Welcome to dating in 2019: 101

I feel like I need to defend my love for my mother before the introduction of the next sentence: my mother has entered the modern dating world. I wanted to start by saying “I love my mom but —“ or “it’s so nice having her home but —“ and end it with something like “she drives me crazy” or “she’s a newborn babe”. The truth is, she is not prepared for the modern dating world. SHE BARELY KNOWS HOW TO USE HER PHONE.

She’s so prepared to react defensively and aggressively to any spurn, that she takes EVERYTHING personally and that’s just not a healthy reaction for her to instinctively hone. She got ghosted. A guy she started talking to essentially ditched her and she’d already given up her cookies (just found that out in the most crude presentation one could imagine) and while I don’t want to judge her or tell her what to do, SHE SHOULD NOT BE DATING.

Her head spins around CONSTANTLY. She can barely focus on one conversation long enough before she starts jumping to a new topic and while I have endless patience for her, my patience for stupid mistakes with regards to love and dating is pretty much nil.

She is forgetful (SO forgetful), rigid (she subscribes to absolutes), her goals are skewed (in her defense, she lost 13 years of progressing in a career/life/security), and she’s exceptionally quick to jump from one emotion to the next, akin to squirrels jumping trees. If I wasn’t leaving town so soon, I fear my patience for her would be much lower than it is right now. I am an adult. I am not a babysitter.

And while venting in this moment is super helpful, I realized how much her behavior tonight at the mall, focusing on her problems about her self-worth in a relationship with a man, has triggered me. COMPLETELY triggered me. If life taught her anything, it should have been: stop putting your dating problems into your children’s laps. A boundary has been crossed and I don’t know how to react to it. Am I supposed to be supportive of her selfish antics? Am I supposed to reprimand her like a parent? Am I supposed to —?

I mean, I’m at a loss. I invited her to the mall to help me shop for a shirt for this really important interview, I’m leaving soon for grad school, I’m inviting her into my evening of excitement and nerves, and there she is taking phone calls from friends in the car, texting, talking about a man she slept with WAY TOO SOON and getting knee-jerkingly defensive the moment I ask (with no judgement involved!) her anything. Do I want to hear that they were — AND I QUOTE– “f***ing”? Do I want to imagine her that way? Is it fair to want these boundaries? Is it fair to be triggered? Is it fair to be supportive? Should I disguise my honesty in sugar?

What is the proper way to proceed? Is there a guidebook somewhere?

I’m just so tired. I have to be on a plane approximately 24 hours and this trip is a big flipping deal for me and instead, I was awash in relationship advice. I mean… is that fair to me? Am I being selfish? What is a relationship if not reciprocation?

I don’t talk about my relationship problems with her that often. I don’t really have any beyond the fact that he lives in a different state than I do. Which seems like a doozie, but in actuality is a blessing because I’ve been overwhelmingly productive and driven by the distance: faithful, committed, and all the while crushing goals. I’m not mad, but beyond wishing for a different circumstance, change is beyond my control. I accept that. I do my best not to dwell or share my misery with my company.

I’m not sure what to tell her. The truth?

Advertisements

Yet another laundry conflict

I have the memories of a mother
And the heart of a sister
We’ve shifted roles
But she missed so much

When we fight,
I see the crying face of a small child
Running to find her big sister
When all the boys called her names

When they fight,
I don’t know what she sees
Is it from last week? Today?
What face in her head brings her to her knees?

I taunt and torment
We do it to each other
But in the end, I’m wracked with guilt

Is she? Or is hers deeper?
Because of the dark space
Where strangers’ faces have replaced her blood?

What kind of sister am I that I am two things at once
And separating the two is so hard when our father is a child too
How long I’ve been a parent
Raised these buds to flowers
Only to crush the petals in my hands

Plucking on by one
They love me
They love me
No point in punishing myself

Our first set of birthdays together

Related image

This may not seem remotely climactic for anyone else, but this year, I will celebrate my mom’s birthday with her, on the day, not on a weekend before or after. Another firm commitment added to the list of family birthdays. It’s surreal.

I have one cardinal rule – mostly because I’m constantly flaking on social engagements – that I do not miss a birthday or holiday. After my cousin died about three years ago, I reevaluated my familial obligations and friendships and I realized how easy it is to say no. It was at that point I realized how many friends I’d undervalued and family parties I’d missed out on.

Things are different for me now. I don’t miss a birthday or a holiday and even if I feel like I’m drowning in work, I feel better afterwards. I take pictures. I engage and live in the moment. So while I have this burning desire to flee, instead I stay. It’s a weird bout of conflicting emotions for a few days leading up to whatever is going on. Now that I intend to move (pending grad school applications), I’m especially glad for my rules. I have memories to take with me now.

Image result for hold hands, walking

So this year marks the first set of birthdays in thirteen years that we get to celebrate together. I think I’ve been compartmentalizing my feelings more than I knew because as time goes on, I can feel the steel of my unwavering walls beginning to weaken. I find myself overwhelmed by emotions at unexpected moments.

I want to kick and shake my mom awake most days. But then I see her smiling face and I shake my head in resignation because I realize how much I love her and missed her and it’s really great to have a face to connect to a voice, a name, a moniker. When her “mommy” caller ID shows up, I cringe less now. I’m starting to feel a warmth in my belly even if I’m sighing as I answer. I’m not sure when this change started to happen but I can tell it’s recent. It’s nice and terrifying at the same time.

Image result for talking on the phone

She got into a car accident recently, her airbag deployed and she’s got bruises on her arms and legs. She’s so tiny, barely 5 feet tall. I didn’t fully understand how emotional I’d be until I saw her little body standing by the front door to my house and I broke down. I don’t want her to be taken from me again. Even if I don’t feel like seeing her or being around her sometimes because she’s so manic, I mean she puts even my most anxious days to shame. I still can’t imagine my life without her.

I’m angry because of all the time we lost; the time that was cheated from me. But I don’t wish it any different. The concept of a world where she didn’t go to prison feels so shallow and bleak. Those kinds of thoughts instill immediate guilt and I wish I didn’t feel that way but seeing her now, she’s like a child. That place really beat a lot of memories and crazy out of (and into) her. I’m glad I get to be here with her this year.

It’s funny because we went to 7eleven together today and the same cashier who’ve I’ve known for several years saw her for the first time. I introduced her as my mom and at first he didn’t see it and then we both smiled big and shy and our eyes crinkled in the same places and his face lit up as he laughed “you could be sisters” and we both looked down and blushed and said “no no” and then we all sort of awkwardly laughed but it was a golden moment for me and I feel like I need to write it down so it burns in my mind and I don’t forget the gratitude I feel for her being home, safe and sound.

Image result for the apple doesn't fall far from the tree

First Christmas home

I have never been so busy in my life. When I say busy, I mean exhausted. In the past, I’ve had plenty of time to sleep or pursue my interests, or even just go a day without putting make up on. I did not realize how spoiled I was. Working various part time jobs may have impacted my paycheck, but it always left me with this feeling that I hadn’t reached my “peak” yet; there was more to be done on the horizon.

Now, I have this great full-time opportunity at an amazing nonprofit and I’ve come to realize a few things:

  • I need to work freelance
  • I hate working 9-5
  • I’d like to make more money
  • If this weren’t a temporary position before going to grad school, I wouldn’t be here long

But I also love my job. I love the people I work with. I love doing what I do. I really really love my job. I also love that this is temporary and directional.

I would like to keep in mind that I’ve been going to school full-time and working full-time and completing grad school apps all at once. Going forward, I’ve completed my degree (as of this week), and submitted my first application. I submit my second (and 1st choice school) in the next week or so. That’s 2/4 schools done. My next submissions aren’t until February. I’m so grateful and happy. I used the “future memory” of graduation to get me through these last few months and boy, now that it’s here, it’s exactly what I thought it would feel like.

The best news is that my mom is experiencing her first set of holidays home.

Image result for family holiday

I think because I’ve never known what I was missing, I just sort of assumed the holidays would always suck. I assumed that every awkward gathering would always be awkward. I assumed that every visit would be a full-blown interrogation. This year is already different. There are no uncomfortable, direct questions about her. My life has suddenly become my own.

What’s stranger still is that I’ve been enlightened to how cool my family is and I never knew that before. Last night after we went to my brother’s grandparent’s house, in the car ride home, I was able to ask her about the bloodline relationships that had never made sense to me. She told me stories about my hard-ass relatives that made me laugh and smile. Suddenly, those 2D people became dynamic characters in my life story. I’ve already got mental plans to ask them to lunch. I’m curious to know them better.

I’d never before understood how vital family history is to personal identity. It amazes me how incomplete I felt before she got home, all the ways I’d tried to fill myself up or redefine who I was. It makes sense why I felt the urge to do that now. I really was missing something I couldn’t understand. My holiday gifts have been invaluable this year.

Image result for snow globe cartoon

July 4th, Independence Day

This is my last post as a prisoner’s daughter. Sort of.

As I walked back to my dorm, the sounds of fireworks popping off around me, the smell of the sprinklers charging the dirt with water, I realized I would be picking her up in the morning. I drove up to Fresno for this summer arts program and it was the first time I’d been on the drive in two years almost. I told her I didn’t want to visit her anymore in the institution because she would be out so soon and other family was going, but mostly because it’s the most emotionally painful thing I’ve ever really done. It literally feels like a hot iron has been glued to your heart and as it’s pulled away, pieces of yourself get ripped back with it.

So I drove to Fresno for this arts program and cried the whole way.

Tomorrow morning, less than 10 hours from now, she’ll be free.

Tomorrow morning, less than 10 hours from now, I’ll be free.

I’ve been forced to keep her at a distance, keep my feelings at a distance for so long. Tomorrow, I won’t have to do that anymore.

I have so much more to say and yet, right now, that’s all I keep thinking: how foreign and alien the concept of closeness and vulnerability (with regard to her) is to me.

I can’t wait to wake up.

2006 and two more weeks

Kids have weird ways of coping with disasters. In my case, my biggest coping mechanism seemed to be escapism through video games and movies. I was a pro at extracurriculars, academics, and friends. From the outside looking in, I was totally normal and I wanted it that way. Smiling has always been my strong suit.

I say this because as a result of that escapism, I also became a pro at compartmentalizing. They say that the most successful CEOs advocate for a little bit of compartmentalization. I read one article in which a man described it as the only means to success. I wonder if that’s true. For most, I bet it is.

Image result for alice in wonderland down the rabbit hole

I think about disillusionment a lot and how things really aren’t what they seem. Like Atticus Finch in Go Set a Watchman. Mostly, I’ve been experiencing a lot of “full circle” type moments leading up to my mom’s release. It’s pretty wild. Sometimes it feels like I’m all-in. Other times, I’m watching from a stranger’s window. That balance is required.

Netflix recently recommended a movie to me from 2006 The Covenant. I think it was a 96% match. In 2006, I was obsessed. So no, Netflix, you got that one wrong. 100% match. My mom went down that year I think. Might’ve been 2005, I’m not positive. I saw that movie and all I wanted to do was go to boarding school. I think I saw it a dozen times. In the great ol’ days of AIM, I somehow found a kid about my age who went to boarding school. He lived in Massachusetts and I genuinely believed I would be leaving California to go off to some prep school in the middle of the countryside. I wanted to be anywhere but home. We talked online for hours about absolutely nothing. It was great.

Image result for the covenant

I told my dad I had a headache or a stomach ache probably every other day so I could stay home and play the Sims. I was never an architect in that game. My designs were always so vanilla. I’m at artist so I feel like I’m qualified to say that. Even now, when I rev up the game and play for a couple hours, my designs and layouts are mediocre at best. Something about computers make me literally think in boxes and grids. It helps me focus.

Imagine, I’m at the front doors of puberty, fantasizing about a boarding school boy in Massachusetts living the life I imagined would be perfect. Meanwhile, I’m sitting in my closet -because that’s the only place in my room where I wanted my computer- eyes actually glazed to the screen, playing the same DVDs over and over and over until the theme songs and words became ingrained in my mind. My sister and I shared bunk beds. There wasn’t much privacy except in that little computer closet of mine (even if the doors weren’t on it). I would sit there after school (or during school if I was pulling a “sick day”) in my uniform, blast AC, turn on the Sims and watch the same movies on repeat for what felt like forever. Everything else was on, but I was totally switched off.

One of those movies was The Incredibles. I think I watched that movie hundreds of times, even if I was just listening and not really watching. The main menu theme song played about 7 times in a row before I realized it had ended and I’d start it all over again. I don’t know why I remember 7. I think I must’ve counted it from the other room.

At school, you can’t really turn to the kid in line and update them on your mom’s prison sentence without things getting a little heavy. So I kept it light. I played sports, board games, computer games, everything that was a game, I was in on. Even when I did my homework, my friends and I played games or competed to see who could get through algebra 2 the fastest. Private school was surreal. I hopped from one bubble to the next. I never had to interact with the real world at all. It didn’t even matter that I had no idea how to dress myself because we were all in the same colored uniforms. That kind of routine was exceptionally helpful for me. The only times I had to feel anything was at visiting and I stopped going very often after a couple years. I needed the world to blur again.

Related image

I made an art project once and flashed people with an electronic flash from my camera. I described my life as a series of bright white lights. The time between those were just as important as the flashes, but I remember the flashes for their contrast and intensity. You can’t just slam someone in the eyeballs with bright lights all the time, you’ve gotta give em a break.

Today, I saw The Incredibles 2 with my dad and my sister for Father’s Day. It was the best one we’ve had so far. There’s been a lot of emphasis placed on the amount of time they took between the first and the second movie and every time someone brings that up I think, ‘14 years feels like a lifetime ago.’

When I was watching it, I kept thinking, ‘I’m so glad they waited. The content is so much better now than it could’ve ever been if they’d made it sooner.’ I think that parallels a lot of my feelings right now. That it’s opening weekend coming up and I’m stoked to see what the plot line is, who the villains are, what the solution is. I’m not really afraid or anything because it’s definitely happening no matter what and in many ways I need it to happen.

In visiting, I always walked by the glass walls filled with women on LWOP (life without parole) sentences. I saw them talking to their families through the glass. I could literally watch them living out their lives in a fishbowl. They were always really young. Maybe prison makes you look younger sometimes. I don’t know. But I always reminded myself that no matter how long it was going to be, she’d be coming home one day. Maybe that’s why they keep the LWOP ladies in with the general visiting population. It keeps you quiet, humble, and grateful all at the same time. Two more weeks. 

Image result for waves washing up on shore