b a r e

writing is healing. ask me anything.

Tag: letter

Gratitude

Everyone is doing it on Facebook, so I’ll do it here.

I am most of all grateful for my husband. He’s not perfect, but no one is. But he is in it for the long haul. He took his wedding vows seriously, he is committed. And with that perspective, he will do whatever it takes to keep our family unit safe and healthy and running. Even when I can’t. And, when I can’t, he doesn’t judge. He simply keeps on keeping on. He hangs in there, even when I’m swinging all over the place. He holds steady. He is calm. The calm of a mountain. Immobile, unshakable. (At least, on the surface.) He is sweet and adorable and kind and generous. Our 5th wedding anniversary is coming up, and I still have a huge crush on him. Something about the combination of strength and shyness is wildly attractive to me.

My daughter. Oh how you test me. Like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park, constantly looking for a weak spot in the fence. You mirror me, so I see both my positive and negative qualities reflected back in my face. You’re an eye opener all right. So stubborn and so persistent and such a drama queen (er, princess). Oh how you are able to hurt me. Oh how you are able to crush my heart. But then just a moment later be sweet and adorable, and utterly unaware of the consequences of what you do or say. Because really, my reactions say more about my own demons and ghosts. You are the ultimate test, lessons after lessons, forcing me to prove my life philosophies are practical. I am exhausted by you, but also obsessed with you. Your eyelashes. The fuzz on your arms and legs and cheeks. Those cheeks. Your chubby fingers, delicately posing as any princess would. Your breathing, your heartbeat. Through you I have wielded the knife of judgment against myself – having had lots of practice using it on my mother. I have cut myself violently. And through you I have laid that sword down. I have hugged you and rocked you and loved you, and in doing so have comforted my inner child. So much healing through you. I want to run away, and I want to scoop you up and put you back inside me. What a crazy mix of emotions this parenting thing is.

My friends. Oh my friends. You are my family. You have seen me so ugly. And you have seen my successes. And everything in between. And still you stay. I was sure you’d run screaming, many times. But here you still are. And you love me. Warts and stench and all. How or why, I don’t know. But I do know I am beyond grateful that you exist. That you have always stood by me. That I know you will always stand by me. That you will cry with me and laugh with me. And that you love me, as is, just the way I am.

Dear Mom who I totally thought had it all together who asked me if I ever struggle

Hi,
I’ve been thinking about you today. I wish there were enough words to describe how much I struggle every day. Being a mom is the hardest job there is. You’re in charge of a human life and every decision you make feels like it could be wrong. It’s exhausting and thankless and repetitious and yet we’re supposed to feel like it’s totally rewarding all the time. But the truth is most of the time it isn’t. Most of the time it’s a constant pushing forward and guiding and monitoring and cleaning up after and disciplining and rescuing and teaching and motivating a small person who, if you’re doing it right, can’t appreciate all the bad things they didn’t experience for many, many years because of a evolutionary lack of perspective.
You’re in my thoughts. And just know, you’re not alone.
Your friend,
Me

Consider writing a “thank you” note to someone from outpatient who really helped you. What would you say?

I don’t remember your name. So I’ll call you V. When I first saw you I thought you were a hot mess. Your frizzy, bleached blonde hair and mismatching workout clothes were always disheveled. You sat there with a blank look on your face. I was sure you were neither educated, nor intelligent. You were just one of the people in the outpatient program that proved to me I was not like the rest of the group, of what I was sure where broken and crazy. I am not proud of this moment.

Then one day you volunteered for psychodrama, something I didn’t have the courage to do. I was surprised. You never spoke, so how could you have something to share. And as your story came tumbling out, I was overwhelmed with compassion and shame. You had a young child, close to my own child’s age. His father had passed away from an overdose just 2 months ago. You were forced to live with your judgmental mom who treated you like a child. You didn’t know how you felt. Except for anger, it was in there somewhere. Your whole world had been turned upside down. No wonder you didn’t say much, you were probably still in shock.

Listening and watching you opened my eyes. It’s that lesson I have to keep relearning. Don’t judge a book by its cover. And here I am, caught myself doing it again. This time to prove to myself I shouldn’t be in this program – which I definitely needed to be. Because you shared your story, I was able to look around the room and realize that I did belong, and that I did need help, and that I was in the right place to get that help. So, thank you, V. Thank you for being so brave. Thank you for opening up in front of a crowd of strangers. Your bravery and strength inspired me. I learned that I could and should share my stories too. Because you just never know who you’re going to help.

Dear Sister

I love you. You probably wouldn’t believe me. I admit, I have mistreated you, I have been cruel. I learned my skills from a professional, our dad. I know your weakness, your soft spots, and I have struck there intentionally. You have done the same to me, but for whatever reason I am more resilient. My anger burns hot, like a branding iron. But once I have dealt the blow, the heat goes out immediately. The cycle has run its course, the program is complete, I go back to normal. But not you. You wail and moan and gnash your teeth and cry to the heavens and curse and vow to never forget and never let go and never trust me again! I thought you operated like me. Until one day when I was in a junior in high school. We flew out of state to visit some cousins. We had a huge angry, violent fight in the bathroom. You got in the shower to have the last word, but I came in after you. How violating that must have felt. Then I was done. I went next door to the bedroom to calmly fold some clothes. That’s when I heard it. Your sobbing. I sat there listening to your sobbing and it broke my heart. And that’s when I realized you and I were not the same. And in my mind I started cataloging years and years of fights and imagining you sobbing like this after each one. I felt so much guilt and shame. It was a turning point for me. I could finally understand the depths of your anger – you weren’t done when it was over, the way I was. You carried it with you all the time, tucked it into you bed each night, took it out on the town with you. While I locked mine back in its box and continued my life. I started letting you punish me. I accepted it, I was doing penance, in the hope that one day we could walk forward together without that past. This went on and on and on, years and years. And I started to get annoyed. How much is enough? And that’s when I realized, there is no “enough” for you. You didn’t relinquish any anger towards me, not a drop! You hoarded your bitterness, it gave you power, fed you. So then one day we had the conversation. I told you I loved you but that I realized you would never be satisfied with any amount of punishing me, and so I reject any more. “You’re so mean!” you said. “I love you, Sister, but I’m done being punished. I’m not that person anymore. I don’t deserve to suffer. I love you, but your anger is yours, not mine.” It was one of the few times we were talking, in our long history of off again on again. Years later we’re in an off period. It’s been almost 4 years. I don’t think about her that much, life is too busy. But sometimes I do, like today, and I wish things were different. I wish I hadn’t done all the things I’ve done. I wish she wasn’t the type to hold onto grudges and hatred and anger forever. But wishes don’t mean much here. If she doesn’t want to be healthy, there’s nothing I can do. If she isn’t ready to be close, I can’t make her. Wishes many not do much, but hope can. And I have hope that one day she’ll take off that heavy mantle of anger and hatred, realize how freeing it is, and think about me in a better light. And if it never happens, that’s okay too. I will always think of you with love in my heart.

Dear Dad

I hate you. But not with intense burning. I hate what you represent. You were my childhood monster and torturer. Believe me, I have cried because of you. I could fill an ocean with those tears. I wanted you to suffer, and to die. And now, with you laying in the ICU from a heart attack and open heart surgery, my wish just might come true. You who broke my heart, had yours cut open. My mom and sister went to visit you. You weren’t awake. They don’t actually want to interact with you. They are all broken up about it, roiling with emotions. But I just can’t find any for you. Not even pity, that cloying, sticky, disgusting feeling. You loved pity. After you’d beat me, you’d come crying to me apologizing. And I would say, in my grown up voice, how you needed to learn to control your anger. Gross. Your teeth. I remember your bared teeth when you were angry. It’s starting, I knew. And we never knew what would set you off. Always full of surprises, you were. When my sister came to visit you or her own, the nurse said immediate family only, and she said I’m his daughter. The nurse said, he said he has no children. Imagine her shock! Even in an emergency, you find ways to surprise us. Part of me wants to send you flowers with a note saying, “I hope you die soon!” But a bigger, healthier part of me just wants to move this topic back to the file room, the archives, where it belongs. And then, when you do really, finally die, I can bring out those dusty files and have a celebratory bonfire. I will dance with joy. Or maybe, I’ll just unceremoniously dump the files in the garbage. Yes, I keep those files. I know I “shouldn’t.” But I know how you are. Ever the sneaky, cunning bastard delighting in sabotage. It wouldn’t be that hard to find me. To terrorize me again, and even worse, my family. That’s why I still hold onto those files. Just in case I might need them. How nice it will be to get rid of them when you’re gone. How much relief. How much weight removed, jettisoned. And so, I’m going back to my life now. One that is beautiful and meaningful and joyful and full of love. One where you don’t exist and aren’t invited. That’s where I’m turning my full focus now. That’s where I belong.

Dear Husband

I can’t be honest with you. I can’t tell you the depths of my emotions. I can’t fall apart completely in front of you. I can’t let you see me that way. I am so ashamed of my brokenness. I am so ashamed that I am not the strong, vibrant, dynamic girl you dated and fell in love with. I am so ashamed that I am not the wife you expected, the mother you wanted for your child, the partner you thought you had. I am weak. I am a blubbering pile of tears and snot. I have a body and a mind I can’t control sometimes. I am dependent on external chemicals to keep me mostly sane. I am dependent on sleep. I am not strong enough to give you a second child – even though I can’t stop thinking about it with both longing and dread. I can’t be trusted, at any moment I might fall apart, shattering into a million jagged shards. I am not worthy to be your wife. I don’t deserve to have you in my life. You deserve better than me. You deserve a life partner that is always strong and sane. You deserve someone you can always rely on, count on. I am a burden, another item on your to-do list, more work. You deserve to be taken care of, pampered, celebrated. You are true to yourself, beautiful inside and out, with the patience of a thousand angels. I know why you stay – you made a vow, a commitment. You want a family, and our daughter needs a stable household. Is it stable with me there? You say you need me – but for what? What do I bring? I need to know. I need to hear it. Because I am feeling so lost right now. Just a week ago I was so high. And now it’s all I can do to lift my head up. I know it’s not my fault – a change in meds leading to not sleeping. And yet if it were someone else not sleeping, it wouldn’t result in a bottoming out of everything. Another person might get cranky, but they wouldn’t lose their ability to function. I know I have positive traits – humor, intelligence. But is it enough? Do they make me worth staying with? In this time, when I am a drain on resources, here I am asking for more out of you. And I know in my heart you’ll give. Because you are someone very special. I don’t know how or why I lucked out on getting you.

Dear Mom, I hate you.

Where do I even begin. Your choice of husband, so you could escape your family. He beat his daughter and you thought, “he’ll never hurt my children.” You were wrong. He tortured you for 17 1/2 years, 12 of mine, and then finally you decided to leave. At least you did that. Then you decided it was your “turn to be selfish.” We were still just children. And you rotated men through our home. (Um, awkward!) At the time I lived in denial. He (dad) was the bad guy, that made you the good guy. How was I supposed to know what was normal. You dated your boss – a gross piece of ****- who gave you sexually transmitted diseases he got from other women. How exactly is that a show of self-respect? To stay with someone like that?? And when he hit my sister that one Thanksgiving, and we begged you to leave him, you said, “and start over with nothing? No way!” You devastated us. Chose that ***hole over us, your own flesh and blood?! I was not sad when he died. But I was sad about how distraught you were. No one should have someone die literally on top of them. I can’t imagine how that felt. But it’s a good thing he’s gone. He would never have married you. He would never have been faithful. I understand there’s more cultural leniency elsewhere. But you showed me that sex was more important than self-esteem. And for that you should feel ashamed. But do you? I doubt it. You feel like since my sister and I turned out ok, than the choices you made were fine. But the damage you have caused, and continue to cause, is all the proof I need to keep you away from my family. That’s right, if I were still single, I would probably still expose myself to your toxicity. But there’s no way I want your immoral, unethical, manipulative, neglectful, and feigned innocent degradation anywhere near my child. You disgust me. People love you. But I know you. You are a dancing shell, I don’t even know what you have on the inside. Is there anything of substance? You are so irresponsible, so nonplussed about crossing boundaries and leaving tracks of mud all over my face and heart. You act like you don’t really notice or know the consequences of your behavior. I don’t know what’s worse, if you don’t really know, or if you do. All I wanted was to be close. And oh how I tried, again and again. And I always felt like you and I were on different planets, even when for a moment you’d say something that had to do with me. Then a second later, I could tell, you were actually millions of miles away, and what you were really talking about was yourself. You hadn’t heard a thing I said at all. Or if you had, you summarily dismissed any value. Again. Hope. I kept (keep?) hoping you’ll listen to me. But time and time again, my hope was crushed. I’m “grown up” now, do I keep trying? Do I give up on you? I want my mom!!! But the truth is I never had you, I will never have you, not as the mother I always wanted. You are, and will always be, broken. It breaks me to try and connect, to someone impossible to connect with. It is irresponsible for me to try and hug splintered glass. I stand there bleeding, surprised (but not really). And then what, turn to my own family and need to disconnect to heal. I can’t allow that. I won’t allow that. So then what, is this it? I don’t know. All I do know is that my love for you burns me inside, blistery and violently painful. I hope one day to accept you as you are, so that I can stop hurting.