It always end up making you blue as hell

I feel like a failure most of the time these days. Not the kind of failure where you joke and make self-deprecating comments about how you'll just be buying new underwear tomorrow because ooops you're drunk and the laundromat is closed, but the kind of failure where you don't tell anyone and how bad it is and find yourself on the verge of panic attacks at least weekly, if not daily. It's easy to look at my employment situation for the last couple of years and logically know that I keep choosing to work for small businesses that operate on a slim to none profit margin and the economy is still really shitty. To a certain extent I can justify being poor, because I love what I do because I do something that makes me happy that I'm good at. I know I'm a good chef, I don't feel like I'm a failure at chefing.

I feel like I'm a failure at being the person I want to be. I feel like I'm failing at some very basic goals I set for myself a long time ago. I know how little money you have to make to qualify for food stamps. I know I made just enough not to last month. I know I'm terrified. I'm terrified all the god damn time. I know this situation makes me feel like I've gone back to my early childhood and I have no control. No control. It is the worst thing. It is the thing I promised myself I would never ever ever feel again. I broke a promise to myself and that's the worst kind of promise to break.

It's the kind of thing I can't really explain to anyone because it is so completely illogical but so completely my truth right now.

I'm looking for a second job or another job. I have people who would help me if I asked for help (hahahahaha, like I'll ever learn to do that one). Despite strong temptation to just say fuck it and spiral down down down into bad decisions, I've been spending more time reading and writing and strolling in the park. I'm dating a guy I really like with whom things are easy so far instead of dialing up one that would immolate me. I show up for my kids every Tuesday and I smile and we cook things.

I also know I've been self isolating like a pro. I know I just can't explain getting semi laid off again but then also that I'm about to work 8 days straight. I can't handle anymore people offering to help me find my dead goldfish. I don't know how to talk to my really close friends or family about it because it's painful. And embarrassing. And I'm ashamed. I'm ashamed about the state of my life right now. And I don't know how to talk to anybody about anything else because it's the only thing I think about. So instead I just don't talk to most people. I mean, I have a kitten, so it's fine.

I'm 50% doing all the things I should be doing and 50% deep in hiding.

But I guess 50% hiding is better than 100%. Right?

If you don't understand him, an' he don't die young, He'll prob'ly just ride away.

When my mother left, when my mother came back. Going to live with my grandparents. My father being arrested in front of me. Visits to rehabs. My father's death. Turning points in my life have mostly been things where I feel no control. Turning me from a quiet controlled girl into a contained, obsessively controlled woman. ***

When I kissed him when I shouldn't have because I was committed to kissing somebody else. The kiss that would turn into months of arguments. Of late night phone calls. Of screaming and threatened suicide if I didn't come RIGHT NOW. Of two hour drives and me leaving the peninsula at 6am to get to high school in Santa Rosa on time. Of spiraling down, down, down. Poor grades in eagerly signed up for AP classes and lies to my therapist. Or at least, not truths. Breaking the trust of the somebody else for, maybe, ever. The first proof that for the next six years I'd always find a way to be leaving.

Until that day when I left.

"I don't want you to move in with us"

"Is that all?"

"And I don't think I can do this anymore"

"I was afraid that's what you were going to say"

And so I drove away in tears from the boy I thought I would marry, who put up with panic attacks and days spent crying and that early mistake of kissing somebody else who would only make things worse. Allowing us both to grow up and apart.

Maybe this was my moment of being cruel to be kind.

***

I sat in the waiting room with my grandmother. I hadn't slept for days weeks and so I was here. Therapy, round 2. I guess that first round, when I was a small child, didn't take. The truth was, I needed it more before my father died. Now I had reason to be sad and reason to not sleep, though both those things had been true beforehand. I filled out the forms with my grandmother sitting next to me and though I was fairly certain she wasn't looking, I lied. I lied about the amount of sad, the crying, the thoughts about death and suicide. I didn't lie about sleep habits because that's why I was there after all. Grief and sleeplessness and dropping enough pounds that my pediatrician asked if I had been trying to lose weight. I lied. And I would mostly keep lying. And after a year I would be pronounced fine.

The therapist couldn't have known then that she was the one doing the lying.

***

That time I locked my heart up when my mother told me it was no fun if I didn't cry. That night child me walked herself home in the darkness of the West Oakland night. That first morning I got myself ready for school and attempted to wake up my mother to get her to take me. The habits of self-sufficiency cemented early and forever unshakeable.

***

When I boarded a plane for India. When I boarded a plan for Turkey. When I chose culinary school over college.

When I left my dream job, relationship and apartment to move into a cabin in the woods.

When I was still unhappy two years later and boarded a plane to New York.

***

I don't know that there are event horizons I haven't written about or beaten like a dead horse. I don't know the moments where I truly changed all. I think sometimes I have been the same forever. The happier version or the sadder version or the more honest version. But my core seems the same. The only difference is how closely I have lived in line with it.

I'm participating in The Scintilla Project, a fortnight of storytelling. One of today's prompts was What have been the event horizons of your life - the moments from which there is no turning back?

I Still Need to go to Al Anon

Here is a painfully honest real thing: When I see things like this, I feel tremendously guilty.

I know that I have worked WORKED for this to not be my life, that my fear of becoming my parents (or the people my parents used to be) motivated everything my younger self did, that I have not come out unscathed.

But my heart breaks and I cannot stop crying because I do not know how to not empathize and I feel horribly guilty about the privilege that allowed me to not have that life. And I feel horribly guilty that I only spend an hour each week volunteering when there is so much to be done in the world. I mean, deep, in my soul, think I'm a fundamentally bad person, guilt.

(I am not writing this in hopes of reassurance or back pats. It is just a Real Thing that I struggle with that I'm guessing other people with similar backgrounds struggle with too)

You Can't Run Away, Bunny

To this day, my mother still calls me Bunny, sometimes Bunny Rabbit. My father used to call me Rabbit. He probably still would. It's strange to me, this pet name used by both my parents. Anything shared by my parents is strange. I forget that at some point they actually had a life together, that this is something they must've come up with together, like grilled cream cheese sandwiches. Those are the only things I really associate with both of them- my lapinesque nickname and grilled cream cheese sandwiches.

My mother recorded bed time stories for me when I was a child. By the time she got clean and was back in my life, I was too old for The Runaway Bunny or The Velveteen Rabbit and had stopped listening to them. I doubt I ever told her how much they meant to me. How many times I listed to them. We're not much for talking about feelings in this family, anyways. But I've been thinking about my nickname. About those stories. I think about the cadence of her reading voice. The slight break in it as she read the Skin Horse's wise words. The words that still make me wonder if I'm less velveteen and more something with sharp edges that breaks too easily. I think about how similar my reading voice is to her's. The cadence I hear in my head as I'm writing.

A friend of mine mentioned grocery shopping late at night a while ago and I found myself instantly transported to early childhood. To walking with my father through aisles crowded with flats mid restocking. To the flourescents that seemed so bright in contrast to the midnight outside. I can hear myself insisting on Honey Nut Cheerios and making him promise to make me mac'n'cheese. The real kind, not from a box. How happy I was to be with him, even at a time I should've been exhausted, even at a grocery store. And that mac'n'cheese memory flashes me forward to being a teenager, to me making him teach me how to make it, not knowing I only had two more years of getting him to make it for me.

It's December, and grief, it abides you know.

Timshel

I'm finding one of the products of getting older is being able to distinguish between the different types of sad. The hurt sad. The bell jar sad. The grief sad. The grief sad and the bell jar sad used to be indistuingishable, interwoven, one always seemed to create the other if it went on for long enough.

I am sad and I have not been sleeping well but the world hasn't closed in yet. I have no problem going to work though I am a little spacey and easily frustrated. So far, I haven't even had the urge to cry on the train. I am sad. Grieving. But is tolerable and it will pass. That's what I can tell you ten years after my father celebrated his last birthday. Ten years, and I can finally tell you, I can finally believe, this too shall pass.

May, 3rd 2002, my father turned 38 and it's strange because now 38 is just far enough away that I can't picture it, but close enough to understand how young it really is.

My father was a good man who made bad choices. He was without pretense. He was caring and loving and compassionate. He was a drug dealer and a drug addict. He never hid his choices from me, but he never wanted my choices to be the same. I think a lot of his choices were built around making sure that my choices didn't have to be the same. He wanted the world for me. I was the world for him.

But sometimes in my heart of hearts I still think "You loved me more than anything, you loved me so much that friends of yours I'd never even met would come up to me at the memorial to tell me, to ask me about things in my life I'd barely remembered telling you but it wasn't enough, it still wasn't enough was it? Not enought to pull yourself together. Not enough to walk away from that high".

And I know, I know that's not how addiction works. And I know he died in a motorcycle accident. But I know he was driving that motorcyle too fast because of other poor decisions. And I know that he rarely did anything without the best of intentions. I know he made the choices he felt he had to make. I know he felt the weight of the world on his shoulders, I know the depression, the anxiety. I know the things that have been passed from generation to generation. I empathize too much to be angry. Maybe I'll never make it through all the stages of grief. I am a sad person and I am a hurt person, but I am almost never an angry person.

I miss you, daddy. There were always other choices. I didn't need the whole world, I just needed you to be happy and safe in it.

It's a treacherous road with a desolated view

 Tumbalalaika is my grandmother singing me to sleep and Where Have all the Flowers Gone is her playing the piano in the sunlit living room of my great grandparents' house in the Berkeley hills.

A musical snowglobe with a basket of roses played the song played at my mother's (unsuccesful) rehab graduation and kept me company in the years she was gone.

"You're going to really like this," my father says as he puts the bright orange CD into the stereo and skips to I'm Just a Girl. Sunny summer Sunday mornings with the top down, driving me home on highway 1.

Mayonaise for the boy I spent three weeks kissing in Ireland when I was 14.

Years of late night singalongs in the Mendocino Woodlands and the smell of campfire lingering in my clothes for days are comprised of Obla Di Obla Da and Down by the Riverside.

Staying up all night next to the fire in the dining hall in the same Woodlands, with friends so close I still think of them as my family, is yelling along to Buddy Holly which is also: my first concert, Paris with Corina (another Weezer concert) endless car singalongs and dinner parties in my Berkeley apartment.

Lara and Corina are I Will Survive and the Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack. Stuck in traffic before the Rainbow Tunnel headed towards a Unitarian Universalist youth conference on a rare warm sunny day in San Francisco. Late night cookie bakes. Planning Sunday service.

Golden Age is rain on the roof of Jacob's room junior year of high school. It's panic attacks and aching and loss and grief and comfort and safety all wrapped in one. It's my favorite song and I rarely listen to it because it hurts. It hurts like you couldn't even imagine. Sometimes I don't even know how I got through that first year after my father died.

India when I was eighteen is obviously Redemption Song. The Garden State soundtrack is my return and the next semester in Turkey.

Our tiny, damp and cold (but cheap) apartment in San Francisco was Not a Pretty Girl, while I rocked out to Twin Cinema in the culinary classroom and walked towards the streetcar in the fog humming To Be Young is to Be Sad.

The truth is, I could keep doing this all night, almost every post on this blog for the last three years has been titled with song lyrics, each one awakening a very specific feeling. I'm one of those people. You know the ones, the ones that can't possibly get by on only the 16 gigs their iPhone allows, the ones that listen to albums with the shades drawn and the lights off, whole albums always, songs are meant to be listenened to in album order or on a playlist but never an album on shuffle (shudder), the ones who sometimes replay a song if a conversation interrupted really listening to it, the ones who devour new albums like they've never heard music before... One memory and one song? Impossible. I could more easily give you the soundtrack to my entire life.

But if you really must know, Summertime will always make me cry.

This post was written as part of The Scintilla Project, prompts can be found here.

Letting Trouble into my Bed (Part Two)

"Have you ever been hospitalized for drinking too much?" Trouble asks me.

"No, I've never been hospitalized at all, actually"

"Have you?" he asks his roommate.

It's my first time meeting his roommate, he's been antagonistic to me right from the start with such gems as "lesbians are jealous of your haircut" and "you don't belong in Astoria, move to Brooklyn" but I'm sitting on the same side of the table with Trouble, oddly ok with this situation in which he keeps seemingly choosing me over his childhood friend.

"No, some of us can hold our liquor" the roommate responds in a tone of voice that implies there is definitely a story here.

"Have you?" I try to keep my voice cool while every part of me is certain and terrified of the answer.

"Yeah, a couple of months ago. We went out to dinner and then we went to club and then I woke up in the hospital. I know I got there in an ambulance because I read the chart and it said the NYPD called an ambulance for me. I mean, I was just really drunk. I don't know, a couple of days later all my muscles were sore and maybe I fell down some stairs or something"

I don't even know what I said in response. I don't know if I said anything. I think roommate maybe told me I should move to Brooklyn again and the conversation changed.

Later in the evening, "I don't know what's going on, I just get home from work and immediately want to start drinking".

I wanted to talk to him about it, you know I wanted to talk to him about it, if you know me or have read this blog for any significant amount of time you know, but I couldn't, because his roommate was there and later we were back at his house and drunk and well, the other "you know".

It was a strange evening, the first time the majority of our conversation wasn't banter and flirtation. I'm not sure why I got to meet his roommate, if it's just because it was the first time his roommate was around when we had plans or if it was a sort of exchange for me letting him into my room. The way he distracted roommate when roommate kept heckling me and the walking back to his house without the customary "are you coming over", arms around each others waists as he assures me that I shouldn't take roommate personally felt strangely more relationship-y than dates I've been on with guys I hoped to date. He was apologetic and just enough more inebriated than me to seem vulnerable and a little adorable. Time spent in bed involved a lot more give and take than once a month FWB normally involves. Instead of being clever, we were both being silly.

Something switched. I stopped being able to pretend that all the not texting him and not being facebook friends with him and not knowing if I'll actually see him again in about four weeks matters. They're flimsy boundaries. A way to pretend I'm not being reckless.

But do you understand? Do you understand what those moments of vulnerability, those comments about alcohol abuse mean to me? Do you understand my sudden overwhelming urge to not so much date him, as fix him?

Months ago, after our first date our mutual friend asked if I had heard from him.

"No, haven't heard from him at all in a couple of weeks"

"Gah, Trouble is like that. He can kind of be an ass. He's never actually committed to a girl, I don't know what's wrong with him, but he's hurt in some way. He's always been like that"

"YOU TOLD ME TO DATE HIM"

"I thought maybe you would be the one that changed him"

"Why didn't you tell me that was the plan?! That is the worst plan. I would've known better, I probably would've still slept with him but I would not have let myself like him so much"

And yet, here we are, months later and I think I can fix him. It's me, because I'm just that caring and loving and compassionate. Because I know how to take care of people better than themselves. Because of the narcissism of codependency.

I feel like my body is being wrenched apart. My head pulling one way and my heart the other. Every bit of my screaming "NO" and at the same time "YES" because I can see it. I can see every beautiful self destructive second of it. I can see the swirling, pulling downward spiral of every action forgiven, the begging, the pleading, the problem solving. I can see myself feeling martyred and vindicated. I can see the raw emotional clash if I let him in and he let me in and the delicious damage that would ensue. I can see it all. The happiness and the tears. The lovely, lovely extremes.

I don't think he'd ever let me in, thankfully,  because I don't think I have the strength to walk away.

And sitting in Central Park after spending a few hours at MoMA with a very nice boy, thinking about Trouble being hospitalized instead of thinking about that boy, is when I realized I needed to follow through with my New Year's resolution of finding an Al Anon meeting. The exact phrase "I need to go to a meeting" ran through my head and  I almost laughed. And then I almost cried, like I'm doing now.

Because I have to admit that I am powerless.

And it has very little to do with Trouble.

This one's for my family 'cause I guess I know exactly who I am

Lessons from my family.

Put your money where your mouth is

Donate that money. Do those volunteer hours. Shop local if you can. Support businesses/products you believe in. Sign that petition. Pick up a sign and march your heart out. Vote. If you are unhappy, do something. Change the world in whatever way you can.

From each their ability to each their need

Yes, that's kind of parapharsed and it's Marx. Get over it. I give my spare change to homeless people. I will use my unlimited fare card to swipe other people into the subway if I'm on my way out. I don't make much but I still donate to charitable organizations because there are people that need the money more than me and as my father once said when he was living in an apartment in the tenderloin "there is nothing that can happen to me that is worse then what I see when I walk out that door every day". I truly believe that society is responsible for keeping people from falling through the cracks. I am fond of my tax return but I'd rather the government keep it and give us all healthcare. I think it's stupid to imprison drug addicts instead of providing them with actual help. Actually, I think in general it's stupid that our prison system focuses on punishment instead of rehabilitation, especially the juvenile justice system.

My heart, it just bled all over your computer.

Feminism is not a dirty word

I come from a long line of feminists (one of my grandmothers has a "Votes for Women" pin that's been passed down and the other can be seen yelling about childcare in the movie Berkeley in the Sixties*) and I'm not afraid to use that word to describe myself. As I wrote before: "being a modern liberal woman isn't about fitting into a neat man hating, power bitch box, it's about choices. It's about living your life in the way that you find most empowering. It's about being able to stick to your guns without having to apologize and it's about facepunching double standards".

Never cross a picket line

My daddy was a longshoreman. His daddy was a longshoreman. When I turned 18, I took all the tests to inherit my father's book even though I didn't go that route. My grandfather, his brother and all of his sons are contractors. My grandma is a nurse. We do believe in unions, and we don't cross picket lines.

It's always better to be overdressed than underdressed

I probably mostly choose to believe this piece of wisdom from my grandmother because I like wearing pretty clothes. But also, I would rather present myself to the world as somebody who puts in the extra effort.

Home is where they always have to take you in

This is one of my father's sayings. He valued family immensely, even if he wasn't on the best terms with somebody. I think part of what I learned from him is that your family isn't just your blood relatives. Your family is the people you trust, the people you would give the shirt off your back and who would do the same for you. The people that support you and the people that take you in when you have nowhere else to go. I think I have a lot of homes by this standard. I am blessed.

I am a product of my upbringing and I am 100% happy with it. Thank you, to my entire family for making me the kind of person that cares, I don't want to be any other kind.

*This movie is oddly on Netflix instant watch, I think my great grandfather, great grandmother and at least one of my great uncles also have appearances.

Everything is fine, everything has always been fine, we've always been at war with EastAsia

Photo-6It's a fine line for me between self isolation and self care. I spent a lot of last year self isolating, getting through on a day by day basis. Spending so much time with my family last month has made me realize how much moving across country has stripped away all the stress, all the "taking care of" and all the "setting a good example" that I used to hide behind.

Guys, when you strip away "the one that always holds it together and never asks for help"? There's a world of hurt under there. Abandonment hurt. Codependency issues. Anxiety.  I'm not saying these things for sympathy or pity, I'm just saying that right now, these are the things I'm struggling with. These are the things I'm finally letting myself feel. I have worked so fucking fuckity fuck hard to be everything my parents were not. My eyes have been so focused on the prize of a normal, stable, responsible life that I willingly ignored my emotional instability.

Yes, I know it's always been there. There's no pretending when a significant other says things like "Are you getting out of bed today? You're acting like a depressed person" or when you've spent hours curled in a ball sobbing like the world is ending. When I bring a significant other to meet my family, it's not to see if they can handle my family or if my family likes them, it's to see if they can handle me when I'm around my family. Every muscle in my body tenses and you can feel (and hear) the stress radiating from my body. I am not fun. Unless you give me some valium or some booze. I wish that were a joke.

So no, I didn't actually think I was as normal and well adjusted as I convince people I am (seriously, if I had a dollar for every "but you're so normal!" or "you're so together"...) but I think I had myself convinced I had done a lot more dealing than I actually had. I had myself convinced I had the issues UNDER CONTROL.

Guess what? They're really not under control. I mean, maybe, maybe I've got my shit more together than a lot of people wrestling with the same demons. But basically all that means is, at least I'm not an addict myself. That's no way to live life. I'm tired of defining myself as somebody who is doing pretty ok FOR WHERE THEY CAME FROM. I just want to be somebody who is doing really well. Period. No excuses.

When I decided that today was going to be a down day after a month of doing all the things, it wasn't about lying in bed and watching tv and taking a break from my emotions and my life, it was about doing the things that help me feel more together and healthier. I cleaned, I organized, did yoga, meditated, finally put my bed frame together and finished reading 1Q84. Did I watch some tv? Yeah. Did I check twitter obsessively? Is that even a question? Did I also choose to schedule a date tomorrow after work instead of today when it could've been at a more normal time and I'm sure the guy would've liked to see me sooner? Yes. Because y'know what? I had shit I needed to do and a self that needed some care and it turns out people don't actually get mad at you for saying that.

I'm working on learning the difference between when I'm just using excuses to talk myself out of something and when I legitimately need to say "no I need some time for myself right now". I think part of that might be having to show real life people (not just people who read this blog) that I'm vulnerable and sometimes I need help. I don't know if I know how to do that, in fact, I'm actually 100% certain I don't, but twenty six seems about time to learn.

Home is whenever I'm with you

2011 was the year the city that was my second home growing up became my home. I suppose technically, it was always my first home being born here and all.

It was the year I learned to stop missing my father constantly because, somehow, this place, where memories of him are everywhere, soothes and comforts me immensely. I think it's also because 2011 was the year I was forced to only live for me. I had nobody else's needs to put in front of my own and taking care of myself made me miss having somebody to take care of me less. Also, I know my father would be proud of the things I've done this year.

It's the year I learned how dependent I am on codependency, how hard it is for me to just take care of myself and live my life only for myself. I mean, deep depression, in the bell jar, crying jags, barely able to function break downs. The leg up us children of addicts get on others with depressive tendencies, is that we're extremely adept at hiding emotions and will compulsively make ourselves do things if otherwise we'd be letting others down, even if it means hiding in the bathroom and sobbing every ten minutes. So, hi, Al-anon and therapy in 2012. Let's do this.

I learned the thing that nobody tells you about adulthood is that, yes, you can eat pizza and beer for dinner whenever you want, but you'll get way more excited when you have time to cook a real meal. Also, you will become that person that obsessively makes their bed every day just so they can crawl into it and feel cocooned at night and that thinks fresh sheets are god's gift to mankind. That you will wake up some mornings and just HAVE to clean your room before you can even think about doing anything else and that you will get really excited when you have the time and energy to go to the grocery store. Maybe this only happens when you work ridiculous hours, because this week I discovered that if I only work eight hours in a day, there is just SO MUCH TIME to do everything, unlike last week when I broke down and paid to have my laundry done because it just wasn't going to happen otherwise. But I kind of think being an adult is when you wake up one day and realize you're thrilled to change your sheets.

I think adulthood might also be when you move to new places and your friends are the ones that come to visit instead of your family, presumably because your family a) knows you'll be fine and b) puts the responsibility of plane tickets on you. Also, possibly, because your family thinks you're just going through a phase and will come flying back soon. Sorry, family, here for another year and even after my lease is up, I'll probably be here. You're just going to have to come visit if you want to see me more than once a year.

On the flipside, this was the year that I started to almost understand when people don't want to impulsively move across country because "All my friends and family are here". I have met some really great people this year. But, also, it's really hard to meet new people in a new city where you're going only knowing like four people even if the city, itself, is familiar. And it's double-y hard if you work long ass hours at weird times. I feel like I'm kind of starting to collect a friend group but it's obviously not the same as being at home with people I've known 10-22 years.

Yes, Lara and I have know each other since we were three. And that's probably the hardest because Lara is basically my sister and knows to laugh at me when I go on long angry rants and buy me potato puffs when I'm sad but to not poke at me and make me tell her what's wrong unless I want to. And we're both not great about picking up the phone and calling, so I also don't ALWAYS know what's going on with her and can't try to fix things and did I mention I have a problem with codependency?

Right now, even though I know I'm going to be ready to come back to my Manhattan skyline when it's time, I cannot wait to be surrounded by people that know how to read me, that I'm not always keeping some sort of wall up when I'm around and also, that I know how to read and where I stand.

2011 was also the year that I got back into the things I love. A month didn't go buy without me practicing yoga, sitting and listening to a new album or finding a day to obsessively read for hours, even though it meant I couldn't have clean sheets. 2011 was a lot about opportunity cost.

My word for 2011 was "choices" I wanted to keep all options on the table. For 2012, I'm using "stability". I don't need all the options. I want to focus on the good choices I made and expand those into creating a life where I am not sick and tired all of the time, where I have familiarity and routine, where I really solidify my relationships and I continue to live my life on my terms instead of latching onto somebody else's. I'm excited to keep becoming me. Hopefully a better me, even.

I am small but I am strong

Quick practical note: This December I'm participating in #reverb11. Last year I only managed about half the month before the questions all started to seem like they were asking the same things in different ways. This year there are so many lists of prompts that I'm hoping I'll stay inspired through the entire month. I'm doing it because making time to write daily is something I really wished I did on a more regular basis and obviously it's easier when you have a whole internet community supporting you. Basically #reverb11 is like my work out buddy for writing. Also, it's that New Year's-y, birthday coming up soonish time of year so I'm probably going to be spending a lot of time all up in my head over analyzing the last year and making decisions about the new one anyway, and some of that stuff needs to get out of my head so I don't go insane. The posts won't always be eloquent or long, but they will always be true.

So...

Reverb11 Prompt 2: Who are you? Describe yourself.

Alana Margaret. Baker. Pastry Sous Chef in the most competitive food city in the world. But in my head, just a baker, creator, recipe writer.

Quiet, shy, sensitive, bookish but if I have my way you'll never know it. I never outgrew those things, but I got better at pretending, which I guess, is a lot of what growing up is about. A sometimes broken, bitter, midnight crier and sometimes the one who has weathered much and come out more whole than anyone had any right to expect.

I cling to schedules, routines, normalcy the way those of us with hectic childhoods do, trying to keep control, always. Hating when I'm not in control, always. Life has a way of not letting you be in control. It's tricksy like that.

Blunt, harsh and honest. To a fault. But once you're in, once you make it under the layers, there is nothing I wouldn't do for you, nothing I wouldn't give. Happiest as a care taker, food maker, present giver.

Small but curvy. Dark haired and light eyed. Fair Irish skin. Thankful for Eastern European cheek bones adding definition to a round, dimpled face. Rosy cheeked and dark lashed. Arms and hands covered in burn scars and knife nicks.

Not so secret lover of all things living and adorable. Small children (not babies, they still mostly look like aliens), puppies and kittens especially, though if I thought a baby polar bear or tiny penguin wanted to cuddle me and I lived in the right climate, they'd be right up there on that list.

I find equal comfort in the quietness of museums and the way words string together. Sentences over stories. Phrases get stuck in my brain the way songs get stuck in other's. Flavor combinations too. Repeating until I find a space to let them out.

Alana Margaret, almost twenty-six. New York City born. California raised. New York City returned. Baker pretending to be a Pastry Sous Chef. Reader pretending to be a writer. Unabashed liberal. Rule follower and authority hater. Goody two shoes with a foul mouth. A pile of contradictions, just like you, and at the same time, not at all.

Not even a little bit.

Accidentally Appropriate

I was going to write this post today, about addiction and forgiveness, before my twitter feed filled up with judgements about Amy Winehouse and unfortunate "Rehab" jokes, and now it's unfortunately apropos and obviously my annoyance with twitter is going to seep in but I'm still going to write it, because I think it's important.

There's a point I reach in any new friendship when some important life details come out. Generally they come out when I vaguely mention being raised by my grandparents or sometimes when people ask why I have a hyphenated last name. Some of these things have been bluntly stated and constantly rehashed on this blog and some have been vaguely referred to, but so we're all on the same page:

  • My parents were never married. They were 19 and 21 years of age when I was born. Obviously, I was not an intentional pregnancy.
  • My mom has 15 years clean and sober (crack, in case you were wondering), I'm 25. You do the math.
  • My grandparents raised both me and my little brother. I was in 1st grade when I went to live with them, we picked him up from a foster home when he was around 6 months old. My mom used while she was pregnant.
  • My father died when I was 16. In a motorcycle accident. If you told me he was either stoned or coked up, I wouldn't even be the slightest bit shocked. (Oh hey, is it suddenly not tragic because he used drugs? I probably should've expected it and shouldn't miss him so much, right?)

At the end of explaning all of these things, the questions I get most often are either "So how is your relationship with your mom now?" or "How have you forgiven your mom?" and I confuse the hell out of people by saying "I have a pretty good relationship with my mom, it's not typical but neither are my relationships with anyone in my family". It's true, though. I love my mom. (Hi mom! Love you!!) She even has her own tab at the top of the blog for her guest post. As for the forgiveness? I guess I never thought I needed to.

Addiction is a complicated thing. The language of rehab and twelve step programs has been part of my vocabulary for as long as I can remember. There are plenty of people in recovery in my family and when almost everyone has a hand in raising you, that means from time to time you're going to be that kid with a coloring book in the back of a meeting. And as a child, when somebody tell you that your mother is "sick" or "has a disease" you take that pretty fucking literally, so I don't think it ever occured to me that my mother's addiction was something I was supposed to forgive her for or somewhere to place blame.

In middle school and high school when these questions would come up I always said that I wouldn't wish my childhood on anyone, but I wouldn't be who I was without it. And that's true. I don't think I would have half the personal strength or compassion that I do. And maybe the flip side of that is that I wouldn't struggle with codependency and abandonment issues, but I like knowing that if three year old me could get myself dressed and fed, twenty five year old me sure as hell can deal with most things life throws at her.

And as I got older, my father told me more about my mom as a teenager and told me she had told him when he was visiting that she was struggling with drugs again and needed help taking care of me. And I guess that helped me know that my mother always loved me and that she wanted what was best for me.

And now, I'm adult and I've taken the psych classes, I've worked in a group home with teenage addicts and I can't pretend to know what it's like to be an addict but I can tell you that the reasons people become addicts are myriad, as are the reasons people stay addicts and the reasons people get clean. Do I know exactly why my mom or dad started using? No. I know the lives they had. I know that I'm a statistic. Child of addicts that isn't an addict, there's not too many of us around. And I know that I've been so deep inside the bell jar for weeks that I've made a conscious effort to not drink because I felt the urge to start and never stop, so I'm not entirely unable to relate.

And it never occurred to me that I needed to forgive my mother, because I've heard my mother apologize and watched my mother cry and mostly I just love her and am thankful, so thankful that she had the strength to get clean, because not everyone does and sometimes I wonder if I would be if I were out both my parents.

Just, don't jump to conclusions. Don't decide somebody is a bad person because they had or have a drug problem. You don't know the choices they've had to make or the regrets they have. You don't know the abuses they've suffered or the mental illness they're coping with. You don't know if it was their parents, their pimp or their best friend who started them using and you don't know whether or not there was anyone there to help them stop. And chances are, there's somebody who loves them fiercely, no matter what and when you stigmatize addiction, you kind of stigmatize the non addicts who still love them, so please, educate yourself and maybe try some compassion.