A Blast from the Past…

Polly Anna Club Button

I bought myself a Polly Anna Club Badge to prove my membership.

Several years ago (approximately three posts in Gina’s Blog Time) I mentioned that I had reconnected with my paternal clan after a couple of decades without contact. It was kind of a strange feeling that. I’ve known and been connected to these folks my entire life and knew a little more than nothing about them.

Remember those reunion episodes that every talk show hosted about once a month through the 80s and 90s? Well, I watched those with special interest because my magical thinking brain kept telling me, “Someday you may have to break down and call Donahue/Jerry/Oprah to get your family back. You need to know how this works.”

Well, I didn’t have to invite the entire planet to my family reunion, but that doesn’t mean that the magical thinking stopped there. What you typically saw on those shows was a tearful reunion with lots of hugging and crying and some sense that everyone would leave the set and be the Brady Bunch and live Happily Ever After. The End.

Um. I hate to break it to you, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. And, as much as I love to read, I haven’t found a manual that explains how it is supposed to work. What I have found is that regardless of your best intentions and your desire to find common ground, this whole rebuilding-a-family-from-scratch thing is hard work.

As part of that process, I sent one of my sisters a link to this blog. I thought it might give her some insight into the person I am, what I care about, and how I got to this point in my life. It was pretty terrifying to open up in this way. Yes, this is a public blog, but there seems to be a difference between writing for strangers and having someone you actually (sort of) know and (truly) love reading your rants about strangers hogging the gym machines.

So, after I sent the link, I came back and read through my posts… if only to know what I’d just newly shared with my sister.

And then I got kind of nostalgic about this space.

As I’ve posted before, I haven’t deleted this blog for several reasons — most of them based in my desire to have a record of the weight-loss-turned-life-change process I detailed here. But I still feel the pull to chronicle the shifts in my life in a more expansive way than my daily facebook status updates.


And then I think, do I want to be open in this way, again… still?

When did I become so afraid?

Why am I hesitating?

There is resistance here and desire, too, and that tension has me thinking that I need to spend some time thinking about . . .


And then just like that, it hits me…

I’m turning 40 in a couple of months. This year has been another transition year — new house, new school, new certifications, new contracts — but it’s also been incredibly redundant.

I’m afraid that I’m still stuck in that same space I was in when I started down this road. Yes, I am still a PollyAnna (and have the badge to prove it). Yes, I believe in balance and dreams and love and hope.

But here recently, there has been a sour voice talking back. “Life is hard.” “People don’t change.” “You’re lost.”

Where did that come from?

Oh. NO! The balloon poppers are winning!!!

This has to stop.

There is this place tucked way back in the farthest, dustiest corners of my brain where I put the icky stuff. The real reasons I stopped being a part of my paternal clad hide back there along with being teased in the 3rd grade, the taste of black licorice, images of horror films, and everything I ever learned about life insurance. I dealt with — and healed from — those events through years of therapy, journaling, ice cream cones, and forgiveness.

As I work to reconnect with my sister, there is some sense that I’m supposed to explain all of this. Why I believe what I believe. How I got to be this person. What I was thinking over that 21 year absence.

And I don’t want to.

Not because I have anything to hide but because I’m tired of retreading that ground. I want to be here. Now. In this moment. Not rehashing 40 years of decisions, events, and transitions.

When you share pieces of your life history with someone who wasn’t there, it is typically done as a “getting to know you” exercise. It is done in the context of shared interests or some other common connection. So, when someone asks me about my kids in the context of their diagnoses because they have a kid with a diagnosis, there is probably some interest in learning what I’ve learned so that they can apply those hard lessons in their own life. Or maybe we’re just commiserating or even celebrating.

The point is that there is an exchange of finite information that makes sense in the context, and that whether or not this person agrees with my choices, they aren’t likely to get under my skin either way. There isn’t an urge to justify myself.

I’m learning that it isn’t this way with “family” regardless of how long you’ve been gone. There is some emotional pull there. An expectation. An ability to hurt without intention because it isn’t a clean slate regardless of how guileless you are trying to keep the interactions.

I think I’ve allowed myself to start believing the rumors about me. The mumble cussing about my intentions has gotten loud enough for me to hear but is not blatant enough for me to address directly. So the sour voice has worked it’s way into my brain without my awareness. It’s time to kick it out.

Here’s what I know to be true (to borrow a line from Oprah): I don’t play games. I don’t do politics. I tell the truth. I avoid peril. I laugh lots. If I say, “I love you,” I mean it. If a relationship gets damaged I’ll do just about anything to reconcile it. At some point, when I’ve exhausted every idea I have to make it right, or I feel rejected or unwanted, I’ll walk away. I’m learning to balance being open with protecting myself. I used to give my all, but I’m learning to hold some aside for me. I am always surprised when someone is upset with me because I spend about 99% of my energy trying to make others happy. I don’t have an agenda. I’m striving to be my authentic self everywhere I go.

It only took me 39 years, 10 months and a couple of days to get here. Thank goodness I’m a quick study, huh?

So, back to pointing forward. I feel another transition year coming…

But aren’t they all?

The Year of Magical Thinking…

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan DidionWith apologies to Joan Didion* for stealing her title, I am doing that thing. You know the thing I mean? Where you do the “year ago today” thing and look back and think about what you were doing a year ago and sort of relive last year while living this year and feel like you are in two places at once.

It screws with my head.

Magical thinking.

See, magical thinking is based in patterns. We think we see patterns where there aren’t patterns or create patterns where we want them to be. So, if I really want to believe something, I will start looking for proof and–as if by magic–I find it!

It might be my thinking if I wait to have children until my mother did (at least 24 years old) then it isn’t an “accident” and my children will be welcome and approved.

It might be my thinking that if I have always fallen in love in the fall and it is now fall that–wha la!–I should be running into Mr Right (Now) at any moment.

It might even be that if I could turn back the clock to those moments before the events that sent me reeling toward right now occurred that I could, somehow, avert them.

It doesn’t matter that my mom was divorced within 4 years of giving birth. (I didn’t follow the logic past the “approval” to see if the pattern held, I would be a single mom shortly.)

It doesn’t matter that the reason I have always fallen in love in the fall is because that is when you go back to school and hook up with a new guy. (Yeah, I am back in school–but all of the guys are either married or gay which makes them somewhat unsuitable for my love interest.)

It doesn’t even matter that I can’t turn the clock back and even if I could that I couldn’t change anything except–perhaps–the day it all finally blew apart. (The wasband’s temper was hardly within my control.)

I am still doing it. Magical thinking. Looking for the pattern. Trying to find control when, frankly, I have none.

There is a time for looking back. It helps to understand what got you where you are. But at some point, you have to point forward. I am working toward the balance between reflection and action.

Driving home tonight I was absolutely terrified for about 20 seconds. Why? I realized that I was on the road with my little kids and no one expected me at the other end. I could vanish from the earth and it would be at least 12 hours before anyone noticed. I felt completely disconnected. It was an acute attack of the larger unease I have been feeling the last few days. Generally, I am a pretty upbeat, expecting-the-best kinda girl. The last few days have found me worried about everything–money, health, death, school, friends, love, car, and so on–and unable to accomplish much of anything.

I think it is the Magical Thinking pushing me in this direction. As scary things happen to the people around me, I can’t help but wonder if I am on a bad-luck stretch of the highway. I am looking for the clues that my turn to get sideswiped is comin’. Enough already.

I need a good night’s sleep. I need to make a list of the stuff that I need to accomplish. I need to pat myself on the back for successfully navigating one of the hardest years of my life–while managing to graduate from school, homeschool two children, and stay at goal weight.

I can do this–whatever this might be. And I don’t have to resort to magic.

*OMG if you haven’t read this book, go now and find it! It seems trite to use words like “breathtaking” and “perfect” but The Year of Magical Thinking is both. I read it in two sittings and am going back to read it again. It is one of those books that sets you to making lists of people who need copies. I feel like I should write Joan Didion a thank you note for opening up her soul. But that seems even more trite than saying her book is “perfect.”

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