adversity · aging · disability · dreams · health · life · poetry · recovery

Evolution

Evolution takes effort –
requires a heart unburdened
by unrequited daydreams
holding me in limbo, emphasizing
past heartaches, yearning
for unconditional love.

I pedal backwards, am
overwhelmed by where
the past has led me –
exaggerated reproductions,
laughing at my proposals,
spurning attempts at reparation –
I am out of touch, stale dated.

I long to make a difference,
find value in youth – declarations
of worthiness are jeopardized
by this state of immobility –
I hang on tighter, resist
progress, believe hope
is in the past – obligations
wrench me back to present –
evolution a preferable destination.

dreams · recovery

Out of Step

Perpetually looking inward,
pondering commitment,
considering risks, projecting
humiliation, shame; daring

to dream of a second chance,
room to grow, opportunities
to demonstrate value – well
guarded, precarious being.

I am floundering in a fishbowl,
crowded by co-conspirators
operating out of step, trying
to acclimatize, compulsively

examining decisions, under-
whelmed by undeniable
growth, compensating with
dark, emotional outpourings.

Need to prove self-worth is
unappealing, disregards
viable efforts, disallows
definitions of acceptance.

This inwards, backwards
outlook critiques harshly,
harbours shame, sees
fault in successes, I am

stuck in the past, static,
abandoned, anxiously
forgetting, hindered by
confinement, jumping

to conclusions; I need
objectivity, to redirect
stored misgivings and
eyes outward, perceive

kindness, communicate
misunderstandings, shake
off disbelief, consider merit
as reflected by old friends.

Uncategorized

Day 164 “Standing on Tiptoes”

Julie Ann was born with one notable gift and one equally notable (to her, at least) flaw:  she could sing like an angel and she had a wandering eye.  Unable to care for her too numerous children, Julie Ann’s mother sent her to live with her parents.  Other siblings were farmed out to other relatives, until Julie Ann’s mother could get her life back on track.  Singing was the one thing that brought Julie Ann, and those around her, joy.  She joined the church choir, and the school choir, and entered little talent contests here and there, and everyone said the same thing:  “This girl is destined for fame.”

But Julie Ann didn’t think so.  Every time she looked in the mirror, all she could see was her hideous lazy eye.  Her grandparents had taken her to the doctor and they did give her corrective glasses, which she wore for awhile, but threw away when the children at school teased her so much, she couldn’t stand it anymore.  Instead, she decided to grow her hair long and wear it draped over that eye, so no one could see it.

Julie Ann grew tall, and despite her odd eye, stunningly beautiful.  Her long black hair fell in natural waves over her slender body, and she soon discovered that men found her quite attractive.  A pair of high-heeled stilettos worn with a short, tight skirt, made her legs appear to go on forever and effectively detracted from what was hidden behind the curtain of hair across her face.  At sixteen, men were falling over themselves to buy her drinks at the bars she attended, underage.

Julie Ann couldn’t get enough of the attention she was receiving.  She didn’t care how many women glared at her, or confronted her about luring their men, she felt powerful and no one was going to stop her.  Soon, she started flirting her way onto the stage, and here she really began to shine.  When Julie Ann opened her mouth to sing, rooms went quiet.  There was magic in her voice and an undeniable talent that would propel her upward.  At seventeen, she was the headliner performing in night clubs, and a couple of years later she was offered a recording contract.

She was on her way to stardom.

The little girl, whose mama had cast aside, was becoming a sensation.

Along the way, she had surgery to repair her eye.  Then she noticed that her breasts were a little small, and she had surgery to increase those.  Money was never an issue, because there was always some man eager to take up her cause.  A little enhancement to her buttocks increased her shapeliness, and then she discovered botox.  It seemed the ways in which she could improve her image were endless.

And all the while, she wore her trademark stilettos:  to the grocery store, the night clubs, even the gym.  No one would see her without them.  She traveled through life on tiptoes.  She aspired to be a super model.

Julie Ann’s obsession with her looks and sexual prowess soon overpowered her ability to sing.  In her own mind, it was her physical appearance, and not her singing ability that helped her gain fame.  She grew impatient when people asked her to sing.  She disregarded her agent’s advice that  she needed to focus on her singing more, and refused to do benefit concerts or charity events.  She lost her footing on the hit parade.  Other, younger, stars were willing to work hard to keep climbing.  They soon surpassed her.

Julie Ann didn’t seem to notice.

It wasn’t long before she was only singing for family again, and even then, she had to be goaded over and over before she would relent.  The pleasure was gone, and those who knew her well were saddened by what she had become.

Julie Ann showed up at my door one night, in the middle of a storm.  I didn’t recognize her at first.  The woman who stood outside, in the darkness, was shorter than me, with straight black hair that hung down to her waist.  She was wearing a simple housecoat and flats.  Her face was not made up and quite frankly, she looked like a lost little child.

“I’m sorry,”  I stumbled to recuperate.  “I didn’t recognize you.”

“I know,”  she said flatly.  “This is the real me.  Pathetic, isn’t it?”

“Not at all,”  I reassured her.  Not at all.

“How do you do it?”  she asked, getting right down to business.  “You don’t wear a lot of makeup, you could care less about your hair, and you never wear heels, but people still look up to you.”

I had to stifle a laugh.

“I guess that’s what makes us different,”  I offered.

“I want to be more like you.”

“Julie Ann, you are a very beautiful and talented woman.  I will never be either of those things.  I poured my energy into education, reading, and helping others.  Stardom was never in my cards.”

She plopped down on the bed and started to cry.

“People admire you.  People are jealous of me, or hate me for being better than them, but no one admires me.  No one wants to be like me.”

“I’m sure that’s not true”  Actually, secretly, I suspected she was right.  There is nothing warm and appealing about a self-centered woman.

“How much money do you spend a month on makeup and clothes?” she asked scanning my hotel room for answers.

“I don’t know.  How much do you spend?”

“I spend four hundred on makeup alone.”

“Holy Cow, Julie Ann.  I wouldn’t spend that in a year!”

“Don’t you care?”

“It’s just not my priority.”

“No one sees me like this, you know.”

“Why is that, Julie Ann?  What are you afraid of?”

“Everyone expects me to be glamourous.  They only know me this way.”

“How much time do you spend each day getting ready?”

“Three hours.  It takes three hours to do my hair and makeup.  Sometimes, I do it twice a day.”

“What would you do with your time, if you didn’t have that routine?  Three hours is a lot.”  I rattled off all the things I did with three hours being a mother of three.  Julie Ann had a young son; I couldn’t help but wonder what he did during her coiffing.

“Easy for you to say,” she stormed.  “Your career doesn’t depend on it.”

I don’t know what Julie Ann expected to gain from me that evening, but it seemed to me that we got nowhere.  I gleaned an insight into her bizarre daily rituals, and she seemed to convince herself that she was more important than me, and therefore, justified in her life choices.

When she left, she swore me to secrecy about what she really looked like.  “I don’t want anyone to know I’m this short.”

Julie Ann is an enigma to me.  She is gifted with the most incredible voice, and the physical beauty to match it.  As an outsider, I would say she had it all.  Until that night that she graced my doorstep, I would have thought that Julie Ann was above me; superior in so many ways.  Our moment of intimacy shattered that illusion.  Maybe Julie Ann just needed the opportunity to rediscover herself.   Maybe she saw in me the inspiration to be different.  Maybe she was considering what life would be like if she wasn’t always standing on tiptoes.

Whatever her reasoning, Julie Ann did not leave empty handed that night.  At some point during our brief exchange, she had managed to “pocket” something of mine.  I wouldn’t discover the loss until later that next morning, as I went to leave.

Julie Ann had taken my shoes.  My practical, sensible, comfortable flat-soled, shoes.

 

aging · Family · life · Love · memoir · mental-health

Birthday Weeds

“Can I have a bike for my birthday this year?”  A typical, impatient eight-year-old, I must have asked my parents this question a million times.  I was excited for my upcoming birthday, and really wanted a bike with a big banana seat, and raised handle-bars.

“You’ll have to wait and see,”  was the constant reply, but my birthday falls in the middle of the summer, and so many perfect bike-riding days were passing me by.

As my big day approached, my father teased me that I was getting bubblegum for my birthday.   I was confident he was kidding and that I would soon be soaring through the streets on my new, longed for wheels.

Birthday morning came, and no present.  “You have to wait till your party,” Mom informed me.  The hours just didn’t pass fast enough.   My friends arrived in the afternoon, and we swam for awhile before my father barbequed burgers and hot dogs, and then it was time for gifts.  After opening all the gifts from my friends, the moment I had anticipated finally arrived.

“There is one more gift,”  my father announced, disappearing into the garage.

And there it was!  A shiny, new, all-mine, bicycle.  “Here’s your bubblegum,”  Dad beamed.  I beamed back.  It was exactly what I wanted.

“Thanks so much!”  I gushed, and was about to say more when I noticed my mother following with something else.  Another new bike……for my little sister.

What?  It wasn’t her birthday until November.  “Me too, me too,”  she started to squeal.

I didn’t say anything.  I didn’t know what to say.  I got what I wanted, so why was this bothering me so?

It was a question that would fester inside me for a long time.  That year would mark the end of birthday excitement for me.  It was the start of a legacy of disappointment that I never addressed, and therefore; allowed to grow out of control.

For my ninth birthday, I got a new bike, but I also gained the realization that life is not always fair.  I knew without asking why my sister got a present on my birthday – it was so she wouldn’t throw a temper tantrum – but I also knew with certainty that I wouldn’t get a present on her birthday, and somehow that didn’t seem right.  I wasn’t given to temper tantrums, but did that mean that I also had to forgo being special for one day?

In the years that followed, my birthdays were celebrated on family vacations, usually in public places with just a cake to mark the occasion.  I told myself it didn’t matter.

I lied.

Truth is, I allowed that initial seed of disappointment to ferment inside me.  I didn’t confront the issue because I thought I was being oversensitive.  I didn’t want to hurt my parents feelings, and I certainly didn’t want them to think I was ungrateful.  But the more I pushed the hurt down, the bigger it grew.  In my own mind, I compounded the issue.  My parents didn’t love me as much as they did the other children;  there was something wrong with me.   Every time I felt left out or overlooked, my feelings were just confirmed.  I came to dread my birthday month.  By the time I reached adulthood, this dread was accompanied by depression.

The issue exploded on my 40th birthday.  My mother, in her usual way, had been calling me leading up to my birthday, making comments such as:  “You have everything you need, I don’t suppose there is anything I could get you anyway,”  or “Don’t know if I’ll get you anything for your birthday this year,” and so on.  When she showed up with a frozen turkey, I lost it.

“Mom!  Why do you have such a problem with my birthday!  If you don’t want to celebrate it, then don’t, but don’t taunt me with it!”

“Of course, I want to celebrate your birthday.”  She was taken aback.

“You never have!  You always make it sound like it’s such a hardship.  I’d rather you didn’t acknowledge it at all!”

“What do you mean?  I’m here with a gift aren’t I?”

“Yes, Mom, but all week longed you’d hinted that there might not be a gift, as if you really don’t want to give me anything.”

“Well, it’s just that you have everything.”

“It’s not about the gift, Mom.  It’s about the acknowledgment.”

The conversation didn’t go well.  My mother left feeling hurt, and I felt I had made a worse mess of things.  I would like to say that things have improved, but they haven’t.  For the second year in a row, my mother has completely forgotten my birthday.  I asked for it, I guess.

When you allow things to fester, they grow roots, and like untended weeds, can get out of control.

I am fifty-four years old, and I still don’t know how to uproot the weed associated with my mother and my birthday.