Reflection

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August 1998: The weather and celebration agreed, the sun and wind were an enhancement versus a disruption. And in Oklahoma that was a rarity (Midwest weather was known for having the emotional stability of a three-year-old). But that day, the harmony made for sunshine and giggles— perfect companions for a child’s birthday party.

My twelve-year-old self, dressed in the utmost adult-like outfit I could pluck from my wardrobe, was smiling with my lanky arms pressed into my sides, my hands clasped together at my belly. As of late, my too-formal outfit and serious demeanor were a recurrent theme, as I stood on the scalped lawn of my parents’ yard and the very precipice of teenagedom.

I was off to the side, observing a line, more curved than straight, of children. My eyes rode up and down, the slightly askew uniform line of children a rollercoaster ride of heights and ages. Although not in line, I was the oldest, save for the neighbor boy–I’d once gotten into a physical fight with over tadpoles. The memory of it now makes me smirk.

Chasing some level of internal maturity, I’d felt like a spectator, although my parents would probably remember me as a participating child standing in the line waiting for my chance to pin the tail on the donkey—a hit at my brother’s birthday party.  But I didn’t feel like a shareholder of childhood then.  There was a disconnect to the experience, a proverbial bridge I’d started crossing and further refused to trek back to the starting point, too far gone.

At twelve-years-old, I had no clue, but I’d started an evolution of self, turning the page to the beginning act of shedding my childhood skin.

Now as a mother, there is a certain sensation of sorrow I feel recalling it, reflecting on the memory. Only because now, my memory is currently live, happening in real-time—no longer just a mental page filed under Sarah’s childhood.

Except at the present, it’s not me cast, instead, now headlining the same play, very act is my oldest daughter, who turns eleven next month. And God, it hurts to be in the audience knowing I can’t change the outcome because growth is a visceral part of being human.

Placed on the tipping edge of my seat, soaked in perspiration and terror, I feel helpless as I scream for her to turn back. It’s futile. My warning is silent, unable to pierce the veil of her growing human instinct that separates her and me.

All I have power to is clutching the back of her shirt in my fists with my face caught between the proudest grin and ugliest sob, in an attempt to drastically slow her speed on the track of life by the dig of my heels acting as a lead anchor.

And the experience is the most agonizing exhilaration.

God Bless this motherhood of mine.

Torment…

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A photo by Volkan Olmez. unsplash.com/photos/wESKMSgZJDo

“Do you get energy from people, or do people drain you?” My therapist asked me a year ago. In silent retort, I burrowed my shoulder blades into the scratchy couch in his office. To be honest, I didn’t wholly understand the question.

Define people, I thought.

I stared back at him, my features tightening with enmity. It wasn’t the question I found unsettling, it was the resilient, glowing peace, the kind manufactured from life lessons garnered from seven plus decades of life, that lit his eyes. Wisdom. Often, in its presence, it feels intimidating, because of its authentic conception. It cannot be store-bought, or gifted. True wisdom is a result of your own applied living versus existing despite life’s unfairness. It’s the gift of not giving up.

I folded my arms over myself, vulnerable. Therapy, ugh. The voluntary act of gathering as many scattered “pieces” of yourself that will fit in to your arms, only to lay those jigsaw puzzle pieces on an invisible table and give into the resolve of trying to fit them together, solving small parts of your own widespread puzzle, in under an hour. Then with those pieces constructed, your big picture produced by your own hands, you get to wrestle with believing whether it’s reality or fiction all while an unbiased stranger stands over your shoulder observing. Again, therapy, ugh.

I needed clarity. “What do you mean people?” I asked. Because if ‘people’ are the small-in-size, yet large-in-wildness, army of emotional manics—my four daughters—I created to test, terrorize, and overwhelm me with a deluge of heart bursting love on the regular, I’d say drain till I’m a hollow corpse. But if ‘people’ are adults than I’d say they energize me. *Translation: I will drain you, it’s who I am.

Over the course of the past month, I’ve witnessed my narrative change and negatively morph. I’ve gone from a lover of people, to being plagued with a persona that is fearful of people. I’m not sure if it’s implicit of my future, or only teetering on my hopefully temporary and somewhat broken spirit.

Currently, I’m exhausted and coated in outrage-meets-heartache. My timeline, the straight, but curvy line representing the past month of my chaotic life, holds a plethora of emotions. The colored dots, bleeding together, are a virtual mood ring defining my ugly emotional state. Black and red. The line has short stretches of undisturbed, un-dotted spaces due to sleep, but even those small spaces dominated by my subconscious are an angry, steaming black night train. I am restless.

As a result, I’ve been a bone-tired, one-dimensional caricature, only capable of reacting from a self-defensive standpoint. It feels like liquid, the medium more watercolor than oil.

That’s anxiety. It clouds your judgement, left unable to pinpoint the source of your grievance, or even recognize a true threat, because anxiety also holds hands with paranoia. Everything feels like an attack.

Lets rewind to the start, before I make you (if I haven’t already) think I’ve gone completely mad, yet for the record I’ve always been a slightly emotional maniac—love me through it, kay?

My daughter’s 5th grade year started off rocky, to say the least. The landscape was an interval of unscalable boulders, designed by bullies. These bullies led with disturbing agendas, one’s that define ‘rape culture’ with an undertone of vulgarity.

I’ll admit, for a minute, I was so blindsided that I fought my own erratic rationale first. My frantic heart chiseled at my ribs, my chest filled with rage.  Coming to, I fought back with a strength I didn’t know I possessed. I was my daughter’s advocate, protector, and activist on a mission. Hell hath no fury like a mother scorned. Halfway through the fight, I was blindsided again. And I never saw it coming.

My ideals were shot in the head.

For most of the last decade, I have been wrapped in the euphoric state of mommin. I have four daughters ten-years-old and younger, each nearly a two year stair-step in descending age of one another, and I’m not saying everyday has been euphoric—this phase of life has been ugly hard, but for the most part, it’s self-induced.

As a mama to young children, you are often your biggest critic. You’re main enemy is your own tiredness, stress, and frailty. It’s worrying about your child’s schedule, nap times, health, nutrition, the milestones, knowledge of the alphabet and eventually sight words, and whether they are getting too much screen time. The enemy, while they are young, doesn’t feel like it’s the outside populous—aside from the occasional “judgy” mama, or the insane maniac you see on the news.

It sounds disturbing, ideals being shot in the head, but it’s the truth. Nobody warns you about the ‘real world’ wake-up call you will receive as your child steps into adolescence. Yes, nearly all say, with an air of survivor humor, “wait till they are sixteen.” Together, you share a laugh at the forewarning statement. You laugh at the threat and they laugh at your naiveness. But where was my warning, “just wait till their ten. When children the same age will vandalize your child’s innocence. The mean classmates who will label your child, stealing titles crafted from a demeaning list of words they surely can’t understand.”

When it happened, I didn’t know where to start. I was mad at myself. And I knew it stemmed from Mama Guilt—the responsibility mother’s place on ourselves to make our children’s life perfect.

This was the very tip of the serious matter iceberg—my child’s value of self.

Here is the cold, ugly, and hard truth that started my downward slope: Nearly a month ago, she was punched in the face, called a bitch, and then this boy went online and told eight other classmates, in a thread on Instagram, that my daughter sucks dic (because he isn’t mature enough to know that the slang word for penis is actually spelled with a k, too—it’s the one syllable rule), and other boys in the same thread called her a loser, an idiot, and other words…

I nearly threw up writing the above paragraph.

After coming full circle—the school, police, child, parents—I realized how broken our system truly is.

The school is limited, the rope of their control is a short leash. Two police officers and a clerk offered me sympathy, one officer told me that this is really a “parent’s job” to handle. They should, along with the school, discipline the child, because he doubted the DA is going to press charges against a ten-year-old. The child said “sorry” but he clearly didn’t mean it, because he still went online after his written apology, on a social media account he isn’t even technically allowed to have due to not meeting the age requirements, and wrote lewd acts about my child because I assume he’s mad he got in trouble at school. The parents are still silent—either too embarrassed to communicate with me, or too uncaring to extend any responsibility or restitution.

There is a ton of finger-pointing, but little accountability. It’s EVERYONE else’s problem to handle. The system we rely on, formal jurisdiction, says it has to go to the worst possible scenario, and even then it’s dependent on age and background, as to what they will charge. Two words: Brock Turner.

I have never been more disgusted with our state of affairs regarding bullying and ‘rape culture.’ The dominant response I got was “maybe he, or they just like her…” I wanted to scream, nearly uttering ‘bullshit’ when people said that to me. Is that the generic, but acceptable excuse?  If you like them, and aren’t mature enough to communicate it, then by all means, physically and verbally assault them.

To be fair, I don’t want one experience marking every young boy as a perpetrator in my eyes, making me live in a constant state of fear for my daughters. But the sad fact is that it wasn’t one occurrence, one boy. It was four boys, who cyber-bullied her, influenced by one boy’s anger. This bullying extended over two weeks.  The ugly truth is that one bad apple can influence the weaker will of others. If one isn’t held fully responsible then this does become a theme, an epidemic. And we are there.  And the masses don’t want to believe it.

I was guilty, too.  Somehow, to this point, I’ve lived in my stay-at-home-mama bubble, shielded from the tragic state of this epidemic, until it directly affected my life.

I’m sick with myself.

It is happening and here, in the Midwest, it’s taboo—only to be whispered. The audible gasps I received when I, in a tone that is nothing close to a whisper, mentioned this child, who called my daughter a bitch and punched her in the face and then told her classmates that she commits lewd acts, in the same sentence that included Brock Turner, the rapist, says it all.

And we, myself included, have the gall to wonder where the “Brock Turners” come from? They don’t just emerge, at twenty-one, committing heinous, violent sexual acts against women. It starts a decade before then. The same way young girls are taught to undervalue and loosely define themselves for the sake of sexuality (just look at the clothes sold at Justice to too young girls).

We are missing a vital step that protects our children from rape culture.

Or are we content to be blind and spoon-fed that this pornographic, morally decaying world, is too far gone to change?  Are we all okay settling for relying on ‘hope’ that our child doesn’t become a victim?  Or have we become this freaking lazy? Or we just naive?

I don’t know the answer, but we are something–read the statistics on rape and sexual violence and not be sickened and outraged.  Better, read Brock Turner’s victim’s letter to him here.  This is real.

My stomach is in knots, bile and anger eating at my insides. I’ve been slapped in the face with bitter reality. In the course of a month, I’ve shed so much of my own naiveness that my skin is raw, I feel like I’m on the underside of a third degree burn.

It has disturbed me on a depressive level. Ever have those moments days when you are confused, hurt, and disgustingly angry that the sight of a beautiful, cloudless day, the kind where the temperature is agreeable and the breeze is the perfect strength to just lightly feather across your skin, but not prick it with coldness, that it pisses you off?  You crave the storm, pelting rain and a blanket of darkness. You want a greater power to commiserate with you, reveling in the shadows.  Some recognition, an omission that your inner tirade is justified.

The honest truth: as a mother of four daughters, I’m terrified. How do you protect your daughter from a silent enemy? Because that is what ‘Rape Culture” is and it’s lingering around our children.

The images on tv that objectify and label women, the sexists that push women beneath men, the culture that says it’s unacceptable, but not truly punishable at ten because he’s immature and maybe just likes her. If there isn’t any true recourse, who will this child become? And how do I protect my daughters from him?

The sick part is that I can’t, not fully–wisdom, this experience, says so.  It’s an uncomfortable fit, this new awareness, but it’s the first step in protecting my daughters, and I refuse to remain silent, letting the torment of rape culture be a bi-line of my daughters’ childhood.

Hell hath no fury like a scorned Mother…

The Human Diary

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A couple of weeks ago, I woke up feeling rebellious. Like I’d been granted the infamous title of master. The Master of my own universe.

“Universe” being my home.

My eyes bounced around the walls of my home and suddenly, I was motivated to move mountains (of laundry).

Really, I felt a spark of liberation taking root in me, almost to full bloom. The freedom that demands acknowledgment and craves sunlight, urging you to take personal risks.

“Buy an ugly chair and give upholstery a go.  Paint a dresser…until you remember that time you painted your entry-way the most hideous color of ninja turtle green and then did a crap job re-painting it sunflower yellow, only to end up hiring a painter to repaint the entire house because you now know you suck at painting. Do not paint the dresser, but buy that chair…”  

That same liberation urged me on… Color your hair grey and wear that lilac lipstick you see those girls flawlessly daunting on Insta. Do it and do not succumb to one ounce of worry. Do not slide into thoughts of what others think. Now the husband—he might get the benefit.

“Do you like this lipstick, babe? Because even if you don’t, you’re going to have to love me through it. Our papers say so.” 

I felt grit in my bones. Adult abandon…a desire to test my limits.

This is where I tell you that I did buy that chair and worked like a mad-hatter reupholstering it.  Never. Again.  And also, I didn’t jump into the chair and dye my hair grey or wear purple lipstick…(that’s for next week)

But most days, I’m certain there is a fierce rebel, dressed in skin-tight leather with fire red hair and black matte lipstick, living inside of me. Her name is Sarah Jane. (Yes, I watch too much RHOBH. Judge Me.)

Sarah Jane swallows brownies whole and laughs at the thought of where that saturated fat will end up. She only makes direct eye contact and never silences her opinion. She has the voice of Celine Dion and survives off Rose. And she can assemble Ikea furniture without losing her ever loving mind. She is a rule breaker.

Of course in real life, I’m more of a rule following cookie cutter who cannot sing.

Falsies, a few tattoos and red lipstick is as far as I’m putting myself out there.  Also, leather pants are not my friend.  Mostly because I left my thigh gap back in my mother’s womb.  Nobody wants to listen to your pants having their own conversation every time your thighs pass one another.  (think squeaaagy, squeaaagy)

“Sarah, real leather doesn’t make a squeaaagy sound.”

“Did I say leather? I meant pleather.”

The truth is…I’ve spent most of my adult life fighting against this inner rebellious persona, strictly because she scares me. Sarah Jane does not fit the mold I’ve cast as a “Responsible Mother of Four.”

When I woke up that day, my curiosity demanded that I expand on why breaking molds terrifies me. I already knew part of my fear lives in my most important obligation—being a Mama.

I have a four-part audience, my beauties, who are front and center to my actions. I want to lead by example. I want to raise strong women, who go out and own themselves against this world—who aren’t afraid to express themselves how they see fit, not how this world sees fit.

If I become stagnant, ceasing to take personal risks than what am I teaching them? To fall in line and be an aimless sheep?

No, I want my girls to be wolves.

Kind wolves, who are vegetarians. See, that’s Mama Sarah strangling Sarah Jane. Mama Sarah lives for political correctness. Sarah Jane stomps on political correctness with her six-inch heel.

My truth is…

I can love Jesus and have tattoos. I can have purple hair AND be a responsible mother. I can have an opinion AND it be different than yours and we CAN STILL be friends.

When I say I want my girls to be wolves, it means I want them to remain passionate about this life. For their belief in self to be the amber that never flickers, or gets smudged out.

I want them to innovate.

I want my girls to color their hair purple if they feel they need violet hair, because it makes their freckles stand out. I want them to wear orange lipstick because someone they know wore it and they were completely smitten by the look.

“Perm your hair and shave the back of your head…and then walk into the sixth grade and not fall apart because clearly not everyone thought the ‘undercut’ was a good look and now everyone thinks you’re strange.  Let them…you’ll survive and be more accepting of others who take a risk.”

Face painted or completely free, I want them to believe in their beauty…because no one on this Earth is the official judge on their ‘beauty.’  Ever.

I want them to embrace being the nerd, or the diva. I want them to not apologize for their emotions. Or that they don’t meet some guys expectation of who he thinks they should be, or how they should look. I want them to feel free to carry that extra 15 pounds because they love ice cream and charcoaled hamburgers.

I want them to be authentic.

Self-expression comes in so many forms. It can be appearance, artwork, writing, or even careers.  You don’t have to dress in leather and dye your hair all the colors of the rainbow to be expressive.

This life is not limited.

I want my beauties to stand upon the ground of liberation knowing no one can change you or steal your value.  Ever.  It’s not a fight against others, because you’ve already won.  You own you.

Take a risk, break a mold, chase a dream…paddle out in search of positive self-discovery, or better get out the paintbrush of positive self-creation.

We all are writing our life, our human diary.

Let yours be filled with pages of messy brilliance, make it the most incandescent read.