Gifts | Margaret Dunn

Source: Gifts | Margaret Dunn

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Jasiah

It’s late 

and the baby is finally sleeping.

Tiny fingers curled around mine

As the moonlight streams 

through the big picture window.

He smiles in his dreams sometimes,

So sweet my heart catches in my chest.

(I would give all my dreams 

If his could always be this happy.)

Warm baby, autumn wind 

And the promise of a new day looms.

A day where I appreciate every moment

of being the mommy.

A day where I don’t sigh

Or seem annoyed 

When he cries.

A day where my arms are never tired

And the house is always clean.

Where I am my best self 

The whole day

Not for me, but for the little man

I hold cradled against me in the dark. 

He deserves the best mommy.

Not one who cries because she is tired, 

Or gets upset when he throws his lunch

Everywhere.

Again. 

Tomorrow I will do it.

Be the very best mommy.

Organic meals, 

a clean house

And always ready to play.

Because soon he won’t need me

to hold his hand

Or rock him to sleep.

And so I beg 

That dark unfeeling cosmos.

Help me be better.

Help me do better.

Dear God, help me be better

For him.

Please.

Because it’s late,

Oh God, it’s already so late,

And the baby is finally sleeping.

Confessions of a Coward

10296891_10202059316591532_5118879881337179580_nI am afraid of almost everything.

Shark attacks, monsters in the closet, talking to the salespeople in clothing stores.

You name it, I am afraid of it.

I have always been this way. If left to my own devices, I would have stayed safely in my room, reading books, listening to musicals and eating forbidden Hostess snacks until I died of terminal lameness.

My mother, however, would have none of it

She signed me up for youth conferences, competitions, excursions, anything to get me out of the house and on my own. She would listen to my hysterical tears as I listed a thousand reasons why I couldn’t participate in these horrifying enrichment programs she had paid for and worked for hours to arrange. Then she would give me a hug before telling me, in no uncertain terms, that I was going.

Yeah, I had a tough childhood.

At the time, I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t just let me stay hidden. Why it was so important that I face my fears and participate in life. She would try and encourage me to be brave, giving me a copy of Phenomenal Woman and repeating, “Fortune Favors the Bold” like a mantra. I responded by going out on exactly ONE date in high school and joining the drama club.

It was a small victory, but a victory nonetheless for my mother. She had managed to love me through my most awkward and painful years and helped me succeed in spite of myself. When I got into a college eight hours away, she was thrilled. She sent me off with a crockpot, a new set of Mickey Mouse sheets and a loving, “Call before you come home. Seriously.”

To be fair, she had earned it.

And I loved college. I tried more things. Made some friends. I even found a boyfriend or two. Still, I was afraid and unsure. The world is darkness and cruelty and fear and I had no faith in myself. I still thought that, if I could stay in my room, safe with my books, I would avoid the terrifying pitfalls waiting for me outside my front door. I avoided trying too hard in any direction, for fear I would fail. Keeping any real responsibility or ambition or attachment at bay because then I might lose what I was trying to keep.

I had no idea how stupid that plan was until it was too late.

It turns out, horror could give a crap about geography.

Despite all my best intentions, loss, disease and failure found me. Friends died, so did dreams, and it turns out I could make mistakes big enough to ruin my own life without even really trying. My beautiful cheerleader and hero got sick with cancer and I spent the year before her death hiding at the bottom of a whiskey bottle and weeping to the stars that I couldn’t lose my mother. And then she died and I wanted burn down the mountains and rip the stars out of their stupid sky. I was so angry, I hoped the darkness would swallow the Milky Way and put out existence forever. That the world would just fold in on itself and disappear. That I would die too.

I was so furious, I scared myself.

Lucky for existence, the stars didn’t care how angry I was.

Neither did the rest of the world.

And I didn’t die. I kept on living, like an asshole. And making more mistakes. Each one more cringe-inducing than the last. I found out that I was not above getting fired, or going on unemployment. That my lovers could and would leave me, sometimes without any explanation. That some friendships are only meant to last as long as freshly-cut flowers. That some people would hate me, just for my stupid face.

The uncertainty of it all terrified me.

And then, there were times, in my headstrong youth, that I felt even the most intense experiences could never be enough. That I could have swallowed the brushfire and mainlined all the drugs and none of it would have filled the empty aching in my heart. I was afraid that I was too much, that the timid Mormon women of my youth had been right and there was something unforgivably hedonistic in my character. That the big breasts and swaying hips from my Welsh ancestresses were more than unfashionable, they were the signs of a defective soul.

I was afraid that I was wrong for wanting to be touched, for dancing and laughing and being too loud.

Always too loud.

It was paralyzing.

And now I am the mother to a darling little boy, whose very existence makes me want to be my best self and find my way out of these self-defeating habits. I am the cheerleader now, encouraging his tiny steps toward independence. I watch his face as he goes down the slide by himself for the first time, and my heart nearly bursts with pride. He is fearless in a way that I never have been. I watch him race headlong into life and weep because I don’t understand how someone so innately heroic could have sprung from my cowardly flesh.

I am afraid of failing him now, instead of just myself.

Fear is no longer my friend.

For so long, I thought she was keeping me safe with her restrictions and rules. But now I see what I thought were loving arms keeping me safe are actually strands of rusted wire, squeezing the life out of me. Fear has kept a steady whisper of lies streaming into my subconscious for as long as I can remember: “You are not good enough. You are not smart enough. Your gifts are not enough”. I have heard it for as far back as consciousness allows.

There is comfort in repetition.

But I am older now and less concerned with words like “pretty” and “nice”. I no longer wonder if anyone would ever love me. (They have and some still do.) Or if I am good enough. (I will always be good enough for the people who matter.) Or if I am living up to my potential. (Not in the least! But I haven’t given up yet and maybe that matters more.)

For the first in a long time, I feel myself wanting to be bold, and dare the Mighty Forces to find me. I want to be more, to do more, to find a new passion and follow it, even when it makes me annoying and ridiculous. Like all good passions are meant to do. I want to stand on the mountain, and stare at the sky and open my heart to the Great Unknowable with thankful tears and a clear mind.

I want to be Phenomenal.

Not just for me, but for the boy who will have to watch my ridiculous, fearful self from his first moments until my last. A new mantra has begun in my heart and the words burn with enough fire to scorch the childhood fears still clinging to my back, “I Am Enough”.

I want to show my boy that you can be the hero of your own story.

So bravery and I are once again getting to know each other. A slow courtship of occasional nights out and blogging in the early morning hours. She is a wild companion, full of “Maybe we cans!” and “Why nots?” She is the boldness in my blood and the fierceness in my spirit, one that has been there from my beginning. The voice that told me to try out for sports in high school and to ride my apple peel mobile down a flight of stairs at the tender age of one. The voice that sent me to Burning Man and helped me sing my heart out in clubs. The voice that still loves me, even in my darkest, dumbest moments.

She is the voice I give credence to now, in the late night hours and moments of doubt. And I am grateful to the woman who forced me out the door, into the sunshine and refused to let me back into the darkness. I wish I could thank her for it now. Hug her tight and laugh with her at that foolish girl who thought that she could hide from life.

Fear still finds me. Of course. Late nights still can find me weeping in terror that something will happen.

Or won’t happen.

(Fear isn’t tied down by paltry things like logic.)

But the fight is on. And the coward in me has met her match with the warrior goddess within.

I now know what my mother had been trying to say all those years ago.

Fear is a liar.

And I am calling the bitch out.

 

 

 

 

Hello/Goodbye – Becoming the Mommy Without Yours.

It is 6:30 am and my son has been up since 3. Exhaustion so deep, it threatens to pull me under with each blink has become commonplace. And I realize with a start that I haven’t slept more than 3 hours at a time since before he was born. It is amazing to me that I can love someone who has basically been torturing me since I met him.

Not that I mind.

I know how lucky I am. I look at my sweet boy, so brave and loving and I know how many people would trade places with me in a heartbeat, sleep deprivation notwithstanding. He is my sunshine baby and I am honored to be his mommy.

But, in taking the mantle of mother, some darkness from my past has arisen. A deep, vicious jealousy that I thought I had put to rest years ago.

My own mother died right after I turned 25. She was a brilliant, kind, and loving woman who was the light of my life. She was my best friend. I adored her. But cancer is the kind of guy you just can’t bargain with, no matter how much you put on the table. And so she died, leaving us to grieve her with every Carly Simon song and glint of snow on the mountains. She died and I thought, at the time, that I had made peace with all the things I would never tell her, all the adventures we would never have.

And then I got pregnant.

And I realized I had been fooling myself. I am not over losing her. I wept every day of my pregnancy to know that she would never meet my baby, that I could never call her for help or advice. Her picture was the only thing I took with me to the hospital, and I kept my eye on her when the pain of bringing him into the world began to melt my brain and made me question everything I thought I knew.

And still, I thought I had it covered. The missing her, although raw and bleeding in my soul, was expected. I knew it well. That grief and I had danced many times over the years and I knew it was only a matter of time before I spun myself out of it and left the floor, breathless and gasping.

But now there is a whole new level of missing her. One I did not expect when that second blue line appeared and my life exploded.

For most of the other women in my social circle, their mothers are a large part of their children’s lives. I see Facebook posts of parents out on a date or having a weekend to themselves while their children gallivant with Grandma, smiling faces and happy memories abound. I hear tales of mothers coming in from out of town just to give their daughters a break and help with the baby. I see Grandmothers at the grocery store, doing a little shopping for her baby and her grandbaby.

And even though I know I am not the first woman to lose her mother young.

And even though I am genuinely happy for my friends and this precious time with their mothers.

I am jealous.

So jealous I could cry.

And don’t get me wrong, I know that this is a First World problem. We have a roof over our heads, food in our fridge, clean water to drink and opportunities to work. We are lucky beyond measure to be where we are.

And yet, I cannot help but get misty eyed when I see pictures of happy babies and their laughing grandmothers. I can’t help the twinge that eats at me when my mommy friends talk about the great advice they got from their mommy. I can’t help it that my eyes will follow older women with curly hair and a school-teacher vibe, telling myself they aren’t her and hoping against hope that they would turn around, and it would be her and I could run to her and hug her and smell her perfume and pour out my heart to her and have her tell me the secret to making my son sleep through the night.

I tell myself how wrong I am to want more, when I am so lucky to have a beautiful boy and a man who loves me. My sister has been a giant in helping with the baby and my father and brothers adore him. Indeed, so many friends have come out of the woodwork to be kind to us that wanting more seems selfish.

Still, I would give anything for another chance to talk to my mother. To ask her if I am doing this whole “mommy” thing right. To laugh with her about the insanity of raising a child. To lay my head on her shoulder and have her tell me that she is proud of me.

When I was a teenager, I told my mother I would never have kids. I was young and angry and pretty sure that no man would ever want me so I told everyone that I never wanted marriage or children. In my twisted teenage brain it seemed simple, why want what you can never have?

It broke my mothers’ heart to hear me talk like that.

I never got a chance to tell her how wrong I was. How my son has enriched my life. How much I adore him. How his blue eyes remind me of her.

I would give anything. Anything. For her to come back and do all the grandma things I know she would have loved doing.

In my fantasy, she comes over. We have lunch and talk and then she tells me to go take a nap while she takes my boy to the park. And I lie down in the afternoon sun and sleep a deep and dreamless sleep, knowing that my boy is safe in the hands of the best woman in the world.

It is my most precious daydream.

And I weep when it is over.

But even in these moments of dark and doubt, I can still hear her. Her voice calm and sweet, coming from somewhere in the back of my mind.

She tells me to get up.

She tells me to try harder.

She tells me to be stronger.

And it is her strength I lean on now. A strength that came from a deep and abiding faith in herself and the Creative Powers of the Universe.

She was kind when she encountered cruelty. She was educated in the face of ignorance. She was stronger than illness, deeper than pain. She brought love and compassion like sunshine with her in every step of this life.

My mother was a hero. A warrior. A goddess.

Even in death, she shines like a dying star. Giving illumination to a dark and chaotic world.

And even as I weep for what I have lost, I find in her my inspiration to be better. To do better. To be the kind of mother she was, even as I miss her with my whole heart. If I cannot have my mother back then let me be a mother like her for my boy. Someone he can call, someone he can trust, someone he can rely on.

Someone like her.

Because he deserves the best of me; not a jealous, sniveling child who cries at every mention of her mother. For him, I would stop my weeping, get off the floor and be more like her than I thought I could.

Because I love him.

Like she loved me.

So we go on and we laugh and we dance to the Big Chill soundtrack. And I take these tears and longing and bury them under a thousand baby kisses and a million hugs. I pour the balm of my darling boy over the wounds of losing her and it is enough. More than enough.

Because now I am the mommy.

And Mommies don’t give up.

Ever.

They are killing gay men in Chechnya

Gay men are my favorite.

I know there are a lot of other demographics that have fun and interesting people, but, in my opinion, no other group has such a high level of wit and hilarity, of amazing parties and gorgeous art.

I love being with gay men.

It happened on my first trip to Vegas. A friend took me to a drag show and afterward we hung out with one of the performers at his home. I remember walking away from the group and accidentally wandering into the performers’ bedroom. He had one of those old school vanities, with the three mirrors and a tabletop full of sparkling jewelry and beautiful glass perfume bottles.

He found me there, feeling so awkward and chubby. I remember the kind way he spoke to me, noticing how entranced I was with everything that was him. He gently sat me in front of his beautiful mirror and pulled my hair from the tight bun that I always wore. I can still feel the velvet of his expensive make-up brushes against my cheek and the kind way he spoke to me, talking about inner beauty and embracing ones true self. He told me that he thought I was pretty, the glitter and eyeliner making him seem otherworldly as he smiled at me.

It was the first time in my adult life that I felt beautiful.

Since that moment, gay men have been a mainstay in my life. They are my co-workers, my friends, even a first love. (Hi Christopher!) My father came out as a proud gay man when I was 19. They have been my cheerleaders, my reality-checks, my travel side-kick and boon companions. My son even has a bevy of gay uncles or “guncles”; kind, loving men who treat him like their very own.

Gay men have fixed my hair, fought for my freedom, and opened their hearts to me when they had no reason. They stood by my mother and loved us when no one else wanted to touch our family. They have made me laugh in my darkest moments and helped hold me up when my heart was breaking.

My life has been enriched every day because of gay men.

And now I read that they are killing gay men in Chechnya, rounding them up like garbage and torturing them. And I can’t help but think of my friends, of my father. Geography seems like inadequate protection from such horror. I know that, to us in America, Chechnya seems so very far away and the current administration continues to give us all plenty to protest. Yet, I cannot get the thought out of my head: They are killing gay men in Chechnya.

I want to run into the streets and scream until they are safe.

They are killing gay men in Chechnya and all I can see is the world we would have without gay men. Where would we be without the strength of the gay men and women who died trying to save us all from AIDS? Without Harvey Milk telling us that God did not hate us for being different? Without Alan Turing saving us all from the Nazis?

They are killing gay men in Chechnya.

So please, take a moment. Call your representative. Donate to the ACLU. Do something. We all need to do something.

Now.

Because these men are us. These men are my friends and your friends and my dad and your son. They are all of us. And we need them, to be our friends and-co-workers and idols. A world without gay men is a world without Freddie Mercury, without James Baldwin, without Alexander McQueen.

The Chechnya government must be stopped. We must stop them. Because these are our people, and they are dying under the fanatical regime of a madman.

They are killing gay men in Chechnya.

Now let’s do something about it.

She Chose Down

Art is creation and destruction.

Any artist could tell you that.

In order to create something new, there must be the blank page, the empty canvas, the black box theatre. Everything must be scrubbed away in order to bring about this new work. This is why actors do those weird breathing exercises and why comics talk about, “The Zone”. Why dancers focus on the line and painters stretch their own canvas. To bring it all back down to zero, before building the world up again, one brush stroke at a time.

To be an artist is to embrace the destruction. To know it. To love it. The dance of fire and sky that opens up new worlds, new possibilities.

As an artist, I give myself whole heartedly to this cycle.

But not in my real life.

In my real life, I like stability. I like clean surfaces and hospital corners. My boyfriend calls it OCD. I call it NLIS (“Not Living in Squalor”), but whatever.

I like my routine. I like order. I like lists.

Ohmygod! Can we take a moment and express some appreciation for the near orgasmic quality of making a list and then artfully crossing out each item until finally, you cross off that last thing and it’s like the whole world makes sense for a moment?

So great.

For all my wild inclinations, I love order and stability. {Please don’t tell Burning Man.} And up until one year and nine months ago, I would say I came pretty close to having it.

And then I got pregnant.

He is amazing. From the moment they laid him in my arms, my heart shattered with love for him. His hand takes mine, and I can feel the love of the entire universe pouring over me. I love him more than my own breath. I would die for him, gladly. Wholeheartedly. If I thought it would give my boy a safe and happy life, I would dance into the fire and gladly sing my death to the stars. My love for him overwhelms me.

However.

He has destroyed me.

Utterly.

I don’t know if you know this about babies, but they really buck the whole concept of “routine”.

Nor do they like clean surfaces.

Or lists.

Except for eating them.

I was prepared for motherhood to be hard. I was prepared to be tired. I was prepared to be financially drained.

What I did not realize was that it would make me question myself as a person.

When it is 3am and you haven’t slept in three days and the baby starts crying AGAIN and you are so tired that you can’t even bring yourself to pick them up because you know you can’t fix it because you haven’t been able to fix it for three days and you feel like a goddamn failure and so you start to cry and then you sit in the dark and weep with your baby until you both have snot running down your faces and this is not what the pictures on Instagram said it would be like and ohmygod I am failing at this I am failing at this I AM FAILING AT THIS!!!

Those moments can shake you, make you feel unworthy, make you doubt yourself entirely.

Because who loses to a ten month old? What kind of adult tries to bribe a baby to go to sleep?

Me, that’s who.

This kid has completely rocked me. He came into my life like a tiny little windstorm and has managed to destroy my sense of self in record time.

For many months, I mourned the me that was. The me that had her silent routine in the morning of yoga and cold, green grapes. The me that went to the bar on a whim at 11:30pm on a Thursday. The me that would have noticed the baby spit up down the front of her shirt BEFORE she went to the store.

That me is gone. I said goodbye to her with each late night feeding session and mid-day breakdown. She couldn’t stay in a house with no morning silence, no hospital corners.

For a while, things seemed dark. Who was I now? Just the human milk machine and diaper changer? This kid barely gives me the time of day. Usually, he is more interested in his toys, or his little friends at the playdate, or flirting with every cashier we encounter to bother with me. He loves me. I know that. He reaches for me when he hurts and has taken to saying, “Mamamamamamama” when I am near. Which is close enough to Mama to break my strange, little heart. But is isn’t Mama. Not yet.

Then, in the dark of a 4am screaming fit during a snowstorm in Chicago, which is very dark indeed. I had a thought that gave me pause.

What if this is the new work? What if this breakdown isn’t a breakdown at all, but a chance to build something new?

The ashes of my old life had settled and I could see the tender, green shoots of a new me beginning to take hold.

It was only appropriate that I had gone through this journey of darkness and doubt. I was about to take a new name, a universal word that stands for the greatest love, the deepest heart. My son is about to call me Mama, and I am suddenly humbled at the mantle that now covers me.

He is going to call me Mama. The same way I called my mother “Mama” when I was young and afraid. I have vague memories of clinging to her shoulder as she carried me to bed, the smell of her keeping the monsters at bay and the soft sound of her voice lulling me to a sleep that was safe from nightmares because she was there to drown out their roars with a lullaby.

He is going to call me Mama, the way my friend called out in the midst of the worst of PTSD nightmares, when his skin would be clammy and his muscles shook as he relived the horrors of a war that he had long since left behind. When he cried out for someone to save him, the way all children cry out for their mother’s when the dark and cold overwhelms and you are so alone.

He is going to call me Mama, the way I did for my own mother when the pain of bringing him into the world was too great and I thought my body would rip itself apart with each crashing wave. The way the other woman down the hall from me screamed for her mother when the epidural wore off before she had to push. That sobbing scream that is at the heart of all hurts, whispering to the dark, “Save me, Mama. Save me from this please.”

He is going to call me Mama, the way all people have from the beginning. Calling for the one who cares, the one who can take away the pain and drive away the loneliness. The Mama who would fight the monsters and rip away the darkness. The Mama who would lay her body down and give her life and bleed to keep you safe with no conditions and no reservations.

It is a new name. It is a new life. It is a blank canvas that I have wept and lost and fought to bring into existence.

So I will take this blank slate, and I will build this new work and I will embrace the new me that falls asleep at 7pm and has a newfound affinity for Disney movies.

Because the art is what is important. The art is what matters most.

And my boy and I are having a blast, creating this new world together. Even if we cry sometimes in the making of it.

Yes, we are making a new world, this kid and I.

Because he is about to call me Mama.

And I am ready for my new name.

 

 

 

An Open Letter to the Two Girls Who Tried to Apologize to Me in High School.

One day, right after AP English, two girls came up to me. I knew who they were, of course, in our tiny Utah town our class sizes were small enough that we all knew each other. Anonymity, no matter how desirable, was utterly impossible. As they approached me, I felt the smile fade from my face and a tight knot began to form in my stomach. I can remember trying desperately to get my book into my bag before they made it the ten feet up the aisle and forced me to deal with them.

“Meg?”

The question caught me just as I swung my bag over my shoulder. With an internal sigh for my rapidly fading good mood, I turned to deal with whatever fresh new hell the two cheerleaders had in mind. Their faces were smiling but serious. I could sense some sort of urgency coming off of them but I couldn’t imagine what it might be about. These two girls were thin and popular, the kind of people who I usually fled. We stood, staring at each other for a moment of uncomfortable that seemed to last forever, until I felt the irritation get the better of me and I snapped.

“What?” My tone was flat, my face was carefully wiped of expression. I looked at the two perfectly perky high school girls in front of me and saw their expression falter.

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

They started to talk over each other for a moment, and then the one closest to me attempted a smile.

“Hey. Meg” She glanced up at me with a nervous smile. “Look, we just wanted to apologize. . . “

“Yeah.” The other girl broke in, a nervous laugh bringing her closer to her friend. They both smiled up at me, clearly trying to break through the icy stare I was giving the two of them.

“We are really sorry about the way that we treated you in middle school.”

“Yeah, we were way out of line.”

“And you’ve been so funny in class. . . “

“Anyway. . . “

“Anyway, we are really sorry.”

I can remember the welcoming look on their faces, could feel the pull from them to let bygones be bygones. That they really wanted to apologize to me and they wanted me to accept their apology.

The roaring in my head was deafening. My hands shook as I tightened my grip on my bag and I remember feeling the tears pricking behind my eyes. But my gaze stayed cold, my expression icy. I was not going to fall for this obvious set-up. I would not yield. Not now. Not ever.

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”

I saw their expressions fall as I turned away. Clutching my bag, I turned and quickly walked out of the classroom. Tears threatening to fall as I ran to my car and drove home, my hands shaking for an hour after the encounter. I was furious. Furious that they had had the nerve to apologize to me, furious that I had let them upset me. Again. Humiliated tears soaked my shirt and left streaks of salt on my cheeks.

Eventually, I stopped crying. Wrapped myself in the armor of anger and fury that had kept me going the seven years of middle and high school, left for college and never looked back.

I could not forgive them.

I couldn’t even acknowledge that they had hurt me.

Part of me was glad. I wanted them to know that they would never have my forgiveness. Not now. Not ever.

For years, I kept silent the memories of having my bag stolen from my classroom every day only to find it thrown in the trash of the bathroom. Of being called every version of “fat” in the book. Of taping down my breasts in a fruitless attempt to keep them from being noticed. Of eating lunch alone every day. Of walking out onstage to introduce a speaker, and having the entire school begin booing until a teacher had to grab the microphone and force them to stop. It was every day. It was unrelenting. And eventually, it seemed normal. They obviously knew something my mother didn’t. These were my peers. If they thought I was unredeemable, then there was no sense in thinking otherwise. I let them persuade me I was hideous. Unlovable. A fat ugly monster who didn’t deserve any friends.

I hated them.

And I used that hatred as fuel to get out of that Utah town and never looked back.

Hatred was my friend. I used to joke that, “You can walk on broken legs if you are mad enough.” I didn’t see any need to forgive or forget. Why? When my good friend anger could keep me warm with memories of vicious slights and past humiliations.

I believed in anger.

It was the fire I could depend on.

Then, my son was born.

Nothing changed at first. I still thought anger was a good tool for dealing with the viciousness of this life, so I kept at it. Every so often, a reminder of my past would rise up and I would feel that humiliation, the isolation as clearly as I did when the boys in my class were chanting “Megaboobs” and all I could do was pretend to ignore them while silently wishing my body would just disappear.

Still, the more I spent time with my sweet boy and saw his unfettered delight in this world, the more I began to see that I had possibly made a mistake.
That by holding on to this anger, I had been just as cruel to those girls as they had been to me.

It took guts for them to approach me that day. I didn’t make it easy in high school. Back then, I prided myself on the one-cut comment. Meaning, I would try to emotionally destroy my enemies with the cruelest insult I could conceive. I would practice at home, storing up hurtful insults against my classmates like a life insurance policy. I remember asking one cheerleader with a penchant for heavy make-up if Tammy Fay Baker was her hero. It didn’t matter that this particular girl had a scar on her cheek and the heavy pancake she used was an obvious attempt to mask it. I even knew that at the time, but she had called me fat, and instead of taking the high road, I hit her with the one thing I knew would make her cry.

That was the girl they tried to engage. An angry, wounded viper. Ready to spit poison at any one who got too close. That girl didn’t know that she was doing just as much damage as her supposed “enemies”. That girl gave just as good as she got. And she showed no mercy.

She didn’t know that the anger she so depended on would eventually turn on her. That it would worm its way into her psyche and begin manifesting as anxiety and panic attacks. She didn’t know that holding on to the pain of childhood would become a source of embarrassment and not of pride. It turns out that everyone else was ALSO miserable in middle school. I was not the only one nursing a broken spirit.

It finally dawned on me that, perhaps, I was missing something important by hanging on to these wounds. For a long time, I thought it was my scars, my pain that defined me. That it was my fear and loneliness that made me interesting.

Part of me still does.

But now there is a tiny human, watching me. Imitating me. How can I look him in the face and say, “Keep an Open Heart”, “Love Yourself”, “Be Kind, Always” when I am still holding anger against two high school girls who just wanted to apologize?

It’s hypocritical, even for me.

So, this is my attempt to fix the past and to give those two girls what I could not give them that day after Mrs. Stoddard’s English class.

It’s ok.

It’s ok and I forgive you.

I forgive you and that angry, cold teenager in all black forgives you too.

And I am sorry this took so long. It was cruel of me to hold on to the foolish antics of a few scared kids. I am sorry I could not be there for you that day after class, to tell you that I understand. That I had done things I was ashamed of too. That you were not bad people, just because you hurt my feelings when we were all so very young.

I am sorry, girls. Twenty years is too long a time to hold a grudge.

Please, forgive me.

Sincerely,

M