Forever Young

I was with family this past Memorial Day weekend, and it was eye-opening.

I have often noted through the years the many things that get stirred up when I visit family. I know that we all tend to regress when we “go home.” For my recovery over the years I have had to pay close attention to this: going home was always a minefield emotionally. I had to learn to prepare and take care of myself while home.

All the old stuff would resurface, seemingly immediately, upon stepping onto Houston soil.

Often, it centered around my body and appearance. Depending on how I was feeling in my body, I would have negative thoughts and distorted thinking about how my body looked and also about how much others were thinking about how I looked.

I learned not to look in mirrors. To not trust the voices in my head that told me I had become monstrous overnight. I worked hard to distinguish the voices from my own “core,” and to be able to trust that “they” were not “real.”

It was painful, but over time, I have healed much of the sources of the genesis of those voices. They were, in their twisted way, a way for my psyche to protect itself from other much more complex feelings. Feelings that felt way out of my control and way out of my coping capabilities at the time.

I have also come to know that some of what I was feeling underneath it all was shame. I would feel shame around my family about how I looked and how I was. Who I was. I would not been able to name it as such then. It was just how I felt. It actually felt like “me.” But I know now it was shame.

Thankfully, with a great deal of personal work, I have had many visits home in the past several years where those voices were a very low murmur. Sometimes, they were totally quiet. Sometimes they flared up, but I had the relief of knowing that they were not “real.” It made a huge difference. I was not a victim to them. I could observe them and know the truth.

So imagine my surprise when, on this visit, I noticed a totally new form of that old shame.

This shame? It actually had to do with the shame of having gotten older.

I could not believe it. I actually felt ashamed for having aged.

In reflecting on this, I realize that as I am the youngest, when I am around my aunts and uncle, I have been carrying this sense of responsibility somehow to stay young forever. To stay that little girl. Well, my physical appearance belies that illusion. I will always remain the youngest in relation to them, but I am no longer young by any means.

So why the shame? I know that our culture creates an atmosphere of shame around aging, so it makes sense. But around my own loved ones? Wow. That just blew me away.

I actually had to stop myself from apologizing for having aged. I am still trying to process that. I have some unraveling to do for sure.

For now, I breathe and find compassion, once again, for the young parts in me that still feel like all of my value is tied up in my looks.

I take myself by the hand yet again and say, “I love you, just as you are right now.” It is a ceremony of self-love, and if I were to do it a million times, it would still never be enough.

Inspired by The Daily Post: ceremony

Legacy

I feel you there

All the hearts of those before me

Your dreams are in mine

Or are my dreams echoes

Of what you imagined for yourselves

I want to be what you could not be

Do what you could not

Live more fully

More freely

Give those who’ll follow me

Dreams less encrusted

With the pain of the past

Create a new narrative

Of True Love and Joy

Give the future a love that will last

Inspired by The Daily Word Prompt: encrusted

Traveling On

I hear you

My constant companions

Some whispering, some insistent

All desperate to be heard

Reaching from behind to steer me

Safely through the world

A world you did not survive

I hear you

I do

But I must find my own way

Must live new mistakes

And leave this world

Having lived new ways of being in it

I hear you

I do

And I say

Thank you

And I say

Goodbye

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: constant

Game Day

I grew up in a household where football reigned supreme.

My family, it is said, bleeds burnt orange blood – the color of the University of Texas Longhorns.

(All but me, that is. I was the only one of my family (immediate and beyond) to NOT got to UT.)

Games ruled our lives. I am not kidding. A few points of proof:

My Dad long-referenced the day of my birth as being “a dark day, the day the Longhorns lost to Oklahoma” in some bowl or other.

My grandmother’s funeral: afterwards, all retired to my grandfather’s house, and yes, a UT game was watched.

Everyone had a plethora of UT clothing and hats, and other paraphernalia, all of which came out at game time.

Social and family events revolved around annual season tickets.

I never got “it.” I mean, I went to games growing up. I was in Texas, after all, and so football was enmeshed into our social culture. I was on the pep team, and we faithfully baked cakes and toilet-papered the houses of the football team members before every game. (But this, I would argue, was merely an excuse to try to get myself noticed by one of the cute players — it had zero to do with being a real fan of the game.)

I hated the TV being on for those hours, and the loud yelling at the screen. It felt like noise pollution to my introvert ears.

Looking back, it is no accident that I went to a college that had no football team and then to a university known for its tennis team. I wanted no more to do with football and happily moved out of Texas and away from the Longhorn stampede that I had been running from my whole life.

Fast-forward decades. I meet and marry an Irish American man. Once again, it seems to be no accident. He had no idea what American football They have a whole other game over there that they call football! I’ve ensured my escape from the drone of football on the TV and yelled expletives during games.

It is not that I do not enjoy professional sports. I do. I love an occasional baseball, basketball, even football game IN PERSON. But on TV? Nah.

Then it happened. Somehow, in getting to know my father, my husband and I were invited along to a Longhorn game. He started being curious about the sport and the team and I suppose it was an easy subject for him to broach with any member of my family.

But this interest, which at first seemed harmless and sort of sweet (and smart,) in time ballooned into a full-fledged passion.

His interest in football also turned into an interest in all American sports. And not just interest. He really loves them.

The TV now usually has some game or another (or those incessant hosts talking about games or players) on most of the time.

At first, this really disturbed me. I mean, it felt like I was right back at my childhood home again, trapped, held hostage to the sports on the TV and those who just had to watch them.

But I soon realized that my husband works from home a lot and likes to have it on in the background. He really enjoys it. Life is too short not to do those things that give one pleasure, right? And so I have learned to let it go.

I am grateful for a second TV. I am grateful for earplugs. I am grateful for earphones and music and podcasts and audiobooks. They are my friends.

And on big game days, like today, the Super Bowl, I really give in and even join him to watch. I may be looking at my email a lot, or knitting, but I sit with him, because, well, he likes me there sometimes.

And that, I can do. It is the little things, after all.

 

 

 

Soul Echoes

Who’s there, yearning, in pain

In the dark of my past

I look behind and see

The silhouettes of the many

From whose dreams I was born

I feel their unrealized needs

In the needs of my present

What they have not let go of

Holds me now, outside of my life

I see you, I say

I’m sorry, I say

This is yours, I say

I lay their burdens at their feet

Look them deeply in their eyes

Thank you for dreaming my life

I’ve got it from here

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt silhouette

Cherished Objects

Happy holidays to all!

I am with my family in Texas, enjoying us all being together, laughing, talking, playing games.

My sister-in-love inherited all of my Mom’s many cherished collected holiday things.

My two favorites: my Mom’s manzanite tree that she decorated for every holiday, and a Santa that always sat under our tree at Christmas.

To you and yours, wishing you a wonderful day.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Post: cherish

Inheritance

I hear their screams of silent disapproval

Feel their arms, clutching me, holding me back

“Don’t go out there. You’ll die. It’s not safe for us.”

My belly’s a stone

Ingested before I was born

I’ve tried to throw it up

Doesn’t budge, it’s mine now

I carry it with me

This inheritance

This heavy key to the past

This memorial to those before me

This museum housing their lives’ dreams and losses

Maybe it’s not something to pass

Like a kidney stone

Or to be removed like a cancerous growth

Perhaps I need only to lovingly lay it down

At the feet of those whose dreams I am now living

Perhaps their burdens are not mine to carry

But mine just to remember, and know

As I move forward into my own life’s dreams and losses

To be remembered, one day, and known

By those who come behind me

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: inheritance

A Stitch in Time

When my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2001 and was going in for surgery to have it removed, I immediately knew I wanted to fly down to be with her.

But I was 6 months newly sober, so it was daunting to fly across the country, leaving behind my support system. But more frightening than that was the fear that my mother would die while on the table, or that they would find more cancer than they could treat.

It was a challenging time.

I knew that I would be experiencing many emotions as I navigated her illness and surgery, and I really wanted to deal with them in healthy ways, not fall back into old coping behaviors.

Someone suggested to me that I take up knitting as something to occupy my hands and eat up some of the extra energy (aka anxiety) that I would be experiencing.

Thankfully, I took their advice, bought some knitting supplies and took them down with me. And as I waited for her to come through the surgery, I began to knit.

My mom had been the one to teach me how to knit in the first place, so it felt really right to sit and knit, waiting for those awful hours to hear how the surgery went. Anyone who has gone through it knows how difficult that waiting can be.

I only remembered one stitch, but that was enough. I had no pattern, so I just started knitting a row about the width of a muffler and took it from there.

Thankfully, my mother came through the surgery very well. I moved back into her hospital room, and the knitting came with me. In fact, it would continue to be my sober companion for the rest of her hospital stay and afterwards as she recovered at home, because I ended up staying longer than I had planned.

My mother had her surgery on September 10, 2001. We were both sleeping in her hospital room that next morning, when a friend of hers called my mother and told her to put on the news. We watched together as my adopted home city was terrorized.

In shock, I immediately did two things: I went to a meeting and then I went to donate blood.

Then, I went back to the hospital, where knitting became a lifeline again as my world was rocked from its axis a second time.

I was so desperate to get back to NYC, but could not leave until they allowed flights again. I knitted with fervor through those days following 9-11, as I helped my parents take my mom back home and settled her in.

And then finally, I was able to return home to NYC, and my knitting accompanied me on the plane and through the weeks as our city began to heal.

Eventually, I stopped knitting…though from time to time I will pick it up again when the proverbial sh*t hits the fan or I feel that I need it as a way to stay calm under duress. I guess that is just the nature of my relationship to it. I am grateful it is there for me when I need it.

I still have that piece of knitting from that time when my world was rocked to its core. It is a very, very long muffler-type knitted piece that is a bit misshapen and not at all suited for anything. But it stands as a reminder to me that there is always a way to show up and consciously move through even the hardest of times. That I can survive anything, be of service and even be creative even as my world is falling apart.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: knit