Category Archives: secrets

So mothers be good to your daughters too

D0CB0C7D-372C-4FFF-A072-2C34D5F64266-1258-0000011A65462537When I was a child I often heard about my Oma with whom my mother had a strained relationship. The complaint my mother frequently made was that Oma treated her sons and daughters very differently. Sons were useful and contributed to the family’s existence and thus were to be indulged, while daughters were primarily useful only for assistance in taking care of the boys. Even though this was one of my mother’s greatest criticisms of her own childhood, you’re probably not surprised to hear that she herself was guilty of repeating the same behavior. Habits are hard to break.

I met some family members on my trip with whom I had never before crossed paths. It’s an odd thing meeting someone you’re related to after living five decades on this planet without ever encountering them. What’s even odder is when you realize how many remarkably similar experiences you share despite not having ever known each other.

Did you know that the word “cousin” is the same in both English and German? That fact makes me smile.

My cousin and I sat across the table from one another and told the stories of our lives, our relationships, our health and our mothers. At times the thread of our conversation was so personal and intimate that it was impossible to believe we hadn’t before met. There’s never been a time when I felt so firmly that someone understood exactly what I was talking about when I shared some moments from my own mother-daughter highlight reel. Why? Because she had experienced the same sort of unhealthy situations.

Our mothers, sisters that they are, had not really grown up together since my mother is more than a decade older and had left home when she was in her early teens. Despite the lack of time the two of them shared, what they did share was their own mother and that left a mark on each of them which they in turn, left upon their own daughters.

Neither my cousin nor I ever knew our fathers. When we were sick or injured as children, often we had to seek care on our own because our mothers were unavailable to us. We each have witnessed the astonishing deception of our parent in the way they conduct themselves with other adults and children while neglecting the very children they delivered. It is uncanny.

My cousin and I responded to our mothers’ disregard for us by growing into strong and capable women. We became educated and learned to understand that our mothers are frustrated, narcissists who will never perceive our own success as anything but an affront to their own unsatisfying lives. We severed our ties to these women not to hurt them, but to protect ourselves, and we’ve struggled with allowing others into our hearts and souls after suffering the disappointment and pain of what should have been a primary relationship in our lives.

I learned that my cousin has a physical condition very much like my own – we both have extremely low heart rates and a genuine need for vigorous exercise. She runs, too. Maybe that’s how we have learned to keep our blood flowing and our hearts alive. I don’t know for sure, but I do know that meeting her has changed me. Something good has come from something less than positive. I think my ability to recognize that is what makes me fundamentally different from my mother – and like my cousin.

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Filed under Europe, family, Germany, girlhood, moms, musings, relationships, secrets, Uncategorized

I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are

It was summer and I was about 13 years old. I don’t know what initially started the disagreement, but words flew between me and the other girl. She was from a family of girls and she was far meaner than I. She wrapped up her verbal assault with a shocking assertion regarding my mother, my brother and myself. The sound of her words stung me with an undeniable ring of truth and I immediately recognized that secrets hurt.

Secrets are kind of like snakes – what makes them scary is that they appear unannounced. If only they would wear collars with bells which tinkled as they approached! Since that isn’t realistic, living life in the open without rocks to hide under seems to me to be the best way of preventing things from sneaking up you. So, that’s what I do.

The secrets that Mary Lambert sings about are not my own, yet this song still perfectly expresses my own sensibility of secrets. I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are. So what.

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Secret-sharer

image from: msluffa.files.wordpress.com
You know how I put most everything out there, right?  I was thinking about that personality trait of mine during a recent “get back into it, dammit” (after a 4 day stomach bug hiatus), run, and realized that I think I spill so much because I believe secrets have far more power to hurt than the truth. Examples?  Oh, yes, I’ve got a couple…

The things that have most deeply driven a fatal wedge in my relationships were secrets.  As a preteen, I learned some big stuff about my family history.  Nothing really worth repeating here, and nothing maliciously scandalous, just information  I (over)heard from family friends rather than from the adult I deserved to hear it from.  And once I heard this history, this story of how I came to be, I didn’t know what to do with it.  I couldn’t imagine raising the topic with a woman I always found unapproachable, so I swallowed it and allowed it gurgle and bubble inside of me, occasionally feeling it escape in an episode of bad behavior or a rebellious act. Not good.  
Maybe I would have ultimately moved beyond, or around, the crevasse  in this primary relationship, but, unfortunately, that wasn’t the last time that a previously unknown was unveiled in a such a way.   Each of these spikes nailed  the door between she and I that much more tightly closed, and, at this point in my life,  I am content to let it remain unopened. I guess it’s true about the physical spaces between the known and the unknown being described as the Doors, huh?
In more recent years there have been other secrets kept from me, and perpetuated by me, and they’ve all prompted more pain than honesty ever would have caused.  The power of those secrets has torn down structures originally designed to provide shelter for a lifetime. Or two lifetimes, perhaps.
I don’t want anyone to have the ability to rock my world by revealing secrets about me or those I care about.  When someone on the periphery owns knowledge that those who are most deeply involved are lacking, the exchange of power is irrefutable.  And potentially devastating.
I’ll keep your secrets, my friends, but as for mine, I’m sharing.  

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Shower of filth

Locker room showers

I have been sick to my stomach since yesterday morning when I read Maureen Dowd’s column about the Penn State child sexual abuse cases.  She deftly wove a child’s perspective throughout the paragraphs and, at one point, I literally threw the newspaper down because I was so distressed by the explicit description of one of the incidences of rape.  Yes, rape.  I’m sure you’re aware that there was an eye witness to one of the crimes.   After hearing and then investigating the source of a repeated “slapping” noise, a 28 year-old coaching assistant witnessed a ten year-old boy being subjected to anal intercourse in the shower.  His response? He walked away.

Now, imagine that ten-year old boy is you (or one of your three sons).  Put a face on that child and consider for a moment that maybe, even with the noises being emitted by the running water and the disgusting old man who is raping you, he managed to hear the witness to this crime as he approached the horror scene.  Now, accept the fact that your could be hero, savior, walked away and left you to be brutalized by a pedophile.  
There isn’t enough water in all the world’s showers to wash away the filth that was knowingly present in Penn State’s football program.  Perhaps those supporters of the program, and their rightfully shamed head coach, should consider who the innocent victims were in this situation and riot on behalf of the children whose only crime was being involved with an organization designed to provide them with “help and hope.”

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Filed under Boys, Rant, secrets

Time Travel

image from colemanzone.com
If you had a choice between stepping into a Time Machine and travelling to either the past or the future – what would you decide?  I’m not talking about jetting to a particular time period or era – what I mean is, would you jump into your own personal past or future?  I’ve been thinking about this fantastical journey in time as I absorb the sadness of a valiant attempt fallen short.  Myself, I’m undecided.  Would it be more valuable to revisit the past and make decisions that would prove to be less damaging or, would I prefer to jump ahead 6 months to a time when  emotions have hopefully been smoothed to a less raw state?
 I’m attempting to own my actions, both laudable and despicable.  I don’t think I’ve ever claimed innocence with regards to my “personal” life but. in case you have the false impression that I’ve never shared a kiss with someone other than my husband, allow me to be clear here: I am an imperfect human being and I’ve done things that were clearly beyond the boundaries of traditional marriage.  Am I proud of this?  Of course, not.  I try not to spend a lot of time with self-loathing (and I have an ability to justify and rationalize my actions), but I must consider why I felt less than satisfied.  Is it an unrealistic expectation for marriage?  A desire for something new and exciting?  An unmet need that simply won’t go away?  I don’t really know – perhaps it is all of the above.  Maybe it is an unavoidable awareness that numbness should not be confused with contentment.  That creating a family with a person you love deeply does not necessarily translate into happily ever after and that sometimes, just sometimes, staying together holds the promise of more hurt rather than a cessation of pain. 

Ripping a bandage off and exposing a wound to light and air is not for everyone.  I understand that and find myself frequently apologizing for revealing more than is comfortable for others.  I don’t do it to malign or rally support or to create a platform for my position.  Instead, I bare my thoughts and feelings as an exercise in expression, as well as an attempt to explore the thread of humanity that I truly believe connects all of us.  To write is no longer an option for me, but a compulsion.  To read, however, is your choice.

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Not your typical Valentine…

image from: imgs.xkcd.com/comics/valentines_day.jpg
I remember years ago reading about the stages of grief experienced when a person loses a loved one to death. The stages were described as being consistent, although not necessarily in a predictable order, or universally applicable. It seems to me that the 5 stages can also be applied to a situation where a relationship is lost, not necessarily to literal death but to a dramatic change in circumstances. There are definite overlaps between the two frameworks, and I’m only describing my own experience, so far, but I know that I’m not the only person in the universe coping with relationship challenges and thought perhaps that fumbling forward might be easier with the knowledge that there are others sympathetic to the struggles of romantic love.

1. Denial. This stage may vary in length, but, rest assured, even if your personal denial stage is brief (like the amount of time it takes to hang up the phone after you’ve been told your honey is stepping out til you walk into the next room and confront them) it will revisit you. Maybe even with a frequency that causes you to question every single thing you and your partner have shared. Ever.

2. Empathy. What person in a long term relationship hasn’t thought of or imagined an affair? Perhaps you never acted on your longing for someone new and exciting, maybe it was lack of opportunity, or nerve, or ability that prevented your own infidelity from taking place, but, if you’re honest with yourself, I imagine you’ll recognize the similarity of desire that moved your partner to seek something beyond the borders of your union. Honestly.
3. Sadness. It hurts. You hurt. Waves of loss will mingle with your tears, trust me. And, you can trust me, although the sadness you’re feeling will probably displace any trust you may have once held for the person who hurt you.  Maybe for a long, long time.  Maybe forever.

4. Rage. This is the scariest emotion for me, personally. I’m not prone to anger, but boy did I want to smash some things/people. I still don’t know how I will respond to any unplanned encounters with those involved, but I’d like to think that I will move past this stage because it has the potential to harm me far more than any ass whooping I could inflict. Not that I wouldn’t want to confirm this with some physical evidence…

5. Numbness.  For me, this followed pretty closely behind my anger phase.  Perhaps it was a response to the hyper-emotions I experienced when I was raging?  It was a fairly short lived period for me, but it lead very directly to my next phase…

6. Manic activity.  If you’re my FB friend you may have recently observed a level of activity that was disturbing.  Comings and goings at a frequency that positively boggled those who witnessed it.  How do I know this?  Because they communicated their concern to me via messages or phone calls.  The bottom line on this is, for me, I prefer to be busy, even if it is the oldest avoidance trick in the book.

7. Depression.  This isn’t a place where I let myself linger.  Fortunately, I have an ability to always remain aware that many people know far more difficult challenges than I do.  I am sympathetic to people who may not have the capacity to see beyond their personal dark clouds and know that medication can be helpful, as can exercise and travel.  For more information about the latter two, revisit #6 above.

8. Acceptance.  This phase has been quite a trial for me. While I appreciate the reminder from the universe that life is a series of events conducted by imperfect beings, accepting events that have literally torn lives apart ain’t easy.  As a person who can be quite persuasive when necessary, accepting the situation and moving beyond the circumstances has been a remarkable challenge. Which leads to the next step…

9. Negotiation.  Obviously, something was missing to cause the initial rift.  Needs were not being met and this is the second best time for honest discussions to be held.  Relationships and the expectations of individuals require frank conversation for resolution – this is the time.

10. Remembrance.  Memories will be both painful and comforting, but life will continue and you will move beyond your loss, I promise.  Remember to take care of yourself, remember to surround yourself with friends and family from whom you receive comfort and remember that this too will pass.  And, don’t forget to get yourself something chocolate.  I heartily recommend the chocolate-chipotle cheesecake from Cheesecake Machismo – unforgettably delicious.

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Love and Anger, They Come as a Pair

image from http://www.wgrg.co.uk
I’ve had this tune kicking around in my head for the past couple of days – Aimee Mann’s Real Bad News.  Are you familiar with Aimee Mann?  Do you know this song?  Here are the lyrics and, for those of you disinclined to click on a link, here’s an excerpt:
You don’t know, so don’t say you do —
You don’t.
You might think that things will change,
But take my word —
They won’t
You paint a lovely picture,
But reality intrudes
With a message for you
And it’s real bad news
While the song has only been repeating in my brain for 50 or 60 hours, the Love and Anger has been present internally for quite a few weeks and, I must say, I’m more than a little tired of the anger part.  I’ve seen what fury can do to people and I absolutely refuse to allow myself to become pickled in it.  Instead, I do my best to purge the rage, with mixed results, made even more difficult with the continued medical moratorium on strenuous, head-clearing activities such as running and cycling.  I really don’t like being angry – it kind of pisses me off. Trust me – I’d much rather be filled with love than anger, unfortunately however, choosing how to feel is an absolutely unobtainable luxury, kind of like a Birkin bag.

What do you do when conflicting emotions are duking it out within your head and heart?  Have you developed a tactic for quieting the negative voices and concentrating instead on the amplification of the optimistic?  It has been a challenge for me to remain focused on the positive half of a twosome of emotions when there were more than two people involved in creating the situation, know what I mean?  Aimee does:
 
And baby, let me tell you
You can get some things confused
Like whose secrets are whose
And that’s real bad news.

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