Saturday, August 25, 2007


Tuesday is my birthday. Years ago, that would have been good news. Nowadays it's a tear-jerker. It's universally accepted that most adults would prefer not to get older, but that's not what I'm talking about. Nowadays my birthday points out how alone I am, never mind how old I am.

The above photo was taken today in my living room. As you can see, my birthday is off to a good start, with today being only Saturday. I have already received 2 cards for Tuesday's birthday: one from my best friend in NY whom I met in 7th grade, and the other, the smaller of the two, is from what's left of my biological family. The zinnias are from myself; I bought them at a farmer's market downtown yesterday.

Today happens to be the birthday of a 4th grader named Ian. He is The Child's former best friend. This morning when I was out buying corn on the cob I ran into Ethan, one of The Child's classmates. Ethan wanted to know where The Child was, and I explained that 2 of our adult friends had taken The Child to a waterpark. Then Ethan wanted to know why the Child wasn't going to be attending Ian's overnight birthday party today, and I said that The Child had not been invited.

A healthy-minded, well-adjusted adult parent would not become undone by the fact that her Child had been snubbed for a birthday party to which many other kids from school had been invited. I know this. And I am completely undone.

Rejection just sucks; there's no way around it. It's bad enough that The Child has been mysteriously left out of a party for his close friend who has been our guest many times, but why do I have to take this personally? Is he somehow being excluded because of me? Have I raised a social reject? Or does this ring a bell, dredging up memories of my own painfully lonely childhood? Maybe someday I'll have such an incredibly strong sense of self worth that I will not be affected by the absence of party invitations for The Child, but I'm not there yet- I'm not even on that planet.

And in the case of my birthday, there's no party, so there's no lack of invitation to worry about, thankfully. But there's still the profound disappointment which I first felt the year that my mother died. On my birthday the year that she died, I was hit by the realization that nobody would ever care about me as much as she did. I did have a boyfriend that year, but I've always chosen men unwisely. He picked a horrible fight with me on that birthday, and I received no cards or gifts from anyone. My biological family had disintegrated after my mother's death- they felt nothing but resentment toward me even though I paid for the funeral (she had left her tiny "estate" of a couple thousand dollars to me). There were no birthday wishes coming from them.

To make matters worse, my mother used to spoil me. I was her youngest, and I was the one she became good buddies with. She showered me with thoughtful, appropriate gifts on my birthday, Christmas, Easter, and even Valentine's Day. The woman was a shopper- no, she was SHOPPER- which was good for me, because I was NOT. She even used to buy my clothing, and my current wardrobe reflects her absence.

I miss the presents, and the ones I receive now I hold dear. My friends Doug and Cathy gave me two wrapped gifts for Christmas last year, and I have yet to open them. It's important to me to know that I still have two unopened gifts available.

Thus, I now suffer immeasurably on such occasions as my birthday. Again, that missing Sense of Self Worth could save me, I assume. But who wants to feel alone? I am grateful for the friends who do remember my birthday, definitely, but something bothers me. I do feel as if I'm moderately important to several people, yes. And a Child depends upon me, yes. But I am not the main focus of anybody's life now.

The Wise Answer to my problem is this: Become the main focus of your own life, Betty.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

the "giving away" of the self (not a good thing)

OK, so I have this problem. I am hoping that somebody out there says, "Oh, I understand this. I do that too. You're not alone, Betty." Or better yet, "Oh, I understand this. I used to do it and here's how I stopped...."

Here's the problem, as demonstrated during tonight's dinner at my house. It all began when the phone rang while I was kneading gnocchi dough. Jennifer, who had been invited to dinner, was calling to say that her husband got off work early, and she wanted to know if it would be OK for them to arrive early.

OK, that's not enough to send me into a tailspin, right? I'm a mature, flexible adult....... it's only gnocchi, after all. So I instructed The Child, who had been ordered to answer the phone, to tell her that it would be fine. Then, to ease my feeling of guilt for not dropping everything, dough and all, to pick up the phone myself, I hissed at him to explain to Jennifer why I hadn't answered the everloving telephone myself ("because I was kneading gnocchi!")

Somewhere in my background I apparently learned that I owed the world an explanation, even for actions such as continuing to knead messy, sticky dough when my phone rang. It's as if I perceive myself as guilty until proven innocent. And I constantly try to prove myself innocent.

Additionally, I automatically, without the slightest thought, said yes to the question as to whether they could arrive early. Mind you, I had carefully planned and timed the meal preparation. Why did I so disregard myself that I immediately took on the burden of guests arriving while the meal preparation was in its infancy, with only a young child to entertain them while I scrambled madly about, trying to prepare pasta, meat (The Child and I are vegetarians), salad, garlic cheese bread and dessert with guests unattended?
The doorbell rang 3 minutes later. Shocked, I yelled at The Child to "See who the *&%# is at the door!" (Surely whoever it was would go away when they saw how busy we were.) With an audible gasp, my eyes popped out as I saw Jennifer and her out-of-work-early husband entering our house, which hadn't even been vacuumed yet! The Early Arrivals (hereafter known as the EA's) live in a suburb 40 minutes away, and this was Friday rush hour! She must have called from around the corner. Aghast, I half screamed , "Oh My GOD. I didn't know you meant you'd be here THIS early....."

My house is small, no, actually, it's SMALL. It's not one of those setups where the guests can contentedly sip wine in the vicinity of the food prep area, while the host(s) chat while calmly chopping cilantro. My kitchen could fit into most closets. And I had to use my tiny dining room table to roll out the gnocchi dough, so I couldn't invite the EA's into the cooking area. Instead, I directed The Child and the EA's into his (tiny) bedroom.

I have no idea what transpired in the bedroom. I was too busy frantically trying to throw things together in record time to accomodate the EA's. My carefully written list of what to do at what time went out the window. In my haste, I stopped forming the gnocchi pillows into their usual shapes, with the trademark fork tracks imprinted on each one. I just hacked them off the dough ropes with a fork, without regard to form or fork. I hurled them into the boiling pot, splashing doughy water all over the kitchen. Timing hopelessly off, I had to remove the bread from the oven prematurely to make room for the hastily boiled gnocchi which had been thrown into a casserole dish. The bread, the one thing I hadn't made from scratch, ended up being served with the middle still frozen solid, much to my embarrassment. Adding to the chaos, I accidentally dumped a huge pot of home made tomato sauce onto the stovetop, with some of it draining down into the bowels of the stove.

Eventually I called them in to eat. I had lost my appetite by this time, so all I could do was try to referee the eating of the EA's and The Child. The Child rejected the gnocchi casserole, so I left the table to cook "Plan B" (parents of finicky eaters always have "Plan B" food standing by) for him while the EA's ate. That was actually a merciful event, because it masked the fact that I wasn't eating, thereby eliminating the need for an explanation.

It gets worse. After the toffee dessert had been rejected by The Child, he shouted, "Let's go for a walk in the park!" (There's no "Plan B" for desserts.) So, with gnocchi-caked dishes still on the table, large amounts of perishable food scattered about, and spills and splashes everywhere, we took off into the park for an extensive outing in the deliciously cool evening, with the child riding his motorized cooler.
Halfway through the walk/motorized scooter ride, I realized how exhausted I was. In fact, everybody acted tired, yet when we got back to our house, we just kind of hung out and kept talking, and even after somebody said, "OK, we're leaving now," nobody left..... The Child kept asking first one EA, then the other, for help with a computer game, over and over.... there was something I wanted to watch on TV, and I had forgotten to program the VCR....I hate to say this, but I wanted the EA's to leave...... I tried to hide my impatience and fatigue...what can you say when you're eager for your guests to leave.....sometimes doesn't it seem as if your guests are afraid they'll insult you by leaving, when in fact you desire their departure?
Well, the EA's FINALLY left. The TV program I had hoped to see was finished. The house was in complete shambles, with hardened food bonded to every dish I own, food rotting from being left out of the refrigerator, the table heaped with dishes, dirty napkins, stray gnocchi, rejected toffee. The countertops appeared to be permanently stained with home made tomato sauce. The stove looked unrecognizable from burned stains. A mound of leftover gnocchi dough, hardened like neglected Play Dough, made a poignant statement.
I sat down in a chair in my bedroom, dazed from the experience. I panicked for a moment, and felt as though a robber had been in my house. Alarmed, I actually checked to make sure my wallet was still tucked away in my drawer. I felt violated, as if the very friends I had invited in for dinner tonight had robbed me of my self. Of course I know they didn't do anything offensive, in reality. They didn't show up early unannounced- they called and asked if it was OK, and I'm the one who gave them the go-ahead. They didn't force me to leave the kitchen in complete chaos while we went outside- I failed to be true to my self and my relatively newfound desire to have my house in order.
OK, now that I've told the story, please bear in mind that this sort of thing happens to me with alarming frequency. I tend to sell out, to disregard my self when in the presence of others. Once, in fact, I had dinner cooking on the stove when I stepped outside to take the garbage out and got caught in conversation with the wife next door. I knew full well that by the time I re-entered my house, I'd likely encounter a fire on the stove. Yet I stood there politely, in a stupor, while she rambled nonsense. I am the common demominator- it's not about the EA's, or my neighbors, or any other people. I seem to experience confusion regarding my boundaries, regarding appropriate social behavior and expectations, and regarding the value of my self.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

still bloggin'

I don't intend to give up blogging, although it may appear otherwise. I guess I'm in the process of sorting things out, and haven't felt much like writing. That's mostly due to confusion. I need a certain amount of clarity to write.
Here's what I think has been going on. It has been suggested to me that I have a problem with my sense of self. I lack a healthy sense of self worth, and I define myself by what others think (or apparently think!) of me. Blogging is useful for a person with such a problem, because nearly every comment I receive is positive and supportive. My self worth is (falsely) bolstered by the people who comment on my blog.
Of course, I know it would be preferable for me to possess an infallible and healthy sense of my self and my value. It would be preferable for me to know that I have value simply because I am breathing.
But I am caught up in the world of judgement. As a child I learned to be ultra concerned with other people's opinions of me. How I felt did not matter. How I appeared to others did matter. I grew up hearing constant judgements. I learned to judge and be judged.
My endless search for a new house, a new neighborhood, maybe even a new job to get me to a new city is all about attempting to escape the judgements. (In truth I would just be starting up a whole new set of judgements.) On a superficial level, moving would work, at first.
But the true problem would not be addressed by moving. That's why my extreme efforts to move over the past year have not worked out, perhaps. The powers that be would like to have me address the issue of self, and its indestructible worth which exists regardless of what others think.
My job is to cease judging. As a result, I will let go of my perceptions of other people's judgements towards me, which may not have even existed except in my mind.
It has been depressing to give up on my desire to move. It used to seem to me that was positive to have goals like that, rather than accepting stagnation. My "sorting out" hasn't gone too well in this category. I feel like a child whose candy has just been snatched away, even though I'm the one doing the snatching.
Yesterday I had a long session with a highly regarded Chinese chi master. At the end, he said I was totally in balance, with all chakras opened completely. Having been so down on myself lately, it was good to hear his assessment of my state of being. Maybe that's why I was finally able to write this.