Wednesday, May 18, 2011

peggy bundy is now a badass in leather pants. who knew?

Today, I learned a lot about my Uncle Butch.  If there's anything you're picturing about what an Uncle Butch would look like, you may be right.  He's 6'4(ish), blonde, blue eyed, and could pretty much kick anyone's ass.  Before today, I knew that if I brought a boy home to the family that he would be the first male family member I'd want to size him up.  My Aunty Nancy loves to tell the story about the time when she and "Big Ron" (his actual name is Ronald) went to an Italian restaurant in Boston and they thought he was a gangster.  The waiters were falling all over themselves getting him everything, replacing his ash tray every time he flicked his cigarette they were lighting for him, filling their drinks without asking any questions, and finally comping his meal.  Of course he played the part perfectly, not having a clue who they thought he was supposed to be.

I realized that I almost never spend quality time with my aunt and uncle, and it's my mom's only sister who cares so much about us girls, with her husband that treated us as his own daughters.  Aunty Nancy calls me to see how I'm doing, and as I grow older we grow closer.  Uncle Butch always tells us, "If any guy gives you trouble, you tell him your uncle will give him a visit." and I smile because I know he's only half kidding.  But I couldn't stop thinking this past week how I never really sat down with them before today and had time with them, just the three of us (minus when I was a little kid).  They mean so much to me, and I almost feel guilty at how proud of me they are, when I could have spent so many more evenings with them during my trips home from school.  He went out special today to the butcher to pick out a specific and beautiful roast to make a nice meal for little old me, and I thought I was just coming over the house for a regular old meal! 

To sum up my Uncle, he's a Teamster, he used to own two restaurants a deli and a hot dog stand slash diner, he was a soldier in the Vietnam War, he was a big tough biker, and he would do absolutely anything for his family.  God is in his heart, and he has the strength, courage, and heart of a lion... well maybe the heart of a teddy bear lion like the one from Wizard of Oz.  If he isn't wearing a polo, a teamster jacket, and holding a cigar and a highball glass of southern comfort, then you aren't looking at my uncle.  He says things like, "How's my baby doing?" to all us girls in the family, and make you feel like you were his favorite.  Words can't describe the love in his eyes, and the fatherly smile he possesses.

But he's not smoking or drinking these days.  In fact, he hasn't been feeling so hot for a while now.  I don't like to go into detail, because that's not the important part. If anyone who reads this has a family member they love so much that they would be devastated to lose them, please pray for my uncle.  He looked great today, and he seems so vibrant and happy, but this weekend he had to miss my graduation because he was so tired.  I just want him to get better, because he deserves it so much working so hard his whole life and caring about all us girls and his kids, wife, and the whole family.  If I meet a guy half as good as my uncle someday, and he's not around to size him up, I don't know what I'd do.  Prayer really does work, even if you don't believe in it, good thoughts are always welcome.

Monday, May 16, 2011

faces in and out, wine glass up and down

I don't think I've ever been more overwhelmed by a span of just a few days.  It still hasn't hit me that I graduated from college this weekend.  People keep saying, "congratulations" and, "you worked so hard!" and, "so what's your plan now?"

Well really, I did deserve a congratulations on making it through four years of being stuck in the middle of western Massachusetts.  I deserved to get my medal they put around my neck at the HFA graduation; like Bruce Jenner got his Olympic medal for putting in hours and working through his physical stress, I got mine for putting up with years of emotional stress. "What's that?" people asked at Travis' grad party. "It's my gold medal I got for graduating" only I wasn't really kidding.

Commencement was a long process, but I feel like either it went by too fast for me to enjoy, or I was just terrible at taking any of it in.  A woman from outer space gave a speech about how UMass molded her life, a student gave funny pop culture references, and we had to listen to the "mmkay" guy from South Park lull us to sleep for ten minutes.  I almost cried on several stress-filled moments, one being that I forgot my robe and my dad laughed at me like he laughs at everything I take seriously, and I sat starving through each ceremony wondering why they charged for food at graduation.  One or two moments I almost had tears of joy thinking about all the students coming together to celebrate an achievement, but I never feel those things fully in the moment, it's always later on my own when there's no one to see.

And what next?  I hate small talk.  I hate telling people the same thing every couple of minutes, and I hate getting the same questions.  I also hate that half my family thinks I'm going to be a movie star while the other half thinks my degree in Theater was probably a waste.

Before having my graduation party, I thought I was excited to have everyone over the house.  Then I realized:  I have TWO families.  Not by any fault of mine, my divorced parents and their relatives all had to be in the same pink polka dotted elephant filled room because it had rained and our tiny house was to replace our spacious backyard I had planned on using for a cookout.  My aunt smiled at my sisters, wondering if they remembered her.  My uncle I haven't seen in two years stayed outside talking to my stepdad about cars.  My gramma kindly helped my old great great aunt with her coat and wonderingly observed my schizophrenic but very sweet cousin as she folded her sweater nineteen times.  As my Papa tried to heal my migraine with rieki and brushing my aura around my eye, and some old friends floated in and out after a plateful of potato salad, I'd had just about enough.  I drank through the headache just so the panic in my throat would cease.

I'm terrified to start pursuing my dreams because when they don't happen fast enough I'm going to get very depressed.  That, and I hate that one gramma tells strangers in the street she has a granddaughter that's going to be on Broadway and the other one nods and says, "oh that's nice" and then discouragingly says I should commute to my internship from Worcester and "find a nice job" as she crushes my dreams and compares me to the relatives that majored in business and law.  Even after seeing something I wrote, directed, ran the light board, and acted in one scene, she still doesn't see that I'm actually pursuing a career.  I didn't even want to tell her about my job interview tomorrow because it's at a sales firm, and I feel like she'll secretly have a victory over me if I get a desk job.

While it's amazing that I have friends and family who think so highly of me that they have no doubt I'm going to make it, I think it's somewhat of a good thing that I have those who are a bit less than encouraging.  It just makes me want to prove them wrong that much more.

Today, I'm making a promise to my five-year-old self that wanted to grow up and be Cameron Diaz just so she could be Jim Carrey's girlfriend in The Mask -- I will be a fabulous actress, and I won't even need a boyfriend (or approval) to do it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

through the eyes of a child

Today I was looking at pictures.  I sat on the hardwood floor of my empty furniture-less bedroom, and I looked at pictures from my childhood.  Many of them were of my great grandparents who are long since passed away.  Those were perhaps the saddest pictures to look at.  My sisters and I were all hugging my grampy and he looked so happy.  I have his eyes, and we were the only ones who could wiggle our ears in the family.

Then I came across some of my Uncle Billy, and saw how happy he used to be.  These days I have no idea how he's doing, because that part of the family isn't our family anymore.  His sister Mary was sitting on his lap in one of them; they were so happy and hugging and young and fun.  Where did they lose their sanity?  Their focus and love of life and family just seemed to disappear.  I'm not even sure if Mary is still alive.  I may never know.

My mother's ex boyfriend and his sons were in some of these pictures.  People I used to call "dad" and "brother".  Now when I think of this person I had living in my home it makes me sick.  But I still keep in touch somewhat with my "brothers".  I wonder if people ever take pictures because they know that their life could change at any moment in time, and everyone that is in love or connected in that photo could disappear or walk out or become someone you would never recognize, in an instant.  Photos are a snapshot of a moment that may never exist again.  Take them while you can, is all I can say for it.

Did you ever have a grandfather?  I used to have two; a great one and a first level one.  One died (my sweet grampy who will never be away from my heart), and one I will probably never speak to or see again.  He may as well have died; I have no idea where he is.  But I know that he used to cook on the grill for family parties, and take our family to Red Sox games.  We used to go to the beach and go on walks.  He went to all my shows.  I get sick just thinking about it. 

Looking at pictures of my great grandparents and thinking about how the divorce never came up until the past year or so, it finally all makes sense.  Who would try to go through a divorce when you've been divorced like twice already, and your parents are ancient in their 90s?  Grammy and Grampy wouldnt' have let them live that down, they would've been rip shit.  So they pass away, and you deal with the grieving and you think, "maybe my marriage isn't so bad" because you're being comforted.  Then the mourning period passes and you realize you're still unhappy.  But there's nothing stopping you.  I get it; she was waiting for the right timing to leave him.

I thought that as I grew up, the younger people in my family would change, and we would all lead happy lives and be a "normal" family.  But as we grew up, many of the "adults" in my life had changed, and they fell apart.  They were no example to be followed, and our relationships were lost.  I can't imagine letting this happen with my kids or theirs.  Where are the adults in my family?  Life was perfect before death, sickness, and selfishness started to kick in.  Sadly, I sometimes feel like I'm the biggest adult out of most of us.  We're supposed to turn out better.  It's scary to think about how we're going to do that.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

let it rain, let ir rain, open the floodgates of heaven

I got baptized last night.  I first thought it would be a good way to end my college career, but really it's washing away every negative thing I've been through the past four years and then some.  Renewing myself with God has been something I keep trying to do and have so much trouble finding a way to just get unstuck.  I keep getting stuck in my own head, in morbid reflection, in friendships that were completely one-sided, relationships that weren't real, and compromising my self-worth just to try to fucking fit in.  I'm not in high school anymore, I'm sick of the whole thing.

For years of my life I was plagued by the need to be with someone that was never going to love me back, no matter how many good days we had and no matter how much I loved him.  The reality was that he was a shitty boyfriend, and a liar, and took me for granted.  I was selfish for even attempting to be with him in the first place, but I was a stupid and overly trusting child.  I was desperately holding on to God still trying to believe that this man I wanted since I was 15 years old was going to change, keep his promises, and that God intended him be my prince charming.

I tried to replace him with self-destructive behavior and drinking myself into a corner where I almost died.  He would do something to set me off, and then I would go off to a party and drink until I couldn't stand anymore.  My alcohol tolerance had gotten so high, I'm lucky I woke up after some nights.  I was anorexic, and then after living in a house full of 43 girls for a few months, I was bulimic. 

When I lost all hope in his ability to be the man I thought he was, I started trying to replace him with men who treated me even worse.  I still called myself a Christian while investing my heart into meaningless hookups.  My only redeeming quality at this point of my life was that my "friends" were proud of me and would approve of me with every notch etched into the bedpost.  Looking back, I never wanted to admit that I was pretty much date raped on more than once occasion, and I would cover it up with bragging about how hott the guy was that I don't remember being with.

All of this was going on while I was VICE PRESIDENT of Navigators.  I would go to teach bible study and then go off and drink myself stupid because I either didn't have anything better to do, or I couldn't stand being around myself.  I was taking anything and everything that made me happy for a brief amount of time as something from God and that He was giving me some sort of lifeline.  Really, God was continuing to teach me that the things I wanted were not anything that I needed.  I wanted AND needed God but I had no idea how to just be a person and be ok with being alone and searching for something from God instead of people. 

So I knew I had to get away.  I hated that house I was in, and how it sucked me in and changed me into someone I didn't even recognize.  I couldn't stand going home anymore because I would always go visit my ex even though it would always end badly and hurt me even more than it felt right in the beginning.  I went to England to get away.  I was desperate.

Studying abroad gave me perspective on true friendship.  The friends that you want to have for the rest of your life and you will never want to leave, (I only had a couple of these back home and I had been taking them for granted) and I had to fly 3400 miles to live with some of the best people I've ever known.  Their views on alcohol, relationships, even people helped me grow so much.  And I had my little study-abroad affair that put the icing on the cake.  I had found myself again.

Coming back here, I quit my sorority, I got a job that surprisingly suited me, and I started going to therapy for my anxiety.  God was really knocking on my heart saying, "open up, I want to come in... you've still got some pain you need healing for"  at this point I was coming to terms with the things that had hurt me, and wasn't so much dealing with the fact that I had been so hurt.  I was repressing a lot of pain in my life, and now that my college career has been coming to an end it was time to deal with that pain.

Last night my friends that I have been taking for granted the past four years really showed me that they were my real friends.  They've helped me understand myself, and they really believe in me.  "I believe you're a woman of God" was probably the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me, because I don't believe it a lot of the time.  So I need to start believing that because when I get out into the real world, I deserve to love myself and allow God to love me, and make more friends that will always support me, and someday have a relationship that's healthy with God's love and blessings, instead of me tricking myself into believing God was blessing it just because I was with a Christian man.

Renewing my relationship with God through a baptism was something that needed to be done.  I'm going out into the real world now, and my crazy stupid self-destructive behavior is also something that I need to leave behind.  In a sense, UMass is going to be a lot like Vegas.  What happened here, will stay here, and I will not be taking it with me, save for the lessons I learned.