Preparing for a New Year

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I find myself on this cusp of the new year thinking about words and language. I am thinking about how for my whole life I was told that things meant things they didn’t mean. How that is a particular form of gaslighting and control that strips you of things that become increasingly hard to get back. It makes you question your communication, it makes you question your ability. How do you know that a word means what it means?

This, more than anything, is what makes me feel like I could never trust a religion again. The idea that words are redefined for the purposes of a being we will never see. Love was whatever god defined it to be, and if that meant that love was torturing people for an eternity, then that was what love was. Grace meant you accepted that people were flawed and sometimes that meant allowing abuse to go by without consequence. People are imperfect, after all. We must never fully trust humans but we must trust the organizations they are part of because organizations are somehow bigger than the human that built them, somehow big enough to capture their mistakes, somehow enough to be enough. No matter how many times they fall, it will not be enough to disprove this.

Perhaps worst of all, unconditional love is anything but unconditional. From the moment you are born you are walking a tightrope and at the bottom is hellfire and damnation, but that’s not even the worst part. Because as much as all Christians will tell you that the thing that you need more than anything is Jesus, that is not true. You are a social animal and the thing you need more than anything is people. You need your family, your friends, your community. And all of that is hanging in the balance. Because unconditional love could mean all kinds of things. If you slip out of line it could mean anger, it could mean hurt, it could even mean isolation. What it will definitely not mean is acceptance. You know this. This is sewn in your skin, like runes of salvation.

I sometimes feel like there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think about these things but I think about it more now. When I was in high school I read 1984 and I was cut to the bone by this concept. Big Brother took away your language. Years later I watched Alphaville and it was the same, the totalitarian society just started taking words away, and no one noticed. But the one that struck me hardest was later, a Greek movie called Dogtooth that emotionally shattered me. An abusive family, keeping their children locked in a compound, never letting them into the outside world. Danger is manufactured in many ways. But the moment I can’t breathe is when they listen to their “language tapes.” These tapes tell them that “ocean is the big, blue chair in the living room.” That’s when I realize that it’s not just the stripping — although no one can deny there is power in that — it’s being able to change the meaning.

The English language (and probably any language) changes all the time. It is one of the more interesting things about it, a fluidity that encompasses culture. But with that also comes the ability to transfer power. What happened to me growing up can happen just as easily still. We are about to have a president take power who shows an unprecedented lack of interest in truth. He also has shown a remarkable ability to say something and then redefine and redefine those same words until they mean something unrecognizably removed from their original meanings.

I have a few goals for 2017 but none of them are as important as this one — I won’t stop paying attention. I won’t ever allow my communication to be taken from me again, or redefined. I will read and I will be open. I will listen, I will write. I will use the words I have at my disposal. I will choose them carefully. I suspect we are in for a long 4 years (at minimum). Like a lot of people, this election has brought up a lot of old thoughts and feelings for me. But I’m not a child anymore. This time I have power to fight back. And you’d better believe I’m going to.

Happy New Year.

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Bedtime Update

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I think about my blog on most days but, as you can see from the 3 month+ gap, I don’t do anything about it. Things feel like both too much and too little at the same time, mixed up. I think about how when I started this blog I had such a specific focus, and now my focus seems more vague. There are a lot of reasons.

I’ve been struggling with going to sleep lately. My anxiety has been kicking in again, in the sorts of ways I always used to hear my friends talk about but never personally experience myself. I was always really good at sleep, even when things were not great. Maybe that fades when you get older, who knows. I have a schedule that allows for this, and I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I wonder sometimes if the indulgence makes it worse.

Still, I decided maybe I would try something new. I thought maybe I would try writing some before bed, maybe it would relax me. Two birds? Who knows.

I guess tonight I will just do a generalized update on my life and then perhaps I’ll do something more organized tomorrow.

The first grad school application is almost complete. I only need to edit another 500 words, scan in some paperwork, and pay them $85 for the privilege of applying to their organization. Then… there will be one more, but you know. Progress.

I quit my second job. It wasn’t working for me in a lot of ways and it wasn’t paying nearly enough to be worth the stress it was causing. I feel good about the decision, although money would certainly be nice. My current job at the shelter is going well. We haven’t had a lot of kids lately but these things ebb and flow, and there are some possibilities for different and additional work for me coming up that I’m pretty excited about. I really do love my job.

I’ve spent the last few months watching at least one movie every day, which has been a pretty sedate pace for me, but which has made me feel accomplished. I think my record for films in a year is around 440 and I won’t beat that, but I am over 400. It’s been a good year for movies.

Christmas came and went fairly uneventfully for me. We had our Roomie Christmas, which I think went well. This year was the 11th year we’ve done it, which is hard to imagine. It was really good to see everyone. We ordered take-out instead of making a big meal and I think it was the best possible decision. I got some pretty wonderful presents. Christmas Eve I spent with a friend. There was great food (bacon-wrapped pork, which was… as delicious as it sounds), drinking, and festive Muppets, so I would call it a success. I spent the night and then headed home in the afternoon for work. There were no kids so it was just a few hours, but at least it was double time?

David and the Superhero have been running around like decapitated chickens for the whole holiday season doing family things. I think I am feeling adrift and disconnected by how crazy everything has been, and I’m looking forward to resuming our pretty predictable pace soon. I am a puppy of habit above all.

That’s about all I’ve got for now. I have many thoughts on the new year and the election and trauma and all kinds of things. I’ll experiment and see how this goes. Maybe you’ll hear from me tomorrow, or maybe it’ll be another 3 months. Life is full of mysteries.

 

Stress and New Beginnings

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I find myself thinking a lot lately about confidence. I haven’t been writing much (obviously) and I feel like I am so caught up in my own head about it. I think of at least half a dozen blog topics a week, but I do nothing with them – not even write them down unfortunately. I feel tired of my own voice in print, worry that I am in a rut. I get afraid that I will sound stupid or cliché. I get stopped by that nagging thought that if something isn’t very unique and striking, it’s probably not worth writing down at all.

A lot of this is just white noise, of course. I know it’s there if I scratch the surface, but who wants that? So instead I just don’t write anything down. Suddenly my life is much too busy with television shows and films and sleep. It’s not that I’m not busy, but probably I am a lot less busy than I act.

That’s my why I haven’t been writing. I’ll try to do better. Our little pack has a whole new motivational plan for us all to be writing together. I imagine you will see the results, or not, from me as the case may be.

So, onto my life.

One of the things that I have noticed in reading through old Baby Me journals is that I never just let myself be upset or angry or even just meh. I always would talk about how unhappy I was and then end with this idea that I needed to be upbeat, I needed to stop being such a downer, or whatever the case may be. I don’t really know entirely where that came from. Possibly there was a gendered element in there somewhere, possibly there was some religious concept that Christians weren’t unhappy. But more likely it is just that my family isn’t very good with emotions of any kind and negative ones felt more difficult to manage.

I am going to try to talk about things without qualifying them and we’ll see how dire it sounds when I read it.

Things are not dire, which may be a part of the problem in a weird way (is that a qualifier at the top… who knows!). Even when things are very shitty I tend to ultimately do better if I feel like I have something to grab onto and fix. Right now I am just restless and feel stuck, concerned I am spinning my wheels and not doing… something. What I think I am not doing is fairly unclear to me. I have two jobs, which are making my life chaotic in a way I do not approve of as a rule. But it is certainly doing something. Both of my jobs are contributing to my experience in some way, and I am grateful for that. But in the newest one I feel very adrift and not at all sure of what I am doing.

I will have to get going on grad school applications soon, but they aren’t even available on their respective websites yet (sometime this month, probably?). In both cases, they aren’t due until the end of the year, leaving me with quite a bit of available time to work on them. I am in no way looking forward to doing this, and suspect I will procrastinate a lot once they become available, but they will be something specific for me to work on.

I am vaguely stressed about a lot of things. I will lose my health insurance soon due to the gobs of money I am making (or you know, over $1100 a month). It feels strange to be stressed about that, as I didn’t have health insurance for a large part of my life, but now I am on medications that I should probably stay on for the sake of sanity and all that nonsense. Plus I’ve had full coverage for almost 4 years now and I have gotten accustomed to that being one thing in my life I don’t have to worry about. What if something happens in the interim year?

I feel like I am having general post-college ennui more than anything. This realization that I was good at school and good at that structure. I liked having my life broken into quarters, I liked regular feedback every few months. I liked the feeling that I was actively working towards things and I could lay out on a chart what those things were. Must take classes X, Y, and Z to graduate by this date. They were all steps I understood and, while they were obnoxious, I was pretty good at following the rules. Good at deadlines, good at class participation, good at school socialization. And then I find myself worrying that perhaps I am not nearly as good at non-school life (even though I realize that a lot of those skills are very transferrable). But you know. I worked day to day jobs for a really long time before I went back to school – like a decade. And I was an okay worker, but I was also extremely depressed and generally miserable almost all of the time. When I went back to school it was such a complete change of everything. And it was a good change, even when it was scary (often). I think part of why I find myself so jumpy and restless now is the worry that being in this day to day working life means going back to what that meant before, which I clearly did not excel at.

There’s not a lot of reason to think that, probably. My life is pretty radically different. I feel very motivated. But then I worry, if I am so driven by these particular goals that I can see so clearly, what happens when I get my Master’s? What happens when I pass that milestone, and don’t have more school to jump into (I don’t think I plan on my PhD at this point)? Is the goal then just to finish enough supervised hours to have my own practice? What then? Will I fall into a state of restlessness and vague dissatisfaction without these very specific goals? What if I do not have the very specific goals? Why don’t I seem capable of setting out my goals in a totally self-motivated fashion, in the extremely organized way that I wish they were? What happens if I am not self-motivated enough to accomplish all the things I vaguely dream of accomplishing, because they are too vague? Am I really stressed out because I don’t currently have the goals for basically the rest of my life laid out on a literal map in front of me, with color coded signs and flags? Probably the answer is yes, in case you are all wondering.

I could talk about how many great things there are in my life but I’m not going to, not this time. I will just let this stand. Life transitions suck and I pretty much always lack confidence in the landing.

Dear Baby Me: May 22 & 23, 1997

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Thursday 8:18pm
Dear Steve,
I hate Zach’s parents! They’ve now stopped us from talking to each other. Doesn’t that suck? I hate ‘em, I hate ‘em, I hate ‘em! Maybe they’ll ease up sometime after his b-day. I just got off the phone with Zach. He’s going to write. I can’t decide whether or not it’s a comfort that he cried for an hour when his parents told him. I think it is. It’s very sweet and it satisfys (I know that isn’t spelled right) some overdramatic urge. I know I’m overdramatic. I like being overdramatic. It makes life interesting. I’ve gotta go!
Ciao! 9:53pm

Friday 9:42am
Dear Steve,
Yesterday was officially the worst day of my life! Not only did I find out that I couldn’t talk to Zach anymore but I also found out that we’re not going to Montana! Doesn’t that SUCK?! Something’s wrong with the Mazda and dad doesn’t trust the wagon! It’s not fair! The only good part about it is that dad’s probably going to take me to The Lost World in theaters! Now that’s cool! However I would gladly never go to a movie again if I thought it would make Zach’s parents change their minds! I’ve gotta go!
Ciao!
Love Meg

 

Dear Baby Me,

It is truly adorable that you just straight up admitted to enjoying being over-dramatic. I mean, I know that was true, and I feel like I remember knowing that was true even then, but it wasn’t something you generally admitted to. If I could tell you something now, I suppose it would be that drama does not actually make life more interesting, not that it would matter.

It does suck that Zach’s parents are against you for whatever reason, and it does suck that you didn’t go to Montana. As I recall, that was the only major trip that was ever planned for just you and your dad and it never happened. I’m sorry that didn’t happen for you, I know it would have meant a lot.

Also, as much as you are in love with Zach in this moment, let me assure you that you would not gladly give up all future theater trips for him. You probably wouldn’t even give them up for the next 6 months. But, you know. It sounds nice.

Much love, Me

 

 

Dear Baby Me: May 20, 1997

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Teusday 6:27pm
Dear Steve,
I hate my mom! She’s unreasonable, she never lets me do anything, and she’s a BITCH! First off Ashley asked if I could spend the night. Her mom said yes but my mom said you’ve got you’re work to do tomorrow, you’ve got school to do tomorrow ect., ect., ect. But you know what I really hate? What I hate is the way she’s alway’s dissing my friends. Ashley’s a liar, a manipulator, and needs help, Kim’s to bossy, gets on her nerves, and to loud. Luckily my  mom doesn’t know Kris very well yet, but I’m sure she’ll come up with something. Now as for Ashley all that may be true but I don’t believe my mom has any business poisening my mind against my friends. Kim just happens to be a leader, if she gets on my moms nerves that’s her problem. As for being to loud if mom lived in the Lewis’s house I’ll bet she’d be loud too (not that she isn’t already). I feel better having said all that. Now, geuss what?! I’m going to Montana with dad to visit the Creightons this weekend! Isn’t that great?! We’re going to Nancy’s house Friday night and staying over night and on Saturday we’re going to Montana! I’m going to have a whole weekend with boys, without mom! We’re coming home Tuesday. I can hardly wait! Gotta go!
Love Meg
P.S. Mom is still a Fuckin Bitch!

Dear Baby Me,

I wish you could ever stay angry through a whole entry. Even for a paragraph it is hard for you and that makes me sad. You have every right to be angry at your mother. Even though I think that she is worried about you, even though she is not entirely wrong about Kim or Ashley or at least some of your other friends, it’s not okay for her to treat you like that. You’re not wrong to want to stand up for your friends.

Your feelings are valid, it’s okay to feel them. Someday you will have much better friends, and better family too. You’ll have so many days with boys without mom.

Much love, Me

 

Dear Baby Me: May 15 & 16, 1997

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Thursday 4:48pm
Dear Steve,
Oh! What a beautiful blank book! Isn’t it fascinating to imagine what I will write in it? We’re going to Zach’s game tonight and tommorrow we have our last computer class. I don’t know how we’re going to get together after that.
You know what really sucks? Zach’s dad said Zach couldn’t come to the Mariner game! Doesn’t that suck?
I’ve gotta go!
Ciao! 4:55pm
Love Meg

Friday 9:43am
Dear Steve,
Got to Zach’s game an hour late. The first words he said to me were “Where were you”? It wasn’t my fault! Mom wouldn’t get going! His dad’s giving me a ride to class and my mom’s taking Zach home. You know what he said? After the game he said something about how bad he’d done and I’m like you didn’t do that bad. He says you didn’t see the whole game. I’m like alright you didn’t do bad in the last two innings. He says yeah cause you showed up. That’s sweet but it can’t be true since he’s been doing pretty good when I don’t come to his games. Gotta go!
Ciao!
Love Meg

Dear Baby Me,

It’s a good thing Zach played baseball, since that is the only sport you understand at all (still, to this day really). Someday you will have a boyfriend who asks you to come to his soccer game and you won’t have a clue what’s going on. That said, it is bizarre that you seem to be questioning that it could be possible that maybe he did better because you showed up? Like probably not. Also, did they win or lose? No matter, apparently.

Of course it doesn’t matter. I know it is exciting in ways you never even imagined to have this guy who is excited to see you, to feel important and like someone is interested in you. This is the drug you won’t get tired of, the thing it’s going to take you years to work through. It does suck Zach can’t come to the game. But hang in there, try to enjoy this part of things.

All the love,
Me

Graduation Thoughts

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Saturday was my graduation.

I thought maybe after a few days I would know what to say about it, but I find that it’s still hard to find the words. It was a long day. The ceremony itself was 4 hours long and then we had the party. But honestly, everything was perfect.

It was so inspiring to see everyone graduating. At Fairhaven, because the school is small, every student gets to choose a faculty member to present them. You get a little speech about everything you did, sending you off into the world with love and appreciation. I have gone to school with some truly incredible human beings, some of whom I was privileged to know and some I only knew by sight. But for the past two years I have been surrounded by deeply passionate and intelligent people, fighting actively for what they believe in. The world will be better off because of every one of them.

My professor did a linked speech of sorts with all of his graduates, comparing us all to different parts of a forest. For me he said I was the red cedar tree, strong and wise. He said many things, they were all kind and loving. It felt as much like a blessing as anything I have ever received in a church. He spoke to me and about me, knowing who I was and what I care about. He sent me into the world with all the belief I know he has in me, and I felt deeply loved and surrounded by a community that I believe in that believes in me as well.

The party was amazing. I believe 25 people came in total. I know there were a few who couldn’t make it but would have come if they could have. There were so many people I loved and who loved me. I got presents and money and cards, my BFF was amazing and ran around forcing everyone into pictures so I even have pictures of the night like I was hoping.

Also amazing, was my friend who went straight up to my parents to confront them on not coming to my graduation. I knew she was going to and somehow knowing that someone else was taking care of that allowed me to not have to think about it. I largely ignored my parents for the night. Occasionally I had to respond minimally but it was never more than a couple of sentences before I went running off to someone I actually wanted to talk to. They gave me an empty card with a signature that they were still praying for me. I laughed. I felt like a break had happened. I had considered, I had given them their chance and, in the end, they were everything that I always thought they were. All the toxicity, all the nonsense, it was all still there. And I just don’t have to deal with it anymore. Why should I? I am surrounded by people I love, who are supportive and amazing. There is nothing more in life I need (except probably a job on a practical level, but you know).

When my friend asked them why they weren’t at the ceremony, she said my mother’s response was proud, smug even. “That’s cause we weren’t there!”She said that’s when she knew that I was right, that my mother had done this to spite me. She wasn’t remorseful, she was proud of her decision.

I was glad to hear that, honestly. I had told a number of people that they weren’t coming to my graduation, and also that they were coming to the party. Many people seemed skeptical it was for the reasons I thought. Why try to spite me and come to the party? Why come at all? I kept having to go back to that I didn’t really know, I couldn’t explain it, but I knew on a very specific level that this made emotional sense to my mother. You can’t make sense of crazy. But I knew the emotion behind it was spite. So many people questioned me that I began to question myself, so it was validating to hear I was right.

This was an ending note in a lot of ways. The end of my time at Fairhaven, a place I have loved and been loved. But also what feels to me to be a firm cap on things with my parents. For so long things were up in the air. I knew I would invite them to graduations, I used to agonize over what would happen if I got married and how I would proceed. It felt like they were gone and yet things could change. Maybe not them but I could change.

And you know what? I did change. I got stronger, I put down more roots. I collected more and more people who were wonderful and supportive and kind. I studied and learned and grew. I learned about myself and my community. And what I found, when all this was said and done, was that I didn’t want or need them. So if I ever get married, I know it will be a wonderful day… and I know who won’t be there. When I someday graduate from grad school, I know who my guest list will not include.

I am incredibly fortunate, loved and able to love. I am surrounded by everything I ever wanted growing up and I’m so excited about what is coming. That is more than enough.

Dear Baby Me: May 12, 1997

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Dear Steve,

I’ve only got one more page and then this book is done! Computer class is almost over. I don’t know what me and Zach are going to do about getting together after that. We’ll have to think of something. It has been a gorgeous weekend and so far good weather is continuing. I’m listening to Freak by Silver Chair on the End. It’s a cool song. I have to clean my room. It’s stupid! Mom says they’ll go to Camano Island and leave me home to work!

 

Dear Baby Me,

I do not think I have thought about Silver Chair even once in the last probably decade? I have not missed them. But it’s nice to see these weird little inserts of your media.

It is stupid, if unavoidable, that you have to clean your room. Someday I promise you will be a grown-up and there will be no one to make you clean your room. Of course… then you will just do it because you want to, but that’s a lot more satisfying.

As for Zach, let’s not worry about that now. We’ll get to it later.

Much love, Me

Dear Baby Me: May 10, 1997

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 Dear Steve,

9:35pm

Zach called me last night from his friends house. Kaleb (his friend) was on the other line and the three of us talked for half an hour. Then Zach, Kaleb, and Jordan came over this morning and we talked for over an hour. As for my opinions on them Kaleb’s really ugly but really nice and fun to tease. He reminds me alot of Kermit (the camp counseler not the frog) and so I started calling him that. Jordan is kind-of cute, but he seems to be pretty shy. Zach of course is cute, sweet, nice, fun to tease – most of the time, and anything else you can think of. Kaleb’s seventeen so that’s why they could drive to my house. I like Kaleb alot. He’s really pretty nice. And you believe how much they talk alike (use the same expressions like “fool” etc) and sound alike on the phone (Zach’s voice is a little deeper). Zach’s different when he’s around his friends. More outgoing. I kind-of like him better that way. I “borrowed” Zach’s sunglasses till Wedesday. They’re cool! I don’t think I look good in them but Kaleb and Kris both say I do so I wear them anyway. Plus they’re Zach’s which makes them worth wearing. Hopefully Zach will call me Monday or Tuesday. I miss him already. Sort-of. That sounds really dumb, doesn’t it? Don’t answer that. Don’t you dare answer. Ciao!

Love Meg

Dear Baby Me,

You don’t know it yet but a pretty big thing has just happened. That boy who was not Zach but was nice to you, the one who you thought was “ugly”? You’re not going to think he’s ugly in a year or so. It would be fair to say that Kaleb is going to change your entire life. But no spoilers, we’ll get to it when we do. It is worth noting however that he caught your attention a little, even here, even in the middle of Zach fever.

It does not sound dumb that you miss Zach. It is totally okay that you have feelings for a guy you like and that you want to see him. That is super normal. You don’t have to feel silly or ridiculous about that, you don’t have to make things sound dumb to make them be okay. This is all okay.

Much love,

Me

Traumatized Butterflies

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I’ve got two things running around in my head right now (significantly neither one of them are my final undergraduate paper I should be working on right now) and I want to put them both into this blog entry, but I don’t know how well they’re going to fit. They’re connected but maybe not connected enough? Who can tell without trying.

Also I feel odd and nervous because when I finish this, my next step is to go email a link to this blog and a few other things to my entire class. Some of them may look, some of them won’t and it’s fine either way but it’s quite an entry to start with. Hi friends, if you’re here. Nice of you to stop by.

The way to begin both of my thoughts is with a little bit of background. I am about to graduate college. Assuming I finish this last paper anyway, but let’s not concern ourselves with that. I’ve been planning various things for the past few months, including the normal things, I suppose. Where will I be living? Where will I be applying for a job? Who will I be inviting to the ceremony? Where can I throw a huge party for a large number of people I love to celebrate me? What do I think about possibly allowing my parents to speak to me again? Okay, one of those is probably a less common problem.

However, in answer to all of them:

  1. Moving in with David and the Superhero and I am SO EXCITED.
  2. Don’t talk to me. I don’t even want to think about it. I AM applying but ugh, it’s awful.
  3. I have ten invitations to the actual ceremony and so many more than ten friends but I now have it down to eleven and that’ll just have to do.
  4. NYP has a party room that they don’t charge for and we can stay as long as we want. Sweet deal! So far my confirmed guest list is at almost 30 and I am beyond excited.
  5. See Below

A couple of months ago I began to toy with the idea of allowing my parents limited access again. I had details pretty much all worked out, I was only waiting on some stability. Initially my plan was if I got into grad school but, when that didn’t happen, I shifted it to waiting until I got a job and felt more comfortable with whatever my new life looked like. No one can make me feel like a failure as fast as my parents, so I wanted to make sure I was on good ground when I made that decision. Still, I felt good about it overall. I didn’t particularly need to see them again but I felt like I could see them again and maybe it would be a healthy thing for me to try. Also, I was curious.

At the same time I have been making my guest lists for my graduation. I’ve been very excited. I love parties and this is like getting to have two birthday parties in one year. For the actual ceremony I invited my mother’s whole family, which was kind-of essential. My aunt and uncle have allowed me to stay at their house rent-free for two years so…. kind-of required? And the family is sort-of a package deal (last time I graduated I invited only my aunts and my aunt and uncle just showed up). My parents were also on the guest list, because it seemed like the right thing to do. And there was a part of me that wasn’t sad about the idea of them seeing me surrounded by people who were proud of me when I knew they wouldn’t be. That wasn’t the reason, but I’m being honest and including it because it was there.

Last weekend my brother messaged me to let me know my parents were not coming to my graduation.

To be specific, my parents are coming to the party afterwards but they are not sitting through the ceremony.

I don’t know what their reasoning is. I can speculate, and I certainly have but it doesn’t really matter. None of it really makes sense. If mom is angry and trying to punish me, why are they coming to the party? If they don’t want to see me, why not come to the ceremony, where they can more easily avoid contact? No amount of turning it over makes it make sense. I am sure if I confronted them there would be a reason. One of them would tell me that they were sure that I didn’t really want them there (again, why come to the party? or why not at least tell me you weren’t coming so I knew I could invite extra people?), or that they thought the party was more important, or that they didn’t feel like sitting through a graduation. I have no idea what they would say but they would say something.

What I know is that my parents cannot be bothered to come to their daughter’s graduation.

This extremely long introduction is what leads me up to my two thoughts. One of them is what I was thinking about last night, and it is something I have thought about a lot over the last three years, about my parents in particular and about toxic parents in general. It is a speech that Sidney Poitier gives to his father in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. What I took from it is not the point of that movie in any way, but it still rattles around my head a lot. The whole thing is great (watching Sidney Poitier lose his mind always is) but the part that stands out to me is –

You tell me what rights I’ve got or haven’t got, and what I owe to you for what you’ve done for me. Let me tell you something. I owe you nothing! If you carried that bag a million miles, you did what you’re supposed to do! Because you brought me into this world. And from that day you owed me everything you could ever do for me like I will owe my son if I ever have another.

The first time I watched that I felt it everywhere. It was the opposite of everything I had ever been told or taught, but I knew it was true.

My parents had over 28 years with me before I walked away. In all of that time it was me who scheduled time with them, who begged for my father to come see me once I was living on my own, who called them, who initiated every conversation. They had so many opportunities to get to know me and yet the best case scenario here is that they don’t know me well enough to understand that something like my graduation is important to me. They are incredibly angry with me because they feel I owe them and I have backed out on a bargain. But no one ever asked me to sign.

I won’t be re-initiating contact with them.

The second thing is something I read on Facebook today, about butterflies. I don’t even know if it’s true.

“Do you understand what happens to a caterpillar once it’s in its cocoon? It completely turns into goo. That’s right, GOO. The damn thing dissolves and then reforms into the butterfly. Even crazier, the wings of the butterfly are already inside the caterpillar, ready to go, just waiting to float around in some goo and then be a beautiful butterfly. The craziest part?!? A study was done where some caterpillars were exposed to a certain smell and then given an electric shock so eventually the caterpillar associated the smell with the shock. Well after those little hairy noodles came out of their cocoons as butterflies, they exposed them to the smell again and the butterflies reacted super negatively, as if they were being shocked. A.K.A. not only is there wings floating around in that goo cocoon, there is also a brain, the same, unaltered brain as the caterpillar. The butterfly can recall its days as a caterpillar even after basically being turned into soup. And then it all somehow gets its shit together to be a stupid majestic little beast, and I can’t even remember where I put my damn phone.”

So I have not looked up this study. I have no idea if it’s true. And let’s not think too hard about the idea that somewhere in the world there may be scientists who are being paid to shock caterpillars (academia is genuinely the weirdest fucking place) but like a lot of these things it doesn’t actually rely on truth for it to resonate.

See, what’s most upsetting to me about all of this is how upset I was. I was so angry when my brother told me. I sent him a text message swearing at my parents (which I never do, I try to keep my brothers out of our whole thing as much as I can), I messaged a whole lot of people. I swore, I cried, I hit walls. I reacted MUCH more strongly than I would have expected. I took a shower and yelled at my parents the whole time (I was alone in the house, for the record). And then the next night I got ridiculously black-out drunk and David had to put me to bed and everything was the worst.

The worst part about all of this wasn’t even being upset, it was the idea that parents could cause that reaction. It was the feeling that maybe I haven’t really changed. I’ve worked so hard, I have been through so much, I really thought I grieved and processed and fell apart and came back together and I truly, truly thought that I was good. And then this like single thing happens and it all goes to hell?

BUT. None of that is true. It was a shitty 24 hours, it totally was. I am definitely still angry at them in a low-key kind of way. But probably it’s more like the butterfly. I absolutely did go through all of that. But before I did there were more than a few people who did a whole lot of shit and my brain still remembers all that. That is, after all, the reason I had to leave in the first place. And just because my brain (and body) still remembers what it was like to be in that traumatized place, doesn’t mean that things are the same. It just means it can take a minute to remember that I’m actually safe.

I can live with that.

Butterfly