Crime & Punishment

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When I was a child, my father beat me with a fat black leather belt. My crimes ranged from wetting the bed at age four or five (earliest memory) ~ to not cleaning my room well enough ~ to not washing the dishes correctly ~ to bad grades ~ to “having an attitude” (which I can just about guarantee I was too afraid ever to have) ~ to talking on the phone too long ~ to running away once (boy, did I get it that time) ~ to merely being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He was a towering figure given to dark moods – often fueled by cocaine benders and lack of sleep. I wasn’t the only recipient of his wrath. More than once I witnessed him attacking my mother, my dog, my cats… anything that got in his way, really. But I was indeed a frequent (and favored) target. I was stupid. I was ugly. I was a cowardly crybaby and a sniveling little shit. I was a waste of his time, energy, breath and money. I didn’t matter, and no one would miss me if I disappeared off the face of the earth.

I never did learn to “take my punishment like a man” (a frequent suggestion). Instead, I’d start pleading as he’d unbuckle his belt and slip it off, loophole by loophole, until it snapped and hissed in the air: as ominous & foreboding as a newly necromanced snake ready to strike and sting. I’d sob and beg him to spare me, promising that I’d try harder/be better next time if only he’d give me a chance.  And when that didn’t work I’d try to get away, which just led to finger-shaped bands of purple bruises on my upper arm as he’d anchor me in place with one hand while the other got down to business.

I did figure out a few things, though. I learned to sleep on my side for days after a beating because in this position you’re least likely to have PJs adhere to open sores (ouch) on your back, butt, and thighs. I learned to wear dark clothing to school so that when the welts inevitably bled and seeped they wouldn’t stain. Stains led to questions, and I couldn’t afford someone asking questions. I learned baths were better (far less painful) than showers — imagine tiny jet streams of water hitting freshly scabbed flesh. To this day I hate taking showers… I guess old habits really do die hard. Tragically, I also learned that mothers aren’t always on your side, sometimes they’re even the instigators.

I learned that safety was an illusion and monsters were real. That adults were not to be trusted, and the only way out for sad little girls was just to power through until you’re big enough & smart enough to make it on your own. I left home at seventeen and even though I would go on to see them many times as an adult (sad little girls seeking acceptance/validation often take far too long to learn valuable lessons), I never spent another night under their roof.

Eventually, I came to understand that a functional relationship with my parents – one that didn’t involve pain, fear, and humiliation or bring with it a sense of betrayal, wasn’t in the cards. This lesson came at great personal cost, and I will bear the scars (both literal and figurative) until the day I die. But I suppose no one gets through life without a few scars… some of us just have more than others.

Posted in Metamorphosis, Origin Story | Leave a comment

Forty-Five

You might be Donald Trump IF:

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  • Your domestic policy is a turgid, half-baked mess, and your foreign policy consists of a four-way circle jerk between you, Russia, Israel, and the Saudis.
  • You decry peaceful protests of racism while going out of your way to prop up racists.
  • Malapropos are commonplace and “facts” are fiction.
  • Your idea of a legacy as president is (out of jealousy & spite) undoing the legacy of the far more popular president who preceded you.
  • You surround yourself with jackals, assholes and xenophobes.
  • You constantly lie to the press and then claim you’re the victim of their unfair reporting.
  • You count your Christian values on one hand while grabbing pussies with the other.
  • You don’t even realize you’re the president of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and you refuse to accept any responsibility for what’s happening in Puerto Rico.
  • You attempt to govern through sound bites and 140-character tweets.
  • Denigrating women, war heroes, minorities, politicians (past & present), the media, football players, etc., etc. gives you a chubby.
  • Referring to your daughter as a ‘piece of ass’ also gives you a chubby.
  • The words ‘special counsel’ strike fear in your heart.

….. and the only thing more dangerous than Donald Trump? The people (willfully ignorant) who continue to prop him up and make excuses for his behavior day after day after day.

Posted in A Little Ragey, List-It, The Body Politic | Leave a comment

The Edge of Seventeen

Dear Sydney,

Tomorrow you are seventeen. How is that even possible? When I close my eyes and conjure your image, it’s baby-you I see. From the coppery-red whisps of hair (proof positive my Irish blood runs in your veins) to your cupid’s bow of a mouth, to the perfectly formed arches of your tiny feet — where I bestowed a lifetime of kisses long before the candle on your first birthday cake sputtered out.

As my last born – my final “baby” – I’ve cherished each milestone. Cheering with you in good times, and wrapping myself around you (a cocoon as soft as whisper & gentle as a kiss) when you’ve felt the sting of rejection or loss. You’ve learned the hard way that life isn’t always fair, nor is it kind. But you’ve also witnessed first hand the grace of strangers and felt the genuine warmth of lasting love & friendship.

You’ve ridden a camel in the shadow of the great pyramids and felt the gentle rocking of the ocean beneath you when, on a chilly July night in New Zealand, you gazed in wide-eyed wonder at the twinkling Southern Cross. And you are better for it, and all the other amazing things you’ve experienced in your seventeen years on this earth.

But with great privilege comes great responsibility. Make the world a better place, sweet girl. Don’t just say “please,” “thank you” or “I’m sorry,” but mean it… even especially when it’s hard. Do good for the sake of doing good, with no expectation of reward or recognition. Give a little of your time and money to those who ask – be it NPR or PP or the ACLU or PETA (so many acronyms) or the guy holding a sign on a street corner (regardless of whether you find his hard luck story credible or not). Lead by example, and speak up when those around you grow silent.

Forgive easily and love fiercely. Know that you are wise beyond your years (an old soul) and be patient when waiting for others to catch up to you. Understand that your lists and five-year plans and blueprints are just one possibility in an infinite loop of possibilities. As a wise man (also born on your birthday) once said: life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.

Sometimes, like Atlas, you are a mighty Titan bearing the weight of the world on your shoulders. Give yourself a break every once in a while. Be careful not to take on too much and delegate too little. Let others help — it’s as good for them as it is for you. Let ME help. It’s kind of my job, after all, and I’m pretty good at it if I do say so myself. Let your father and sister help, too. Know that you don’t need to be perfect all the time; flaws are part of what makes us wonderful and unique… and human.

So happy birthday, my stubborn, funny, whip-smart, beautiful baby girl. As I type this you’re three doors down sleeping peacefully in your room. But in my heart of hearts, I’m cradling you in my arms, smelling your sweet newborn head, and leaving butterfly kisses on the tiny arches of your perfectly formed feet.

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Love Forever,
Mom

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Random Thought of the Day #3

So sick of all the bullshit hipster restaurant double-speak. I refuse to eat at a place with ‘fusion’ in its name or tolerate people who drone on about how they really like to dine in local bistros featuring free-range, farmer-friendly, fairly-traded cuisine that’s humanely sourced and cruelty-free.

It’s not a “neutron bomb of flavor doused in dragon’s fire and kissed w/nature’s rainbow — lovingly wrapped in a tasty mesa bun.” It’s a fucking burrito. And this is not some world-famous molecular gastronomy, Wylie Dufresne, fine dining establishment – it’s Chipotle.

… so step. off.

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#rantover

Posted in A Little Ragey, Reverie, Whinging | 1 Comment

Eschrichtius Robustus

Dear Jim,

We danced together on the March equinox
Do you remember?
We were free of pretense, free of pain
Fearlessly optimistic – wild and unrestrained

In the beginning, you had me, and I had you
(I always knew)

Then the dog-days came with
Deadlines and obligations to heed
We spoke of bills & lists & plans & needs
Subverted our passions, embraced our greed
We had mountains to move and mouths to feed

But through it all, you had me, and I had you
(I always knew)

And now and now, like great gray whales
Migrating against an autumn’s blast
We are ancient, timeless, wise
Steadfast
True to one another; built to last

And through it all, I’ve had you, and you’ve had me
Sometimes what is, is what’s meant to be

Finally — in the winter of our life
When the cold winds blow, and the snow comes down
You’ll be the fire warming my soul and
I’ll be the gravity keeping your feet on the ground
Our bodies will be old; our love that much more profound

One day they’ll tell our story: of a Northern lad and girl born on a Bayou
They’ll raise a glass to everything (and I mean everything) we’ve been through
They’ll drink to the good, the bad — the old, the new
And they’ll marvel at how you always had me and I always had you
(but we always knew)

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Love Forever,
B.

Posted in Epistolary, Metamorphosis, My Tribe, Reverie | 1 Comment

Sword of Damocles

Some days you feel as if you are Pandora’s Box itself. All the sorrows of the world reside within you. All the hate and fear and bile and shame – straining against your edges and scratching grooves into the smooth surface of your resolve. Control seems like an illusion: as gossamer-thin as a butterfly’s wing. Misery is a foregone conclusion, and you’re powerless against the onslaught of emotions.

Sound familiar? If so, know that you’re not alone. And if not, well, you’ve led a charmed life… mazeltov.

Today marks the end of national suicide prevention week. I’ve seen mentions of it across social media and in the news. I’ve thought of the many ways we kill ourselves – for my son, whether intentional or not, it was drugs. With my good friend Tracy from high school, it was a Wilkinson double-edged razor on a blustery February afternoon. For Vincent Van Gogh it was a revolver to the chest. Sylvia Plath, a head in the oven. For Virginia Woolf, a pocket of heavy stones and a rushing river, and Robin Williams – a belt for a noose as Sunday slowly faded into Monday.

So. Much. Loss.

All I’ll say, not only as a human being and person who’s shouldered my fair share of depression, but as a mother who couldn’t/wouldn’t/didn’t save her son – don’t do it. Please.

Choose life.

I know it’s both the easiest thing to ask and hardest to do. Try anyway. And should you ever need a sympathetic ear – I’m ready to listen.

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Posted in Metamorphosis, Outreach, Reverie | Leave a comment

Lenny Bruce is Not Afraid

It’s the end of the world as we know it. And CNN, with its 24/7 disaster-porn news coverage, wants you to feel fine.

Now, there’s absolute truth to the science behind global climate change and the great shitstorm it brings forth. It’s something we should all be aware of, plan for, and work to make better — for our children and our children’s children. It’s why I recycle, resist watering my lawn*, and force myself to sit through An Inconvenient Truth whenever it’s on TV and I can’t find anything better on HBO.

But CNN… com’on already. No amount of Anderson Cooper in soggy Baby Gap tees or Chris Cuomo reflexively flexing into the wind (think Juandissimo Magnifico in a water-logged turbine farm) will negate the meteorological bloodlust I see in your eyes. The constant barrage of projected landfalls & whorling radars no doubt has many viewers ready to bend over and kiss their ass goodbye. But ha! — joke’s on you, CNN – I’m way too fat and immalleable to bend over and kiss anything. #merica

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Instead, I watch your broadcasts with the same sort of mild revulsion I usually reserve for people who say “bruh!” every five seconds or cite The Rock as their role model. This. Must. Stop. You’ve oversaturated (yes, I get the irony) not only the airwaves but the proletariat. What’s the old argument about the dangers of prolonged exposure to violence in the media – that it’s found to decrease empathy and have a desensitizing effect on the viewer? Yeah, I think we’re there.

And it’s an absolute shame. Because disaster survivors NEED our empathy and support right now. They need to know they’re not forgotten or brushed aside for the next big hurricane or earthquake or Russian prostitute/pissing scandal. Instead, like junkies chasing your next big high, you’re holed up in the Ritz-Carleton waiting to film another Irma-related live shot. It’s a little distasteful.

I’m not suggesting you lay off entirely, just maybe chill out a bit. Send Anderson Cooper back home, and drop Chris Cuomo off at the Planet Fitness of his choosing. Give us all a little breathing room. Oh, and maybe stop openly lusting for Armageddon (no matter how fantastic the ratings might be). And here’s my promise to you: allowed the time and space to process everything– like the butterfly you’ve loved and set free — we’ll no doubt come back to you. Unless we can find something better on HBO, that is.

 

* mostly I just resist because it cuts down on mowing
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Random Thought of the Day #2

When you speak in absolutes, you box yourself in. There’s no room for change or growth or evolution of thought.

That said… I absolutely hate Donald J. Trump.

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Posted in Reverie, The Body Politic | Leave a comment

Benediction

One kiddo is currently having the time of her life sunning herself in beautiful, exotic Costa Rica. The other is the most together 16-year-old I know and is about to embark on her junior year of high school. Both are happy, healthy, independent, take-no-prisoners women who make me proud on a daily basis. When I lay awake late into the night with the litany of things I’ve done wrong (or simply not done at all) flickering behind my eyelids like some celluloid waking nightmare… It’s them who saves me.

I cannot be all bad if I’m loved by the caliber of people who do, indeed, love me.

I am blessed. I am content. I am grateful.

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Vampires

Dear Mother,

You were supposed to protect me. You didn’t.

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Dear Father,

There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.

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