The Mother Load

The Mother Load

Full (moon) disclosure: There’s a good chance I may go all over the place with my thoughts in this post (more so than usual).

Last night, I went outside to gaze at the supermoon, came in and watched “Avengers: Endgame” for the umpteenth time, and realized I hadn’t done a post to mark the occasion of starting this quiet little blog a whole decade ago!

Spoiler alert: I’m still not (technically) gonna do one.

However long you’ve been rockin’ with this sporadic, occasionally depressing, hopefully insightful and always a tad batshit crazy home of my musings — please know that I am truly grateful to you for generously indulging me. It is my hope that you’ve left this page at times feeling enlightened, optimistic, more vulnerable and/or mildly amused. It is also my hope that you’ve spread the word so others might feel the same.

Maybe you’ve gained perspective in areas you never considered. Maybe some of my stories resonated and made you feel seen or heard. Maybe you, too, have embraced therapy. Or meditation. Or skydiving. Or tragicomical sexcapades with lanky/sketchy Cuban poets or semi-famous narcissistic actors. Or obsessively playing the “Hamilton” soundtrack ad nauseam. Or indulgent self-care rituals. (I’d like to delude myself in thinking there’s something here for everyone.)

When I began this blog, I was reeling from a season of change I wasn’t mentally prepared for and desperately needed an outlet to escape. I was struggling to find full-time work after being laid off from a lucrative job a year earlier, was fresh out of a nearly six-yearlong relationship that had grown abusive (subsequently becoming homeless as a result), and my father had been diagnosed with dementia and early-onset alzheimer’s — setting off a domino effect of health, legal, financial and family drama aplenty for years to come. To say that writing about things as innocuous as baseball game proposals and bridge comparisons provided an unlikely balm at the time was an understatement.

Ten years later, this little blog is where the façade gets stripped. And I love it.

Which brings me to a subject I haven’t really been keen to delve into because up until now I didn’t realize it was such a pain point but whew lawd is it ever!

As April comes to a close, it brings with it more than a slew of Taurus folks reminding me that I need to get my life in order and that my birthstone is trash. It also brings the ominous (for me, at least) reckoning that is Mother’s Day; the one day out of the year where I pretend to be engaged by doling out airy tributes to the moms in my life, acutely aware of my personal views on motherhood, and having come to grips with the fact that my relationship with my own biological mother is nonexistent at my behest.

For years, I’ve grappled with a host of feelings when it came to my biological mother: The classic default of hurt/angry with her for behavior that could clinically be construed as negligent/abandonment. Guilty for the last words I ever said to her nearly five years ago at my father’s funeral, after she repeatedly hit me with a program bearing my father’s face for “not getting her joke.” Sad for her because her inability to see beyond her own experiences and narrative has impaired and/or destroyed any real chance of healing or connection with me and anyone else that just got tired of trying and repeatedly failing to be heard.

And yes, I’m cognizant of the disconnect that comes with using the term “biological,” although it’s not as loaded as it’s just simply my truth. Another woman raised me. To me, she’s my mother. Simple math.

But even armed with those basic facts, I never dug into the emotional ramifications of that equation. Never paid attention to how I internalized that anger. Never noticed how during the rare visits in my youth, she’d find opportunities to insult my father, who never spoke ill of her, made countless efforts to ensure she and her family were kept abreast of my whereabouts and supported various members when they were in need decades after they had divorced. (Admittedly a bad husband, but an undeniably good — albeit flawed — man.) Also never picked up on her habit of assuming the victim role and shirking accountability when she made terrible — and often detrimental — life choices.

If I had…I would have noticed sooner that I’d become the very person I’d vowed to never become…at one point basing my decision to not have children on the fear that I’d one day replicate her actions.

Strangely, realizing I was an asshole was quite a refreshing revelation.

After unpacking how my approach to life and relationships was shaped (distorted?) by the fears, resentments, traumas and biases of both my biological and adopted mothers, I began looking at my past romantic relationships and realized there was a common thread: All of my long-term relationships had been with men who held deep resentments toward their mothers as well. One was angry that his mother brought him to America, forcing him to leave his life and friends across the pond behind…glossing over the fact that she was fleeing an a violent marriage. One was none-too-pleased that his younger, fairer-skinned brother got more attention than he did growing up. One literally blacked out talking about how his mother would take his deceased father’s social security money and give it to his younger brother for clothes and sneaker shopping, while he was supporting himself through college (even though they did not share the same father). All of them at one point had assumed the role of “man of the house” and financially supported them in their adult life to the point of straining themselves fiscally to maintain the appearance of being the “good son” and keep the desired approval/love of their mothers.

Unsurprisingly, all of them thought money, status and material belongings were the remedy for the huge emotional voids they couldn’t fill. And all had massive control issues.

And as simultaneously heartbreaking and terrifying as that revelation is, it’s not an anomaly. There are SO MANY mothers who are unwittingly hobbling their child’s ability to have healthy relationships and even function as emotionally stable adults. Hell, without even realizing it, I had preternaturally doomed my children to the point where I didn’t even bother having any, so I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like being a woman who puts the weight of her world onto the shoulders of her child because her heart is broken to the point where she makes her happiness and dream fulfillment the priority and responsibility of that child.

Actually, I can and just did. It’s shitty.

I think about that when I hear stories of single mothers pushing their sons to be pro athletes in dangerous but lucrative sports without encouraging them to also have an education and a post-retirement business plan. I think of that when I see stage moms who aggressively force their children into entertainment without their consent. I think of that when I hear stories of women who knew their partners were abusing their kids but didn’t want to lose whatever stability that partner provided, and instead took their frustrations out on the child and abused them more.

I think of women who resent when the child gets more attention than them and ignore or put down their dreams and achievements. I think of women who can’t recover when the child is a physical reminder of the man who brought them pain and, by default, punishes them for it. I think of women who mistakenly believe that withholding words of encouragement and praise will make their kids “stronger.” I think of women who use threats and violence to intimidate their child into meeting their expectations instead of talking to them. I think of women who don’t communicate their needs, fears and desires, who risk sending their kids a message that their needs, fears and desires aren’t valid or worthy of attention, fulfillment and care. I think of all these very-real scenarios…and of the future adults walking around feeling unworthy, unloved, unable to express or process emotions and conflict…afraid to communicate what they require and be vulnerable, authentic, joyful and free as a result.

And it’s soul crushing…in addition to generating way too many red flags to keep track of before swearing off dating/mating for life.

I’d be remiss if I left out the women who inadvertently raise dangerously entitled humans because they fear being labeled a bad mother. They may not be scarring the kids for life, but they sure as hell are making them difficult to deal with in society, which may scar the rest of us.

That said, I know some amazing women who have raised some incredible human beings. I understand it’s no small feat, and it often takes a village. And without the support of a partner and/or friends and family who are equally invested in making sure everyone is functioning on their highest level, things absolutely, inevitably, fall through the cracks.

To them, I say with all sincerity: You deserve your flowers. And the spa days. And the occasional vice-infused getaway. You deserve all the things.

I’ll just close this epic tome by saying that in the thirteen hours since writing the bulk of these words (I was too sleepy to edit and post earlier), I’ve since discovered that Oprah released a new book today pretty much touching on this fun subject, so I’m just gonna take that as a sign I’m on the right path and learned something good over this past decade, and perhaps this is where my generational curse ends.

Also, I’m literally on the same page as Oprah, and I haven’t decided yet if that’s a flex or if I’m about to get cussed out again by the people who keep telling me to write a book already.

Motherfucker.

Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here

This week has been a lot.

Yesterday, I woke up, sat up in bed, took a breath and a swig of water and…just…cried.

Then I got up, made the bed, opened the curtains and — minutes later — found myself standing in the kitchen as a strange wave of relief came over me that I didn’t have children.

Just the day before, I momentarily cursed this fact, as I reckoned with the tax penalties I now faced as a single woman entering a full year of being self-employed(ish). The rare other times I’d second-guess this choice, I’d been disabled after breaking my ankle, and perhaps at some point last year when I was cautious about leaving home to get food and other necessities.

But less than 24 hours later, I was once again firmly in my childfree stance, except with a new and morbid perspective.

What was first a personal choice that was part remnants of parental resentments and traumas and part outcome of not being in a healthy, committed marriage/partnership in the years I was open to motherhood, has suddenly morphed into a selfish desire to not experience the devastation of potentially losing that child violently because of someone else’s ignorance.

As unapologetic as I’ve become with my life choices as of late, I admit I momentarily grappled with these thoughts, until learning soon after that I wasn’t alone in having them. That the person who shared this view is something of a motherlike figure to folks, as I’ve been in the past, has eased my mind on this position.

I’m no stranger to loss. In the four-and-half decades I’ve been on this earth, I’ve lost a great deal: Jobs, homes, life savings, family, friends, lovers, dignity, sense of security, self-control and — occasionally — the will to continue and do it all over again another day. And yet, here I am.

In theory, I’m a fucking phoenix. Or Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day,” depending on your perspective.

But the one consistent thing about all that loss is it was mine, alone, and at most points I absolutely had control over my narrative, even when I had no control over the overall outcomes (and even when I didn’t think so at the time). Either I made bad choices personally, or made bad judgements to trust others on my behalf who ultimately didn’t have my best interests at heart. Lessons were learned, and in time I moved on and quietly started over.

Now, imagine the precise opposite of that happening as the result of losing a child as the world watches on their screens. Having to process the horror of losing a human you brought into the world. Losing them violently because of the color of their skin and by the hands of the very people whose job ostensibly is to protect and serve everyone. Not being able to fully grieve because your life and your child’s lost life has now become a public symbol of something even more horrific. Then, the media joins their murderers and millions of strangers in creating and pushing a narrative to justify taking their life. You’re now propelled into a spotlight you never asked to be in as your head still swirls with questions that need answers. Protests and marches and movements you might have empathized with before from afar but are now intrinsically attached to are happening in places you’ve never been. Strangers are risking their safety in the name of your child. Hashtags, social posts, shrines, news show segments, song lyrics, murals, propaganda, forums and thought pieces…all in the name of your child.

Your. Child.

No matter what the circumstances…THAT IS TOO FUCKING MUCH TO BEAR AND ENDURE.

As much as I understand the idea, spiritually, that tragedy can serve as a catalyst for moments that reach far beyond the scope of our individual stories, history has shown us those moments come at tremendous costs. And at this moment, I’m emotionally spent.

I also understand many, MANY other people, have lost other types of loved ones, and they have also been unwittingly thrust into the same experiences. My heart aches for them as well.

But I’ll NEVER understand why this keeps happening. Why legacies are erased in the blink of an eye and the nervous twitch of a hand. Why hate and fear are on surplus, but love, kindness and acceptance are scarce. Why common sense isn’t so common in places and spaces where ignorance is lucrative and rewarded. Why power and control remains so dangerously addictive to and within the grasp of people who should never have it.

To the countless parents, partners, families and others who’ve lost loved ones to senseless violence…I wish you’d get answers, justice and most importantly, peace.

To the warriors fighting for social justice…I wish for the day to come when the fight is no longer needed.

To the bad-acting cops and people, politicians and pundits who continue to protect them and justify extinguishing promising futures based on your biases…I wish you could see our humanity the same way you see it in the monsters who commit mass murders.

To the folks who stay silent because they fear “rocking the boat” in their circles…I wish you had the courage to speak up.

To the courts…I wish you played fair.

To my fellow empaths…I wish we had better coping mechanisms in place this week.

To America…I wish we could truly have liberty and justice for all.

And to the innumerable names — said and unsaid — taken from us too soon…I wish you were here.

This week has been a lot.