Alan Alda

May 19, 2017

[written for my writing group for the subject: Permit]

My second-grade teacher and my parents were at odds over how to deal with me. They didn’t know they were giving me such mixed messages because I didn’t tell my teacher about what was going on at home (although, having taught 7-year-olds, I am sure she knew something was wrong). And my parents never received any complaints from my school, just the occasional note that I seemed sad.

One afternoon that year, my teacher had us watch Free to Be You and Me, the 70’s TV special narrated by Alan Alda and some other people I don’t remember, all about being comfortable in your own skin, not putting labels on people, and various other hippie ideals that were not quite as popular in 1982, but that my teacher firmly believed in.

I remember very little about the TV show except for two things: the radical notion that boys and girls could like the same things and the song “It’s All Right to Cry.” You see, in my family, it wasn’t all right to cry. Crying was not permitted, at least for me. It was all right for my little sister to cry, and my mom was rarely not crying. I was pretty sure that my little brother or sister on the way was going to be crying most of the time. But for me, it had never been OK.

My mom had me when she was 25 – not that young by the standards of the day, but she was completely emotionally unprepared. To this day, when someone talks about how they might be less lonely if they had a baby, or how it would be nice to have a child so there would be someone who was always there, I have to walk away. I recently ended a friendship because my former friend spent tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments, confiding to me that, without a partner, she was really lonely, so even though she was financially and emotionally unprepared to have a baby, she just “really needed someone who loved her unconditionally.”

That’s exactly what my mother intended I would be for her.

It should really be no surprise then that she couldn’t handle me. From the time I learned to walk and talk (both around nine months old, which shocked everyone), I had opinions. Actually, I probably had opinions before then. I was not the malleable precious little doll-baby she had imagined, but was strong-willed and emotional, and she had no idea what to do with me. So she made the rule that I couldn’t cry. After all, only one of us could be upset at a time, and it was usually my mother.

This rule was enforced in different ways at different times. I’m not sure what the mandatory reporter laws were like in the late 70s and early 80s, but it was probably more convenient for everyone that I didn’t talk to my teachers about this enforcement. The mildest version was to be sent to my room if I cried, and if she could hear me through the closed door, the next threat was to have to spend the night in the garage. I never had to do that because I would put the pillow over my head and hold my breath, trying to stop myself from calling out for my parents, who were clearly not going to be any help.

If my mom wasn’t feeling patient, she’d slap me across the face which would generally do the trick. “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about,” and all that. It’s hard to blame her – that would have been an act of love compared to what she grew up with. It’s no wonder that I grew up steeped in shame and fear; she had come by those honestly and passed them on to her children in our DNA and from her behavior

One day though, everything changed. I came home from school and something happened, and I cried, and she slapped me across the face. We had just watched the last part of Free to Be You and Me and I just wasn’t taking it any more. “My teacher says it’s OK to cry!” I yelled at her. “It was on TV! You can’t punish me for crying!”

I’m not sure she had any idea what I was talking about but I kept going. “If you hit me, I’m going to tell my teacher because I’M ALLOWED TO CRY!” I screamed at her. And went in my room to do precisely that.

That ended it. There were plenty of other problems in my family, but I wasn’t punished for crying anymore and she never hit me again.

But, of course, it didn’t really end it. The shame never left. I still feel it every time tears come – I shouldn’t be doing this, I’m disappointing people, I’m not good enough.

My nieces and nephew though – they don’t have this. They know it’s OK to cry. They know feelings matter and are valid, and they don’t feel ashamed when they express their feelings. The cycle of shame seems to be ending, and maybe it’s time for the adults to learn from the kids. They didn’t even need Alan Alda.


Too Much and Too Long

November 18, 2011

My depression is managed now. Managed so well that I feel like I’m cured… except that I’m still on medication. But there seems to be some kind of PTSD that happens after too much depression. I am afraid of it creeping up and grabbing me again.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that I’m angry that it took so long to feel better.  I am 36 years old and I’ve been not depressed for almost two years.  ALMOST TWO YEARS.  And depressed for the rest of my life.  Really severely depressed from the time I was very very young.  That is too long – far, far too long.

In a lot of ways, I feel like God rescued me but it was too much for too long.  I don’t understand.


Another Wedding, Another Baby

September 25, 2010

I got two more announcements in the mail today: a college roommate is getting married and a college friend just had a baby.  I want to be happy for them.  I really do.  But I’m not.  At all.  I can’t help but think this makes me a selfish person, or even a “bad” person.  I’m just so sick of other people having things to celebrate – big public things that everyone’s happy about.  Things that invite parties and gift registries and people traveling and loud congratulations.  I have good things too but nothing like that.

I feel selfish.  I don’t even know if I want children but it hurts every time someone says that they’re pregnant because they have something else to celebrate.  This isn’t who I want to be but it just feels so unfair.

It feels so silly, but I want someone to throw me a party.  I want to be able to register for gifts – not because I want the gifts, but because I want to be celebrated.


Tired

September 17, 2010

I’m always tired.  Chronically tired.  I sleep too much and I’m still tired. It’s nothing physical – at least, I’ve been tested for everything.

Two revelations today:

1. I’m going to keep praying for relief.  God healed me from my depression (through medication, but I count it as being healed because I am no longer SUFFERING and I’ve tried plenty of medications which didn’t work) after many, many years.  I don’t know why he waited so long.  But he did and I have to believe he can heal me from this too.  I’d prefer for it to happen right now and I don’t know why we have to wait on these things.

2. I have a lot of resentments.  Many, many resentments.  I can’t stand injustice and I mean everything from someone treats me slightly badly to slavery and sex trafficking.  It gets in my head and I can’t get it out.  I obsess, I get angry, I want to yell and convince anyone around me.  Maybe it’s not the best way to deal with it.  Maybe it’s exhausting me.  To tell you the truth, I don’t know another way to deal with it.  Maybe it’s time to figure one out.


I Want to Erase Myself

August 24, 2010

I don’t think I’ve written about this yet, but I’ve been meaning to for quite a while.  I’ve been putting it off because it sums up how I was feeling at the height (depth?) of my depression. A few years back, I heard something from a woman who had struggled with an incredible amount of abuse, alcoholism, depression, and probably more I don’t know about.  She said a lot about where she was in her journey right then and what a hard time she was having.  I don’t remember any words except for:

“I want to erase myself.”

I remember those words because she put most of my life into words.  For the vast majority of my life, I didn’t want to have things get better necessarily, or to have more friends, or to have been born into a different family, or even to kill myself.  I simply wanted to have never existed.  To be able to erase myself completely, with no trace.  I’ve always been realistic enough to know that people would miss me if I died, but erasing myself — erasing any effect I had ever had, anything I had ever done, and anyone I had ever been — seemed like the only solution.  When I was thinking and saying that I wished I was dead, I think I really meant that I wished I had never even been thought of.

I haven’t felt that way in over a year and a half and I can’t completely remember the feeling, but I can remember enough to panic.  I can remember just enough to be really profoundly sad.  And to wonder why anyone at all should have to want to erase themselves — while believing in a God who loves me.  It was too much.  It’s gone and it’s still too much sometimes.


I’m the Nothing

April 20, 2010

That’s how I’m feeling right now.

My sister and her husband bought a house last year, have fixed it up, and just had a baby.

My brother is getting married.

My parents are so excited about those things – and they are exciting celebrations. But I’m the nothing. I feel like their conversations must go like this:

“Oh, and X just had a baby! We’re so excited!! And Y is getting married! We’re so excited!! And Z? She’s fine.”

It’s even worse that I’m the oldest. I’m supposed to do these things first. In addition, both my siblings have exciting jobs. They are both professional artists – a photographer and a musician. My parents are always emailing around the photographs and the music samples and the photos being published and the music gigs, and rightly so. But again, I’m the nothing.

They’ve forgotten to call me back and email me back lately because they’re so excited about what’s going on with my siblings. They told me.


Forks

February 7, 2010

Here’s a story about how God has a sense of humor and uses it to show me that He’s taking care of me.

I have a thing about not being married sometimes. I feel sorry for myself, I feel alone, and I feel like a failure. I was getting into that about a week ago. Coupled with the fact that it’s only January and I already have SEVEN baby showers and FIVE bridal showers and weddings to go to, and that I’m supposed to bring presents to all of them, I got into quite a funk. I started with the oh, poor me, I have to spend hundreds of dollars on other people’s nice new stuff and they get nice new stuff just because they’re married and are they better than me because they’re married because no one’s ever given me nice stuff because I’m just single, and I don’t even have enough FORKS! You get the idea. Resentful. Pity party. Lonely. Sad.

So, I put on facebook that I needed forks, hoping that someone had some extra silverware they didn’t need. I didn’t hear anything for a while so I bought silverware from Ikea. Eight sets – two boxes of four each. Then, a friend gave me TWENTY sets of silverware. Then someone I didn’t know brought me FIFTEEN sets of silverware. Then, another friend offered to mail me silverware. Then I was in LA and a different friend wanted to give me a bunch of silverware. I now have too much silverware for my drawer. I will have to give it away.

Possibly, just possibly, God is taking care of me. And if he can provide forks, maybe he can provide more.

So, why is it so hard to believe?