The Soul of a Clown–In Which I (Try to) Make Amends

Dear Lily June,

In creating this blog and writing these letters to you, I promised myself I would be honest. I promised myself that I would talk to you, despite your only being a baby at this point, like an adult because, one day, that’s exactly who you will be. I promised myself I wouldn’t hold anything back, in part because I still, to this day, don’t understand much behind the actions and motivations of my parents. I want you to know me for the good, the bad, and the ugly behind my personality, as well as my personality disorder. I gave you life. I owe you enough to explain to you mine.

***

Things got ugly yesterday at home. I come by this quotation, not from its original source, but from blogger MommyNeedsAGlass:

“Iย see myself as an intelligent, sensitive human, with the soul of a clown which forces me to blow it at the most important moments.” -Jim Morrison

I wish it didn’t so accurately describe me, but lately, it does. You see, the other night, I attacked your father. I was stressed about how work’s been going, stressed about the disaster area our apartment’s become, and stressed, most of all, because my own father, who has the power to stress me out like no other, is coming for a visit.

I should have come straight home from work and gotten to, as they say in Pittsburgh, “read’ing the place up” (meaning to “ready” a home by tidying it for company. To spot clean as necessary. To sweep all crumbs under the rug and major appliances into the cabinets. To hide the sh*t).

And I started to in earnest. But then, after feeding you, I had your baby food container to throw out. And so, I went to the garbage can, which was already, in the living room, in the “wrong place.” And then, it didn’t have a bag in it. And then, like a Medusa whose hair has grown serpents that spew their venom into the face of any unsuspecting victim, I lost myself.

I found your dad who, after nursing a sleep apnea related migraine all day while watching you in one of your fussiest moods, was just trying to function, let alone relax, on the couch. And like he was just another one of the couch cushions, I tore into him.

He didn’t think of me, I claimed. He never replaces the trash bags in the bin or the diapers on the changing table, I said. He brings his socks to the basket but drops them on the floor instead of in it, I complained. He brings his dishes to the dishwasher but puts them on the counter instead of loading it, I nagged. He couldn’t, in my warped mindset, do anything right or anything selfless.

Of course, the fact that I was spitting knives at a good husband, a good father, a man who had, just that morning, not only made me breakfast but cleaned up after my dishes, was apparently lost on me. I had a gift-wrapped package of stress on my heart, and I was going to deliver it into his hands to watch it explode in his face. Send in the shrew, the nag, the terrifying clown, Lily. No wait, don’t bother. It was me.

***

I feel hangdog today, distraught over my temper tantrum and the meaningless accusations I flung at him and can’t take back. “You have to tell me when I’m becoming my father,” I told your dad only days ago. That he had the enormous kindness not to fling those words back at me yesterday is proof that your dad’s heart, unlike the Grinch that Stole Christmas’s, is ten sizes too big.

Why does cleaning stress me out so much? In part, because it used to be the action we took to hide in an abusive home. My mother’s bruises remained as hidden under clothes as dust remained hidden in the dust rags. The wooden banisters were polished to a crystalline shine, but we may as well have been polishing the brass on the Titanic, Lily. That marriage between my parents was doomed to sink.

Why does my father stress me out so much today? The older I get, the less I know. When I was a child, I was scared of him. His coffee cups of vodka. His disapproving glares. The way his voice could be soft and philosophical or harsh and monstrous, and how I could never predict which actions could flick that switch in his mood and his vocal cords. But those are just the vague details, the background noise to my issues with him.

I think, at its core, I’m most stressed out because I wish for him to see me like he could spot a fleck of dust on a banister, a misplaced comma in a legal memo. I’m waiting for him to size me up and not find me wanting. I’m waiting for him to truly, earnestly apologize for that past without suddenly and not-so-subtly claiming my mother was behind most of his moods, instigating the fires that would rage behind his pupils.

I’m waiting for the approval of a man who doesn’t even, deep down, love himself. And in the meantime, I’m, in moments like last night, missing out on showing love to the man who has always shown love to me. And for that, Lily, I am truly sorry, not just to your dad who deserves to hear that from my lips, not just from my letters, but also to you.

That is not the example I want to set. I am not, yet, the woman or wife or mother I want to be.

***

The greatest gift I could give to your father this year might be forgiving my own. It might be giving myself permission to be imperfect, permission to let the cracks show through to everyone I love like the ones I can’t hide in my teeth that make me look, more and more as I get older, like my father looks.

I am not my dad, any more than you will be me and all my shortcomings someday, Lily. I am no more his ires than you’ll be my anxieties. But I have the potential to enact the scenarios of my youth. I have the potential to create a tension in the air so thick, you can’t cut it; you have to gnaw your way through. I have the potential to take my flaws, and my fears, and project them into the ones I love most, truly convincing myself at the time that it’s them, not me, who are the problem.

But I say this with all humility and shame: Last night, I was the problem. I was upset about one small thing–the garbage bag–and I made that one thing grow into a list. You cannot inflate your pet peeves like a balloon, Lily, lest they grow large enough to carry you away with them. If you are upset about a thing, try to see it as part of a bigger picture, and in light of that picture, it’s likely the “injury” will become no more than a pebble in your shoe that you can–and should–remove on your own.

I should have just replaced the stupid garbage bag. I should have sat down to evaluate why such a small thing threw me into such a tizzy. I should have shared with your dad my anxieties about my own dad coming in. That I didn’t proves how much your mother still has to grow. To mature. To learn. I hope to be, someday, the kind of woman you won’t fear becoming. And I hope to see you–really see you–become so much better than me.

***

Picture Credits:

Advertisements

17 thoughts on “The Soul of a Clown–In Which I (Try to) Make Amends

  1. Allie P. says:

    Based on what you’ve written previously, I am guessing that Ryan is the type of person who forgives you long before you forgive yourself. You may be flawed, but who isn’t? You are also a strong and talented woman as well as a devoted mother. I think your pros still outweigh your cons.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Jesska says:

    *hugs* You are awesome and I think they’re lucky to have you. You make mistakes (like the rest of us) and you apologise when necessary (unlike lots of us). You think and reflect and reconsider instead of just sulking. You acknowledge your part instead of insisting that only the others are to blame. As long as you don’t always blame yourself for everything, I think that’s brilliant. I think YOU’RE brilliant.
    And tomorrow is a new day ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  3. corriewright2013 says:

    My heart goes out to you and I can understand why you’re stressing. You are not your father and you have nothing to prove. Unfortunately, we yell at those closet to us. Your husband seems so understanding and I’m sure he knows you were just having a rough time. I hope you get to feeling better soon. Remember, You have nothing to prove to anyone anywhere. If it’s not for your daughter, certainly not for a grown man who has lived his life. Hugs and prayers.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Debbie Diljak says:

    It can take seeing your own reaction to what a relative (or ex, or whoever) does to you, and watching yourself “share” that reaction with someone you love to get you to the next point. That next point may very well be – you guessed it – forgiveness, and I am speaking from the heart here. Letting go of those negative feelings and disappointments can be very, very hard. But so can living with a heart that has really, really bad or conflicted feelings about someone else. I hope your holiday visit goes better than you think it will!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Whiskey Cat says:

    I can imagine how having a father who is so hard on you (is probably so hard on himself) would lead to you being hard on yourself, and thus hard on your loved ones. Let you dad see what you and your hubby share (it always inspires me)– how real love involves real people involves poop, garbage, dust and forgiving imperfections. I KNOW you know all about it. Good luck!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Patricia says:

    Hey you, I want to share my strength, hope and experience with you. While I know that the cleaning is not the real issue here, I can offer some wisdom on the subject. No matter that you try to dismiss your feelings on the subject, what happened was that you let your frustration build because you have Ryan on a pedestal as in he’s wonderful and I am shit. He sacrifices himself for me and our daughter, I have no right to have expectations of him. Yes, he had a migraine and did what he could but the key here is that this is a recurring problem. This doesn’t make him a bad person, he has just developed a habit of which he is probably not even aware. I’m not assigning blame here, I am addressing the underlying issue. My daughters have a problem with my not having certain expectations of their father, the biggie putting his dishes on the counter and not in the dishwasher. Though it may irritate me from time to time, I choose my battles. I am aware that even if he loads the dishwasher, I will rearrange it and his excuse is that he doesn’t know whether the dishes are clean or dirty just like my daughters won’t put the dishes away because I want things put back from which they came having gotten real tired of dishes being thrown into the first available spot. If you had seen the cabinets when they were living at home, you would understand. I’ve decided that it really doesn’t matter because its not that important to me. I have to recognize that he does clean the pots when he gets up in the morning if I leave them soaking or rinse any dishes in the sink and put them on the counter. When he washes his face in the morning, he leaves water all over the counter. Men who have roomed with him on convention trips complain as well. He has done it all his life, I can either get pissed every day or just know its going to be there and wipe it up prior to using the sink. No big deal until now that we are sharing a sink. If I don’t bring something up that really bothers me, I don’t have a right to get pissed. The real problem comes from letting it build until I blow and everything that has been bothering me comes out. Danny and I both have issues around letting things build. When I didn’t work outside the home and Danny did, I felt that it was my job to clean and cook so I naturally have continued to do so. The difference is that I am more aware of the division of labor and have to recognize what he does that I don’t. When I do something that would be more efficient if done differently, he asks me to do it differently where I put off discussing issues because I don’t want to rock the boat. This comes from my past and I have to keep an eye on it. Believe me we have our blow-ups but “the experts” say that an argument between couples can be healthy because it can clear the air.

    Alyssa, take it from me, don’t put Ryan on a pedestal, he can’t stay up there. I put Danny on a pedestal as did his family and friends and when he couldn’t stay up there, we were all devastated. I’ve never told you this but Danny is a recovering drug addict. When we got married, I just assumed that he would stay clean because he was so strong into the AA/NA program that he would never relapse. He has, more than once and it has been hell to live through emotionally as well as financially. We are still together because I could separate the man from the disease. I know his family background as he knows mine. We met in Ala-non. I haven’t written about this because I don’t want him to feel that he is on display and he reads my posts. But I believe that it will help you. Do I believe that we have a bad marriage because of the things we have been through, no, I consider it stronger because we have weathered the storm. We bicker all the time now but I am learning to let it go as is he because the issues are around doing home projects together. We are both defensive. This is really embarrassingly long but I wanted to reach out to you about what I read in the situation. You are so much more awesome than you give yourself credit for so give yourself a break. This is coming from someone who has no room to talk but I think you understand where I am coming from. Don’t let your father who I am sure you love in spite of who and what he is ruin your life like he has ruined his. He is a narcissist and a product of his upbringing, break the cycle. Give the princess a hug for me. ๐Ÿ˜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dearlilyjune says:

      Patricia, you’re right as usual. I have a bad habit of always seeing myself as “lesser” so that, when I actually do something (gasp) human and make a mistake, I tend to overly berate myself for it. And Ryan certainly does his share of (gasp) human things himself! I think learning to “pick your battles” is the art of marriage, and it’s one we learn and negotiate every day of our lives together.

      None of us is perfect, nor is any relationship. What makes lovers perfect for each other is a willingness to be understanding and supportive and compassionate about the other’s strengths and shortcomings. Ryan is, kindly, understanding of how quickly I get rattled. And I work to be understanding of the fact that he’s not an “organizer.” It’s what makes him such a gifted artist and teacher: He can really *be* in the moment. Eventually, we work together to, literally and figuratively, take out the garbage. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I can’t tell you what it means to me your sharing so much background on Danny’s and your history. It’s stories like yours that which help me to see how much we all work, in a marriage, to make the best family we can, especially after surviving the families we once had!

      I’ll hug Lily & Ryan for you; you hug Danny for me!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Patricia says:

        One of the things about my sharing is that hopefully readers can see that one can survive all sorts of adversities and have a stable life. The reason I have stability is because I don’t let any of it defeat me but I have to be careful not to minimize others behavior in an effort to keep up appearances. There are so many people out there hiding these sorts of things because they believe they will be judged as a lesser person. I have held down responsible jobs, have a stable but not perfect marriage, successful children who have happy marriages and family life, and a daughter who is struggling with drug addiction. Bad things happen to good people. My parents were good people and they have/had good families with the exception of my grandfather and I try to give him the benefit of a doubt because there is so much I don’t know about his family background. There is no way I can excuse what he did but I do try to understand it.

        I love that you embrace Ryan’s qualities and understand his downfalls, I didn’t mean to imply that you didn’t. I can just see myself in you and we have a tendency to blame ourselves because its easier than having to confront. We are afraid of anger, ours and that of others. I know all about “keeping the peace” and had to talk to myself about it this morning. Danny is really bossy and it is most often easier to go along to get along but I can see my confidence shrinking. Oddly enough, he is always trying to shore up my confidence and has no idea what he does to it when he treats me like I am his employee or one of his kids. We have discussed it but he has always been bossy, its like a joke in his family. Sometimes, its like he is the godfather of his family. Even though they have experienced his past, they still put him on a pedestal and when he falls off, they are devastated. His father was an alcoholic, by the way.

        Alyssa, why don’t you start considering what other job you might want to do so you can get out of the job you are so overqualified for. I understand that you are sacrificing yourself for your child but you are also losing your joy. Why haven’t you submitted your blog posts to a publisher? How many people do you need to encourage you and tell you how good they are? Do it! Yes, I too am bossy which is why Danny and I bicker every time we do a home project together. Ha! The truth comes out.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. dearlilyjune says:

        Absolutely: Bad things happen to good people. And good things happen to bad people. The world may not be a fair place, but it’s the only one we’ve got, so it’s up to each of us to do our best to accept and embrace one another. Some folks are easier to embrace than others–some are like emotional porcupines–but it doesn’t mean we don’t try to try!

        I find it hard to believe anyone could shake your confidence, Patricia: You are the kind of rock-solid, strong woman I hope my daughter grows up to be (despite my being nothing of the kind). I don’t have the confidence, for instance, to take the leap of faith you’re advocating, to try and write for a living.

        I LOVE writing. But I’ve also been out in “that world” (so to speak) and I know that, unless you’re writing Stephen King bestsellers or teaching (which wasn’t really for me), it’s hard to make enough to eat! I published around two dozen poems last year and made sixty dollars. And that was one of the best years I’ve had!

        The job I have now is safe: It lets me practice my art on the side and support my family to the best of my ability. If I could find a way to make writing or editing lucrative for me, I’d jump at the chance in a heartbeat. But I don’t have the know-how (yet) on how to make that dream a reality, despite yours and others’ kind encouragement. Or maybe, despite the fact that others believe in me, I don’t quite believe enough yet in myself.

        I tell you who I do believe in, though: You, Patricia. If you ran for President in 2016, you’d have my vote, that’s all I’m saying. You seem like you have not only a large heart but the kind of take-charge attitude the country really needs. Of course, it would mean you and Danny would have to move again…to D.C. Worth considering?

        In the meantime, I take your words–and advice–to heart. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart for it. I’ll keep mulling all this over. You always do get me thinking! (And I’m grateful for the ways you push me.)

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Patricia says:

        Ha!Ha! It took me till I was 63 to start blogging. I have started so many books but only for my own satisfaction and enjoyment. I only started blogging with encouragement from a writer I met up here and a co-worker at the hotline who helped me set up my site and get started. Danny is my biggest cheerleader. I took a writing class and couldn’t even think of a subject to write about. I was in panic mode. The instructor marked up my story that we were assigned to bring in and then announced to the class that she didn’t know why I chose the subject (about a little boy abandoned by his mother) and that she couldn’t even read it to the class because it was so structurally incorrect. I cried all the way home and was on the phone with Danny the whole drive. At the time, I knew I was good at research papers and business letters but coming up with my own topic was impossible. Now I am shocked at how my brain has been unlocked and I come up with all sorts of thing. Most of them have been on my mind and my friends and family are bored to tears hearing about them.But many come out of my conversations with you and other bloggers. So, I’m right there with you sister!

        I told you I am bossy! You just think its confidence. Seriously though, blogging has helped my confidence a lot. I am still not confident in my relationships but I’m beginning to realize the best way to handle them is to keep my mouth shut.

        Do you think maybe we are afraid to show confidence in fear that people will think that we think too much of our selves?

        Danny thinks I am the most negative person in the world and I think he is over-confident. We are both right.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. bitsfromheaven says:

    You aren’t your dad. Nor are you responsible for carrying the shame in which you feel in and for your mother. What’s dirty must be made clean…and unfortunately the only way to tidy up and fix the cracks of ones fragile breaking heart is to remove that which is breaking it or choose to absolutely understand that none, NONE of it was/is ever the fault of a child. It is a sad moment in time when a little girl or boy must learn to be strong, relinquish their innocence, all because an adult just couldn’t be the adult.
    Much love to you my sweet DLJ๐Ÿ’œ

    Liked by 1 person

      1. bitsfromheaven says:

        Don’t tattoo that! Tattoo ‘what were you thinking’ on your palm and snack your hubbys butt every time your dad gets lippy! If nothing else do it in pen and let hubs in on the joke. It will make you smile๐Ÿ˜

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s