Thursday, July 24, 2014

When I Gave Love A Bad Name



I don't have too many words of wisdom or inspiration today. So this is all I'll say:
It’s a good thing my dad instilled fearlessness in me at an early age. Because of that fearlessness, I was able to take care of myself after my mom died. I didn’t know what I was doing but I just followed my gut and tried to imitate my mom – minus the hair-pulling and bops on the head. (I didn’t do those things to myself.) The fearlessness I speak of is the kind that makes me believe in myself; the kind that allows me to make decisions without having to run them by 100 people first; the kind that makes me confident; makes me take initiative; makes me be proactive in getting what I want, doing what I want.

*****

At the end of my trip to Buenos Aires in January 1988, I boarded an airplane heading back to California all by myself. It was my first time flying alone anywhere and here I was, 17-years old, on a 20-hour flight with a layover in Chile. On the outside I played it cool, but on the inside I was nervous and scared – but not scared enough to not do it. My dad and Felicia were staying in Mar Del Plata until March to continue overseeing his two businesses. In the meantime, I was going to stay at my Aunt and Uncle’s house with my three cousins (two of which I was going to public high school with).


After my mom died, I yearned for a mother-figure and my aunt (by marriage to my dad’s brother) filled the role very well. She became my surrogate mom and because she had two daughters similar in age, I think she could relate to me more than the other adults in my family. Although I had grown up seeing my entire family every single Saturday during my whole life with my mom, I had never gotten to really know my aunt until after I lost my mom. I immediately felt comfortable opening up to her and sharing my thoughts, feelings, and struggles without feeling judged. Her parenting approach was very different from my mom’s. She was more of a “friend” to her daughters and didn’t instill the fear of God in them like my mom had in me. I liked it a lot. It was easy and fun to talk to her.


My cousins and I had grown up together and had always gotten along. I have fabulous memories of my childhood and teenage years with them. When I started going to high school with them, our bond grew closer. Then, when I temporarily moved in with them, they became like sisters to me. They welcomed me with open arms and made me feel at home. They were excited to have me as their guest. I remember them showing me to my room. I would be sharing a bunk bed with my youngest cousin. My aunt gave me space in the closet and bought me my own little chest of drawers. It was a small gesture of kindness but it meant the world to me. I felt like I belonged and like I was finally somewhere that felt like “home”.


Immediately, the day after arriving back in the U.S., I went job-hunting. I spent a couple of hours going around from retail store to retail store in a shopping center nearby, looking for “Now Hiring” signs and asking for applications. (Listen up kids, in the olden days that’s how you searched for a job. There was no internet!) Where I really wanted to work was at a cute, fun-looking flower and gift shop. Although they didn’t have a “Now Hiring” sign, I decided to go into the store anyway and ask for the manager. (Fearlessness in action) A “manager” came over to talk to me. I asked if they were hiring and he said “no”. We chatted a bit. It turned out he wasn’t just a manager. He was the owner. He told me about his shop and showed me around. He explained to me about plants and flower arranging. He showed me photos of headdresses he and his partner had made for various competitions, as well as photos of Rose Parade floats he and his partner had worked on. I was fascinated by all of it, but mostly by him. He was friendly, warm, and funny and seemed like someone I would want to work for. At the end of our conversation he told me he’d give me a job! (Later I found out that he only worked in the flower shop one day a week. The other days he worked as a hair designer. I just happened to come in on the right day!)


I excitedly wrote Robbie a letter to tell him about my new job! I knew he’d be happy for me especially because I had offered to help him pay for a ticket to Canada (see my previous post). During my trip, we had also discussed where he would live once he made the move from Canada to California. While we were in Argentina, my dad had thought maybe Robbie could move in with my aunt’s mother for a while until he found a job and got established, etc. Luckily, my aunt’s mother was on board with the idea. She agreed that Robbie could move in with her when he arrived in the U.S. I was very excited about these now-very-realistic plans. It made much more sense for Robbie to temporarily move to Canada and then make a permanent move to the U.S. than for me to temporarily move to Buenos Aires. However, the more real things became, the more panic I started feeling. I started wondering “What if I make him leave his mom and brother; make him move thousands of miles for me, and then I decide he’s not the man I want to marry?” I knew I loved him with all my heart and I was (near) certain I wanted to marry him, BUT…what if I was wrong? What if I wanted to date other guys? What if I was jumping into this too soon? What if I was stuck with him here in the U.S.? I wouldn’t be able to just break up with him that easily if he was living with one of my relatives! I suddenly felt trapped and confused.


In the meantime, I was having fun at my new job. I was working just three or four days a week from 4:00pm – 8:00pm. (Don’t ask me how I remember the hours. I just do.) I really liked the job, the atmosphere, and my co-workers. One co-worker in particular became fast friends with me. His name was David (not really, but let’s pretend) and he was quirky and funny. Again, just like I shared with all the people I met, I told David all about Robbie and our plans for the future. And again, just like had happened with Jay, I found myself giving David rides home after work (why the hell was I attracting losers who didn’t have cars???). One day, about a month after working with David, he asked me to the movies AS FRIENDS. I accepted thinking “What’s the big deal? He’s just a friend. I can go to a movie with a FRIEND.” I have to admit, I liked the attention and I was flattered by his interest in me. But then we held hands at the movies, and then damn it, wouldn’t you know it…he kissed me. (I’m feeling kind of slutty telling all these stories but honestly, I swear on a stack of bibles, I was as holy as they came back then!)


Anyway, I was back to feeling like a sinner-whore who had betrayed her loyal, innocent, long-distance boyfriend AGAIN! My guilt got to me quickly and I cut it off with David although that was hard to do considering we worked together! But I gave him a long speech about not being able to see him outside of work anymore because my heart belonged to Robbie and we were going to be married one day, blah, blah, blah. I’m sure he didn’t believe an ounce of what I was saying but a week later, for my 18th birthday, David bought me a license plate frame that said “Happiness is Robbie and Jackie”. It was David’s way of assuring me that he knew I was serious about my intentions with Robbie and I really appreciated it.


The more I imagined Robbie moving to the U.S., the more scared I became. That feeling of being “stuck” with him kept popping up. As a grown adult, I realize that my fear was of getting stuck taking care of him when what I really longed for was someone to take care of ME. I didn’t feel confident that Robbie could take care of me and our future family in a country where he didn’t know the language. He would be coming here with just the clothes on his back, staying in a borrowed room, starting to build his life with me from ground zero. Don’t get me wrong…I knew Robbie was intelligent and hard-working, but I felt a huge burden of responsibility whenever I imagined him here, living just a few miles away from me. (I didn’t see it then, but I certainly see now the tremendous similarity to my dad’s own story of coming to America.) I was just 18. I didn’t really know what I wanted, but I knew it wasn’t that.


Meanwhile, David and I started hanging out together all the time. We acted like a couple but we didn’t identify as a couple. My letters to Robbie had started dwindling from the moment I had met David. I had gone from writing two or three times a week, to once every couple of weeks, to once a month. I really believed that (most likely) Robbie and I would be together, but I was putting my focus and attention on the person who was tangible and near me – David.


In April 1988, just three months after leaving my beloved boyfriend behind in Buenos Aires, I wrote him a letter to let him know that I was cooling things off with him due to my plans for college and a career (which was really all B.S.) At the time when I sent the letter, it seemed like the right thing to do. I wasn’t breaking up with him. I was just re-assessing our pace and putting “us” on hold. I knew I was being hard on him by accusing him of being immature, irresponsible, unrealistic, and lacking ambition. Looking back, I can’t believe how cruel and mean I was. I don’t know what would have made me call him all those things, but I suppose it was my way of justifying my interest in David. It was also a way of making sure Robbie wasn’t going to show up in the U.S. anytime soon and become my responsibility. I had come to the disappointing realization that every time I envisioned him here, it wasn’t what I actually wanted to see come true.


After I sent the letter, I told David about it, thinking that now he and I could start more of a real relationship and see where things went. Well, David had news for me. You see, what he hadn’t mentioned in the previous three months of knowing him was that HE HAD A GIRLFRIEND! I had virtually spit on the man I had loved for a year and a half for an asshole I had just met, and it turned out he wasn’t going to be mine. Talk about karma. I was floored and oh so very angry. But I thought maybe I could still salvage my relationship with Robbie. Maybe it wasn’t too late to say “Never mind. I made a mistake! Just kidding!”


But it turned out to be too late. My letter had crushed Robbie’s ego. Like Bon Jovi sang, he had been shot through through the heart and I was to blame. I had given love a bad name. Robbie's response letter devastated me. He called me out on my bullshit. He wished me luck in finding someone “man enough, grown-up and mature enough” for me. He wrote he was sure that someone else had stepped into my life.  He said that he knew I would never get over him but that he would easily forget about me. But at the end of the letter he wrote “I’ll always be here. You know where I live. You know my address.” To say that I wept buckets of tears is an understatement. I was so broken-hearted. My intention hadn’t been to lose him forever. I had only wanted to slow things down! What had I done?! For the first time, since losing my mom, I was all alone. No boyfriend. No one to make me feel like I was their top priority in life.

*****

My favorite word is courage. One of my life mantras, when facing something scary is “I have courage.” It donned on me just two years ago that I have courage. At the time, I was only seeing the courage I had had in the previous four years. But now, re-living my life, re-counting my story, I see that I’ve always had courage. I think courage and fearlessness go hand in hand. But I also believe you can be brave and scared at the same time. (That’s what Brené Brown says.) Because if you think about it, it’s usually scary when you’re doing something that requires courage.


I was hard on myself back then for the terrible mistake I thought I had made in letting Robbie go for David. I called myself stupid and I thought it had served me right to suffer and not get David in the end for all the pain I had caused Robbie. But now I see it all as a lesson in courage. I bravely took a risk and gambled on my relationship. I was scared of the outcome but I acted fearlessly. Most importantly, I wasn’t settling for what I knew deep down in my heart wasn’t what I wanted. And THAT takes courage.


1987 - I already used this photo but I'm using it again
for it's appropriateness in my Bon Jovi reference

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Shame, Shame Go Away



Let’s talk about shame. It’s a word we’re all familiar with yet we never discuss. I started talking about shame a lot about five years ago. I was going to an adoption support group while we were waiting to adopt our second child and the subject came up quite a bit. In case you don’t know, there is a lot of shame in adoption. Birthmoms feel shame for placing their babies. (FYI, the term is “placing” or “making an adoption plan” NOT “giving up”). Adoptive parents feel shame for their infertility (the most common reason why we adopt). Adoptees feel shame for being “rejected and unwanted” (although this is not necessarily true most of the time). These are just a few examples of the shame involved in the adoption world.


Shame isolates us; puts a big dark cloud over our lives, yet I am willing to bet all the money I have (which isn’t much) that the majority of the population is living with something they are ashamed of. It can be something miniscule like not having a four-year college degree or not knowing how to swim (Both would be me. There. I said it. Phew!) Or it can be a biggie like drug addiction or alcoholism. The fact is we are surrounded by shame in some form or another. And if it isn’t us personally that has the “shameful” thing, then you probably have a family member or friend that does. Think about these and how many have affected you or someone you know:


Drug addiction ~ Alcoholism ~ DUI ~ HIV/AIDS ~ Sexual abuse ~ Rape ~ Domestic Violence ~ Suicide ~ Obesity ~ Eating Disorder ~ Incest ~ Infidelity ~ Divorce ~ Abortion ~ Infertility ~ Adoption ~ Pregnancy Loss ~ Stillbirth ~ OCD ~ STD ~ Anxiety ~ Depression ~ Phobias ~ Kleptomania ~ Mental Illness ~ Homosexuality ~ Transgender ~ Bullying ~ Crime ~ Jail ~ Hoarding ~ Learning Disabilities


I can check off 28 out of the 32 on the list. And those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Think about it. If you struck up a conversation with me on 28 of these topics, I could relate to you having either experienced them myself or knowing someone who has. Disclaimer: I’m not saying these are in fact shameful things by any means. I’m not saying that you should be ashamed if you or someone you know has been affected by these. I am simply mentioning them because I think these have the potential to trigger shame in most people.


Brené Brown (my idol whom I reference a lot) is a shame researcher. Her book “The Gifts of Imperfection” touches on the topic of cultivating shame resilience (among other things). She writes “Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it – it can’t survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy. The most dangerous thing we can do after a shaming experience is hide or bury our story. When we bury our story, the shame metastasizes.” In other words, let go of the shame we impose on ourselves for things through which most of us are actually connected. Brené writes…”Shame and fear can’t tolerate a powerful connection surging between people.”


When I was in high school, I don’t think I shared with very many people about the huge fights I would have with my dad. Maybe I did. I’m such a blabber mouth and open book that I probably did. But I don’t remember doing it much – at least not with too many of my friends. (If you remember me telling you about my fights with dad, please message me.) It’s not a good feeling to feel unimportant in your own father’s life. It’s shameful. So I didn’t go around telling everyone about it. I also didn’t go around disclosing how my mom died. She died of cirrhosis of the liver which is commonly associated with alcoholism. My mother was not an alcoholic but I carried a lot of shame around her cause of death (I don’t think I’ve ever told that to anyone – except my husband). I would lie and say my mom died of liver cancer. When I got a little older I started saying “liver disease” but still I always felt like a big liar. Eventually, I put on my big girl underpants and starting saying cirrhosis which would always lead to “Oh. Was she an alcoholic?” It was as if suddenly they didn’t feel so sorry that she had died ‘cause you know…she must have had it coming with all that drinking. Ugh. So I’d explain how she got the cirrhosis and then I’d see the judgment fade from their faces. Now I know better and I say “cirrhosis of the liver caused by Hepatitis C”. Done!


At the end of the day, I think all we want is to feel like we are not alone. We want to feel heard and understood. We want to know that we matter and that we belong. We are all connected in one way or another, we just have work up the courage to let our shame go and share our “dirty little secrets” (with the right people) in order to get the compassion we long for.

*****

On Sunday, December 20, I arrived in Buenos Aires with my dad and Felicia for four weeks. (I took an extra two weeks of winter break from school and brought all of my schoolwork with me.) Every time I went back to Buenos Aires it was like I re-charged. I left my “normal” life behind and I had another life there. I don’t know how to explain it. Life there was so different from here. I felt alive and free whenever I was there. Even though my dad and Felicia were there too, I didn’t have to deal with them or see them. They were staying somewhere else while I was at my aunt’s house. I was able to pretty much do whatever I wanted and I didn’t have to answer to anyone. (At home, things were like that too, actually. I didn’t have a curfew and I didn’t have to give too many explanations about where I was going or who I was going with. I have often thought that my dad was very lucky that I was a good girl and stayed out of trouble of my own doing because I could have easily gone the other way.)


Within the first five days of being there, Robbie and I had about three or four arguments. In fact, we had a lot of arguments during that trip. I didn’t write in my journal what they were all about but I did write about a few of them. One of them (and I actually remember this one without reading about it in my journal) was on Christmas Eve. If you know me, you know that I love to dance. Love, love, love it! Well, I loved it even more when I was 17. So, when I was at a party on Christmas Eve with my whole family and Robbie, I didn’t even think twice about dancing with my cousin and what Robbie would think. Dancing is instinctive in me. I hear a good song = I dance.


I already knew from my previous trip in June that Robbie did not approve of me going dancing. He hated it with a passion. During that trip, he had asked me not to do it anymore. At first I didn’t agree to his request. I told him that I didn’t do it to meet guys (I didn’t) and that I only danced with friends (I did). I had started going dancing shortly after my mom died, when I was 16. My friend Jessica loved to dance just as much as I did. Jessica, Sara, and I would go to Sensations (an under 21 club) in Anaheim or to Studio K (a club inside Knott’s Berry Farm) a lot. When I wasn’t going with Jessica and Sara, I was going with my cousins who loved to dance just as much too. Anyway, by the end of that trip, somehow, for some delirious reason, I promised Robbie I wouldn’t go dancing anymore. Well, as you can guess, that promise didn’t last long.


Anyway, so back to Christmas Eve…I take back that I said I didn’t think twice about what Robbie would think. That’s a lie. I knew Robbie would not like it but I simply didn’t give a shit. I cared more about dancing than about the tantrum that would ensue afterward. And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. He pouted and as I wrote in my journal “had a cow and got all bent out of shape”. I was never the type of girlfriend that liked to be told what to do. I didn’t deal well with orders or expectations and least of all jealousy. Robbie didn’t order me to stop dancing but he expected me to behave in a certain way and that just wasn’t going to happen with me. He was also very jealous and that was another thing that drove me nuts. I didn’t understand what the hell there was to be jealous of me dancing with my GIRL cousin??? I didn’t stop him from dancing with me. He could have joined in the fun if he had wanted to. But he was jealous that my family was watching me and cheering me on. (Honestly, I still don’t get what that was.)


We kissed and made up the next day (Christmas) and all was well again. On the 26th, we went for a long, long walk and spent THREE hours talking about our future. I gave him a lecture on getting his ass in gear if he wanted something to come of our relationship and our future together. During that conversation, we decided that Robbie was going to move to Canada ASAP (He was actually a Canadian citizen because he was born in Vancouver) and then from there, he would come to the U.S. We had figured that we could get married by 1991. (Our original plans of him coming directly to the U.S. had not panned out because he was denied his Visa earlier that same year.)


A couple of days later, we had another argument. This time it was because he wanted to look in my journal and I wouldn’t let him. (Shit, I didn’t want him to find out I had been going dancing or that I had kissed Jay!) I had made the mistake during the previous trip of letting him read what I had written about him in my journal so he assumed the privilege still stood. When I denied him, he got upset…and suspicious. Rightfully so, I suppose. I wrote in my journal that we argued so much during that trip that it worried me.


When we weren’t arguing though, things were really, really good between us. We were happy and in love. We laughed a lot. We were goofy and silly together. He thought I was hilarious which was a big bonus because anyone who thinks I’m funny goes to the top of my list. We were practically living a married life. For most of my trip, we were in Mar Del Plata (five hours from Buenos Aires) and Robbie came with us. We all stayed in the same home, so I was with him literally 24 hours/day for three weeks.


We also went one afternoon to check airfares to Canada. Robbie had an uncle in Canada who had given him the ok to move in with him when he arrived and who would help him get a job, etc. I was excited about Robbie moving to Canada because that would mean that I could go visit him more often and eventually, he could make it to the U.S.


On January 12, 1988 Robbie got a hold of my journal and read it without my permission. He found out about Jay and broke up with me four times throughout the course of 24 hours. We cried, argued, fought, talked, broke up, got back together, cried some more, argued some more, broke up again, got back together again, over and over again. It was awful. Miserable doesn’t describe it. I remember just bawling my head off uncontrollably. But by the 4th break-up, I was fed up. I wrote: “I started yelling at him, telling him he had no right to make me feel this way. I was sick of saying ‘I’m sorry’. I was sick of his moodiness and if he was going to continue torturing me and making me feel like a sinner then I was going to break up with him. With that, I took off my promise ring (I forgot to mention that just three weeks after we started dating in August 1986 we had exchanged promise rings), I handed it to him, and I went for  a walk. He stood there shocked, frozen. And then he took off running after me. I kept telling him to leave me alone but he wouldn’t stop grabbing me. I really scared him by turning the tables on him and me being the one to break up with him. Well, my technique worked because after that we were happy again and rarely did he show he was thinking about Jay and me and what had happened.” As I was writing this I realized that what I was actually angry about was the tremendous amount of shame he was making me feel.


Saying good-bye at the airport 10 days later was the most difficult good-bye we had ever had. We cried harder than we ever had. We were traumatized from our near-break-up but also extremely proud that we had survived our biggest fight ever. As a result, we had grown closer than ever before. But now I wonder, maybe we cried more than ever because we were scared and worried that our long-distance relationship wouldn’t survive another separation.

*****

This post was emotionally-draining and anxiety-provoking for me and it took me a day to figure out why. I feel a lot of shame, still all these years later, for the pain I caused Robbie. I feel huge regret for the choices I made. I tell myself that I was just a kid and not to be so hard on myself. But I can recall that day very well – not really what we said to one another but what I felt and I can still picture the awful pain, disappointment, and disgust in his eyes. Maya Angelou had a saying about people won’t remember what you said but they will remember how you made them feel. This is a perfect example of that.


It’s not easy to cultivate the shame resilience Brené Brown talks about, but I’m giving it a go. I am learning to let the shame go by sharing my story with courage in hopes of finding compassion and connection on the other end.

1987 - I don't know what this is about.
I look like a cross between Popeye and Humpty Dumpty.
Huge upper body and skinny legs. WTF?
But hey, I'm sure I thought I looked gooooood.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pay Attention to the Intention!



In my previous post I wrote about letting anger go and allowing the pain to heal. So, in this post I will get into HOW the pain heals. Well, I can’t speak for others but I can tell you how I have learned to heal my emotional pain (most of the time). It’s all about intention, baby.


For the majority of my life, I didn’t even know about intention. I didn’t stop and ask myself “Did he/she intend to hurt me?” If I was hurt, that is all I knew and cared about. I didn’t sit there and analyze why I was hurt or if the other person had purposely tried to hurt me. Now, though, when someone says something that hurts my feelings, I think about the intention behind the upsetting comment/action. And that is how I help heal my pain. Because once I realize that it was not intentional, then I am able to let it go and move on. I’m not saying it’s always easy and that it happens overnight. It takes patience, time, and practice…a lot of practice and a lot of self-talk reminders.


In my last post I wrote that anger = pain. Well, I also realize that if I am angry (i.e. in pain) then that means that the other person (e.g. my dad) who is living in anger is also experiencing pain. It helps me to humanize the “enemy”. I try to think of them as someone who is not just out to get me or to hurt me intentionally but rather as a fellow human being trying to navigate through this journey of life. This doesn’t mean that I’m immune to pain or to hurt now. I still get butt-hurt and pissed off when someone hits a nerve or offends me but I have an easier time forgiving and letting go if I look at their intentions. My internal conversations go like this: “@$%@! I am so $#%&’ing angry and hurt! OK, but remember it wasn’t their intention to hurt you with that comment. They only said it out of ignorance or out of their own pain. But still I’m $#!%’ing pissed! Eff that! <deep breath> It’s ok, let it go. They did not set out to intentionally hurt you and that is what matters. @#$%! This shit is hard.”


The hardest part of all for me though is not hurting back. It’s in my defensive nature to attack and hurt the person who has hurt me. I think that’s probably a lot of people’s instincts. We want to be the bigger bad-ass and walk away with having had the greater dig. But think about it…how does that help heal us from the pain we are experiencing? It doesn’t. All it does is make the anger grow. Anger fuels more anger.


(A side note about the previous post: I tried to remember for over a week before I published the post if Felicia came with us to Buenos Aires or not during that trip in June 1987. I have absolutely nothing written about her being there with us during my entire trip – and I wrote in my journal nearly everyday for those 6+ weeks, but now I am near certain she WAS there with us. I remember that my dad stayed in a hotel downtown far away from my aunt’s house where I stayed. The only reason he would have done that is if Felicia was with him. Anyway, that is why it felt like she was far away and I didn’t have any drama with my dad. I hardly saw them during my whole vacation.)

*****


When I got home from the airport, I called Maggie, Jessica and Sara. I also called one of my cousins who informed me that I had a job waiting for me at a family friend’s new boutique! My prayers were answered! I was so excited! The next day, I drove my cousin to work so I could talk to my boss/family friend and learn more about my new job. Four days after arriving home, I worked my first day at a plus-size women’s clothing store in Los Alamitos. I felt like things were already looking up for my new plans!

August 1987 - Soon after I arrived back
from Buenos Aires. Taking pics to send to Robbie

(Why oh why did I perm my BANGS?)

I was sad to be leaving my friends at school although Maggie and Sara were also leaving Connelly each for their own reasons, but I was leaving Jessica behind and that was going to be so very hard. I was going to go to public school for the first time since Kindergarten! I knew my Motorhome/Accordion/Holly Hobbie past was far behind me but I was still nervous about going to public school. It helped greatly that I would be attending with two of my cousins and their friends whom I knew too, but still I had no idea how I was going to handle picking out a new outfit everyday! For 11 years all I had ever worn were uniforms! I think that was my biggest source of worry about public school, believe it or not. But I guess for 17-year-old me it was kind of a big deal.


1987 - Senior Portrait
From September until December of my Senior year I was making the drive from our home in Santa Ana all the way to school in Cypress. I didn’t mind it since it wasn’t that much longer than it took me to drive to Connelly. Public high school was a joke and I got straight A’s (which I had never gotten at Connelly). I was also stunned to discover that they NEVER assigned homework! We were given time in class to do our homework! Crazy! Occasionally, I had a project or a paper to write at home but that was it. It was all such a foreign school atmosphere to me. Nothing like I had ever experienced.


Aside from the fact that I was going to public school for the first time since Kindergarten, I was also going to school with BOYS for the first time since 8th grade! That was something I really wasn’t prepared for. Wow. What a drastic change. I was suddenly able to check out guys every single day! What?! It felt unreal to have boys in all of my classes! I quickly made my mental lists of the cute ones, the taken ones, the funny ones, the perverted ones, the nerdy ones, the popular ones, the heshens, the jocks, the freaks, and on and on.


I have to say it was a fun school year. I developed a crush on a Senior who was in a photography class across from my English class. I thought he looked like Jesse from that new TV show, Full House. I would only see him once a day but <sigh> he was dreamy. (Hey, I may have had a boyfriend but I also had hormones!) Then there was the hot Italian exchange student in my French class who was so funny and reminded me of “my people” (Argentineans). Did I mention he was a hot Italian exchange student? How cliché can you get? Did I mention he and I became friends and he came to my house to make my cousins and me spaghetti one night? Ya, see what I mean about the fun school year? There was also the little twerp in my P.E. class who for reasons I can’t remember hated me as much as I hated him. One day when I had had enough of his obnoxious remarks, I pushed him up against the vending machines and held him by the shirt. (A. That tells you how little he was. B. I had watched too many movies.) I’m pretty sure that was the last time he bothered me. You see, I had all that pent up rage and it had to come out somewhere, so Dickhead became one of my victims. Plus, I had had my fair share of bullying in elementary school and I wasn’t about to put up with it in High School.


I guess you could say that during my Senior year I became a bad-ass. The anger and rage were making near-daily appearances and coming out in unexpected places like CVS Drug Store, Taco Bell, and Bank of America. If you pissed me off or looked at me funny, watch out. I was bound to go off on you, demand to see the manager, and make a big scene. I mostly saved my angry, indignant outbursts for strangers. I didn’t really have confrontations with friends or loved ones – except my dad. I wish I could remember specifics or that I had written about my exact fights with my dad and what they were about. I only have written that they revolved around his “social life” and that meant the pitiful excuse of a woman that he was with.


1987 - At work on Halloween
I am not suggesting my boss was a dog.
This is solely for her privacy.
In the meantime, I was also going to work about two or three days a week at the plus-size clothing store in Los Alamitos. I didn’t necessarily like my job but I liked working – not just because of the paychecks that I was saving up for my airplane ticket in December (by the way, I remember minimum wage was $3.35/hour in 1987) but also because I got to meet new people.


One day, I was setting up a display in our front window and a few guys walked by. One of them was cute and he waved at me. I smiled and waved back. Next thing I knew, he was coming by regularly to say hi and talk to me. And then he was calling me at home. And then I was giving him rides home after work. And eventually, he was telling me how much he liked me and how he wished I didn’t have a boyfriend. Because everyone I would meet, I would tell them that I was fully devoted to Robbie, writing him multiple letters weekly, making plans to see him in December, and dreaming of being with him permanently in June 1988. So, Jay (his real name because, c’mon, what are the chances he or anyone he knows will read this) was aware of my “taken” status but that didn’t stop him from hoping that things could change. One day, when I dropped him off at his house, he leaned in for a kiss and I obliged. I didn’t want to be rude! And besides, Robbie was the only guy I had ever kissed. I would be lying if I said I didn’t wonder what it would be like to kiss another boy. Immediately though I knew I had made a terrible mistake and I regretted it. I’m pretty sure that after that I told Jay to take a hike and I don’t think we saw each other again. Or we might have had one more kiss on a different day and THEN that was it. Two kisses tops! Shit, it’s been 27 years. I don’t remember. (SPOILER ALERT: Robbie found out about Jay and made me tear out those pages out of my journal so that is why I don’t remember! All written history of Jay is gone!)


In early December, I quit my job (which by then I had grown to hate) so that I could make my much awaited trip back to Buenos Aires! I think I saved up about $600 if I remember correctly and gave it all to my dad. He paid the remainder of my ticket which back then probably wasn’t too much more. If you remember from my last post, our deal had been that he would help me pay for a ticket to Argentina ($700 or 800? I’m guessing.) if I gave up going to Connelly ($5000). Well, I think I got the short end of the deal. But I didn’t care at the time. All I cared about was that I was going to be back in Robbie’s arms! Despite my kissing escapades and wandering eye, I had still been a loyal letter-writer and daydreamer of all things Robbie. My plans to marry him and be with him forever were still strong. Aside from being in love, I also felt Robbie was my way out of my misery and loneliness. I would have a partner in life like everyone else in my family did (my dad, my brother, and my sister) and I would no longer be on my own. I would have someone who would put me first and make me their priority, just like my mom had done all my life. Because at the time I didn’t feel like I was anyone’s priority, especially my dad’s.

*****

When I try to remember what my dad was like back then, it’s like he was a stranger. We were father and daughter but it feels like our previous 16 years were erased the moment my mom died and he stepped into a new role with me. He was someone I was very scared of pissing off. I think that was always the case with him and me, but it got much worse after my mom died because I no longer had her as the buffer.


It took a very long time for that fear I had of upsetting him to dissipate. I’m sure it’s due in part to how traumatic the arguments were (so traumatic that I don’t remember them) and how much emotional pain they caused me. Sometimes the fear is still there. I still dread it if I feel an argument coming on with him (which we do have from time to time). But afterward, instead of just feeling angry and hurt, I remind myself to think of him as a human being, not just as my dad. I think of myself as a mother who has made mistakes and has had parenting regrets. I ask myself what may have caused him to react? What is it in his life that needs healing? What is his own anger and emotional pain about? And most importantly, I pay attention to the intention!