Academic/Intellectual/Life Cry-ses

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I wasn’t sure I was going to write today, but then I logged on and got a “happy anniversary” notification: I’ve been on this site three years as of today!! So I figured it was a sign that I should definitely write.

I have been going crazy over the last few days. It’s week 8 of 10 in the World of LU, and the work is just getting dumped on us like crazy. Slept like 3 hours on Thursday night, overslept through the weekend (not by choice, but by the force of my exhausted body), slept 4 hours last night (would’ve been less than that if, again, my body hadn’t failed me).

I’ve been thinking lately that I don’t know what I’m doing this for. Like, how will reading The Female Quixote help me in the future? How will my understanding of Milton help my life? Will I use the word “epistemology” after I graduate in my career as a…. what?

I was talking with a student today who’s writing a term paper on the same book that I am. It’s a book that the professor assigned last week, so in order to write my paper I had to read the entire thing ahead of most of the class, do my research, etc. for a proposal that I handed in today just a few minutes before the deadline. I read hundreds (seriously) of pages yesterday between finishing the novel and all of my research. The day before that, I also read a ridiculous number of heavy-text pages to clear my Sunday for research. I lost sleep, I didn’t get to spend time with Angel on his day off, I didn’t get to have fun, and I didn’t have a lot of time to talk with my best friend whose dad just had knee replacement surgery and is driving her NUTS.

I am completely indisposed to everyone. I feel completely disconnected to myself. My entire life is this next paper, this next reading, the next time I can go to the bathroom… And for all this effort, I feel like I handed in a piece of shit. Just like the two papers I handed in last Friday.

Anyway, I spoke to this girl today, who was supposed to do the same thing I did all weekend: suffer through an amazingly boring text.

She said, “Oh, I stopped in the middle of the book and just read litsum so I could figure out the ending and do my research.”

…..

I spent probably like 12 hours reading the damn book.

Twelve hours in which I could have spent time with my friends. Twelve hours in which I could have done something that would make me happy. Twelve hours on something that won’t even matter three weeks from now.

I guess it’s not the amount of time that bothers me, but the principle of the thing. And the principle of so many other things. This girl talked in class about a part of the book that, as I later found out, she didn’t read.

I read that part. I considered it. But when the professor asked about it, I never raised my hand. I didn’t feel qualified to speak or to give an opinion because I didn’t think I understood the text well enough.

Why does she get to feel so entitled to an opinion? Why don’t I?

A friend of mine wrote a letter for the school newspaper. I offered to edit it for her, which she didn’t take me up on. That’s fine, I didn’t have the time anyway honestly, but I did offer because that’s what friends do, etc. She turned in a piece that had a lot of errors in it. It wasn’t as elegant as it could have been. I could’ve helped with both of those things.

In addition, it wasn’t segmented properly. Like, there were no paragraphs. That’s a big no-no if you want people to read your stuff.

Though she didn’t explicitly say it, I know she didn’t take the time to look for these errors and fix her paragraphs because she thought the editors of the paper would do it all for her (they don’t for some reason, and when they do they usually fuck it up – I would’ve told her that if she’d just let me help her). She emailed the paper upset about the version they put online, and they fixed it for her. Just like that.

If it had been my letter, I would have spent HOURS agonizing over every comma and period. I would have crafted my paragraphs until they were just right. And I certainly would never have gotten mad at someone that didn’t convey my message the way I thought they should have if I hadn’t SHOWED them how I wanted it. And I’m sure if I had emailed asking for something to be fixed, they would’ve ignored me.

And yet, she didn’t spend that much time on it. She didn’t craft. And then she asked someone else to fix her mistake. And they did.

Why does she feel so entitled? Why don’t I?

Methinks I’m so much more upset than these two examples can convey, and that I can’t quite capture what it is that’s bothering me. It’s not these particular things. I don’t know. Why do I work so hard? Why do I lose sleep and family time? What do I sacrifice for? I work so hard on papers, and I saw a sample proposal for the assignment I just handed in. You know whoever wrote it is a shitty writer? And if I had to guess based on what I know of the students I go to school with, they probably didn’t even read the book they were writing about. And yet they get to be the example for what to do. They also, in my opinion, synthesized information so much better than I ever could. And they likely put in almost no effort (at least, based on the lousy way it was written).

Why am I trying so hard to be perfect when nobody’s expecting perfection? Moreover, what’s the point of all of this effort? I get the same grades these kids get, but I work stupid. And yet at the same time I’m jealous at the way they can make connections so quickly. I’m so jealous about the way they can fake it through things. I can’t fake it. I can’t make connections and the snap of a finger.

So I’m angry at the amount of effort I’m expending which isn’t getting me that much farther than anyone else while simultaneously feeling inadequate in everything I do.

I don’t really understand how this works, I guess.

In any case, I just feel like I’m missing out on so much life while I’m tucked away in quiet rooms for hours reading material that won’t change my life or get me anywhere. I guess this is the first time I’ve felt like my efforts here are pointless. I want to give up and move on.

But then what would I move towards? I don’t know. All I know is that I miss the old life I had before school, when all I did was work and come home and cook new meals for the sake of trying something different and spend money and play games and hang out with friends and exercise. I miss having time to clean my house and do my laundry and watch movies. I miss writing. I miss having a life. And all I’m feeling like right now is that I’m pouring my life away into something so insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Something that gives me headaches and stomach aches and makes me eat crap food because hey I don’t have time to cook. And something that takes away my sleep and makes me cry and feel dumb and miss television shows.

This whole quitting thing is looking real attractive.

Sidenote: methinks I’m doing the therapy thing soon. As y’all know, the last hmmm I don’t know three years have been really tumultuous for me and I just don’t feel good. I’m depressed and angry and I’m not sure why (although I suppose I have enough reason above this paragraph haha). I feel like I’ve just been getting hit with fucked up life stuff over and over and over without a break. I’ve been moving on from things without processing. And this may be why I’m taking everything so hard this term. Maybe it’s not the world that screwed up – maybe it’s just me.

Meh.

Live well, guys :p I’m gonna go read a shit ton now.

On How I Learned to Be Strong

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When Angel got his knee surgery a couple of months back, I had to calm him down about the very real but very uncommon dangers of anesthesia. You know how they say there’s a risk of heart attack, death, etc. Although I understood why he was afraid, there was also a part of me that found it a little silly. This is because I had to be put under anesthesia about two decades ago when I underwent an emergency appendectomy. And guess what, I lived! Hahah.

Now that I think about it, this is pretty self-absorbed of me, but Angel’s fears and his recovery and all that reminded me of what I went through all those years ago, and I realized that if there was any moment in my life that I could point to and say, “Yeah, that’s EXACTLY when I became who I am,” it would be that time in my life.

So I was eight when my appendix burst. I remember sitting at the family computer playing solitaire and eating a cheese sandwich when I started to feel lethargic and my stomach started to hurt. After a while, I had to lay down because I was pretty nauseous. As time passed that day I started to feel worse and worse, but no one thought anything of it because I was that kid that always has a stomach virus of some kind. So my parents (and in their defense, rightly so) assumed that I had just caught another bug. But the pain never got better, and as the days passed I started deteriorating pretty fast. I couldn’t keep any food down, and after a while I couldn’t even drink water without throwing it right back up. The pain in my stomach was unimaginable, and after three days of this intense hurting and vomiting I was too weak to lift myself up. I couldn’t even lift my own head.

Yes, something was definitely wrong.

So three days after symptoms started, my parents rushed me to the hospital. The doctor was a nasty dude who used my sickness as an excuse to try and get my parents out of the room so that he could lift my shirt. It was pervy – I could tell even at the age of eight. Thankfully though my dad’s smart AND he’s an asshole because he started SCREAMING at this doctor and eventually the doctor stopped trying to clear the room and be all pervy with me.

Okay sidenote: what kind of human being thinks it’s a great idea to be pervy with a little sick kid?

I remember watching this whole thing take place and feeling utterly powerless. I felt like I was watching it all from outside of myself. I almost wished my dad would stop making a scene so the doctor could just get it over with and then fix me. Anyway. So the examination continued with my father in the room, and then the doctor was like, “Uh, she needs surgery RIGHT NOW. Her appendix already burst.” Yes, my body had been poisoning itself for DAYS, and actually if my parents had waited any longer to take me to the doctor, I likely would have died.

So into surgery I went. Given that it was an extreme emergency, no one took the time to explain to me what was happening or what I should expect. I was eight; I had no idea what an appendix was or what was wrong. They just rushed me into the OR, put me under, and removed the appendix.

Cool beans.

From what I understand, the typical recovery time for a child at that time was about 3-5 days. I stayed in the hospital for almost two weeks because the infection was so bad (just in case you thought I was exaggerating about the possibly dying thing). They kept my wound open, packed it with gauze, and had to manually clean it like twice a day in addition to all the antibiotics they were giving me. The nurses were far from nice, and they didn’t necessarily care that I was in pain. They didn’t do much to try and calm me down or explain anything, and although I had come into that hospital as a fearless child who was totally cool with needles, I walked out as a child with a big needle phobia which I still have to this day.

So it was bad enough that I had these strangers digging into a hole in my stomach (which, by the way, they never explained why they had kept open, or even how “open” it was, and I had to research that one on my own later) and that I was a human pincushion. In addition to these things and my terrible pain and my inability to control my bowels (in the first couple of days I ended up in a pile of my own diarrhea in bed, ruining my favorite Snoopy pj’s because that’s just the shape I was in), I also had to deal with my parents.

Hahaha.

So to the best of my memory, my parents barely visited me. In fact, my dad lost his job around then, so when I got home there was no food because there was no money (the exact same thing happened like 3 years later when I was hospitalized for asthma). He said his bosses fired him for calling out too many times, the times he said he was coming to see me. I remember being confused because I didn’t remember seeing him that often in the hospital. My assumption is that he was just doing drugs and using my hospital stay as an excuse, but I mean the memories of children can be unreliable, so maybe he was telling the truth and had been with me a lot.

Whatever.

My mother’s a cold, cold lady. So she wasn’t exactly sympathetic or caring towards me during my stay (I have a great example of that coming up soon). So I felt alone.

Sidenote: my sister was seven at the time, and she told me years later that my dad had beat the absolute shit out of her for telling him that she didn’t feel loved at the time. I don’t know what was going on at home, but apparently my parents were doing as much caring for my siblings as they were for me. So yeah. I have struggled with a lot of guilty feelings for years and an inflated sense of duty to my siblings for precisely this reason: I got sick, I fucked everything up. They didn’t eat, they were beaten, etc. I still struggle.

I digress.

So the times that my dad did come to visit me were tough. I was really sick, I was still in a lot of pain, and I couldn’t walk very well because I’d just had a pretty major surgery in my abdomen. But my dad didn’t give a fuck. He made me walk around, dragging my IV pole with me. He wouldn’t let me lean on the pole for support. He’d take my shoulders and FORCE me to straighten them, and he would yell about making sure I was walking straight, about not dragging my feet, about walking normally. He pushed me past the point of exhaustion. There was no gentleness or understanding or sympathy. There was only get better now!

I have to say, it was torture at the time, but now I’m glad he did that. I’ll explain why later.

So he was rough with me and my mom was distant from me. But the true gem of this story is the way it ends, because the doctors had to sew up the wound on the day I was released. And guess what? The doctor who came to do the deed came without any local anesthetic. She was about to get started on me when my mom stopped her and said, “Wait, aren’t you going to numb her first?”

Oh, we don’t have to do that, she replied. The surgeon already put in the thread while she was in surgery. We only use local anesthetic when we have to use a needle. Otherwise, we don’t use it.

So I’m thinking if anyone had ever said that to me as an adult, I would’ve called another doctor. This sounds all sorts of wrong to me. But my mother, despite being one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, acquiesced. And she let that doctor take the pieces of thread in her hand and pull my skin shut. Without anesthetic. Mom was nice enough to offer me her hand to squeeze when the pain was overwhelming, I guess, but the action that stays with me is her shushing me as I screamed.

Shushing me as I screamed in the greatest pain I had ever felt up to that point. Shushing me as I cried and struggled to understand why this was happening to me.

There were three pairs of thread to tie, so that lovely doctor pulled my skin together in three different places. She pulled hard to get it nice and tight. And I felt every bit of it. Every. Fucking. Bit.

Then I ate dessert and we went to go stand at an airport for a while to pick up my mother’s mother, who I was meeting for the first time and who never said a fucking word to me. I was tired. I was in pain. And yes, my parents made me stand.

Okay, so what on Earth does this have to do with being strong?

1) Sometimes shit sucks. Sometimes you’re tired, you’re stressed, you want to give up, but the world doesn’t give a shit. The world is my dad. Like, it’s great that you’re all tired and shit, but ummm back straight, walk like a normal human being, and do what you have to do. Sometimes situations require you to power through, and you have to access that well of inner strength to keep it moving.

2) Sometimes, the world is unpleasant. Bad things happen to you and the people you love. But it’s up to you to take it like a man and keep it moving. So what if I was in excruciating pain from having my skin pulled shut in three different places? Yeah, I’m still gonna stand and behave.

3) We can choose how to react to bad situations. Through my father’s treatment of me especially, I learned (in kind of a perverse way, I guess) that I have more strength and power than I realized.

4) No one is every ready for the bad things that happen. It’s always a surprise. And guess what? The world doesn’t care that you’re caught off-guard or that you don’t understand. The world keeps on moving, and it expects you to keep up or fall off. I wanna keep up.

Sometimes people marvel at the way I handle tough situations. I’ve had many catastrophes in my life, like everyone. I have had many problems to solve, many crises, and all that good stuff. And I get through it every time. People ask me where that comes from, how I became so strong, what it is in me that survives.

And after thinking about it, I think it comes from this. From getting relatively close to dying but then not dying. By being forced to find an inner well of strength in a pretty impossible situation when I was very young.

So that’s my answer to anyone who’s ever asked me how I deal with the kind of things I’ve dealt with, why I’m so resilient.

Because appendix.

Open Letter to My Mother-In-Law

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Dear Mother-in-Law,

I’ve been reflecting on a lot of things since we arrived on our NYC “vacation,” and unfortunately I am stuck writing this letter that you will never read because it’s the best I can do. I know you don’t want to hear my actual thoughts on things, but there are so many things bothering me that I needed to get them out somehow, even if only in a format which will never reach you.

My brain’s been on overdrive since we went out with you and our little niece to see a movie together as a family a few days ago. Your son started discussing money with you when we sat down to eat (and honestly, I don’t know why he even bothered). He said that we were not getting anyone Christmas gifts this year because we were so broke and that we had spend our last dollars getting to NYC. Our being here is the best we can do for gifts this year, and that’s that.

You told him, “Well, I mean, you could still get people a little something. I’m broke and I still bought gifts.”

….

I’m not sure you understood how hurtful your statement was. Granted, it was a simple statement, and perhaps it seems that we both read into it farther than we should have, so I will have to explain a little bit. But wow. Your son had surgery 2 months ago from which he has not fully recovered. He tripped up the stairs three times while trying to get up to your fourth-floor apartment because he couldn’t hold his weight on his knee as he climbed. We KNEW this would be an issue, and we still came.

We blew through all of our savings just trying to pay our bills because your son was out of work due to his injury. We are still not 100% certain we will be able to pay our full rent next month. We also do not know how we’re going to replace that money in the new year, but we need to move before this time next year so we’re going to have a lot of ground to cover when we get home to make sure we can do that. We STILL came here.

I declined to work when we came here, even though I kind of needed to (what an understatement), because I was under the impression that you needed us here with you, and I knew you would be upset if we didn’t spend time together because of my job. So I had to sell my plasma so we could have enough gas money to get here. I have only given plasma twice before and vowed to stop after doing some research and walking away with some serious questions and ethical concerns. But I did it so we could get home. They fucked up the procedure – they had to stick me, a needle-phobe, in both arms, and still could not draw the plasma properly. I ended up losing a lot of blood and crying a lot of tears for a whopping $70 and had bruises on both arms that didn’t go away for a week.

We did what we needed to do NOT to see our friends, NOT to eat good food (although we have done these things), but for YOU. Because you lost your daughter. Because Angel lost his sister. Because it seemed like Angel needed his parents as much as you seemed to need him.

So when I heard you say, “Well, you could still get us a gift,” yes I was angry. But I was also pretty hurt. So was your son. If we knew that was how it was going to be, that we were going to literally expel blood, sweat, and tears to be able to spend time with you and that, in your mind, gift-getting would trump those efforts, we would have saved our money, stayed home, and send you a trinket in the mail.

You cannot say you did not know we went through all of this. We TOLD you so. We did not make the definite decision to come home until after Thanksgiving because we were still trying to figure out how we would afford it. You KNEW that because we had conversations with you 3 or 4 times a week about it. You offered to send us money ONE TIME, and that was only when we were a day or two out from Thanksgiving and still hadn’t come to a decision. You saw the bruises on my arms when we got here and had to help Angel when he came into he house because he was limping so bad from his various falls. We asked you for nothing, we did not accept your offer. We figured out our own way. We did not want to be burdens. We wanted to be support. For you.

And yet it seems all you cared about was getting a fucking gift this year. When your son said half-jokingly, “Hey, which would you rather have, a gift or us?” you replied, “It’s okay. I’m usually the one who gives other people stuff and no one gives me anything, so that’s fine.”

Angel and I had a whole conversation before going to bed that night and wanted to leave. We have our car, we’re free to leave whenever we like, and we figured that if that’s how it was going to be then there was no point in us staying here any longer. You clearly do not appreciate all that we had to do just to see you. So we were tempted to cut the trip short, but we slept on it and decided to stick it out because there are so many other reasons for us to be here.

The next day, we dropped our niece at her father’s. We ended up staying for a few hours as Jasmine’s ex and her oldest daughter told us about all the nasty, spiteful things Jasmine had done over the years. Turns out that Amber found an archive of texts this week that Jasmine had sent to her friends over the last year and a half. Jasmine, your daughter, said horrible things about her own child and about her brother. It opened up old wounds for Amber, and Jasmine showed herself to be vindictive, spiteful, and frankly quite a terrible human being.

Thing is,  Angel and I were upset but we were not shocked. Because unlike you and everyone else, we saw through Jasmine’s crap from the beginning. We always knew that she lied, and we knew what she would lie about. We never assumed she was perfect. We never ignored her faults. Angel, who was always there when his sister needed him, actually said NO to her once when he felt she was going too far with a request. And he did that because he LOVED his sister enough to tell her the truth. His sister responded to that by talking shit about him to her friends, telling them he punked out on her and that he had so much nerve asking to borrow her car.

She LIED. He NEVER, EVER, EVER, asked her for a fucking thing, especially not her crap car. How hurtful do you think that was for her brother to hear? That she would tell someone outside of the family that she couldn’t rely on the ONLY PERSON who ever cared about her enough to tell her the truth, and who was ALWAYS there when she really needed him.

We tried to tell you about all of this. We tried to explain that your “poor daughter” was no victim of life. In fact, in most cases it was her causing others pain. You did not want to hear it. You wanted people to “let it go” and stop talking badly about your daughter. You wanted people to stop because YOU were hurting. We explained that the reason you do not have a good relationship with your oldest grandchild was in large part due to the way that Jasmine depicted you. Amber sees that you were always on Jasmine’s side, even when Jasmine was self-destructing and hurting everyone around her. It’s hard to try and have a relationship with someone who has hurt you so deeply.

You replied that your granddaughter just needed to understand that no matter what “anyone” said (meaning her father in addition to her mother – once again deflecting the blame from your daughter) that you were not involved in X, Y, and Z. We said you needed to try and understand her point of view. Your response? “How can I try and understand someone who won’t trust me?” — Again, all about YOU.

In fact, you abandoned her the same way your daughter did, although admittedly with far less spite. When Jasmine realized that Amber saw through her nonsense, she disowned her. She cut off Amber’s access to money, she did not use the child support she was collecting from her father (who Amber was living with) for her child, she said she only had one daughter to take care of, and then she tried to get Amber and her father evicted from their home because she was angry. When YOU disowned your granddaughter, you did it by painting yourself as a victim. You said that you didn’t understand why Amber has treated you so badly (yeah, you do. We’ve explained it several times) and that the ball was now in her court. If she didn’t want to deal with you, oh well.

Oh well? To the granddaughter that you swore you cared for more than her own father did? Because you could not “handle” hearing about your daughter’s bullshit?

No. I think I know why you’ve dealt with things this way, why you have stressed that for YOUR sake, everyone should forget about their pain and “move on,” why you are insistent that nothing bad ever be said about Jasmine. It is because you KNOW what you’ve done. You are guilty.

You sheltered your daughter when she fucked up. You defended her when she did wrong. You justified her behavior by painting her as a victim of life, just as you do now with yourself. You never let your daughter deal with the consequences of her actions. You never called her out on her bullshit. You helped her run away from her problems.

You are the reason she was able to be such an asshole. You enabled her.

THIS is why you cannot stand to hear about your daughter’s indiscretions. Because they are YOUR indiscretions too.

Yes, I understand that she is your daughter. You love her. So does Angel, her brother. So do her daughters. But this will never change the fact that Jasmine did and said so many bad things. The people in her life are confused and hurt and they need to talk about it. They need to repeat themselves and they need to compare stories so they feel maybe like they weren’t crazy. That is how people process things.

You cannot process things this way. We are all willing to understand that. But your demands that we all stop “bringing up the past” are fucking nonsense. ESPECIALLY as it concerns Jasmine’s daughters, because everyone knows that your mother, no matter how good or bad, is your entire life for a long time. You don’t just let that shit go.

You say you don’t want us bringing up these things about Jasmine because they hurt you. I suppose that could be true. But again, I also think you know you are guilty as hell and you cannot face up to your role in all of the shitty things that your daughter said and did, the shitty way she behaved.

Jasmine was a damn good pastry chef. She was smart. She allegedly had a good heart, although I have to say I never saw it. She loved, and was loved by, many people.

However, Jasmine was also a fucking liar. She hurt people on purpose. She told every person in her life a different story in order to keep control over them. After all, if everyone hated each other, then the only person who could solve problems, the only person who would know what to do, was Jasmine.

She was not perfect by any means. Neither were you. You do not want these things discussed because you can’t deal with the fact that you also failed her as a mother in some ways. You and your husband STOLE money from her when she got a settlement from a lawsuit, then you blamed her for blowing through the money and spending it on her husband and his family. She put aside money for Angel’s college education which you helped your husband gamble away. You hurt her and your son quite a bit.

The problem here is that if you face your daughter and see her as she was, then you also have to face yourself. I know you cannot handle that. And you are in so much denial. There is an excuse for everything. Jasmine tried to make her daughter homeless? It was only because her husband “brainwashed” Amber and Jasmine needed her daughter to see the truth about her father. Jasmine was drinking too much? It must have been because she got with her husband when she was too young and had a lot of regrets. Jasmine made you take care of her youngest daughter all day every day when she lived here towards the end? It was certainly NOT because she was partying too much and up some dude’s ass, but because she was busy working 40 hours a week. Jasmine told Amber she wished she hadn’t had her? I’m sure that was her husband’s fault too somehow.

I don’t even know where to go from here. For me, the most hurtful thing of all has been to watch Angel struggle with this shit. He’s angry, he’s sad, he’s disappointed. His own sister, who he was ALWAYS there for, talked shit about him just like she did with everyone else. And his mother is far too busy mourning for her daughter and fighting a losing, and completely pointless, battle with the father of her grandchildren to give two shits about her son.

Also, you seem to think that after EVERYTHING (our fighting on behalf of Jasmine’s daughters at Jasmine’s wake, our dropping of everything to be here right after she died, our own fucking struggles at the end of the year trying to manage our lives and make this NYC trip happen), the most important thing… is some material object.

Not your son’s presence. Not the fences you need to mend with her granddaughter. But the material things that can be provided for you. And then the nerve you had to be a martyr… Because you’re always doing for everyone else, but no one does for you…

This morning, Angel said to you that he never wanted to come back to NYC after this. I’m with him on that. You’re not the only disappointment. There were so many friends who were supposed to see him and have now mysteriously fallen off the face of the planet. Also, the atmosphere in general is too much. In addition, he’s watching me, his wife, struggle through having to stay with you and your two dogs, which I am terribly allergic to. Despite having knowledge of my allergies, you’ve petted the dogs near me (letting their fur fly everywhere), had them all over the couch (which you then want me to sit on to watch movies with you), etc. I’ve been on tons of medications since we’ve gotten here, and Angel’s been so concerned about me that he’s waking up through the night to make sure I’m still breathing. I’m DROWNING in my own fucking mucus to be here with you. These things do not endear Angel to this place.

You asked him why, and he didn’t even go into all of that. He explained it simply: he felt like there was nothing here for him anymore and there’s a whole life waiting for him outside of NYC. You said, “Well, I guess I’ll never see you then.”

He said, “You can always come visit us, silly.”

Your reply: “Yeah, but still…”

Where is your sacrifice? When will you do something for your son? When will you stop expecting him to do for you, to cater to you? You got angry when he said he was not going to use our car to drive you all over the place. We explained why: we had almost gotten into several accidents after coming into the city because people here are nuts, and our car is our ONLY way of getting home. If something happens to that car, we’re fucked. So we’re getting around by bus and subway, thank you very much.

This was apparently not a good enough explanation for you.

Words cannot express how angry I am at the way everything has gone since we arrived here and how eager I’ve been to go home to Appleton after our first couple of nights staying here.

I could go on and on, so I guess I’ll end here with a few things for you to consider:

– If you keep on trying to ignore the parts of your daughter that you find unpleasant, you will also continue to push away parts of yourself. This will leave you completely miserable and ignorant for the rest of your life.

– During Jasmine’s church service, you asked that I stay next to you because you needed me. I did because I felt I owed you a lot. After all, you took me in when my parents didn’t give a fuck and kicked me out on my ass with nowhere to go. However, you tend to forget that you almost didn’t take me in because of YOUR DAUGHTER, who told you that it was bad idea to let me in, you didn’t know me or my family, I was just gonna take advantage, etc. Angel and your husband had to fight against the shit Jasmine was putting in your head. Yet I stood by you as you grieved for someone who, if she had had her way, would have ruined my entire fucking life. I also almost took a punch to the face for her kids. Think about that the next time you want to be a martyr and claim you’re all alone.

– You cannot heal until you start dealing with your guilt and your pain, and try to make sense of your daughter’s life.

– If you do not let go of all the bullshit, you will never reconcile with your grandchild. This will only result in your own misery and you will end up all alone as she continues to happily live her life.

– It is not anyone’s responsibility to make you feel better or to cater to you because you are hurting. EVERYONE is hurting. You don’t have a monopoly on pain.

– You need to seriously consider why you feel the need to fight on behalf of your daughter even after her death and even after it’s been PROVEN to you that she never needed you to fight for her. In fact, you should have let her go much sooner than you did.

– When you no longer have Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings with your family, because your son did not bother returning to New York and your grandchild and her father did not visit you even though they only live 15 minutes away, I hope you remember this moment in time when your blind love for your daughter and for possessions caused you to alienate everyone around you.

– You complained that since your daughter died you have no one to talk to and no one to help you. You said this TO YOUR SON’S FACE AS HE SAT DEAD IN FRONT OF YOU. In pain I might add with his fucking knee, which you never ask about until you hear me ask first. So if that’s how it is, I hope you’re happier when we send you a $20 gift next year and stay in Appleton with our friends instead of actually spending time with you.

Sincerely yours…

The Kind Of Person I Do Not Want To Be

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Greetings from fabulous New York City!  Yes, we are on winter vacation (Angel gets “laid off” every time we have a break at school), and Angel and I have been staying with his parents for about a week so far.  We’ll be here until school starts up again.

We took a two-day road trip from Wisco to the city.  It was intense.  We had a really fun first day that included my first real highway experience.  Of course, I drove at night through the rain because that’s my life, but hey it seems I did okay since we got here and all.  The second day was terrible due to the bad weather and the insanity we drove into once we got close to the city.  Soooo I’d prefer to forget the second day and I choose to remember the awesomeness of the first.

Over the course of two days, I drove 350 miles, and Angel hogged the other 650.  I’ve been told that I drove quite a bit for my first time on the highway.  I think I didn’t do enough, but meh.  Angel apparently really wanted to drive, so I guess it worked out for everyone.

It’s been a crazy week.  We’re already heard from and seen so many people, and we’ve had a great time.  However, my mother-in-law has TWO dogs that I’m allergic to, so as the days go on I suffer more and more from watery eyes, a stuffy nose, sinus headaches, hives, and tons of asthma issues.  My asthma pump and allergy pills seem to be completely useless.  I had to cancel a dinner date with someone I really wanted to see because between my headaches and my lungs I just couldn’t get out of the house, even though I know it would’ve been the best thing for me to do.  So it’s not all sunshine, but so far it’s working out pretty okay.

It’s been difficult in some other ways. For example, Angel had knee surgery in October for a torn meniscus and he’s been out of work for about two months, which really fucked our financial situation and we almost weren’t able to make it here.  So this means we have to be super stingy, which in a place like NYC is kind of hard.

This is a tangent, but I had to care for him A LOT after surgery, which happened in during my 8th week of classes, and I think it was my breaking point.  Like, I’ve dealt with people dying, my niece’s premature birth, all sorts of stuff during my time in school, but this was it.  I’m tired of struggling, of fighting uphill battles.  So I earned two B+’s and one A-, which are the worst grades I’ve gotten since starting up school again.  Yes, they are still very good grades, so I get it.  But they are also the result of my ceasing to try anymore.  This is the kind of work that I do when I no longer care.

Anyway, sorry.  So it’s been difficult post-surgery because while Angel’s doing much better, he’s not at 100% yet, and NYC is a walkin’ town.  So we’ve been in the house for a few days now because his leg wasn’t doing so well after three days of non-stop movement.  His knee lessens the amount of things we can do together, which sucks.  But he’s getting better every day, so hopefully we’ll be able to do more soon.

There has also been some crying about Jasmine.  Not much, but it’s been sort of in the background of everything we’ve done.  Angel’s mom made a little memorial for her in the living room above her couch.  It has Jasmine’s ashes, which I find beyond creepy, and a picture and some flowers, etc.  So when Jasmine’s daughters were over last week and we were all laughing and carrying on, their mother was above us in this weird way.  Angel’s mom got sad and was wishing that Jasmine could be there to enjoy the good times.  So… always in the background.

Angel hasn’t spoken about his sister much, just that he misses her and that when he first got here he almost expected to see her pop out of the room.  It sucks.  No one wants to talk about anything, which I think makes it worse.  There hasn’t been any, “Oh remember when she used to” or “Hey look at this picture.”  Perhaps it’s still too raw.  I just can’t help thinking that Jasmine wouldn’t have wanted it this way.  She would’ve wanted everyone to celebrate the good times instead of pushing them away out of grief.  I don’t know.  Maybe I didn’t know her well enough to know either way.

Anyway.

There has been plenty of shit talking about Jasmine’s ex (the father of her children) though which I think is completely inappropriate.  I also noticed that Jasmine’s seven year old has figured out how to play her grandmother and her father against each other to get what she wants, which is only making things worse because neither of them realizes they’re being played.  I’ve decided to stay the fuck out of it because it’s not worth the hassle of trying to help these people understand.

My sister is doing well, and Marilyn is crawling now!  She just turned two, so obviously that took a long time, but who cares.  She’s still not speaking, but she looks like she’s more aware of her surroundings and she’s able to communicate with some sign language, so hopefully speech is just around the corner.  No matter what, she seems to be on the right track and making progress, and that’s all I care about.

We’ve only been here about a week, and already I’m noticing some things that make me feel frustrated and angry and have forced me to self-reflect.

First of all, NYC is ridiculous.  I love this city and I love that I’m from here, but after being gone for a year and change it feels really small.  I can’t explain it, but I feel like I grew out of NYC somehow.  It’s strange because I definitely don’t feel like I belong in Wisconsin either.  So this is all making me feel like I belong nowhere, and as of right now I do not want to live in NYC again.  Visiting is nice, but that’s all I ever want to do going forward.  There’s a whole world going on outside of here that I am much more interested in.

Aside from this, I’ve been listening to the things that Angel’s mom and others have said, and I’ve been watching the things that they do, and I’ve decided the following:

1) I do not want to be the kind of person who collects things from places I’ve never been.

We bought Angel’s mom a Wisconsin shot glass as a gift, and she started telling us about all the other shot glasses she has.  “I have one from Chicago, one from Las Vegas, etc. etc.”  But it dawned on me that these are places to which she has NEVER been.  They are places everyone else she knows has been to and brought back to her.  She’s so proud of this collection, but she doesn’t even drink like that.  So if she doesn’t drink and she’s never been to these places, where does the pride come from?  I have no clue, and I don’t want to know.  I will not stay stuck in the same place living vicariously through other’s experiences.  I want to live life, and if I have a shot glass from somewhere you better believe that I’ve been to that place.

2) If I ever have kids, I will not raise them to be spoiled brats and I will not park them in front of the TV just because that makes my life easier.

Jasmine’s youngest daughter stayed the weekend with us.  Her grandmother did not spend much time with her DESPITE the fact that she complains constantly that the kid’s father never lets her spend time with the kid.  She gave this child too many choices (“What do you want to do now?” without offering any options to the child) and too much freedom (“Yes, you can play that video game for several hours, that’s cool”).  She then gets upset when the kid’s father seems irritated at the fact that she played all weekend instead of also doing some reading, going out, whatever.  In the few hours I spent with that child, I had her reading, drawing, and entertained with minimal technology use (which meant she was quiet and not throwing tantrums out of boredom).  When she finally did throw a tantrum after she was told not to do something, grandma NEGOTIATED with her and tried to give her choices about what she wanted to do.  It was irritating as hell, so I stepped in and said, “Oh, so that’s how you’re behaving?  Okay, you’re done with this, go do that now.”  END OF STORY.  She did as she was told, crisis averted.  I don’t know.  I don’t see what’s so damn hard about providing structure for children or why in the world I would see fit to bitch and complain about not having access to a child just to squander the time I DO get with her.

3) I will remain friends with Angel no matter what the state of our romantic relationship going forward.  And if we have kids and then separate, I will ALWAYS respect him as the father of my children.  I will also expect the same from him.

No, there will be no name-calling in front of our kids.  I will not call him an idiot within earshot of hid kids, and he has promised to do the same.  We will also require this respect from others, end of discussion.  I cannot stand the fact that whenever our niece comes over she inevitably hears her grandmother questioning her father’s decisions and listens as grandma calls daddy a moron.  No. Fucking. Way.  Keep your problems away from the fucking children.

4) I do not want to be the kind of person who puts bandaids on problems rather than genuinely attempting to fix them.

Angel’s family has rented this apartment for more than 50 years now.  It’s worn out and falling apart, but his mom keeps on “fixing” things.  More paint, more plaster, new furniture, new tiles, etc.  The ceiling is falling apart for the fourth time, call the super.  The radiator keeps making this crazy noise it shouldn’t be making, call the super.  Meanwhile, this is a fourth floor walkup.  Angel’s mom has back problems, and his dad has knee problems.  They can’t stay here anymore.  Yet they keep delaying the inevitable.  I could imagine them crawling on their hands and knees up the stairs before they even considered moving out and moving on.  And they really need to move on.  But they seem to be scared of the unknown, so they “fix” things here and they invest so much time and money into something that doesn’t even belong to them.  No.  I hope that if there is ever a genuine problem in my life that I will have enough vision and strength to be able to fix it for real instead of applying temporary solutions as a delaying tactic.

5) I do not want to be the person who misses out on special moments because I’m too worried about something superficial, like cleaning dishes or making a meaningless phone call.

When we had all the nieces over last week (my sister’s kid and Jasmine’s two kids) as well as my sister and Jasmine’s ex, Angel made this really nice dinner.  We all sat with each other, shared food, and laughed.  There was so much joy, which from what I can tell has been missing for months in this house.  Angel’s mom was not with us at that point.  No, she was washing the dishes and making sure the kitchen was clean.  She later said that the enjoyed hearing the laughter, and I guess that’s fine.  But I don’t want to be THAT person.  I want to be IN the laughter.  Fuck the kitchen, fuck the floor.  There’s always time to clean when everyone leaves.  But until then, it can all stay dirty if it means that I can walk away with good memories and strengthened ties to my family.  Also, if I’m going to complain that I don’t get to see enough of someone, I am not going to be on the phone having a very unnecessary conversation as that person sits all by themselves without me.  Seems stupid.

6) I do not want to be the person who thinks they should wait until conditions are juuuust right before they act.

Just as an example: yes, it’s cold outside.  Today we have a nor’easter.  Apparently, to some this means that we shouldn’t go out at all today.  We’ve been kind of stuck in the house for the last three days, waiting for the weather to be awesome so we can go somewhere.  But it’s winter in New York.  The weather will NEVER be perfect.  It’s just like life, I suppose.  Nothing is ever exactly as we’d like it to be.  But it doesn’t excuse us from going out and LIVING.

Ugh, I think there’s a lot stirring in me right now, but I don’t know how much longer I want to make this thing.  So I guess I’ll stop here for now.

I’m glad we’re here.  I feel like this year has been pretty weird with Angel’s sister dying and his surgery and all, and I feel like I’ve lost my way a bit.  I’m hoping that this trip will help me refocus and gather up energy for my last three terms at Lawrence.  I’m also hoping it’ll maybe help me figure out what the hell I want out of life so that I can start moving in a direction rather than floundering because I don’t know what to do.

Anyway.  Until next time.

Them College Kids

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Back when I was in high school, I became really close to the art teacher (even though I was a terrible artist).  I used to come to his room every day at lunch time, and he would usually have lunch for me that he made from home.  We would sit and talk for the whole period about life.  He would listen to what was going on with me, he would tell me what was going on with him, etc.  I have no idea how that started, but it lasted for a couple of months in my senior year.

During one of these lunches, I told my teacher a secret that I hadn’t told anyone else yet: I was going to take a year off of college.  I knew if I told my parents what I wanted, they would be mad at me.  My friends wouldn’t understand my reasons and would try and encourage me to go straight to college after I graduated.  But I didn’t want to be convinced.

I explained to my teacher that I had a crap situation at home and that I thought it would be much smarter to take the year off, work full-time, save up money so I could leave, and then start school once I was out of my parents’ house.  I told him my plan was to get a job that paid $20,000 a year because I could save exactly half of it and end up with $10,000.  I planned to live on that money while I went to school because $10,000 is a lot of money and should be able to cover me for a while.  I would get a super cheap studio and use my savings to pay rent.  I’d get a part-time job to cover other, smaller stuff, but I could definitely survive mainly on my savings.

He listened to my entire idea with patience.  He said nothing except to nod his head and smile.  I remember thinking there was something behind that smile, but I just couldn’t figure it out, so I put it out of my mind.

That was back in 2004.  It’s ten years later, and I currently live in the space between two ideas: I am much wiser than I used to be, and yet there is still so much left for me to learn.  Things absolutely did not work out the way I planned them, and that turned out to be a good thing.  In any case, ten years later I found myself sitting with a college senior, having lunch and talking about life.  I asked him what his plans were after graduation, and he said that while he wasn’t sure yet, he was in the process of looking for a “good” job, one that made use of his skills and expertise, had benefits, etc.  His eventual goal is to get into politics, but for now he’d be happy being the manager of something.  He was aiming for a job that paid $60,000 a year, because, you know, he couldn’t take just ANYTHING, not with the thousands that he’s going to owe in student loans.

I listened patiently, and I smiled the same smile my teacher did ten years ago.  The meaning finally clicked.

The smile was many things.  It was a stifled laugh, not only at the absurdity of the idea itself, but also at the idea that life can be planned at all.  It was pity for the person who does not yet understand how many pieces of the puzzle he is missing.  It was hope that the person would get what he wanted anyway, but it was also a cynical, knowing smile.  It was the suppression of the urge to say, “It doesn’t work that way,” because not only do you not want to destroy someone’s hopes and dreams, you also know that he won’t listen to you anyway.  He has a plan.

He probably never noticed all that was behind it, but if he did he’ll probably store it away in his head and realize the meaning years from now.

College kids are supremely unrealistic gamblers.  They take out these insane loans hoping that the risk will be worth it, but really they have no proof that it will be.  If they would simply pay attention, they would realize that there is actually a lot of proof that the risk is NOT worth it, that student loan debt can be crippling, and that if they can’t pay this one bill they are sort of screwed for life.

(I am definitely overgeneralizing, but bear with me)

But I wonder how much of these unrealistic outlooks on life can be attributed to the naivete of youth, and how much can be explained by society itself.  As societal values go, the College Education is among the most highly regarded.  We tell kids, “Just go to college, whatever the price.  Once you get the degree, your horizons will broaden significantly and you’ll be super successful right away.  And by the way, after all the hard work you put into your education, you deserve success.”  We do not do a good job as a society for preparing teenagers and young adults for the realities of the world.  No, most people to do not start out of the gate with a bachelors degree making “only” $60,000 based on their “skills” and “expertise.”  This idea came from the lies that higher education has fed this young man, and while I do hope he gets what he wants, experience tells me he won’t.  I think it’s sad that he wasn’t better prepared by society at large to think realistically and logically.

For the record, you absolutely CANNOT live on $10,000 for four years in NEW YORK CITY.  This was definitely unrealistic, but I was never told this was possible by anyone.  I made this shit up in my own stupid 17 year old head.  So when life did not work out, all I had to blame was myself for my foolishness.  I was never sold a lie.

I used to think that the students I was surrounded by here were much better prepared for everything than I was.  They had supportive parents, they had the ability to make their college educations happen sooner rather than later, and they were making connections that would help them in the future.  In truth, I have realized I was really lucky to have dropped out of college early.  I got to have a few years of actual life experience before the Higher Education Machine could get a hold of me and convince me that my bachelors degree would have some magical effect on my life.  I am prepared for the challenges I’ll face after graduating next year.  Unfortunately, these students not prepared, and I can’t help but think that while there is something to be said for youthful naivete, society itself has fostered this unpreparedness.

Memorials

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I have been absent for a while.  It’s bad news, unfortunately.  I have been trying to write about this for about a month, but a combination of burnout and antisocial-ness has prevented me from doing so.  On Memorial Day, May 26th, my sister-in-law died of a heart attack.  She was 37 years old and left behind her mother, father, brother, and her two children.

To explain… Jasmine was born with a genetic heart condition which thickened the muscle in her heart.  She had been in need of a transplant since she was a teenager, and she got that transplant eleven years ago.  So time was always short for her.  We knew this would come eventually, that it was unlikely that she’d make it to 40, but this was very sudden since she’d been doing fine health-wise right up to Memorial Day.  She was out with a friend when the heart attack occurred, and she died on the way to the hospital.  From what we understand, it was pretty quick.  I think her family is trying to believe that she went without pain, but she had had an immeasurable number of heart attacks in her life, and I remember her describing them all as quite painful.  So I’m not fooling myself.  It may have been quick, but I’m sure it was painful and I think that’s sad.

Anyway.  We got the call at 12:30am, right as Memorial Day began.  Fairly fitting.  She was born on Veteran’s Day, and thinking about these dates in the context of her life, they make so much sense.

We needed to make an emergency trip to NYC, and we stayed for almost two weeks.  We experienced a lot of drama out there (which I’ll get to in a minute), but I would like to point out that this occurred during my 8th week of classes (out of 10).  So essentially, I had a lot of work due that week (including at least 3 papers) and finals to begin studying for.  This was a hard term to begin with, since I was finishing a film that should have been finished the term before, and because I was doing some independent study in addition to my normal course load.  So I was already driving myself absolutely insane, not really sleeping, not eating very well, etc.  It was a very rough term, and just when I had started to see the light at the end of the tunnel, life stopped.  It really did.  This event really threw my academic life into disarray, but I am happy to say that despite that I still walked away with A’s and A-‘s in all of my classes, even made it to the Dean’s List.  I had to hand in a lot of work late, but whatever.  It worked out.

So that was my tangent.  Back to the important stuff.  As soon as we found out, we started calling and texting a bunch of family members to let them know what was going on.  Angel’s mom was beyond devastated, and there of course was nothing we could say or do to make things any better.  We had a really hard time getting back to NYC because there were a bunch of thunderstorms in the Midwest the day that we traveled.  The trip took about 16 hours (and it was mostly by plane, so this is insanity), but that was certainly better than not getting back at all.

New York was disorienting.  Part of it may have been that I didn’t get much sleep that first week.  In fact, I probably slept less than 10 hours TOTAL that first week.  I just couldn’t sleep, even when I tried, until things were settled and we had a final mass for Jasmine.  Beyond this, we experienced reverse culture shock, which was really hard to deal with under the circumstances.  It felt like Appleton had been a long dream, and I wasn’t sure if I had ever left NYC.

I also ended up feeling alone.  I felt homeless all over again, like I did not belong anywhere.  While I was definitely surprised at the support we received from some people, I was equally surprised at the support we did not receive from others.  Appleton didn’t feel real, and neither did NYC.  I wasn’t sure anymore who was really a friend.  And of course I had no family support.  It felt like my world was turned upside-down, and to be honest I wasn’t even mourning for Jasmine.  We were not close.  In fact, she never liked me and we never got along.  She called me nasty names behind my back and even tried to convince Angel not to marry me the night before our wedding.  So I hadn’t lost anything.  That said, I can only imagine how Angel felt given that he DID lose someone very important to him.  These feelings have been hard to shake off, and two months after the fact I’m still feeling untrusting and out-of-place.

Anyway, as I mentioned, there was drama when we got here.  The friend Jasmine was with when she died was her not-official-boyfriend/friend-with-benefits (I’ll shorten that to FWB), and he was angry that Angel was given so much responsibility in terms of Jasmine’s wake/burial/etc. over him (because, as you’ll see, he was a fucking douchebag).  We found this out within the first 24 hours of arriving, and we just knew it would only go downhill from there.

And downhill it went.  Originally, FWB was supposed to pick us up from the airport when we got to NYC, but my mother-in-law let us know that he was drunk, so at the last minute I had to call a really good friend of mine who got her boyfriend up and drove to the airport at 12:30am on a weeknight to get us.  A couple of days later, we had a big gathering at the house, and FWB invited at least a dozen of his own family members without telling anyone, so suddenly we didn’t have enough food or space or anything.  One of the women insulted my mother-in-law, speaking to her in English and then stopping short to ask if my mother-in-law even spoke English.  While our family was conserving food to be considerate of everyone else (it wasn’t a fucking party), FWB’s family LOADED UP.  FWB made it about himself and we later found out that he had been staying in my mother-in-law’s house before we got there.  There’s so much more to explain with this, but honestly there aren’t enough words to describe how hectic, awful, and generally fucked-up this situation was.  He even vented to Angel on the night we got back, telling him all about his own pain.  Ummm, Jasmine was Angel’s SISTER, and FWB couldn’t even be considerate of the fact that ummm Angel might have been grieving too.  You know, just a little bit.

Anyway.  The wake went well for the most part until the very end.  In the last 20 minutes, things went CRAZY and Angel and I almost got into a fistfight with FWB and a few of Angel’s cousins.

I am not the fighting type, so this was actually pretty serious.

It all started because FWB was at the wake.  He got there at the very beginning but couldn’t bring himself to see Jasmine’s body.  He’d been there about four hours when Jasmine’s daughters and ex showed up.  Her oldest daughter never liked FWB (and I don’t blame her, he was shady as shit), and when she saw him she told me and Angel that she didn’t want him there, it made her uncomfortable.  I figured he’d had more than enough time to go and see Jasmine, and that my first and only responsibility was to my nieces who were trying to mourn their mother in peace, so I told FWB to leave. It was very simple, shouldn’t have been a dramatic thing, but FWB went off drinking and was called back by a cousin of Angel’s that didn’t know the situation.

Another of Angel’s cousins, Liz, was Jasmine’s best friend, and when she showed up near the end she made a huge scene about how FWB should be there, how it didn’t matter what Jasmine’s girls wanted (ARGGGHHH!!), etc. She then threw a fit when she saw the body, and we had to get her out of the parlor because she was scaring Jasmine’s youngest daughter, who is just 6 years old. Once we got Liz in the lobby, her and her daughter Kiana started to get into Angel’s face, screaming at him. So I lost my patience (terrible of me, I know), got in her face, and screamed back, and that 18-year-old, bitch-ass Kiana tried to punch me. All of the cousins dragged Liz, Kiana, and FWB out, but in the end they made it clear that the only way the drama would stop was if we let FWB in to say his goodbyes. So Angel’s mom had to help him walk into the parlor (he was too drunk to walk on his own) so that everyone would stop acting stupid.

I thought the entire thing was disgusting, and I was disappointed that these were the type of people that Jasmine had in her life, people that would act this way. A couple of weeks later, we heard that FWB thinks we owed him an apology because we chose the girls over him. Our collective response (as we’ve talked amongst ourselves, because why even dignify him with a response?) has been who the hell is he?

So that was the drama.  We had to be on watch during Jasmine’s church service because we banned FWB, Liz, and Kiana from attending but were afraid they’d try to show up anyway.  Sad that we couldn’t mourn in peace.  But they didn’t show up, thank Jesus, so that was the end of the nastiness.

We spend another week at home after that before we came back to Appleton.  I made it back just in time to attend the last day of classes and get extensions for all of my work.  I made up two weeks’ of work and completed all of my finals as soon as I possibly could.  I never got a breather because I finished my work right at the time I started my summer jobs.  I felt (and still feel) burnt out and antisocial.  People have been getting me out of the house, but it’s a slow process because honesty all I want is to be left alone by the world.  I feel abandoned, I feel angry, and I feel disconnected.

But none of this compares to what Angel feels.  He won’t express much of anything, but I know he’s in pain.  He lost his only sister.  They had their problems, but I know he loved her dearly, and now he feels alone in the world.  Every once in a while I cry for him.  The other day, we were talking about how my sister never takes my damn advice, and then I remembered that Angel used to give lots of advice to his own sister.  But now there is no more advice to give.  There are no more conversations to be had.  No more hugs to give or receive.  And I had to step away to cry for a minute (I didn’t want him to start crying too) because I am so incredibly sad for him.

For the first month we were back, he would freak out whenever his mom would call him because he thought something was wrong.  He talks much more with his mom now, at least once every day or two.  We both reconnected with a cousin of Angel’s who is amazing, which was one of the few good things to come out of this mess.  I text this cousin a lot these days.  And Angel’s been reconnecting with a lot of distant friends of his because he realizes how short life is and how much he wants other people in his life.  So his reaction to this whole thing has been, in some ways, opposite of mine.  He reaches out while I have withdrawn from the world.

Okay.  I think this is about all I can do for now.  This post could be so much longer than it is, but if I wrote everything that happened during that time, all of the politics that are playing out now, and all the things we found out about Jasmine after she died, I would be here for a while.  I don’t have the time or energy for that.

Here’s an article that was written about Jasmine after her church service.  The person on the front left with the curly hair and gray sweater is Angel.  He was one of the pall bearers.  Sigh.  I didn’t like that they took pictures of us exiting the church, but what can you do?  The Daily News is sleazy that way.

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uptown/mom-dies-11-years-heart-transplant-article-1.1812182

I’ll be back.  Now that I’ve gotten this out I can start focusing on some of the topic ideas I had before all of this mess.

Until later.

Brothers and Sisters, Mothers and Fathers

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I spoke to my sister today for the first time in about 4 or 5 months.  We’re not fighting or anything, we’re on good terms and all.  We’ve just been busy.  She has her baby, I have my schoolwork, and it’s been hard for us to connect.  But she had some time today so she called me and updated me on some happenings with my family.  The events themselves didn’t affect me much, but her commentary and analysis of them depressed me a little bit, and I had to write down some thoughts before my mind would be clear enough to return to my reading.

Our brother has had his own apartment since roughly September last year.  However, he was still living with my parents.  In other words, he was paying rent to a place that he wasn’t living in.  This made absolutely no sense to anyone except, of course, him.  He finally moved into his apartment this month.  I remember seeing this news on Facebook and saw how my sister talked about losing her best friend, yada yada.  It got me thinking about how things were when I left home.  I was 18 when I was kicked out (my family claims that I just up and left, but my father did literally tell me to get the fuck out, so….).  There was no fanfare.  There was no concern for my well-being.  I was no one’s best friend.  My sister and I weren’t close at that point, we were both involved in our own lives.

When I left, there was no offer to help me if I needed anything or anyone telling me I could come back home.  They got rid of my bed two months after I left.  I had no home.

I’m 27 now, so that was a long time ago.  My brother is 24 this year.  He wasn’t forced out, he left when he was ready to leave, even waiting for a few months after getting his apartment to do so.  From what my sister said, she and my dad were really depressed after my brother left.  My mother was fine, she continued life as if nothing happened.  But my sister and father were devastated.  My father misses my brother so much.  He said he felt like he couldn’t protect his son anymore now that his son was out in the world.  He let my brother keep the keys to the house in case he needed them.

I came back a few months after getting kicked out to get the rest of my stuff.  When I arrived, my dad told me to leave my keys there.

Ten years ago, when I left, neither of my parents was depressed, they both went on as if nothing had occurred.  They weren’t concerned about not being able to protect me out in the world.

Anyway, it was interesting to hear my sister talk about how sad it was in the aftermath of my brother’s move, because it made me think back to those days and to how abandoned I felt.  It made me think of how homeless and family-less I feel even today.  Aside from some feelings of jealousy (why should my brother be missed so much and me not at all?), thinking back to this actually didn’t bother me so much.  It’s interesting to think about, and it’s a bit sad, but it’s in the past, it happened, and I’m happy without my parents in my life.  I’m okay.

But my sister kept going, and this is where it started coming apart for me.

It’s weird.  She said that these things made her think of the past, too.  When my father talked to her about how much he missed my brother and how much he felt like he couldn’t protect his poor son, my sister replied, “Well, that doesn’t make sense.  When Ariel left, you weren’t upset about not being able to protect her, and she was a kid when she left.  Mil (our brother) is an adult now.  Ariel was a kid.  Shouldn’t you have been worried about her being alone in the world?”

“Yeah, but Ariel was different,” he said.

“How was she different?  She was a kid.”

“Mil doesn’t see things, he isn’t street smart.  Like, he’ll be able to see a shady person, but he doesn’t see other things.  People can take advantage of him.  That would never happen to Ariel.”

“But he’s an adult.  You weren’t concerned about Ariel’s safety.  She was a little girl when she left.”

He changed the subject.

My sister had a similar conversation later with my mother.  My mother commented on how depressed my sister and father have been with my brother’s move, and I somehow came up in this conversation.  My sister commented on how it wasn’t like this when I left, no one was depressed or worried or anything.  My mother said, “Yeah, well Ariel was different.  And besides, she wasn’t living here anyway by that point, she was only here on weekends.”

“But she was a little girl.

My mother didn’t get it.

My sister said she felt like my parents were judging her for bringing this all up, and that they clearly didn’t understand what a huge discrepancy there was between how they behaved when I left and when my brother left.

My mother has been asking my sister how my brother is doing.  She has been wondering if he has enough towels.  My parents have sent my brother food and supplies.  My sister said, “You didn’t do any of this with Ariel.  And she was a kid.

They really, really don’t get it.

My sister monologued about this for a while.  She talked about how she was seeing patterns that she didn’t understand, that she wanted to try and understand them so that she could break these patterns.  She said she doesn’t want to raise her daughter to be broken like she was broken.

She also said that she had thought she was breaking patterns before all of this, but she realized she wasn’t.  For example, she broke up with her baby’s father because she didn’t want to have her daughter raised by an awful father like she was.  But she realized that even though this was the right thing to do, she still hadn’t broken the pattern because part of the reason she has problems with him today is that she treats him the same way that my mother treats my father.  She stopped doing that, and since then things have been much better.  They’re not getting back together, not by a long shot, but she understands that what makes them different from my parents is the fact that they’re adults and that they can deal with their daughter as adults together.  But this required a change in her.

She said that she realized that my mother wasn’t the type of mother that I (me, Ariela) needed or wanted.  She said that while this was true for all three of us in one way or another, that it was the most true for me.  My mother isn’t “real.”  She’s passive-aggressive and she can’t handle the truth.  I have never been the kind of person that can deal with that, and so as a result my mother couldn’t deal with me.

She said that she and my mother were watching a show the other day about a grandmother who raised her grandchild because her mother was too young to do it on her own when she had the child.  The child felt abandoned by her mother and kept talking about all of her feelings on the matter.  I guess the mother kept taking it personally, so the host stepped in and said, “Your daughter’s feelings have nothing to do with you.  They are her feelings based on her perceptions.  It’s not about you.”  In other words, this host was trying to get the mother to stop seeing herself in the center of the situation and to listen and take in her child’s feelings instead.

My sister emphatically agreed with this, and my mother turned to her and said, “How could she say that?  Of course it has to do with her mother.  How could her mother not matter?”

THIS. RIGHT HERE.  This is where much of the problems lie between her and her children.

———

It was so strange to hear my sister say all of these things.  I was happy to hear that she was seeing things that I saw many years ago and that these things led her to realizations that are helping her improve her own life and especially the life of her child.  These are the good things.

I was kicked out of my home for trying to protect my sister.  But the thing is, I wasn’t supposed to protect her.  I was supposed to teach her.

Still, there are so many things to be sad about.  How am I different?  Why are my parents so callous and unfeeling toward me?  Why don’t they love me?  They did not let me go because they knew I’d be okay, even if that’s the excuse they want to give.  They let me go because they didn’t want me anymore.  They brought me into this world and I became more than they could handle.  They were glad to get rid of me at the first opportunity.

I think they stopped loving me a long time ago.  And I’m not sure what I did to make them stop loving me.

Maybe it’s because I’m a mirror.  They could avoid having to deal with themselves and their issues until they looked at me, and I looked back at them.  They saw themselves in me, they saw their ugliness, and instead of turning inward and trying to figure out their own problems they blamed me for making them ugly.  Then they threw me away.

Anyway.  I’m happy for my sister.  I am sad for myself.  I don’t know what the life lesson is for me in all of this.  Why did these things happen?  What’s the point?

My brother is 24 years old.  He is an adult and should’ve been on his own years ago.  My parents are doing everything they can to make sure that he’s doing okay.

I emailed my mother after my father kicked me out.  It had been almost two weeks and my parents hadn’t tried to contact me.  I emailed her and told her how angry I was, how I didn’t understand how they could do what they did.  I asked her how she and my father could send an 18 year old out on her own, not knowing where she was, not knowing if she was okay, not knowing if she was eating or had a roof over her head.  I told her I wasn’t going to speak to her anymore.  She said, “I love you, Ariel, always.”

She wasn’t telling me she loved me.  She was saying goodbye.

She was OKAY with not knowing where I was.  She was OKAY not knowing whether I had a safe place to stay or food to eat.  She was FINE.  She is STILL fine.  And so is my father.

But they must protect their son.  Their adult, shit-ass, disrespectful son.

I’m feeling all sorts of fucked up right now.

At least all of this will lead to my niece’s life being much better than mine or my sister’s.  That’s the good part.

I’m going to go cry now.

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