And so it goes...

Last night I found out that my brother is going back to prison.

It's a difficult thing - to write about your own life and at the same time, try to respect the privacy of the people in your life. It's not my job or my place to tell their stories. But our stories are interwoven and...

I was raised with Denial. It's unhealthy. I want to smash Denial to pieces. Denial has wreaked havoc on my family. Denial lives inside of my brother and it eats him alive.

So do I write? Or do I say nothing? If I say nothing, is it Denial or is it respect for privacy?

So I land here: You cannot live with Denial. 

You cannot pretend that you're not sick. That you don't need help. That your childhood didn't happen that way. That people didn't hurt you. That you didn't hurt people. That your problems aren't too big and that you don't feel lost and out of control.

Denial will set up residence in your mind and she will poke and prod at you and then turn away and pretend like it wasn't her. She will drive you mad. She will drive you to drink. To put the needle in your arm. To lash out at everyone around you. To just say fuck it all, because what does it matter anyway?

And then Denial will tell you that there's nothing wrong. That this is normal. That no one wants to hear about your problems, anyway. Pretend everything is fine, and eventually it will be. Pretend that it wasn't that bad, and eventually you will forget.

Denial.

My heart is broken for my brother. For my entire family. For the way that we are splintered and awkward and uncomfortable and broken.

What do we do with this mess? 

We move Denial out.

We don't pretend that we're not sick. That we don't need help. We don't pretend that we aren't broken and splintered. We don't pretend that this isn't a mess. We don't pretend that we can fix each other. We don't pretend that things are fine when they are not.

It's not an easy task...to move Denial out. It hurts. But break ups are always hard. Until the day you wake up and you breathe. And you have that moment. That "oh" moment. When you realize it really is better this way. As hard as it was to let go, as long as it has taken you to get over her, life really is better without Denial.

Let her go.


2003. Denial and I have a very long history together.








Mother's Day is hard

I hate mother's day. And then I don't.

And that goes back and forth for me all week, until the day finally arrives. And I hate it. And I don't.

I'm lucky enough to have had one bad marriage that came with a mother-in-law who taught me about independence and self worth. I had a terrible relationship with my own mother, so the maternal figure that my mother-in-law became in my life was welcomed, appreciated and loved.

And then divorce. As most divorcees can tell you, you usually don't just lose the husband.  You lose everything that came with it...and everyone. I mean...it was a good thing, because the marriage was bad. But I immediately missed his family.

And then, for several years after that, I did the rollercoaster ride with my own mother. I would try with her, and it would hurt so bad. Or the anger would just consume me. The conflicted feelings. The random strangers and friends telling me that nothing mattered because my mother gave birth to me and THAT...that was a free pass for anything she threw my way.

I remember when I was a kid I gave my mother a mother's day card that I had made. It said something along the lines of "I love you more than choclate." I spelled chocolate wrong. For the rest of the day, my mom made fun of me. All day. "Chok-LATE." "Who wants "Chok-LATE." "We have to be on time or we'll be chok-LATE."

chokLATE chokLATE chokLATEchokLATEchokLATEchokLATEchokLATE

All day. Forget the physical abuse. Forget the sexual abuse. Forget the emotional trauma. Forget that my childhood wired my brain for fear which has created a never ending supply of super awesome mental health problems. Forget all of that.

Mother's Day is chocolate. Spelled wrong. And shouted in your ear all day long.

Anyway, years later, after the rollercoaster ride with my mother had made me sufficiently nauseous, my therapist posed the following question to me, "Do you like her?" And I said no. And she asked, "If you met her today, and she were not your mother, would you be friends with her?" And I said no. And she said...

"Then let go. There is no law that says you have to continue this relationship. Sometimes mothers and daughters just don't work. And it's ok. You can let go."

And so, for the most part, I let go. Because someone finally said, "it's ok."

Soon after, I met my husband. And his family.  His beautiful, kind, loving, flawed, authentic, amazing family. His mom. Oh my God...his mother. And his sister, who is a mother. And his aunt, who is a mother. His Yia Yia (grandmother, for those who don't know the Greek Grandma). They're a normal family. Sometimes they fight. Sometimes they cry. But they love fiercely. It's...

...it's really cool.

So on Mother's Day, I am conflicted. It feels weird to be a person who shouts "I am enough!" to the heavens on a regular basis, yet I have estranged myself from my mother. Am I saying that she is not enough? Brene Brown says something along the lines of  "each one of us is doing the best they can." Which - to be honest, the first time I read that I was like..."you SUCK, Brene Brown." I think I threw the book across the room.

And then I started thinking about it and thinking about intent. And the thing is, I don't think my mother is malicious. I don't think she wanted to mother me poorly. She was young. She had some big problems. I was her first kid. I like to think of it as a trial run, so that she could do better the next few times.  I think she did the best that she could. We just... we don't...fit.

So where do "I don't talk to my mother," "people are doing the best that they can," and "we are all enough" intersect?

I'm not sure. I'm old enough and have had enough therapy to know that the healthiest relationship with my mother is no relationship. And I know that that clashes with the idea of being enough and how forgiveness works for some people.

So on Mother's day, I wrestle with my brain. I try to smother memories of chokLATE. I try to remember that people do the best they can. I try to remember what's healthy for me.

And I celebrate the mothers around me who rise to the challenge of motherhood every day. Who have mothered me and blessed me with their love. Who struggle but keep going. Who love their children so fiercely and beautifully that it fills me with a sense of longing but also so much admiration and respect.

We can let go of our own mothers and still appreciate mothers. We can be sad and happy on mothers day. We can be conflicted. We can cry. We can laugh. Mother's Day is just like that for some people. And that's ok.


Shirley Maclaine screaming at the nurse for pain medication for her daughter in "Terms of Endearment" is my Mother's Day go to...weird?