My Love is an Act of Will

LoveIn case you missed my performance back in May, here is a video of my reading for Listen to Your Mother SFI’ve included the transcript of my piece after. Also, please do check out the entire line up for Listen to Your Mother SF 2016. They are hilarious and moving and fantastic women with wonderful stories. You will not regret!

“Mama,” said Gamera. “I love Daddy more-er. He’s the funnest.”

Twice a day, my 4 year old daughter, will inform me without fail that she loves my husband more than she loves me.

She has her reasons.

He was her first word. He’s way more fun. He plays with her (especially that awful Cooties game that I would rather stab my eyes out than play). He takes her to McDonald’s and indoor play spaces and to the park.

He calls her “Sweetness” and “Baby Girl” and cuddles with her at night and throws her onto his shoulders and plays Tickle Monster until she collapses into giggles on our bed.

He is the funnest.

And most of all – he rarely yells at her.

For the first eighteen months of my oldest son’s life, I never yelled or raised my voice in anger. I used to be so proud of myself.

Gamera never got to meet that person. She was six months in my belly and had another three months to go. By the time she showed up, I was tired and overwhelmed and had made yelling a way of life.

It was slow at first. A slow ramping up of fury until it broke over my small children in a consistent wave of screaming and yelling.

And later, at two and a half, she would defend herself and her older brother, holding her ground. “You don’t know what you talking about it!” she would stomp, face red with scowling, arms crossed in indignation. “Mama, you’re NOT kind!”

So I totally get why she loves my husband more-er. Who wouldn’t?

Before I had children, I thought love would be effortless, flowing through me as water from snow melt.

Who would have ever predicted it would be like squeezing blood from a stone?

Who knew love could be so hard – especially when it sent the dark corners of my heart into stark relief?

Of course, I knew that love was not always easy. I had plenty of experience of that in my romantic relationships. And I knew from growing up with an abusive father that love for our children could look much different than what I wanted for my own kids.

But I had thought – I had hoped – that I would be better. I would be different. I wouldn’t let my father win.

But I was broken still and my inner beast, the echo of my father – his script, his cadence, his very words – spilled hot and rushed through my trembling lips and clenched fists.

Of course, she loves her Baba more-er.

I accept that she may never know or understand that my loving her is an act of will.

Not because she is not lovable. She is. All my children are.

But I hope and pray that they will never understand firsthand how I clawed my way up from my despair, buried under decades of lies, denial, and self-protection.

That I love her when I ensure that the cycle of abuse will end with me and not be passed onto them.

I love her when in November 2014, I decided enough was enough and asked for help.

I love her when I choose to do the hard mental and emotional work when I go see my therapist every Friday and plonk down $150.

I love her when after a year and a half of weekly counseling, I have finally turned a corner and now rarely yell.

I love her when I get enough sleep.

I love her when I pay attention to what my body is telling me – and when I listen to my body.

I love her when I drop my armor of anger and apathy and allow myself to feel and process pain, fear, and anger.

I love her when I look at the hard truths of my growing up, my coping mechanisms, and their consequences.

I love her when I choose to walk away from her instead of scream.

I love her when I humble myself to apologize and ask her for forgiveness.

I love her when I let her feel what she feels and say what she thinks – even if it’s messy and dramatic and overblown and infuriates me to no end.

I love her when I model how to pursue healing.

I love her when I tell her that even if she loves Baba more-er than me, or is angry at me, or even hates me, that I will love her. That she can never lose my love.

I love her even though she loves her Baba more-er than me.

It doesn’t matter.

Because every day, my love for her is a hard won act of will. And that is enough.

Barf, Barf, Barf Everwhere

Sorry for the small break in posting. Our household got hit with a stomach bug and I’ve been neck deep in barf, diarrhea, and laundry (because of the barf and diarrhea). Delightful.

I don’t think our house has EVER been hit with so much illness (thank goodness!!) and several of us got hit twice. And by several of us, I mean me. Ok, fine. Cookie Monster, too.

It got so bad that last Wednesday, I barely took Gamera to school before being unable to do anything else for the rest of the day. I begged my mom to pick her up and I just let Cookie Monster and Glow Worm fend for themselves all day. And by fend for themselves, I mean they iPadded and iPhoned and Haloed to their hearts’ content. Then, my mom showed up with Gamera and lunch and they got semi-fed. Unfortunately, she had to leave so again, all three children under six were running amok in the house as I lay in bed in semicoherence.

This is how mommies are wonderful: after a long day of meeting with clients, my mom came back to my house around 7:30pm, fed and bathed all three children, and then had them clean up the entire downstairs (which seriously, looked liked several natural disasters swept through). Then, she finally left for her home to take care of herself. (And my poor mother caught the stomach bug over the weekend.)

Where was Hapa Papa during this time, you might ask? On “vacation” in Texas. We didn’t leave him out, though. He joined our dubious club on the weekend, too. But before that, he was a big help while I malingered.

Anyhow, that is the current update of our peoples. Thank goodness I homeschool – we basically didn’t do any formal learning for about two weeks. But now, we are slowly getting back into the swing of things (including blogging).

Have a healthy and non-barfy Wednesday!

 

The Terrible Fear In Tenderness

“You know it’s okay to love your husband, right?” Dr. T asked me.

“Yeah, but you know, that would conflict with the image I’ve cultivated for myself,” I replied, only half-joking. “It runs counter to my inner narrative.”

There are few Facebook posts that grate on me more than the ones of folks gushing and humble-bragging about their “brides” or “smoking hot wives” or “hottest man in the world.” It always strikes me as insincere. (And before you get all huffy about it, I realize that people are are free to post whatever they want on Facebook and if I don’t like it, I don’t have to read it. I know it’s my problem and my personal preference. I’m not trying to tell people what or what not to post. Chill out.)

I don’t even like pretending Hapa Papa and I like each other let alone love. Personally, I find it more comforting and secure to pretend that we are together out of mutual laziness (eg: my lack of wanting to train a new partner and his lack of wanting to learn – and fail at – a new set of “rules”) than because we love and are devoted to each other.

I trust Inertia. Feelings? Not so much.

Over these past 6-8 months in counseling, I am realizing more and more just how little I actually feel on a daily basis. My close friends seem surprised since I am often angry or frustrated or laughing or disappointed – but I don’t actually feel anything deeply other than rage and frustration.

I rarely am present.

I am most often anesthetizing myself with food, Facebook, or texting. I kill time, waiting for my kids to sleep so I can actually “live” my life, only to feel such regret and shame when they are finally down because I wasted my day with them and I know these days are fleeting.

I am there but not there.

As if I’m an alcoholic but instead of vodka, the phone is my drug of choice.

I feel intense shame, guilt, and grief for I know all too well the slipperiness of time. I know the sting of abandonment and neglect. The worthlessness, the confusion, the self-blame left in its wake.

How much greater the insult if your mother is actually physically present but STILL doesn’t want to be with you? At least my father wasn’t actually there. It seems as if that detail makes all the difference.

Of course I love my children and my husband. Yet I rarely feel it. I rarely live it or embody it.

Dr. T says my anger is an armor, a way to protect myself from feeling my feelings. As a child, I was never really allowed to feel my feelings so I never learned to deal with them. My father would yell at me, “I know what you’re thinking! Don’t you dare!”

As if he could force me to feel any differently just because he willed it so. As if I were not my own person. He had the audacity to forbid me even my own thoughts.

So I stuffed everything inside and out leaked anger. Rebellion. No hurt. No pain. Shove it all down.

I seethe.

In college and as a young adult, I was in relationships that were roiled in emotion. When it was good, I had SO MANY FEELINGS! When it was bad, I wanted to die. When Hapa Papa and I started dating, I sought solace in his evenness. His zen.

Though my relationship issues smoothed out, my rage didn’t go away. Like a gasket being popped or a pipe bursting, rage would arc out every now and then. Then things would be okay for awhile until the next incident.

When Cookie Monster was born, I vowed to never raise my voice at him and I held it for about eighteen months. It’s easy to love an infant and an only child. Not so much when they turn into defiant little humans with thoughts and feelings of their own. Especially when you’re pregnant again or have more than one child or pregnant when you already have more than one child.

Now, I catch myself screaming at Gamera to stop crying. That I don’t want to see or hear her cry. (There is something about Gamera’s crying, acting like a helpless little girl that triggers my inner Hulk Smash.) This unbearable weakness.

In my calmer moments, I weep.

I do not want Gamera (or my other two) to stuff their feelings until all they know is rage.

What a heartbreaking legacy.

I have been working on being present with my children and with my life. Truthfully, though Dr. T has been encouraging me to be mindful since day one, I am only just now starting to kinda maybe sorta understand what she is talking about.

It depends on the week.

But now that I am actively trying to make changes, I find that I am overcome with fear any time I start feeling any tenderness or love.

I will be playing with Glow Worm at night before his bedtime instead of waiting in his room for him to fall asleep while on my phone (as an unintended side affect, my vision may improve, too). Glow Worm will be laughing and chuckling in that glorious rasp of his and all I can think of as I am happy and glad and horsing around with my darling baby boy is, “If I die now, will Glow Worm even remember this?” (This is hard for me even in the writing. Fear’s fingers are long and far-reaching.)

If I die now, will Cookie Monster or Gamera remember me enough to tell Glow Worm how much I loved them? How I played with them or acted around them? How much joy he and they brought me? How can they tell him of our sweet before bed tickles and laughter if they aren’t here to witness it? How will he know the safety and security of my love and our moments if I’m the only one who will remember because he is too small? Will the truth of these formative experiences be enough to to carry over into his muscle memory so that when he thinks of me, though he may rely solely on the borrowed memories of Cookie Monster and Gamera, that at least he can have this “feeling” all for his own?

How could Hapa Papa possibly love Glow Worm as much as I do to pass it on to him? And even Cookie Monster and Gamera – they are all under six. If I were to die today, how much would they actually recall?

Would their memories of me fade and be lost? To be doubly robbed of my physical being as well as their memories?

Or worse yet – what if all they remember of me is my anger or absentee parenting? What if all they feel is my judgment, cold and harsh?

These are my thoughts when I actually allow myself to feel , even partially, my joy and love for my children. A gripping fear that all this happiness and sweetness and tenderness is fleeting; biding time until it will all be inevitably ripped away.

How much less painful then, to keep these feelings at arm’s length; at bay, a safe distance from my heart?

My fragile, fragile heart.

But now that I think about it, how much worse then, if it IS fleeting, to have been so afraid of joy and its inevitable loss, to have not felt it in full when I could have had it? How much worse, then, to preemptively rob myself and my children of my presence and memories?

My fears seem so cliché.

Well, clichés exist for a reason.

I suppose if I were braver, I would be existential about it. That if I am fated to lose my loves, I better get to holding them close. Especially if it turns out I am wrong. If I don’t end up losing my loves but then am not present, won’t I have lost them in the end anyway?

Prophecy is a paradox.

Perhaps it is like a muscle. Perhaps the more I exercise the “mindfulness” muscle, either my “fear” muscle will atrophy due to disuse or (the more likely scenario) my “joy” muscles become strong enough to cancel out and perhaps someday, even overpower my instinct of fear.

Who knew love required so much math?