Fits & The Starts.

My writing for the past few months is best described as in fits & starts.  The week leading up to Mother’s Day, I was all over it.  I wrote a 9-page letter to my mom.  It’s not even finished.  I reread it today.  It’s garbage.  I think I put pressure on myself to write something for Mother’s Day because that is how this blog began last year.  I’m not sure last year can be topped, which is undoubtedly what I was trying to do.

I am often writing scraps here and there.  I have several Word documents saved that may never see the Interwebs.  I like to revisit them later to find out if they have any teeth.  It’s kinda fun.

While at work today – desperately trying to write – I decided I would share my recent fits here.  The letter to my mom deteriorated and got into some very personal information, so I will only share part of that.  Not that you would know that without me telling you.  In general, I wish I was writing more that I found worthy of being shared.  I feel weird going so long without posting an entry here.  If it’s any consolation, I am reading my ass off this year.  Still not good enough, but much better than last year.

Welcome to the fits & starts of late Spring 2018:

 

PART 1

Dear Mom,

Mother’s Day is this weekend.  It’ll be the first Mother’s Day in years that I haven’t felt obligated to fake it.  Dad gave me a pass for the first Mother’s Day after you died [….] I’m off the hook.  Finally. 

It goes without saying that I wish you were here.  I need advice and support.  Since you aren’t here, I can create a fantasy in which if only you were here, everything would be just right.  I would share openly with you about my troubles and my feelings.  You would listen without judgement and guide me right into the best, most appropriate decision.  Aside from this being completely impossible, even if you were here, it reminds me that I don’t know you at all. 

You were a human being; a woman.  You were also a wife and mother.  Were you completely devoted to those roles?  Would you be horrified to find one of your daughters rejecting motherhood so emphatically?  Would you feel disappointed?  Maybe you would be supportive, either out of love for me or in agreement with [my perception of] motherhood as a bottomless pit of demand, work [….].  Motherhood isn’t even the problem.  That conviction, thankfully, is firm.  I wish I could pinpoint exactly how I figured this out.  I sure could use some clarity. 

It’s the strangest thing. [….] I am guilty of being unrealistic.  I am guilty of confusing assumption with accuracy.  I am guilty of believing a very difficult thing is actually easy and simple.  We all begin as children, though, right?  We all begin empty and fill up over time – hopefully.  I’m nowhere near being full, I hope.  There has to be so much more to learn.  I want more knowledge and more time….

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PART 2

When your mom dies you’re the best memory of her.  Everything you do and say is a memory of her.  –Alice Oswalt

By these standards, I am never doing enough.  I am not actively making my mom proud.  I say “bad” words, I gossip, I judge.  I have a dry sense of humor.  I’m sarcastic and I have been known to laugh at crude jokes, violent jokes.  I am not especially nice or cheerful.  I earned this resting bitch face.  Not unlike Daria Morgandorfer, I only smile if I have a reason. 

While I am worrying about not being a positive memory of my mom, I have to consider that I’m an accurate memory of her.  I believe Lindsay (my sister) is an accurate memory of our mom.  A very important part of our mom is still here because of Lindsay.  She’s a mom.  She’s nurturing, she bakes cookies, she keeps my secrets, she has my back. 

Last week, I wrote a letter to my mom.  I never actually finished it.  It was meant to help me process some things that have been rattling around in my mind.  I’m never able to answer the question, What would mom do? Or What would she tell me to do?  Sometimes getting close to that question is fun.  She’s isn’t here, so I can assume she’d tell me to do what makes me happy.  Or would she tell me to do what I think is best?  That’s different….

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PART 3

When your mom dies you’re the best memory of her.  Everything you do and say is a memory of  her. –Alice Oswalt

I haven’t written many letters to my mom.  They typically transition from some kind of explanation to an apology.  Sometimes the lack of her presence in my life can be seen as an advantage (it helps if you tilt your head when you squint) because I have no idea what her expectations were for me.  Without that, I can pretend that she just wanted me to be happy [….]

The other side of not knowing her expectations for me is the inescapable feeling that I haven’t met them.  I can’t know if/when I’ll meet them.  That means I need to be a truly incredible and good person at all times.  That is pressure.  That is failure.  Already.

More often than not, I consider what I’ve learned about motherhood and mother-child relationships.  Surely she just wanted me to be happy and safe….

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And the next thing in the notebook is about the potential dangers of viewing pornography.  No kidding.  As a quick note: I don’t think viewing pornography is dangerous for everyone.  More on that….some other time.

What to take from this entry:  I have been struggling with writing for the past couple of months.  I wanted to post an update.  I wrote these pieces weeks ago, and I couldn’t shake them.  If you’re feeling disappointed, just remember there will eventually be an entry about pornography.  I’m sure you want to stick around for that!

MuckFest MS Austin

Before we get into MuckFest MS, I need to tell you about the day before and the AirBNB where Tristi and I stayed. It was a little apartment-type place in Bastrop. Super cute; more than what we needed for just one night, but great. By the time we got there, it was dark (we shopped out butts off in San Marcos). I read the host’s instructions a few times. It all sounded easy enough.

We get to the place and get into the driveway. We enter through the gate, like the instructions instructed. Once in the backyard, we could turn left and enter a house or turn right and enter a house. We turned left. That was the wrong turn. We turned left and entered a home. Creaky screen door – creaky like creaking is its job. We enter the home and are two rooms deep before we realize THIS IS NOT WHERE WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE. WE ARE INSIDE SOMEONE’S HOME. So, we backtrack and exit through that god-awful creaky screen door. At this point, we have a perfect view of the apartment where we are supposed to go. Good grief, people. We were inside a stranger’s home without their permission. It was dark. I maintain that we were lucky not to be shot.

We settle into the apartment-type place and find a place to get grub. We drive to Roadhouse for food. We eat the food and each leave with a Salted Caramel Cupcake because you do not resist the cupcake that is advertised on the door of the establishment and on the chalkboard inside the establishment. Not gonna lie – it was a good cupcake. I ate mine for breakfast the next morning. Speaking of the next morning….

On 10.15.17 I participated in MuckFest MS in the Austin area. I had this image in my mind – beforehand – of myself crying intermittently through the course. I expected to spend a lot of time remembering my mom and feeling the weight of her death. I expected the emotional weight of completing the course for her to be in the front of my mind all day. While I could feel her with me and I did draw courage from that when an obstacle was particularly daunting, I didn’t cry once. I literally slithered on my belly through muddy water for my mom because she died from complications related to a disease that robbed her of the ability to move or even speak. I climbed over things without thinking about how high they were. I slid down a hill of mud. I slid down a wet slide that threw me right into a pit of muddy water. I went through 2 obstacles that I shouldn’t have gone through because I lack swimming skills. I got into water over my head and struggled my way to the other side of those pits for my mom.

While we were at the starting line waiting for our start time, the MC asked us to recognized all those people who have MS who were participating. I learned during registration that persons who suffer from MS are given a special bandana to wear to indicate that they are “mucking with MS.” There were several of these participants in our heat. I did get emotional about that. If I had not been trying to get myself ready for the course, I probably could have just sat down and cried about them. It’s my understanding that, even fore someone who suffers from MS but can still function independently, a 5k would be tiring and trying and stressful. But, there they were, and not just in our wave. While on the course and afterward, I saw more people wearing those bandanas. I’m not sure exactly what I felt. I was happy to see them there. I was happy to see them on the course. I just wish I could take all the bad stuff away for them. I wish I could have hugged all of them. They kicked ass that day, just like they do every day. End of story.

I assume it comes across as being very cheesy to others to learn that I think of my mother when I am trying to do something that is physically demanding. In my past, I have completed 2 half-marathons (13.1 miles/each). I thought about mom during both of those. In the gym, I often think of my mom. I know I’m not serving her by doing difficult, physical activities. What I watched her endure keeps me from taking my physical health for granted, even if we’re talking about something as simple as walking up a flight of stairs. I can do it. Not everyone can. In addition to completing all of the obstacles at MuckFest MS, I also walked the course with some of my team members (Go Lucky Muckers!). We talked. We laughed. We enjoyed seeing the horses on the grounds (the course was on a horse farm – pretty rad). The point is, I was physically capable of walking the course. I’m grateful for every day of that.

After completing the course, rinsing off, changing clothes and having a drink and a snack, I wrote about mom on the shoelace display. I don’t remember what it was for, but it was an opportunity to tell “the world,” this is why I’m here. I also wrote about mom on the official MuckFest MS orange backdrop doo-dad. Mom, her name, the year she was born and the year she passed.

I used to think I would get a tattoo in memory of mom. I had this great idea that I would get that tattoo when I was the age she was when I was born. That ship has sailed. When it was close to “go time,” I realized that I’m never going to forget mom. I’m never going to forget what she went through. Why get a tattoo for her? I have shared about her here, and I will continue to do so, but you’ll never get the whole story. You’ll never get the details that I struggle to choke out when I need to tell them. That story is so personal to me. It’s not entertainment. It’s not a way for me to get attention. It’s a part of my life and my life story, but I only share all of it with important people. While I appreciate your readership (I truly do; you are incredible), the full story about mom is in line with sharing my deepest, darkest secret. It’s not for you.

Let’s address MuckFest in another light: It was FUN. I have never done anything like it, and I will do it again given the chance. I will recruit a team and hopefully do better fundraising. I feel genuinely excited to do it again next year. I want to try to raise enough money for my team to have a tent and maybe our own changing area. I want to have a larger team. I want to be bigger and better next time. I think we will keep the same team name. It served us well. I had a great team. Everyone was so nice and we brought in money for the cause. I am planning to write notes to everyone to thank them. I wish I could do something for them or give them something, but I’m not particularly wealthy. Nor am I particularly social. I hope a nice note will do the job. I’m not even sure how to express my appreciation, but I’ll figure out something and hopefully not cry while doing so.

We came up short on photographic records. Tristi, Aubrey, Austin and I got to the course site with just enough time to check in and get our bags to the bag check area before we had to be at the starting line. So, no “before” photos. We didn’t have a spectator to take pictures everywhere. We have some photos from event photographers, but I wish we had more. Next time, we’ll plan better, arrive earlier and have someone traipse around just to take pictures.

I am going to write notes to my donors. People really went above and beyond, and it is so meaningful to me. MS hasn’t effected everyone’s life or hasn’t effected their lives the way it has effected mine, but they gave anyway. I guess they gave for me, in a way. At any rate, I am still feeling the love. I know some truly caring, generous people. I’m thinking caring and generous people are the people who get things done, or at least help propel things along.

Swing 1
This is me on the Swing Set obstacle (with Tristi in the background): the first obstacle that required me to jump into water that was over my head and propel myself to the other side of the pit. Later when a teammate asked me how I did it, I said I just tried not to die. Success!

Muck Group 1
This is the team: Lucky Muckers. This was during the course, but we were slowed down by a line that had formed at the Flying Muckers obstacle. We did good.

Finish Line Group
This is part of the team after crossing the finish line. You can see the Crash Landing obstacle in the background. The photographer said something about us being “done,” so we tried to pep it up. Just so we’re clear: you bet your ass I rang the bell at the finish line.

Click here: My MuckFest MS Fundraising Site to read a little more about how MS has impacted my life and to donate to the cause if you’re feeling like you might want to do that (fundraising continues until 12/13/17).

To learn more about MS, MS research, MuckFest and how you can help:
National MS Society
Official MuckFest MS Site

Mother’s Day, 2017

 

Why I hate Mother’s Day. 05/14/17

When I was 5-6 years old, my mom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).  As a 30-something, that means I can barely remember a time when MS wasn’t a part of my life; when I didn’t know what it is.  Over time, “what MS is” has changed so much, for me, and remained a mystery.

I could go into gory details, right?  I could explain my mom’s decline over the years – over about 17 years.  I could tell you other people’s stories of how they knew something wasn’t right before any diagnosis.  I could tell you what “remission” meant to me as a young girl and how long it took before I realized “remission” was not a gift we would get.  It was not a gift mom would get.

MS is never good.  I would never wish it on anyone.  But, see, there are different varieties.  Some are “luckier” than others.  Many are luckier than my mom was.  Not only did she have the most aggressive, least forgiving type of MS, but she was diagnosed when MS research was still in infancy.  We don’t know much about it now.  We knew even less in the late 80s.  Looking back on everything and listening to others’ stories of what happened and when, my mom’s MS treatment could best be described as, “Let’s just throw all of this at it and hope something helps.”  There is still no cure today, but there are treatments.  There are ways to slow it down or even arrest it, temporarily (sweet remission).  There are treatments that allow those with an MS diagnosis to live full lives of real quality for much longer periods of time than they would have 20 years ago.  I often see, “You don’t look sick” in reference to persons who have MS.  My mom looked “sick.”

It was too late for my mom.  The MS that got her was unrelenting.  Over 17 years, the progression of her MS was all downhill.  I am told and believe I remember the progression slowing down while she was pregnant with my half-sister.  I have read here & there that pregnancy is known to slow MS progression.  When mom was pregnant with my half-sister, I was an ignorant, self-absorbed child.  I really don’t remember the disease progression during those 9 months.

I hope you aren’t still waiting around to read gory details.  They aren’t coming.

My mom passed away in December of 2006.  That reminds me: I’m not terribly cracked up about the Christmas season, either.  Over a period of about 17 years, I watched my mom waste away.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  A slow burn?  Some unusual, long-running trauma?

Since her passing, some Mother’s Days I have spent alone.  Whether anyone else likes it or not, I need to take care of myself on that day.  It’s not personal.  It’s not that I don’t care about any of the other phenomenal “mother figures” I have in my life.  It’s just not the same.  I want my mom on Mother’s Day.  I don’t want to talk about her.  I want to remember her in my thoughts.  I want to take care of myself for her on Mother’s Day.  I want to text my older sister and make that connection to her for mom.  If only for the time it takes to make that exchange with Lindsay, we are both thinking of mom and each other at the same time.  In some weird way, the 3 of us are connected.  And I don’t want anyone else involved in that.  There isn’t room for anyone else in that.

I have spent some Mother’s Days with others.  I should, right?  I know so many incredible women who are mothers and those phenomenal mother figures in my own life who I mentioned earlier.  I can shove my own mom out of my head to be “normal” on Mother’s Day.  Maybe I can spend the whole day not thinking about mom, except when Lindsay & I text about her.  Jesus.  Lindsay is a mother.  I can’t imagine what Mother’s Day is like for her.

I hate shopping for Mother’s Day cards and gifts.  It’s an unfair challenge.  I feel guilty and angry and frustrated.  It is so difficult to do this kind of shopping without my mind wandering into, “If things were different, what would I buy for mom…?”  That is not a good place for my mind to go.  Then I am reminded of how little I know about my mom.  The unfairness of not knowing what questions to ask her when I had the chance.  The unfairness of being a child and, by nature, being self-centered while my time with mom was running out.  The unfairness of being a child and not realizing that our time – her time – was running out.  I took so many things for granted.

After my mom passed away, I heard someone say that on their own birthday every year, they sent flowers to their mom.  What a genius idea.  I don’t get to do that.  I could put flowers on her grave, though, right?  That’s fulfilling (it’s not).

So, I hate Mother’s Day.  I hate advertisements for store sales, brunches, whatever.  I feel so envious of anyone who can go to a Mother’s Day brunch with their mom.  I don’t like “mom and me” activities.  I know I did activities with my mom, but I don’t think we ever wore matching outfits.  I know we never got our nails done together, we never bought/shared make-up.  We never went out for coffee or brunch.  I never drank a glass of wine with my mom.  She didn’t teach me how to cook or how to take care of myself (make-up, hair, etc.).  The only time she was able to watch me graduate from anything was my kindergarten graduation.  She missed the other 3.  The two times I went to the prom, my date & I went to her.

I do many things with mom in mind.  I thought about her during both half-marathons I completed.  I think about her anytime I run, especially when my legs get tired.  Sometimes when I complain about running at the gym, she creeps into my mind.  I may not be happy about running, but I am physically capable of running and what a blessing that is.  I’m not terribly concerned about getting a close parking space.  It’s a nice perk, but so is being able to walk independently.

I often think about mom while I’m at the gym.  “Do it for mom.”  Thinking that often helps me find a hidden reserve of energy or strength.  Half-way through a plank, I can finish it for mom.  I may not always do a great job.  I’m never in the lead, so to speak, but I finish the work.  Slowly and maybe sloppily, but surely.