly it got.
And he did the unpardonable crime.

I asked for a date night for our anniversary where he would plan it and we could go on a date, just us, with Kat safe and entertained, a movie night, with maybe a margarita or two and I got a new dress. I was so excited.
He came home at 7:30 that night with you guessed it, clear wrap, flowers that had thorns, and I swear to God I blacked out in rage. I threw them at him.

“YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME, I SCREAMED!” and he screamed, “NOTHING IS EVER ENOUGH” and I hated him. He hated me.
I cried all night and now I see the symbols everywhere I was unconscious of then.

And at the very end, on last Mother’s Day, my Dad had broken his promise AGAIN, and we already were attempting a restraining order, and Divorce as frantic over how to get this man to leave us alone, and he broke into our garage, and left two dozen roses, a dozen red for mom, and a dozen white for me.

It would be the last time he brought them to her and my mom marveled because he brought yellow, not red, and we knew that was so bizarre, and then she called me in to the kitchen, cutting them like always, but this time, she opened her mouth in shock and said, “Katie, count them!” I counted them.

1-2-3 all the way to 13. 13 roses. In numerology, the 13 symbolizes death.
And where in God’s name do you find 13 roses anyways? Who miscounted while wrapping them up at Kroger?

And so, that is when my auntie that same night had the dream about the one tulip, coming through the snow. In the dream, my mom was singing the song of the Resurrection, and I looked up the meaning of the tulip, curious, and it said, “the flower symbolic of perfect love.”

So, tonight, before I go to bed, I am sending my father a tulip, forgiving him and myself for the billionth time. Somehow, I have to believe that something perfect will come from all this pain, all this heartache. I must believe that tomorrow,

I will awaken and no matter what the outcome, I will have risen.

I love you.

Cloudy with a Chance of Hurt Elephants

Tomorrow my little brother is getting married to a fabulous girl.

She has perfect teeth and golden blond hair but she has this really cool flavor to her as if she might just have been goth in high school so you forgive all her very perfect perfections.

She has a cat named Waffles and loves to read books to my girls, never skipping pages like me when I get tired of reading the same story over and over.

She takes her time and turns the pages so slowly, skimming her eyes over each one to make sure she caught every detail.

I love this about her.

Tonight can be described in cocktail dresses, the chatter of old friends meeting again, little girls in pearls, men in shiny ties and of course, the random clinking of glasses with forks to toast the future groom and bride.

It would seem as the perfect night for any rehearsal dinner except in our case, there was a big elephant in the room.

My dad wasn’t there.

Baby brother addressed this in his speech which felt like a small punch in the gut, my mom crying in to her napkin, apologetically. He did a good job and my heart filled with love and pride as he described our family as being put back together, but better and stronger.

None of us kids are very good at hiding big elephants; it is our greatest strength and flaw at the same time.

After a lot of work on my own daddy issues, including the grief and forgiveness acquired because of them, I was surprised at my hurt tonight. I mean actually surprised.

It was as if I wanted to put my hand over the hurt, the throb that seemed to beat with my heart, and look around to see if anyone else noticed what I did, this deep hurt, breathing and living and hiding inside of me. I am not good at hiding it, so I don’t know how or what to do with it, except go on, doing all the things that seem right, like attending weddings and taking photos and making blueberry pancakes for my little ones for breakfast.

I actually just told Clyde that it wasn’t even there anymore and tonight I feel so defeated, as if it is somehow my fault that I can’t confidently say I am moving forward, as if that isn’t what I want more than anything in the world.

I’m supposed to be joyful, grateful, always looking for the lesson and the rainbow on a dark cloudy night.

And I will. But, tonight, dear readers, I just hurt.