Tag Archives: friend

My Mom Is Not My Best Friend

10 May

My mother is not my best friend. And that’s okay. The concept of who my mother is has changed in my life over time, as I think it should have.  As a kid, my mom was that great mass of maternalness that gets epitomized in Baby Muppet’s mother-human-thing-character, a body wearing a dress tall with a nice voice who’s tall enough that her head is somewhere off the top of the screen and all you can really see are her legs and the tray of cookies she’s bringing into the room. My mom was my mommy – dinner-making, school uniform-buying, rule-creating, playdate-arranging woman who took me out to Gloria Jeans Coffee for hot chocolate with whipped cream and cinnamon flakes on top on my days off school. She was the Adult And Thus Essentially God who brought me to the pediatrician the zillion times I had strep throat, forced me to wear sunscreen when I was too young to understand the words “Irish complexion,” and for god knows what reason took on what must have been the hell of running my elementary school Brownie troupe. As it goes with most kids, for me in my childhood, my mom was a set of actions and routines and a few shades of mannerisms. I loved her, I needed her, but I had close to zero understanding of her as a person.

Puberty hit, and I’m pretty sure neither of us understood the other as a person for a solid five years or so. With my flush of preteen hormones came the genetic ticking time bomb of mental health predisposition, with anorexia and OCD taking the lead. It was me and my brain against the world. (Well, it was really my brain against me and the world, but I wouldn’t know that until something like a decade later when I was three years into therapy.)

As I fell into a world of misconceived misperceptions and my mother tried to fix it all with tough love and no science or psychology, our relationship devolved into secrecy and butting wills. With my mom not really having a background in psychology or science, I don’t know all of what went through my mother’s head during those years, but I imagine it was something like “WHY IS MY CHILD BREAKING WHY WON’T SHE JUST DO WHAT I SAY WHY CAN’T I FIX IT FUCK FUCK FUCK.” My brain, in the meantime, was going “SEE HOW SHE DOESN’T UNDERSTAND SHE’S TELLING YOU TO DO WRONG THINGS SHE DOESN’T UNDERSTAND THAT EVERYTHING WILL BREAK IF YOU DON’T DO THIS WHY WON’T SHE JUST TRUST YOU SHE DOESN’T KNOW WHAT SHE’S TALKING ABOUT.”

Lovely, lovely communication there.

My early teen years were not pleasant. Combined with friendlessness at school and expectations all around of high-achievement, my developing mistrust of my well-meaning mother and growing resentment toward other family members led to a lot of walls and broken battleground. Things were wrong. My brain scrambled desperately to fix them in maladaptive ways. My mother tried in her own misinformed way to fix it as well. Everything was terrible. My mother was not my best friend. From within my eventually clinically depressed brain, she was barely even someone I liked.

It’s entirely justified if that sentiment were mutual.

Adulthood, or the mini-adulthood that is college, at least, offered some respite. I got both better and worse, but there was greater communication that happened. I mean, there kind of has to be when your daughter winds up in a treatment facility. You kinda have to talk about what’s happening for real, at least a little bit more, then.

I got to understanding my brain more, and it got harder for it to pull one over on me. I don’t know what changed for my mom, but she started backing off of mama bear mode and started interacting with me on a more peer level. Slowly, excruciatingly slowly, we started understanding each other as adults.

And honestly, I don’t even think I mean in some gushy, and-all-was-well way. I’d go home for a visit over the summer, and find out that my mom’s favorite band is PINK FUCKING FLOYD. And then she’d just suddenly rattle off the lyrics to some rap song. And then she’d tell me about how she put herself through a few years of college while working full time because she wanted the education for herself even though her mother didn’t. And I’d tell her about how I’d gone on birth control (at that point in order to regulate my unruly menstrual un-cycle, but my mother’s immediate response was “OH GOOD YOU CAN HAVE SEX NOW!”) and about how sucky vet school applications are and about how I adopted a snake (she was less okay with that than the birth control). With my mother’s mama bear a little bit more tamed, I can now ask her for advice on things like renting a car and how to do taxes, and, I mostly trust that she’s not going to jump into let-me-do-everything-for-you-oh-child-of-mine mode where I feel like respect for my own competence goes flying out the window. No, I feel like now, in her eyes, I am an adult. I can see her, the adult, more now too. I like her. I hope she likes me. I think we’re something like friends.

But not best friends. Which is good, because that’s not what I need her to be.

I need her to tell me to put on sunscreen when I delude myself I won’t burn. I need her to sit down and have hot chocolate with whipped cream and cinnamon flakes on top. I need her to somehow sometimes know more about old school rock than I do.

I just need her to be my mom.

Cupped

4 Sep

hands and coffee

There is something comfortable to holding a hot mug of coffee in your hands, fingers cupped around it while a gentle heat exchange between capillary and vessel quietly bonds you together. It’s the modern Thinker’s pose, in a way. Elbows resting no matter where, cup steaming between dreaming fingers, eyes looking over the sconce off in the distance, as if it held future just before time dipped out of sight. The grey and wet city street, the dry and dusty desert playa – they’re both the same. I was away at Burning Man last week and sat on empty truck bed, the long wooden kind that semi’s use to tow things. It was a Friday, the day that my roommate and I always have our coffee date in the morning, even in the desert.

We rested our coffee away from the edge and then wriggled our way onto the bed as well, hoisting ourselves up using elbows and fists and wheels as necessary. We grabbed our respective cups and then, for near an hour, we talked. Just talked. But when you’re cupping a mug of coffee, what would other be just a seat becomes a perch. A spot like a semi truck bed becomes a space. Rambles become musing, garbled whispers revelations. There’s something that invites truth-telling, in those flickers of steam in front of your face. Coaxing tendrils that threaten litmus should you lie, as if their calm clear grey might fire up into red if you throw a falsehood at them.

At least, that’s how it was, retrospectively, in the Black Rock desert, that morning. Perhaps I anthropomorphize too much, though.

Or maybe I just really like coffee…

Flash Fiction: The Kindle Crime Syndicate

3 Jul

I expressed envy at my friend’s recent acquisition of a Kindle Paperwhite. While I also am incredibly lucky enough to have a Kindle, it’s an older version with what’s basically a tablet screen, a.k.a. computer screen. So uh, ew. I mentioned that if I really want a Paperwhite, I should probably just social engineer a swap or work some kind of reduced payment scheme out. My friend, however, had other ideas…

“That,” he suggested, acknowledging my swap idea, “or become a master thief, steal one and relish in the joy that you were able to get one of your own. It never stops there though, does it?

You think, What harm will it do if I take this book? Suddenly, you find yourself stealing every once in a while – a book here, a top there, a cute pair of earrings; who will miss them, right?

Eventually it’s an unending thirst, a constant struggle to do moral good versus the unadulterated bliss you feel when you take something and make it your own. Your dark descent leads you to convince others to help you in your crimes. Your band of thieves grows and grows, until it’s no longer a band, it’s not even a network; it’s a criminal syndicate.

Your name, only known as ‘The Mice’Ala,’ is known to all in the underworld. Who is this figure? How can she manage to plunder everything within her grasp at a whim? Your thirst for lust and power grows unbounded – murder, human smuggling, these are all small and trivial steps you use to achieve your ultimate goal: complete and total domination over the human race.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, you’ll get a Kindle Paperwhite eventually, no worries.”

Well then.

I do not write happy stories.

9 Apr

People want happy stories. Good characters. Sweet endings. Family-friendly. At least, that’s what a lot of magazine submission guidelines seem to be saying.

But I do not write happy stories. I swear, I try. Took me five goddamn years to write a YA novel with a happy ending and after another five years I’m still not finished editing it yet. Happy stories are not the ones that come to me most naturally or most frequently. They are not what my brain generates. They are not what my brain understands. They are not what my brain has had to work with.

Happy stories, sure, they can be nice to read. Like a delightful little square of baklava. But too many of those delightful little squares, and odds are you’re going to be left with sticky, nut-grimy fingers and an urge to go puke up at least half of the sickly sweetness now residing in your stomach into the nearest toilet bowl. Or onto the nearest politician. Either would be acceptable, probably.

I mean, too many sad stories, or difficult stories or unsettling stories or generally unhappy narratives, and you’re also probably going to be left in a huddles mess o’ blankets on your living room couch crooning yourself into a tear-slopped sleep with that bottle of whiskey you’re clutching as your only friend. Not exactly a more preferable kind of overdose.

But at least… at least those tears your crying are real. The elation you feel from a happy story may be a vicarious kind of wish-fulfillment but the pain you’re left dealing with from a grungier tale is a memory, the recollected aching from some time before when your story veered a little too closely to something a character got herself into. Probably why the sadness lasts so much longer; it’s no mere slap-on-the-surface temporary veneer. No, it’s an upwelling of past shame or doubt or anger or disappointment. The kind of sadness that leaves you as said whiskey-breathed mess has roots.

Maybe it’s just because of my own negative-lens tendencies the depression fairy apparently decided to, uh, gift me with at birth, but I know that I, at least, remember pain more than I remember pleasure. In my life-flashes-before-your-eyes-’cause-you-done-fucked-up-and-somehow-now-you’re-drowning reel, the moments of hurt, of regret, of loss would be the first ones to play out again before me. They are, unfortunately, what my brain, my memory centers, my inner interpretation mechanisms snap to first. Over time (read: SO MUCH THERAPY OH MY GOD), I’ve been able to re-groove my brain a bit (hoorah neural plasticity!) and convince my brain that it really is okay to go the positive route every now and then, really, there’s probably not even that much of a traffic jam,  but still… inner GPS forgets about those routes a fair amount.

I’m tempted to write that to me, happiness just doesn’t feel natural. But I know, really, that’s not true. Happiness is totally a natural thing to experience. It’s more appropriate to write that for me, happiness hasn’t felt usual. I grew up in a household of parents who had been fighting since before I was even born. I wasn’t exactly the cool kid in my class for much of high school (but then come high school people realized I was smart and that they needed me and then I ruled the world! AHAHAHAHAHAHA!). I’ve been battling mental health shit since god knows when. Yes, there has been a lot of happiness in my life, but it’s not exactly been the baseline or background. Happiness has been an exception.

But honestly, I don’t think it’s just my own experience that’s made writing happy stories so difficult for me. Ever since, well, ever, I’ve been an emotional go-to for other people. I may not have been the cool kid, but I wasn’t ever that kid – but I did usually end up getting picked out as OMG BFF! by that kid. Then come middle school, when puberty hit and we were all just leveled to a singular playing field of awkwardness, the girls who became my closest friends were also the ones who, like me, had some inner demons that started clawing a bit more actively at our vulnerable brains. And our vulnerable hormones. The rest of pre-college schooling for me was a slew of late night phone calls, desperate pleas to hang on just a little while longer, letters sent every day to some treatment center other, constant scans of wrists and arms and rib cages and stomach circumferences and little pricks in the back of our minds any time one of us wore long sleeves or baggy clothing. Chat sessions into three and five am, glowing laptop screens hidden behind closed doors and under the covers.

Yes, there was a strain of hope. Maybe, just maybe, if I can get through this, you can too… We were all one giant mess of hands and arms clinging to each other and brace the entire structure of our lives. Support went in all directions. Hurt went in all directions. Despair abounded. Hope was a parched substance. It did not rain; it sludged through the ravaged sewers of our tenacity, tainted and unsafe even by the time it got there in the first place. But when you’re dying of thirst, you stop being so picky about these kind of things. Even dirty water will keep you going. For a little while. It might kill you a little while later. But I don’t think any of us would have minded that for ourselves.

We would have wailed over it, though, for each other.

The real-life stories that I have known have not been ones that work out. They have been ones of struggle. Constant struggle. You think you’ve gotten over one thing, and then something new crops up. Your once-savior becomes your new slave master. Relief only lasts so long. Every so often you may find yourself on your feet again, running, and you run as far and as hard and as long as you can, but then some invisible un-reason reaches its ugly snag and you don’t even see and suddenly you’re on the ground, scraped knees and bleeding elbows and your legs are so tired they don’t want to work anymore and your arms are wondering what the use even is anymore to try to pull yourself up one more time if you’re only going to end up down here covered in the dirt of a failed attempt again anyway…

And yet somehow we keep going. Knowing we have likely only doomed ourselves to repeat the process. But the way out is no more glorious than the struggle. So you might as well finish the race. Might as well find out if it was ever going to get you anywhere anyway.

You understand if your fellow runners decide they can take no more of the dizzying, soul-quenching exhaustion. You understand the decision to finally cease running, cease panting, feel only one more final sharp stab at the weary lungs you have forced to keep filling you with breath before saying that no, no more, I will stop here.

It’s a tragedy, yes. But it’s less of a tragedy than most people seem to realize. The loss of uncertain future happiness ways a little less to you than the end to present, undeniable pain.

So far, only one of us has dropped out of the race.

This impossible, endless race. There is some pride in my fellow runners, every time I look around and see them still there, straggling through this thing with me.

We will arrive at the finish line cut and scarred by thorns and brambles that held no roses. Our souls will be impossibly bruised. We might not have the strength to hold even our heads high. But we will have made it. We will have finished.

That is not a happy ending. That is not the kind of story I write.

But it is a story. With a horridly natural, un-fairy tale ending.

And that is something.

Title (Optional)

20 Jan

So Katherine Fritz, my fellow blogger and an excellent person and kinda-friend who lets me send her overly excited emails about fucking awesome coffee mugs got an agent! And it’s awesome. And she’s hilarious. So you all should head over to her blog and read her post “Title (Optional)” because hoorah smallish-time writers getting literary agents before they’ve even actually written a book because hope and smiles and inspiration! 🙂

Title (Optional).

(No, I’ve not had an entire French press’s worth of coffee today plus also maybe recently a cookie-shaped form of refined sugar… not at all…)

via Title (Optional).

What Happens When You Have Facebook Friends from Treatment

12 Nov

There’s something about having facebook friends from treatment. It’s an odd sort of dynamic, because I don’t think other people have it, those people that haven’t sat in a room full of twelve other girls and shared their deepest secrets and cried their eyes out in front of all of them, and then moved on and discharged and never talked to a single one of those twelve other girls ever again.

Sure, maybe we’ll do the occasional photo “like” when it randomly shows up in our feed. But if that photo contains any portion of the body of that girl from treatment, that’s when the scrutiny begins.

Are they fatter? Do they look like they’ve lost weight? Can you still see the little pudge of skin between their breasts and their arms? Are their cheek bones showing more than when you last saw them? How about the collar bones? And the color in their face? Are their arms still carrying the appropriate amount of flab, or do they look like they’ve gotten a little bloated from purging again? Were they brave enough to instagram a pic of their meal? Are they still calling attention the fact that oh man, they ordered fries? Or have they gone a little food-crazy on their wall, posting pictures of ever-increasing portion sizes you worry they haven’t even noticed?

Where are they in this love affair with starvation and stuffing?

You haven’t seen or talked to them in six months. But because their new profile picture popped up as you scrolled through the detritus of other people’s lives, you stop and wonder all that, in a matter of mere microseconds.

Or maybe you don’t. Maybe you hurriedly flick your mouse pad or your down arrow key, because for all that work you did learning to deal with feelings, this picture of someone you cried your eyes out to and then never talked to again – and who, identically, never talked to you – this picture makes you just a little too uncomfortable.

But still, even if you ignore it, there is something to being facebook friends with girls from treatment. Because even if you ignore it, even if you shove that image that flashed across your retina and branded you once again with feelings you thought you could choose to ignore, the question will still be there. It will still nag, day in and day out, at that part of your brain that remembers sitting that room crying your eyes out in front of those twelve other girls.

How are they doing?