Confidence, Feelings

Making Gold

This weeks sermon comes to you from having your own personal crisis in the most seemingly hostile of environments. And living. And learning that you can do that and not only be fine, but better than you were before. Absorbing rejection and living anyway, to realize that you can make it through anything. You can experience your worst fears and get confirmation on your cruelest thoughts about yourself and still wake up the next morning.

And if you are lucky then you get to the next morning and look around at the people who were there with you and you get to be grateful for them and love them harder than before. It may have been your worst day but it still wasn’t the worst day you could have had. Because you didn’t have to do it alone. And the people who supported you are not always the ones you expect. Maybe you have a family you never knew about before. People who help you climb by picking your feet up and placing them where they need to go. And people who listen and give zero advice, just hear and reflect back.

These are the things you learn from having the worst day imaginable in the most hostile environment imaginable.

That you are the strongest you imaginable.


Cause He’s Watching And He’s Proud

I’ve had this sneaking suspicion for as long as I can remember, that my nature was my dads and my nurture was my moms.

And I felt somewhat guilty about this. Like I was betraying… both of them?

But on Mothers day, at brunch my mom said it out loud.

Now I want to be clear.

Often I write uncomfortable things here, things about how satisfying crying can be, or the depth of grief. And people try to console me. My mother and my friends and the guys I date reach out to make sure I’m ok.

The amazing thing is that I usually get that sort of treatment about stories which are joyous in my own head. That revelation about crying was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. It changed my life in such a positive way. And yet, lots of people used it as an opportunity to tell me they were here for me, seemingly completely missing the point.

So let me say right here that when my mom told me “She’s always been more her dads side of the family” it felt so good, such a relief. I wasn’t harboring fugitive feelings anymore. I was right, I was alert and aware. Not to mention a daughter of my father, which also feels good.

I don’t like sitting through movies. I get bored when people don’t express themselves using the full capacity of the english language, I enjoy writing with wit and poignance. I’m my fathers daughter.


A Family Is A Soft Place To Land

One of the best perks of being a newly minted adult is getting to start experiencing your family members as people in their own rights. Becoming friends with my family members is amazing.

In the last year I’ve heard about decades worth of suicide attempts, kidnappings, and near death experiences. It’s like a 10-season telenovela that I conveniently slept through and now I’m catching it in syndication.

Learning about the rest of my family (dead or alive) is amazing and provides such incredible context for the dynamics that I know now.

And given all that,

I remember that when I was looking at colleges I really wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t too close. There was a big, wonderful university right near me and as far as I could see I had a 50/50 chance of getting in if I applied. I hemmed and I hawed for months about whether I wanted to apply.

If I applied and I didn’t get in then it would be a huge hit to my ego.

If I applied and I did get in then I would have to break my own and my family’s hearts by saying out loud that I wanted to go far enough away not to feel guilted into staying at home.

In my memory I struggled with this decision silently for months. I was embarrassed by how selfish the need was. I was needed at home. And I would choose my freedom over the needs of my family.

Last week I got dinner with my aunt and uncle, the tellers of such fantastic tales. My aunt casually mentioned my struggle to choose to get away. Apparently I had solicited her opinion during that time. Apparently I had told her all those concerns and how conflicted I felt. I became a contributing member of our family lore. And she remembered. Because I was important.

It sounds so silly but it felt so good, so validating to be reminded that I mattered, because I was a part of something. And always will be.

Feelings, Sisterhood

Is It Really All That Scary? Maybe You’re Doing It Wrong.

Today at work a lovely woman I sometimes see was talking about her upcoming wedding plans. One of the guys remarked that when he was studying psychology in school he was advised, “before you marry, spend time with your fiance’s parents. The way you react to her mom, take note of that.”

“Oh, no!” my engaged friend remarked. “That can’t be. He’s nothing like his dad. His dad makes me nuts. And I’m nothing like my mom.”

People my age brag about this all the time. I’m nothing like my mother. Meanwhile I’m hearing my mothers voice flying out of my mouth every minute of every day. I look down at my hand grabbing something and see hers at the end of my arm.

A few years ago I asked a friend

How many times a day do you think I’m becoming my mother to yourself? 

About once a week.


I’m heartened by the fact that people tell me I sound more like my grandmother (who died before I could talk) than my mother. Which means that I’m the embodiment of best qualities of the two.

It doesn’t scare me, turning into my mother.

Or shall I say, the new and improved version of my maternal lineage.

Now stop bragging mom. I know you’re reading this.


Grateful To Be Part Of The Team

Every thanksgiving I scroll through my feeds alternately yawning and misting as only a true New Yorker could. You’re so grateful for the friends that got you through this year. You’re wishing for world peace. You’re so thrilled to be with your biological family or grateful to have found your logical ones. 

And I’m happy for you but it can start to feel a bit cliche.

This year, for the first time in a while I have something new to be thankful for. Something that is truly, surprising. Instead of becoming grateful for something that I’ve had for a while I’m became, on this day, something new to be grateful for. 

I’m a valued, adult, decision-making member of my family. 

Duh, right? No. 

I’m no longer a kid who doesn’t need to know about the hardships and abuse that are the backdrop behind confusing actions. 

I’m now a person who’s opinion is requested and respected. Who can hold court, translate English to English, and mediate large scale arguments. 

It sounds small but it feels huge to me. 

To have a family that values the ideas of all its members and works together as a team would have been enough to be grateful for. And to be invited to sit at the grown-ups table and help perpetuate that inclusiveness, well it’s an even better present than the great socks I got.


This Just In: Family Makes Day Better

My grandmother is about to move up from Florida to be closer to the rest of our family.

And I am so happy about it.

Today I had the evening off and out of the blue I decided to call my aunt and uncle who she is staying with and casually ask what they were doing for dinner tonight. Within an hour I was on my way and eating a delicious home cooked meal with them. Talking about work and new pets and life. Putting down the very stressful day of work that I had had and instead talking about what great books everyone was reading, how my little cousin was the librarian’s special helper and was given the honor of scanning out the books for her classmates. What a respite from the rest of my life, what an escape. What good fortune.

There is a time for moving away from your family, for becoming your own person on your own terms and showing that their approval doesn’t make or break your life.

But there is also a time for recognizing that these people respect the decisions you’ve made and are in your corner cheering you on, excited to hear about it whenever you’re ready to talk and to make sure you have enough dishes.

Not everyone has a family like that, a built-in support system, not everyone is so lucky. But I am. And I’m going to be more grateful for it.


So Lucky

I am so lucky. I am so unbelievably insanely lucky.

Last night I got dinner with my aunt and uncle and talked with them and ate beets for 3 hours. And it was wonderful. We talked about books and when they first got married. 50 years of family history I know nothing about. We talked about their travels together as newlyweds. We talked about the horrific struggles they went through together. We talked about my dating life. We talked about my travels. We talked about Bobby Kennedy’s funeral.

I am so lucky to have them. To have a great family that I enjoy spending time with and who support me. Not everyone has that. I didn’t have it until I decided it was worth working for on my own.


Happy Esther Day 2013

Today is Esther Day.  Esther Day is the day when we tell people we love them.  People like friends and family (not romantic interests, that’s using Esther Day selfishly).  Today isn’t for telling someone you harbor a crush.  No, today is for telling the people close to you how much they mean to you, people like siblings, the people you don’t tell enough.  So send this to someone if you can’t do it yourself.

Make their Esther Day special.

Abuse, Advice

Advice – Just Say No To Your Mamma’s Boy Drama

Dear Carolyn: I don’t know how to deal with my mom and her recent irresponsible decisions. She is in love again with her on-again-off-again boyfriend. To mark this new development, he recently gave her a very expensive “commitment ring,” or, as I like to call it, an “I cheated on you, so here’s a blinding diamond to forget about that” ring. She says in another life it would be an engagement ring (not sure what that means) and she is “sooo happy.”

I’ve witnessed two-plus years of the emotional roller coaster this man has put her on, but apparently my mom has forgotten all about that. I am 27, she is 57. I would define our relationship as more of a best-friend relationship rather than a traditional mother-daughter relationship.

This has proven to be difficult at times, in that she tells me everything, the good, the bad and the ugly. Yet, knowing all this guy has put her through, she walks back into his arms and expects me to be their No. 1 cheerleader.

I have explained to her that I want her to be happy but that she is setting a bad example for me and my siblings, as well as making a decision that will likely lead to heartache for her (again) and she needs to wake up! I’ve been supportive, diplomatic, and tried tough love. Mom seems unwilling to hear or accept the truth. What do I do?

— Mother Is a Teenager

My first question is: is this relationship (and before I even ask I’m going to say that in my humble opinion most on-again off-again relationships are) abusive?  I don’t mean physically (although if it is then all the more reason to get your mom out), I mean emotionally.

There are a lot of kinds of abuse but the kind that the on/off-ers are familiar with is the kind where the abuser makes things just good enough, just loved enough, to make the abused want more.  Then the abuser can start messing around with their partners head, treating them less well than they deserve.  The kicker and the reason this is so common in on/off relationships is that the abuser makes it clear that while their partner is ‘oh so very important’ to them, this relationship is not their highest priority, they have the power to leave, the power of disinterest.  By maintaining the power to leave they remind their victim that their weakness lies in their loving and perceived inability to leave.

If you can convince your mother to leave her emotionally manipulative boyfriend then kudos to you, please write a movie, essay, short story, whatever, just teach the same lesson to the rest of us.  It’s really hard to convince victims of emotional abuse to see their relationships the way we see them.  What I’ve found is more common is that the people in these relationships wake up one day and aren’t willing to take it anymore.

“I remember I was in New York at the Trump Hotel and I woke up and I just knew I was over it. It was a different day. I felt different. I didn’t feel lonely,” [Rihanna]  recalls. “I felt like I wanted to get up and be in the world. That was a great, great feeling.”

Try to be the wake up call in your mothers life.  Ask her how she would feel if your boyfriend treated you the way her boyfriend treats her, but remember that bullying someone into leaving their abusive lover doesn’t empower them, it just continues the cycle of bullying.  She needs to see it for herself and take action, you need to be around for her if/when she decides to leave but make it clear that you aren’t going to get involved in his muck anymore.  You’re still family and when she calls you can talk about the weather and your brothers and sisters and the big sports news of the week but you aren’t going to talk about that mess of a boyfriend.  End of story.