Archive for April, 2010

The Drain

Most of my life I have been a writer.  As a child I just wanted to feel the pencil in my hand, watch it creating something of meaning on the paper.  At five, “of meaning” meant something that made sense, something that wasno longer a scribble and could be understood by my mom or dad or teacher – a real letter, number, or word.  I remember sitting at the kitchen table telling my mother I was going to write my numbers all the way to a hundred.  I remember the sense of adventure this offered me.  I wasn’t sure I knew how to even count all the way to 100, much less write each of the numbers.

As I got older I would write stories.  Usually different versions of stories I had read or stories someone had told me.  Sometimes, they were completely original.  Often, they made little sense to anybody but myself.  But that didn’t matter to me.  I wasn’t showing them to anybody, I was just emptying my brain of all of the thoughts and ideas that ran around in there.  As the child of a manic depressive, writing these things down, letting them go, losing myself in my writing, was my saving grace.

I say I have written most of my life because there was a long period when I stopped.  I was fifteen years old and my family, my whole life, fell apart.  My parents got divorced.  My mother moved us in with her new boyfriend, moved us out, moved us back with my father, left for a short period of time, took us back, moved us out of state, moved us back in with the boyfriend and eventually onto a small Southern island where everybody knew I was the daughter of an adultress.  She did all of this in one short year, my sophomore year of high school.  But the worse thing she did that year, the thing that proved to me I was really on my own, was to read my journal and invade my thoughts.

My thoughts at the time?  Truthfully? I hated her.  There was no doubt that she was the person who had ruined my life.  She was the one who had met another man and left my father, the one person who had always protected me from her.  There was also no doubt that she realized this and was doing everything she could to hide this fact from herself.  Reading my journal, learning that her oldest child, the little girl who had always defended her to others, hated her for what she had done, was too much for her to hold in, too much to keep secret, so she berated me for it.  I don’t remember anything she said after, “I read your journal.”  I remember her tears.  I remember my tears.  I remember throwing all of my childhood journals in the trash.  But I don’t remember being sorry for what I had written, instead I was angry to have had my thoughts stolen, for having my lost my drain.

That is what my writing is.  It is a drain.  A way of emptying my head of thoughts that swirl around repeating over and over until I can finally pour them out and am freed from those incessant words, thoughts and emotions that take over my mind.  I look back at that time now and realize what I lost all those years ago – all of the things that I held in for the next several years and I am saddened.  At a time in my life when everything was falling apart, I lost my comfort.  I lost the one part of my life that had always been the safety zone.

As a writer, I put something on paper hoping it will touch my reader.  Knowing that sometimes this means revealing more about my life than I have shared with even my closest friends but I don’t mind doing that.  I don’t mind it because I know, that even as something I say touches a nerve with a reader, making them happy or sad or simply reflective, it also gives me something.  It gives me a release that is hard to find anywhere else. It gives me a drain.

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I would like to just say yes more often, to give in when my three-year-old wants a sweet treat before dinner. I would like to give up the fight when he doesn’t want to take a nap.  I would like to not argue with my teenage son about why he can’t just get a ride to some party at some person’s house.  I would like to not argue with my daughter over the importance of studying.  I would like to not argue about anything.  I would love to have a couple of maids to make their beds and wash their laundry and do the other chores that are on their list.  It would be so much easier if I didn’t have to argue my way through a day.  At the end of the day, when I sit down to read, I might not fall asleep from exhaustion.  During the day, I might be more free to do things I would like to do.  But I am not a mom who backs down.  I am a mom who believes that it is my job to mold my children as they grow.  It takes a lot of energy.  It makes me very unpopular most days but in the end, I have to believe, they will be stronger for it.

I tell myself this a lot. I especially tell myself this the morning after my three-year-old has told me that I am the meanest mommy ever and after my sixteen-year-old has told me it is completely and totally my fault he doesn’t have a social life.  And, most of the time I believe it.

Though I am the first person to tell you that being a mom is the best part of my life, that holding one of my children in my arms is all that I really need to make me happy, I am also the first one to admit it is hard work.  It is hard work sticking to my convictions about what will help them the most in the future.  I watch other parents and see plenty of them raising their children in other ways and their children are just fine.  Maybe I should bend.  It is hard knowing who is right and I often wonder if any of us is right or whether we are all just guessing.

The thing I tell myself most often though, the thing I remind of my children most often, is that everything I do, every rule I set, every restriction I make, I do for them.  I do it all because I truly believe these small sacrifices they make now, these small lessons, will mold them into better adults.

I don’t know if I am right and there are many nights when I lie in the bed wondering whether I AM the worse mom in the world.  There are many nights when I question my decisions.  But I am a mom and I have set myself on a path to raise my children to be responsible, to be independent and healthy.  This is the best I can do.  It is all I have to offer. Hopefully, it is enough.

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