On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Who am I?

Describe myself in 500-5000 words without referring to one of the roles I play in life: daughter, sister, wife, mother, employee, etc. A personal exercise recommended by Corey

I am a 36 year old woman but I feel like I’m 56 on a good day. I’ve always felt older than my chronological age in part because I felt like the circumstances of my early childhood required me to grow up sooner than my peers. I also feel older because the continuing hardships and crises I have endured in my 36 years seem to have added time to my body.

My body. My body has been an enemy. As a child, I was always sick, picking up whatever infection was running around the community, church or school. I joke but it’s true, I have a vomit story for every year of grade school. At age 8 the doctors were afraid I had leukemia. By age 14 my menstruation had started late and with a vengeance, marking a lifelong trial with my hormones. By 19 my thyroid was slowing down. At 23 I was diagnosed with hyperprolactinemia and a microadenoma on my pituitary gland in my brain. I took a year of oral chemo, a year I don’t remember much about because of the medication. I have fibrocystic breasts, polycystic ovaries, endometriosis, and an aging uterus, the doctor predicts it is at least 10 years older than the rest of my body. I had a pre-cervical cancer scare in my late twenties and was diagnosed with hypothyroid disease by age 22. All of this adds up to a lifetime of infertility, a personal loss so monumental that I’ve never learned how to deal with it. It has also meant a lifetime of battling my weight, another struggle that has made it hard for me to love myself.

My childhood was difficult, my father died when I was just 12. We moved a year after his death to a completely different community and lifestyle.  I never fit in.  I was ridiculed by my peers.  Every day of my adolescence felt like a struggle to survive. My driving force was the plan to become a physician.

Without a solid foundation in my formative years, college proved difficult socially and emotionally, both of which impeded my ability to function academically. I changed career course and pursued a less demanding profession in community health education. The pinnacle of that choice was during my internship. After that, it felt like a ruse, it didn’t amount to anything because in Georgia, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. I feel like a failure in my career. I’ve always been so smart and I’m not using that talent. Because money is a necessity for life, I stumbled upon an opportunity to teach. I kept that path for 13 years but it always felt like the wrong fit, like trying to wear gloves on the wrong hands. They still keep your hands warm and dry but it’s awkward to use them and it impedes dexterity.

For a long time, music was my soul, a way to express myself because I didn’t feel like I could emote in any other meaningful way. Through a serious of upsets, ridicules and other such nonsense that goes on in the pride-filled world of music, I gave it up. The pain was too much after already having born so much loss. Now words are my tool. It might be thought that I hide behind my words. I would argue that words give me power to speak my mind in a concise way without being ridiculed. I have perfected the art of speaking truth to others without ostracizing them. In most cases, this approach gains me many allies but occasionally it backfires and I find myself in a position of defense instead of offense. I know that my words are my weapon, more of a shield. I wield my intellect verbally because it feels like that is all I have left to defend myself. I also use my words to paint pictures, to make what I’m thinking and feeling tangible to my listener. I feel my poetry best captures the essence of my soul. Blogging helps me sort out my feelings. I need to feel heard. So often, despite my verbose nature, I still feel like the proverbial Charlie Brown teacher in the background: wah-wah wah-wah wah wah-wah.

Some days I reflect on my life and I think of all the wonderful things I have been afforded. But most days I have to make a concerted effort to love, to life, to breathe, to laugh, to find the positives, to hug, to touch, to relax, to just let be what will be. Because I feel like I’ve endured a lifetime of struggles and grievances, most of them unjust and not the result of my poor choices, it really does feel overwhelming and burdensome to be me. 36 years? feels like 72. On the days I feel particularly discouraged I think of an imaginary woman in a third world country. I imagine her hardships and her pain, knowing my life circumstances pale in comparison. I pray for her and her family. This helps me keep it in perspective. Life can ALWAYS get worse and I am blessed to not only be living in a wealthy nation but to have complete use of my faculties and am able to feed, clothe and educate my children.

I always have a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I will die an early death like my father or that my spouse will succumb in an untimely manner as well, leaving me alone to bear the burden of our children. I tell myself it is irrational fear. Intellectually I can accept it but my physical body and my emotions want to cling to it like a sock on a sheet fresh out of the dryer. When I see old couples together, I close my eyes tight and imprint the images in my memory, willing it to be my future: as an old woman sitting beside her spouse of 50+ years. I think to myself, that ironically, it will be at that point in my life in which I will believe I am truly a beautiful person.

My faith has had many dips and turns and upsets. I don’t like to ride roller coasters in real life because they are too scary and because they symbolize what life feels like for me in reality, my faith in particular. I’ve learned so many erroneous things about religion, Christ and scripture; it’s hard to trust any of it. I know that my fear is of man and the damage man has brought to the truth of a very simple scriptural principle. Nonetheless, I’m more likely to shy away from faith than I am to run to it. I find it hard not to be angry that my life has been so hard by comparison to those around me and that the hardships my family endures have no obvious end. God seems to be able to spare the wrath in others’ lives while my own life feels doomed and cursed from the very beginning. And then there’s the nagging question: what if God as I’ve come to understand the concept, doesn’t exist after all? What if it’s just a nice story to help soothe the screaming masses?

I think too much. A flaw of mine. I often yell at myself in my head to shut the hell up because geez, it can get heady in my head.

I’ve been blessed to call two people “best friend.” Some people don’t ever have one but I’ve found two beautiful souls that will accept my idiosyncrasies and love me anyway. They are safe and will tell me truths about myself that I cannot see; truths that will make me stronger, not weaker. I don’t always want to hear that I have to fix something about myself. It makes me angry at first but then when I have time to think it over, I usually find that I agree. I always consider these friends as better than me.

My think it over time usually occurs in the bathroom. Often, if on the spur I’m expected to solve a problem or answer a question that for no obvious reason stresses me out, I just go to the bathroom or take a shower and voila. Magic. I can sort it out and solve the issue. Piece o’ cake. I like this about me. It makes me able to laugh at myself.

I have a great laugh. It’s loud but it’s contagious. And I like to laugh. It feels good. It feels safe and free.

I struggle with self-love because I don’t believe I’m worthy of love. It might have been the abuse of my childhood or the loss of my father but it is very hard for me to love myself and to receive love from others. I struggle to accept compliments that are not conditional. Unconditional praise just rolls off because I cannot absorb it, it is too broad. But if someone says something specific about me or what I’ve done, I feel very warm and emotional. It makes my knees weak and sometimes brings tears to my eyes. I guess then, I have trouble accepting that I’m loveble. I stand in front of the mirror, sometimes naked and I tell myself that I am beautiful, that I am loveable, and that I’m worthy to be loved. I know that one day this ritual will sink in and I’ll wear that truth without needing daily affirmations. I long for that day.

I feel as though my potential in this life has been robbed and stripped away. I feel that there were so many other amazing things I could have done with my talents. I get frustrated that we live so meagerly when I could have had a job that was more than adequate to supply all our wants and needs and more. I console myself with empty thoughts of I wouldn’t really be happier with more. I can’t know that such an existence would make all the emotional pain and voids I suffer diminish. I tell myself these things but I don’t always believe it.

I pride myself on my integrity of character. It is what I stand for, it is the moral compass by which I govern my life. If I cannot be a woman of integrity, than I am nothing. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul? Nothing. Nothing at all. That is why at all odds and costs, I will pursue integrity. I am also very conscientious, perhaps to a fault. I will put the needs and desires of others above myself, believing they will return the favor. The reality is that not everyone is governed by the same codes of conduct. My personal codes of conduct are not the norm and as a result, I often feel cheated by humans. I tell myself it is because I live with high ideals and I cannot expect others to do the same but still, it chafes me.

I love dogs and have recently discovered I love horses. I need to be outdoors as it restores my sanity. Swimming is my chosen exercise regime. Hummingbirds fascinate me and lilies are my favorite flower. Purple is and always will be my favorite color. I feel comfortable behind the wheel of my minivan but sometimes I think I might really enjoy driving a race car and most definitely a motorcycle. I want to travel the country and I want to go to Europe, if nothing else, to see the place of my father’s birth. I recently learned I have dual citizenship in Germany which is very cool although also sad to know that I represent the generation in the aftermath of WWII. I also want to journey to NJ to see my father’s graveside. I haven’t been there in 25 years.

My bucket list includes but is not limited to:
getting a PhD
flying in a hot air balloon
owning a small farm
travelling abroad
seeing all 50 states of the US
go on a cruise
learn to fly a plane

I want my body to be scrapped for spare parts and the remains to be cremated, my ashes thrown to the sea. At my memorial service I want the songs I’ll fly away, fly like an eagle, Free bird in whatever order, I don’t care. I want a tree planted on library grounds with a placard and a bench beside it that is in memoriam to me.

DON'T FORGET! The orlando fundraiser auction is going on now! Bid on your favorites and help moms of attachment challenged children get a much needed respite.

the quilts I made for the auction. Don't bid here. Go to the link above to make your bids! hurry, the auction ends 8/25/11!

1 comment:

Singinpraises said...

Bucket List: You and me, cruise to Alaska, not sure when (it'll take me several years to get the $$ in place) but we're going to do it!!! MAH!