Things My Mother Taught Me

In June, I’ll be attending the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, and they’re having a pre-conference contest for Mothers’ Day. In 500 words, or less, write a story titled Things My Mother Taught Me. I wish I could have written a happy, flowery, my-mother-was-the-greatest story, but I couldn’t.

scan003My mother taught me a lot of things. I still have phobias from some of them. But she also forced me to be self reliant. I know I can survive. Year ago, before she died, I forgave my mother because I know she didn’t mean to be the way she was, but that doesn’t change history. And it didn’t change her. Only me.

The following is my contest entry. I doubt I’ll win because most people buy into the fallacy that all mothers are good people.

They’re not.

~ o ~

I tell people that I was born 35-years old, that I have been an adult for as long as I can remember, but that’s not true. I was young once.

Maybe it was childish immaturity, or maybe I never put it all together until that day when I was eleven. My mother had just pulled a batch of biscuits from the oven, and just as if it were something she said every day, just so matter-of-factly, she said the words. I have to love your brother more because your father loves you more. She said I was her second choice of her two children.

It didn’t really matter why. I stopped hearing long before the because. I stood paralyzed, not realizing tears were running down my face until I felt them seep between my lips, until I tasted that saline flavored shame. Sometimes, even now, I tear up when I smell biscuits baking.

For the next three decades, I tried to earn my mother’s love, but none of my efforts were good enough. If you get all “A”s … If you work your way through college … If you get an important job… If you pay my rent every month… If, if, if. If I was just good enough. I was so desperate for her love that I would do anything for her, give anything to her. I would have let her take my last breath.

“I need $3000 to have my teeth fixed,” she said one night, her voice shrill over the phone lines between Atlanta and Seattle. Like we had a bad connection.

I had just moved to Seattle, and what with moving expenses, higher rent, and a car payment for the first time in ten years, groceries were sometimes optional. Besides her teeth weren’t the issue. She wanted money, and I was her personal ATM. Not handing it over made me a disappointment, a terrible daughter. At her knee I had learned the weight of that disappointment, had been indoctrinated into the cult of the narcissistic parent. Had been programmed until the synapses in my brain automatically translated her need into love.

I need translated into I care about you.

I want became look how much I love you.

I don’t want to be a burden meant you’re being a problem.

None of it was true, but I chose to believe it, at least then.

“I don’t have it,” I said.

A hurtful silence came from the other end of the line, making me wait so my heart could voice a thousand self-incriminations. I knew that if I were a good daughter, I’d have $3000 just waiting for her to need it.

“I always knew you were worthless,” she said, slamming her phone down.

She had said it so many times before, too many to count, but for some reason, that day as the severed connection whined in my ears, I realized I wasn’t worthless. I am not worthless.

I am good enough. Good enough. For me.

Obsession – Not by Calvin Klein

To obsess, that is my life.

Nothing in my life ever happens without lots of thought invested. Thought before, like “what if?” and thought after, like “what the fuck?” or “why?”

This state of mind is paralyzing to say the very least. And it has molded my life. Oh yes, it has.

Contrary to popular opinion by the medical community, I must read myself to sleep because if I turn the light off before I reach the point where I can no longer keep my eyes open another moment, I will lay and stew in all the bad mistakes I’ve made, reliving each one of them in vivid Technicolor. Or if something is pending, even something little and of no account, I’ll ponder what the thousand potential outcomes are.  And if somehow, for whatever reason, even though I am dropping the book –actually now it would be my Kindle–onto my face from exhaustion, if I turn that light off a second too soon, then my mind starts spinning out horrific situations in which I am the starring character.

But this obsessive behavior doesn’t just disturb my sleep patterns, it affects my every move. Should I have let the old lady go ahead of me? Should I just ignore the asshole drivers on the road? Should I change jobs? Does my manager want me to change jobs? Did I do the right thing? What could I have done better? Why did I act the way I did?

Should I have written this post? Do I want to expose myself to the world like this? Will others find me disturbing or pathetic? Or sad? Or boring? Will they think me a self-involved asshole/moron/waste-of-space?

This post was mentally spawned by Today’s Daily Post, Verbal Confirmation: To be, to have, to think, to move — which of these verbs is the one you feel most connected to? Or is there another verb that characterizes you better?

Name Change…

I have been looking at other blogs lately, and I have to admit that my original blog title was really really boring.  So I decided to change it.  The new name, Literary.Schizophrenia, is indicative of how I write. I end up with all these characters in my head that won’t let me rest until I tell their story.

Not saying I won’t change it again.  But for today. I like it.

Fresh Start

Lately, I’ve stalled in my writing efforts. I’ve let lots of things get in the way, including a soul-sucking 9-5 job, but I’m coming back. Not as quickly as I’d like, but this new website is an indication that I’m starting to build steam again. For the past couple of years, I’ve told myself that I’d put together a website, more than a blog, and I kept putting it off because it seemed like such an effort.  But I did it.  Over the past week, I’ve built a website that I hope represents me.  The theme is elegant grunge which sort of sums up my whole personality.

I’ve also been writing some of the back story for my new novel [working title: the twins]. And I believe, after several iterations, that I have finally developed Beryl’s voice. Part of my hesitation is that with An Untold Want, I went through several re-writes, changing the tense or the PoV. This time, I want to know if Beryl is going to speak or if the story will be third person, before I write a majority of the book. And it’s looking like this will be a first-person/past-tense story which is totally different than An Untold Want.  This book will be more like Couillon in style, a little more fast paced than An Untold Want, but still falling into the literary genre.