Mother’s Day: One of the Hardest Days of the Year

There are a few days that I dread each year. My birthday is one; Mother’s Day is another. Sometimes I acknowledge it, I reach out to friends who are wonderful mothers and give them a shout out. I do know some amazing mothers… but they’re not mine.

My mother is still living, but we don’t talk. That’s my choice, and the healthiest one I can make. It’s not just me who thinks so, but every therapist I have ever worked with. And several friends.

For me a typical day with my mother included: being beaten; refused food; called a “piece of shit” and other expletives several times every hour; being given an impossible list of tasks to complete while she’d hover and tell me how I was doing them wrong, not be allowed to sleep until they were done; kept home if bruising was an issue and so on.

As an adult, my mother really hadn’t changed, at least not since I last spoke to her in 2012. She could no longer beat me or starve me, but she still tried to tear me down every chance she had. She would still berate me and treat me like crap. She would get into my head.

On the day I was married, she tried to assault our photographer and refused to allow my sister who was our flower girl to be in any pictures. She also started a strike and threatened a few relatives until they agreed to leave the reception early, before cake or any of that. That was the last day I saw her or even acknowledged her. I had a choice to make. She was toxic and I could allow her to continue to poison my life, which would inevitably spill over into my marriage and the family we hoped to create, or I could take heart to what every single therapist and several friends urged me to do, and cut the cancer out.

I miss her. It’s not like cutting her out stops that. I’m human. Cutting out your mother feels like going against biology and a very primal need and longing. It’s still the right thing, it might even be the only thing, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt or it isn’t hard. Sometimes I think that people believe that it isn’t, just because I don’t waver.

I don’t waver because I know it’s right, it’s healthy. It doesn’t mean I don’t waver emotionally, I don’t question or reassess constantly. But even if what I want changes, what I need doesn’t. And that’s the thing about being an adult, the main thing actually. You do what you need to do, even if you don’t want to. Even if you think it might kill you. You realize that need will always trump wanting something, and that the two are often at odds. Adulting is addressing need, even when need gets in the way of what you want or wish.

So Mother’s Day is always hard, but this one seems even harder than usual. I think it’s because it’s the first year without certain mothers in our lives. Part of me wants to do something to take the edge off the day, but my husband and I are both so tired, sleep-deprived, stressed in general and have a lot going on, I wonder if that would be a mistake.

Sunday is the only day we have to try to sleep in. My husband will probably sleep until evening, if I’m lucky I’ll sleep until noon. (I am never able to sleep late, but Sundays seem to be the sole exception. Noon is probably as late as I can ever sleep, even if I don’t go to bed until dawn.) Maybe a picnic would be nice, or going to a movie. I would say a day trip or something because both of us feel great taking a hike, going to Estes Park or Evergreen – just getting out, being us without the rest of the world trying to worm its way in between us. But I also think that being Mother’s Day, these places will be absolute zoos. And it wouldn’t make much sense to go to one of these places in the evening.

Maybe I should just let it be. Pretend it’s any other Sunday. If it was just me, that’s what I would do. Make it any other day. But I know this will also be a hard day on my husband, so I’m wondering if I should do something to distract him or if I should just encourage him to sleep the day away.

I am all for appreciating the people who matter to us. I think mothers in general, are such unsung heroes. They love, nurture, care for, protect, and shape their children. I’m sure if I had a maternal figure I would feel differently, but having an official holiday makes it so much harder on people like me. People who have lost their mothers in life, who don’t know their mothers or don’t have one, people who do have one, but it would have been better if they didn’t, and even mothers who have lost children. Having a day on a calendar, seeing Hallmark shove it in everyone’s faces, stores and businesses mention it, TV programs having “Mother’s Day” episodes, it just makes the whole thing harder.

I feel like good mothers should have more than just a single day each year. And for those of us who suffer through Mother’s Day, if everyone just celebrated the mothers in their lives without it having to be marked on a calendar… I don’t know. I’m rambling, my thoughts are rambling. I just wish this time of year didn’t have to be so hard. And I know I’m not the only one.

It’s just a day. I get that, but it’s also so much more than that. And I don’t think many people understand this fact. It’s just a day, but it’s also so much more. And it’s the “more” that gets me every time.

-DMW

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No May Day This Year

Every year since we’ve lived in our house, I have done May Day baskets for all of our neighbors and friends who live nearby. I go all out, and I’ve chronicled each May Day on this blog (here and here and here). But this year, I didn’t do it. I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t even try.

Too much going on is the grossest understatement ever. I just didn’t have it in me. I put a lot of time and thought and effort into each basket. I make sure each person has a special thing; I personalize each basket from colors to flowers to candy to toys for kids/grill rubs etc. I love doing it. It’s a way to be creative and thoughtful and I feel the most me when I’m doing things like this. But this year, doing it would have been a chore. It would have been hard, and I just wouldn’t be into it.

I thought about it for a few days. I had purchased baskets a few months ago, so we had those, but I thought about why I’d be doing May Day this year. It was because it was expected. It had become a sort of tradition. I didn’t want people to think something was wrong with me or think I was upset with them. But I wouldn’t be doing it because it made me happy. Every other year, that’s why I do it. It brings me joy. This year, it would have had the opposite reaction; it would have been something that felt almost painful to do.

I asked my husband what he thought. I knew he’d be like, “Don’t worry about it,” and I don’t know why I asked. Truthfully, I had already made the decision – I just needed someone else to agree with the permission I gave myself. It’s important to be able to do that. To take a step back. Everything I do has a purpose and when it doesn’t, it’s not worth doing. That’s how I looked at May Day this year. No one is going to be traumatized they didn’t get a flower, chocolates and sidewalk chalk from one of their wacky neighbors. Life goes on.

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Impasse

I’ve never thought of the phrase about getting something off someone’s chest. But lately, I get it, I understand where it comes from because I feel an incredible weight has taken root in my chest, and I can’t breathe. But I can’t talk about it either.

That’s been my life for a while. I mean, it’s always everyone’s lives to some extent. I don’t think that everyone can talk about everything whenever they want – it’s not smart, sensitive, responsible, etc. But sometimes I feel like certain things, I can’t talk about period, which doesn’t sit well with me. I’m a very “out with it” kind of person. I think secrets divide people. I think problems seem insurmountable when they’re left for too long, untended to. I live my life with a “barrel through it” attitude and I practice exactly that. But few things (I’d say nothing, but then it would be an ironic sort of statement) are absolute.

Right now, I’m dealing with a lot. It’s all consuming. And I feel like I can’t talk about it. I can’t tell friends, and it’s not that I even want to, it’s that I am tired of being consumed. I’m tired of being in my own head. I feel like I can’t breathe.

Right now the only thing that is certain is that right now nothing is certain. And yes, that would be an appropriate absolute. Normally I would write about it, but I can’t. I don’t have the distance. When you write about something, you write from the perspective of now versus the experience being then. You have hindsight. While you have to be close to it for the words to be compelling, you can’t be so close to it that the writing hurts you, or you’re unable to see the truth of it clearly. Or you write to sort through something. You write to process, to discover and dissect – to understand.

I’m in the thick of it so I don’t have that distance. And I don’t need to dissect, discover, process or understand. I’ve done that already. I’m not emotional, not like I should be, but it’s not that I’m numb, I’m somewhere beyond that – I’m raw.

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Puppy For Life… My Canine Soulmate

I know that I post about my dog, Angel, a lot. But it’s because I either write about the things I love, or have learned or the hard stuff. Angel is one of the “I love” things I like to write about the most. Today is her birthday – she’s nine years old. I can’t believe it. Where did the time go? How did we get here? I am being a sentimental sack and cannot picture my life without her, and then I get teary and even may or may not roll my eyes at my own ridiculous if I actually break down and cry.

I have had other dogs before, and I have loved them all, and mourned then when it was time to say goodbye, but Angel is different – special. I can’t put it any other way but to say she is my canine soulmate. She isn’t just a member of the family, but feels like a part of me, a necessary part. According to the most accurate dog age conversion calculator she is roughly 49 years old. I say roughly because she is a mix between two breeds (48.6 years to 49.7 years respectively) and because I don’t know her exact birthday. Angel was a rescue that I saved who ended up saving me. Yeah, the whole cliché bit is true. During her first vet visit, they deduced that she was born between April 23, 2008 and May 21, 2008. I could have gone for smack dab in the middle of that estimate, but I was born on the 28th (but in July) so that was what I chose. Technically, perhaps she won’t actually pass her nine-in-people-years mark for another week, or longer or perhaps she already has.

I can’t believe how old she is. Like, I look at her now and then and yes, I can see it, mostly in her eyes, but she acts the same, is the same – a puppy for life. But she isn’t a puppy anymore… she can jump four feet in the air, but not six (yeah she used to be able to, I said she must have had springs in her paws). She is still adventurous, but cautiously adventurous instead of impulsively adventurous. I want to clone her. No really, part of me does. I don’t pursue it, not because of money (though there is certainly that!) but because even if I did, a clone would have the same DNA but it wouldn’t have Angel’s spirit. I really do believe in souls, and it’s her soul that I’m in love with, not how she looks or behaves.

So in honor of her ninth/forty-ninth birthday, here are fifty reasons why I love her so… God it was hard to stop listing them.

  1. She’s a ham. Oh how I love her hamminess.
  2. I love how dainty she is.
  3. I think it’s funny how she HATES water – like she hates it more than our cat.
  4. Angel hates being dirty. Never have I met a dog that doesn’t like dirt. She loves grass, flowers and being outside but goes out of her way to avoid dirt and mud, walking around or jumping over dirty areas.
  5. I love how she cocks her head to the side when I use “that voice”.
  6. I love how she tries to be my protector.
  7. I love how she falls asleep with the tip of her tongue hanging out!
  8. She chose my husband for me before our first date! Angel used to always bark and run circles around me whenever an unfamiliar male was present – even relatives, it was like she was creating a force field around me. When she first met my husband, she licked his hand, begged to be cuddled, and jumped in his lap as soon as he sat down!
  9. I love how she crosses her paws… like a real lady. 😉
  10. I love how she dances on two feet. She twirls when she wants something, and this is something she came up with on her own, not something she was taught!
  11. When she was a puppy, she was so confused and it made me laugh. She walked on two feet almost as much as she did on all fours, with ears back and resembled a ferret. She peed by lifting one leg like a male dog. She acted like a cat. She was still deciding what she wanted to be!
  12. When my shunt breaks, I need emergency brain surgery. She has always been able to warn me before symptoms come on. Time is extremely limited and significant, only having hours or I wouldn’t make it. She will be incredibly needy, sit in my lap and stare in my face, not leaving me alone. It took me a few surgeries to realize she only does this a few hours before symptoms begin. When I am symptomatic, I use her as my confirmation. Who needs a CAT Scan when you have a Guardian Puppy?
  13. I love how easy she was to train. Her hybrid/breed is supposed to be difficult to train. Potty training took less than three weeks; she doesn’t chew, jump, dig or destroy things. I did train her and was strict during training but never have I had a dog take to things as easily and quickly as she did!
  14. I remember when she first opened her eyes and I was bottle-feeding her. She had my heart right then. (She was a rescue I found abandoned when she was vey young. She didn’t open her eyes for the first time until the second day I had her.)
  15. I love how gentle she is. She is great with babies, children of all ages, the elderly, and other animals from other dogs to cats. I can’t take credit for this beyond making sure she was properly socialized. She lets others approach her at their comfort; licks, doesn’t jump, etc.
  16. She is the sweetest dog ever!
  17. She is careful to not accidentally trip people. (Most of the time!)
  18. I love her ears.
  19. I love how she is picky (she is a really picky eater).

I find her eating habits hilarious…

  1. She won’t eat if someone is in eyesight, you have to be in a totally different room and if you’re even in the hall she’ll stop and stare you down, waiting for you to leave.
  2. She doesn’t like the black-colored kibble in her food. I call it her veggies. She will actually take them out of her food and hide them, under her bowl, under the welcome mat, in corners of the laundry room, just to get out of eating it. She’s also gone on a hunger strike or two over finishing her black kibble. (We do wet and heat her black kibble so she’ll eventually eat it.)
  3. Even though she can’t be watched when she first starts eating she has to bring us a few kibbles and put them in front of us. But she won’t eat them because we’re there. She also won’t let us touch them because it’s her food. I’d understand if she did this when she was out of food, but at the start of the meal…
  4. She won’t start eating, no matter how hungry she is, until someone else is here with me. I thought it was my husband, but she’ll also eat if a friend, neighbor or relative comes over. She won’t eat however, if it’s my husband here with someone else. But when I have company she makes a beeline for her food dish.
  5. I love how she will eat from the bowl I am holding if it’s wet food. She doesn’t get wet often but this is so special to me, and also very comical.

  1. She’s a bird dog through and through. Squirrels are boring. Bunnies can be interesting but it depends… but any bird she is after them, running and jumping several feet in the air as they take off, flying away from the fearsome predator she is.
  2. I love her wings. When she was a few weeks old, I thought about what to name her. Her coat is white with tan markings. On each of her should blades she had perfectly symmetrical tan markings that looked like wings. That’s how she got her name.
  3. I love that she loves our cat. They really are sisters and they love each other. If they’re not cuddling together they’re chasing each other (yes, they take turns), playing or even tag-teaming my husband and I for treats. (I swear it’s an organized system.)
  4. I love how she always knows how I’m feeling.
  5. Whenever I’m upset whether it’s stressed, sad or angry, Angel will stay by my side. If I’m up late, unable to sleep, she’ll abandon bed and stay with me. Her being there just makes me feel lighter – calmer.
  6. Angel actually licks my tears away. I’m sure this has to do with them being salty, but I’ll take it.
  7. Angel is a “Dairy girl”. The only time she has ever eaten my food was when she was less than a year old. It was a bowl of cereal. She didn’t care about the cereal though. I got up to get something and since she had never done that – completely forgot that she could get to my cereal. Fifteen minutes later, she was laying in her favorite spot, acting all innocent… my cereal was still there, but there was not a drop of milk left! She also loves cheese. (And because all things can be symbolic, I lived on Dairy Avenue when I found her.)
  8. She’s just the right amount of barky. She lets me know when someone is at the door (I’m profoundly deaf) but she doesn’t bark at nothing and she stops when I tell her to.
  9. She lets us know our roles. My husband is the “fun parent”. He is more likely to spoil her; she is more playful with him etc. But whenever she needs something she comes to me. Whenever she is scared, she runs and hides under my feet or behind me. I am her protector.
  10. After Angel was spayed she displayed more pain than I thought she’d have (since they gave her pain meds and I was giving her meds). She wouldn’t eat, drink, or move. I was so worried. I cupped my hands so that there was water in them and lifted them to her face. She drank from my hands thirstily. I did this three more times until she was satisfied. Two days later, she was back to normal.
  11. I was in an abusive relationship when I found her, but it wasn’t physically abusive, just emotional. Angel hated my boyfriend. Even though we found them together and he fed her, cared for her, she could not stand him. It’s the only time she has ever shown distaste for anyone. It wasn’t until I left that I realized why.
  12. She loves PINK! I know dogs can’t see colors like we do, but however hot pink looks to her – she has a preference. We have tested this with buying the same toy in blue and pink (and several other colors) and she only goes for the pink. Same with blankets. We’ll get her a blanket or toy and if it isn’t pink she isn’t interested. If it is… she won’t go anywhere without it!
  13. She sprawls out. She has an old bed (several years old) she still likes and a newer bed. She’ll stretch her paws out so she sprawled across both beds. It is hilarious!
  14. She is an architect! She is a nester. A lot of dogs do this, but she will actually push pillows to standing position and pull blankets on top to make intricate forts, one fort had at least three different “rooms” marked by a different blanket for the “floor”.
  15. Her kennel is her safe space.
  16. She’s good with at the vet’s every time!
  17. She has incredible restraint. Whether it’s not eating something left out (like a snack) or being patient with a kid less familiar with animals (she has served as a teacher for several toddlers still learning pulling tails are a no-no), she always amazes me.
  18. She is so expressive. I know when she is like “WTF”, when she is content, tired, nervous, excited, wanting to play, wanting to go out, wanting more food – I know all of her faces, they’re all unique and I love them all.
  19. She shares! Sometimes it’s not so great (no, don’t let the cat eat that!) but she shares her toys, treats, bed and kennel with our cat and other dogs we occasionally have over.
  20. She can walk across the room on two legs!
  21. I love her bedtime ritual. She always “fixes” the pillows on our bed exactly how she wants them, even though as soon as we get in bed she knows we’ll undo it. (Hey, she is a pillow hog!)
  22. I love how happy she is every time I, or my husband, or the two of us, get home.
  23. She behaves during bath/teeth/nails even though she absolutely hates it. When it’s time she’ll actually jump right in the tub like “let’s get this over with.” (She really does hate baths, so this is why I’m always like “Wow.”)
  24. She loves to meet and play with anyone and anything. She used to act confused about why stray cats don’t want to cuddle with her, and she is so good at the dog park!
  25. She doesn’t act like a “small dog”. She’s my first small dog and I was worried I’d have a napoleon complex problem or something, but nope! 😀
  26. When she was less than a year, my roommate had a Great Dane. Angel was maybe nine pounds at the time. Angel wanted to play with him, but he couldn’t figure out how to play with such a small dog. Angel jumped up on the couch and then would jump on his back as if tackling him. Most precious thing ever!

There are so many more reasons why I love her, but I’m stopping there. There is always next year!

Happy Birthday, lady! I love you!

-DMW

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Silence…

Voice. It is one of the single most important things anyone can have. It doesn’t have to be verbal, it can be written, verbal or signed. A person’s voice is as individual to them as their fingerprint. You can recognize a writer’s voice before you are told whom you’re reading. A person’s voice is their power. It is the voice of dissent that becomes the voice of resistance. One becomes many, but rather than blending in, they became a sea of individual voices coming together, like a mosaic of color/pitch/tone. A single voice doesn’t have the power to move giant hurdles, but a sea of voices can break through nearly any barrier. But the thing about the sea is that it always has to begin with one.

Lately I have called upon people to speak. We are living in terrifying, trying times and we need to be vigilant to use our voices to speak out against injustice, to be allies, to take care of ourselves and loved ones. Still, with all this attention to speaking and voices, it is interesting how powerful silence can be. Absolute – nothingness.

Every year, I recognize the Day of Silence (April 21 this year). It is not a time to speak up, but a time to be quiet. To not utter a single syllable. The Day of Silence was started in 1996 by students at the University of Virginia as a form of nonviolent protest. This protest is meant to bring awareness to bullying and harassment of LGBTQI students, and its effects. We take a vow of silence for the day, referencing how LGBTQI students are silenced. Outside of school, it has been broadened to include any LGBT-based discrimination.

I have participated every year since 1998 (when I first heard about it). It’s how I learned that silence can be powerful too.

In high school, most teachers didn’t give me any flack for observing the day of silence. I could still communicate, but it would have to be in writing. With classes of thirty students and forty-two minutes a period, me taking a break from the discussion wasn’t going to be, “OMG, you just can’t!” Of course, some teachers did try to test me. They were the same ones I knew would give me trouble because they argued that Willa Cather wasn’t a lesbian, referred to sexual orientation as a lifestyle and LGBT people as “those people”. They tried to get me to speak, but I refused. They threatened to send me to the principal’s office and I persisted. They sent me to the principal’s office where I waited out the period of class in the main office. I never got in trouble, because school administrators knew better. (I always told teachers in advance I was observing the Day of Silence, so no one was surprised or unwarned.)

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