Tag Archives: love

Crisis

Crisis. An interesting word when you hear it or speak it over and over again to yourself in a short period of time, am I in crisis? I am in a crisis. A mental health crisis, meaning, a moment in time where I am a potential danger to myself, if not others. A moment in which my ability to make sound decisions has come into question. A crisis of consciousness — as in I have TOO MUCH OF IT on account of the fact that I very much want to not exist anymore, not now, not in this moment. I don’t want to be here anymore.

The first year after we lost my stepfather, I would wake up in the apartment that I shared with my mom, his wife, where we lived together still surrounded by his things and when she was in crisis I would sit with her until it passed. In the year after her death, I would be in significant moments of crisis as my boyfriend slumbered peacefully in the bed beside me as I sunk to floor in the cold moonlight and desperately tried to make peace with the sudden terrible desire to die, hating him a little bit for being oblivious to the tempest raging in the room beside him. And now I am here: hours post-triggering event, still slowly circling the drain of my consciousness just waiting to fall off the edge into what? I don’t know. It never occurred to me to care aside from my literary sensibilities warning me away from the phrase “into oblivion” — if you must be crazy, try not be be crazy and also a cliche. Make no mistake, though, that is what I want: nothingness. Perhaps not forever, but just until the storm, this “crisis” passes.

Even if the crisis never passes because it is ME I am the critical component here and the harbinger of my own descent into madness. I am the failure. I am the reason for my own sadness.

I just want to hurt in a way that I can see and touch. A pain that I can feel on the inside and the outside. I want to grasp something tangible and say THIS. This hurts, it is injured and it gives me pain and because I can touch it with my hands not only am I positive that it is real and that it is there, but I am also confident that it will heal someday. It’s a strange sort of drive that makes a person want to harm themselves — mostly, I think, it is the innate desire to have one’s insides match their outsides.

In the middle of the storm, I recorded a few of my racing thoughts. The state of crisis lasted for a few days, which felt bizarre at the time. I think that I have often considered a “crisis” to be a singular moment of tragedy, a precipitating event for a Before and an After. However, after this crisis was triggered, I saw that it bloomed into a complete mental and physical state that took several days to subside. Days during which I didn’t know exactly where I was, except for the few brief moments of clarity and presentness that punctuated the dark.

I caused myself physical harm in that time. Self-harm has been a constant blip on my radar for years, but it’s been manageable. During my crisis, the desire to self-harm bowled me over, seducing me with promises of equilibrium. Where I once felt that I was spinning out of control, my focus narrowed and concentrated on a single point in time, a singular feeling of physical pain that obliterates all other sensation from my mind. In that moment, it was a welcome reprieve, but in the bright light of day I was disappointed and ashamed of myself — not only because I had resorted to self-harm, but because I had allowed myself to be triggered and suffer a crisis at all.

I like to envision myself as fairly invincible. I frequently imagine myself in horrible situations and think myself through the step-by-step reactions I would deploy to control and ultimately survive the situation. In my own mind, I am capable of withstanding absolutely anything. In life, however, I find myself wanting. It becomes clear to me that I am not, in fact, invincible.. I am actually vulnerable and weak, and in many ways, defunct.

I can’t get pregnant. My body seems to have forgotten how to make itself a host for a new life. Despite trying for over a year, we’ve come no closer to growing our family, and I know that it’s my fault. I can’t get pregnant and my heart is broken. This isn’t how it was supposed to be. I think back to all those times as a teenager, my girlfriends and I taking turns with the awful possibility that we had gotten in trouble. Too young to be mothers, so we prayed and prayed please God don’t let me be pregnant. Now all the manic energy that went into counting the days until we bled has been translated into a deep emotional clenching trying to hold it in and support a life that we are desperate to give birth to. There was a genetic legacy that I was rather depending on, that I have since been discouraged from cashing in. None of the women in my family have been infertile; at least, not that I’m aware of. One of the last things my mother ever told me what was a good mother I would be someday, speculating how easy for me it would be to get pregnant once I was ready, and I believed her, of course, because mother knows best.

So now a new crisis: a crisis of faith. Ever the believer, ever the hopeless optimistic, I’ve not yet given up the dream. But it has cost me no small measure of peace to hold on with such determination, as if I could, by sheer force of will, make myself conceive. It’s ridiculous. I am no Mary and there is no reason to expect Divine Intervention. After all, it’s not exactly uncommon. Secondary infertility, the inability to become pregnant despite previous successes, happens to a fair share of women. Though if I’m honest with my myself, the birth of our daughter nearly three years ago is truly nothing short of a miracle. We struggled to get pregnant, and I struggled to carry her past those first tremulous weeks where it seemed all too likely that she would just slip away, out of my body and out of existence. It would appear that Moira, fated to be born, was the exception, and that my wasted body, this useless mass of flesh, has no miracles left to give.

Every wretched cramp that twists my insides, every drop of wasted blood, every excited announcement of another woman’s fecundity is a thorn in my side. Salt in the wound. I am so angry, I want to scream at someone. I want to make another person feel as hurt, as dispossessed as I feel. I want to give this grief a name and a purpose and to make this pain wearable, apparent. I want everyone to know I’m a fucking open wound, just walking around, waiting to hurt.

And then, the guilt. As I’m reeling through these feelings of loss and failure, a part of me comes to attention to remind me, with cruel alacrity, that I am not, in fact, as disenfranchised as I may feel. I have a beautiful daughter. I have a wonderful career that I love, and a family that loves me, and there are starving people in China, for crissakes, so what’s your fucking problem? You are not a victim. I am not a victim of anything or anyone except myself. I ought to be focusing in on the good things in my life with humility and gratitude. After all, there are scores of women out there, some of whom are close friends, who have been unable to conceive at all. At least I have one child. One perfect, lovely, intelligent, beautiful child. I shouldn’t be so selfish, so greedy, as to wish for more.

But it just isn’t fair. Perhaps it’s the Libra in me, this constant preoccupation with fairness that so brutally trips me up when life becomes chaotic and unreasonable, as it is wont to do. Life isn’t fair, of course, and I know that. But I’m stubbornly resistant to the notion, unwilling to capitulate to fate. I reckon that if I do everything right — if I eat right, I exercise, I keep healthy, I take my vitamins; whatever — if I do all the right things, then I ought to get the outcome that I want. That’s how we’re often taught to look at problems, excepting for those insurmountable challenges that are so far out of our hands that we are instead told that it’s God, or the Universe, or Fate, that will decide. Just be patient. Relax. Whatever is meant to be will be.

What rubbish.

I am, or at least, I have considered myself to be, a spiritual person, but instances like this test my faith. It incenses me to hear that “God has a plan” or “You never know what the Universe has in store for you.” Bullshit. I have plans. My plans aren’t good enough for God? The Universe is withholding my happiness from me because It knows better? Ridiculous!

These are the uncharitable, heathenous thoughts that intrude upon me every waking moment. I am painfully aware of how unreasonable my sadness and frustration have made me. As this writing has proven, I vacillate between petulance and shame frequently. I am struggling to float, let alone rise above the tide. Yes, I ought to deploy some focused gratitude, and center myself around what is really important. Yes, I am at the mercy of my biochemistry in some respects, but I am responsible for how I respond to the changes in the tide. I am aware of these truths and more, but the sadness and disappointment are indefatigable and merciless. I am as trapped within my spotty mind as I am within my troubled body. What is broken cannot always be mended.

 

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I’m Not (Quite) the Poster Girl for Body Positivity

For hubby’s birthday, I decided to get creative.

I contacted Cherry Girl Hawaii, a local boutique photoshoot company that specializes in the vintage look that I so love to emulate.

I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves.

Ahem. My eyes are up here, bud.
Ahem. My eyes are up here, bud.

The modelling process was exhilarating, exciting, and emotionally taxing, but it felt really good. I hate myself in pictures, and I do not consider myself to be very photogenic, but the photographer made me feel at ease and helped me pose my body in such a way as to be as flattering as possible.

When I gifted the photos to Will on the morning of his 30th birthday, he was very pleased with them — but let’s face it, the man is pretty biased. The real moment of truth came when the pictures went public: Facebook.

I got some wonderful responses.

IMG_5240
I got some so-so responses.

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And then I got this one from my cousin, whom I love dearly:

With great nakey-pictures, comes great responsibility.
With great nakey-pictures, comes great responsibility.

I was very flattered, both by her compliments and by her praise. But I was also a little recalcitrant — Ooh, no, no, no. You’re giving me too much credit! I’m not the poster girl for body positivity. You can’t put me in that role, you guys, really. I hate myself more than half of the time!

My lovely friends gave me untold congratulations on how confident and beautiful I looked in those photos — and reading their wonderful comments, I felt like a phony. I did this thing, yes. And no, I don’t think I’m bad looking. But I can’t lie and say that I love my body. Even during the photoshoot, I was insecure and anxious, desperate to twist and contrive my flesh into angles and positions that might look halfway decent — at no time in the process did I really feel proud of how I look. Certainly, I felt far from flawless as the photographer (an extremely good sport!) and I squished my baby-belly into that black corset.

I did, however, feel a certain degree of empowerment.

No, I’m not thin. Never have been and never will be. I struggle to like myself, even on the best of days. I have insecurities about my person that will likely persist until the day I die. But, I did the thing anyway because no societal misjudgements, no unfair standards, or even self-put-downs are gonna keep this baby in a corner.

I can’t lie and claim to want to be another Tess Holliday. You’re never going to hear me talk about how I “love my curves”. While I admire the attitude and the message about body positivity and realistic beauty standards, I lack a certain degree of confidence and self-esteem. That being said, I know myself well enough, and I respect myself well enough, to stand up in support of my beliefs, my tastes, and my interests. I’m no less a Witch on any given day or to any given person than I am on tumblr. I’m no less a mother and a wife than I am a hard working professional. And I’m not going to let something as minor as a lifetime of insecurities keep me from showing off my hot bod, even if opinions may vary.

I guess that’s the sentiment I can be the poster girl for — I don’t like myself sometimes, but I’m not going to hide who I am. It’s not exactly “body positivity”, but it’s still pretty good.

Fake it til' you make it, kiddos.
Fake it til’ you make it, kiddos.

Black Sheep

A wise person whom I very much respect once said that writers should write what scares us. Right now, I’m terrified. Because I have never in my life done what I’m about to do.

Oh Lord, here we go...
Oh Lord, here we go…

Being the black sheep of the family, in and of itself, is not a big deal. Many people feel as if they have fallen far from the proverbial tree, but still feel loved and appreciated (even accepted) for their differences. Unless, of course, they are summarily and shamefully cast out.

Some, myself included, are deemed too subversive to be allowed a pass. In certain circles, there are some who are simply too different to escape scrutiny. They are so egregiously in conflict with their kin’s time honored traditions and values, that they are simply removed from the picture. Sometimes the cataclysm comes with a whisper rather than a roar. One day, you look around and realize that your roots have pruned themselves back and disappeared. Some are flung out more dramatically, of course.

The fear of abandonment robbed me of the courage to speak the truth about my family and how in efforts to appease them, I have capitulated time and time again to their tacit demands for obeisance and silence.

No more.

To be fair, they started it:

Seriously, look at this chucklefuck.
Seriously, look at this chucklefuck.

Okay, so let me give you a little background. I posted a link to this article on my Facebook page, and added a comment that I know women who have experienced this kind of treatment. In response, some member of my family — I will tell you only that he is male — felt it was his personal responsibility (nay, his duty!) to come around and knock me down a peg.

How far? How many pegs do I need to be knocked down before I am worthy of my family’s love and acceptance?

This time, I have opted to get good and mad, and thus I have been driven to a point of hatred and malice previously unknown to me.

First of all, me “stop it”? YOU STOP IT. Who the hell do you think you are to try and put me in my place? I don’t need to shrink and make myself smaller so you will feel bigger around me. I don’t need to compromise my ideals, my morals, just on the off chance that you might find my words offensive. And I do not have to dumb myself down, be less articulate, or think less just so I can fit in with this “family”.

Why put me down? Why seek with every word to belittle me? Why does making me feel small fulfill you? Yes, ours is a family that likes to fuck with each other. And fuck each other over. And fuck each other up. Ours is a legacy of hurt.

I reject the notion that to be intelligent, articulate, and well-educated is a sin. I refuse to align myself with your white-trash morality. Intelligent, free-thinking, even feminist are not swear words, except among simple-minded, misogynistic sheeple.

Baaaaaaa.
Baaaaaaa.

My soul is not for sale, and I’ve compromised for too long, allowing my affection and loyalty to be bought and sold like a commodity. In the interest of maintaining ties with individuals who will only love me on certain conditions, I’ve offered up everything. But still, I have lost.

I’m done.


I am no longer a disaffected youth, though I remain a product of my upbringing. As a result, I am chronically maladjusted.

I always knew that I didn’t fit in. I was never thin and athletic – I was bookish and articulate. And I was always tapped into something greater than myself, something that the people around me had no concept of. I have been perpetually aware of my separateness.

I don’t mean to be divisive: I love my family, but I’m not like them. I’m not sorry about that, though I used to be. I used to feel sad that I couldn’t be the same. I made choices that were engineered to try and make me blend, each with disastrous consequences.

Because when your cool, older cousin asks you to do drugs with him, ya do it. Duh.
Because when your cool, older cousin asks you to do drugs with him, ya do it. Duh.

I feel as if I have never been congratulated without being simultaneously mocked for having achieved anything in the first place. When I was a latch-key teenager out drinking, having sex, and stirring up mayhem, the family shrugged and wrote me off. One such matriarch attended my high school graduation after having offered the following sentiment on the occasion: “What’s the point? She’s just going to move in with that boyfriend of hers and get knocked up.”

I can't exactly accuse my family of having high expectations for me.
I can’t exactly accuse my family of having unrealistically high expectations for me.

But when I started to alter my course, rather than inspiring pride, each action I took seemed to cause anger and paranoia. I left California and moved to Hawaii to go to college — no, I “abandoned by family and moved to paradise.” Never mind the hardship that I faced once I was here. Never mind how hard I worked to succeed despite my circumstances. Never mind that I did everything “right”: went to college, met a nice man, got married, started a career, bought a house, had a baby, and all in that order. When it was all said and done, the sum of my achievements is tantamount to looking down my nose at anyone who didn’t achieve in the same way that I did. I’m the only person I know with such critically low self-esteem to have been so regularly accused of being arrogant, even narcissistic.

I think the primary motivation behind those accusations is the fear of my potential. The fear that, once I realized that I was better than the muck that I came from, I actually would condescend to them. That I would disappear and never come back.

This isn’t to say that my family didn’t celebrate my successes alongside of me. Simply that their inferiority complex dictated that in order to be proud of me, they must also remind me to be small: Don’t you forget where you came from! To which I respond: How could I? How could I forget when the legacy of this booze-soaked, drug-addled, emotionally retarded family hangs around my neck like an anchor? My achievements become cannon fodder and I a laughing stock, when I have done nothing — nothing — but try and mold myself into the kind of person that would be worthy of love and respect.

It has become resoundingly clear that I will never get to that point. And what I stand to gain from giving up the fight is so much greater than what I will lose from letting go.

I just want the freedom to be and to live the way that I see fit, without judgment or scorn. I’m exhausted by the accusations of arrogance and selfishness. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else based on my smarts or my success. But I will say this: I have more compassion, more love, and more understanding than was ever granted to me by that family, and for that reason alone, yes, I am better. Better than my origins, better than my history, and I am not ashamed to admit it.

I’m not sorry that I’m smart. That I maintain informed opinions. I’m not sorry that I kicked up the courage to dream up a different kind of life. That I went to school and toiled for six years to get three degrees. I’m not sorry that this cost me relationships with people who are supposed to love me unconditionally, but instead focus all of that energy on the fear of their own inferiority. If I must be excommunicated from the family for defying these values, I will accept my fate. I own everything that has ever happened to me, and if someone feels incriminated by my story-telling, they should have behaved better in the first place. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s your values that are corrupt. Not me.

So yeah, I’ll be the Black Sheep. I’ll wrap myself up in this thick, black wool. It’s so cozy and warm, I can hardly feel the cold shoulder you’ve been giving me.

But I'll be damned if I don't make this look good.
But I’ll be damned if I don’t make this look good.

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

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.