Letter to a younger friend

After my mother died I really struggled, partly because I was in the midst of a divorce and felt like a massive failure. I did not like myself. But I kept thinking about my mother and how much she hid: and eventually I thought, you know, I love all of my mother. Even the stuff she hid. If she is lovable then so am I.

What is lovable in your parent? And would you miss her/him if she/he were truly gone?

That is the hard thing for me, that I couldn’t think about that until she was dead. With my sister, I thought about it before she died and changed how I behaved and let her know when I disagreed with her. Even though she had cancer.

Isn’t the greatest gift we can give each other loving honesty? I love you and I disagree with you and I am not going to do what you want just because you (are my mother/are my father/have cancer/have emphysema/want it/are dying). Isn’t the greatest gift to be ourselves and take the flack for it?

Cucumber love is a poem I wrote more then ten years ago about dropping the exoskeleton that we wear for society’s and our family’s approval. It takes courage. You can drop a little piece at a time and let them get used to it. And yes, some people may reject you for good. That is their choice. But you have to ask yourself then, did they ever really love you or did they only love to control you?

Cucumber love

They say they love you
And they do

Sort of

One day you find yourself
Wearing a construct
An exoskeleton
Awkward
You can move
See out

You built it slowly over years
Because that’s what you were told to do
You wanted to be loved
It made you feel safe

There is praise
Or at least pressure to keep it on
You may not have known it was there
And slowly begin to feel
Who you really are
Awaken to the shell

One day you slip out

They are still saying how much they love you
To the empty construct

You watch bemused
For a while

You say “That isn’t me.”
“Of course it is,” they say

“I’m over here,” you say

Shock and outrage
“That’s not you!
You’ve changed, you’re depressed
Confused, manic, gone out of your mind!”
Off the deep end

You might even go back in to
the construct for a little while

But now you’ve tasted freedom
You won’t be able to stand it for long
You will be out soon

Some people will see you as you really are

Some people will tell you they still love you
But as they say it to the construct
They act as if you’re still wearing it
They still think you love cucumbers
Though you ate that dish once to be polite
They hold the construct in their minds
Even after you’ve destroyed it
And behave the same as they ever did

As you walk away
You will wonder who they loved

Tired

Yes, so the picture is me during Family Practice residency at OHSU. Also a friend, visiting, a fellow graduate from Medical College of Virginia. She looks alive. This pneumonia is making me feel like that picture. I started internship and residency with a six month old. We would wait until 9 pm for his bedtime or sometimes he wouldn’t see me.

One night I was trying to give him a bath, after a day and a night and most of another day on the obstetrics rotation. I had to call my husband to come help, because I could not stay awake by the bathtub. Safety first.

When I had a really bad call night and then ran around the next day trying to get everything done so I could GO HOME, I could not stay awake until my son’s bedtime. So he would put me to bed. By age two he would tuck me in and babble a story and dad would turn out the light…..

I would come home from the day and a half working, just exhausted and my son would be doing something new. “When did he learn to CRAWL!!?!” I would say.

“Oh, is he crawling?” my husband would say. “I don’t know. Didn’t notice.”

RRRRrrrrrr.

When my son started two word sentences around age two, we would ask him questions. “Where does T live?”

“Pink house.”

“Where does daddy live?”

“Pink house.”

“Where does mommy live?”

“Hospital.”

I went and had a tantrum at my residency director. I was so mad at the faculty. My son thought I lived at the hospital. He was right, too. I was pissed and stomped around like a honey badger, wanting a cobra to fight. The faculty ducked into closets and bathrooms…… I gave them hell.

My kids are doing well in spite of mom living in the hospital. Though they acted out some, as normal kids do. A few years ago I asked my daughter, “Where are the barbies?”

“Hmmm.” she said.

I eyed her. That noncommital noise gets my attention.

She shrugs. “Ok, well. T and his friends and I blew them up with firecrackers. In the driveway. When you weren’t home.”

“Hmmm,” I said.

“We did not blow up the Get Real Girl because we knew that would piss you off.”

“Mmmm-hmmm.” Yes, it would.

So I wonder…. what else were they up to? How did the ceiling tiles get broken in the finished basement? There are various other mysteries…. if the house could talk, it would tell me.

The barbies came up a few days ago. “Didn’t you blow up any action figures? Aka Boy Dolls?”

“No.” said my daughter.

“That’s kind of sexist.” I said.

“Hmmm.” she said. And my son just laughed.




memory’s vault

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: fumble.

Up near the bunker’s is Memory’s Vault. This is the first part of the poem A Lover’s Quarrel, about the longing for home. The poems are by Sam Hamill. It is a beautiful place.

I hope that no one fumbles with our hearts during the holidays and that we feel loved and home wherever we are….

hope for change

I want us to have a culture where teens don’t drink to black out or to where they tell themselves that it’s ok to harm another person, where women are not punished for speaking up, where neither boys nor girls nor men nor women tolerate rape or domestic violence or discrimination or hatred.