August 31, 2020 (Mawmaw’s birthday, I hope you visited with her)
Dear Darkened Rose,
I remember on one of my first appointments with Madeline Alford she asked me a version of an age-old counselor’s question—
When can you last remember being effortlessly happy?
Considering at that time I would have been an early teenager, I likely exaggerated my answer. As if my thick eyeliner was not enough evidence of my adolescent confusion. I can see myself saying something like, “at the age of seven, before all the Tiger stuff.” Which I’m sure was inaccurate. I am sure I had plenty of effortlessly happy moments all throughout my childhood.
I hope you know that I regret my odd emotional state in those years, and I am grateful for any and all of the patience you and Daddy had for me during this time. I had a massive cloud of shame that hung over my head during most of that era of my life.
Last year, I was speaking with my study abroad professor, and I mentioned how I feel like being engaged to such a stoic partner has helped me redeem myself a bit. With Caleb having been so seemingly well respected in Bridge City, I feel like when I impress him, I gain a lot more than just his attention. I little-by-little am absolving myself of that grimy, guilty feeling of not finding the right way to impress others from my past. If you had a similar sort of anxiety to mine throughout those ages, you might also understand how difficult that feeling is to get rid of. My professor urged me to be more self-reliant in building my self-esteem, and uh…I’m still working on that.
Today, my answer to the counselor’s questions is becoming more and more clear, which is a novelty for me. I was happy when I was traveling with Caleb, last year. I believe I was happy back when I was a part of helping streamline disaster relief efforts and finalizing bigger conservation projects. I am happy when I volunteer with Austin Parks Foundation. I am happy when I meet new people who I do not feel like I have to impress. I am happy when I get one more chin-up under my belt. I am happy when Caleb or I can make the chickens giggle (Ian, Bae, and Bow). I am happy when I come up with ideas that might work to better provide for a child’s sense of felt safety (although, the implementation of that is not all that often successful). I am happy when I imagine raising a child who will consider me to be their mother.
I got emotional passing a group of high schoolers on a football field, today.
A different professor once taught me that culture is the survival mechanism for homo sapiens sapiens (not an accidental repetition, google it). Mind you, this professor taught from his own textbook (he was that type) on the subject of Cultural Anthropology. I might say the dude was a little biased, but I learned a lot from him and might still consider him to be one of my favorite professors. I digress.
I think we are all missing the safety we feel when we are enveloped in the everyday life of our own culture. We (us introverts) may have not recognized enough, until now, just how good it can feel to be around a large group of people. There is one thing I think that quarantine and the Black Lives Matter movement (and—for our people in SETX—yet another hurricane to deal with) has taught a lot of us. Maybe for the first time in some people’s lives, we are all having to walk outside of our own culture and work arduously to figure out how to rise above being divisive. We are having to choose to love and work for those in a different position than we are. All the while, we are also having to spend so much time alone stuck in our thoughts.
We need to be at peace with the culture we see ourselves in. I think that now means we have quite a bit of work to do in forming one that is more valuable to us than the one we are leaving behind. Like all good coming of age stories, we need to work towards growing something new and stronger.
You don’t want greener grass, you want people to appreciate your xeriscaping.
That’s been my mantra for myself today. People often say—if you want that greener grass focus on watering and gardening your own lawn. I think, what we really need to recognize, is not the area with the greener grass but the area that looks prickly and is still living while in the drought. Green grass and picketed fences are for those who will always have to search and work for their shallow audience, versus finding a way to naturally existing in a hot world. Which might mean digging up all of that grass, and just putting some damn rocks on top of your land.
If someone knows me well, they know that I suffer a great deal from comparing myself to other people. It’s been an issue since you died, and I struggle to rise above it when I am most insecure. Lately, it’s been a problem that I am again trying to address by calling my psychiatric help and asking for more medication. Which is not my ideal answer for myself. I wish I could do all the things a crunchy mom might suggest—exercise better, sleep better, eat better, yoga better, BREATHE BETTER.
But right now I have said f[orget] all of that noise. More medication (which, honestly, jumping from 20mg to 40mg is still minor leagues, baby) is the only way I think I am going to be able to function properly this year. Without it, I know for certain that I will spiral down a path of wreaking havoc on the self-esteem I have worked my [butt] off to build.
Always tap into your second wind, when you recognize the weight of the first round feels like it’s collapsing on top of you.
That is something I am only just now learning in my path to self-reliance. That is something I wish I knew when I was younger, and something I want to teach the children in my life who struggle with shame. Recognize when you feel like you cannot work harder anymore, and then work as though you just started and as though you did not just have that doubt in yourself. Anxiety is a miserable thing, and the learned helplessness that stems from it does have an exit route. It just might not look the way you think it will look. It’s not your pretty green EXIT sign, it’s a red one.
hey, I love you, Momma. I miss you.
Enclosed are cool things.
The Song: Smiling When I Die by Sasha Sloan