Family Ties

It started back in January. While I’m not one to dwell on trolls, mean comments, or other such internet tomfoolery, because really, why waste the energy I could spend photoshopping my fake dead cat Mr. Sprinkles into inappropriate pictures?

But this comment came from an IP address in the area local enough that a family member could had written it. It said, in a comment dripping with patronizing condescension (forgive me for paraphrasing), “You’re an addict hiding in plain sight.”

I’ve been accused of many things on my blog (my favorite being “you’re not funny,” because I’ve only ever claimed to be funny LOOKING), but to be called an addict, after being accused of being a drug-seeker by the clinic doctor, that was, well, disheartening. Why?

There’s not a day that goes by that I do not worry I will become an addict. We adult children of alcoholics; we are four times as likely to become addicts, and well, both of my parents are recovering alcoholics, which I’d imagine would increase my own likelihood infinitesimally. I’ve written about it ad nauseum because it’s part of who I am. I’m not shy about hiding my past because I know we’re only as sick as our secrets and I do not wish to live my life shrouded in secrecy, pretending my past was a Norman Rockwell painting.

I cannot be the Secret Keeper. It is not in my nature and it is not something I intend to start doing now. Which is, in part, why I am putting back up the only post I’ve ever removed.

I do not know who made such a patronizing, disdainful comment way back in January (although I have my suspicions) but it was that comment that caused me to pull back inward, sharing with you, My Pranksters; my family, only things that could no longer hurt me. Certainly you could call me an assjacket when I put up a picture of my fake dead cat or ramble on about Mark Zuckerberg and his stupid hair, but none, not a single one would hurt. Not really.

But I played it safe for months, living a [redacted] life, only sharing the things that I thought would keep me safe. And I was right, they did. They also made me miserable.

There’s nothing I love more than coming here, spilling my guts to you, my family, and having a single person pipe in and say, “you know what? I feel that way too.” That’s why I do what I do. There’s little more powerful than knowing someone out there feels just like you do. That I am no longer alone in the universe.

And I’m sorry that a single thoughtless comment led to a mostly [redacted] life. Whomever left the comment doesn’t “know me, the real me;” YOU do. My Pranksters. My family.

You deserve better and so do I. It’s time to speak our truth. In the end, that’s all we have.

Back To Black

I didn’t know Amy Winehouse.

I never called her on the phone and said, “What’s up SLUT?” like I do my best friends. I’d never been to see her play in concert and I never said the one thing I always wanted to: “eat a fucking sandwich.” These are all things I’d lovingly say to my bestest of friends.

I never knew Corey Haim, either.

I’m barely up on whatever Hollywood is doing this week, if it doesn’t involve my television husbands, Dexter or Dr. House. And even those two, I couldn’t tell you where they lunch or who they’re dating (besides me obvs) because I don’t much care. I was a strict Corey Feldman fan myself – if I had to choose – and the only reason I knew much about him was through his television show, The Two Coreys.

And yet, when they died, I was gutted. On the floor and weeping like they were my very closest friends.

But I knew those two had once had something special: a sparkle. A shine. Something that set them apart from the rest of us shmos, trudging along in the dirt, eking out a living.

And I also know someone else who died who bore the very same sparkle like a noose around her neck. Someone who I’d watched drown that sparkle in the bottle, unable to find her happyiness in this world. Someone else found dead in her bed. Another star snuffed out.

Stef.

Now, I know addicts. My parents are in recovery now, but I grew up like so many of us did, in the shadow of that bottle. I know the hunger, the itching deep within the bones only tamed by the bottle or the pill. I understand.

Perhaps it is because of this that I never blamed myself for her death. I knew better. An addict is an addict and sobriety is a choice. Not the kind of choice that someone else can make for you. But that doesn’t stop me from weeping into my coffee cup, gutted by the loss of someone that sparkled. It hits too close to home, perhaps, or maybe I’m just getting soft in my old age.

If I’ve learned nothing of addiction beyond a jaw-grind disposition to a panic attack, I’ve learned this: those whom you love – those who love you back – they are a part of you. Always. And however corny it may sound, life is precious. No, that’s not right. Life is FUCKING precious. Wait, let me try that again, just for Stef: Life is MOTHERFUCKING precious.

Much better.

I’ve also learned this: born of tragedy, sometimes that too, can be magical.

Legacy

I knew from a very young age what I was going to be when I grew up. While the other kids focused their sights upon flying into space or fighting fires, in kindergarten I neatly drew a picture of myself, one that my mother has framed somewhere, that says, “Rebecca Sherrick” “Obstetrician.”

Because that was what I planned to be.

Would it have worked out if I hadn’t popped Benjamin from my nether regions, a pregnancy unexpected, a life forever changed by the furious meeting of two gametes?

I honestly can’t say. Who can see what might-have-been when what-is is right in front of our faces?

When I went back to school, a single mother with an autistic baby slung ’round her hip, I re-enrolled (which is highly UNLIKE Rick Rolling) as a nursing student, which meant two things:

a) None of the credits I’d obtained during my brief stint as a Bio/Chem major were accepted and I had to re-enroll in different, easier versions of similar classes.

2) I had to come to terms with letting go of a dream I’d had as long as I can recall.

The first year of pre-req’s was heaven for me. I’d already completed the more complicated and challenging versions of the same classes, so I quickly rose to the top of the class. I was chosen to TA for numerous science classes, putting me smack-dab back into the lab.

I couldn’t have been happier.

I left my first class as Student Nurse Aunt Becky in tears. I’m sure I looked half-insane, walking to the train, my bag full of books I didn’t give a shit about, openly sobbing the kind of ugly cry that comes from a broken heart.

Rather than entrench myself in sorrow any longer than I had to, I simply made new plans. I’d re-enroll in school and become a microbiologist once my son was old “enough.” I’d juggled single parenthood and schooling as much as I ever wanted to and I intended to see at least some fraction of the kid’s childhood.

I did and I have.

Nursing career handily abandoned as, for the first time ever, I was able to stay home with my son, things didn’t go quite as expected. The quirks I still found so charming made for lonely company as he preferred to live inside his head to being with his mother. Coming off an over-worked, beat-my-A’s-with-more-A’s high, I had hours upon hours each day to fill.

With something. Anything to make my life feel worth living again.

I obsessed over the grout between bathroom tiles – which, no matter how many toothbrushes I wore to nubs- could never quite come clean, my son happily watched the same video about the planets over and over. I waited for something, anything to tell me what the fuck I was supposed to do next.

“Why don’t you start a blog?” The Daver asked after I tearfully wept, once again, that “I hadn’t worked my ass off to sit around and wonder which fucking brand of dishsoap was better.”

I couldn’t have thought of anything I’d like to have done less than blogging. I’d never so much kept a journal, so blogging, writing down my thoughts so that someone, somewhere could be equally bored by them?

Fuck no.

Until I decided to do it.

Learning that I could write things that didn’t involve this:

was like learning I could breathe underwater. All this time that I tried to find meaning in the bathroom tiles had been for nothing. Because I had this ability and I could use it.

And now I do.

I’ve spent nearly four years here at Mommy Wants Vodka, and three before that at Mushroom Printing, telling stories. Some good, some awful, most mediocre. I’ve used my words to let you into my world. To see things as I do. To touch each of you reading these words in some way, even if it’s a disgusted “God, this chick sucks.”

The words I have written, the friends I have made, the connections I’ve foraged has been so much more than I’d anticipated. I have been beyond blessed.

And yet, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about going back into academia. To return to those glorious calculations and those beautiful microscopes, leaving the world of words squarely in my past. I wonder if that’s even possible; to shut one beloved door so firmly. I don’t have an answer.

So I’m left wondering: is this my legacy? A few pixels blinking on your computer screen? Words turned into sentences turned into paragraphs?

Moreover, is this enough?

I Am Enough

I can, oddly, see exactly when it began. Age six is when I became an adult.

A couple of years ago, when Alex was a wee babe, I decided that it was high time to take pictures of Baby Aunt Becky and put them into an album. Dutifully, I gathered them up from my parents and threw them into a large Rubbermaid tote where I began the arduous task of sorting them into some semblance of order. When I was born, you see, my father, brother and grandfather were into photography.

For most people, that might mean a couple of snapshots on an old Instamatic, but we had a darkroom worthy of any college photography class in my basement. The photography hobby bordered on compulsion (see also: my orchids) and I was a perfect rolly-polly subject. My younger years are painstakingly documented.

There I am in the greenhouse with my grandfather, looking at his orchids and roses with wonder in my eyes, age one, there I am at Ravina at ages newborn through sixteen, there I am running around in my big fat cloth diaper, curls bouncing, looking every bit the nudist my own children are.

But age six is when it all changes.

Instead of the well-groomed child I had been for those first six years, I take on a new look. My hair isn’t brushed. My normally darkish skin is unusually pale and shiny. My clothes, once the nicer brands, now bear the signs of being cheaply made and too-small for my growing frame. Colorblind since birth, it’s clear that I have had no help picking out what I am wearing. Nothing matches.

I look neglected.

I look neglected because I am.

I don’t know what precipitated the change. I’d had a loving mother; one who brushed my hair, took me shopping and made me food. At age six, she stopped loving me. I stopped existing.

I’ve never recovered from that abandonment. That feeling of not mattering. Of not being enough. As a child, I was certain it was my fault, the reason my mother stopped loving me was my fault and occurred because I did something wrong. Magic Thinking at it’s finest. Certainly there are horrifying things I’ve seen and taken care of while I was the child of an alcoholic, but the feelings of being unworthy of love; of not mattering, those are what I grapple with most. I don’t know, and I’m not sure if a clinical psychologist agree, that feelings carved so deeply into your psyche can ever be completely erased.

I’ve thought a lot about my feelings this week. Normally, I’d rather carve out my eardrums with a steak knife while teaching the refrigerator to dance the foxtrot than discuss my feelings (probably in part why I have so many issues with emotions).

You probably didn’t know this, but there is no class for feelings. There’s no “IF this happens THEN you should do this” master book of emotions for those of us who didn’t learn it as kids. Someone should write one.

For years now, I’ve been shrugging things off. Telling myself this or that, well, it didn’t matter. Minor infractions. Nothing I couldn’t handle. Why bother really saying how I feel when it’s probably wrong? It was easier to rationalize the wrongs that people were doing to me than to stand up for myself.

In doing that, I took something fundamental away from myself. My feelings.

Slap a gag over my mouth and throw me in the corner. How dare I actually be offended when someone is being a crotch to me? How dare I call someone out on their bullshit? What if someone says something mean to me? HOW WILL I HANDLE IT? OH NOES!

Well.

Now.

C’mon.

I’ve already dealt with the worst kind of abandonment. How could I possibly give a shit when some Internet Mole Person or even a former friend of mine who stalks me for the express purpose of feeling smugly superior doesn’t like me? I don’t. Or I might. It might hurt. Words do hurt. Even if they’re flung by anonymous internet trolls or people I like. But this is not the end of the world. And I need to stop behaving like it might be. Why are their feelings any less valid than mine?

This is my blog. These are my words. I do own them. And my feelings do matter. My feelings are as valid as yours.

I am enough.

I owe it to six-year old Aunt Becky to stand up for myself. I need to show her that she is enough. That I am enough.

I am enough.