Dear Daddy,

 

Your anger swallows up much of my memories of you. The shadow it throws is big, and I peer past it trying to see the man. You didn’t always get angry, but when you did it made a big impact because it was scary and you didn’t interact with us much normally. I know you tried to contain your anger, and I also know it was a reflection of your depression and self-loathing. This makes it easier to forgive you, but how tragic that you died without ever feeling comfortable and acceptable in your own skin. Daddy, you also died without letting me know that I am loved and acceptable in my skin. Perhaps that is the awful legacy of depression.

I have one memory of calling you daddy when you were living. It was that time you got in a fight with grandma-do you remember? We never talked about it, so I’m not even sure how much you were aware the damage done. It was a painful way of growing up.

I have no idea what the fight was about. Chances are grandma was putting down mom, and therefore you, as I hear that was a common occurrence. I wouldn’t know as grandma was idealized in my childhood. She might have been a crappy mom and mother-in-law, but at the time she was a loving grandma.

Anyway, you guys were fighting and it was getting pretty loud.  Somehow a coffee pot was thrown, and I still remember seeing the coffee stains splashed up to the ceiling. I was an adult, probably about 20.  The reason I believe this is because mom and I took the younger kids over to the apartment off the old red barn, and I think I was living there. Mom got worried, so she asked me to go check on you both, or I offered, I really don’t remember.

I walked in the door and you and grandma were going after each other vocally. You were equally matched and this is when I figured out where you got your anger.  Neither of you acknowledged my presence, if you noticed. Grandma was threatening to take all her medications because she wanted to die (another common occurrence that I was not aware of), so I tried to get in to stop her. You were taunting her and telling her to go ahead. Whether you were calling her bluff or really hoping she would, I don’t know.  At any rate, you blocked my entrance and shoved me back. I remember crying, “daddy!”, but mostly I remember how it didn’t register with you. Your face was red and your eyes were wild. You looked out of control and I was afraid, but mostly I felt rejected, and unloved. Again.

I’m ready now, daddy. Ready to tear down the stone wall I built around my heart. I’m ready to feel now. I’m ready to love and accept myself and to accept the love of the people around me. I forgive you for not having the love to give, and not being able to relate to your children. I forgive you for your crappy marriage and the way you treated mom. I forgive you for passing on the legacy of anger and depression. It’s been 4 years since you died, and the shadow is shrinking and I’m seeing more and more frequently the hurt man hiding behind it.  With this shrinking comes the freedom to see the nuances of your life, to remember the laughter, the times you and mom were in love, and remember that it wasn’t all darkness.

 

 

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Facing disappointment

Oh, goodness! I worked for hours on my research paper draft, turned it in and got it back with a 7/10, or 70%.  I was so disappointed because I felt like I should have been graded better for all the effort I put in!  Of course that is not true, the paper was a “C” paper and I knew it when I submitted it.

Last night I was working on it past midnight, but determined to finish it and get it turned on before the deadline. I knew there were errors and I didn’t have time to proof read it, but I wanted to be able to turn it in and get the feedback before the final. Still, I admit I was a little…OK, a lot,  disappointed to find out I got that low of a grade.

The worst thing to do is beat myself up over it and let it stop me from going on with my research and writing. I’m in school, I’m there to learn, not to prove what I already know. This is a learning activity. It’s by doing the hard things that one grows. If I was still only doing English 101 essays, I would not be stretching myself enough and my writing would not be improving.

I admit, it’s hard. It’s hard to let go of a bad grade or negative feedback. It’s hard to not let it influence how I see my writing (it’s terrible! I should stop! I should delete it and throw it all away!). Worse yet, it’s hard not to let it influence how I see myself (What a loser! There is no way you could go to grad school!  What were you thinking anyway?!!)  These are the voices of criticism that want me to quit. SHUT UP! SHUT THE HELL UP! I’m NOT quitting.  I may not do things perfect, I may screw up, but I don’t quit. The only true failure is quitting.

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Dear Diary,

It’s a chilly 44 degrees and foggy out this morning! David commented that it looked “menacing” on the way to basketball (it was still a little dark.)  Menacing is a stretch though, I laughed. He has probably watched the Hunger Games series too often.

I have so many things that I am not able to share with anybody, and it’s eating me up.  I’ve thought about going to therapy, but I really don’t have the time right now, or the money. I used to talk to my sisters regularly and I didn’t really have anything that I didn’t feel like I could share. Now though, I’ve gone through so many internal changes and I know that they won’t be accepted by my family. Somehow I have to break away from my old social group and find a new one.

“Have you tried? How do you know if you haven’t tried?” One: I know my family. Two: They are pretty vocal about many of the things I’m struggling with. Three: I have tested the waters on many of the issues.

For example: A few years ago, probably about five, the church I was involved in since my eldest was two (12 years) had a big blow out that ended up with the church being dissolved. Since childhood the church has been a major part of my identity, and now, not only was it gone, but the horrendousness leading up to its demise had left me bloody and bruised with nowhere to go. I tried to talk to my mom and sisters about it, but since my two brothers were major players in the battle, they didn’t want to be seen as taking sides.  This was very painful for me.

Slowly, I started doubting everything. I tried valiantly to hold onto the core teaching of my Christian faith. I tried talking to my family about the possibility that there is no literal hell. I mean really? Christian brothers can act so terrible and go to heaven, and my dear MIL is going to hell because she grew up in a small town in a developing country and not exposed to the gospel? I can no longer believe in a God that is planning on condemning the majority of the people to an eternal hell, not only that but I don’t think the bible supports this idea.  As you can imagine, these ideas were not welcomed. I could see in their reactions and responses that they were doubting my very salvation, thinking I was going “liberal” or aka “to the devil”, and my mom was visibly upset. It became easier to hide these questions, but of course the hiding comes at a cost.

When hiding a secret like this it ruins relationships. It also eats away at your insides and becomes bigger over time. Other changes I have gone through that I would be afraid to share: my belief in evolution, my intense desire to go to graduate school, my acceptance of LGBT people and the belief that one is born with their sexual preferences, and my commitment to social justice and the belief in the white supremacy ingrained into our countries political, financial, and justice systems.  Basically, I have to hide my being from them and all my beliefs, while they continue to spout off all their opinions like they are the right ones and we all agree on that.

And yet…the desire to be an accepted and loved part of my family is strong. I long to go back to the innocence of my previous faith. The desire is so strong that I fake it and try and fit in, but my psychological self is paying the price.

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The obsessive job searching…

I scan job boards for hours a day! It’s getting crazy, but we are so broke and I’m feeling panicy about finding a job. Five more weeks until I’m done with school…will I be able to find a job? I mean a job that pays okay?

I go back and forth about being done and going for a Masters. Of course, that would require money. Tonight I started looking into alternate routes to getting my teaching degree. I could work my way into a teaching degree for about $12,000.  They year I was getting my degree and working under a lead teacher, I would probably make about $14,000. I’m getting more information about this.

I really just want to be settled into the next phase of life! I hate ambiguity. I hate not knowing. I hate my life being up in the air, but what I’m not going to do is rush anything.

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Dear Sweetie,

You walked in the door last night at 7:30 after a 12 hour day of physical labor.  Dinner was not ready, so you sat on the red stool on the opposite side of the counter while I pulled together some tostadas from left overs in the fridge. After which, you cheerfully took your youngest son to Big Five to buy a red shirt to go under his basketball jersey. So he wouldn’t have to show bare arms at the game. So he would feel comfortable playing. Because I felt like we shouldn’t spend the money on something so frivolous when you work so hard and we are so tight right now.

I hate being the one in charge of the budget, the constant bearer of bad news, the one that always has to say no. Your wants are so few: a good radio for music, TV in the evenings, and the ability to buy things for your kids that you couldn’t have when you were a child. And some carne asada on occasion!

You work so hard, that I wish I could give you the world. I wish our budget wasn’t stretched to the max with tuition, new shoes for the kids, house payments, auto insurance, health insurance…and the list goes on. I don’t know how you retain your sense of humor and your patience. You have taught me by example to love better, to hold my tongue more often, and to see the best in the world around me. You encourage me to chase my dreams, and it is with your encouragement and financial support that I will be graduating from college in December.

Yet, you often feel inadequate, and like you are not providing well enough for your family. I wish that you could see yourself the way I see you! You want to provide more material things like new cars and a remodeled kitchen, but my needs are few too, and they don’t include these things. I need a man who loves me as I am, one who supports my dreams, one who cares for our children, and who is gentle and kind.  You are everything I ever wished for plus good looking, an attentive lover, and a good provider of all we need and most of what we want.

It’s been 23 years since our first date, so we have now officially been together for more than half my life! It hasn’t always been easy and for a few years I thought we wouldn’t make it, but here we are.  We are both better people for persevering, and for learning to love each other, to communicate effectively, and meet each other’s needs. I’m sure we will have some more rough times, and fight and misunderstand each other, and wonder what we ever saw in the other, but these periods seem to get shorter over time. And the making up is still as sweet as it ever was.

Te Adoro,

Your loving wife forever!

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Dear Mama,

It’s early so the house is quiet.  The sky is just pinking in the East and it looks like it’s going to be another beautiful fall day. David has been having early morning basketball practice, and while at first I groaned about it, I have actually been enjoying the peaceful mornings. You were always such a morning person, and I never understood it!

Life has a crazy way of turning women into their mothers. I turned 45 this week and for some reason this birthday hit me hard. Perhaps because the years between 40 and 45 went by so fast, and it just seems like my life is being swallowed up busyness and worries. I have done nothing of note, nothing of impact on this earth, and should I leave tomorrow it is only my kids and husband who would really suffer.

I know that being a wife and mother is a honor, and I do not regret the years I have spent loving my family. I do regret the years that I spent avoiding myself and my personal growth…that is not right either, because I have grown tremendously over the years. I guess I mean that I regret not finding a creative outlet for myself and a way of living out my passions.

We are each unique, and as long as we are on this earth we have something of ourselves to contribute. Mother, you are a traditionalist as far as believing that a women’s place is in the home. All my life you have been a wife and stay-at-home mom, but you have also set an example of living a creative life. As long as I remember, you have been working on some creative endeavor, whether it was playing the piano, working on sewing, cooking something, singing in the choir (or at home around the piano), fixing up the flowerbeds, or painting your wood trim in the old farm house. In some ways, this was done out of necessity because we were so poor, but in reality, except for perhaps the cooking (although your creativity here added a lot of pleasure to life), most of it was to add beauty to your life and the lives of your loved ones.

You were also a dreamer. I’ve always resented the fact that you have shared this part of yourself with your sons more than your daughters. I feel as if you connect better with your sons, perhaps because the burden of turning your daughters into good wives and mothers is so heavy.   I have dreams also, but they are not dreams of new houses and grand vacations. I have dreams of somehow contributing to social justice in this world. I have dreams of living a self-sustaining life. I have dreams of my kids being college educated. I have dreams of completing my college education (6 more weeks!) and finding a career path that helps me live out my ideals at some level.

Now that I have a college education, the first in our extended family to do so, I feel pressure to get in some well-paying job to prove it was worth it. It was worth it! I have loved getting a liberal education, loved learning to express my thoughts, loved learning about the psychology of the mind, and loved meeting new people.  Most of all, I am proud of myself for having gone after my dreams and completed a long term, and difficult at times, goal! Go Me!

The sun is now high enough to brighten the trees in the backyard. I’m not ready for the approaching winter, but I’m going to try and make a plan to get me through and perhaps even thrive. This plan will include plenty of exercise and ways to get in touch with my creativity. It will also include figuring out our budget and finding a job.  I will have to talk to you about the struggles of finding a job next time.

Until then, I love you mom! I hope you are continuing to find creative ways to enrich your life and the lives of those around you.

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Weight Watchers-setting a goal

I’ve been in weight watchers a long time-holding onto that lost 10 pounds, the ones that pushed me from plus sized cloths to the “normal” clothing section, and fulfilled my first goal.   Last month, after months of missing meetings, my weight started to creep back up, so here I am again.  Do I dare hope that I will be able to lose another 10?

Another 10 would get me from 196 to 186 (still obese, still fat by any standards), it would get me my 20% lost pin, it would help keep my diabetes under control (as would the actual healthier eating), maybe my acid reflux would improve with a 10 pound loss, 10 pounds is 20% of the 50 pounds I need to lose, and one pound away from going from obese to overweight.  Okay, my goal is 11 pounds!  I have been in the obese range for 20 years and I really want to get out of it.  That is my new goal. Now how am I going to reach that goal?

  1. Stay away from sugar and simple sweets
  2. keep within my points range (currently 28 per day and 49 per week)
  3. exercise daily- get a fit bit
  1. track my food intake and points on my phone
  2. Have an accountability partner- currently my daughter
  3. Find things I really enjoy doing and the things that really cause me stress; do more of the first and less of the second! For example: today in meeting a mother was there weighing in with her small child crying and throwing a fit.  This really triggered me to want to eat and caused me a lot of stress.  I’m glad that mom was there, but it reminded me of being stuck home with small kids and mindlessly plowing through food to get through my days.  I’m not there anymore, I can do something.  My kids are teens and they need to learn to be more independent…I deserve some alone time.  My family doesn’t need to swallow up every second of my time…I need time to process, to think, to breath.  Apparently this is an area I really need to work on.

This is my secondary goal for the week: I am going to figure out a schedule that allows my kids to help with the home chores and me to get time alone to decompress and distress.

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