These women would make ice if you let them

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            Feelings for me get pretty tricky. I used to feel them so much and so often, I had to turn them off for a long time. Eventually that would erupt into some kind of giant crying scene complete with me writing poems for hours and smudging around the ink with my tears, feeling very sorry for myself wondering how the world could have wronged me so. But then again that was fourteen for most I believe. Then all those angry years took all the tears and turned themselves into screams and broken glass from all the bottles I smashed in my alley when I couldn’t figure out what to do with all those feelings.

            It’s taken some time but I don’t really do any of those things anymore. I know part of the mess was hormones but it was also that my mom and I were learning how to grow up together. She went through a lot of passive aggressive attitudes and dirty maneuvers before she became someone I wanted to talk to. She told me I was a druggy (because I’d smoked weed and drank alcohol at a friend’s house in high school). She told me I was neglecting her because I didn’t come to visit more than twice a year – even though it’s a four and half hour drive (one way) and I was only fifteen. She called me repeatedly throughout the day to talk to me even if my friends were around and I couldn’t hang up because of the guilt I felt if I didn’t stay on the phone – not to mention the manipulation I’d be unwittingly forced to endure for days (even weeks) on end.

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            And then I she wrote me her last horrible, seven page “intervention” letter for my 18th birthday and I didn’t talk to her for a year. She stopped. We’ve both grown up since then.

            It took me a long time to visit her after I started talking to her again. I’ve been back once or twice since my 21st birthday.

            But it doesn’t fail to amaze me each time she makes me feel better when I don’t even know I’m down. Since I’ve never had a conventional mother-daughter relationship, I’ve never had one to compare myself to. I’ve seen things from a window I’ve always looked in on but never experienced. And I still don’t really know what it is that I’m a part of. It’s like a horribly unhealthy relationship that finally blossomed. I feel like our bond is kindred to tales of those old, aging sisters that live off in some secluded house on the top of a hill somewhere who spend their days making jam and painting.

            Whenever there’s a separation from someone who’s supposed to be an instrumental part of your life and they come back, there’s this awkwardness. What do we do now? How do we act? Where do I put my hands? Is it okay to laugh at this? Am I holding on too long? Can we sit in comfortable silence? What now? And even at visiting, there’s still a little bit of that. But over the phone and via letter, it’s completely washed away. Ironically enough, I feel closer to her when I only hear her voice than when I hold her hand. Because in person, she’s still a stranger to me — but her voice, I know it by heart.

            She tells me I’m a good person, that she wants me to dream big, that I’m smart, tough, strong, loved, needed, beautiful. She tells me things I’ve never known I needed to hear. My dad has always said those things (albeit sparingly, he stresses the intelligence thing, that I’m the spitting image of him and therefore beautiful, all in good humor of course) but for whatever reason, hearing it from her makes it feel a little realer. And I feel bad that I didn’t know I was unsatisfied with my dad’s validation but to be honest, a mother’s love is different. Plus, considering she’s somewhat of a hardened OG nowadays it’s even more of a ego boost than it might’ve been before.

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She told me today that she makes 15 cents an hour. That she’s happy she got a new job and took the pay cut even though she was making significantly more before (enough to support herself). She said being able to work at night and see the moon and be surrounded by quiet is worth more than money. She said it was the first time she’d been outside at night in nearly ten years. That made me cherish the moonlight a little bit more.

 

Take a step back

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           Due to my unconventional upbringing, I’ve had to overcome a lot of emotions on my own. I’ve had to learn how to talk to my feelings to find out what I’m experiencing and how to handle them. I’ve had to make myself feel better by myself. When my sister or my dad tried to help me out when I was younger, I brushed them off. I couldn’t have them near me or help me. I had to be able to do it myself.

            Which I can’t say is a good or a bad thing because I know it worked for me. And over time, I’ve found it easier to reach out and embrace someone when I feel like I need a hug to feel better. But in the end, I know how to bring the peace out from within.

            So it’s hard for me to have patience with people sometimes. There are people in my life that I care for dearly because I have compassion for their oddities, the parts of their personalities that other people cross off as weird or unacceptable. I find those parts endearing. But there are times when those same people I’ve defended so much in the past just push me over the edge. They try and use the times that people have written them off as excuses to never have to change or adapt. They prey on my sympathies and compassion.

            I can’t handle when people don’t want to help themselves. There’s nothing wrong with feeling out of control. There’s nothing wrong with feeling like the walls are crushing you. There’s nothing wrong with the bad feelings because I’ve learned that those are the feelings that let me know when I’m about to come out on the other end a little bit stronger, a little more prepared to handle something worse in the future. And soon enough those little troubles are squashed against my stronger armor. They don’t bother me anymore and that’s the kind of feeling I can’t live without. Knowing I can control myself and my emotions is really important to me even when I feel like I’m spiraling out of control.

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            I had a friend today who was rude to me. When I called him out on it, he reacted defensively and immediately said I was overreacting. Apologies aren’t meant to be debates over the validity of emotion. I’m entitled to feel however I feel. I wasn’t rude, I wasn’t mean, I said nothing out of turn. But he went on to say he was going through an antidepressant withdrawal and he was now experiencing a full-blown panic attack and all that jazz, that he was crying in the parking lot because of me.

            I snapped a little. And I feel kind of bad about it but he quite literally said he had no control over what he’d said to me or how he’d reacted because of something I should have been more sympathetic about. And sure, that’s all fine and dandy and I acknowledge that but I also know he turned a very simple apology into a conversation about his feelings and his reactions to my words. Which ironically enough, was quite the overreaction. If someone offends me, I need to be able to say that without worrying if they’re going to go hurt themselves because of it. I shouldn’t have to apologize for being honest. I shouldn’t feel trapped by my words.

            When it’s time to own up to something, there’s no excuse or justification. It’s just time to be real and accepting of others. And as accepting as I am of him, I’m pretty upset that he keyed a car last time we hung out and was able to chalk it up to his own rationalizations. My sympathies can only be stretched so far before I look at you and want nothing more than to walk away from the anger and find my peace somewhere at the beach or in a great song I blast as I drive along the highway. Because that’s what I have to do when I get angry or sad or just feel out of control, I deal with it in the only ways I know how.

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