Diapers and Dragons

Monday, January 31, 2011

Feathers and Fat

Another post from my [reluctant] reflections on the wintry world outside my window. Which is where I prefer to keep it, on the whole.


I've never loved birds as pets.

Oh yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the antics of Fraque, our African Grey parrot, when I was a child. But I was able to enjoy him as a pet without dealing with his mess. He lived in a spacious cage, after all, and I was not the one deputized to clean out the bottom.

I didn't learn to detest pet birds until college. My former mother-in-law had a yellow parakeet who flew about her apartment with almost complete freedom. I discovered first-hand the joys of a bird's inability to control its bowels. Wherever that thing landed--clock, cagetop, couch arm, carpet, shoulder, head--it could and often would leave behind a curdled-milk trace of its presence.

Even now, as a mother of two who has personally handled far more excrement and other distasteful bodily emissions than I ever dreamed, I shudder at the memory. At least my children don't leave their waste smeared all over the furniture and walls. Well, not often.

So--no birds as pets in my household.

Our townhouse backs onto a wetlands, a tiny refuge for the local wildlife nestled amidst the human residences of West Bloomfield. And birds nest and fly about and forage in our extended backyard every day.

I have discovered that I love birds--when they are properly outside, in their natural medium. MTL and I obtained a bird feeder a few weeks ago, and Thanksgiving weekend we drove the pole into the ground and stocked the feeder with blocks of suet and peanut butter and seeds, the kind loved by birds who winter here rather than fleeing for warmer points south. We have hovered by the window, waiting for the birds to discover it.

Today, they have. Winter's bitter breath is blowing, with distinct promise of snow to come, and the birds are gorging on the luscious fat we have provided them. I sit and watch, wondering if this provision in some way violates the natural order of things. These woodpeckers and cardinals and other birds I cannot name would be forced to make do with the scant provisions of winter-bound wetlands if people like us did not lavish them with food. Would they have more natural foods available to them if we had not invaded their world with brick and wood and vinyl siding? How much of their ability to winter here, as is their natural wont, is based on our tribute to their beauty?

Have we formed an odd partnership, we denizens of the suburbs, feathered and featherless alike?

We pay our human entertainers with offerings as well, forming a niche where basic necessity does not go. Have we extended that concept to nature's entertainers as well?

Come here and brighten up my yard. Sweeten the wind with your songs. And in return, I offer you the fat of the supermarket...

Friday, January 28, 2011


A while ago, my dear friend Lauren asked for more stories about living in the snowy suburbs of Michigan, curious how a tropics-born-and-raised missionary kid handles all that cold. The truth is: not all that well, considering I spend very little of the winter actually outdoors at all. But I did write some nature essays for an assignment I did along with my sophomores last month, and I'll post a few of them here to give you a glimpse into the wintry world outside my window.

Considering that the forecast calls for another thick layer of snow tonight, I think you'll find me huddled up inside under a few layers of blankets with a goblet mug of wine cocoa most of this weekend.

I don't want to be here today. The wind is bitter, the sky gloomy with cloud piled on cloud until the horizon blurs. The warmth of the indoors is calling me, and I think longingly of hot coffee and a blanket and perhaps the friendly hum of television. Or a book. Escape into a different world, see things from a different point of view...

So much for transcending through nature. Today, I am a child of technology and media, pampered by the stuff of other's makings. I realize that if everything were to stop working today, if all the electricity and gas and everything else that has become such an essential part of modern life were to just end--I'd be screwed.

It's a good thing I live with someone who has some survival skills.

Perhaps I'm being a bit harsh on myself. Sure, I would struggle in such a situation, at least at first. But I'm not a complete idiot. I'm resourceful. I'm intelligent. I am, more to the point, stubborn. I wouldn't be one to sit down and give up.

How did they do it, though, those long-ago ancestors of ours? How did they make it through the bitter winters with limited food sources and minimal shelter? How, for goodness' sake, did anyone ever survive the ice ages?

Well, many didn't, I suppose. Were all those so-called essentials of modern life to vanish, our world would no longer be so heavily populated with humans.

We've grown soft, after all. We've grown comfortable and complacent in our furnace-heated, insulated, carpeted, electrified homes with well-stocked fridges and pantries and a television in every room.

Okay, okay, not every room. Though I've kind of wanted one in the kitchen, you know, for when I'm making dinner.

It's a reliable companion.

Definitely soft. And spoiled. I grin at myself, hoist my scarf tighter around my chin, and scuff at the snow with a boot-clad foot.

I wonder if The Walking Dead is showing tonight? I can always survive vicariously. Though we have started thinking about how to prepare for the zombie apocalypse. Bottled water and baseball bats are a good start, but I'm growing convinced that I really should learn how to shoot a crossbow. Maybe even how to make my own bolts.

You never can be too prepared for zombies, after all.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Inner Child

I was, by all accounts, a bright, outgoing, bouncy, extroverted child. I was the chubby-cheeked darling who toddled up to another child, whom I had never seen before in my life, in some European airport and flung my arms around him as though he were my long-lost bff. I was bright-eyed and adventurous, making friends left and right with people young and old.

It changed around age four or five. It all blurs in my memory. The timeline fuzzes over and I can't remember whether certain things happened before or after or during kindergarten. I don't know which events slammed me first and set me up for others. I don't know when the walls started going up, or how fast I built them, or all the reasons why.

My therapist wants me to create the timeline. She wants me to through it in my mind, step by step. She also wants me to find out what else might have been going on in those years, aspects of my environment that may have had more impact on me than I know: the sort of things that would be internalized by a bright, emotionally sensitive child and become a part of her without anyone ever dreaming she even noticed.

What is it, she asks, that convinced you so long ago that you would never be good enough?

I don't know how much I can dig. I'm aware of certain elements, and facing those are hard enough. I'm not sure whether I even want to know what else might have been going on, what else might have happened. What I do know is that when I think back to those years, I'm swept away by a wave of grief and anxiety.

I've been talking a lot to my closest friends lately about the nature of my relationships. It's anything but coincidence that I do not have a close girlfriend who lives close enough to be a part of my daily life. I have a couple who live within driving distance, but such is the nature of life and metropolitan suburbia that we rarely see each other and mostly settle for chatting on the phone.

The three girlfriends who are currently my most intimate friends? The closest lives an hour away--forty-five minutes if there aren't cops around--and the other two lives states away. One I've only seen face to face once in our friendship. The other I haven't seen in fifteen years.

It's safer that way, you see. Let someone be intimately close AND be a part of your daily life and the emotional risk becomes too great. If something goes awry in the friendship or someone moves, there's a deeper loss. And even then, be careful what you say. Be careful just how much of your naked, raw, and oh-so-tender inner self you let anyone see. Keep everyone at an arm's length, for protection.

MTL is the first person I've let all the way in.

I knew it would be a risk. I knew that if I was going to let him in at all, it would have to be all the way. All or nothing. He wasn't going to settle for less. And deep down, I didn't want to either.

I didn't know how much of a risk it would be. I didn't know how unprepared I am, from a lifetime of walls and numbing myself down and disconnecting myself emotionally, for both the joy and the pain. Because it turns out that when you love someone enough to let them all the way in, everything becomes brighter and stronger and sharper. It means when I hurt him and he hurts me, whether intentional or otherwise, the pain is agony. It also means that the joy is bigger and deeper. Thankfully, the joy far outweighs the pain and is far more common, but...


Here's where I'm flung back to that five year old self. Here's where I sit and realize that deep down, despite everything, I still don't believe I'm deserving of love and joy. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I keep waiting for him to wake up one day, realize that I'm not worth it, and walk away.

Because deep down that little girl is huddled in a corner, whispering that everyone leaves. And they leave because that is what she deserves.

I don't know how to talk to her. I don't know how to face her pain. I don't even know all the reasons she's there.


"little girl"

little girl
sit quiet in your corner
veiled in plain sight
shield yourself from
who might see what's there inside
know what's inside

little girl
put on all that armor
fend off every look
protect yourself from
that might break through to your heart
might break your heart

it's pain that teaches you to hide
fear that teaches you to run
never reaching out
never reaching in
always in flight from the unknown
that which you can't control

little girl
who tore out your heart so long ago
and told you you'd never be enough
for this world
who made you crawl into
the walls of your own mind
the armor of your own skin
the shield of invisibility
for those without the will to see
and they never get to know

this little girl
little girl
with a heart full of possibilities

and now you're grown
and still hiding
still building walls
and donning armor
only allowing those you choose
to climb over
and behind
and into your world
little girl
with a heart full of pain

Thursday, January 13, 2011

i've always been afraid

of letting imperfections show
cracks behind the mask
porcelain fractures
lying my way through complications
til truth becomes a stranger

of risking heart and mind
fears of failure
imperfect perfectionism
hiding my way through challenges
so walls become my safety

of letting go
letting in
letting out
letting be

because they may not
                       (but they might)
and if they don't
                       (and if they don't?)
because some will not
                       (but some will)
could i bear the pain
                       (the shame)
yes the shame

and so am trapped in fear
                       (and so are trapped)

unless i let go

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Death And A New Beginning

The end-of-year holidays are always a bit hard, really, what with all the chaos and extended family and children running around getting underfoot and underskin and more extended family and build up of HOLIDAY HOLIDAY HOLIDAY and then it's all over and everything's just a bit flattish.

Plus there's my birthday shoved in there, just wedged in anywhere it might fit, and here's the thing that sucks about having a Christmas birthday (it's not the present thing, because on the whole my people are quite good about realizing that if everyone else gets different presents for Christmas vs. birthday, then it's only fair that I do too, unless it's something Really Big that counts for both by the sheer Bigness of it all): even when people do acknowledge your birthday and even want to celebrate it, there's no point at all in celebrating it on the day itself, and what with all the exhaustion and business and familyness of the season, it's entirely too difficult to get your favorite people together to celebrate at all.

I'm thinking seriously of having my birthday celebration in June instead.

I've been anxious and on edge and horrifically tearful this last week. I did not cry on Christmas, thank God, because I've had too many Christmases spent in tears and I'm quite done with that, thankyouverymuch, but I have cried more in the last few days than I have over the entire last year. I'm not a very tearful person, really. I might get anxious or angry or melancholy or even suspiciously moist about the optical orbs, but actually tearful? Wet cheeks and reddened eyes? Crying into my pillow or a tissue? Not so much.

MTL has been patient and loving and comforting and rather alarmed. After all, when one climbs into bed at the end of a long day and wraps one's arms about one's beloved and then realizes that she's starting to gasp and shake with unexpected sobs, one does tend to become a little concerned. Well, at least he does. Rather than angry and shouty, like some people might be. He did remind me gently that I don't have to try to be strong all the time just because he's going through stressful times too--his shoulders are broad, after all.

It's what I'm here for, he said, and so I cried on those shoulders for a while, and then he made me laugh and I was finally able to fall asleep.

This time of year is a muddle of beginnings and endings, births and deaths. The last two years have been such a muddle of the same for me. And although I love so much of where life has brought me, the strain of the journey has taken its toll. There are new stresses in this new life as well: new family, new extended family, changing relationships, changing perspectives.

I think the bulk of my pain and rage (because those tears have been as much in anger as sorrow) lies in grieving the death of certain hopes and dreams that I've clung to for three long decades. Hopes that I would someday receive certain intangible things from extended family that, I now realize, I will never get. Dreams of a kind of acceptance and approval and pride that would, in reality, require the sacrifice of who I am, this person I've taken so long to be able to love.

A beloved cousin, one of my fellow Black Sheep, recently said to me that he knew from childhood that I would never fully fit into the parameters of expectation and acceptance in our Family. To do so would mean a rejection of who I actually am.

He's right. But facing that requires setting aside a lingering hope that somehow, someday, my Family (that huge, insane, ridiculously respected, secretly dysfunctional, looming, impossible Family) would actually be proud of me for exactly who and what I am, without a checklist of what must change for that to happen.

And realistically? That doesn't exist for anyone. It's not the human way.

Still...it's a death. So I'm grieving.

Apparently I'm currently stuck in the Anger stage.

But with each death comes a new beginning. Just like the passing of the old year gives birth to the new one.

Last night DMB helped the kids make pita pizzas while My True Love took me out for a steak dinner, just the two of us. Then we came home and played silly Wii games and watched a silly movie and ate chips n dip and drank sparkling juice and stayed up just long enough to watch the ball drop before crawling into bed like the old farts we are.

Today, we're all lazing about watching MTL rock Super Mario Bros on the Wii.

Just us. Just me and my family.
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