When I was a little girl I was very passionate about two things; horses and dolls. I dreamed of riding the neighbor’s pony, Brownie, all by myself through the thicket that lead to the path that would lead to a magical place deep in the woods, called Charles Island (or Childs Island). In that dream I would take my favorite doll out of my runaway bag, and find the perfect rock to perch on where I could watch Brownie foraging the landscape, which was new and exciting territory for a pony kept in a triangular stall, who had grown quite grumpy with age.
It was there that I held my dearest, and most tenderly swaddled doll, rocking her back and forth, telling her all of my secrets. Mine were not the secrets of a five year old child, but I was lost somewhere in that five year old child, and talking to my doll connected me to a vision that would quell my sadness and give me a reason to hope.
One day, you will understand, I would tell her.
My daughter was with me while I was yet a child. I have always known that she would come, never doubting. Even when it was down to the wire, I knew she would make her way to me from “God’s pocket” or wherever her soul dwelled before my womb.
Though she came to be at a tumultuous time in my life, having stirred up a well of deep fear around bringing a daughter into this world, her presence gave me a sense of purpose and a sublime peace, even in the face of my Anxiety. I was given signs of comfort and encouragement along the way.
Naturally worried about giving birth at the cut-off age of 36, and being told of all the potential complications, I learned at my first Obgyn visit that the baby’s due date was my father’s birthday. I lost my father when I was two. I never had another worry after hearing that.
We had decided on the names Sophia and Bella, knowing we would have a girl. I was working at a department store at the time and my coworkers convinced me that this trick with a necklace held over my belly would definitively determine the sex of my baby, so curiously, I obliged. Much to my surprise, the necklaces back and forth movement, as opposed to circling, was indication that I was actually having a BOY! A BOY? How could I have a boy named Sophia? So I began frantically coming up with a back up boy name, which was awful because with the due date being my Dad’s birthday, and me feeling very strongly Italian, the only choice I had was Alfred. Or Fred. Or Freddie. It all felt so very wrong. I knew I would love little Freddie, (ew, sorry Dad) but where was this little girl I’d been talking to and longing for all my life? Did she change her mind? I wouldn’t blame her. I set my mind to having a boy. I felt guilty for being disappointed. It was a challenging week that coincided with my being served a fried egg that was still jiggly and raw in the white part, which was the most horrific sight that had me so ill, I thought I might succumb. The “e” word was not spoken of from that day on.
That afternoon I came home from work and could not wait to get out of my skirt that was binding at my expanding waistline. I had borrowed some larger clothes from a friend who had managed to survive a fashionable pregnancy. Now this is gonna sound nuts, but it is the absolute truth. When I took the skirt off, I looked at the label, and it said SOPHIEBELLA! I cried tears of joy while I danced around the kitchen in my stockings. That night we decided to name our daughter with both names put together. Sophiabella. Ahhhh. That was her! My next Dr appointment had my due date changed to Oct 30th, about a week earlier than we originally thought. Fine by me, I thought. I knew that all would be well.
I talked to my baby all the time, much like when I was a little girl. I would sing and read to her. But one day, while sitting at the library downtown, those secrets rose up in me like bile and I began to panic. I visualized myself sitting on that rock, holding my doll, watching the pony, and told my child the most important thing for her to remember, which was this:
I may get sad sometimes, and you might not understand why, but always know that I am a fighter and everything will be fine. I will ALWAYS protect you. ALWAYS.
I remember exactly where I was sitting and the memory is so clear. I put those ugly secrets back in the box and prayed daily that I would be the mother my child needed me to be, and for her life to be so much different than mine. Safe, secure, nurtured, protected, loved, happy… Unencumbered.
The night before she was born I had a dream/vision of a pair of huge glowing hands showing me the most beautiful little baby I have ever seen, in an otherworldly bright, warm and loving light.
Because God is silly, The Flintstones were playing on the TV while I was in hard labor with my epidural wearing off. It just so happened to be the episode where Wilma’s mother is coming to stay because Pebbles was about to be born. Wilma and I gave birth at 3:20am on October 18th, 2002. When I was handed my huge yet tiny 10 lb baby for the first time, my jaw dropped in awe. I recognized her right away. Then she stood firm on those strong new legs and looked me square in the eye, and I knew that this was definitely not her first time at the rodeo.
I am reflective today, looking back over our sixteen years together. There is an old Jewish fable about the angel, Layla, who tells you all the secrets of the world and your ancestors, while you are in the womb. When you are born, she puts her finger above your lip, just below your nose, and whispers softly, “Ssssshhhhhh”. She locks this knowledge away and leaves behind an imprint.
I wonder if I could have just locked my secrets away, so that they would not have made such a painful imprint on my child. Despite my most heartfelt intentions and love so immense that it defies logic and explanation, it seems the very thing I swore I would protect her from turns out to be me. She is so angry that I suffer with mental health issues. She is merciless in displaying her rage that she has had to see me broken and weak. I know that this rage is really fear. And I am unable to parent her, despite climbing every mountain and looking under every rock for help. I tried and failed at setting boundaries with a father who has consistently released her from ever having consequences, who in fact reinforces negative, entitled, disrespectful behavior by giving her anything she wants. Every effort to give her the tools she needs to be a happy, successful contributing human in this world is wasted and has left me feeling defeated. If I’m really honest, I will say I feel re-victimized and that makes me fire-breathing mad.
My entire life has been a fight to release myself from oppression. While I have now made my pony dream a reality, my sweetest doll, my own baby dear seems to exist in a separate reality to which there seems to be no door.
I have never not called my mother at midnight on New Years Eve to wish her a Happy New Year. It’s our ritual. To my recollection my teen daughter has never not sent a message or a snap chat since she has been spending this time away from me.
These days it’s nothing but time away. I have way too much time to allow her insistence that this has never felt like her home to settle into my heart and carve yet another reminder of my many shortcomings as her mother.
As full of chaos and abuse our previous home was, it was her home. Though the roof was literally caving in, and I was held prisoner there, believing the lie that I would have nothing but the door hitting me in the ass if I left, it was where she had been raised by two parents who loved her very much, but only in the way they knew best. It was chaos, abuse, loud yelling, name-calling, undermining, criticising, cheating, lying, bullying, and control by fear which lead to a complete mental breakdown for me.
I remained a prisoner there for six years after the separation. I had no steady income, just the same part time job I’d had since giving birth and devoting most of my time to being a hands on mother. I was convinced by my ex that he did not have the money to pay for me to live on my own with, and that he would lose the house. I was always being worn down by some excuse as to why I could not leave, until finally I resigned myself to the fact. I was soon consoled by a new relationship full of promise, with someone I had known since high school, who my daughter already knew and loved.
It took him six years to be in a position to buy another home after his divorce. Prior to that I had put myself out on a limb and began looking at small apartments where just my daughter and I could live. I had no idea how I could pass the credit check, let alone pay for the application, but it was empowering, and it gave Bella hope for stability and a fresh new beginning for us both.
The home we were so desperate to leave was my very first home. It was over a hundred years old and needed many upgrades and some work, but the potential was great. My parents and I set to tearing down ugly wood paneling and painting all the walls, removing ugly wallpaper from the kitchen and eventually tearing up nasty carpeting, replacing some, and buffing the beautiful hardwood floors downstairs. It was me and my family that put any money into that home. For years it was a lovely home given a personal touch of style that is uniquely my own. As the years passed and the baby came, the house began to reflect the decay in my marriage, and so many broken things went untended to that I simply gave up. I was also repeatedly told that it was not my house, because I didn’t pay for it, so I started to make mine and Bella’s room our sanctuary. It was about survival, about pretending things weren’t really all that bad. Maybe that is what helped my child to adapt to such an unhealthy environment.
When the time came to start looking for a new home with my boyfriend, I was so full of joy. Even Bella was excited to think of a nice new home and a fresh start. She was with us when we visited the last house, which became our home with her absolute approval. I could not believe that not only was I finally divorced, but I would be moving into a beautiful new home with the love of my life.
I assumed we would be married soon and I would have the life I’d always dreamed of. I have neither of those things. The fresh start I’d longed for with my child only became a hellish nightmare as she was resentful at having to share me, and her mental health was exacerbated by trauma at school which instigated a downhill slide I have yet to recover from and am still seeking her help for. That window grows smaller every day.
I have my own very dysfunctional family, a sister who is off the rails Bipolar or Borderline, who can be so evil that she goes out of her way to hurt both my daughter and I, with empty threats, foul slander, and attempts at physical abuse, going so far as to threaten to throw my child through a glass door, prompting my therapist to have CPS investigate.
This relationship between my boyfriend and I has been my saving grace. (although using the term”boyfriend” is profoundly unnerving after 8 years together) Each year I fantasize about the proposal and imagine us dancing in our beautiful back yard, surrounded by all our friends, with the moonlight making everything glow. The Harvest Moon. We’ve been in this house for two years now. For Christmas his mother gave us monogrammed napkins. They are lovely, but I am not a Fulcher.
I am just his Betsy.
I still feel like a wanderer, not tethered to anywhere or anyone. I wrecked my car the other day, about a mile from home. I had been very tired, emotionally and physically after a long but invigorating horse ride, and I had to keep myself from dozing off all the way home. I don’t know what happened, but I awoke to the sound of my car crashing into another then being struck from behind. I felt my neck move forward and then back as if in slow motion, then I remember accidentally hitting the gas pedal instead of the brake. I was out of it. A man came to check on me and said his car was fine, barely a scratch, nothing he’d want to file a report on. He asked if I wanted to get checked out, but said I seemed fine. I asked him about calling the police to get a report for my insurance company but that is when he disappeared. I just drove myself home in a daze with my front bumper and passenger headlight dangling.
I feel trapped in such a state of depression and hopelesness ever since. Prior to this I’d had my PTSD AND Depression under control and had even been socializing and enjoying friends over the holiday. It has been two days since this happened and I have not wanted to talk to anyone and I hide under my covers crying, and feeling very lost. Somethimg happened to me that has me feeling totaled, like my car that I cannot afford to replace.
You know what this is? Get ready- beginning with the obvious, it’s a dandelion. Just a weed…or is it? There are as many metaphors for weeds as there are ways to answer the question I posed. For instance, one might say this is a picture. Correct. One might say it is a picture of a house with bushes in desperate need of tending to. Also correct. It’s a girl on a porch, a poor composition with ambient lighting, fall leaves, blah blah blah. There is a special meaning in the significance of my noticing this one lone dandelion. To me, it’s as if the heavens opened up and every glorious sight ever to behold was contained within it. I thought to myself, what if I were to see everyone and everything that way, full of beauty and endless potential, in spite of what they appear to be? Human nature and ego try to shut the idea down before it gets a chance to take root, reminding me of the impracticality and sheer absurdity of looking at a strangling, tangley weed and seeing an exquisite rare flower, but I soon realize, THAT is the most worthy of notions I could ever conceive of mastering in my lifetime. I am sick and tired of the propensity of failure, according to some bunk standards that are irrelevant, to induce a numbing inertia that blacks out hope. I am a triumphant and resilient weed as well as a rare and brilliant orchid. We all are. (with as many variables by which to perceive ourselves as there are explanations to my question, metaphors for weeds, and numbers of stars in the sky. No wonder I used to love making “soup” in a big bucket full of weeds as a child, and calling it fun.)
Happy Horn o’ plenty to ya. Thanksgiving they call it, alleged to be a day of gratitude for life’s abundance. Family comes together and blessings are spoken over tables filled with food that will have you over-stuffed or near comatose within the hour.
Wanna know how I feel about this day? I HATE IT. I hate the obligation to cook, the lack of any involvement from my snarky, selfish, and oppositional child, the guilt trip over not inviting her father, the pressure to bake. I could go on.
Currently my rageful teen, who just threw a bunch of newspapers at me before telling me to “f” off, is upset because I don’t have money to give her to buy gifts for her friends, and somehow it is my fault that she lost her job. (As you can well imagine, EVERYTHING is my fault!) She is mouthing off to my 87 yr old mother who is trying to gently calm her by sweetly reminding her how very much she is loved, in spite of her behavior.
The kid proclaims ” I HATE HOLIDAYS” ! and storms off while I continue to baste, whisk, mix, re-heat, and cook. I got to thinking and realized that I was the one responsible for setting the tone of this day.
It began with a trigger that happened on Monday and snowballed into Wednesday evening, culminating in an almost child-like meltdown complete with running to my room, shouting and crying about how “over it” (parenting a child who triggers me the same way her Dad does) I am, and dramatically throwing myself on the bed, pounding my fists in complete frustration. It was my first Anxiety attack in a month or so, and it blew in like a summer storm.
Fortunately my boyfriend (a term I hate using for my partner of eight yrs; my soulmate, my lover, my best-friend, my handler etc. ) is at the ready, and follows me to lay beside me and in his sweet, soothing voice, whisper reassuring and comforting words of love, while rubbing my back and shoulders. I was a snotty mess, so he left to bring me a tissue. I wiped my nose, put my head back in the pillows and my devoted cat took her place on me, like I am her egg to hatch. I love them both so much for this.
I wake up a bit dazed, not knowing what day or time it is, as if I’d been Rip Van Winkle-ing for days. I had drifted off to a much needed recovery nap as if tended to by angels (and unicorns!) and woke up feeling a renewed sense of patience and determination.
Then it was over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house I went, successfully compartmentalizing my anger with my ex, who had stoked the fires with his suggestion that “Maybe I could get a holiday job”. A sore subject as, A) after giving birth and embarking upon full time motherhood as we had agreed, I was constantly bombarded with the suggestion that I get off my ass and contribute, and B) I was doing the same thing then as now, working as a freelance Makeup Artist, a known feast or famine pursuit, but one that enables me to take care of my child’s needs as well as my own mental health. So…
In giving my teen wolf some space and keeping it together, I was rewarded with a hand-written note from her, declaring that she was sorry and she did not want to fight, but enjoy a happy day as a family, which we did. Glad we pulled it off. Glad that day was last week.
(I’m hoping the duck lips and bird flips will mortify her as an adult.)
When the bed covers feel like lead covers
and the solace of sleep soothes enough
to quiet the relentless courtship of fear (and death)
and unquenchable sorrow
until the cycle starts again
This is my “in-between”
And it is a lonely place
Though my isolation is self-imposed
A rose doesn’t need other roses to grow, but it can’t survive without the nourishment of water and light.
It was a cold day that had started out sunny. I knew there was a 100% chance of rain later, but nothing could take away my joyful anticipation. A group of riders were meeting at the farm to grab our horses, get tacked up by 10am, and have an off-site excursion to a friend’s place, Timberline Ranch, several miles away.
She and her husband had just finished clearing trails in their woods, and we were all happy to christen them, especially since it was hunting season and our usual acreage was off limits.
Riding my favorite horse along the quiet country road, seeing all the farms and fields, had me feeling a sense of nostalgia that was tied to a childhood dream. The entire ride became a prayer of gratitude for experiencing these moments and the joyful contentment I felt.
We were greeted at our destination by a cozy fire and hot coffee. We all dismounted and took a break before hitting the trails, then settling in for lunch. I got some coffee and went to sit by the fire, putting my boots up, and taking in the sights and sounds; cattle mooing next door, the crackling fire, horses and people talking. I was transported back to a golden memory of a day, so simple yet profound.
My daughter was 2 months old and I was getting ready for my first job since giving birth, my first day away from her after eight long and painful weeks of trying to get her to latch on. Despite the overwhelming challenge, I was committed to successful nursing. I have never endured more physical and emotional pain in such a short, yet endless-seeming concentration of time. By the time I took this job, however, we had triumphed and I was well into the breastfeeding zone, mastering pumping and storage in preparation for this day. I felt like I deserved some kind of pioneer-woman, mothering, hardship medal!
It was on this grey, rainy November morning that I got that reward. We were cozily nestled in the glider for her morning feeding. The house was still but for the sound of rain as I watched it fall. It was like a symphony to my ears along the with the precious, sated coos of my baby, finally being nourished by the body that had carried the hope of her arrival since I was a child nurturing my first doll. Her tiny little hands were opening and closing on my chest like a kitten making dough, occasionally resting to play with a button on my blouse. High on a mother’s love and the rush of Oxytocin as my milk let down, I felt a sense of bliss as time stopped and the only existence was the two of us, in this moment. It felt like heaven and I never wanted it to end.
I’m reminded of another day when Bella was about seven and we had gone for a long walk. We stopped to rest on the sidewalk a bit and she climbed in my lap, gave me a big kiss, and said, “Mommy, this is the BEST DAY ever!” I was able to capture that treasured moment with my phone.
As I sat by the fire drinking my coffee with my feet up, looking around at this group of people whose friendship I treasure, I felt a wave of that same bliss wash over me. Mentally, I fell to my knees in gratitude, holding back tears of joy, tears that are now freely flowing as I write. I wanted to remain frozen in this moment, in this entire day. What makes these memories/feelings so sublime is the way that God is able to turn off my body’s score card that 98% of the time has me “waiting for the other shoe to drop” so to speak. That’s the voice of fear that comes from the child who is trapped behind the door at the bottom of the well, for in her experience there is no ability to see beyond what she has known; the inevitability of lasting peace.
This day in all of it’s simplicity was a turning point within me, for I invited that sad little girl who was peeking out from behind my horse, gazing longingly at me, wanting so much to come out of that shadow, to come and join me. All she had ever wanted in life was now before her and I am finally able to make her know that she is safe. Now that once broken child in me will live forever in this moment of bliss and if there is any shoe dropping, it will be because I am kicking them off after another full day of living in gratitude that I am able to experience riches that no amount of money can buy.
Truly, greater is the reward of contentment when repetitive discord has one falsely believe that they are not entitled to it. It’s been a long, hard road, but I am finally there.