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Since Child was away this year, I decided months ago that I would spend Thanksgiving with my First Mom and her friends (who are like family) in Maine.  They do this every year; last year I couldn't see my way clear to not being with my family - the adoptive family, my parents et al and Child was home last year so we were with my family (my parents and a couple of their aging but nice friends.)  Of course. No question.  Dare I say it's sort of like being married and having to choose between out-laws and in-laws.  Thankfully, that's not an issue.  (Should I ever lose my head and marry again the holidays will be a non-issue:  everyone at my/our house - leave your baggage home.)


This year, Child away, I saw myself as a 'free agent' and opted to do something completely out of character:  I went my own way.  Maine. First Mom.  New people. New tradition?  I told my folks I'd be in NYC visiting some old acting friends for the holiday...blah blah blah... Child's away, etc., etc. 

Bottomline: This was one of the most memorable weekends in my life.  Exhilerating, loving, empowering, wide open with acceptance, humor and wonderful company.  If there was dysfunction - apart from my lying to my parents to be there in the first place - it was well cloaked.  No yelling or fighting; no outrageously embarrassing drunks; no upset or egregious acts meted.  It was healthy, good, fun.

So my week is off to a stellar start riding this great spiritual, lofting high.  Filled and accepting the love from new friends and those who knew about me for 40+ years but never met until this weekend.  All was sailing along so beautifully.

Until yesterday.
Yesterday was like one giant car wreck. 

My father (and I mean my only father, my adoptive father, my Dad) called me at the office to let me know of his complete and absolute displeasure.  (He'd been oddly short and brusque with me over the phone since last Wednesday and I wondered if he knew, but he never said anything.  We both let it go.) 

Somehow - and it's no matter how - he found out.  I knew too well the anger and anxiety and perceived betrayal would be the risk - but when would we confront - and did we have to??   Would they ever know?  It was a risk. 

It could happen either in front, if I'd been up front and told them my plans before going; or, at the back end, like yesterday.  Whavever.  I knew this aspect wouldn't be pretty so I tried putting if off as long as possible (the lie).  The rest, them finding out, was part of the risk.  Poorly calculated as it was.

My father's, along with my sister's, reaction was so far over the top of a "normal"  Dad and Sister reaction that I was actually speechless.  (Doesn't happen often.)

My father segued the opening topic of yesterday's call (something about a future Family Court date) into a harsh and angry, “And WE need to talk.... I know for a fact you did not go into the city this weekend.  I know for a fact you were in Maine.  With your BIRTHmother and her FAMILY..." and he continued to spit, literally, out those words he couldn't swallow any more.  "It was a FAMILY day and you chose to ....."  I'd stopped hearing by then.  Numbness was about the only thing going on.  Another Trial of the Family Scapegoat.  Another "who's worse than whom" episode.  My fault.  Everything has always been my fault.  Pitiful, really.  And untrue.

Mostly, I listened to him for what seemed to be long time but was only a few moments.  I was stunned when he hung up.  He told me knew "for a fact" I went to Maine, that I wasn’t in NYC.  He told me I caused serious and permanent “damage” – his word – to my family and that relationship - and going to Maine was a “very, very bad decision” that will have lasting effects.  His tone had every subtext of threat and you're going to be disowned adhered.  I heard him loud and clear.

"I'm sorry you feel that way, Dad, I really am...."

"WELL I DO FEEL THAT WAY! and I'm coming over tomorrow night after I get my hair cut.  You're going to know how I feel about this!"

"Dad, I can hear how you feel about this, exactly how.  I don't need to hear any more.  You've made that quite clear.  And I'm singing tomorrow night and won't be home until very late and Child would be there.  Honestly, I don't need to hear anymore."

 - not versed in people with boundaries, he paused a bit... then,

"Why don't you spend Christmas in Maine, too?  Good. Bye."
And he hung up.
I'm free.

The frequent saying in recovery programs - bastardized here because I don't know the accurate wording - is even if you were never the one with the problem/issue/addiction, the healthier you become, the more upset and scared the other people in your circle/family become.  They're going to be left with their problems and as you move on - literally or figuratively - they don't have you to use/blame/be angry with anymore. 

I have always been the Family Scapegoat - capitalized here for the respect due me for a lifetime of eating shit served with a monogrammed silver spoon.  And, yes, I love them.  Dearly.  For all their flaws, and for all of mine, they are my family.  But, I cannot save them nor can I make them whole, or stop the drinking or mend and re-vamp the passionless marriage that is theirs.  I can't make my sister fertile, or give my father a backbone or stop him from enabling my mother's destructive alcoholism.  I can't make them understand my need to search for my biological mother / family, and I will not continue any further explaining myself.  It's pointless.

Funny how they adopted a stranger's baby into their lives to show them they weren't doing so well after all.

I'm not calling back.  I'm sorry they hurt.  Maybe someday they'll find their way to forgiving me for several things: being adopted and not like them (this makes me laugh), and for searching, finding, and exploring that part of my history.

More, it's bothersome knowing my sister (natural to my parents) and brother in law (natural to his parents) are approved-by and listed-with Catholic Charities as potential adoptive parents.  How will they handle this very issue should (when) their (adopted) child has the same needs?  For that child's sake one can only hope they don't react this way.

In the end, as always, I will be just fine.

It's already happening.

People take leave of their senses all the time. 
Telling your boss you think he's a fucking jackass is one example.
Getting married on the spur of the moment because you won someone's hand in a bet is another. 
Around here, so is driving without a seatbelt.

And so is passing on a 40+ year traditional Thanksgiving dinner with your adoptive parents and close family friend, when your own child is away (visitation stipulation), and choosing to spend the holiday with your Birth Mother, a younger half-brother and his family and their long-time friends (who are like family in every way).  In Maine.  You drive 6.5 hours and 300+ miles straight through the foggiest of nights to be there.  And you don't actually tell your parents what you're doing but casually serve up some fib / white lie that you've decided to spend the holiday with "old acting friends in the city."   You know... since your kid is away and all... (and you know your parents can take care of themselves), etc, etc, etc.

I have no idea if I managed to get away with this because something tells me my father knows I was not, in fact, "in the city." 

I wasn't:  I was in Maine.  Mt. Vernon, Maine to be exact. 

And every bit of this weekend, starting with pulling out of my driveway with less than $50 in my pocket, arriving there well after 3AM Thanksgiving morning, and coming home by 9:15PM tonight was bliss.  Pure. Deliberately consumed, luxurious, sweater and fireplace, sweet, homecoming bliss.

Maybe I will write more later, maybe I won't.  But this weekend I gave Thanks every minute of every hour and will continue my gratitude until it becomes part of my core.  My First (Birth) Mom is a remarkable - and not just because she had me; she is a gracious and thoughtful person who mothered three additional children; I am her eldest.  She is a good friend and honors her friendships with her attention and love.

She is a clear example of living for yourself and doing what your heart says it must do rather than doing something for the almighty paycheck - she jokes about having to raise herself as her mother died when she was 16 or so;  awful.  And she is creative, full of ideas and would like to see me get away from "that office job" and into something where I can and will use my talents... she believes in me.  Her support and love shows in her other children too:  they're all out in the world doing very nicely and seem quite happy with the way things, in general, have turned out.  I want to feel that way about my life, too, and I'm beginning to understand that my First Mom is doing that organically, naturally: she's nurturing in me what she can see I have.  It's something I haven't really experienced before, at this level; that is not meant as a slight to my adoptive mother in any way.

She believes in me like only my child, best friend, and - on better days - I do.  She sees what there is to use and she's guiding me, subtly, with suggestions and conversations that stir my head toward a place that uses "me" - the parts that are only used once or twice a year.  Uncanny that she sees this so clearly.

So, my last Thanksgiving Prayer would align with my appreciation and endless gratitude for all these things: mothering and being mothered; creating and being gifted with creative abilities and talents; safe travel and new experiences, the courage to do so, and lastly,  the good sense to absorb it all. 

But I ask one thing for myself, as uncomfortable as it feels to ask for anything, ever:  Please give me direction for I am without a rudder and have these wonderful sails and vast bodies of waters to discover - but I would like direction, please, a rudder and centerboard, too, to keep me headed in the right direction.

Tonight, I fall into my huge, high bed wrapped in the sweet blankets of this weekend.  Cloaked in the knitting embraces from my 'new' family members, and taller from using listening to my soul when it said:  "Go. Take Leave.  Have courage and just go.  You're a 44 year old grown woman.  You're going to do things that piss people off: so what.  They can deal with it... can YOU?  I dare you: Go.  Just be yourself and stop worrying."

I'll do it again.  Watch me.

We'd been talking, arguing really, for a couple hours, and he drags out the fact I had a picture on the 'Net well before we met (which is true.) Really, I'd completely forgotten I placed it there; on a site for redheads only - a community of redheads, not particularly a dating site. I'm a redhead; I thought it was cool.

He says, "How do I say this? You just looked better then... more lively, more youthful, you're carrying less weight then. I want you that way."

The picture was taken less than one year before I left my marriage. That picture was October 2nd, 2001; I left the following June. The picture shows me dressed, stressed, drawn, trying hard to look relaxed, and steady; I was a young mother, my child 3 1/2. Thinner. Carrying more "weight" in my soul than ever in my entire life. The reality was that I was dying private deaths every day (but no one knew.)

How do I reply? What do I say? That I had SO much weight then? That I was saddled with demons of betrayal and dishonesty? That I was carting around the responsibility of departure as I'd already "left" the marriage mentally and spiritually? That I was being tortured by two people then: him and me? One from the exterior, the other exacting scarring internal damage.

How the hell was I supposed to answer his comments? He didn't know me then.

# # #

At what point do people stop understanding one another, and start making it about themself? "Why don't you look that way for me?" or "I wish I knew you then..."

... though the thoughts might have been there, the words I'd never speak. Why hurt someone you didn't even know before you met? Why think you deserve a person at a different time in their life than when they're with you? Why wish for a part of a person that has passed... and is better off past?

Can we be so perfect in the tense in which we're relating, say, right now, that we ask for parts of our partner we never knew but recognize as "better then", now?

I'd rather have a version of myself that did not include that particular picture, that brief time of my life, that former spouse. However, if ingredients combined create the whole; that picture is the thermometer indicating I was "done" and ready to be left to cool for a while, out of the heat, and away from the camera.

Letting go the dog

This is the tree, next to which I buried an old, dead dog.

It's in central Missouri, not far from where I attended college. I have laid my hand on her to appreciate her age and strength. It is a Burr Oak and possibly the oldest tree in Missouri.

About the dog...

It arrived sometime in my childhood; I don't recall exactly when. I hadn't asked for it to appear. It just did. It hung around for a while before I actually adopted it. No one else in my family had any interest whatsoever. They were busy with other things: co-dependency, and alcoholism, people-pleasing, hiding. They were building and painting, then maintaining all the scenery and costumes that were our family life. We had scripts. Roles.

Over the years, I came to love and believe in the dog; and although it never required much attention it took a lot of work, even for an adult, to keep it alive.

While I was leading it around it died. It's not like I wasn't paying attention - it didn't cause a fuss or fury, it simply passed away. Never noticing this, I kept the leash firm in my grasp and continued to bring it with me everywhere. I simply never noticed it died.

That dead dog went to parties, weddings, to work, family functions, job interviews, christenings, funerals, holiday gatherings, travels near and far. That dog was hauled through my divorce and into my subsequent (on-going) rebirth and healing. Wherever I went, the dog was dragged along. Nobody ever commented, and I'd long since taken for granted I was schlepping this dog around; it was something I just did. It was normal.

Eventually, it began to get in the way.

It became the focus of my thoughts. It was the center of conversations with friends who'd always known about my dog, but loved me too much to bring it up. Keeping one hand on the leash prevented me from fully engaging in anything: couldn't hold my child, or lover, with both arms. Was able to only juggle simple things. Barely. Worst of all, I realized how heavy and awkward it was to drag around. I began to grieve, and feared my next move.

The thought of simply dropping the leash and walking away never struck me until last month. That's when the stench became so intrusive and overwhelming. It was indeniable and impossible to ignore.

Last month, after discovering the dog decomposing at the end of the leash, I realized I had to let it go. For good.

Bye-bye, puppy. Thanks for the company. I'm sorry I wasn't able to keep you alive. That would have taken my whole family, but they were busy.

Sleep well.

Quotes I should read every day

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong. ~ Joseph Clinton Pearce

It's not hard work that wears you out but the repression of your true personality. ~[author unknown]

Work your Grief up into Art and it is gone.~[author unknown]

He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words. ~Elbert Hubbard

One of the most frightening moments for anyone about to embark on a creative endeavor is that moment of solitude when you have to begin. Get used to solitude now, and build your tolerance.

Wonder Mommy and her biggest foe

We read - OK, *I* read, she listened intently, 2 1/2 chapters of "Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great" before she leaned into sleep. It wasn't bad for a night before....

She'll have a ____ time. It's so unpredictable. My wish is that she has an AMAZING!!! time and can't stop talking about it until vacation visit part II. If I'm ok with it, she'll be ok with it. Right?

The possibilities of all the time I could waste in the next 17 days are overwhelming (other than the time spent at the Bread & Butter Factory). The thought of another alone time gone sour looms large. Bitchy, mean ghosts of Failure to Art/enjoy/spoil myself/relax/have taken up residence in my head. I'd like to begin eviction prodeedings, please.... How did I come to believe such miserable and negative thoughts?

The multi-media art magazine I bought last night has nifty ideas, and a slightly annoying cattle-prod effect on my ego...

"Oh, geeeeez! I can do that, forcryingoutloud! C'MON, already! Moooove aside, you 'artist' [spit]. Let me show you how to do that...OUTTA my way, please!"

And I can.

But I haven't.
And I know it.
And it's guilt and doubt, and excuses I've come to believe are real and scary. I sure as hell didn't teach myself these things!! These thoughts are not ME! I know that. They feel wrong and uhealthy - yet I was fed them like mouldy grain to a hog so they are familiar. (Doesn't make 'em right, however.)

Re-learn. Re-learn. Re-learn. Every-blessed-thing.

Now that Wonder Mommy will be on Summer Break: Part I, I will take my dear friend's advice and just stand there, in the middle of the studio, and do nothing.

"Just stand, move stuff around if you feel like it but don't go in there with this 'MUST' to make something."

After the play's done on Saturday night, and after the cast party and my plan to have FUN. (Aaah, fun. Yes. Need some fun.) After the pre-show party across the street where I see myself mingling... and after church on Sunday (maybe), I will put myself into the studio.

And just stand there.

Until I start missing my child.
The key, I think, is to sooth the missing feeling with art making. It worked when my former partner had cancer; I was in the old studio every night after her baby bedtime until, sometimes, 3 AM. Often, later if I was in a groove.

I miss the groove, almost as much as I miss my child when she's away.