Friday, February 19, 2010

parents: a meditation [TRUE STORY]

this is the time of night that's designed for smoking cigarettes, drinking bourbon and being alone. i am doing one of those things. (i'm more of a vodka girl myself.) it's times like this when i start thinking about my family, about my choices, and about how i got to be who i am.

i am the daughter of a music man and a tortured genius. that's probably the most succinct way to put it. my daddy (all southern-raised girls have a "daddy") is a brilliant guitarist. he was a professional musician for a very long time. but for a couple of intervening circumstances - my birth, mainly - daddy would be bad blake. basically, he curtailed that dream to be my dad. and seriously, i am my father's daughter. a lot of women worry that they're growing up to be their mothers. i am PROUD to grow more like my daddy every year. i am so, so grateful that he changed his life to raise me. despite some of my failings, he did a damn good job. i got my work ethic, my sarcasm, and my tenacity from him. all good things to possess, in my mind.

but there are two sides to every coin, two halves to every lineage. every kid has a mother. my mother was a force of nature. i get my passion, my politics and my intellect from her. this is a woman who, as a teenager, faced down the klan in rural georgia to make sure little black kids got to preschool. she was beautiful and she was BRILLIANT. but, as is so common with the gifted, she was also troubled. she had addictions. she had demons. her brain, her greatest asset, turned out to be her worst enemy, and her mental illness took her down HARD. i suffered for that, but nothing at all like how she suffered. the demons kept us apart for years. i couldn't deal with it. and, just like some kind of movie, that's the way things ended. i got a call one super bowl sunday, letting me know she was gone. it's still hard to think that. so much was left unsaid. i played "fire and rain" on repeat for days, weeks, months, trying to wrap my mind around it.

mental illness is the worst kind of illness. it's so hard to understand, so hard to watch. i occasionally wonder if that might be my mother's biggest legacy to me; i, too, swing wildly from one extreme to the other. but i keep coming back to the center. the tenacity of my daddy, tempering the passion of my mother. breathe in, breathe out, move on. one foot in front of the other. i think, in the darker moments, that my parents' twin legacies to me will be my saving grace through the insanity of my life. i had the good fortune to be born of two rather extraordinary people. i just hope i can live up to my bloodline...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

it's [not] just a little crush

so a bunch of people on the internet have declared friday to be international crush day. so harmless on its face, right? i mean, the crush is the first introduction we have to the wonder and mystery of love. most of us never give them up. i have a wicked intellectual crush on anthony bourdain, for example.

but i can't get on board with a full-on celebration of crushes. after all, it was a long-ago crush that started all of this with the other boy. the kind of crush a fourteen-year-old girl gets on a fifteen-year-old boy is a powerful force. i was, to employ an old southernism, over the moon for him. it was a pure, unadulterated, white-hot infatuation, the perfect mash-up of lust and innocence. i loved him in that way that's only possible when you've never had your heart broken.

and naturally, it was 100% unrequited. he never saw me that way. and as we dated others, had our hearts broken, and carved out our own paths through the jungle that is love, i let my crush go. or so i thought. it dawned on me, as i made changes in my life and eschewed patterns i'd developed in my relationship with the ball and chain, that i never fully lost the seed of that crush. i never leached him from my system in that way. even a period of complete estrangement didn't achieve that. in retrospect, it probably made things worse. i'd be lying if i said i didn't have designs on him, as the old 97's said.

and there you have it: a sweet little crush ballooned into something i can't even control. even though i recognize the serious flaws in my relationship with the other boy, i still hold onto it. hard. there's something so deeply satisfying about wish fulfillment. my teenage crush, so powerful, is finally satisfied. he's attracted to me. teenage me won. but what is that doing to adult me? i have no idea.

just a little crush? yeah, no. not so much.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

les bon temps

thank the gods for mardi gras. that's all i have to say about it. this year, instead of struggling through a second awkward, difficult valentine's day with the ball and chain, i get to spend the day in new orleans with a group of people, drinking champagne and catching plastic trinkets thrown from floats. nice distraction, if you can get it.

i never really got into the whole valentine's day thing, except in the beginning of new relationships. the only valentine's days i've enjoyed have been so much more about "look at my new boyfriend" than about the boy in question. i mean, in eleventh grade, it was the best valentine's day ever: i got to kiss my shiny new boy at a concert in front of all our friends. gloating much? oh yeah. but in twelfth grade, long after that boy and i parted ways, it was dinner at a chain restaurant with an old friend, commiserating over twisted lime-a-licious chicken or whatever. VASTLY different.

with the ball and chain, it's been an up-and-down situation. we've never had what i'd call that "perfect" experience. there have always been... complications. there was the year we were apart, when i had to work that night and we didn't get to talk. there was our first year of marriage, when he and i were both out of work in a $1,000 a month apartment. there was the year he chose to spend the night playing video games instead of going out with me. (that one, i discovered later, was THE talk of my circle of friends. no one said anything to me, mind you. but that's another rant for another day.)

ironically, last valentine's day would've been pretty much perfect, were it not for the severe complications in our relationship. we had a really good dinner, a round of drinks, and saw a great movie. i was also drunk enough to get through the marital-congress duty at the end of the night without weirdness. but the ambivalence in my heart was - and is - too much for me.

this day, thankfully, will be nice and free of distractions. it'll be good to ignore the slice through my soul that is being stuck with the ball and chain for another year. i seriously thought that this would all be done by now. heh. what did i know? one foot in front of the other. one day at a time. heh. laissez les bon temps rouler. please.