When I was a little girl my mom gave me a letter. It was dated January 1981 and written on the stationary from The Mansion at Turtle Creek. It was a letter written when I was five months old. It was a letter telling me my father died on New Years, that I had four brothers, and how sorry she was I wouldn’t have a dad. She promised to love me and look out for me and hoped that one day I’d be able to understand. I remember everything about that letter.
I first talked to my brothers when I sixteen. I was elated to have finally connected with them, but we lost touch rather quickly. Over the years there was a pattern of me finding them and then losing touch. Eventually myspace and facebook came around and I was finally able to put faces with names. All my life I had dreamed of long conversations getting to know each other. I thought we’d have some sort of bond and I’d finally have these siblings I had been wishing for. But it never happened that way and after awhile I just quit trying. After awhile it was enough to just watch them from a distance via facebook posts.
Over the weekend one of the random posts caught my attention. The youngest of my brothers, the one I had never talked to, was going to be in my city for two weeks. And after a lot of schedule conflicts I was finally walking up a sidewalk to a restaurant where my brother was waiting for me. My heart was racing and I was terrified. It took me a minute to actually open the door knowing that my brother was going to be on the other side.
We hugged and walked back to the table where I met his wife and a bunch of her family members. Dinner was full of awkward pauses. I don’t think either of us really knew what to say. It was interesting to learn about the things we have in common. We both hate having anything on our feet. We have the same eyes and dimples. We’re also incredibly different. He draws and plays golf while I do equations and read economic journals. After dinner we exchanged hugs, took some pictures and promised to see each other again soon.
We’ve had a lot of false starts over the years but I really hope this reunion sticks. It may be the silly daydreams of a lonely little girl, but I still hope to one day have those sibling connections that will help me feel complete.
I wake up on a Saturday morning and make my way to the kitchen to start breakfast for the kiddo. I mix a batch of biscuits while sausage is cooking and then put together a sausage gravy while the biscuits are baking. My daughter wants a new dress for her doll so we pull out some scrap fabric, needle and thread and I make her doll a dress. We plant small vegetables and flowers in the front garden and get excited to make a salad with our garden fresh tomatoes and bell peppers.
Normally when I reflect on my childhood, it’s some painful memory of the bad things that happened. My grandmother wasn’t the nicest or most loving guardian. She was often times quite cruel to me and created a lot of issues that I’m still dealing with as an adult. But I will still say that I feel rather sorry for kids that didn’t get to grow up with their grandparents. Despite the bad times there were valuable lessons that I learned growing up on that ranch with grandparents.
My granny was an exceptional homemaker. She was downright professional in her ability to maintain a home. Things were cleaned on a regular basis, meals were always cooked from scratch, and many of our outfits were handmade. During the summers we picked peaches and grapes and made our own jams. We picked and canned vegetables from my great grandfathers garden. We licked the nectar from the honey sickle flowers that my great grandmother grew on trellises lining the front porch. My granny taught me hospital corners, count back change and how to make earrings from puzzle pieces. When we asked how to spell a word we were told to look it up in the dictionary much to our annoyance. She taught me that newspaper cleans glass and mayonnaise cleans ivy leaves and removes the residue left by stickers.
I don’t think kids get these little life lessons anymore. I try to pass them down to my daughter as much as I can remember. I find myself wanting to relearn a lot of these things. My granny, for all her prior faults, is still like my domestic encyclopedia. “Granny what can I use instead of vegetable oil in brownies?” Applesauce. “Granny there’s some strange white stuff on my crape myrtle trees what do I do?” Mix up some dish soap and water and spray it off. “Granny how do I get rid of this sore throat?” Gargle with some salt water.
Grandparents grew up in a time when self sufficiency was still a skill to be instilled into children. I see so many kids down that don’t know how to do anything on their own. Sadly we’re losing these last generations of grandparents that still have these valuable lessons to pass down. What I have to offer my daughter is only a faint memory of what I was taught. I love seeing how amazed she is watching me do something like make a doll’s dress or cooking something from scratch. When I can get ink out of a shirt or crayon off a wall, she thinks it’s magic.
I guess in a world of electronic this and instant that… these “old ways” really are a kind of magic.
It’s been awhile. Usually a lapse in writing means that things are going swell and I’m out living life and being happy. The gaps in my entries are usually good things. I wish that was the case this time. Back in February I got sick. Long hospital stay, phantom infection, failed surgery… the works. Since then I’ve been trying to focus on getting better and graduating. Happy to say that I’m doing well on both counts. The number of pain free days is increasing and I’m only four projects, and a few exams away from two degrees.
I still can’t believe it’s almost over. I’ve been at this university thing for so long. I feel like I’m just now starting to get the hang of it. I’m just now figuring out how it all works and it’s over. I feel like I’m getting ready to leave the nest. This school is my home, these people feel like my family. We may not be close but they’re the people I see every day and it’s going to be strange not being around them. I’ll miss the banter with my professors and the commiserating with my classmates. I’ll miss the cats, the pink roses, and the bells at noon. I think most of all I will miss my daydreams. I’ve spent four years building fantasies and plans for what I’ll do after graduation. Now I have to face the fact that most of those plans will probably never happen. I hear my classmates talking about their internships, grad schools and job offers. And while I’m excited and genuinely happy for them, I can’t help but feel a bittersweet pang of envy.
I feel like the only thing I’ve learned in college is everything that I did wrong. From picking the wrong degrees to not gaining enough practical experience. I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m graduating with over $100,000 in debt, questionable health, and no job prospects. It’s quite overwhelming.
How can I be on the threshold of the biggest achievement of my life and still feel like a failure?
This is the moment I’ve been dreading. Disappointing everyone that’s had so much confidence in my eventual success.
When I’m debating with theists the argument is always the same. They insist that there has to be a God or else there is no purpose. To which I ask “Who says there has to be a purpose?”
What if existence just happens?
I don’t think people are well equipped to accept uncertainty. I think they are terribly frightened by the idea that anything can happen. I find this to be a bit ironic since the only honest absolute truth in our reality is the arbitrary nature of it. That’s not to say that people can suddenly become trees, even reality must abide by the laws of physics, but it is to say that at this moment the list of things that could happen in my life are seemingly endless. Though some may be more far fetched than others, they are none the less within the scope of possibility. While the theist lot runs from chance as if it’s something to be feared, the non-theists seem to embrace uncertainty and all the possibilities that it entails.
My moods cycle downward during school breaks. During these down cycles I tend to reach for two books to pull me back up. Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus and The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius. These two books have brought me off the ledge more times that I can count. When I’m at the very bottom of my worst cycles these two books can remind me how important hope and fortune are.
I feel like someone that’s jumped in the English channel and decided to learn how to swim half way to France.
When we were kids we would go to the lake during the summer. There was a bright orange safety line that would mark how far out you could swim. Every summer our goal was always to reach that orange line. It always seemed so far away and there was such a longing watching the teenagers and adults swimming out there and hanging on the orange line.
Every trip to lake would start out the same. The goal was the orange line. Nothing else mattered. It always started out easy enough, lulling me into a false confidence. I can do this. I’m doing this. This isn’t so bad. I can make it. Then the ground disappears. Ok, no more walking, straight swimming. I can do this. As long as I can keep my head above water and my eyes on the orange line I can do this.
Then the waves start rolling in.
I would kick and swim as hard as my arms and legs could manage. Every time I recovered from wave, there would be a brief reprieve and then the onslaught would continue. Eventually I’d have to admit defeat and return to the more shallow areas.
That’s how school feels. Every semester I’m jumping in the water making a mad dash for that orange line. I start out well but then I’m quickly in over my head. This semester seems so much more difficult. The material is so much more complicated, the expectations are higher, there’s a lot more riding on these last two semesters, than any of the previous ones. This is the point in my academic career where I have to prove myself and that’s kicked this Impostor Syndrome into high gear. Think I was scared of being exposed as a fraud before? Multiply that fear by a million and you’re still light years from it.
Since I’m off my meds and out of therapy, I’m trying to remember some of the techniques my old therapist gave me.
I open this up and start to blog but then it just feels like so much effort. I’m not even sure I have that much to say, or that anyone is even interested in reading it. I’ve quit therapy and my meds again. It’s been a few months and I can already feel the decent into that downward spiral. I can imagine the exasperated sighs from people I know wondering why I keep doing this. I can’t really explain it. I guess it’s just one of those things one would have to experience to understand. For the most part I’ve been okay. My success in my summer class and getting a car have done well to elevate my mood. I’ve been getting A’s again and that feels great. It’s been so long since I’ve made an A in anything math related.
It started feeling like I was getting back to myself. Serious about mathematics again, interested in research and looking at job possibilities. For awhile it seemed like things were looking up. But now it’s feeling like I’ve peeked. I can feel myself sliding back down in the fear and sadness. I feel myself retreating back into invisibility. It almost feels comforting. As much as I hate feeling this way, it’s a norm that I know.