Posts Filed Under Sometimes, I’m all deep and shit…..

I refuse to forgive you but I probably will

by renegademama

I’ve been thinking about forgiveness, and the way people often talk about it as this sweet, gentle thing. A delicate sort of gesture born of goodwill and high morality.

It’s never been like that for me.

I either forget about the transgression because I’m too lazy to stay angry, or I cling to my resentment like a drowning woman.

I ride that out for a while, just really milking that shit – how I was harmed, how wrong that person is, until I think I may be consumed in rage.

And then I forgive, and when I do, it’s not gentle. It’s not sweet. It’s a reckless, wild, radical thing that crashes out of me because I have no choices left.

A teacher asked me once, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be free?” 

I forgive when I want to be free, not because I’m trying to be nice, or want goodwill, or even to be friends.

I’ve been thinking about it because a few weeks ago I sat in a courtroom with my cousin, the man who killed my grandmother, and I stared at the back of his head.

There he is.

A man I’ve known my whole life, four years younger than me. I remembered him in his baseball uniform as a little boy, his huge brown eyes and curly hair.

He was quite possibly the gentlest, sweetest child I ever met.

He looked back at me two or three times in that courtroom, while I sat shaking, cursing the inefficacy of the Ativan I had taken.

What I felt when he looked at me is that he wanted me to nod, or smile at him, give some recognition. We were always good friends.

I glared at him. I tried to hurt him with my eyes.

In softer moments, I know he was sick. He was unmedicated and delusional and he stabbed my grandmother and killed her. In softer moments, I see that, and I know it to be true.

In other moments, I glance at the lamp hanging above the left side of my bed, that used to hang over the left side of hers, and I think about the way she died, and her suffering, and what he stole from her, and us – the last years of life – how many would there have been? – her plans, her smile, her vibrancy. He stole all that.

A death with her loved ones surrounding her. A final goodbye. He took that too.

And I think I want to rip his face off. I want to beat the shit out of him. I want him to rot in jail.

And in between these prospects, these thoughts, lies the space of freedom I refuse to face just yet. The space that calls to me when I’m quiet, when I’m not looking, and I know someday I’ll go there.

I’ll take one maniacal leap into illogical forgiveness.

I will see his humanity and fucking release him, and a part of me will hate it when it happens, and I don’t know when or how or if I’ll ever stand face to face with him again, or give voice to the compassion I sometimes feel but mostly abhor, but I know somehow the day will come when I will choose forgiveness over the all-consuming rage.

It won’t look soft. It won’t pat his head. It won’t excuse him or love him or even accept him. It will be to accept the truth, the whole awful ruthless bloody truth. Of him, of the boy and the man, of the sickness and the extinguished life – and me, standing aside, ready to be free, unwilling to die for sins that aren’t mine.

 

With Arlo a few years ago. She was going to study art and visit each of her great-grandchildren.

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Do you ever grow tired of being the one who’s supposed to know?

by renegademama

Being a parent is a truly ridiculous task. Let’s think about this for a moment: Everyone is a jackass. Everyone has major, seemingly irreversible character flaws that land us in jail at worst, in hot water with other humans at best. Nobody knows what the fuck they’re doing, and then we’re handed a tiny human who the world has decided we are totally and completely responsible for turning into a sparkling gem of humanity.

And of course, this is mostly on mothers. Let’s be real. What do we say to asshole trolls online spewing nonsensical vitriol in grammatically incorrect comments?

“What? Did your mother not love you properly?”

Sure, we’re joking. But are we fucking joking?

What do we blame for men who rape? BAD MOTHERING. “Oh, he must have been abused by his mother.” “Oh, his mother must not have loved him and now he hates women.”

Kids who shoot up schools? Bad mothers.

Kids with bad manners? Bad mothers.

Overall, nondescript assholes? Bad mothers.

I asked my husband, and he can’t recall a time when he read in a men’s website, Instagram feed, or other male-dominated platform a meme in neutral colors saying something like, “Everything a child becomes is based on a mother’s love.”

I HAVE SEEN TWELVE IN THE LAST WEEK.

“Oh, fathers, it goes so fast. Enjoy every moment.”

“Hey Dads, you become the voices in your children’s heads.”

Nah, we just get excited when they bathe a baby or brush a kid’s hair – How devoted! How amazing!

Meanwhile, we shred mothers for not balancing work, the rearing of a child’s body, heart, and mind, household cleanliness and organization, no paid maternity leave, diminishing rights over our own bodies and increasing maternal death rates – we shred mothers for not doing all that with a goddamn smile in size 6 jeans.

Actually, size 6 is probably plus-sized among the ones who make those sorts of decisions.

Why the fuck is this all my job? And more importantly, when did we start believing we are cut out for such a thing anyway?

 

Today, I am tired of being the one who’s supposed to know. I am tired of being the one who can’t fuck up lest I ruin the inner children of my children, resulting in the type of people who yell at the checkout guy at Target because shit is priced too high.

I am tired of love not being enough. Of adoration and devotion and deep, deep longing for safety and serenity for my children – of that not erasing my penchant for yelling, impatience – and my indescribable need for solitude and silence.

I don’t know how to help all my kids. I don’t know how to surrender to my inability to help them.

I don’t know how to save them from themselves. I don’t know how to save them from me.

I look at their faces and I want the answers. I want to say just the right thing to set them free, and teach them truth, and help their little souls become what god or the universe meant for them to become. They feel like diamonds on loan from the cosmos. No, fuck diamonds.

Like planets that fit in my pocket.

Like whole universes and stars and gravity. Massive, ridiculous things.

And me, this tiny ball of bones and skin, standing before them and chattering on with nothing more than my own mistakes to guide them, my own fighting attempts for serenity, meaning, peace.

I know a few things. I know what honesty looks like. I know what the truth is. I know how to work hard and keep working even when you can’t. I know what loss is, what shattering grief feels like, and how fast people depart this earth.

I know what love is, that it’s built, not found, and I know we fuck it up, and hurt each other in spite of it.

I know it’s best never to leave angry. I know the fights are rarely worth it but we do it anyway. I know lasting friends are rare and sometimes, they leave too.

But I don’t know how to save my children from themselves, to wrap them in protection from their own demons, to show them how to see what their young eyes cannot yet see, what life may have to teach them through the serious of mistakes and gut-punches it offers.

And I’m tired. I’m tired of looking into myself to find just the right action, just the right words, the perfect ball of brilliance to illuminate, teach, and heal.

I’m tired of looking in and finding just me.

It’s too much, you know, what they expect of us. It’s too much to think we can do it. People pretend they can. I’ve noticed they generally have the most fucked up kids of all.

So here I am, kids. Your mother.

I think of my own mother. So desperately imperfect. So cracked in places I thought as a teenager would destroy me.

The other day I started a fight with her. I was a real asshole. The next day, I called, and she asked me out to lunch, and I cried actual tears when I said, “Yes, please, Mom. I want a do-over. I want to do that night again.” I felt like a child.

And she said, “Of course, honey.” And I thought I had never felt more loved than in that very moment.

I suppose at the last, that is what we mothers have for our children – the chance for a do-over, the chance to try again, to love through our sins, and theirs. To be loved in spite of them, even, and show up again, when nobody else does, until the tables turn and we are in their arms, asking for a final, meaningful goodbye.

Until then, we try.

I can’t always be the one who knows. I am not. But I can be the one to love you.

I’m here for the do-overs, kid. Take my hand.

 

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I understand why women don’t run.

by renegademama

In college, I drove a white 1986 BMW 325, a gift from my stepmother when I was 17. I loved that car. It was hers for ten years, then mine, and it was small and fast and just fancy enough to make me feel like I was somebody, or would be someday.

Perhaps that little car is why I drove alone so often, to no place in particular: toward the beach after high school, or San Francisco, or the river in the summertime. Sometimes I made it somewhere. Sometimes I drove around in circles.

My college town, Davis, frustrated me because there was no beach within thirty miles, no particularly lovely river to visit. It was hot and miserable in the summer and smelled vaguely of cow shit.

But nowhere else could I find the feeling I had driving my little car and listening to my favorite tunes, alone with my thoughts, so I drove wherever or nowhere for that feeling.

One evening when I was nineteen, I bought a pack of Camel Lights and headed west on interstate 80, toward San Francisco.

I wasn’t going to San Francisco. I wasn’t going anywhere. I was listening to old live Grateful Dead tapes and feeling lost and a bit sorry for myself while the rest of the world held hands. I had broken up with my boyfriend, again. When I met him at seventeen, I was sure he was “the one.”

But he kept on being not the one, and my roommates and their boyfriends were irritating me.

Somewhere near Vallejo, just before a big hill that always made me feel like I was going too fast, like I would lose control of my car somewhere near the bottom, I saw a rest stop on my right, up at the top of the hill, and for some reason, I took the exit and parked my car. Perhaps I thought there might be a view. The sun was setting. I must have wanted to watch the sunset.

I sat on the hood of my car and looked out over the land beneath the hill – the spotted lights of a shitty valley town. I watched the sun go down, though it was nothing like the orange pink over Bodega Bay.

I smoked a cigarette, and smoked again. And maybe again, when I noticed a van parked two spots away from me with a man in the driver’s seat. He got out, walked over to me, and casually began a conversation.

What I remember about him is that he was a white dude, at least forty years old, short, small in stature, thin, with short dark hair and dark eyes. He wore jeans and a black sweater. He appeared unassuming and friendly. I do not remember what he said to me, or why I engaged with him, or how or when or with what segue he shifted the discussion to my appearance. My face.

At that age, I had straight blonde hair that fell down past my waist. I was thin and strong from riding my bike every day to my class, and swimming laps when I could. I felt attractive. I felt wanted. I liked that. Maybe that’s why I kept breaking up with the one who was supposed to be the one. Maybe I wanted to see who else would like me.

I don’t remember what the man said or how long he said it, and I don’t recall the tone in his voice or the look in his eye, so I do not and will not ever understand how he managed to work the word “modeling” into our chat, or why, more importantly, I believed him or cared.

And even more significantly, I do not recall and I will never understand why I found him to be legitimate, or forgot we were at a rest stop on the side of the freeway. I did not ask myself what he was doing there. I did not ask myself what I was doing there.

And I will not ever understand how I, an intelligent, strong young woman who fancied herself critical, with an impenetrable wall of self-defense, having grown up with a father and mother and brother who warned me about the evils of predatory men, how I, how I, grew confused.

I will never understand how he, a stranger, wrapped all of me, all I was and had ever been, into a tiny ball grasped in the palm of his sweaty little hand – a hand I could have broken. A face I could have smashed, or simply walked away from.

“You can do it,” he said. “You can model for me and I’d like to hire you.”

Did I tilt my head in doubt? Did I chuckle? Did I curl my lip in amused skepticism? He handed me a card with a phone number. Did I think that made him real?

“But what I need is to see your body.”

There. There.

There is the moment I should have left. There is the moment I should have looked for other cars to make sure I was not alone. There is the moment I should have known.

But I did not.

“Will you show me now?” He asked.

As if I were floating, I got in the driver’s seat of my fancy little car and he in the passenger’s seat and we drove to a darker place of the rest stop and I lifted my shirt, the flesh of my size 34B breasts exposed, my nipples still hidden.

“Now take your bra off,” he said.

His voice now was thick and heavy, fast and impenetrable. I was his now, it seemed. I was in some world I knew before, though it had been many years. Or perhaps it was a world I had never left, only convincing myself I wasn’t a little girl anymore, and I could fight now, and I would know when I had to fight, and I wouldn’t fall silent and complacent and participatory in my own abuse.

He was demanding, not cajoling. There was no doubt in his voice. I was his. I felt it, a snake whispering from the passenger seat, nudging me to look around.

I looked at him, and when I did, I noticed movement in his lap, a shadow in the corner of my eye, and when I focused on it, I saw, like a knife shredding the veil of my trance, his hand in his pocket, stroking his erect dick through his pants.

There. There.

I knew.

I pulled my shirt down and scanned the parking lot, aware now of the danger I was in. A car drove by the other side of the parking lot, and I loved the driver. His existence gave me power.

“Get out.” I said.

I don’t remember my tone. I don’t remember if I tried to sound big or loud or convincing.

“Get out.”

He did, without a word.

I drove away. East, this time, back home.

My heart pounded the beat of those just startled awake. When you’re in a deep sleep and a bookshelf falls or a window slams. Crash.

My skin crawled. I wanted a shower. I wanted to understand what had just happened. I wanted to erase his face, his hand creeping across his groin.

But more than all of that, I wanted to erase me. I wanted no soul to ever know. I wanted no soul to know I was that weak, pathetic, illogical – and, dare we say it? – stupid.

My daddy didn’t raise a fool. My mother showed me better. And I, I was more than this.

But I wasn’t.

So I threw the card of that man out the window and never told a soul about this moment until right now.

Because everyone right now is talking about the girls who don’t walk away. We wonder why they don’t leave. We wonder why they don’t scream fuck you and run, because some do, you know? Some of them waltz out with the fire of a thousand suns. They make sense. They are strong.

But what I want to say is that some of us were messed with as little girls. Some of us already know what it means to shut down and fold up to get through. Some of us have never tried the alternative, because we didn’t know we could, or didn’t find the power.

Maybe it’s that. Or maybe it’s that girls are taught from the moment the world starts patting our heads and putting us in skirts that we are “pretty” or we better be “pretty” and we are “pretty” for the boys, who want to have us, and we are taught that when they want us, we owe them, because we were pretty and they couldn’t help themselves, you know – it’s just the way they are.

So by the time we are in their apartment, having allowed them to buy us dinner – by the time we kissed them once – or spoke to them too long at a party or bar or rest stop, well, we led them on, didn’t we?

And now we are theirs.

We are pretty. And they want to have us, and if we don’t deliver, we are out of line, breaking the pact, fucking with the natural order of things. Blue balls, et cetera. You know. Perhaps we are used to enduring, to not liking it, to giving in. Perhaps we’ve done it countless times.

Or maybe it was just that the stars aligned in a way that night that removed my brain and voice and power. Maybe I was fucking sad and that’s it. Maybe he hypnotized me. Maybe he saw me from afar and sniffed my weakness, or maybe, I was just plain stupid.

I will never understand what happened that night. I will never understand where I went, and how he won, but I understand why girls don’t always run.

Isn’t it strange, though, that I spent twenty years wondering why I didn’t run, and no time at all wondering why a piece of shit man stroked his dick in my car, after spending an hour convincing me of his virtue?

Isn’t it strange that in my weakness, I did wrong, but in his abuse, he owes no explanation?

That, I understand, though, because I am a woman. I believe women. I believe women who don’t run. And though I wish every one of us that power, to fight and kick and fuck these bastards up, I know why we don’t, I know why we hide, and I’m telling this story to come into the light.

I didn’t ask to be harmed. He sought to harm. I failed to defend, and yet everyone – including me – is concerned with me.

And that is why we cannot run, sometimes.

 

 

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On the day your daughter turns sixteen

by renegademama

On the day your daughter turns sixteen, I suggest you not look at photos of her when she was four years old, sitting on the sand in Mendocino, with her belly covered in sand and poking out all big and toddler.

I suggest you not scroll through photos of her wearing dish towels as a rockstar dress, attached with chip clips, using a wooden spoon for a microphone.

I suggest you not observe the Tinkerbell tulle outfit of her 5th birthday, or the photo of her and her newborn brother that same year, with a caption that reads, “She’s telling everyone “I have a brother named Rocketship and I’m so much cuter than he is.’”

I suggest you utterly refuse to look at the hallway wall, where you see yourself at twenty-three wearing a blue bandana with your baby face pressed against hers, grinning on the front lawn as if there were so many years left.

And don’t look at the one of her holding her baby doll in the big puffy jacket on the first day of preschool, for you may remember the two years you were apart shortly after that, because somehow the dish towels and tulle and big toddler belly weren’t enough to treat your alcoholism.

And don’t look at the time when you were reunited, when she was seven years old and you were thirty and life rolled out in one miraculous trick of the universe.

Look at us, here again, on the lawn, together, with nothing to stop us now.

And don’t look at the first day of junior high when she was twelve, and you knew what was coming but you said, “It’s okay, I have six more years.”

Don’t do any of that, and don’t look at next year, when she’ll be driving and a junior in high school, and probably working, with one year left.

Don’t look at two years from now, or think how they fly, how they mock and tease, racing by your face pressed against hers.

Don’t wave. Don’t try to grasp them like a goddamn fool.

They’re already gone.

Don’t think about the last Christmas she’ll be here, or bringing her home for Thanksgiving, or phone calls instead of daily chats on your bed about grades and teachers and annoying acquaintances.

Look instead at the morning around you now – the way you woke up with your toddler in his Peppa Pig pajamas and said, “You know what day it is? It’s Ava’s 16th birthday! Let’s go sing to her!”

And you walk out holding hands with that toddler and stand on a stool to sing a soaring, horrific operatic version of Happy Birthday that makes all the kids laugh, and when you’re done, you look at that teenager and say, “How was that?”

And she says, “Nearly brought me to tears, mama.”

“Ya really felt that one in your bones, right? Right in the soul?” Say that, and give her a hug, her body that’s as tall as yours now.

Look as hard as you can at the waffles you made her for breakfast, and the gifts you’ll later wrap today, the special chicken she requested for dinner and the cake you’ll top with candles.

Listen with sixteen years of grace to the sound of her voice playing dolls and monsters with her younger siblings, a sound you wondered about when she was still in your belly, and it seemed you had forever.

What will it sound like, her voice?

It will sound like this, Mama.

Hold on to that. And listen.

The years aren’t gone. They’re in my hands, and hers.

Sixteen years.

Sixteen years.

Maybe that’s why we cried the day she took our picture, for no reason at all, it seemed – because there’s so much in the touch of our faces, and now, perhaps we see, just as much in the space between.

 

19 Comments | Posted in Sometimes, I'm all deep and shit..... | November 21, 2017

Ride on, kid. I’ll be right back here.

by renegademama

A few months ago, my fifteen-year-old daughter Ava was introduced to a mountain biking team. It’s a high school team.

She was gifted a bike, and started riding.

If you could see my face right now, you’d see there are already some goddamn tears in my eyes.

I wish I knew why this particular topic makes me so fucking emotional. I hate feelings.

Alright. Fine. I do not hate feelings. I am super well-adjusted and in tune with my emotions.

I merely prefer they refrain from attacking me at random.

She was afraid at first. She was nervous and rode slowly. She teetered and stopped often and “hated it.” Mac went with her. He went with her on every ride.

She remained unsure.

But Mac loaded the bikes on the back of the van and took her on rides anyway, week after week.

She rode with the team and Mac went along with them.

She was absolutely unsure.

A day came when Mac wasn’t available to ride with her and the team. She sat at the kitchen table and told me she didn’t want to go. She told me, “I have never done it without daddy.”

She rode anyway.

 

On the night before her first race, she was irritable and angry and frustrated and scared and pissed the fuck off that her family “made” her participate. We suggested she not do it. She hated that idea even more than she hated us in that moment.

She rode anyway.

She came in second to last, elated to finish.

We raved and cheered at her success.

A finish. An actual finish.

A week later she rode 8 miles to school on country roads. I didn’t want to let her go. I was sure she’d get creamed by a drunk farmer.

She rode anyway.

Now she rides every day and you can’t stop her from it. She rides without even thinking, and talks about how good her little brother will be since he’s going to “grow up riding.” She talks about turns and hills and falling and how it’s “no big deal” and she doesn’t talk about riding alone, or not wanting to race.

 

Six months later, she’s finished four races, and with the last one, she placed five spots higher than the races before.

But who cares?

No. I mean really. Who the hell cares.

She had me at the fear. She had me at the falls. She had me at the mud on her face and the blood running down her knees. She had me at her tears when a dog jumped at her on the street and she fell and ripped her clothes and had to ride home humiliated and angry. She had me at still racing. At still riding.

She had me at the beginning.

 

I suppose it makes me cry because this is what I’ve always wanted for my kids. I suppose what I’ve always wanted really, at the end, is that when life offers a chance to do some cool and difficult shit, that they give it a shot and see what happens and bloody their knees because it’s better than accepting what the world tells you you are.

I’ve always been so afraid to do “physical” things. There were athletic kids and then there was me. I’ve always believed myself to be “the intellectual but not athletic one.” The funny thing is, we said the same about her. She was kind of the two-left-feet kid, you know?

But her dad didn’t believe it, I guess, and neither did her uncle who gave her the bike, and neither do her teammates or coach, or little siblings who watch her ride, and the finish line? That fucking finish line didn’t believe it either, I guess, because it just sat there while she crossed it.

But mostly, it was her.

It was Ava who didn’t care. It was Ava who decided to define herself.
I wish I could tell her what her muddied, bloodied knees mean to me, how fucking gorgeous they are to my eyes, eyes that perhaps never believed that would be her life, or mine, or that such things were even open to us. To try even though you have no evidence you can do it. To try even though you’ve got no history of it, no vague inclination, nothing at all rooting you on except a person you care about who’s right there next to you.

To try, and keep riding, even when the glory is simply a “finish.”

Even when the glory is simply getting to the end. 

I held her as a newborn. I held her until she crawled, walked, and I now, I guess, rides. Right beyond the horizon of my dreams, to a place she’ll find.

I’m happy to hang behind. It’s never been mine to own, and the gift is getting left in the dust.