Thursday, July 10, 2014

Let It Go

At the root of all anger is pain, hurt, or a broken heart. That is what I learned in my late 30’s sitting across from my therapist. I have spent more time than I would have liked in my life feeling angry. Anger can manifest itself in a variety of ways. For me, I become short-tempered, mostly with my husband and kids nowadays. I lash out for any little reason. I snap over the smallest incident. But in my wiser, older age, what I have learned is to take a step back and listen to my heart. When I catch myself being bitchy to my kids or husband, I ask myself “Why am I really so upset? What am I actually angry about?” Usually, I have an easy time answering myself. I will immediately recognize whatever it is that is truly bothering me; whatever it is that upset and hurt me. Occasionally, I have to think about it for a while. Throughout the day I will go through a mental Rolodex of the people I recently encountered and anything they might have said that struck a nerve. Once I discover and acknowledge the cause of the pain, I am able to stop the angry knee-jerk reactions toward my husband and kids and apologize to them. I am able to let the anger go and allow the pain to heal.


From the time my mom died in September 1986, I became a very angry person. Of course I was angry that my mother had died and left me. Looking back, I believe that was my biggest anger of all but I had a number of other reasons why I was angry. I had a boyfriend but he lived thousands of miles away. I had a dad but he was checked out of my life. And my dad had a girlfriend that became one of the biggest sore spots in my life. To say that I abhorred this woman is putting it mildly. She made my skin crawl, my jaw clench, and my hands curl into tight fists. I detested everything about her – the way she spoke, walked, laughed; her hands, her mouth, her voice. To me, she was the devil incarnate. And the devil was suddenly in my home stealing my dad away from me.

When my dad introduced Felicia (not her real name) to me, it never crossed my mind that she could become a permanent fixture in my life. The night she came to dinner, I thought that was all it was – a dinner date. I didn’t expect things between them to move as quickly as they did. But to my shock and dismay my dad was smitten with this woman (the devil) who had possessed him and taken over his soul. I avoided being around them at all costs. I felt a big mix of emotions seeing him with another woman – disgust, hatred, annoyance, resentment, rage, bitterness, and anger. What made things harder was that my dad was hell-bent on making me accept her and like her. Well, let me tell you…it was going to be a cold day in hell if that was going to ever happen. She could have literally been Mother flippin’ Teresa and I still would have wanted to run her over with my car. I had THAT much anger in me.

In June 1987, as soon as the school year ended, my dad and I made another trip to Argentina. I was elated because I was going to see my boyfriend Robbie again after spending nine months apart. It was also a perfect escape from the hell that was my life at the time. I was going to be far, far away from my reality and from Felicia. During that trip, I recall feeling the happiest I had felt in the previous nine months. I felt ecstatic to finally be with the person I felt deeply loved and cherished me more than anyone else at that time – Robbie.

When my mom agreed to allow me to date Robbie in August 1986, she probably had no idea just how much of an impact that decision was going to make on my life. After she died and my heart broke into a million pieces and my dad started dating and my siblings resumed their day-to-day married lives, I felt like I had no one – except Robbie. Ask any of my high school friends and they will most likely remember me talking non-stop about Robbie. Their memories of high school may be fragmented but I’m willing to bet money that they remember me blabbing about my Argentine boyfriend living thousands of miles away whom I planned on marrying when I was 20 or 21.  They may recall my giddiness while telling them about the previous afternoon’s letter I had received from him or about my plans to get him to America. I was so certain Robbie and I were going to walk off into the sunset, hand in hand, living out our fairytale happily ever after.

In those nine months we were apart, I wrote Robbie approximately 65 letters and he sent me about 50. I know this because I logged in my journal each letter I sent and received. (Yes, I am an anal, organized list-maker!) I have always said that I am a passionate person and when I like something or love someone, I do it passionately with all my heart and soul. It worked out nicely that Robbie felt just as strongly about me. So, despite our young age, we were as passionately in love as 17 and 18-year-olds could be. What I valued most about him at the time was that he was a great listener. It’s one thing to write letters but it’s another thing to have face-to-face interaction. During the first days of my trip, I gave Robbie a summary of all the big, bad, ugly fights I had had with my dad and he did exactly what I needed…he listened and hugged me. I was also able to openly share with him about my grief and sorrow over my mom’s passing. He didn’t pretend to understand my pain but he could relate on some level because his dad had abandoned the family when Robbie was very young.

Being back in Buenos Aires exactly one year after my last trip there with my mom also stirred up a lot of feelings. I imagine it wouldn’t have mattered when I had returned, I still would have experienced the bitterness and anguish I felt re-visiting a city and family I had only ever known with her by my side. Being in Argentina brought out the highest of highs in me because of Robbie, but it also brought out some pretty low lows. I was back staying in the same apartment where I had last seen my mom alive and that was rough. The days were long for me because Robbie worked all day so I spent a lot of time alone, thinking and reminiscing.

On July 30, 1987, after being in Buenos Aires for a little more than a month, I wrote: I don’t know why, but for some reason I’ve been down and blue lately. I’m not my cheerful self anymore. There are many reasons I can think of why I’m sad sometimes but none of those fit today’s sadness I’m feeling. Or maybe they do and I just don’t know it. I’ve been thinking a lot about my mom today. Yesterday I had a dream that she appeared before me and told me that she’s watching over me, guiding me, taking care of me, and that she sees everything and she can even see what we’re thinking, and that she understands us. It was so weird! I liked it though. I like dreaming that I am with her. She made me happy in the dream. If I remember correctly, she even made me laugh. She looked happy too – peaceful and beautiful. Today all I can think of is Carmen, my “mami”. I just sat here for about a minute saying “ma, mami, ma, ma, mami, mami”. It’s hard to remember what it felt like to call out to her to say “Mami, look…” Or “Mami, can I…?” Or “Ma, I love you.” I LOVE HER! And I miss her tremendously.

Those six weeks I spent in Buenos Aires were definitely bittersweet. I was free from drama with my dad over Felicia. As far as I remember, we didn’t have any arguments while there, which was a nice break. Most of my days were filled with happiness and laughter being with Robbie. I also had a ton of fun seeing my family and going out with my cousins. Additionally, I felt reassurance that Robbie was the one for me. On the flip side, I was back in the country where I had lost my mom, re-living my final weeks with her. I was going to once again have to get on an airplane and say good-bye to my boyfriend. Worst of all, I was going to have to return to my misery at home with my dad and his dip-shit bimbo; I was going back to feeling anger and rage pent up inside, bubbling over, waiting to be released. As soon as I got on that airplane heading back to the U.S., I felt overwhelming grief come over me. I felt a crushing abandonment and solitude all over again.

One of my favorite qualities about myself is my ability to tackle issues head-on and optimistically. At first, I wallow in despair but usually within a day (or two) I start to look for solutions and make plans for achieving what I desire or fixing what needs to be fixed. It’s like I have a reset button. I always believe there is a way, damn it! And I will find it! (Remember, I was the little girl who was spoiled by her daddy and always got what she wanted.) At the time, all I wanted was to be able to return to Argentina for four weeks during Christmas break and then indefinitely in June 1988 after high school graduation. Now I just needed to find a way to make it happen.

With the help of my dad, I devised a plan while in-flight from Buenos Aires to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, my tuition at Connelly had doubled for our Senior year. It was going to cost $5000 to send me there. My dad told me that if I gave up going to Connelly, he would help me pay for a plane ticket to Argentina in December and then again in June. I also knew that my dad was going back to Argentina from December to March to help run his businesses, so I was going to be staying with family for part of his absence. I figured if I left Connelly I could go to High School with my cousins. I was also determined to find a job as soon as the plane landed. I was 17 ½ and I had never had a job. If I saved up all of my earnings, I could easily help pay for tickets. By the time we arrived at LAX, my mind was made up. I was going to leave Connelly. My ultimate goal was to be next to Robbie and I didn’t care at what cost.


Having come from the protective home environment I came from, it still shocks me when I remember how drastically my life changed in less than a year; more so how drastically I changed. I went from being attached at the hip to my mom to not caring if I moved thousands of miles away from my dad. Reflecting on that time in my life, I see now that my desire to be with Robbie wasn’t just about Robbie. I was in search of normalcy, acceptance, love, belonging, stability, and peace. I wanted to escape from what my life had become with my dad. I was tired of the daily struggle to get along with him. I was tired of feeling like I didn’t belong in my own home. I was tired of feeling unworthy, unimportant, and insignificant in his life. Well, not just tired of it all. I was angry about it all. And by angry I mean, I was in a lot of emotional pain. My heart was broken that my life and my relationship with my dad were upside down and I had no idea how to make them right-side up. Imagining running away to Argentina and living out my fairytale was what kept me going and gave me hope that one day things would get better for me.

October 1987 - Phoenix, AZ
Wearing a sweatshirt Robbie bought me.
My approach to life is to try to find the lessons in my experiences – past and present. I try to see that whatever I have gone through has not been in vain. It served a purpose in making me who I’ve become. I don’t really like what I went through but I know it was necessary to get me to this point. I don’t exactly like who I was then, but I sure do like who I am today – someone who is able to look inward for answers; someone who is able to see the value in life experiences; someone who knows how to recognize when I am hurt and allow the pain to heal; someone that realizes that anger is toxic and it’s okay to let it go.

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