Monday, May 22, 2023

Monday Mimisms ~ Toes Out the Window

I was seventeen. 
Performing in 1974

My hair weighed more than I did.
We'd just finished a Beatles medley for the student body of our high school
and all I wanted to do was step out of the Yellow Submarine we'd build out of  cardboard and slide into the passenger seat of my boyfriend's car
 Toes out the window. Coca-Cola in my hand.
Hair-in-a-ponytail-happy-I was.

Fast forward forty-seven years. 
and volcanoes are exploding in my pencil head
Pandemic Me

So much time on my hands
Thinking about the one I should have married
Thinking about the one I could have married
The one I shouldn't have married
The one I didn't marry
All of those shoulda-woulda missteps brought lifelong consequences unbeknownst to the long-haired girl.
The one who got away before I found myself at the ripe old age of thirty-something. 
What is it about sixty-something that causes one to psychoanalyze the whole of a life?  
Shouldn't I be knitting sweaters or something? 
Who does that?
Me. This week. That's who.

Then I hit a big bodacious bad brick wall. SCREEEEECCCCHHHH.

Last Thursday night I was sitting on the couch staring at the wall in silence, evicting a few rickety ghosts from my head, watching them fly away into mist. Scribbling on paper. I'd been there awhile...just kind of numb. Needing to not-think. You get that, right?  There had been unpleasantness, you see. 
I don't like unpleasantness. I like peace.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Meditate. Pray. Listen.
Before I knew it, all the ropes that held me down had been untied. I lit a match and symbolically burned a paper full of angry words in my left hand. 
Watched it burn. Watched it burn.
Ashes. Poof. Gone.
Then picked up what was left of those I-should-have-could-have-shouldn't-have people with my right hand and blew. them. away. 

I looked at the clock. It was 2 am. 
I straightened my dented crown and went to bed.

I've been on a slippery slope you see.
Trying to function and still save me.

There. I said it.
It doesn't matter how long ago your loved one last misused a substance or drank to excess or suffered a bout of depression, in a mother's head and heart they're always a fool's breath away from active destruction; except with addiction or alcoholism or even narcissism it's mutual destruction. A person with a substance use or personality disorder can look at you stone cold sober holding a Bible in one hand and Holy Water in the other and you still won't believe they're sober or truthful.

That's my problem, not theirs.

I don't want to cover it up anymore.

Not because of my beautiful loved one - he's been successfully working his sobriety for many years - 
but because of ME.

Standing in the wide weary gulf between helping and enabling 
when I found myself alone and climbing out of the recent brief foxhole we shared,
it resurrected all kinds of emotional baggage from years and years ago when he was actively struggling with substances. Oh, the memories. We found ourselves dancing to that worn-out record despite ourselves
my eyes were opened
to what I had become
what I needed to deal with
what I needed to admit
what I needed to understand
what I needed to

Don't you hate that word?
What word, Mimi?
Yes, I hate it.

The day I started blogging, half my face fell off
Then all kinds of wonderful adventures began
Today, this many years young,
I found the other half again.

There is a thin line dangling between the edge of authenticity and the need for dignity and privacy. My writing has always walked that wire. But in every word and every story I try to err on the side of transparency, in the same way I would want less shame-based words applied to the people I love.

Addict is not a noun or an identity. Alcoholic is not a noun or an identity. Codependent is not a noun or an identity. They are disorders and struggles, not moral failures. The disease is not the person.

I've wanted to say it for years.
That I am proud of him
That I love him with all my heart
That I see him

Despite me and my uneven walk with worry and faith

But just for a little while, I think we need a mini-divorce.
Hush Homer. I'll be checking your medicine cabinet tomorrow..

 Just until I regain my sea legs and he sprouts more of those beautiful wings.

He can be free to make his own adventures 
 I won't be holding him hostage with my smothering
I can be free to make my own adventures 
 not holding myself back with fear 
What codependency does to your peace of mind is insidious and suffocating 
You don't even know it's happening! 
It's a learned belief and habit that I must unlearn

Have you ever seen your son or daughter nearly dead from a disease?
You'll do anything to keep that from happening again. Even when you no longer need to. Even years later. And therein lies the devil of enabling.

The job of addiction is to kill and destroy. When you enable (helping someone do something they can do for themselves) at first you believe you're actually helping. You feel good about it. You get a rush of feel good dopamine. Sound familiar? 
Here's the problem. The real sneaky job of enabling is also to kill and destroy. 

 My hardwired need to protect, spills over into the decisions I make about everything and everyone else in my life. Now that was an eye-opener.

Codependency grows from a normal natural parental instinct which screams Mothers have it the moment their babies are born.
There's no shame in it. It's motivated by love. 
But with substance disorder, because of the unpredictable trauma that goes on in families as a result, it can grow wild and out of control and you start looking for a recurrence of symptoms in your loved one. It drives them away. It feels like moral judgment even when your intention is to only throw love. 

Sometimes I move about the world in shoe-drop mode, post trauma reactions that aren't even real in the moment. It's not irrational or hypothetical. The triggers of past events can still be seen in my mind and felt in my heart.

So I make up my own scary stories in the now and convince myself that I need to DO something to prevent them from happening again. It's that dead-child-coffin-dream fear, to put it bluntly. It's very common for parents of children who've suffered from substance abuse. It's like you're watching a horror show on the big screen of your life. The substance has the starring role, the protagonist. Everyone is in desperately twisted love with the alcohol, the pill, the high, the drama. Your loved one is drowning. You are the unintentional antagonist. Everyone dies.

You run yourself ragged trying to help. It doesn't help. It makes things worse because they lose the dignity of making their own choices. And you lose your mind watching them suffer.

I think I dented my crown when I hit that wall, my friends.
But I'll be OK.

No matter how many times I stick my toes out the window and put my hair in a ponytail, some days are like a roller coaster ride.  You either hold on or fall off.
But mostly, I discovered the amusement ride in my head wasn't fun.

I joined a support group. I took an assessment. I signed up for a codependency class online. I wrote emails and ask questions. I watched podcasts on parents who also struggle with enabling NODDING and NODDING and NODDING my head.
Who knew I belonged to a club that no one wants to belong to all these years? 

 I didn't join to fix him. I joined to fix me.

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Monday, May 8, 2023

Monday Mimisms ~ Getting Back To Me

         The housing market exploded into doom-for-buyers about the time they settled in. No reasonable rent to be found. No affordable housing on the horizon. 

          They were stuck here with me, Homer, Snickers, squirrels and trees. For the past eighteen months I've had guests in my house; changing jobs, seeking housing, and going with the flow of economic turmoil. The bonus? A delightful 3-year-old who calls me Mimi liberally planted kisses on the mirrors....and on me...every single day.  It's been challenging and wonderful all at once. At times the experience forged our relationships with in-your-face fire, followed by loving transitions of the heart, only to be followed by more fire. All necessary. Part and parcel for three generations under one roof. And probably long overdue.  I'm happy and proud to report they've moved on to a home of their own ... new commitments, new adventures. I still haven't washed the lipstick marks from the mirrors.

Now there are only the ghosts of Bloggingham...
 and me.

While I love them and will miss them, 
I'm rediscovering what it means to be truly finally retired and free.
My life has been on pause for a few years. 
Lately I've been to a couple of lunch meets with old friends and colleagues, bought a new dress for Friday night tip-toeing into a nightclub (if I remember how to walk in heels), found a new Farmer's Market and stocked the freezer with healthy foods. 

And the music?


Clothes and shoes?
(did I say that??)

Mostly, I appreciate and value my independence. I don't think I'll take for granted, again, any little thing in my home.  Did I fully appreciate my space before? NO. Did I remember to stop and be grateful for pine cabinets, wood floors, porches and tire swings? Not always. 

I'd almost forgotten what it meant to hear silence.

 I have learned to be thankful for the smallest of things: the forks and spoons I now wash in the quiet of morning, the sound of a perking coffee pot, the sight of birds making new nests under inconvenient eaves and dust...even dust...because I get to do a big spring clean and spruce my home new into what I want it to be just for me again. I feel like I walked into a brand new house.
I need rugs. And lamps. And art on the walls.
I'm throwing out carloads of accumulated junk from attic to basement.
VERY liberating.

 I've lived alone for the past twenty-one years! Having others here for so long was an intense experience for me. I like my own company. I like my own space. I like my own routines. And let's face it, I drive people crazy!!!
(Just ask them!) 
Hush Homer..

Someone said to me the other day during one of our post-pandemic marathon phone calls, 
"You never apologize."
"Excuse me?" popped right out of the snarly mouth of mine. "I don't apologize??"
"You're the most unapologetic person I've ever known," he said. "You don't explain yourself. You're just who you are all the time. I admire that about you.
You don't care what anybody thinks....
I pay attention."

I appreciated the insight but me thinks I need to do some serious tweaking on this codependent thing and learn what boundaries I'm sabotaging for mySELF that causes me pain and stunts my personal growth. Inner Truth time. 

So this time in Act 3 of my life
it feels like starting over
from scratch
like flour and dough-making scratch  
mixing mud in a wild strawberry mud-pie scratch
making love in a cold backseat scratch
moving off to college starting over
lyrics and crazy chords
out of thin air scratch

staying home 

88 keys of blank pages
just waiting for me
and my time

That's what musicians do. 
That's what writers do.
That's what I do.
No apologies.

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Monday, May 1, 2023

Monday Mimisms ~ Hemlines and Shoulders

The plan: Band playing. Outdoor music and festival food. Scores of antiques. Hotdogs. A raffle. Socialization. And oh yes....there was rain. Lots of rain.
The much anticipated event cancelled by a thundercloud. 

The dress would have to wait.
If you can imagine an off-the-shoulder look....

As luck (unluck) would have it and in perfect (imperfect) timing, Beans came down with some sort of virus (not Covid) and a high fever, so...I couldn't have gone anyway. When I picked him up from school on Friday his fever was 102 degrees. He had to hunker down with me for the weekend in lieu of spreading it to #theheartpatient at his house. A quick wardrobe switch from that new-dress-floozy-feeling to a nurse cap and thermometer bag and I was good to go. Those quick wardrobe changes in opera workshop classes back in the day really pay off from time to time. Poor little guy has been so sick. I'm masking up and staying as clear away from him as I can, spraying Lysol, singing German Lieder to make him fall asleep 

and eyeing that cute little dress hanging in the hallway just begging to be accessorized.

I've decided to wear the dangling Cherokee feather earrings and strappy floppy Clark sandals with a gold petaled fleur atop for comfort and attention. Yes, I said attention. I need some attention. The kind that a new dress can bring. Because it's not really about the way you look in it or how others see you in it...
it's about how it makes you feel. 

And right now I'm feeling pretty darn lucky that I get to spoil this little person who loves and depends on his Mimi AND pretty excited and looking forward to the next sunny weekend full of spring festivals and fun
sans thunderstorms
and flu

That dress makes me happy
Bodaciously clashing with the wallpaper
The hemline hangs short in the front
 longer in the back
symmetrically askew
and that's why I laughed
when the mirror said "It's you!"

Gute Nacht

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Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Monday Mimisms ~ The Cherokee Girl

*Reprised from 2010* 

I am slightly north of fifty.

Most days I like my place on the chronological globe. Some days I want to string it up from the highest rafter and kick the bucket of wrinkle remover off the highest cliff and call it a day.
Today was a bucket kicker of a day.

I took my 6-year-old grandson shopping through the neighborhood yard sale boutiques. He had a pocket full of money (mine) a skip jump and a heartbeat of joy (mine) and most everything else in his wiry little body that you can count on in this world that means a blessed thing. And he’s mine.
Wrapped around my sinew and bone like a web-spun intricate cobweb of blissful peace.
He is.

My hands have a few wrinkles.
I know they weren’t there yesterday.
And my eyes look tired. Must be the heat, I tell myself.
It’s because I’m past-midlife-never-mind.

And then I went home and got properly stuck on the age thing.
And why some days I look like hell
and some days I look like twelve
and how today I feel just like the Cherokee girl my grandmother was

I tried to wash my freckles away in the morning dew when I was 8 years old because she said they would disappear. Lo and behold, at 53, I am still trying to cover those blasted freckles and make my smile stop being crooked like hers and my nose wrinkling up when I really really smile.

For years I fought it. I wanted it to shift into Hollywood styled sophisticated perfection. I wanted to pout like Garbo, sizzle like Marilyn, slink like Ginger. I did not want to effude giggles like a pigtailed Mary Ann. (Oh, I do alright in the catwalk department on a good ole’ day you see…..but it’s days like today …..when the sun is long and my freckles come callin’ that I see…I see…..(“I brought my grandson today, ma’am. His name is Baby Boy”) a wisp of her staring cold in the mirror and laughing cause she still sees the marks behind whatever makeup I put on (“Grandson? He’s not your son?”)……knowing full well I can‘t wash them off with the dew (“No, no,” I laugh, “my own baby is 30.”…) even though that’s what my greatly superstitioned grandmother told me (“That’s about what I thought you were.”) while she watched me wash my face with dewdrops one morning at 5am in the backyard trying to scrub them away….(“Oh DO go on, ma’am…I will buy everything you have in your garage today…“)

Whoever heard of a movie star with freckles?

I can't have both.
Can I?

So I came home flailing all my will into a long dramatic selfish pout, casting winks and coy glances hither and yon for the birds and the squirrels and trees, splashing on makeup and dropping pearls round the long strands of auburn that also belonged to the glorified goddess of an Indian-laced grandmother and took this shot and that and that shot and this trying to see what the yard sale lady said she saw in the shadow of my grandson‘s smile this morning…...oh I was bound and determined to have a dandy of a roll in the whine fields if I couldn't coax that number down and have a long satisfying look in the yard sale lady's mirror...... I desperately needed those years to wash away you see and since it was not morning, but a sun-washed afternoon in my fifty-third year I felt time turning pages in the solstice of a day that I knew I was meant all along to land in with my grandmother laughing all wrinkled and joyful behind that willow tree looking at me flirt shamelessly with wildlife and memories......wondering how did I get here so fast in a spot where spots are signs of age and not of youth with no stopwatch to slow them down... down.... down....
Until finally I saw something in the lens I’d never seen before.
Something steadfast.
Something strong.
Something …..

a streak of stubborn
A chiseled chin
A bold lined woman
Who never takes no for an answer
and knows exactly where she's been

One random streak of grey
And freckles
Not in the dew
But in the new

And then
I had an epiphany

About perfection
And the lack of it
In me
And imperfections
And strength
in the middle of
imperfect things
that I no longer want to wash away

My grandmother's gift of stubbornness and grit might have been borne on the backs of those unsophisticated marks, but she knew what she was doing when she passed them on to me.
She knew I would need them
there's some kind of magic in dew

*NOTE 2023: Baby Boy is now in college studying Computer Science. 
I am north of sixty. Still wearing dangling feathers and feeling ever so much more like a Cherokee girl inside and out. Grandmother had wisdom that has served me well. This morning I found a white feather on my walk at precisely 11:11. Thank you, Grandmother...I miss you too.

photos: Mimi Lenox
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Monday, April 10, 2023

Monday Mimisms ~ Do I Look Like Annie to You??

Three Five Things I Will Never EVER Say to Anyone Again
Who Is Going Through a Hard Time

1.  You are stronger than you know.

Please, for the love of all that is BloLy (that's blog + holy for all you non-blog speakers) 
Let's not tempt the Universe and test that theory.

maybe I need to look in the mirror

2. This too shall pass.

Sometimes it takes a loooooonnnnng time to "pass." In the meantime it's perfectly logical to schedule a nervous breakdown.

3. You've been through worse times than this! 
You can do it!

Bite me.

4. I'm sorry you're sick. 
Are you sure it wasn't caused by stress?

Now you have insinuated that I don't have the strength to soldier through and I'm somehow to blame for my own distress. A double-whammy to my pain. 
                               See #3

5. Tomorrow is a new day.

Thanks. Another day of this???!!

Have a big ugly cry. Throw some things. I tried Velcro curlers but it was so unsatisfying. Shut the bathroom door and cuss in the mirror. If you're not used to cussing you'll start tripping over consonants making up new debauchery! Feels so good. Then you'll start laughing because you can't even cuss right.

Crawl under a blanket or a rock with a bag of Cheetos. Works for me.

Anger. Let's say it. It's there because you're hurting, exhausted, and you want the pain to stop. Call up your best friend. Tell her to bring wine, a Bible, a witch doctor, a Priest, some herb roots, Reiki people, anointing oil from the Nile, snake-handling gloves, a Santana album for dancing and a box of very sinful chocolate. Yep. We're covered.
I have friends who already have bags packed for such occasions.

As for the above well-meaning offenses, I have been guilty of saying all of them.
And I vow to do better.

P.S. I hope this made you laugh

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