Maya Angelou ~ April 4, 1928, St. Louis, MO ~ May 28, 2014, Winston-Salem, NC

Maya Angelou ~ April 4, 1928, St. Louis, MO ~ May 28, 2014, Winston-Salem, NC

This week, one of my hero’s passed on.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Statement from Dr. Maya Angelou’s Family:

Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.

Guy B. Johnson

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Pushing yourself

  We have all been there. That point where we wonder what went wrong. We blame actions and events of others. And don’t want to take responsibility for our wrongs.. its easier to not account for your actions, right? Its easier to push people who oppose to your choices away, and ignore seeing what you have done wrong. The more we become used to not fixing small problems, the bigger trenches we dig into the major issues.

  How is it that we sometimes choose the wrong things, even knowing the consequences could be awful? Do we owe ignorance to curiosity or a lack of guilt of failure? Why do some people choose to be in relationships or positions where they will end up like others predicted? Sometimes we are so stubborn we want to learn for ourselves, right?

  Well go ahead. Make some mistakes. Make some bad choices. Stick with some bad people. And refuse to fix your bad habits. What will that lead to? They say if you do something twenty one times in a row, it becomes a habit. How many things do you do a day, for years even, that attribute to your failures?

  I am thankful that I had addict parents. I am thankful some of the people I knew growing up that struggled with addictions and deep seeded problems as well. I was lucky to not go down the same road. People remind me of that all the time. Especially after hearing how I was raised. It is true that education sets you free. Examples do as well. After seeing someone deteriorate from the inside out, someone I loved and looked up to, I wanted no connection to alcohol or drugs. I wanted to be informed and understand the way bad choices affected health and well being. The more I understood, the more I moved away from those things.

I see people make bad choices a lot even after being educated about the truth. After seeing how men are in past relationships, women still choose to pursue relations hoping to change them. I have seen adult children choose to pursue redemption for their parents and try to build relationships with broken people who are incapable of having a healthy relationship. It also happens in friendships. Trying to fix trust is like building a bridge out of shredded wood. The bond becomes weak and the foundation is forever changed.

I do not claim to be perfect nor do I know the formula for world peace. I will say that from wanting to be educated and make better choices, I have made better relationships and become a better person. I have put focus on the important things in my life and shed the things that held me down. I have chosen to erase certain people from my life that were not able to progress. It was a lost cause to expect anything different from people who did not want to change.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.

I have lived with real crazy people. I choose to move forward and meet my own expectations, not become what everyone’s low expectations wanted me to be.

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Struck by lightening

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  I saw a movie this past week on Netflix that really grabbed my attention. Although I must admit I watched it because of the great actors and actresses in it, I really was glad I got to see the whole film. Its about a boy in High School that lives with his alcoholic mother and struggles to be noticed for his writing talents. Although he dies in the opening of the film( not a spoiler), the greatest point of view shown is the backtracking of events that led up to his death.

  I was so amazed by the performance of GLEE star Christopher Colfer, playing Carson Phillips. He struggled through the harsh bullying of peers, in a food chain of wildly dead on characters that portray what high school is really like. Carson was hated by many students, mostly because he was misunderstood and ignored. His parents were split up, leaving him with his crazy mother while his father moved on with a younger woman.

His whole senior year sequence was played out well and very realistic. I was on the edge of my seat to find out what would happen to him and his passionate dreams of becoming a professional writer. What I really connected to was his life at home and struggle to become something more than his parents became. To become free.

I was angered by how his mother treated him constantly but not at all surprised. I could have been the sister he never had. My own mother was much worse, having very few periods of sobriety. My mother struggled with mental illness and other internal problems, treating herself with substances just as the woman in the movie did.

In the film, Carson’s mother had a problem seeing her son succeed because of her own blundered dreams. She was so selfish and reluctant to let her son grow, that she ultimately ruined his future. His chance for survival. It was a hard blow to watch him slowly crash and lose his dreams.

  What frustrated me was the message for the audience in the end. Having parents that obviously didn’t care for him like parents should, he was left to care for himself mostly. Much like a real child of an addict, he had to take on the mature role and challenge his mother’s behavior. He was often put in the position to treat his parents as inferior. Each was so involved in their own needs that they neglected his. His mother could not hold a job let alone wake herself up in the morning. She self medicated and forced her son to start on medication for depression. The doctor she was seeing was ignorant and prescription happy, without even considering the mental condition of his patient. He was more concerned with giving out medication than to tackle any problems through intervention and action. This is a representation of how blind doctors and councilors can be to abuse and dysfunctional families. There was no real concern for the side affects attributed from her multiple prescriptions let alone a method for controlling her alcoholism. Basically, the doctor could care less.

Being the only child of two alcoholics, I can relate to many behaviors Carson had. I watched as he struggled with his emotions and had to push himself constantly to succeed. He worked very hard to accomplish all of his goals, though he had OCD tendencies and was some what bossy. His attitude was beyond his peers and he had a clear vision of his future. College. A career. Something with passion and expression. These are emotions that he was unable to express at home. He did not connect with many friends which made it hard for him to get any support. Instead he used blackmail and outsmarted most of the other students. He was conniving for his own benefit but worked his ass off to achieve his vision.

  The most heart breaking aspect of Carson’s personality was that he was a loner. He had to be. He was unable to trust other people enough to socialize like his peers. He did not wish to conform. Only to fly free. Far away from his life. That was me. In a nutshell.

  I rooted for him all the way until the end of the film. I hoped that the end would have some how altered in order to give him a second chance but it didn’t. His mother ruined his only chance of leaving the small town. I felt the pain as he discovered his mother was behind his declined application to the school of his dreams. I could relate to the lack of support or encouragement from his parents. I appreciated the realness of both of his parents conditions. Each struggled with past issues that carried out most of his adolescent life.

His father was the lesser of two evils, having abandoned the family years earlier only to move on with a new woman. The new woman has a unique perspective in the movie in that she can see the whole picture from the outside looking in. She met Carson’s mother in the beginning of the film only to hate her. Later on she begins to understand why Carson’s mother was the way she was. The relationship between both women helped to show the pattern to which the father was in, with his lack of commitment or compassion. The new woman took pity on Carson’s mother in the end after seeing the fathers true colors.

  The triangle between ex wife, new fiance and husband was very realistic and well laid out. At first it seemed that Carson’s parents divorced because of things the wife had done. As it turns out, the father was very neglectful and abandoned his wife and son for his own selfishness. My father and mother quit when I was only a year old. Their drinking and drug habits only worsened as time went on. Both could not face each other and were constantly angry.

As the film portrayed, this is sometimes caused by residual feelings that get in the way of one or the other person moving on with their lives. My own father left me years after my mother only to find a woman with three children, whom he involves himself with.

Its hard not to be angry or feel like you are replaced when being the child in that situation. It happens a lot. People make mistakes and then try to start over. They believe that recreating a new family will make problems or feelings subside. Carson was old enough to not really care about what his father had missed. However, the fiance was able to see how the family had been affected by the shattering divorce. This made her think twice about her engagement ad choice in the father of her unborn child.

Unfortunately, the regret and realizations that take place in the film do not always happen in real life. Carson’s mother feels regret and pain once realizing she has lost her son. She has no control over what has happened and has to live with her actions. At the expense of her sons life, she finally had to face what her actions caused. Carson’s father becomes more of the bad guy at the end when the audience gets to see his true colors. He becomes less relevant in Carson’s life throughout the film, until he is just a complete disappointment.

  I was interested in the side story about Carson’s relationship with his grandmother that had Alzheimer’s. I loved how he would visit her and read to her, even when she didn’t remember who he was. He was able to publish his childhood story in his literary magazine for the school. It was a positive twist to the sadness of the movie. I was really hoping to see him “get to fly”. What Carson really represents are the children out in the world with abusive and neglectful parents. Though the film is a comedy, it holds real validation for struggling and abused children.

  Having a demise of Carson’s character gives the audience a squashed hope for the success of undesirable children. Children who live daily with alcoholic and addicted parents. Whom have to make their own lunches and pay their own way through life.

I can remember signing my own school trip forms since elementary school. I had to prepare my own food a lot of the time and was mostly ignored. When my parents did want to provide for me, there was always a catch or perk for them. I felt isolated and always struggled to over achieve. I wanted to feel acceptance. Reassurance. I had none at home. It took me a long time to stand up to my own mother.  I found that cleaning up her messes was a lot easier than challenging her authority. You should never bite the hand that feeds you. In my case, when I finally bit back, I was abandoned for good.

  I wish that more children were brave enough to go to authorities about their abusers. But I know the stress and torment that goes along with having to report it. To worry if you won’t be taken seriously or be sent right back home to your parents is the worst thing imaginable. I was able to report my mother on hree different occasions. All of those times I was sent back home eventually. CPS and the law did not protect me. In fact, my mother was not charged with anything. It took until I was seventeen to take my parents to court. Even then I was given legal permission to never go home again because I had a legal guardian. But my parents paid no fines or any criminal charges. I did not seem to have enough proof. So it was dismissed.

  I wish I could inspire children who have been through what I have. I tell my stories openly because they are like old scabs. It helps other people to know they are not alone. They can have a voice. I wish I could be their voice when they don’t have the courage to speak up. The worst feeling in the world was not knowing if I would be safe in my own bed. I never felt at home in my mother’s house. I felt caged. As if I was just kept captive in my room most of my upbringing so my mother would not have to be a parent.

In the film, Carson’s mother did not want to lose him. She seemed to not want to let go if her son even though she did nothing for him. Truth is, she just did not want him to succeed. She could not let her son progress because she never did. She was bitter. Stuck in the mistakes she made, she only wanted her son to pay the same price of losing his dreams. Could it have been in spite? Maybe. Does it make the audience angry? For sure.

What people have to understand about alcoholics is that they are sick. They are not thinking clearly. Or like a responsible person should act. When a child is raised into that type of environment, they do sometimes become a “Carson”. They go into survival mode and advance past their peers out of the necessity to succeed. I know that feeling so deeply. It has made me free. The film does not give justice to those who do succeed. The people who do break free of their old lives and actually become something.

I highly recommend this film to have an alternate ending, though I know it will never happen. I was really rather apauled by how much Carson struggled because it was a lot like looking at myself. I was upset that he did not get to spread his talents out and succeed for his own efforts.

I do not think the film gives a positive message to its viewers about the “undesirables” of society. I am one of those undesirables. A person that was thought to fail. To amount to nothing. To become just like her parents. Addicts. Alcoholics. Crazy. Poor. Unsuccessful. Stuck in a wheel of regret. I truly wonder if that had to be my fate. I refused it. What is stopping others from refusing to follow down the same road?

Is it really that rare to break free?

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The funeral

  The air is suffocating. You choke up at all the memories flashing through your mind. The good, the bad, and the ugly. You think of all the things should have, could have and would have said. You remember your childhood. Your mother or fathers laugh. The way they smelled. The facial expressions they made when they were happy. Sad. Even the way it felt to be hugged. Your teen years. You remember that you are now in your twenties. And this day came too soon.

I remember the way she smelled. The way she looked when she was depressed. I knew what mood she would be in by the feel of the house when I came home. I knew what made her insecure. What chilled her to the bone. I knew the hot, burning liquid that cooled her to the core. That was her only real buddy, her bottles. The only thing she could trust to make sense at the end of her exhausted work day.

I remember his eyes. The way you could see into his soul. I knew all his childhood memories. His adventures and mishaps while growing up. I knew his pain and anguish. His paranoia. His disconnection from others because they never quite understood him like I did. No one ever listened as well as I did nor gave advice out for handling awkward human interactions with possible romantic interests. No one tolerated his anger fits as well. His manic and messy state of living.

They were both alone. Literally but also mentally. They once had each other to share the bitter exhaust of addiction and self inflicted violence. They had each other to bounce back humiliating childhood failures and enemy stories of who did them worse. They shared a bond of depression and solitude. And called it love.

I remember wanting to die. To be anywhere but next to them. After a while, I could see he was repulsed by me. I could hear it in his mood. He had a strange way of conveying his love. His possession. He wanted me to be myself. To let me dress and express myself however I want. To be mature. To be older. To be in control. I think he admired it. Its what he lacked. He felt proud maybe that he could watch me grow and make my own choices. Without having to put a foot down or take anything away. There weren’t many rules. Or advice for the predicaments I fell into. The men I fell towards. It all was OK. I was making my own choices and learning. So his parenting was not required. He could get to be the friend. Which consisted of jealousy, opposition, mind games and ultimately betrayal. Friends are not like family. Friends have the option to bail. So walking on eggshells was my life.

She was not a friend. She was not a sister. Or a partner. She did not carry the responsibility of any of those roles because it meant caring too much. She had no comprehension of how to act out relationships. Relationships meant taking a risk. Putting too much on the line. Exerting too much emotion to an empty shell only left me broken. It was like trying to decide if I should stay on the deserted island and die of heat stroke or jump into the dark waters and drown. Either not enough or too much. Both gave me no option or encouragement to fly…

The funny thing about having flashbacks is they don’t seem to have a cohesive order. There is no formal style to it but rather like lightening, it strikes at you with its own direction and precision. And as anticipated, it hurts.
When I remember anything about them, its not triggered sweet emotions. Its fast and hard like a storm. Its trying to recreate good memories out of shattered glass. I can never quite pick up the pieces enough to recreate the picture. The one I wish was painted on my canvas in the first place. But that’s how life is. We do not have the option to create our past. Some people believe as premortal babies, we have the option of parents as we peer down from heaven. We have a divine purpose from conception, to be sent down and make that life meaningful. I am a skeptic at times.

It is not false that they are gone. Its not only the misplacement of their location. The problem is the died a long time ago. The parts of them that made them whole. And able to function. They are like shadows. Slowly moving through the motions of every day, with not much feeling or desire to face reality. It would be too much for them to face all they have done. To have to be held accountable for the lives they have ruined, the enemies that they have made and the episodes they have caused. Both have been sentenced to live empty lives. That’s not much of a life at all.

One day I am going to have to attend two funerals. It will be expected of me. The only child. To say some words and share some encouragement about laying each body to rest. I will tell myself a million times that I cannot go. That I will not bring my new family. My children. I will battle, with anger, all the reasons I should hold grudges and reject their families for all I experienced. And then what? I will have to go. But it will be closure. I always knew something was wrong. I dealt with it. I cleaned up the messes. I grew up fast. And without their guidance or approvals. I grew up on my own terms. Its what I did to survive. What they do to survive is hide. For so long they have hidden and now they cannot even find themselves.

Some day I will get ready for those funerals. But I will be OK. I will know that they died a very long time ago.
Each were battling so many things that they could not handle reality. So on that day I will finally have the closure they never gave me. I will feel at peace with being my own person. And not the person I could have been.

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