A long time later (3 years), on a computer far, far away

Hey blogosphere!

It’s been 3 years and honestly, I forgot about this blog. It helped me sort through some issues when I was in university regarding family and angst thereabout, serving as an anonymous medium to send my thoughts out into the ether. For a little while, it served excellently and I was happy as can be. But then, my mother got a hold of the blog (she was as supportive as I was embarrassed, which is to say extremely), and I was Freshly Pressed and suddenly we had some major traffic. Which was wicked cool! Don’t get me wrong – I was encouraged and it was all very exciting. But then, an acquaintance (in real life, mind you) asked if I had written that crazy piece on Freshly Pressed about deeply personal issues no one would want an acquaintance to know because it sounded like me? Ya. I dropped this blog like a hot sack of potatoes, went on with life and promptly forgot allllll about it. The things you leave behind, right?

And then, time went by… I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved with some really fantastic organizations. I work internationally, primarily with INGOs and NFPs (development sector). I’m about to embark on a new job in a new country, about which I’m utterly thrilled and anxious (another new language to learn, oh my).

Which brings us to today

 

I was sorting through some personal emails when I clicked on ‘spam’ for the first time in a while and low and behold – WORDPRESS COMMENTS. From just last week. I could not believe this site still has traffic, and people are responding to my words. It was like a time capsule opened and had grown this dynamic ecosystem in years of isolation. I was shocked.

Well, I needed to approve the two I saw for sure. Both were emotional. One empathized with a post. The other sharply condemned a post. But both posters shared opinions and stories that I felt deserved to be visible on the page. They were important perspectives, and I wanted to sign on and approve them.

I didn’t even have my password anymore. I had to get a new one and go through the admin troubles. Finally, I signed on and found the page with comments and WOAH. I signed in to find a backlog of comments needing approval spanning 3 years and lots of stories. Obviously, a few of my posts touched some nerves.

I’m not going to respond to each one individually – that would take serious time. There were primarily two categories of comments, so I will respond in bulk to each type of poster.

On the one hand, there were people who stumbled on the blog and related to posts about me writing to my father in deeply personal ways, and were generous enough to share their own stories. To you, I say thank you. It’s been 3 years of reconciliation and I will post a follow up, as many of you asked for it. But even now, very much at peace with my situation, I was deeply moved by your words of compassion, empathy and encouragement. Thank you, and I hope you are all doing well now. Keep writing. Keep sharing. It is therapeutic.

And then the other hand. As I reread one post, three years older (and hopefully wiser), I will admit to some cringing. I remember writing it late at night, feeling upset and confused, and quite confident very few people would ever read it. Please keep in mind, I HAVE NOT and WILL NOT share all the details about my family situation. There are a lot of complications that still greatly upset me and I can’t write down. So, picture me in a dormroom with a lot of mixed emotions and full confidence it could never come back to bite me (youthful folly), writing this. And it got Freshly Pressed. So, lots of people read it. And while some people responded empathetically, many didn’t. You can read the comments to get an idea (I’ve approved them all, except obvious spam). To those who commented critically, I say thank you for sharing and putting the situation in a different perspective. I could try and explain by saying it was hyperbole, or that I didn’t mean it literally, or that I unintentionally used offensive examples in explaining a fair feeling, or that my feelings were real but not fair, or that they were real and fair… the list could go on. In truth, looking back, I don’t think it’s as simple as any one of those explanations. It was a mix.  Nothing is simple right? There’s a grain of truth in everything, and I think that grain was present when I wrote that post. Looking back three years later, I understand why it upset people. And I’m sorry to have misrepresented or belittled any experiences. That was not my intention, and I am grateful you responded to call out what needed calling.

In any case, I’m back online. And maybe not for too long. Maybe not regularly. But, maybe here and there I’ll put up a post or two. No promises. But, I will continue approving comments. Because a lot of people put a lot of themselves into these comments, and they deserve visibility.

Thanks for following.

 

p.s. Probably won’t do pictures anymore… Too much effort.

 

I got freshly pressed! A retrospective on my blogging experience thus far.

fresh press

 

Hi blogosphere, new followers and old!

I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who’s been visiting and interacting on my site. I gotta admit–I never expected too much out of blogging. I kind of did it for the hell of it, you know? An everybody-else-has-one-and-I-should-too kind of attitude. I originally intended to just to post some writing pieces, sprinkle in some poetry, maybe the humorous anecdote or two to add some variety. A sideshow type deal. 

But I was really surprise by the quality of bloggers I met through messages and comments and posts. I was more than surprised–I was inspired. Y’all are pretty awesome, in a very real honest way. Obviously, there’s bad apples in every bunch. But all you have to do is click ‘unfollow’ and they’re rooted out, in a sense. It’s an pretty cool system and I got comfortable.

This happened to coincide with a time in my life that my father showed up after ten years of absence and a lot of heartache. I’m living abroad and I’m a bit disconnected from home. Although I have friends, coworkers, flatmates, etc here, I felt uncomfortable dumping that on them. No one wants to be the girl who starts talking about Daddy issues at the pub a month in…

So, I wrote a little letter to my father. And, in the middle of the night, I posted it on here to see what people would say. And I was blown away by how encouraging and kind the comments back were. I mean, really awesome stuff. And, even more incredible, I actually felt better. The words typed on computers half way around the world, by fingers of complete strangers I will never meet and can only recognise by gravatar handles–those words helped me. I felt a little less alone in it. Even if my friends didn’t know that I was struggling to wrap my brain around my–ugh!–family problems, the people belonging to those gravatars did! That’s so awesome. That’s so special. Modern technology is wicked cool.

So, I’ve recently been freshly pressed. I’m pretty pumped about it–I am a writing student, after all, so to my vanity I do love recognition of my writing. But, more importantly, I just want to thank everyone who’s read what I’ve written. Everyone typing on their laptops, desktops, tablets, smart phones, etch a sketches–whatever you’ve got. You really have helped me figure this stuff out, if only because I knew someone was reading. If only because I know I wasn’t alone out here.

Thanks. 

Blog on, blogosphere. Keep typin’.

I wish my father were a drug junkie, pathological liar, conman criminal, violent psycho or at least a loser of some kind

Strange thing to wish for, eh?

But I do. I wish my father was reprehensible. Some kind of monster, big or small. The kind of guy you would expect to leave his family—to leave his wife for his pregnant mistress and ten years later, to tell his daughter she isn’t allowed to see her sisters again. That’s the kind of thing a drug junkie, pathological liar, conman criminal and/or violent psycho might be expected to do. I could understand that. I could wrap my brain around it. It would make sense, however much my childhood didn’t make sense. People would make sense.

My father is not a drug junkie, pathological liar, conman criminal, violent psycho. He’s a professional from Poughkeepsie who watches football on Sundays and pays his taxes on time. He likes The West Wing and a cold Budweiser. He makes the occasional joke and laughs when things are funny. He has pizza nights with my sisters and their mother and he genuinely enjoys his family time, although there is the normal amount of inter-family bickering, as to be expected. He’s boring. Dreadfully, terribly, monstrously dull.

I tell my mother I don’t understand what she saw in him. She’s a free spirit, eccentric with her head always in the clouds. Wickedly smart, in an unexpected way. Interesting and a great conversationalist, if you have an open mind and a healthy sense of curiosity  The kind of woman who quit her steady job to write a rock opera musical—for Jesus. And still thinks that wasn’t an outlandish decision.

She explains it to me. He was her rock. Her normalcy. Her calm. He was the guy who could sit with her cousins and have a beer while she was off chasing pipedreams and gambles. When she came home with a million thoughts interweaving through her brain, he would suggest take-out Chinese. He took her hiking and let her wander off to stare at some interesting rock formation while he dutifully followed behind. And he loved her. He was normal and he loved her. She found comfort from her own busy mind in that.

I was born ten years into their fairly happy, stable marriage. I know it’s not my fault they divorced, yadda yadda. I don’t blame myself or carry any deep seeded sentiments of self-loathing. But, I am aware that the existence of a child between them created some problems. Nothing to do with me—I was busy goo goo gaga-ing and figuring out diapers.

My mother tells me she wanted to be my caretaker. She wanted to nurse me to health when I was sick and rub my back when I was sad. She wanted that to be her role, only. He wanted to be my caretaker too. He would turn to her when she was comforting me and ask for a turn. And in my mother’s quiet but determined way, she would respond, “No.” His role was to comfort her, and hers to comfort me. That was the hierarchy in my mother’s world.

How do I reconcile that? The man who left my mother for a woman fifteen years younger; the man who raised me half my life and then dropped off the planet; the man who now wants to be friends again—that man is the kind of man who wanted to hold his child when she was sick. That man reminds me on our first phone call after ten years of the various nicknames he gave me when I was younger. The nicknames I loved.

What can I possibly think of men now? My mother taught me to stay away from drug junkies, pathological liars, conman criminals and violent psychos. Those are the ones that will hurt you.

My father isn’t a drug junkie, pathological liar, conman criminal or violent psycho. He’s an easy-going old Jewish man from New York who definitely stops for pedestrians in the crosswalk. He’s the kind of man your mom approves of, because he’s nice and he loves you. He’s the kind of man everyone thinks is safe. But he wasn’t and now what am I to think?

I wish to god my father were a drug junkie, pathological liar, conman criminal, violent psycho or at least a loser of some kind. That would make sense, at least.

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A letter I won’t send to my estranged father: Real Life

This isn’t fiction. It isn’t a short story. It’s part of that honesty thing a few commendable people do on the internet. I know it’s my 3rd post today, but I’m getting more and more views  and I’m feeling a sense of community in this strange, modern blogosphere universe. I have my own community in the third dimension–I have fabulous family and friends, but they don’t understand. Maybe one of you strangers out there on your laptops and tablets will. I think it’s one of those situations you can’t understand unless you’re stuck living it…

When I was twelve and my father dramatically exited my life, my mother recommended I write him letters. Sure, he would never read them. I had no address, even if I did get up the courage. But maybe that was point—to write freely without any repercussions. I could say exactly what I needed to and wanted to, for me and only me. I got myself some of that elusive ‘closure’ through one-sided conversations with the keyboard of my desktop computer. And I grew up. And my life changed. And I got my own problems. And he wasn’t really one of them anymore. I stopped caring enough to write him letters years ago.

And now, for whatever reason, he’s back. It’s not letters I’m writing anymore. It’s emails. And it’s not a keyboard I’m chatting with. It’s him—the real him. And the irony is that after all these years of practically writing dissertations on his flawed character, I don’t know a thing about him. And I don’t really want to.

So, this is the email to my father I won’t send. This is the email I want to send. Soon I’ll post the email I do send. After I send it. If I send it. If you can relate to this, please comment. I’ve never shared real feelings about my father before. I haven’t wanted to in years. Blogging seems like a good way to do this. Strangers in the mist, coming together under topic headings: humor, creative writing, news, estranged fathers, etc. If I can’t send it to him, at least someone will understand. And even if no one reads it, I’ll sleep better knowing I did something. Anything.

Dear [I still don’t know what to call him],

I’m sorry I haven’t emailed you back in a month. My life has been complicated recently. My dog died and my aunt was diagnosed with cancer. My boyfriend and I also broke up, but I wasn’t bent out of shape or anything. I miss his car more than I miss him.

But those are just excuses, so I feel that I owe you a real explanation. Or, I guess, I want to give you a real explanation. My friends say I don’t owe you anything, but I don’t buy that. You’re not a bad person. It’s taken me ten years to acknowledge it, but I always knew. Most fathers who abandon their kids aren’t. Not really. You never set out to be that guy. I know that. Just a bunch of unforeseeable circumstances and situations that amount to a bunch of unforgiveable excuses. But your motivations don’t change anything. You aren’t a bad person, but you were bad to me. And that should mean something.

When we first talked, I told you I was open to this. And I meant it. I’ve tried to explain my emotions to friends to no success. It’s been some ten years since we stopped talking and I was very young at the time. Sure, it changed me. I grew up a little faster. I cried a lot more. I went from having two families to one and not a day has gone by that I didn’t miss my sisters, who were never ‘half’ or ‘step’ as much as ‘mine.’

But still. Ten years is a long time, even longer for a teenager. I dedicated a lot of time to obsessing over it all. Trying to figure why everyone did what they did. How it all happened. I know you have your opinions and I’m sure you’d love to justify yourself. Don’t bother. It’s irrelevant now.

Part of my obsession was imaging how I’d react if I ever saw you again. I knew every scenario. Planned for everything you would say. Sometimes I would publically shame you. Sometimes we’d end up best friends, you walking me down the aisle at my wedding. Sometimes I would act aloof, show you just how much I overcame the obstacles you put in my childhood. And then, one day, I came to the realization I might never see you again. I might have these conversations with your gravestone. And after more time, I was okay with that. Even more time passed. I grew up. And I stopped thinking about you at all.

The day my grandparents called me was very emotional. I was still in high school and immature. I didn’t know why your parents, who had stopped speaking to me on your request, were trying to revive such a painful relationship. But my mother convinced me it was the right thing to do. They seemed like they were dying, anyhow. I felt obligated. That sounds harsh, but it’s true.

Five years into a copy and paste relationship with them, they handed me a cell phone with you on the other end. The unexpected moment came and an unexpected emotion came with it—apathy. I felt nothing. No anger. No fear. No pain. You were a stranger. Disconnected from whatever residual emotions I feel for my adolescent experience.

I never understood the inclination for an abandoned child not to speak with a relative later in life. Not really. I know people like this. Estranged parents call, half siblings send messages on facebook, a grandparents shows up at the door. I know people who have sent their relatives packing and I thought I understood it. I thought it was like the Lifetime movies: all sappy emotion and soggy tears. I felt superior to those people. Of course I could handle my father reentering my life. I’d give him shit, obviously, but I made my own closure. No sappy emotion or soggy tears here.

But I was wrong. It’s not a Lifetime movie at all. The orchestra doesn’t swell and the rain doesn’t pour. I did make my own closure. I made it years ago through telling myself over and over again I could do it without. And then I did do it without you. And it stopped being that I did it without you. It was just that I did it.

I also always said I’d let you back in my life in the hopes of seeing my sisters again. That was always the goal. They were the true innocents in it all, too young to even know that I wasn’t at Hogwarts. I’m sure one day they grew old enough to ask what really happened to me. I’m unsure if I want to know what you told them.

Is that my goal now? Maybe. But they’ve grown up too. They have lives, too. And what should I tell them when they ask why I haven’t been in their lives? I don’t want them to hate you. I really don’t. I spent too much of my life hating you and it’s exhausting, unsustainable. But how do I explain that their father cut their sister out of their lives because of this crazy story? It’s too macabre for most adults, let alone teenagers. How do they reconcile loving you and loving me? If it’s a choice between the two, I honestly wish them their parents’ love first. I don’t want them to have ‘daddy issues.’ Daddy issues suck.

So, now. I’ve made my closure. I would love to see my sisters, but not at the expense of their overall familial stability. And you—you’re a stranger. A ghost from a haunted past I don’t revisit often, except to smile and acknowledge as ‘conquered.’ And you want to resurrect that ghost. To meld the images in my mind with a solid person who lives and breathes and responds to my emails. My life is complicated. I’m happy my life is complicated. I want my own problems. I want to cry because the boy I like didn’t text me back. I’m trying to make my own life, separate from the problems imposed on me by a failed parent. I’m not angry with you. I’m not hurt by you. I just don’t want anything from you. At all. Truly.

This isn’t how I want to feel. Maybe the coping mechanisms I developed were forms of detachment and I’m going about this all wrong. If I could make myself care, I would. I’m sure it would be nice to have a father. I remember when we were close. You were great. I look at my twenty-something year old friends’ relationships with their fathers and I think, that looks awesome! I wouldn’t mind having that. But realistically we wouldn’t have that. It will always be a little strained. You’ll always be tiptoeing around me, making up for lost time. I’ll always feel detached, even if I become fond of you. And I don’t want more obligatory relationships in my life. I want meaningful ones. As harsh as it is, you don’t mean enough to me anymore. In any capacity.

I could be convinced otherwise. I’m a chronic flip-flopper. If you send me reasons to keep this up, I will. Call me pessimistic, but I think you’ll come up short. This isn’t a Lifetime movie. This is life. This is me, your little girl grown up. I’ve done damn well for myself, but I’m not a great person. I’m just normal. And considering everything I dealt with, that’s one hell of a triumph. I’m sorry if I’m not what you expected. I’m not what I expected either. All this still seems as unreal as it was when I was twelve years old wondering why it happened to me. Self-pity. Dangerous stuff. I try to avoid it.

Write me back. Don’t write me back. I guess it doesn’t matter in the long run. I want to be honest. I want to tell you what I really think and feel, although I’m not really sure myself. Take it or leave it, but the fact is that you’re going to have to convince me that you’re worth the trouble. Good luck and, if you feel so inclined, give my sisters a secret kiss for me? At least I could console myself with that.

Sincerely,

Emily

your daughter, all grown up

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