Moira’s Neighbor Totoro

From my other blog, The Gamer Widow’s High Tea Society: Moira’s Neighbor Totoro

In other news, my month-long hiatus from Facebook is nearly finished. It’s been an interesting experience. In restricting my access, I realized just how much time I have spent surfing the social networking site (read: too damn much) and how much stress and anxiety is caused by participating in Facebook’s social politics (read: you can’t fix stupid, but you can watch it in action everyday on Facebook!). I think this experience will strongly influence how I use Facebook in the future.

Finally, for my round-up of stuff I did this week: I experimented with putting my hair in rollers.

First time out, not too shabby. But still, I really have no idea what I’m doing.

Parenthetically, it should be noted that I don't really know how to do the whole "selfie" thing.
Parenthetically, it should be noted that I don’t really know how to do the whole “selfie” thing.

We also celebrated M’s fifth month of being alive. She’s now sitting up, babbling, and teething in earnest. But I think the best thing is that the cat has finally started treating her like a member of the family, rather than some slightly frightening alien creature.

2014-04-23 19.08.59
She is now bigger than Totoro — my, how the time flies.
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“I claim this tiny human in the name of King Kitty.”

 

No strings attached

Recently, after having a talk with my hanai mom, I started to think about parents who love their children unconditionally. No brainer, right? Alas, it is not always so. Some people are orphans in all but name, having lost, due to some perceived slight, the love of a parent — the one person (or people, since most of us have at least 2 parents) who is supposed to love you no matter what.

That’s what I used to think unconditional love was: “I will love you no matter what.” But when I thought about it some more, it occurred to me that our moms and dads, many of them just doing the best they can to grapple with their own emotional baggage, really do love us unconditionally — in the “love you no matter what” sense — even if it feels like they don’t. However, what some parents don’t know how to do is love us without conditions. Love with no strings attached. Love that says, “I will love you, period. With no expectations of receiving anything in return. With no caveats. I will love you ceaselessly, independent of who you are, what you do, or where you go in life. I will love you because of who you are, not in spite of who you are. Period. End of story.”

The no-strings-attached kind of love says, “I will make to assured of my love for you, no matter the time or distance that separates us. You do not need to make yourself worthy of my love. You do not have to earn my love. My love encompasses all of your being, past, present, and future, regardless of where you go or what you do. My love will carry on even if we are angry with each other, even if we hurt one another or loose sight of the reasons we loved each other in the first place. I. Love. You.”

That, I think, is how every one wants to be loved.

And if we don’t get it from the people who brought us into the world, well, then we go looking. In a recent post, I talked about how my life has come to be greatly enriched by the Hawaiian tradition of hanai family. I’m pretty easy with love, and as such, I have a tendency to collect family. You see, I’m the kind of person who loves easily and brazenly, with very little thought as to how or why. Case in point with the concept of “family”: once I love you, you’re in. You’re in for good. I’m going to love you forever, even if at some point we have a falling out and we don’t talk anymore and we never lay eyes on each other ever again — rest assured, I’m out there, still loving you. I will love you without conditions.

That’s the kind of love that makes us feel secure. The kind of love that says, you really can go home again. No one wants to walk through life with a sword over their head, worrying over the threat of a severed family tie resulting from some innocuous misstep. There are good reasons, surely, to sever the bonds of family, but how many times does it happen just because someone’s pride of injured, or because one person passes judgment on another? How many of us live our lives to a lesser degree in order to maintain a relationship with someone who loves us, but whose love comes with strings attached? How many of us, fearing reprisal, remain suspiciously silent?

The Real Sarah C. Project is me breaking my silence. This is me, loving my own self, without conditions. This quote from Marianne Williamson, passed on to me by my dearly departed mother, sums it up well:

deepest-fear-pictureWhen we allow others to shine and make manifest the Divine within, we are loving them without conditions. So, in the words of the immortal Firefly peacemaker, Kaylee, go be shiny, y’all.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we subconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Read more at http://www.snopes.com/quotes/deepestfear.asp#fTguidUBICrS4c9V.99
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we subconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Read more at http://www.snopes.com/quotes/deepestfear.asp#fTguidUBICrS4c9V.99

A work-in-progress

One of the biggest take-aways I ever received from my first interpreting mentor is that we are all, each and every one of us, a work in progress. We never stop learning, growing, developing, and becoming more of the people we are meant to be. For interpreters, this is a fairly common precept: in order to remain relevant in your field and to maintain your credential, you must earn continuing education credits in order to show a persistent commitment to professional development. In our personal lives, though, people tend to think that at a certain age who you are ought to be fossilized at a certain stage in development: your tastes, predilections, personality, mannerisms, et cetera shouldn’t change too much past an imaginary point in time. It’s true, to an extent, that some things tend to remain stable over time. My taste in music, for example, hasn’t been drastically altered in the last 15 years, though I’ve come to appreciate alternatives to my favorites. But what about our looks? At a certain age, if you deviate too much from what people have come to expect of you, you are branded a midlife crisis or said to be “going through a phase”. Change just freaks people out once we get beyond our formative years. But, honestly, shouldn’t all of our years be formative?

Case in point: my whole life, I’ve been more of a jeans-and-t-shirt kind of girl because it’s easy, if not fashionable. I’ve always liked make-up and looking pretty, but never enough to put a whole lot of effort into it. My idea of professional dress is “a nice top, and nice bottoms”. I don’t accessorize a whole hell of a lot because I can’t be bothered.

And then this happened.
And then this happened.

In the last year, I’ve started getting into vintage fashions, hair, and make-up. I always enjoyed the look of the 1950’s pin-ups like Marilyn Monroe and Rita Hayworth, but it didn’t occur to me to try it until I was well into my 20s. This morning when I was getting ready for work, I looked down at my pencil skirt and monochromatic saddle shoes and thought, “Boy, I’m in full costume today.” But it isn’t a costume. Not really. Just because I’m altering my outsides doesn’t mean that I’m not doing it to match my insides — what my insides have been all along.

I don’t think we ever complete the process of becoming who we are, even when we are suffering ill-effects in that process. I recently began seeing a new therapist, and while going through my medical history and listing my various small-kine crazy behaviors on my fingers, I mentioned that it was only in 2012 that I was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, likely as a result of untreated long-term depression and anxiety following my parents’ deaths. My new doctor said with a smile, “Ah, well, you just hadn’t fully bloomed yet.” I found that very profound. I like the idea that my endless struggle with mental illness is actually part of the process of becoming more of, not less than, myself. So many people think that their internal struggles — depression, anxiety, mania, self-harm, OCD, what have you — detract from their true self. I beg to differ: embracing and managing my illness is helping me achieve a new level of self-actualization that I hadn’t considered before. My pursuit of happiness, I realize, is a journey fraught with pitfalls and set-backs. The long and sometimes treacherous walk down that road has imbued my being with both good and bad, and has made me, Me.

I had to get pretty sick in the head, and come to terms with my ailment, before I could start really liking myself. How’s that for a kick in the pants?

Today is an appropriate occasion to turn to this discussion: April 16th is for the Semicolon Project, a social media movement for those that suffer from depression — who self harm, are suicidal, unhappy, have anxiety, or are living with grief — to embrace their story as on-going. Semicolons represent a sentence the author chose not to end. We are the authors and the sentences are our lives. My story doesn’t end here. I am a work in progress.

On the homefront

The concept of “home”, to me, is about family. And “family”, as far as I’m concerned, is about so much more than who your relatives are. Blood is not the only thing that makes a family. Marriages are direct evidence of this principle: even if you don’t intend to merge your genetic material to create offspring, when you get married, you form a new family. But even without government documents to bind us, families can be created in so many ways.

In our ever-expanding world, people very rarely continue to live within the same ten-mile radius that they were born into, often times moving thousands of miles away from where they were born and where their nuclear family unit resides. What then? We create our own homes, we find a new tribe, and we integrate into a new community. We set about adding branches to our family tree.

The people who surround us, care for us, and support us become our family through ties created of love. I’m very comfortable with the idea of an “extended” family. When I was growing up, it didn’t occur to me that my Auntie Rose and Auntie Nettie weren’t my mom’s real sisters — she loved them, so I did. They are part of my family. End of discussion. As a teenager, I began to wage my own life-long bonds of friendship and sisterhood. It was the first time I recall feeling bonded through shared experience: we are the same age, we come from similar dysfunctional backgrounds, we have similar interests. That was the foundation of our friendship. Then, just like Mary-Louise Parker’s character says in the movie “Boys on the Side”: there is something special that goes on between women. Through time and the magic of sisterhood, we became more than mere friends. We were sisters. Now they are my family. They are my blood. Period. End of discussion.

When I was 20, my mother died after slightly less than a year of fighting multiple myeloma. Just a year and a half earlier, we had lost my stepdad to lung cancer. I had moved from California, where both my relatives and my tribe did reside, to an itty bitty island in the middle of the Pacific in order to live with my mom and dad. And then they died. And I was alone in a way that one person should ever be. I had a roof over my head, but no home.

It took some time, but I crawled out of the crater left by that gargantuan life event. I finished college. I got married. I figured out who my real friends were and who would be members of my new tribe. I still felt like an orphan, but I managed to connect with a number of compassionate women who loved me like a daughter. I started to mend.

The thing about love, though, is that not all love is created equally. Don’t get me wrong: all love is good. But when you lose the love of a mother, no amount of love from friends or siblings or fathers is going to completely fill that empty cup. I felt, deep down to the very bottom of my soul, like a motherless wastrel in desperate need of some mothering. Every day that passed I felt more and more like an orphan, and all I wanted was my mommy.

I got my wish, after a time. In spades, you might say. And this is where I think Fate played her hand: if I hadn’t come to Hawaii, I wouldn’t have learned about Hanai family, and I would never have found mine. In Hawaiian, hanai means to adopt, to be close to, to nourish, to sustain. It was not an uncommon practice among Hawaiians newlyweds to practice the hanai custom by bestowing upon their parents their first born child to be raised by them. Children whose parents were unable to care for them were also given hanai parents, perhaps outside of their blood relations. It was seen as a blessing to the hanai parents, to be given the opportunity to care for and love a child that did not come from their union. The concept of family, or ohana, extended to all members of the society: we are all in this together, we who are bonded by blood or by love, it makes no difference. My hanai mom (really, I have more than one), like my sisters, has no qualms about our relationship. We’re family, with all the rights, privileges,  and responsibilities therein. Period, end of discussion.

It’s funny to think: I had to wind up a million miles from home, in a place I never anticipated I would go, surrounded by people I didn’t even know ten years ago, in order to find my family. My home.

I remember you,

But the day that marks your absence is not the day I choose to honor your memory. I have worn the loss of you like a shroud, a heavy blanket to curl into on harsh, friendless days. Daily I attempt to commune with your spirit and resurrect your voice in my head — “Please Mommy, tell me what to do.” I miss you with a palpable need, one that starts in my toes and reaches up to my fingertips, reaching out for you. It triggered in me a irreversible reaction, a sweeping depression, an ebb and flow of mania and sadness. I have been lost in those tidal waters for years.

I remember you. I miss you. I am not alone.  The loss of you means our cups will never quite be full — all love is not created equally when you’re aching for the love of someone who can’t or won’t love you the way you need to be loved. All the love in the world, good people that surround us and carry our will, cannot replace what was lost when we lost you.

The Swing

We all know teething is a special hell that God sends parents to, like being sat in the corner for timeout. Now you just sit here and think about what you’ve done! We chose to have offspring, so now we must live with the consequences. Our four-month-old is just starting on this hellish roller-coaster, making her sleep patterns erratic at best and nonexistent at worst. Complicating things further is my rampant, currently untreated, insomnia. Once I’m up, I’m up — no number of sweet, fluffy Serta sheep is going to get me to go back down again. Lucky for me, I’m not in this alone. My hubby is pretty good about taking one for the team so I’m not always responsible for investigating each cry. But given the fact that we have both become incoherent zombies due to lack of sleep, we have been suffering a few lapses in communication. Case in point: The Swing.

A perk of being one of the last couples we know to jump on the baby bandwagon, we’ve benefited greatly from their shared knowledge and their hand-me-downs. One of the best things we’ve received so far is a Graco Glider. This sucker is a six-speed, vibrating, baby-soothing master machine with 10 lullaby choices and an attractive bucket seat. But like all things magical and legendary, when passed on to intrepid new adventurers it arrives with a warning: Use sparingly, lest your little angel become accustomed to sleeping while in motion, and never sleep without it ever again. But Lord help us, we have been weak! In weeping desperation after trying and failing to soothe Moira ourselves, we have slunk shamefully to the Swing, buckled her in, and collapsed back on to the bed in a heap. I know it’s wrong, but it feels so gooood.

I’ve known for a while now that we have to put the kibosh on slumbering in the Swing but then she started showing signs of teething, which included late-night restlessness and frequent waking. Now, we as parents have become dependent on the Swing for our own sleeping needs. Such was the case night before last, when I lost that internal argument with myself and after trying for an hour to get her to settle down, buckled her in to the Swing before crawling back to bed myself, thinking that her dad (who works nights, so goes to sleep and wakes up much later than me or the baby) would put her properly to bed when he came upstairs. Alas, that was not to be.

At 2am, when M woke for a feeding, she was still in the swing. I picked her up, nursed her, and while Will was still sleeping, put her into her co-sleeper beside me. Twenty minutes later, I was back asleep, only to be awoken by M’s fussing around 4am. I reached over and swatted at Will, “Babe, your turn.” He didn’t move. Using only what could be called “necessary force” to wake him from his mild, selective-hearing coma, I smacked him again. “Babe! Your. Turn.” And bless his little heart, he finally rose out of bed to tend to our girl. Pleased that I had managed to pass the buck without sufficiently activating my brain to cause sleeplessness, I started to drift back to sleep. Then I heard it: The Swing had turned on at the foot of the bed. M had been in the swing for a few hours when I first went to sleep at 10, and now she was going back in for the night. A red warning light went off in my mind: No. Swing, bad. Must. Rock. Baby. To sleep. But I’m a little inarticulate when sleep-walking, so I think I just managed to fling myself out of bed, snatch M from my drowsy spouse, and walk her to the nursery. After changing her diaper, giving her a pacifier, rocking in the glider and singing songs for an hour, she finally, blessedly, went back to sleep.

At this point, I was a little miffed that I had been the one to put her back to down — though I knew it was my own damn fault for being at first too tired to tell William I didn’t want her back in the swing that night, and second, too distracted to set up ground rules in the first place. But in the spirit of all people recently robbed of precious, precious REM sleep, I only had room in my brain to be pissed at the man for making me do it. I tucked M into her crib and  walked down the darkened hallway back to our room. Glancing at the clock before I settled in, I saw that it was 4:55. My alarm was set to go off in little over half an hour. Whoo, whoo! chimed a voice in my head. Spousal Abuse Express, your train just pulled into the station. All aboard!

However, I did not throttle my now sleeping husband about the head and shoulders. I cried a little on the inside, so as not to disturb him (I’m so fucking sweet, it makes my teeth hurt, I thought.) and I went downstairs to make some coffee, where upon walking into the kitchen I was confronted with a mountain of dishes. Toot, toot! Last call! Deep, cleansing breaths, now Sarah.

It was a close thing, but you’ll be happy to know: He survived to live another day.