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Monday, March 28, 2016

All the Things I Never Told You

Life is weird.  Humaning is hard.  Relationships are - well, we make relationships far more complicated than they have to be.  Not just romantic ones, either - all relationships.

I challenge you to think  back to when you were a child.  When it was totally okay to be absolutely smitten with someone and everyone thought all the random crap that spewed from your mouth was adorable.  Before it was embarrassing to profess your feelings - or anything, for that matter - to the entire world.

 Why is everyone telling you that new haircut is great?  It looks like what I did in my Pull-Up an hour ago.  Grown ups are dumb.

There's a lot to be said for tact.  I employ it often when I don't relish the idea of being punched in the face or I realize I need my job to pay bills.  But where along the line did "use your words carefully" turn into "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND ALL THAT IS HOLY, DON'T YOU DARE LET OUT HOW YOU ACTUALLY FEEL!"?

Somewhere, somehow, feelings became obscene and compliments became uncomfortable.  Physical contact became offensive and admiration became "weird."  It wasn't that big of a deal for any of us during the throes of puberty, when each of us was in complete hormonal turmoil and we were years from deciphering who we were as people - but as adults, what gives?

Why can't I tell a random stranger that they have a beautiful smile without being looked at like a serial killer?  Why can't I tell my friends I love them without feeling like I just made a sloppy, creepy pass at them?  And speaking of passes, why can't I be flattered when a man or another woman hits on me, even though I'm not interested and politely tell them so?

Nope, not even "drunk bi-curious," but a-thank ya.

I get it, laying everything out there and wearing our hearts on our sleeves makes us vulnerable.  I've got to be one of the most socially awkward people in the world, especially with people I don't know well.  I also hate to feel weak and vulnerable, so yup, I have some pretty extensive walls up myself.

There's something deeply terrifying about the thought of rejection, especially from people you care about or think highly of.

And fear is why we hold back an "I love you," why we hesitate to offer a hug when someone is upset, why we let all those moments pass by where we're talking to someone and can't get over just how f*cking amazing that person is and how happy we are to have them in our lives.

But you know what's worse?  The thought that you could lose someone tomorrow and they would never know how you feel about them.  How amazing you think they are.  How you always think about them when a certain song comes on or hear a certain joke or see something you know they would love.

You had me at hun-nay.

The truth is, I'm a little bit in love with every person close to me.  Not romantically, not sexually, just in awe of certain aspects of those people that I wish I was brave enough to be or that I find especially interesting or inspirational.  I have a niece who can create the most beautiful photographs from the most mundane-seeming things.  I have another niece who had a baby at a very young age and who has proven all the doubts and worries wrong by being a pretty amazing mother.  I have yet another niece who started out as a nephew, and was able to bring her true self out into the world and find more love and support than she thought was possible.

I know far too many amazing people to list here, but suffice to say that I know people who have overcome some of the most horrible obstacles in life that I can imagine, and yet here they are.  Like a freakin' boss, living and conquering and sh*t.  Abuse survivors, recovered and recovering addicts, single parents, people who have dealt with the harshest instances of racism, bigotry, and outright hatred, people with visible and invisible illness... all of these people are beyond amazing to me.

Beat that, Stan Lee.

...but it's a lot easier to say that here than it is to say those things to someone's face.  We hesitate, not because the sentiment isn't genuine, but because we don't know how to broach it and we don't know how they'll react.  There are some things that just seem off limits, no matter how close we are to someone.

So if you've read this far, I have a confession.  A real one this time, not some corny joke I can hide behind.  I'm f*cked up, guys.  Like, deeply, emotionally damaged.  And I'm not trying to say that my life's horrible or that I've been through things worse than anyone else - I guess what I'm trying to get at is that I have a soft spot for damaged people because I'm damaged.  Hell, we're ALL damaged in some way.  Why is it not okay to acknowledge that?

I was scrolling through my feed on Facebook around 2 days after the anniversary of my Dad's passing and came across this:

This f*cking wrecked me, guys.

Side note - can we just acknowledge how freaking adorable Kelly Clarkson is?  It doesn't matter what she's singing or where she is or what she's wearing, I just want to like, kidnap her and lock her in my basement and make her my bff who sings everything to me.  Wanna go to Denny's?  Sing me that beautiful Grand Slam menu, darlin.  (Just kidding Kelly, I totally don't have a basement.)

If you've never come across my Mirror & Hourglass posts, my Dad was, technically speaking, my "step" dad.  He was actually my biological father's brother (cue "I'm my own cousin" jokes, ba-dum-chhh), and he and my mom met when I was two at my paternal grandmother's house.

It's a long story, really, but due to several really screwed up circumstances, I was the only child out of a total 13 between my parents that was actually raised by them.  I'm the one child of four born to my mother and biological father who wasn't adopted by someone else.

I had a good childhood; a loving home, two parents that loved me and supported me, more opportunities than many get even though we never really had a whole lot of money.  Still, the shadow of my siblings' absence hung like a silent, sullen ghost in the corners of every happy moment.  There were pictures on the walls of children I knew to be my siblings but never got to meet, and though I knew the situation as far as my young mind could understand, I also understood that asking questions meant making my mother cry.  Occasionally I would catch the sadness in her face when she was cheering me on at a field day or straightening my costume for a school play.  She couldn't hug me without choking back tears and all of my milestones had become markers for all the events she was missing in my siblings' lives.

It's getting raw in here, so to dampen the feels, here's a puppy.  D'awww.

I also had two older half sisters from my mother who lived with their father's family, and two step-brothers and two step-sisters from my dad who lived with their mothers, and I had never met any of them.  I knew all their names, I knew how old they all should be, but they were like fairy tale characters in my mind.  I knew they existed, somewhere, but all I had of them for me was an imaginary idea of who they could be and what they would be like.  For little girl me, they were imaginary friends, whom I had assigned personalities and quirks based on what I thought they might be.  

 As good as my childhood was, as hard as my mother tried, we were never a whole family.  As individuals we weren't whole people, because there was always an echo in that space where someone should be but isn't. 

I've read probably thousands of accounts from people who were adopted; how they wondered where they came from, whether there was someone out there who looked like them or shared their tastes and talents.  I could relate, even though I grew up with my birth mother, because I always wondered those things about my brothers and sisters.  I never commented, because I always felt like I was an intruder on this exclusive world of children who had been given or taken away for whatever reason.  I had no background to give comfort because I didn't know what living in a foster home was like, or how devastating it could feel to find out that the family you've known all your life shares no blood ties to you.  Why did I have the right to feel so lost, when I knew where I came from and had grown up with my mother in my life? 

The pain isn't the same, but it is there.  For a child growing up in a world that has been disassembled, where their parents are scrambling to hold the pieces together - I knew where I came from, but that world was incomplete and its players broken.   It was not the world it should have been, where there were  six or eight or ten seats at the dinner table instead of three.  There were no school photos that came in the mail or weekend visitations.  No sibling rivalry or late-night secret swapping.  There was only me, and figments of my imagination that didn't come close to the reality that should have been.


I don't even have a caption for this.  Sometimes you just need to look at a puppy.

Fast-forward to today where I've been reunited with all of my siblings and my biological father has contacted me in an attempt to reconcile.

Reconcile.  Is that even the term?  How exactly do you reconcile with someone who clearly remembers, at two years old, overhearing you tell their stepdad that you don't give a f*ck about them or their mother and wouldn't give a f*ck if they died tomorrow?

And my sister, upon hearing this, who simply said, "you have a memory of him?  Wow.  I don't have any."  Talk about feeling like a total asshole.  Here I was angry, and hurt, and resistant to even thinking about letting my biological father back into my life, and I hadn't taken two seconds to consider that I was the only child out of four who even had a memory to be angry and hurt about.  

And I still don't know how to process this.  It's like being upset because you accidentally dropped your sandwich into the sewer after only taking a bite, only to run across a starving, homeless person who would have been grateful just to have had the opportunity of a sandwich in the first place.  Even after only one bite.  Even if the sandwich tasted like shoe leather and motor oil.  No, I'm not trying to be funny, I'm seriously trying to explain the depth of emotional f*ckery that this whole situation presents.

Then I have a couple of siblings who refuse to deal with my mother, for the same reasons I'm hesitant to reconnect with my biological father.  Admittedly, it took me a while to make that connection.  I couldn't understand why they were so angry with her - or with me, for that matter.  She was a good mom.  At least, she tried.  But she was a good mom to me.  She tried, with me.  Just like my biological father was a good dad to his "step" kids.  Just like my "step" dad was a good dad to me. With the exception of my mother and me, none of the biological parents were able to be there for all the kids that they should have been there for.  For whatever reason, under whatever circumstances, everyone got screwed in one way or another and we're all still feeling the ripples of that more than 30 years later.

There's a rift that can never be mended.  My siblings and I can talk and joke and get together, but we will never reach that level of closeness that so many people take for granted.  I will always be the "other" sister.

We moved a lot when I was growing up.  Lost touch with everyone, for several years.  Just my parents and me, which might make it that much clearer why it shattered me so deeply when I lost my Dad.

And all of this, the disconnect that I grew up with, has left me with the lingering feeling that I just don't "belong" anywhere.  I have friends, I have family, I have friends that I consider family, but I'm never completely comfortable with the dynamic of social gatherings.  When it comes to forging relationships with people, the love and adoration is real and genuine on my part, but I'm at a total loss as to how to convey it and whether it's even appropriate.  I tend to gravitate toward people that I recognize that awkwardness in because I know how that feels and I don't believe anyone should ever feel that way.  "Other."  "Lesser" somehow.  Unwanted, looked down on, or cast aside.  No, everyone deserves to belong somewhere, and know that they belong there.  Unconditionally.

Anyway, I'm leaving a piece of my soul in this post because it's something I've needed to bare for a long time.  It probably won't be read all the way through, and that's okay.  I'll probably regret posting it as soon as I hit the "publish" button, and that's okay, too.  We all have to eventually learn that it's not always a bad thing to be naked, vulnerable, right?

Those of you who know me in real life know the Ice Queen assumption - it's not true.  Awkward, unsure, scared even - but not cold.  Quite the opposite, actually.  If I've ever told you that I loved you, I meant it, even if it was throttled to hold back the floodgates of all the hows and whys and how much.  I'd love for the world to think that I was untouchable, but not at the cost of anyone I love thinking that my words didn't hold merit or that my feelings were so easily shifted.  We all wear our masks out into the world - that's mine - the one I inherited from my Dad and forced onto myself because I misunderstood the concept of strength and was too deeply embedded in the facade when I figured out that sometimes, the most effective action, the most reasonable and logical choice, is simply to be human.

And if for some reason I failed to tell you that last time I saw you, or if I don't know you and you're just here still reading my rambling out of boredom or morbid curiosity - dear readers, friends, and family -

I love you.

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