The concept of time as I understand it

I just got off the phone with my mom and she said two things that when held together, represent how I feel about time.

It’s her 50th birthday today. She just told me that she has officially outlived both of her parents.

I will be 25 in about a month. That means she has been in prison for more than half my life.

When I think about time in a conceptual format, wrestling with these two things befuddles me. If time is a string, it begins to become more elastic, depending on my perspective. To me, it does not seem that much time has elapsed but really, it has. More than half my life has been spent with her behind bars.

The sum of her life, eclipses the lives of both her parents.

Time is weird.

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Let go my ego

I read this article recently that really stuck with me over the course of the last few days. It said something along the lines of “I really thought we’d had a connection because we talked everyday but then I began to realize that we didn’t because we never got into the deeper subjects that mattered”. I’ve looked at a lot of my relationships lately with that thought in mind lately.

I just got off the phone with my mom and I’ve gotta say, we don’t have that problem. I sometimes feel like I talk too much about my own stuff and because she’s my mom, she’s always willing to listen. I think I will constantly be reminding myself to listen more, talk less. But at the same time, we talk about everything. From trivial to tumultuous, we go there. I appreciate that about our friendship now.

I don’t know what it is about my college but for some reason, I’ve noticed more and more lately that a lot of people don’t engage in anything. Like the taste of blase is so tempting, they’re unwilling to try something new. My mom just said “I never noticed until I got here, how many people in life really just like to skate by, waiting for other people to do their work for them”. She went on to say that in her groups where this is happening, she finds out the real life lesson is usually something entirely unrelated to the group material. Once, it was about a bully in the room and learning how to (metaphorically) disarm her. I find that to be the case for myself more often than not.

I’m taking an art education class this semester and the first two weeks for me were SO frustrating. I feel like I’m sitting in a room of kindergarteners. I mean, I have had years of study in art (before this college, it was at my community college). In total, I’ve studied art — and I mean really studied art — for almost 6 years. I found out during a small group exercise last week that one of the girls in my group had only taken one other art class before and that the words coming out of my mouth sounded like an entirely different language. The thing is, I needed to hear that. I think my lesson this semester is in temperance and humility. Fine, I’ll take it. I have already decided I will make office hours with my teacher to explain to her why I’ll be a lot quieter in the weeks ahead. I hope she’ll agree with me when I level with her. I don’t want to intimidate or come across as a know it all. But I can see it in her eyes when she looks pointedly at me, she’s desperate for engagement and she doesn’t care 9 times out of 10 when I’m monopolizing the discussion. 

My problem is that I fear I will never be challenged intellectually at my current school. I’ve been here a year and so far, I’ve had two classes that I found remotely interesting. It’s really unfortunate and it is pretty soul crushing for something who finds knowledge to be akin to a fountain of ecstasy. When I was at community college, my brain was constantly exploding with new concepts and essays and wow, I never realized I was so spoiled. I fear I will never feel that way again for as long as I’m here.

My vent is this: HOW DID YOU GET SO FAR IN LIFE WITHOUT A BASIC KNOWLEDGE OF ECONOMICS, POLITICS, CULTURE, ETC?! Were we not required to take the same general education classes?! HOW have you NOT absorbed ANYTHING!? I just don’t understand how it’s even possible. My mind does not compute. No wonder facebook has destroyed our minds. These “peers” of mine just regurgitate and all I want to do is fall asleep listening to it. WAKE UP PEOPLE USE YOUR DAMN BRAIN.

Complacency and apathy are my biggest enemies. Ironically, when I use the word enemy, I don’t even feel angry about it. I almost wanted to say “disinterests” or “turn offs”, like my mind couldn’t even muster up the right emotions to feel.

I just don’t understand it and in many ways, I wish I knew how to blend in more. Flowers for Algernon sits heavily in my heart. I wish I understood how to conform and stop caring like everybody else. Is it so wrong to want to actually learn something? I understand that I will forever be looking at my classes from the lens of theoretical “life lessons” to take home at the end of the semester but really… I just want to learn something academic for a change. I want to be challenged. I wish I’d gone to a different school. I want something better.

Disneyland

I’m not sure why I never finished this draft. It was a long time ago. It seems finished to me.

I went to Disneyland on Wednesday. My mom was really into Disney as a kid and I haven’t been there since the Christmas right after she went to prison.

It was weird being there. It was like a strange disillusionment being back there. Not only was I an adolescent at my last visit, but I was also probably in a state of shock. Before we got there, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you anything about the park, its layout, anything. The minute we started walking though, it was like muscle memory. Except that I realized how much smaller everything was, how much closer together all the different “lands” are. I also thought, how can anyone come here more than once a year?

No offense to any of you season pass holders. I know how much people love disney. Some part of me wishes I did. But another part of me sees all the consumerism and the hyperreality of everything and in all honesty, I kept thinking to myself “thank god I’m not a disney person”. I will never be a diehard for anything but nature and even then, I live in the city so how “diehard” can I be?

But all the smells and the sounds. They reminded me so strongly of the person I could have been. I don’t wish I was that person or anything and I doubt it’s just me, but there are definitely times where I allow my mind to wander to the possibilities. I let it roam to places of “could haves” and “should haves” and I guess that’s okay and healthy. I don’t feel anything about it one way or another but being there at Disney reminded me of that for the first time in a very long time while simultaneously reminding me to be extremely grateful for who I am and where I’ve been.

 

Early release

I’m trying to look at things a little objectively right now. My boyfriend has been reading into stoicism and sending me bits of advice via “remember…situations are neutral. It’s all about your reaction that determines whether they are positive or negative.” I don’t really know if that’s stoicism or not but I’m going to take a page from his book right now.

What are my fears about my mom’s release? Well it probably breaks down into a few categories. I think I’ll focus on the ones that are closest to the present.

One big fear is that my sister and I will butt heads. She’s very controlling and I’m nervous my mom may flock to that sort of authority. I don’t think she needs people controlling her life once she gets out. But I’m also most afraid that she will be forced to pick sides. Seeing as my sister are constantly in competition with each other (as dictated by her, not me), I don’t actually care if she picks her side just to save face. I do care if she picks sides with her because she doesn’t want to make her own choices and she’s afraid to see how she actually feels about things she wants to do. I can see how it would happen. She’d come to me “hey bugg, I’m thinking about…” and we’d launch into a conversation and she’d come to a conclusion and then she’d talk to my sister about it and my sister would go “well obviously that’s the wrong choice. Do this.” and because she’s so fragile right now, she’d just follow blindly.

I don’t know if that’s a rational fear or not but it’s in my head.

I think the other part is how to introduce her to people. How do I explain her absence. Do we lie? Do we only lie to certain people? I’ve always had my “PC” version of the truth, will we need to implement it? How do I introduce her to the people in my life who already know the truth?

My other fear is that I won’t want to pursue the same things anymore. I’ll be dealing with actual real life stuff. I’m a fixer. I’m a conflict resolver. I’m a person who jumps 200% into helping people and when I’m doing that, I forget to care about the stuff I like to do. I’m afraid a piece of myself may disappear when it shouldn’t. But I’m also prepared for the pieces that aren’t relevant anymore to evolve. So I think that falls under the umbrella of the “unknown” which is fine. I can’t focus on those without more information.

My other fear is that she’ll be really inappropriate in social situations. She doesn’t have a filter for some things and I’m not sure how being institutionalized has affected her tendency towards aggression. She was never really a physically aggressive person, always a psychological one. Will she regress? Or has she already evolved?

What activities will bring her peace? What activities won’t?

I know I can’t carry her burden for her but I want to help her transition the right way and I’m totally freaked out that I will give her the wrong advice one day and she’ll be thrown into a situation where she can’t handle it.

I’m afraid of the rescue phone calls. I’m afraid of the midnight ones where she can’t sleep. I just want to get her a cat.

Gray

So I just found out that my mom is getting out in nine months. She’s being let out on early release. This is going to sound super fucked up, but I thought I had another two years before I had to figure this stuff out.

Nine months. That’s no time at all.

I’ve been pushing off the mental headache of everything since we found out they were taking time off for a bunch of stuff. But I also thought I had two years before I had to think about it. 

I thought I had two more years. 

Welcome back, it’s been a while

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Abandonment issues are really weird. You know, it’s been around twelve years now (I think, but math has never been my strong suit) and I still feel the ghost of them. Sometimes, it colors my interactions with friends, tells me to build boundaries and shelter myself from lifelong friendships. Sometimes, it takes a really long time to even become aware of their effects before I find the strength in myself to start making changes. That’s the biggest reason why I find myself attracted to art. That’s the one time where I am most comfortable being completely vulnerable about my perspective on the world. Mostly because my history informs my present, my work ends up being something about my mother. Hurrah.

When it comes to romantic relationships, I don’t know why I still find myself surprised when they show up like a hated ex who likes to ruin all the newfound good stuff I’ve started to build up.

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It was a normal day, nothing different from any other. Except that I’ve sort of become comfortable hearing from my boyfriend either via text, snapchat, etc, on a daily basis. Even if that’s just an “I’m just saying hi xx” and that’s it for the day. Maybe it’s just a silly picture of him doing something in his room. But regardless, that happens everyday now. Call me spoiled, but I think I expect that. And then he didn’t contact me at all and I started thinking to myself, ‘he’s leaving me now’ and I couldn’t shake this feeling like he was seeing other people and I wasn’t good enough anymore and throughout my whole paranoid breakdown, I knew that’s just what it was: a silly reflection of my deep seated abandonment issues. It had absolutely nothing to do with him and yet it totally paralyzed me for a few hours, maybe even a day. It doesn’t help that my exes have been totally fucked up people (another reflection of my mommy issues). I just thank god that I don’t have to deal with both mommy and daddy issues. That would make for a really torrid milkshake of psychological bullshit.

So there I am today, in the shower with him and he’s soaping my back and I started crying. He never knew I was crying and I didn’t turn around just to show him I was crying but just the simple act of touching me sweetly, broke me. I drove home and cried again because my heart was just a total mess. He’s actually perfect for me at this point in my life and I will not do what I usually do: lose interest to avoid being hurt and abandoned. Because that’s what I always do at around a year of dating someone. I find out I either rushed into a terrible relationship or slowly retreat into myself so that I don’t have to deal.

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I’m just going to keep myself aware of my own bullshit as much as possible and hope for the best. He’s definitely got his own list of skeletons he’s working through and it’s kind of incredible because we’re both bringing out better versions of one another and I think that’s really healthy and great. Everyday, I feel like the luckiest girl alive. When I leave him, I feel starved for his presence even after like nine month of dating which is a feeling I hope never leaves. I’ve done it right this time (with his help one hundred percent). I haven’t jumped into bed with a stranger. I haven’t chosen to ignore some major personality flaw. We’ve done all the steps, the ones that make a really strong foundation for a good relationship and I’m ridiculously proud of that.

And yet, here come the stupid abandonment issues to haunt me. They make me hesitate when I feel like reaching out, they make me overthink things I know shouldn’t be weird. The minute I’ve been single for a while, I seem to be more aware of myself and my actions and I really feel like I’m doing everything right. The longer I’m with someone, the easier the doubt steals in. The only thing that makes sense right now is graduating, being a good sister in my sorority, and taking advantage of every damn resource I’m paying for in college. All good things, I know. Thank god for writing, right?

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2:51 am 8/30

Fast friendships confuse me

How does it work?

Does it mean more or less?

Is value even a question to those involved?

Is it simply because I haven’t met that kind of friend yet?

There are some changes on the horizon

It’s been a while. Then again, that cycle of summer processing seems to be upon me. In my defense, I’ve also been trying to put off processing through a few recent developments. Prop 57 has impacted my mother’s sentence, as well as a few programs she’s involved herself in over the last decade. It looks like she’s out on early release. Nine months from now actually, give or take. I thought we had another couple years.

I don’t really know how to feel about it yet. I’m not as freaked out as I thought I would be but that’s also because it feels like I’m sitting in the road watching a truck come straight for me. Obviously, that’s mildly dramatic. That truck could be a figment of my imagination.

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I think the most profound aspect of this news that has me boggled is how this will affect my art. For most of my life, my writing, art, and other coping mechanisms were populated with prison themes: time, loss, abandonment. I never had to dip my pen in different ink.

I’ll be honest, I’m pretty sick of dealing with prison themes. I never wanted to let her life choices define my own but I also couldn’t deny myself the experience of them. What a weird, tangled web I found myself in.

The good news is she’s more freaked out than I am. I’m trying my best not to have sympathy for her but I can’t help it. It’s going to be really weird for her. When she went in, dial-up was common place and people still used AOL.

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The transition process is going to be shocking to her system. She claims to be all hardened and whatnot (and I’m sure she is), but I know there are going to be a LOT of midnight phone calls where she’s crying and frustrated because something in her house keeps making a noise or she can’t figure out how to listen to a voicemail or something. I expect this.

I will also not be her metaphorical crying shoulder. I will be a helpful daughter on my own terms, with lots and lots of boundaries. I might finally be able to start throwing away some of her mail.

My sister just told me she’s been throwing her letters away. I’ve kept every single one, including envelopes, for this whole damned sentence. I sort of just want to burn them but I feel like there’s a really good art project in store for them. Hopefully with a different theme.

Does this mean that I can give myself permission to stop fixing all the broken pieces? I’ve long known I’m awesome and been grateful for the challenges she’s thrown my way but I’m still a product of my circumstances. I’m actually sort of concerned for my own children. They won’t have nearly the amount of depth I do, which both worries and delights me.

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She’s going to make it to my college graduation.

It’ll be the first graduation she’s ever made it to (besides elementary school which doesn’t really count). I’m actually really happy about it.

God, I hate writing about this stuff. It’s all so damned heavy and while necessary, I can feel myself sounding like a broken record. I’m just ready for it to be over. Maybe I’ll actually go back into my darkroom again. Maybe I’ll shoot some film again.

I swear, if she tries to bake me cookies and do my fucking laundry though I’m going to lose it.

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I found this tonight

Live days like a storm
And evermore laugh at pain
Learn to forgive and —

Let’s think in timing
Speak in words that mean little
Dust does not compare

Transition endless;
Dripping bitterness in all
Trading peace for past

Too dark to alight/
Left me yearning to revive/
Abound the future/

Rumi always taught me to break things down

Do I pick male relationships and friendships because I know they will end? Is it some form of self destruction? Is it to punish myself, ensuring that eventually they either fade away or destroy me, so that I’m stuck in a constant cycle of grieving? Is it that I am obsessed with feeling pain or going totally numb?

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I have lately been trying to cultivate my female friendships. This sorority has opened up doors for me in a way I never knew or thought possible. Everyday that I talk to a sister, I realize I’m missing the guidebook that most girls learn throughout their lives. I think that scares me. I always keep everyone at arms length. I do my best to be authentic and genuine but sometimes its necessary to smile and nod with everyone else because their nuances I don’t understand yet.

I find that when I choose a male friend, I already know what kind of personality they have from the moment I decide to invest energy in that relationship. When I find a female friend, I stand guarded, as if preparing for battle. I can feel this rustle of dragon armor, alerted by any possible action out of place.

I think that’s why I’ve avoided them for so long.

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It only just dawned on me that it’s not that women aren’t good friends and I’m saving myself from inevitable pain. Female friendships are potentially lifelong in a way that scares me. I’ve only ever had lifelong friends in family members. Except for the occasional boyfriend, I’ve only ever left myself raw with my sister.

I had one best friend in high school that was a girl. We were so close it was like family. I never worried about judgement or anything like that because we were so open with each other, we had no fear. And then something changed, I think it was just a natural progression of growing up, and I never really got over the idea that every future girlfriend would be some sort of backstabber or painful enemy. Weirder still as that even that specific best friend and I never really stabbed each other in the back, we just went our separate ways.

I know how to deal with break ups on some level. I’ve never dealt with any intensely long term ones but the few men I’ve loved, I’ve loved more deeply than I think I’ve let myself feel for my friends. It’s like wild abandon when I fall in love, both freeing and unbelievably merciless. It may be cheesy but it’s totally like the buildup before a roller coaster. My heart unfolds like a lotus releasing water and slowly builds up to a strong exterior.

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It’s like I decide to let all the men I love be the ones with the power to heal me. In the end they’re the only ones I let in. And for the longest time I had always chalked it up to mommy issues and even though that may be true, is that the whole truth? Have I been slowly convincing myself that I should live alone quietly just to avoid peace and happiness? I definitely hesitate more when I think about going out with girlfriends one on one. My first thought is always, what will we have to talk about? What if they don’t like me? What if I say something stupid or there’s a lull in the conversation? What joke will I make then?

My last relationship was a doozy. But it also taught me a lot about dealing with manipulative people and so for that, I am grateful to have felt the pain. But what about with women? I’ve had girlfriends in most of my life and while we weren’t exactly sisters, we got pretty close. And then something would happen, so and so talked crap about this or blah blah hooked up with this guy and people would disappear and it felt petty but I’m realizing slowly, that stuff does matter. It’s important to know where your loyalties should lie and it’s important to also build up those kinds of skills in yourself. I thought they were petty because I’ve always been a fiercely loyal person, except I’ve made mistakes in the past too and people learn at different paces.

So then I realize that my role in most relationships has been “the mother”. Which is definitely something I’ve been working on. I do not wish to mother anymore. So if I can’t mother, what the hell do I do? What other role is there?

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I don’t even know what positions to apply for. I think back on qualities of friends I’ve observed and I get most of my information from books and movies. I observe as much as I can in real life situations but it doesn’t always apply because I haven’t memorized the moves yet.

I have a friend I want to let in. She’s the most terrifying adventure on the horizon. It’s so silly but I can feel it, we could be friends for a ridiculously long time. Like really, really good friends. So why does that scare me so much?

It’s taken me several months of dipping my feet in the pool to prepare myself to jump in. I’ve set it up next semester so that I’m hugely involved in all of the events and I’ve joined this suicide prevention organization that will be working on campus too to help remove the stigma associated with depression. This means lots of working one on one with feelings and listening and lots of sisterhood commitments. I’m taking Tai Chi right afterwards and I feel like that’s going to be my favorite class. I know that all of this will work its way out and I can feel time slowly peeling off layers on my exterior. I always thought you had to heal something from the inside out for it to feel better. I think I really needed to do that for a while. Now, I’m going to try something different.

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