I am from flip-flops, from Cheerios, and mountain lakes.
I am from the suburbs, concrete slab patios, aluminum window frames, the salty smell of a rare rain.
I am from pruned roses, green and manicured lawns in the desert, and crepe paper in the cultural hall, but also from wild buttercups, deep canyons, quaking aspen, and high, cirrus clouds.
I am from Monday night board games and vintage movies, from The Philadelphia Story and The Bells of St. Mary's. From Ragtime Cowboy Joe, Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam, and Let Us All Press On.
From four-part, 4/4 harmony in a major key.
I am from horsey laughter and scripture quotes. I am one of the booper sisters.
I am from Mormons and Hosanna! and handcart reenactments. From 2-year food storage and canning tomatoes and crisp white shirts and a quilted scripture cover.
I'm the adopted one born in Los Angeles, and also from chicken-and-broccoli casserole and ambrosia salad and a dusty antler rack on a cabin wall.
From brilliant sisters and a retreating brother. I'm the Bishop's wild youngest child - the apostate. I'm from walking to the library and cello lessons and Christmas lights shining through sheer curtains.
I am in that photo of 3 girls in a red canoe, taken right before we capsized. That beauty in the cloche and fur collar in that picture at the back is my grandmother, and this one is my grandfather taken right before the Great War. The one with 30 people posing in Sunday clothes? That's my family.
I am from the sound of a fiddle by a fire, from the smell of toasted marshmallows, a river rushing through pine trees, and the creak of a battered wooden chair.
I cannot go online at work. This has changed my online relationships and interactions greatly, particularly blog-wise. At home I choose parenting, but clearly at work I don't always choose work. Unless coerced.
My employer is benefitting, presumably, from their rules. But it doesn't exactly make me like it there.
In Jr. High, I remember being both impressed and super-depressed that a kid in orchestra was literary enough to nickname me "Quasimodo".
Nobody likes being different.
My parents never wanted to talk about it or give me language to deal with it. When the school called them in to talk about possible back therapies or surgeries, their response was shame, and lecturing me on good posture. But. But...it's hard to blame them. My mom grew up having survived polio. Her right leg was withered and her foot was clubbed. Having powered through a life of self-consciousness, of COURSE she wasn't going to allow her adopted baby to whine about a little spinal pain and some teasing. Nor would they spend money trying to change how God made me.
So I looked hunched and walked a little funny and tried to stand up straighter.
When I was a vocal music major in college, my department called me in. Together, the staff had decided to add a little money onto my scholarship to pay for some physical therapy and improve my singer's posture. And while I was so touched by that gesture, I was also deeply, painfully shamed that my problem was so obvious that they had talked about it in meetings.
Whenever I've started a new yoga class, or seen a new doctor, especially related to my spine, I immediately return to feelings of shame and embarrassment: I have a problem people can see just by looking at me. Sometimes they ask about it, and I have a tough time answering in a detached way. It's like I want to blind the world rather than have them tell me they can see my problem.
It hurts. Constant, like a bad tooth, but familiar. Occasionally that bad tooth turns into a screaming nerve ending...but usually everything returns to general malaise...particularly if I do a little yoga every day.
And then...yesterday my MD suggested that I investigate breast reduction surgery to alleviate the pain.
I have had big boobs since puberty: 34DD until I had children. Post-children: 34FF - circus/porn-sized.
But even though they are big, boobs didn't give me scoliosis. However, they could have contributed to how my back deals with gravity. I'll always have a curvy spine, but possibly something as simple (ha!) as surgery could change how my back FEELS. Forever!
We'll see. I'm freaked out, but also hopeful that I may NOT be living with constant back pain.
It’s been 6 months since my adopted dad died. And I haven’t been able to write much about him, not just since he died, but for many years before he contracted Parkinson’s. Some of that is a combination of grief and estrangement, and some of that is guilt for the many ways I was never the child he wanted me to be, and some of that is that he is and has been a very tough person to do justice to.
My father was a good person.
That just doesn’t give those words enough resonance, so let me say it in a different way: my father was a Good Person.
And because he was so busy being so very, very good, in a way I never knew enough about him as a person, other than that if there was something on behalf of others that needed doing, my father was going to be there with his hands outstretched. It’s hard to explain how relentlessly flawless he seemed.
Dad was very religious. Our days started with scripture study and ended with prayer, and our weeks were often spent studying and volunteering for church service. Among other church roles, dad spent 5 years of my puberty/teens as a Mormon bishop, which in adapted terminology is like being the minister or pastor. Mormons don’t have a theological education or ministerial training program, per se, although some of the weekly 3-hour church sessions include priesthood leadership classes for men. Being a bishop is, therefore and like all church roles, a lay-person’s calling. However, I’ve never known anybody better suited to that job: if someone needed a bed to sleep in while their marriage fell apart, they spent a night or five in our basement. If there was a flood, if somebody’s car broke down, if someone was ill, my father was there, calm, and thoughtful, and listening, and infinitely helpful.
I’ve been thinking recently, both as a parent and as his child, about a disciplinary concept he used a lot, which was to remind us that whatever we did, good or bad, had resonance in the rest of our lives and the lives of everyone to whom we were connected. For me, this really stuck, and the results were not so great, as they fed my already strong sense of depression and outsider-ness. While I had probably a usual number of parent/child run-ins, this sense of resonance made me think that every infraction committed was permanently blackening the person I was becoming and infecting those around me. The voices that praised me (and there were enough of these) seemed nearly silent, while the voices that blamed me seemed very loud.
Probably there are people who can resolve to do better and succeed easily, but I’ve never had those skills. It’s taken me years to find my inner mettle and to find the person within of whom I am proud rather than guilty – and to stop covering that guilt with a mixture of defiance and sarcasm. I now think that dad was probably trying to help us build strong characters amplifying our strengths, not remind us that our characters were going to be comprised of the mess resulting from every bad judgment, self-serving lie, and half-cocked argument we’d held. But because I thought of myself as bad and unworthy, I didn’t have a healthy way to expunge those feelings of guilt.
Also, because the way I was supposed to heal my feelings of unworthiness was through the Mormon path of confession/forgiveness to the bishop, which meant confessing my guilt and doubts to my father, I ended up avoiding what possibly would have been cathartic in that way, choosing instead to avoid any cause to talk to him as his congregant. This may not have been as cathartic as I imagine - I am not sure what this deeply religious person who was also my father might have done with doubt-riddled me when he put on the confessor hat.*
I miss him. My siblings each have seemed to try hard to be the same kind of person: infinitely good. I have to confess that, while I admire that strength and devotion to a path of hyper-vigilant excellence, it’s occasionally a bit irritating in a sibling. It’s lately occurred to me that my mother, who, while averagely good, isn’t a deeply Good Person in the same way (interesting, vivacious, fun, and prone to emotional intensity, yes), has been discovering her own level without the constant excellence-by-example my father provided. I’m sure she misses him tremendously, but I can see that she’s also more her own self than I’ve ever known her. This has been difficult, but also very interesting.
I’d like to think I can parent my kids in a way that organically evolves as they get older. I have no fear that they’ll think of me as exceptionally Good. Hopefully they won’t think of me primarily as Muddled, but that’s at least a fairly human example. At any rate, I’d like to think that I can grow my relationship with them to encompass their ever expanding intellect and sophistication – remaining both Mom and person, and that I can help them build characters that acknowledge the possibility of what occasionally may feel like endless mistakes without the weight of endless resonance.
The end of the year seems to always bring around a slog of Deep Thoughts about the Big Picture for me - and maybe for you as well? And really, I think I've been big picturing it for two crappy years. Very very heavy. And dull.
Last year I made some resolutions I probably didn't keep. Something about doing everything "better". Since that, in retrospect, was something of a fail, I'm going to try for this instead, except I need a word for it. Something about cherishing and relishing the abundance that already exists in my life.
Situationally, I hope 2009 and 2010 don't recur EVER. But even if they do, I am RICH with friendships, love, family, comforts of all kinds, and tremendous luck in my circumstances in ways over which I have no control but should acknowledge with more embrace-iness, to be sure.
So this year? This year is ABUNDANCHERELISH year! And theoretically, I'm going to try to have at least one "Things That Rock/ed" post per month. Which would be both 12 more positive posts per year than I achieved last year, and also might motivate me to blog with happier thoughts and fingers.