Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Six-legged Buggy Love

My boyfriend Sabatino bought me a bug yesterday.  I was so thrilled with it, I kept blurting out to strangers and friends alike, "He bought me a bug!  A great big beautiful bug!"  Tino then pointed out, very gently, that perhaps I shouldn't mention a gift so out of the ordinary and in such a generic way.  "They're going to think I just scooped up some big damn cockroach and handed it to you," he said.  So, let me clarify this highly unusual and most beloved gift.

It is a dead bug, a Vietnamese insect called a "Ghost Walker."  It was mounted in a museum-quality shadow box by a gifted and obviously very patient artisan who has created such display pieces for museums all over the world.  Sabatino, my gentleman, knows my passion for insects.  I wanted to be an entomologist when I was a kid.  We viewed two walls of these jaw-dropping bugs; everything from butterflies to walking sticks as long as my forearm.  I was enchanted.  Tino told me to pick one, it would be an early birthday present.

There's nothing I could possibly have wanted more.  When we got it home, I laid on my back and held this thing up to the light, staring at it from every angle.  It was glorious.  I called several of my friends to wax rhapsodic over it and their cringing was almost visible over the phone lines.  That, too, was glorious.  Ten years ago, their horror would have made me self-conscious and over-sensitive.  Today, it simply amused. 

There's magic in self realization.  Something whimsical and sparkly happens when you finally see yourself clearly after a lifetime of self-hatred.  I used to get gifts from my ex-husband which were always something he wanted to give me, something he thought I should have that was useful or attractive to him, like a roaster pan or sexy underwear.  I never thought to question these; I thought it was obnoxious and ungrateful to do anything but accept them.  And I liked them; don't get me wrong.  It's always nice to get presents.  But the gifts were never chosen with me in mind.  They were rarely anything that I would have bought myself if given the chance.  My insecurities allowed me to be dressed like a doll, controlled like a doll, obedient like a mannequin, and grateful for the chance to please.  There was even a skewed smugness inside of me over the fact that I was such a  good, good possession.  All my individuality was unimportant, banked down, controlled and frowned upon, first by my abusive spouse, then by myself.  It was the insecurity addiction in full force; individuality and free thinking are the first things to go if the addiction wants to survive.  And like any addiction, my insecurity wanted to not only live but grow.  And it did, out of all proportion, until it ate me alive and almost killed me with suicidal tendencies and misery.  That's why I look at my life now and shake my head at the wonder of it all.  To come from such a broken-spirited train wreck of a human being to a person capable of accepting such miraculous, perfect gifts, given by someone who knows me and loves me.  Six-legged buggy love.  Weird, wondrous, and completely flawless to my weird and wondrous self.  Good luck out there, all my dear screwed up brothers and sisters of circumstance, as you struggle to wrestle your own insecurities to the ground.  They'll always be kicking and snarling, but they shrink fairly quickly to a shadow of their old selves when you don't feed them.  Take care of yourselves and remember to love the crazy bitch in the mirror.  She, he, and it are definitely worth the struggle.

Love, R 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Twist Cone Legs

I recently waited on a couple who are now my favorite customers to date.  I was working a lunch shift when this old black dude and his wife were put in my station.  I was in the back when they were sat so I didn't see them until they were already in the booth.  He was in his mid-eighties, she a bit younger.  As I approached the table, I liked them immediately; they were laughing and joking with each other like two teenagers in love.  He was wearing a Marine Corps/ Korea cap, so I asked if I could shake his hand.  It's something I do with every veteran or military person who walks in the door.  I'm like a stalker that way; just have to thank them for risking their lives for people they'll never meet, that sort of thing.  He had a firm grip, friendly and steady.  "Yeah, I lost both my legs in that war," he said.  When he said that, his expression flickered for a moment, remembering, and the smile slipped.

"You got those Bionic Man computer legs or the old-fashioned prosthetics?" I asked, smiling.  His face lit up with a giant grin again and he replied, "No, no, no, I don't want nothing to do with those computer legs!  With my luck, some smart ass kid would figure out a way to tap into them with his game controller and I'd suddenly start running when I wanted to stay put!"  I laughed and pretended to press buttons.  "Yeah, let's mess with this old dude," I said.  He and his wife cackled as I pretended to be jerked sideways with legs gone crazy.

That broke the ice and they told me their stories.  I love that, when people share their tales with me.  He lost his legs in 1952, one above the knee, one below, and spent the rest of that year in a military hospital learning how to walk again.  I told him about my aunt, the one who was paralyzed by polio, and how she was so bitter and angry before a hilarious and irreverent old priest got ahold of her and told her to stop feeling so sorry for herself.  "Yeah, I went through that," he told me.  "I was lying on my bed, looking at the stumps that used to be my legs, and was just...pissed off.  Really bitter, really hating what had happened to me.  A nurse came in and told me to quit my bellyaching and get my ass down to the burn unit.  I went just to shut her up; got in my wheelchair and just went.  Hon, I saw men there without noses or lips, hands and feet burned off, no ears, no hair, eyes gone, some without faces at all."  

I teared up a bit at that.  "Johnny Got His Gun," I said, and he nodded.  "Dozens of 'em.  I stopped feeling sorry for myself after that and just thanked God I had such a little thing happen to me.  A little nothing that got me home."  He pointed at his wife.  "Home to her."  She reached across the table and held his hand.  "How long you been married?" I asked.  "Since 1954," she answered.  "I married him after he came home."
"Did you know him before?"
"Oh, yes.  Loved him then too."
"Did you ever see The Best Years of Our Lives?"  (I always have to make a movie reference)
"It was just like that," he replied.  "She wouldn't leave me alone."
"Not until he married me," she said.  "I wanted him.  He was always whole to me."
"Did you ever see any of the returning vets with those weird curved legs, like grasshoppers?"
He nodded.  "That's where we just come from right now.  I was being fitted for new legs.  Those boys get those legs on and jump right up to the ceiling.  I don't want none of that!  Let them have that kind of fun.  Just leave me my old legs.  I'm good with those."
"Remember your first set?" his wife asked.  He laughed.
"They were white.  They didn't make negro legs back in 1952.  I had to wear white legs for about ten years.  My mom laughed; told me she always knew I was half white!  And heavy!  Those things were solid wood."

We talked for another half an hour.  I shamelessly neglected my other tables who, it turns out, didn't mind.  They were all listening to this extraordinary couple tell their extraordinary stories.  I learned how them met, how tough it was to learn how to walk with those heavy ass legs, what a joy life was for them, how every minute was precious, even the bad ones.  "There's always somebody worse off than you," he said.  "Always.  You think any differently, you got a world of trouble inside your head." 

Bob Dylan wrote, "There are people that you don't forget, even though you only seen 'em one time or two."  That was what happened with the Gilberts.  Al and Melissa, married fifty-seven years and loving each other every minute of it.  I will never forget them and I will always love them.  What a lucky day for me, to have them come and sit in my station.  You never know who you're going to meet, day to day, in all walks of life.  You can wade through a sea of faces, all in a dull sepia tint or a soft, dull grey, passing you by without your noticing any of them.  I've been both; dull grey and light bulb bright to others, depending on the times and whether I'm noticed or not.  Then there are the shining moments, those brief sojourns into a stranger's life, that give you something to think about.  With a grin. 

Take care, all of you shining moments out there.  Remember to grin.

Love, R

Monday, August 29, 2011

Three Little Words

I love fucked up people. 

Don't ask me why.  Maybe because I'm so screwed up myself.  Way back in the horror years of self-hatred and galloping insecurity, I knew deep down inside that there was a good human being underneath all that shit I was projecting.  Problem was, I wanted somebody else to discover that fact; somebody else to nurture and protect, love and cherish me.  I never thought of doing all that myself.  I wanted a knight in shining armor, a celluloid best friend, a kind and thoughtful stranger to dig it out, to uncover the hidden wonder of Becky O'Donnell.  I didn't want to do the work.  I wanted somebody else to handle the rock quarry of my personality.   I wanted someone else to have the patience and interest in discovering the fabulous me hiding beneath the mountain of bullshit.  I wanted someone, anyone, to see it; to recognize it was there so I'd know I wasn't crazy.  When you can't love yourself, you feel overwhelming gratitude to any abusive scumball who'll say they love you, can't live without you.  The scumball part is immaterial.  The love is what we need, even if it's never more than words, even if it comes with a swift kick and a punch in the face.  At least somebody says the words.

The textbook definition of a fucked up insecurity addict.  Been there, done that.

When you get to the point of planning your own suicide or drool like a Pavlovian dog at the thought of not breathing anymore, that's when the need for love is the strongest.  As much as I knew I had a real treasure inside, I was heartbroken that nobody else saw it.  Nobody else gave a shit.  Nobody knew me.  Nobody loved me.  My kids did but they were just stupid kids.  They'd soon forget me and love some new mommy better.  I was being noble in relieving them of such a worthless sack of shit.  Killing myself would be the best thing for them.  I knew I was setting a bad example just in my day-to-day living.  Best to free them.  Better to just stop being.

I was about as fucked up as a person can get and still be alive.  Looking back, it's amazing how different I am from that poor, shattered basketcase.  It's also amazing how much of me is still like that.  I'll always be the wounded mess because that is a part of my past, something I carry with me always.  But self-love has helped me to flip it from a negative to a useful positive.  I recognize other basketcases because I am one.  I understand fucked up people because they're a mirror.  And I want them to see me too, to see that it is possible to be something other than miserable and starved for love.  I want them to know that if they do just a tiny bit, just a small amount of kindness to themselves, they can change everything: the way they think and feel, what they can do for others, even what they can accomplish career wise.

I've ridden the bucking bronco of insecurity for most of my life.  In the last few years, with the daily exercises of telling myself "I love you," I've gotten that crazy damn horse to calm down enough so I can lead it instead of it leading me.  It still likes to take off and drag me along sometimes on a hell of an uncomfortable ride, but nowadays I'm usually the one calling the shots.  I've gained control of my own fucked up nature.  It'll always be fucked up.  But that's okay because even though I'm a basketcase, I'm a lot of other things as well.  Like an ogre, I have layers and many of them are beautiful.  There are gaping wounds in me that have healed into pink scars, terrible emotional gangrene that's been cleared away and self-hatred that's been neutered and can I say it?  Inefficient.  All with three little words I waited far too long for someone else to say.  I love you.  I love you, Rebecca.  I truly do love you.  You fucked up mess. 

May you all find the strength to love yourselves too.  It's inside, right beside the hidden fabulous treasure of you, just waiting to be dug out.  Happy prospecting, my friends.  Take care.

Love, R

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sunshine After the Rain

I'm one of those people who love birthdays and holidays.  My house looks like Kris Kringle's place at Christmas (apart from my Mister Misty Red & Green Skulls I put Santa hats on), a haunted castle at Halloween, and Bunny land at Easter.  Birthdays to me are absolutely sacred things; the day the world was given the gift of you or me.

I didn't always feel that way about my own birthday.  Annually, I glared at my hated reflection in the mirror, pissed off that yet another year had passed without my accomplishing anything other than becoming even more of a loser.  And fatter.  I had an obsession with my blub.  All those hopes, all those dreams of my childhood, flushed down the toilet with nobody to blame but myself.  I considered myself a stupid, chickenshit, ugly fat bitch who couldn't tie her own shoe.  I'd fucked up my life so badly.  Why the hell would I celebrate something as awful as my own birth?

Such a strange thing, self-loathing.  It's almost as passionate a belief system as that of a religious zealot.  Everything was a test of my faith; if I glimpsed something attractive in the mirror, I was betraying my own righteous rage.  If I felt the slightest pride in the tiniest accomplishment, it was false vanity.  I was repulsive to myself.  It was a moral imperative for me to remain that way.

Insecurity likes you to be a blind zealot.  It does a tap dance on your psyche, stomps you flat and sets fire to the remains.  The really creepy thing is, you applaud it for doing so.  That's right.  Get that bitch.  Keep her down.  That's what an insecure person feels inside.  Outwardly, maybe even consciously, pretending the opposite.  I think that's why we gravitate toward negative relationships.  We get someone to abuse us the way we feel we deserve, while secretly thinking our love and support will turn our beloved scumballs around.  It's a misguided hope, pinning our own self worth on the ability to turn somebody who's even more fucked up, around.  Noble goal, true, but until we get our own goofy brains in order, all we become is cannon fodder splattered all over the landscape.  That helps nobody.  When it involves children, it's lethal.  Kids grow up with the programming of their childhood.  Be very careful what you're teaching them.  Tell your kids you love them and you want them to be strong and confident all you want.  But when Daddy gives Mommy a black eye, or they see either parent listless and miserable but staying in a horrible relationship, that's a visual that far outweighs any fluffy words of love.  A picture's worth a thousand words.  What movie of the week are you showing?

I've talked to battered mothers, brave sons and daughters, well-meaning grandparents, who've all told me basically the same thing when it comes to getting beaten on a regular basis.  Or raped.  It keeps them off my kids.  It keeps him off my sister.  If they're on me, the others are safe.  Selfless courage in a child.  Misguided dumb fuck courage in an adult.  No matter how desperate a situation is, no matter how abject your poverty is, there is always an "out" somewhere.  Always.  Don't believe the hype coming out of the mouth of the asshole who's brutalizing you.  Check it out for yourself.  There are hot lines, libraries, shelters; endless possibilities of being helped by people who really want to help you.  People who were very often in situations just like yours, and who now volunteer.  Remember the returning veteran commercial that was playing a few months back?  It shows a returning vet wandering through an empty city, with nothing and no one around.  Suddenly, another vet walks up to him, shakes his hand, and says, "Welcome back."  There are thousands of brothers and sisters of circumstance out there right now who want to shake your hand and show you the way to a new life, one that's free of bruises, terror and self hatred.  Take their hand.  Move forward from the pit.

I recently had the honor of meeting a young woman who had done just that.  Years of abuse and terror, an eternity of fists and fights and drug-addled violence against her, her children watching or listening from the other room, being damaged by the environment just as much as she was being damaged by her abuser.  Even after years of brainwashing, by herself as much as her attacker, paralyzing her courage, with poverty and depression sucking the life right out of her, she found the strength to finally leave.  I met her on her birthday, only a few weeks after she and the children got away.  I saw a glowing, beautiful creature as I looked at her; furtive-eyed and still a bit in shock over this unexpected turn of events.  It was wonderful, a truly miraculous sight.  I hope she can stay free of the pattern long enough to find value in herself.  Otherwise, it'll just be a new set of fists.  But she felt good.  It was a rebirth birthday, a glorious thing to see.

I remember my therapist telling me, shortly after I left my own husband, to make sure I didn't enter into any new relationship for at least a year.  Like a country overthrowing a dictatorship, I was very vulnerable.  I didn't know how to live under any other kind of regime, so there was a good chance I'd slide right back into it with someone else.  I had to give it time.  I had to have a relationship with myself.  It was the best advice I could have been given.  Amazingly enough, I listened to it.  Now I am my own best friend as well as my own worst enemy.  But the enemy part is a lot smaller now; much more easily managed.  I'm an insecurity addict.  Insecurity will always be skulking in the background, eager to take over my silly mind once again.  As long as I'm conscious of that fact, I can guard against it and continue to grow.  And moments like these, where I see a beautiful fellow fuck up get free of an environment far worse than any I'd endured, when I see her smile on her birthday, I know how good life can be.  It doesn't get better than that.  Hope from the hopeless.  Sunshine after the rain.  That's what she was and always will be to me now.  Sunshine after the rain.

Take care.

Love, R

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Misplaced Nail

One of the things an insecurity addict is really, really great at is being a blind as a bat dumb ass.  Looking back on my life and my own decisions over the past four decades truly brings that fact home.  But a not-so-subtle change has happened in how I view my own state of once-moron: I don't beat myself up about all those wrong choices and miserable longings anymore.  Nowadays, I rarely bring out the red hot pincers or lock myself up in an iron maiden for a bit of Me Torture.  That's in the past as well.  There's another thing an insecurity addict has a gift for.   We're extremely good at self-torture.  Everything revolves around how we can fix it, make it better, calm him down, get her to stop nagging.  How can we solve all of everybody else's problems?

There's nothing wrong with helping others.  I recommend it highly.  Wanting to do so is a golden thing, a sacred thing.  That desire can and has inspired millions to do the same.  When channeled in a positive way, an insecurity addict's emotions can make the whole world a better place.  Look at all someone like Princess Diana accomplished, or Eleanor Roosevelt, or even Paul Newman and his Newman's Own brand.  But like any addiction, it has to be controlled or it'll eat you, and anybody around you, up.  But focus it and there's no end to what can be accomplished.

Here's how an insecurity addict thinks, for all of you out there who don't know already: we see the world through shit-colored glasses with blinders on.  It's very, very hard to change our stubborn minds about a stupid decision we've made because stupid decisions are really all we have to cling to.  When forced to look at what a ridiculous and often self-made nightmare we live in, an insecurity addict will run for the hills rather than take good advice.  I remember a high school teacher chastising me about all the self-made scratches along my arms.  I clawed three new ones down the inside of my wrist, right in front of her.  Did it with a "fuck you" grin.  We love the attention of friends and family who worry about us, even while we secretly sneer at their misplaced loyalty.  We feed off the sympathy, horror and anger of others because we don't generate any affection for ourselves.  Why would we?  The bitch in the mirror is the one who got us into this mess in the first place.  Insecurity has to be tackled from the inside out.  It's a sneaky gremlin who's very good at hiding.  We've all got untold corners and rubble for it to curl up in, safe and snug in the nice gloomy shadows.  There's a kaleidoscope of darkness inside abuse victims for it to disappear into.

But think about it.  That makes us a precious commodity, my dear friends.  We're experts in pain.  There's a world of hurt out there that you're all familiar with.  Use that expertise to do some good.  Don't let insecurity tell you you're too stupid or inept to make a difference.  Learn from my own mistakes.  As a teenager, I desperately wanted to help in a habitats for humanity-type organization our local church had begun.  I never volunteered.  I wasn't lazy or uninterested; just the opposite.  I remember sitting at my desk in Sunday school, sweat beading my upper lip, as I tried to raise my hand when they asked for volunteers.  What was my reasoning for refusing?  I didn't know anything about carpentry.  I thought I might do something to make whatever structure we would be working on unsafe.  My misplaced nail would bring the whole thing crashing down.  Probably on a baby.  And the puppy sleeping beside the crib.  And a mama cat in a basket with newborn kittens.  And the loving grandmother who spent her entire pension check on a plane ticket to visit the new grand kid.  They would all die because I didn't know how to wield a hammer correctly. 

That's how an insecurity addict thinks.  The world hinges on our, and only our, misplaced nail.  That's how overpowering our stupid, egotistical, self-loathing angst is.  We are fragile, crackle glazed and broken creatures, many of whom will snap your fingers off if you try to help us.  Wounded bears in the woods.  Until we begin to sponge away our own inner hatred, we won't heal.  We'll keep being bitter, broken and stupid.  Worst of all, we'll recognize this truth about ourselves and the hate will grow stronger still.  I know.  I did it to myself most of my life.  It began with family telling me I was a piece of shit.  I took up the reins of abuse myself around the age of six.  But I changed.  You can too.

I still have a hard time with insecurity.  Not as bad as it was, nowhere near as bad, but still hard.  Little things set me off.  But I do my self love exercises every day.  I tell myself what a good person I am, what nice things I did today, how much I love Rebecca O'Donnell.  It's an alien thing to tell yourself "I love you."  Feels egotistical and silly at first.  But oh, what a garden can grow from such a tiny bit of watering.  I keep at it.  I do kind acts, little and big, and that makes me a better person.  Financial generosity and philanthropy are all well and good if you can afford it, but a smile to a co-worker and an offer to fetch coffee for all is like sunshine on a rainy day.  Think of it.  You can be a thing of light.  You just need to do a little loving spit and polish.  Take care.  I believe in you all.

Love, R

Friday, August 12, 2011

Treading Water

I have become a narcoleptic.  I am snoozing all the time but never feel rested.  I was hefting trays at work the other day and thought the carpet looked oh-so-comfy and wouldn't it be nice to lie down on it and do a bit of snoring.  Perhaps this is associated with the grieving process; some friends have told me they did the same thing about a month after their loved one died.  The timing is correct but I don't feel devastated by Mom's death anymore.  It's more an ache when I reach for my phone to tell her something and remember, "Oh yeah..."

I was rearranging my DVD collection tonight, hauling books out of one of my bookcases to make room for the movies that are spilling out all over.  A letter my son wrote to me a year ago fluttered out.  I picked it up and re-read it, then sighed and put it back.  It had been full of recriminations for my evils as a parent, then basically said that he thought we should have a relationship and wouldn't that be wonderful?  It was the first contact we'd had in seven years.  I remember how thrilled I was, despite the catty digs, to have heard from him after so long; how excited I was at the prospect of seeing him.  What did he look like now?  Last time I'd seen him, he was a gaunt and pissed off seventeen-year-old.

He never contacted me after that.  I wrote back immediately, really happy, but he never contacted me again.  After Mom died, I emailed his father and asked him to tell Leland what had happened.  His dad even sent flowers to the funeral, for which I was grateful.  Leland neither attended nor sent flowers or a card.  He did write to my sister, quoting Dostoevsky's Brothers K about happy childhood memories.  He wrote that if it hadn't been for his grandma, he never would have had any.


My friend B and I went to a movie the other night: Rise of the Planet that went Ape.  Loved it.  We had a blast, laughing and blabbing as we always do.  She told me that Leland had recently been on vacation and posted photos on his facebook page.  It's a private page so I can't see them.  She pulled them up on her phone and I looked at pictures of beautiful scenery and gorgeous architecture.  The only shot of another human being was of Leland himself, and not his face at all.  He'd been lying on the beach, and had taken a pic of the water, catching a glimpse of his feet, gritty with sand.  That one hit me; the first sight of my own son in years.  He has my feet.

It's a strange thing to realize that someone you love isn't a nice person.  I never wanted to lump my own kid into the group of poisonous family members but for the moment, that's where he is.  I wish him well.  I hope that some day he can find his kindness again because he'll never really be happy without it.  I fear for him; scared he'll turn into an Ebenezer Scrooge, toiling daily on his invisible ropes of chains and money boxes, growing angrier and lonelier as the years go by, bitter with the whole world.  But hell, I'm nothing if not an optimist.  Even Scrooge, scum ball extraordinaire, found his inner soul in the end and became a good, happy and kind person.  I truly think that's the secret to self worth: to become worthy.  Simple but surprisingly difficult. 

Sometimes sadness just overwhelms me.  The weight of the past curls its tendrils around my legs and pulls me under for a simulated drowning.  But I always swim back up to the surface.  There's so much beauty, so much life, to still be lived.  For so many years, all I could see was grey misery and soggy bitterness, like day-old Coco Puffs in rancid buttermilk.  Sticky, inescapable yuck.  Sure, life's full of slime and angst and panic.  They're all noisy and they all want to snatch a ride on your back, weighing you down and nagging you to hurry, do better, try harder.  But if you take a moment to step back, straighten up and see sunshine in the trees or even lovely rainbows in an oily puddle in a parking lot, you can sluff the little fuckers off.  You can refuse to carry them any farther.   Beauty works wonders.  You just have to recognize it.

Insecurity addicts aren't really that different from Ebenezer Scrooge's chickenshit dealings with the world.  He feared life's hardships so made his own life harder still.  Insecurity can make you do the same thing; select bad choices because you're shaking in your boots and it's too scary to try for happiness.  Over the past couple weeks, several brave women and a courageous boy have inspired me with their decisions to change their habits, leave their abusive relationships, and take the plunge into new lives.  All of them, once drowning, now treading water and heading for the shore.  I'm doing the same thing, coughing a little sea water and cussing a blue streak as I swim back from far shallower water than they've been in.  Good luck with your own oceans, my friends.  May you feel the sun on your face and firm ground underfoot soon.  Just keep paddling.  Roll over on your back and float if you have to, but always keep swimming for the shore.

Love, R

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Turning Point

As many of you know, my mom died almost three weeks ago.  Part of me can't believe it's been that long, another part of me feels like it's been forever since she passed.  It was a terrible death, very prolonged, with unimaginable suffering.  I'm glad she's done with that.  There's a huge relief that she's not in pain or terror anymore, and a selfish relief that I don't have to endure the helplessness of watching her go through it.  But the grief is still surprising.  It hit me much harder than I thought it would.

When someone dies a slow, lingering death, one that takes months, us loved and loving ones have time to brace ourselves.  We figure out how we'll deal with it, we buck ourselves up with imagined scenarios and logical forecasting and, in the end, desperately long for it.  I love you, Mom.  You're an amazing fighter.  Please will you just let go now?  A third of your skin is gone.  It's time to let go. 

And then she does.  Finally, at last, she slips this mortal coil, probably giving a silver laugh as she wiggles free of that nightmare of a body.  She must have had one hell of a crowd waiting for her: her baby brother, her son, her sisters, Charles the Man; they probably had a party.  I mused and wondered and imagined it all.  But as my very wise best friend once told me, "Imagining and experiencing are two very different things."  Sure, she's free of pain but my mom's still dead.  I didn't think it would hit me as hard as it has.

I've been on a "sign from her" kick.  I feel a bit like Houdini's wife, waiting for that specific sign to prove he's still hanging around.  Mom had told me, a long time ago, that she'd like to come back as a robin.  She was always a bird lover and robins were a particular favorite.  So I've been obsessed with seeing a robin.  Come on, bird.  It's not like you're an uncommon species.  Hop across my path.

Every damn robin on Long Island has been in hiding for the past two weeks.  Nothing.  Not a glimpse, not a peep, not a warble.  Gone.  I walk to work every day, straining an ear and an eyeball, and every day for weeks, I've seen no red breast.  The paranoid goonie inside me began to wonder.  Now that she's dead, she knows about my book FREAK.  She's in it; every drunken repulsive thing she ever did in front of me is in it.  Well, quite a few.  Maybe she's mad.  Maybe she doesn't want me to see a sign that she's watching me.  Maybe she wants me to stew because I am such a fucking horror of a daughter.

As you can tell, the insecurity addiction was rearing its ugly head, gorging on all that grief and doubt.  I hid in my girlie cave and fought the good fight, whaling on my noisy insecurity with a sledgehammer until it settled down again.  But still, I looked for that robin.  And day after day, it didn't appear.

So let me tell you about yesterday.  I was walking into work early in the morning, just sneering at all the cardinals and blue jays and hoards of sparrows, when I noticed a shrieking rage up in the tree I was just passing under.  There, puffed up in rigid fury, skinny legs bent and pissed off, was a robin, directly over my head.  He was MAD.  He hopped, he fluffed, he threw his wings into affronted points and fixed me with a beady eye.  His butt feathers poofed, and I narrowly skirted a stream of well aimed, righteous bird shit.

I was delighted.  Here was my sign.  An angry little bird with no sense of proportion, bitching a blue streak at me from a branch I could have touched with an outstretched finger.  He didn't care.  He would have pecked me.  Oh, yes, this was a sign.  I thought back to all the stories Mom had told me of her youth, of squeezing a cheeseburger onto the head of a boy who insulted her, of driving a date's car into the ditch when he tried to feel her up, of clawing red rivers down the cheek of another fresh kid on a bus ride.  No spiritual herald of my mom's would have come quietly.  He would have bitched and shrieked and tried to crap on me.  I grinned and baby-talked and all but skipped with glee at the sight of him.  He calmed down enough to look a trifle confused, then peeped a bit and flew off.

When my brother Ian was killed at the age of nineteen, Mom used to clean his tombstone every day.  Each morning, she'd wake up, make us breakfast, see us off to school, get her cleaning bucket and brushes, and drive up to the cemetery on the hill.  The first week, she saw yellow butterflies covering the grave.  The second week, she planted daffodil bulbs.  They'd been his favorite flower.  At the beginning of the third week, she gathered up her supplies and got into the car.  Halfway to the cemetery she told me she heard Ian say, very clearly, "God, Mom...not AGAIN!"  She stopped the car in the middle of the old farm road, engine idling, and looked up at the tree on the hill, marking Ian's grave.  Then she said, "Okay, son," turned the car around and went home.

I think of that robin yelling at me and I believe it just might be Mom saying, "God, Beck...get on with your life!  I'm FINE!"  At the moment, I'm in the middle of the road, my engine idling.  I think it's time to turn around and embrace life once more.  I hope all of you out there, with your griefs and tragedies and sad sad stories, can see the wisdom of that pissy little bird, find a way to turn around, and embrace your own lives.  Take care.

Love, R

Friday, August 5, 2011


Yesterday was the two-week anniversary of my mom's death and my grieving hasn't gotten much better.  Grief is a very strange thing.  I had wanted her to die for months.  The Alzheimer's had advanced so much, she had become strange and rather horrific to talk to, but the real nightmare was how much she was suffering physically and emotionally.  I wanted her to be done.  I wanted her out of that body, zipping around as a happy little spirit, no longer trapped in that oatmeal mush of a brain and that torture chamber of a body.  When the nursing home called to say she had passed on, it was a relief and awful at the same time. 

Emotionally, things haven't changed much but I know they will.  Corny as it sounds, Time really is the great healer.  I go to work and don't throw up any more.  That's a welcome change.  My beloved boyfriend is moving here very shortly; we'll no longer be a long distance relationship.  That's magnificent change and couldn't come at a better time.  I can laugh at work, slipping on the chipper Rebecca persona like a comfortable glove, losing myself in serving the mild and the demanding, the impatient and the laid back.  There's a comfort in that too; like being on a stage, forgetting who you are and what you're currently going through.  All my good friends at work have rallied around me.  I actually went for a Margarita with them two nights ago, something I never do.   Cool salt licks and tasty tortillas.  It had been a particularly busy night and I had a gremlin table: those are the ones where absolutely everything goes wrong.  I screwed up and that made me upset and that made me screw up even more.  A chink in the chipper persona slipped and I had to run in the back for a bit of a weepy fest.  I went for margaritas with the two waitresses who did my side work for me as I tried to pull it together. 

The practicalities of grief are not often addressed.  I would love to take time off, a sad vacation to cry it all out and do a bit of sobby sightseeing with my past.  But poverty is a strict taskmaster.  I was back at work less than forty-eight hours after Mom passed.  Of course, I sucked at my job and more often than not had to leave, but I kept going back.  For rent, for bills, for food and drink.  And that, right there, is the strangest comfort of all.  Food, water, shelter; the necessities of life.  I was going back to work, tackling my grief over my mother's death, all for the sake of living.  An unexpected positive thing and a road to the future as well.  I'll always have the past.  "Now" is fleeting; I'll half blink at the present before it becomes a memory.  But the future is also always mine.  No matter how miserable I am now or ever was, the future is always waiting.  And in that future, this overwhelming grief will be a thing of the past.  So I smile as I look toward it.   And endure.  Like sitting in the dentist's chair, it'll soon be over. 

Take care.

Love, R

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Perfect Day

One of my favorite people alive invited me to go kayaking today.  Having never kayaked in my life but always wanting to try it, I was thrilled.  She picked me up, we scarfed some pizza beforehand, hauled the gear into the car, and headed off to the water.  I looked like a bag lady pirate in cut off pants and an over sized t-shirt over my swim suit, a big black and red lobster hat on my head. 

We shoved the kayaks into the water, climbed aboard, and were off.  I've rowed a boat before, but kayaking  is different.  For one thing, the water's right there beside you and the kayak is so comfy.  I just lolled back and made figure eights with my paddle thing, clumsily knocking the side of the boat and trying to imitate my friend B, who made graceful, effortless arcs and skimmed along like a water skipper on the still surface of the water.  We saw so many birds: egrets and cormorants and seagulls, most of them perched on some object sticking out of the water, wings outstretched to dry.  I kept catching myself thinking, "I should tell B to take a picture to send to Mom," then remembering my mom was dead.  Still not used to it yet.  Still fresh.  So I decided to whisper a grinning side note to my mother, pretending she was skimming along beside me, enjoying this perfect day as much as I was.  I looked at the birds and watched tiny fish jump, went right up to rocks jutting and waves breaking against them, peered into recesses in rusted out docks, salt water glistening on the countless spider webs under every horizontal surface.   B pointed out an old ship abandoned on shore, grey with age, and a cool old building with paint peeling off crumbling brick.  We surmised it might have been some building from World War II's war production, then paddled on.  We read the names of dozens of boats, some wonderful, like "At Last" and "Sun Catcher," some gross and ridiculous, like "Wet Dream."  B took me to a little area behind some reeds where somebody had sculpted a little cat on a rock right by the water; the shoreline was loaded with white clay.  Excited, I suggested we sculpt something too.  So we pulled the kayaks ashore, scooped up a basketball-sized blob of clay and set to work.  She made a cool shark, which she stuck in a tree over the water.  I made a mermaid perched on a rock, looking out at the horizon.  Then we jumped back in the kayaks and paddled back to where we'd parked and drove back to her house.  We ate Chinese food while watching the first five episodes of True Blood, which I'd never seen.  Loved it.  She drove me back home, both of us sleepy and happy, me clutching a sea shell and my bag of sandy clothes.  The night sky was full of stars, and I tipped my head back to stare.  A perfect day.  Haven't had one of those in a while.  Didn't expect to have one so soon after my mom's passing.  But Life likes to toss you a curve ball sometimes.  Some of them are good, some bad.  Today's was very good.  So thank you, B, for suggesting the kayaks in the first place, and thank you Life, for throwing me such an unexpected and wonderfully sunshiny curve ball.

Very grateful.

Take care.

Love, R

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Letting Go

My mom is now under the ground.  Well, her body is, anyway.  I wasn't at the funeral.  Such a strange feeling, to not be there.  I didn't want to go but most likely would have if I'd be able.  It was actually sort of arranged but fell apart at the last minute.  The funeral was in Illinois and I'm here in New York.  I was fine during the day; beautifully distracted by loving friends who strategically kept my mind occupied.  The night was a different story.

You have to understand about my freakazoid emotions.  I usually have them under control.  I'm pretty strong that way and keep a tight rein on things.  But my emotions are those of a super duper sensitive nut ball artist and sometimes they just go crazy.  Then my whole body has to pay the price.  I remember when I was in second grade and saw the movie "Spartacus" for the first time.  I ran a fever.  That was the first time my temperature skyrocketed over a heart wrenching film but certainly wasn't the last.  I threw up at my one and only college football game.  It was between the University of Illinois and the University of Wisconsin's team.  The stadium was packed and the emotions were sweltering.  I threw up my entire picnic lunch in the smelly stadium bathroom.  All that rage and hatred just flipped my belly inside out.   I also faint rather easily.  After my brother Ian died when I was eight,  I fainted so often, it was a shoulder shrugging event.  Nobody thought twice about it, including me.  I fainted several times during my marriage to Peter.  I fainted a year and a half ago on Mother's Day, thinking of my son Leland.  Unfortunately, I was at work and panicked the entire staff, who called the paramedics.  It was a mess.  And I fainted last week, two days before Mom died.  Don't know why; just felt really, really bad about how sick she was and toppled.  This is simply something I do. 

Mom's funeral was last Thursday, two days ago.  As I wrote, the day wasn't bad at all.  Quite nice, really; my friend D and I did artwork together.  I had a strange yearning for meatloaf and was starving for the first time in a week.  D treated me to a meatloaf dinner at a local restaurant.  I ate the entire plateful.  She laughed and commented that she'd never seen me eat like that, ever.  I told her that meatloaf had been a favorite of my mom's and Charlie's.  Then she dropped me off at home, where my roomie and I hung out until it was time to go to bed. 

That was when I opened up my email on the computer and saw the photos my cousin and friend had sent me from the funeral.  It was kindly meant; they knew I couldn't be there so sent the photos as the next best thing.  But they hit me hard.  Close-ups of Mom in her coffin, various shots of her grave, freshly dug and right beside Ian's.  Then I thought about my sister's text from earlier that day, stating that Mom's insurance didn't cover even the cheapest funeral and there was no money left for a tombstone.  That's when the trembling started.

For the next twelve hours, I was sick as a dog.  My boyfriend said something wise; he told me it was purging the last six months, maybe even the last four years, and to let my body get rid of everything.  To not fight it.  Not that I had much of a choice while doing my Linda Blair imitation.  Still certain I could go to work, that it would stop at any minute, I lolled about in denial while I sprawled across the bathroom floor.  Finally, I had to face reality and call in sick.  Hate to do that.  Hate it.

But T, my boyfriend, was right.  So were a large number of my friends who nagged me to take time off and rest, let myself absorb this whole thing and give myself time to do it.  One of the things an insecurity addict likes to do is "not be a bother."  Not a bother to anybody.  We hate that or we crave it.  When we hate it, we can be spraying blood like a fire hose and still insist it only needs a Band aid.  When we crave it, we become needy and greedy and slightly repulsive to others, and thus extremely so to ourselves.  I'm a "hate to be a bother."  Whipping my poor battered psyche and exhausted body finally became too much.  They both rebelled and let me know in no uncertain terms how pissed off they were.  Therefore, the great and unfortunate love affair with the toilet bowl.

Deads" as she used to call all the loved ones who'd passed.  I'm sure she's happy.  All I have to do now, is work toward getting that way myself.  And it'll happen.  All I have to do is give myself time.

And never eat meatloaf again.

Love, R

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Crazy Week

This has been a crazy week.  My mom died, a battered wife was sideswiped on the highway by her maniac husband (who kept screaming he was going to set her on fire and kill her and the kids), another friend's good pal was murdered, and a young woman with severe mental problems, herself a victim of incest and violence, is having her child taken away for sexual and emotional abuse.  A similar case is just about at the same juncture.  Rough week.

I always try to glean the good from any cesspool situation.  Sure, that's a filthy pile of steaming shit, but what good is in that mess?  Irritating to even try to look when things are so overwhelming.  Isn't it weird how simply attempting to see something good, pisses you off?  But I do it anyway.  A sort of "let's roll the sleeves up and get out the shovel" type of mentality. I go.

I wanted my mother to die.  I didn't want to be without her but how friggin' selfish is it to want her to stay when her suffering is so horrific?  Get OUT of that body.  Be free.  Now she is.  The only thing I have to deal with now is, my mom is dead.  But that's my suffering.  Hers is over.  That is a beautiful, bittersweet thing.

The battered wife has at long last left her husband.  Since CPS (Child Protection Service) took the children away for analysis, the kids are staying with a wonderful and loving relative, in a place unknown to the father.  The battered wife is in a safe house somewhere too, whereabouts unknown.  The kids are safe and the battered wife has been ordered to undergo therapy.  The loving relative is also tough as nails and no wishy washy sweetie whom the messed up kids can bully.  She's a firm, loving hand.  That is very good news.

The tormented child and his heartbreakingly screwed up mom are the far more difficult story to deal with because it's just happened.  This is the second such case I've heard this week; the other one is still ongoing but, I'm very glad to say, CPS has again been called.  So there's the good.  The boy is safe, the girl is about to be.

Bad shit is overwhelming.  That's a simple fact.  One hears or experiences such terrible things, that the brain fires like a night sky on the fourth of July; flames and explosions and noise.  Our mind just strobes out, runs like its tail's on fire.  Forgets how to be quiet, is offended when one tries to calm it.  CALM? WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT, CALM!?! LOOK WHAT'S HAPPENING!  It's fight or flight mode at its most primal.

But calm is the path to strive for.  If you've ever been on an airplane and seen the stewards go through the required safety instructions, zombie-like in their boredom and mostly ignored by the passengers, there's one tip I think of now.  That's how to put on the oxygen mask.  Sure, we all know when the cup drops down, put it over your nose and mouth, pull the elastic tabs, whatever.  But if you're with a child, you are not to put the mask on the kid first.  Even if your kid passes out from lack of air while you're fumbling with the damn thing, you are to put yours on first.  Why? Because you're the adult.  You can help that innocent a lot better if you're conscious and calm, as a big honking draught of pure oxygen will make you.  What's little Johnny going to do when he's breathing easy and you're turning blue in front of him with your eyes rolled up in your head?   It's a strange feeling to help yourself before instinctively helping a child, but it's the right thing to do.  The logical thing.

We've got two halves to our brains and they are diametrically opposed critters.  Like Jane Austen's Marianne and Eleanor in Sense and Sensibility, one is all feeling and emotions and the other's all analysis and logic.  But they're perfectly suited when they work together.  Getting them to work together is the key.  My ex once told me that the right hemisphere of my brain had enveloped and devoured the left hemisphere.  The left hemisphere is just gone.  That is a hilariously apt description of my super sensitive artist's brain.  I suck at numbers, have no sense of direction whatsoever, but I can feel some body's pain like radar and draw and paint rather well.  I also faint dead away when my emotions overwhelm me.  Very Edna St. Vincent Milay.  It's just how I am.  Despite that, I'm strangely calm in chaos.  My sister said that's because it's my natural state.  Chaos.  Looking back on my crazy life, I realize that the thing I'm best at is helping people.  All my experiences, all my trials, tribulations and tragedies have given me the gift of empathy.  I try to use it for good.  So I will never grow tired of the stories, the crises and pain of others.  I might retreat for a bit but I'll always come back to it.  Because I'm good at helping people.  I believe it's what I'm supposed to do.  There's something about it that helps me, makes my past a tool for good instead of a sword to pierce me.  We all have misery, we all witness tragedies.  But if you scrape the shit off your vision, if you work to see the good as well as the bad, even amidst the din of Bad's caterwauling, you'll have that tiny bit of quiet inside.  "Peace brings gifts of beauty," Leetah from Elfquest once said.  I know how hard life can be, my dear friends.  I know exactly how it feels to be face down on the floor and too dejected to even want to get up.  So lay there a while to regain your strength.  It's okay to be down.  But spare a moment to watch how cool your breath looks as it pants a ring of mist on the floor.  Magic.  Even there, face down and fucked up, there's magic just for your eyes and mind, heart and soul.  Let it comfort you.

Love, R

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Letter to My Ma

As many of you know, my mom died two days ago after a long battle with illness.  Her death was a relief.  I'm glad she's out of that blistered and hemorrhaging body.  But she's still my mother.  I still grieve, even as I breathe a long sigh of gratitude that her ordeal is finally over.

Yesterday was her birthday.  I was supposed to work; even thought maybe I could pull it off.  In the end, though, I just couldn't do it.  I called in, got teary-eyed at the manager's kindness and condolences, and decided to go for a walk in the morning.  I went to the grocery store and bought that silly cupcake, which I plan on eating tonight.  I toasted Ma with a glass of green tea and spent the rest of the day hiding in my room, curled up in fetal position or staring at my computer screen.  My choices of DVDs to have playing in the background were strange: Let Me In, the eerie little film about a future serial killer and a depressed female vampire trapped forever at the age of twelve.  Odd.  Then an old BBC mini series of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park.  After that, William Powell and Irene Dunne in Life With Father.  I tried to figure out the correlation between these films and the only thing I could come up with, was all three main characters were weirdly loyal oddballs.  Not unlike myself.  I'm very loyal and I'm definitely an oddball.

Today I worked a lunch shift, shaking in my shoes and trying not to think about the fact that my mom is dead.  Did pretty well until about six hours in; then I began to fray around the edges and get weepy.  Another kind manager let me leave early.  I wanted to bolt out of there but was so dizzy and emotionally shook up, I realized I'd better eat something.  So I sat in the break room and choked down broiled flounder, my paper napkin saturated with mascara and tears, surreptitiously snuck out to catch them just before they rolled down my cheek.  The food was repulsive but necessary.  Then I walked home, breathing in air as hot as a sauna, just slowly sauntering until my key hit the front door.

Now, showered and comfy, I've been thinking about what I'd say to Mom if she was in the room right now, a grinning little sprite of a spirit revelling in her new found fleshless freedom.  So here it is, a letter to my ma.  Who knows?  Maybe she's peeking over my shoulder as I type.

Dear Ma,

First off, I'm so glad you don't have to go through any more nightmare with your poor old body.  Between you and Dad and your nigh-impossible to kill tendencies, you've genetically made me immortal.  Remember how you used to laugh at that?  You sure gave the good fight for a long, long time, Mama.  Brave and stubborn, like the little Scottish Highlander stock you are.  I'm sorry I wasn't there when you passed.  You'd have gone at least three weeks earlier if I had been, because I would have put a pillow over your face just to get you out of that agonizingly painful shell you were trapped in.  I really believe I might have been tempted to do that.  I really believe I might have actually done it.  I called the nursing home almost every day to find out how you were.  Kat says you wouldn't talk to her or me for these last three weeks because you were mad at us for not being there.  I think you just wanted to die and didn't want anybody to talk you out of it.  Remember when you said my voice called you back when you almost died a few years ago?  And how talking to your kids always gave you strength?  I think you didn't want to come back.  I think you didn't want to be rescued or convinced life was still worth living.  I understand and I'm grateful all that pain is over now.  I kept praying every night for you to die.  I imagined what it felt like to have your own skin dying, to have blood clots erupting all over you, inside and out, and to have the Alzheimer's, so advanced by that time, pulling you back to the worst memories of your truly horrific past.  The nurses told me you were delusional: one day you'd yell for them to save that boy drowning in the pond.  An hour later, you'd be screaming at how cold the brains were that you picked up with your bare hands.  That night, you screamed about all the blood on your son's dead face, or you were kicking and fighting to take a knife away from a girl who was trying to kill you with it.  You cried over how much it hurt to be raped, and will they please, please save that baby boy?  He's fallen, he's fallen on his head because you were wearing high heels.  All night, every night, then all day and all night, you screamed these things, but the nurses were wrong.  They weren't delusions.  They were all memories.  They all happened.  You were trapped not only in that rotting, shrieking shell, you were trapped in memories no one should have ever had to endure.  The happy memories were gone.  The only thing left in those awful last weeks was pain.

But you know what?  It's over now, my poor beloved little nut of a mama.  You did some terrible things.  Yes you did.  But you paid for them.  You can let go of that guilt.  It's over.  I remember how you told me that your beloved sister, who died so long ago, had made a pact with you.  Whoever went first would be waiting when the other one passed over.  She died almost forty years ago now.  She's an old hand at this.  And your son, my beloved brother Ian; you don't have to remember his gory corpse anymore.  You don't have to remember "that awful surprise on his dead face."  Because he's there too.  And Charlie.  Charles the Man.  You told me, years ago, right after Charlie died, that you kept having this dream about him and how you both loved to dance so much.  You said you knew he was just going to sneak up, grab you around the waist, yell "GOTCHA!" and swing you into a two-step.  So put your dancing shoes on, little tiny mama.  Hell, you probably already have.

And I bet they're red.

I love you, Mama.  Always will.  Thank you for being my far from perfect, often hilarious, often infuriating, fatally flawed but practically perfect mother.  I adore you.  Rest in peace.

Love, R

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Four Hours

My mom died tonight.  At the moment, it's 12:48am on Friday morning, her eightieth birthday.  She died a little over four hours ago.  For a year, she's been telling me that she's not going to be eighty.  She was right.  Like Mark Twain, who came in with Haley's Comet and insisted he was going out with Haley's Comet...and did...Mom was right.  She had just about as horrific a prolonged death as possible but now she's free.  I wonder, with my red eyeballs glancing around, if she's watching me now.  I think my brother Ian and Charles the Man, my step dad, are at this moment showing her the ropes.  There's a huge comfort to me that she's not alone, that they're there for her.  When the nurse called me, I asked if she was alone when she died.  The nurse was with her.  Thank God.  Her nursing home is in Illinois, I'm in New York, my sister's in Florida and my brother's in Texas.  Poverty kept me here and maybe it was a good thing because I'm afraid I would have tried to kill her if I'd seen the shape she was in.  A sort of assisted suicide.  I called every day and the nurses told me that Mom was asking them to kill her for a week.  "I know you know how to do it.  Just give me a shot.  I know you can do it."  That's what she kept saying.  Her death reminded me of the old Edgar Allen Poe story...I think it's called The Strange Case of Mr. Valdemar...where a soul is trapped inside a rotting corpse.  People in the house could hear the soul wailing and screaming.  Mom was like that, trapped inside a rotting shell as her blood turned to "pudding" in her veins.  That's another quote from staff.  So now she's free.  My writing at the moment has little grace or lyrical feel to it, not that it does as a rule anyway.  I'm usually as subtle as a sledge hammer.  But I thank my mom for being my mom, ham-handed though she was at times.  She was still my mother and I'll always love her.

Take care.

Love, R

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Ten Commandments of the Insecurity Addict

I read a review of FREAK on Amazon yesterday that really amazed me.  The reviewer was a man who had not been abused but had a friend who had been.  He wrote that FREAK helped him understand her nutty mindset a lot better.  That made me think that I should spell out exactly how a dumb ass insecurity addict thinks.  So here it is, the Ten Commandments of the Insecurity Addict.  Hold onto your horses.


When you grow up with scumballs who abuse you, you instinctively seek out scumballs in your relationships.  They're familiar territory, like pulling on a comfy old glove that isn't really comfy because it's full of nails and broken glass dipped in shit.  But it's comfy to us.


This is the nurturer in the insecurity addict coming out.  We know and recognize scumball behavior in others and we think we can smooth it all out.  Our parents or whoever abused us as kids were scumballs and we loved them because they raised us.  It's a sort of Stockholm Syndrome; we grew to love our abusers because in return for letting them abuse us, we had food and shelter.  Plus, the poor, poor things were so unhappy, we pitied them subconsciously.  So, scumballs we choose as adults are just like who we grew up with, or they're sad cases who never had a chance to grow because they were abused.  Poor, poor Sufferer, as he beats his kids and wife unconscious.  Only a person who's truly unhappy could possibly do such a thing.  Thus the aggressor becomes the victim in our eyes.  If torturing us is the only thing that gives them relief, it's a small price to pay.  We can handle it because we handled it before.  They need it.  They need us.  Good or bad, it feels wonderful to be needed.


Insecurity addicts are closet ego maniacs.  That's the long and the short of it.  We become convinced, usually by our torturer, that we are absolutely necessary to their happiness; even to their ability to keep living.  If we left, they'd die.  If we left, they'd kill us.  That's how unbelievably important we are.  Holy shit, I'm a life saver.  It's an abusive sack of shit scumball I'm saving, at the expense of me and often our children, but this is a heavy responsibility and I'm not going to let it go.  I can't.  Scumball will die if I leave.  I'll die if I leave.  Our kids'll die if I leave.  I'm the only one who can prevent this catastrophe from happening.  The only person on earth.  That's an amazing feeling.  So I'll stay.  I'm terrified of this scumball, but I feel pity for him/her.  Nobody was there for Scumball as a kid, everybody left them.  I'm not going to be one of the crowd.  I'm not going to leave them.  I can't.  My loyalty is the only thing of worth I have.  Doesn't matter that I'm loyal to the wrong person and I know it.  It's all I have.


Since we insecurity addicts are usually in some ghastly relationship, be it love or friendship or both, we can't succeed at any dream we have because subconsciously, we know success would only come at the expense of our ghastly relationship.  Whether we're wealthy, poor, whatever; it doesn't matter.  An insecurity addict can be at the top of their field in business, entertainment, politics, what have you, but if they lose their sycophantic base or abusive relationships, there's nothing worse.  Our egos are so fragile and damaged, we can't fill the hole ourselves.  We need to look outside to find someone to feed us because we're always emotionally starving and have little to no idea how to feed ourselves.  The true dream is to be at the top of our field AND have a loving, fulfilling relationship.  But we'll often sacrifice all of that to keep the abusive relationship or ass-kissing emptiness, just so we're not alone with our terrible, terrible selves.


This is a biggie.  Fear plays a major role in pretty much all of our thought processes.  If I do this, they'll leave me.  If I do that, they'll fire me, beat me, kick me, abuse me.  If I open my mouth, it'll be worse.  If I do anything at all, it'll be ten times worse.  Fear paralyzes us.  When coming from an abused background, as so many insecurity addicts do, that fear kept us safe as children.  A little kid can't punch an adult parent back.  We take the beating, we take the abuse, or we don't have a home.  That's the reality.  We bring that fear with us into adulthood and we guard it with our lives, even as it eats us alive.


An insecurity addict is loyal to usually one person, like a dog wagging its tail at the master.  We recognize the loyalty is misguided but we stick to it like glue anyway.  That's how we are, and that helps feed our self-loathing.  But it makes us super sensitive to any outsiders' humor or good intentions.  I GET ENOUGH OF THAT SHIT AT HOME DON'T LAUGH AT ME!!!  Arr.  Teasing is like lemon juice and paper cuts to us.  We also despise any attempt at good advice from others.  We feed off the concern for our well-being but sneer at the thought of actually taking the advice.  They don't know what we're going through.  They don't understand our abuser.  Only we do.  So shut up.  That's how we think.


Kids are sponges.  They notice and absorb everything.  Every time we accept a blow, or a sneer, or any kind of abuse from our scumballs, the kids are watching.  Mammalian imprinting guarantees that, as adults, they will repeat our patterns.  Every excuse we give them for why Daddy did this, or Mommy said that, to explain away scumball behavior, is absorbed for future use.  We so often desperately want our kids to have a better life, a better relationship than we had, because our kids aren't us.  We don't hate them.  We want what's best for them, all the while teaching them the worst.  Statistics show this.  Boys who grow up with wife beater daddys grow up to become wife beaters.  Daughters who see their moms become hollow shells become hollowed out themselves.


Insecurity addicts are always questioning themselves.  Since the bitch in the mirror is public enemy number one, we hold in contempt any good idea, thought or deed we ever do.  So we don't do them.  That makes us even more contemtible and leaves us with very limited choices: either become an abuser or an abused.  Door Number One or Door Number Two.  Both are full of sewage.  That's why thoughts of suicide become so seductive.


We're a weird mixed bag about hygiene; we either obsessively groom or obsessively desist from it.  Abused kids often stink to high heaven to keep people away.  Maybe he won't want to stick it in me if my scent is gag-inducing.  The only thing gnarly stink keeps away is potential friends.  Scumballs don't care if you stink.  They often like it keeps potential friends away.  What they're doing needs to be secret.  On the flip side, we become obsessed with being super clean.  Abuse is a mess we can't control.  My perfect hair, clothes, weight and scent can be controlled.  Aha.  I'm in control.  In the midst of this firestorm of hell, I'm in control.  Take that, World.


We're weird about this too.  Insecurity addicts are very often work-a-holics.  When it comes to the outside world, we go at it full force, be it home life, business or physical shape.  But we do little to nothing about working on self-love.  Insecurity is an imp that sits on our shoulders and roots its tail into our spine.  That's how it controls us.  Every whisper of pride in anything we do is attacked from within.  Yeah, I saved that drowning kid but if I'd been quicker, they wouldn't have gone through that stress at all.  It was my slow ass reaction that made them go through it in the first place.  Thanks for thinking I'm pretty but look at my ass.  I could firm it up a little better; it looks like a dried up ball of cottage cheese.  Humor is an excellent way of torturing ourselves.  People laugh at our self depreciation and we feed off that positive reinforcement.  And keep torturing ourselves to get a giggle.

So, those are the ten commandments I lived by religiously for over thirty years.  They're tough, they're ingrained, they're very, very clever at keeping us down.  But they're not insurmountable.  It takes a lot of work, every day, to combat them, because they go for my throat every day.  Sometimes they're successful, sometimes they're not.  I've been doing this self-love thing for almost eight years now and the good news is, the little fuckers are nowhere near as noisy as they were.  I've got a lot of lovely quiet in my mind now; a cool soft place to retreat and heal.  Good luck in spinning your own straw into gold, my dear fucked up friends, and good luck to all you non-basketcases and your infinite patience with us all. 

Love, R

Friday, July 15, 2011


I went with my friend B to see Harry Potter tonight.  It was the last film in the series.  Watching the climactic ending of a cultural phenomenon made me think back to the first Harry Potter film.  Both my kids were young and wanted to see it, so off we went to Hogwarts.

I had no idea what to expect.  I'd seen all the hooplah in the news about Christian protests and boycotting evil witches, etcetera, but having been an outsider all my life and never being particularly evil, I ignored the rants and took the kids.  Movie fanatic that I am, I cringed a bit at the unseasoned young actors but was enchanted by the story.  I kept glancing at my son and daughter in the theater, their blue-glow profiles en rapt upon the screen, and grinned with maternal pleasure.  After the movie was over, we enthusiastically went to a store that sold Harry Potter candy.  I spit out a foul-tasting green polka dot one.  My children were thrilled.  I even bought them chocolate frogs.  We ate them before they could jump away.

As the years passed, I began to go to the movies alone or with friends.  After the first three were done (my favorite being The Prisoner of Azhkaban), both kids had moved out, traveling to different states, but I kept up with Harry.  I watched as the actors grew and improved, I watched the story get darker and more heart rending, I worried about the outcome.  I'd made a vow a decade ago to not read the books until all the movies were done.  That was a tough vow to keep; four years ago, at a town wide garage sale in Briggsville, the local library was selling all the hardback copies for a dollar each.  I nabbed four of them.  Since the town is mostly composed of bible thumping river dunking individuals, the books were in pristine condition.  I doubt most kids would have dared to check one out and bring it home. 

I'm looking at the books now as I type this.  I'm grinning.

The basic story of Harry Potter is good versus evil.  I always like those stories in all their myriad forms.  From comic books to classical literature, good versus evil is a popular and poignant theme.  I love what Gandhi said: that in the end, good always triumphs over evil.  Think of it.  Always.  History has proven that true, even though good sometimes takes one hell of a long time to triumph.  But triumph it does.  Look at me.  Miserable, broken, depressed, abused, suicidal.  Name your poison, I drank it.  I ate sorrow and swilled melancholy.  Self loathing was a popular entree.  I even devoured myself, sneering at any attempt to overcome my own sadness.  But I triumphed.  I told evil to go fuck itself as I began the long road toward coming to the rescue of poor old Becky O'Donnell. 

It's not unlike Harry versus You Know Who.  Insecurity is the dark wizard inside.  We ourselves are the only ones who know how to find all the lingering vestibules that lurk in our screwed up psyches.  But if you don't give up, if you keep on trying to find all those dark corners and clean them out, you'll discover unexpected and unbelievable magic inside yourself.  We're all creatures of light and dark.  The dark's noisier but the light is more powerful.  So good luck against the forces of evil, my friends.  Insecurity, self-loathing, cruelty, broken will.  Flat-nosed and bald, sinister and compelling, seemingly invincible, it'll all turn to dust with the power of your own magic.  So don't give up.  Fight for yourself.  Fight for what's good, even when you can't feel it, even when you're incapable of seeing it.  It's there, waiting to be saved.

And then what a creature of light and magic you'll be!

Take care.

Love, R