Friday Fictioneers: Broken Dreams.

friday-fictioneersAs soon as I saw the photo this week, I knew where I’d go… it just took, me awhile to pull myself out of the happy stories I’ve written of late, to address this “squeamish” photo– brought to us this week by Madison Woods. That, and a very busy few days!

Friday Fictioneers is brought to you each week by the indefatigable Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, who leads our band of merry writers, in weekly photo-prompt flash fiction. You can find other 100-word stories on Rochelle’s blog, Addicted to Purple. Join us, or just enjoy the wide variety of stories.  ** Please leave a comment. I always welcome honest, thoughtful or constructive feedback.

© Madison Woods

© Madison Woods

Broken Dreams (99 words)

Jonathan paused, the box heavy in his arms. He glanced around and swallowed hard, tears springing to his eyes again. He’d spent the weekend clearing the small room of anything that would remind her: freshly cleaned blankets and soft onesies; the “perfect lamp,” chosen to send dancing stars across the room at night; the cradle, passed down from her parents. Everything was packed away, the room returned to it’s previous benign status as an office.

They’d gotten so close this time… Three more weeks, he thought.  Jonathan took these moments to grieve in private, the fourth and final loss of their dreams.

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What do I want? I’d love to see my Tales From the Motherland Facebook page reach 500 likes in 2014. Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter,it’s where I try to be brief.  Most importantly, if you like a post hit Like, and leave a comment. I love to hear what readers think.  Follow along; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, with no spam.  If you see ads on this page, please let me know. They shouldn’t be there.  © 2014 Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks.

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The Ice Bucket Challenge: After The Ice Melts

Like so many people in the past few weeks, I recently did the ice-bucket challenge for ALS. I was challenged by a cousin, and I in turn challenged four people. Honestly, I was tempted to skip it and just send a check; I’m not big on the social medial challenges. It’s not that I don’t believe in the causes, it’s just that I know I can send a check without jumping in ice water, or posting a provocative status update (something a good friend took me to task for in the breast cancer trend). However, I loved that my cousin and her adorable daughter nominated me, and so I did it.

At the time, I was seriously news deprived and behind on a lot of things, having spent a lot of this summer traveling, visiting people, or having house guests here with us. My two eldest kids have been home this summer and I’ve been seriously out of touch with a lot of things. Given the enormous popularity of the ice-bucket challenge, it’s as if I crawled out from under the metaphorical rock and had ice water dumped on me– all for an incredibly good cause. And that therein lies the point of this post: There is a cause that all this ice is being dumped for. There is a face to ALS, and there are a lot of broken hearts behind those faces.

Take a few minutes and watch this video, to see what this is really about. Tune in at 2:00 minutes, to get to the heart. Warning, this is heart breaking, but SO important!

And that’s where I found myself really struggling. I’m no expert on ALS, and my guess is that most of the people who took this challenge had or have no idea about why they’re really doing it– aside from creating clever videos for Facebook and their friends. And it’s really amazing just how many people have done this– how many famous people have jumped on this iceberg. It’s amounted to millions of dollars of support for ALS ($11+million in one day!)– which barely makes a dent in the huge cuts that ALS researchers have faced. There, that’s the point. While ALS has certainly gotten so much more focus than it would have otherwise, when all the buckets have been emptied, those on the front line will still be suffering, with too little funding and often with little company.

Again, I’m not an expert on ALS, but I am personally intimate with Huntington’s Disease (HD), a genetic disease that is shares some pretty horrible similarities with ALS medically, but is most like it for its huge lack of funding; its devastating impact on families who have it (there is no cure, and it is always fatal), and the sense of isolation so many of us, who have it in our families, feel. As well meaning as so many people are, not many really want to hear about Huntington’s (or suffering in general) and what it’s really like to live with this kind of disease. People want a happy ending, a hopeful future, a silver lining– and with HD, there is none. ALS is a horrible illness, and so is HD. It is genetically passed in families, and is considered the most devastating genetic disease, by many scientists in the field– though most of you have probably never heard of it. If a parent has HD, each of their children has a 50/50 chance of contracting it. Those are horrible odds. Huntington’s is a neurological disease and can effect the brain/memory/processing; it can effect movement and mobility (muscle) or, it can effect both. In my family, it has been the latter. It is always fatal, and life expectancy with active symptoms is 10-20 years– less time in younger patients. Sadly, it often impacts younger people.

The Huntington’s Disease Society of America’s (HDSA) website states:

“HD slowly diminishes the affected individual’s ability to walk, talk and reason. Eventually, the person with HD becomes totally dependent upon others for his or her care. Huntington’s Disease profoundly affects the lives of entire families — emotionally, socially and economically… Early symptoms of Huntington’s Disease may affect cognitive ability or mobility and include depression, mood swings, forgetfulness, clumsiness, involuntary twitching and lack of coordination. As the disease progresses, concentration and short-term memory diminish and involuntary movements of the head, trunk and limbs increase. Walking, speaking and swallowing abilities deteriorate. Eventually the person is unable to care for him or herself. Death follows from complications such as choking, infection or heart failure.”

My family had never heard of this disease either, until my amazing grandmother was diagnosed with it. Prior to her diagnosis, people were convinced that she was drinking, her movements had become so erratic, her speech less clear. Since then, our family has been shaken to its core by Huntington’s. My grandmother died, a shadow of her former self, after twelve years with the illness. My aunt, only six years older than me, died at 49 years of age, after only ten months with the illness. Her onset and progression was horrifyingly fast, and yet we all saw it as a blessing. She did not suffer for as long. My mother was next. She suffered with the disease for thirteen years– many of them plagued by frequent falls (countless broken bones and injuries), memory loss, fractured relationships with her siblings and extended family, a complete change in her appearance, and a total change in virtually every aspect of her life. She died three years ago this New Year’s Eve. My younger sister was diagnosed almost eight years ago, and is symptomatic. She’s 46 years old.

Of course I’m so grateful that I don’t have Huntington’s, but to bear witness– to be left behind, sometimes feels just as cursed. I feel guilty saying even that. On so many levels it’s obvious that bearing witness is not as bad as having HD, or ASL, or any one of the devastating diseases that are equally life altering for everyone involved. However, to watch so many of the people who you love most suffer and die, is unbearable. To know that all of my nieces and nephews, who mean the world to me, will potentially deal with this same reality– as they face the 50/50 roll of the genetic dice. I feel guilty that I don’t have it; I feel helpless that I can’t do anything to change outcomes, and yet everything I feel pales in comparison to what my family members with HD have been through. However, it’s definitely taken a toll.

I spend most of my time trying to push it all down. I choose to live in a state of denial about all of this, as often as I can. I wish I was someone who could go to fundraisers and HD walks, but they leave me feeling more hopeless than I usually do. The last time I went to a fundraising walk, I came away totally shaken. My sister is amazing; she attends any that she can; she supports friends who have the disease; she grieves those who have died, and she stares it in the face every day. I can’t do that. The reality never leaves me. I am always aware that this is following me around, but I can’t stare it down.

When I watch the videos about the ice-bucket challenge– the videos about the real people, facing this real nightmare, I can hardly get through them. I hear their stories, and I understand their experiences on a visceral level. I recognize their pain; I’ve seen it up close on the faces of my loved ones. Different diseases, different letters, but the nightmare is the same for my family– and all those ice buckets (while inspiring and wonderful) are hardly making a dent in the hole that budget cuts have made, for medical research. Cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s… they are the biggies, all generously funded. That’s little consolation to the many families living with those illnesses, of course, but with HD and ALS there is an added layer of horror in the sense that pharmaceutical companies don’t feel that my mother’s life, my sister’s life, my aunts, my grandmother’s life and the people in those videos lives, were and are not worth funding. The big dollars go elsewhere, not to Huntington’s or ASL, or countless other illnesses that are less visible.

fundrazr.com

fundrazr.com

A strong impetus behind the ice bucket challenge is a young man named Peter Frates, a former baseball player. In support of Frates (watch his story here– watch to the end to see Pete finally take the challenge himself), Boston athletes started doing the challenge, Frates took it to social media and it caught fire– drawing celebrities, executives, regular people and famous people like Oprah, Bill Gates, Matt Lauer, and others. There are few who aren’t doing the ice bucket challenge. Huntington’s Disease has a pie challenge that has not gotten anywhere near the publicity that the ice bucket challenge has, and it’s unlikely that it will. This ALS challenge has been a true miracle for those suffering from the disease and for those doing the research, but it is still so little compared to the funding that’s been cut.

The point that is sometimes lost in all that ice water and pie is that these are a fundraisers to help real people, suffering enormous challenges and loss. Send your checks people! Those with ALS need that injection of hope, that financial kick in the butt. Because when this dies down those of us facing terminal genetic illnesses: those who have the disease and those of us bearing witness, will be alone in the trenches again, wishing that a cure was indeed in sight, wishing that we counted.

Please donate to ALS or HDSA… or contribute toward an illness that is personal to you. But send those checks!  Bring hope to people who are fighting for their lives.

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What do I want? I’d love to see my Tales From the Motherland Facebook page reach 500 likes in 2014. Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, it’s where I try to be brief.  Most importantly, if you like a post hit Like, and leave a comment. I love to hear what readers think.  Follow along; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, with no spam.  If you see ads on this page, please let me know. They shouldn’t be there.  © 2014 Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks.

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Friday Fictioneers: Earth 2054

friday-fictioneersI’m late again this week, although one might argue that posting Friday Fictioneers on Friday, is clever. Wink wink. This is also my very first foray into Science Fiction. Please be patient, it’s not my genre, but this photo took me there… on Wednesday, when I saw it and started writing this in my head.

Friday Fictioneers is brought to you each week by the indefatigable Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, who leads our band of merry writers, in our weekly photo prompt flash fiction. The photo this week comes from Roger Bultot. You can find other 100-word stories on Rochelle’s blog, Addicted to Purple. Join us, or just enjoy the fun stories. Please leave a comment. I always welcome honest, thoughtful or constructive feedback.

© Roger Bultot

© Roger Bultot

Earth 2054  (100 words)

Eventually the virus spread.

When suffering and death was limited to Africa, the world looked away. I cannot speculate, but the lack of concern was wide spread.

When it arrived on other continents, brought initially by medical transfers, the pandemic spread slowly at first, but eventually killed everyone.

The outcome was stunning, even for me. The bodies were left to rot or be eaten by wildlife– until the animals were gone too.

The plants survived. Even with acid rain and changing temperatures they have slowly reclaimed it all.

I am left to record it all. My programming has no end date.

*     *     *

What do I want? I’d love to see my Tales From the Motherland Facebook page reach 500 likes in 2014. Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, it’s where I try to be brief.  Most importantly, if you like a post hit Like, and leave a comment. I love to hear what readers think.  Follow along; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, with no spam.  If you see ads on this page, please let me know. They shouldn’t be there.  © 2014 Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks.

 

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Oh Captain My Captain… There But For the Grace.

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*As you start this post, know that there are some great links here. I spent a lot of time digging them up– there are so many, it’s hard to choose!  Play them.

It’s been a full week since I heard the news that Robin Williams was dead. I was driving to Seattle for a concert with a good friend and our two sons, and my friend’s older son texted us the news. When he added that it was suicide, we all gasped. That’s not some literary description; we truly gasped. All four of us, 17-50’something year-olds, were utterly shocked. Honestly, I felt such a jolt that momentarily it felt wrong to continue on our way to a happy event. It was like the world tipped sideways a little and everything felt off balance.

Throughout the evening as we listened to the Arctic Monkey’s perform (an amazing concert) the news washed over me. Oh my God, Robin Williams killed himself?  When I went to the bathroom, it was obvious that others were were stunned too– people looked dazed. As I stood washing my hands, I realized that all of these much younger, much hipper women were talking about Robin Williams. “What?! Are you serious?” “I can’t believe it!” “Oh my God– Robin Williams!” “That’s so sad!” “I can’t believe he’s gone.” Robin Williams crossed so many generations, in his appeal. Those who hadn’t heard were shocked and incredulous, and those who’d heard earlier, were stunned and reeling, like me.  Sadness prevailed, as we stood washing our hands– strangers sharing knowing glances and sad acknowledgements. We were all at a sold out concert, and this is what people were talking about. When we got home that night, my 17 year-old son and I were in our kitchen. It’s hard to know that he was that sad and hopeless, I said to him. “Mom, it’s really sad to know that he was busy making so many people happy–making so many people laugh– and he was that hopeless.” Out of the mouth of babes.

The next morning, when I woke up, the news rushed right back in and jolted me all over– like hard news does, as it settles on your brain. It’s been hanging on me all week– spider webs in my head, sticky and dark. Given the number of things written this week, the Facebook posts, and the news items, I’m clearly not alone.  It’s been a week since we heard; it’s all been said, and yet my mind is still swirling, trying to make sense of this tragedy.

onemangaforums.com

onemangaforums.com

I’m 51 years old and I’ve followed Robin Williams since I was 15 years old; it feels like he’s been around my entire life. For some of you, he has.  When he debuted on Mork and Mindy in 1978, he blew. Us. Away. My brother and I took turns bending our hands and saying “Nanu, nanu” in a funny voice; my friends and I all bought and wore suspenders, rolled our pants up and wore colorful socks. Mork was everywhere; Robin Williams was everywhere! His comedy was crazy brilliant; his talent was enormous!

Robin Williams shifted gears faster than most of us could think. His imitations and routines were high octane; his physical comedy was so electric, you couldn’t take your eyes off of him. Three minutes of stand up, and he’d do so many characters, my head would spin. But he always made me laugh. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qi3Eg3c_82M

Google images

Google images

Over the years his talent expanded, and amazed me even more. His serious roles in movies touched me as much as his huge humor made me laugh. The Dead Poet’s Society has always been a favorite movie of mine. When I heard he’d died, “Oh Captain, my captain” is the first thing that popped into my head. In his tribute, Jimmy Fallon used that same line, and brought me to tears.

The fact that Robin Williams was a bit broken inside came through in many of his performances. I always felt that it was that vulnerable place in him that made so many of those serious roles that much more compelling. His sadness felt real. Behind all of the crazy, zany facial expressions, his eyes looked sad, as often as they twinkled. He seemed to understand pain and struggle, and when he played certain  characters, that shined through. It’s what made his Mrs. Doubtfire so relatable and touching. It’s why his Peter Pan– in one of our three favorite family movies, Hook, held you. You felt for that broken Peter, and cheered that much louder when he found his Bangarang again. His Genie in the animated movie Aladdin was a character that my kids knew was something more than funny and crazy– and they loved him for it. Robin Williams brought heart to everything he did, and that’s what touched so many of us.

The many faces of Robin Williams:

I was and remain a huge fan, and like so many others I’m grieving.

Other celebrities have died: drug overdoses, cancer, accidents, old age– you can’t escape real life– And I feel a loss of their presence and contribution to film and entertainment, but there is something much more troubling about Robin Williams’ death: the idea that he was that sad, that broken, even as he made so many people laugh and feel happy, is troubling beyond words. It’s hard to justify those two facts and not be left feeling incredulous, helpless, sad, a little lost. If he had died any other way, it would still be shocking. It’s hard to believe that anything could put out that wattage, but the idea that he sat there alone and chose to end his own life, is what shakes me the hardest.

I’ve always told my own children that “suicide is never the answer,” that the hopelessness you feel in that moment, always passes, but that the loss you would leave in your wake, would never leave those you leave behind. “Dad and I would never recover from something like that,” I told them, hoping that as they weathered the potentially rocky years of youth, that point would stick. Yet four years ago this December, when I felt so hopeless and dark that suicide seemed the answer, all of my own words deserted me. In those hours, I could only hear my own self-recriminations, my own loss– a mountain of pain and hopelessness seemed insurmountable; the voice in my head were ruthless and harsh.

glogster.com

glogster.com

I came as close to where Robin Williams went, as I ever want to be again. I reached out in desperation and luckily a friend answered that night. We were both left shaken; it took me weeks to recover any vestige of solid ground. I felt numb and cut off, shaken by what I’d done, but still unable to really feel hopeful.

Ever since, I’ve been in my own 12-step recovery. I watch for the signs that I’m “flooded,” and I reach out to the very small group of people who I can be truly vulnerable with. That circle has changed in four years, as I learn who to take care of myself. I seek refuge when I need it– I will probably always be someone who needs to drive off in my car. I continue to work on my own insecurities and demons– All. The. Time. It hasn’t been easy. I feel very lucky that my husband and kids understood and have supported me. I feel grateful that most of the (very few) friends and family who I told then, stood by me. Others couldn’t accept that I was suffering, and needed a life line. That I would bounce back eventually, and not remain so lost.

In the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide, I’ve heard so many people say: If only someone had known, if only he’d reached out for help. My guess is that maybe he did reach out at some point, but I’ve also learned that people sometimes react from their own place of fear, insecurity, or inability to understand, when they hear that someone is feeling that hopeless. Just weeks after my own fumbled attempt, I was talking to a friend who didn’t know what I’d been through, and the topic came up (after a suicide where he lives). My friend said: “I have no compassion for someone who chooses that route– They leave such a mess behind. It’s so selfish.” He’s not a callous person at all; he was being honest. I got it; it’s not that far off from what I’d always told my kids. I also knew that while his words might be a bit harsher than some others might be, he was not alone in that thought. But it shut the door on my ever being able to talk to him about my own struggle.  I instinctively knew not to share it lightly, or with just anyone. For a long while, I felt alone in my struggle, knowing that only a small group of people were there, and I wasn’t always sure if I could call and bother them. That’s how your brain works when it’s depressed.  The voices you hear, are not the supportive, healing, confident ones… they’re the ones that would push you off the ledge.

dev.ryot.org

dev.ryot.org

It’s taken nearly four years for me to be able to talk about this without feeling like people will run away, or judge. Some of them will; I’ve seen the awkward expressions, heard the conversation change quickly. I noticed who called to say are you ok, and who avoided bringing it up. I’ve accepted that and moved on. I may have lost some friends and connections, in the aftermath of my depression and suicidal hole, but I climbed out with the help of some friends who became that much dearer in that same aftermath. I let go of my need to cling, and do whatever I thought it would take, to make a relationship work. Over time I got a lot clearer about boundaries and what makes me feel safe and happy. I’ve spent so much of my life taking care of other people and feeling responsible for their feelings and lives, that it’s been truly freeing to let that go, and take care of myself. I keep working on me.

I think that what haunts me about Robin Williams death is that I really get it. I got so close to where he went, and I survived. I came to understand that all those words I’d fed my kids were true. It does get better; the potential for it to get better is always in your own hands. I truly get that you can feel so tired of trying, and so sad that the potential seems hopeless, but it’s not, unless you’re terminally ill, and truly suffering. My mother knew there was no hope of ever feeling better again. She was depressed; she was in pain, and she knew it would only get worse. Aside from my sister and I, and her grandchildren, she was alone. Her doctors knew the same thing, but at the time there was no Death With Dignity law in Washington state (there is now).  Still, her doctors advised that she would benefit from palliative care and would die faster, without intervention, honoring her wishes and her life. She did, and it was the right decision. It gave her time to say whatever she needed to say; to be free from pain, and to die with some dignity. However, aside from those horrible cases where the end is clear and there is truly no hope, suicide is never the answer.

Robin Williams’ death shakes me because I wish he could have truly understood that. I wish he could have had the good fortune I’ve had: to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel; that those who love you really do need you to make it to that light; that we grow and expand emotionally when we let others in, and let them see our vulnerabilities, our imperfections and “idiosyncrasies“and that it’s not all about making everyone else feel better. We don’t always have to be “on.” I wish that he could have rested peacefully and woken renewed, rather than leaving us all to question the missed steps and wishing him rest in peace. I wish he could have gotten it. It.

The many faces of Robin Williams, the actor:

I will never watch Hook; or Dead Poets Society; or Good Will Hunting; or Mrs. Doubtfire; or Aladdin; or Jumanji; or Jack; or Patch Adams; or Night At The Museum; or Awakenings; or Good Morning Vietnam; or countless other movies and videos, without feeling a little sad– without registering the lost opportunities and wasted potential. I think of his children and those who loved him, and hope they can find peace, in a loss that is so enormous.  The world is a little less funny, a little less brilliant for now. Someone else will come along and fill that hole; that is how the real world is dear people, but Oh Captain my Captain, you will be missed for a long time to come.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6y2Y9i5Sj0

On a personal note: I’m fine. I’m working the program, and I feel like I’ve come a long way in four years. I really appreciate how many (TFTM hit 4,000 followers last week!) of you read these posts and reach out to me– but if you see me in town, or we run into each other, this is not something I want to talk about. I’ve said it several times: I write without filters– let’s face it, if you know me, I live without filters. As one very caring person pointed out recently– between vegetables and crackers– that makes me vulnerable. I can’t be any other way… good or bad. However, when I write I go to a special place, and when I go to get my laundry, I go somewhere else… the laundromat. I like to keep it that way. If you’d really like to pat me on the back, hit Like at the bottom of this post, and then leave a comment. You don’t have to use your name, but I’d love to hear what you have to say. Despite what I’ve said above,  thank you so much to the wonderful people, increasingly common, who have told me that my writing touched them, that it means something– that, means a whole lot to me, in return.

allianceforsuicideprevention.com

allianceforsuicideprevention.com

Final note: If you are considering suicide, please get help. It really does get better, and suicide is never the answer. It’s true, you will be out of pain, but you will leave a world of it in your wake. Call a friend, reach out to someone who loves you, or call the suicide prevention hot line; trust that it can get better and reach for a lifeline. Don’t believe the voices in your head– they are hurting and broken, and are not the right voices to trust. Trust me on this. Ask for help.

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What do I want? I’d love to see my Tales From the Motherland Facebook page reach 500 likes in 2014. Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, it’s where I try to be brief. If you see ads on this page, please let me know. They shouldn’t be there.  © 2014 Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks.

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Friday Fictioneers: 100 Heart-Broken Words

friday-fictioneersAfter weeks of happy stories with happy endings, this week I don’t have that story in me. As if all the horrible news around the world weren’t enough, the death of Robin Williams on Monday really rocked me– as it did so many. Suicide. I don’t know if he left a note, but when I saw this photo, that’s where my head went.  Monday night, my 17 year-old son said: “It’s so sad that while he was making so many people laugh, he was that unhappy.” Out of the mouth of babes, right? My boy is young, and suicide is far from his reality. But, I get it. This resonates and shakes me to the core. Ultimately, I feel a deep sadness for the loss of someone who has made me laugh, touched me with his rivetingly performances in serious roles, and been present since I was in high school– but who was clearly so broken.  “Oh Captain, my Captain!” Rest in peace, sweet man. (The scene, in this link, is one of my favorite movie scenes ever, in one of Robin Williams’ finest roles. Especially poignant give the news this week). 

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly flash fiction challenge: Using a photo prompt, write a 100-word story, with a beginning, middle, and end. This week’s photo comes from Jan Wayne Fields. His wonderful wife Rochelle Wisoff-Fields is our hard working and fair minded leader. If you’re interested in participating, or would like to read other stories in the series, please visit her blog Addicted To Purple.

© Jan Wayne Fields

© Jan Wayne Fields

100 Heart-broken Words

In the quiet of my private night, there’s nothing left to laugh at.

Worthless, unable to pull my shit together– hopeless–

I’m so tired.

It’s not your fault– I love you more than anything else.

If it weren’t for my babies… and you, I would have given up

A long time ago.

It’s me; I’m broken–

Fucking spent. 

There’s nothing

left in me to give.

Please understand–

It’s me, not you.

I can’t hurt anymore; and I don’t want to

Pull you down with me.

Nothing left– I’m empty

And useless…

I just can’t do it anymore.

Forgive me.

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If you enjoyed this post, please hit Like and then leave a comment; I love to hear what readers have to say.  Check out Tales From the Motherland’s Facebook page (my goal is 500 likes this year; I have a ways to go!), and Twitter, where I struggle to keep it brief.  If you see ads on this page, please let me know. They shouldn’t be there.  © 2014 Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks.

Posted in Awareness, Blog, Blogging, Daily Observations, Death, Flash fiction, Friday Fictioneers, Life, News, Tales From the Motherland, Writing | 47 Comments

I May Be Lame, and Clueless, and Demanding… But You Still Came Out of My Vagina (and other ugly truths)

©lonerwolf.com

©lonerwolf.com

Here I am, circling the drain again– banging my head against the same old wall– built with bricks of crumbling self-esteem, and topped with barbed-wire of razor-sharp self-loathing and remorse.

On the heels of a stellar summer of travel and adventure, it just sucks a little more than usual. I came home from three+ weeks in Scandinavia and BlogHer14 feeling excited, confident and enthusiastic– only to find that the same issues that drive me to fight or flight response were all waiting right where I left them. You can run, baby, but you sure can’t hide! It’s incredible how a few rough patches with my kids, or my husband, or a glimpse of exclusion on Facebook, can erase all the sparkle and steam I gained– from wrangling glaciers, discovering Vikings, meeting really cool people who thought I was equally cool, and generally living in my own happy groove for a while. It took a hot, miserable minute… And some key bad words.

Let’s rewind here.

No sooner had my two eldest children arrived home for the summer, and the power plays began. A fight “to the pain” (if you haven’t seen The Princess Bride, you should) over where shoes should be put (In your locker or in the garage, not on the kitchen floor); when dishes should be cleaned (When you’re done eating. Period.); who should clean something up (Ideally, the person who made the mess, but whatever– not me. Figure it out.); and, get this one: whether I am allowed/entitled/justified to weigh in on matters that are taking place in my house, but which don’t directly involve me– For instance, whether I’m “allowed” to say who’s turn it is to do the dishes, take the car, etc.– according to said grown kids.

If you’re shaking your head and thinking that I’m a pushover, you don’t have grown children. And, my kids would have you know that I’m much more demanding than “any of their friend’s parents.” That makes a lot of you the pushovers, apparently. If you’re shaking your head and thinking that I don’t have the confidence I should have, to stand my ground and not be sucker punched by grown kids, who aren’t necessarily entitled to be living at home at this stage– well, you’re right; but, again, I’d counter with: you probably don’t have grown children, or you’re a boxer.

images-1 It just isn’t as easy or clear as I thought it would be, when I was raising my three young children. That was tiring: Mommy can I have…; mom can Alison/Max/Mike sleep over; I’m scared/hungry/not tired…; I don’t like that; Mom! Little Man/Principessa/Middle Man called me a jerk/baby/loser/pain; Can I get my ears pierced, a guinea pig, an Xbox36o– Alison/Max/Mike did! etc. I can’t deny it; parenting young children was wonderful, sweet, frustrating, demanding– but above all, it was exhausting. At the time, I resented the “older moms” (read: mothers of older kids) who told me how easy it was with little kids, and how much harder older kids were– that I should enjoy it; it would be over in no time. Now that I’ve been there, done that, I know that this just isn’t true. It is in fact over in no time– “no time” being a long blink, that only feels short, after you’ve refocused your vision. But like marriage, parenting is inherently hard work. If you grow up, decide to get married, and create a family, you need to know that it will be hard work– beginning to end. If it isn’t hard at least sometimes, then I wager you’re missing the boat, or raising a turtle. Turtles are pretty easy.

Raising good human beings shouldn’t be easy; it’s too important.

Do Arianna Huffington's children call her lame?

Do Arianna Huffington’s children call her lame?

That said– and again, having been there, done that, I admit that it would be a bit easier if my own self-esteem wasn’t so chronically weak, and if I wasn’t so willing to pitch my own needs aside when challenged by those I love most. I’ve heard a thousand times that: you’re their parent, not their friend; stand your ground– don’t negotiate with terrorists; be consistent and follow through– Countless excellent parenting gems have crossed my path, but making them work is another story. Self-esteem is my Achilles Heel, and the troupes figured that out a long time ago. They are smart human beings, as well as good ones. I may have come home from BlogHer14 with Arianna Huffington’s words ringing in my ears: “No, is a complete sentence,” but that message is lost in translation with my almost adult kids.

Things have changed enormously since I was walking their path, and I don’t really believe we’re headed in the right direction. When I finished high school, it was clearly understood that the door did not swing back open for anything more than a visit. My peers and I went off to college with the expectation that we would be working in the summers; that we’d get apartments and roommates (a critical first step in navigating the world), and we wouldn’t be moving back in with our parents. Returning home during college was not ideal, but certainly after graduation, it was the walk of shame– and I was determined to not go there. I lived in a few really awful apartments; I had some lousy roommates, as well as some wonderful ones; I ate macaroni and cheese for an entire summer, trying to save money. I worked really hard, but I earned my independence, and I grew up. I did not live with my mother.

Well... if only I'd read this!  ©blogtalkradio.com

Well… if only I’d read this!
©blogtalkradio.com

I’m surrounded by other parents scrambling for cover, just like me, as we negotiate with semi-grown kids, who come home and think their parents are their roommates, and “grown-up” means having survived a year of keg parties. Hey, I left my dirty beer cups and snacks in the lounge at our dorm, what’s the problem with leaving stuff in the sink? What’s wrong with my shoes on the kitchen floor? I’m just going to wear them again, when I’m done doing “stuff.” And the infinitely ambiguous: I will. (When? For the love of all that’s holy, what does that mean?) It’s exhausting! If you’re kids are that minority, who come home and get good jobs, clean up all their stuff, and speak respectfully all the time, then clearly you are entitled to scoff at me. However, I imagine there are a few more parents nodding along right now. But I forget all about these other parents, when I’m fighting my own battles, and I just feel like an isolated failure.

For the record, I didn’t start out the summer feeling deflated. I started with a bold statement that I thought would make things clear:

I’m not your roommate; I’m your landlord!

But, my kids know that I will blink first. They love me, but they also see me through their unique, twenty-something prisms. By their reckoning, I am unreasonable (What does it matter if my shoes sit there a little longer?) and demanding (Please put them away now!). I am clueless and lame. I can’t keep up with their gigabytes; Gap years; texts; plugged in-tuned out attention spans, their technology, and their attitudes–> Clueless. Lame–>Me.  I wanted to raise free-thinking, independent kids, but I want them to do as I say in my house*. I wanted them to explore the world, but my heart fractures when they fall in love (with a person, place or thing) and leave*. I want them to check their expectations at the door, but I run around making their favorite meals and ultimately seeking their approval*. I wither when communication crashes and they say, or suggest with a well-honed look, that I am in fact unreasonable, demanding, clueless and lame, and apparently hypocritical*.

Worse, if we come to verbal blows, the fallout is crushing. As a mother, I may know that my child is actually anxious about big changes and new directions, and that his/her nasty mood and careless words are not directed at me, but stray shots leave me bleeding out. When I feel myself losing the ground I thought I’d won, I lash out with angry words (enter the “key bad words”) and injured statements; they in turn reload and take closer aim, causing wounds much deeper than they know. It’s not their job to know, or their responsibility. I’m the adult here. Right? But that self-esteem issue undermines all of my strength and confidence, and when things get really rough, I inevitably circle the drain.

I drive off in my car; I sit alone and stare at the water. I turn on myself, and withdraw from others. I pick at my own scabs and unearth all of the flaws in me, which I imagine must have led to this moment. I cry.

Oh, to hold onto this feeling!

Oh, to hold onto this feeling!

I don’t remember that others read my writing and respect it. I don’t remember that people I admire have asked me to take leadership roles in their organizations. I don’t remember that I climbed a glacier; I navigated airports, train stations, Viking ruins, foreign cities and countless strangers– I travelled thousands of miles and had endless successful adventures this summer. I forget that I came home from the BlogHer14 conference feeling inspired, capable and empowered. That all dissolves with one dismissive glance, an angry tirade, a strategically placed land mine:  “Mom you’re so unreasonable/lame/clueless.”

I stare at the water, until I rediscover my bearings. Inside, there is a kernel of strength, that helps me bounce back, that helps me staunch the bleeding. I’m not irrevocably damaged or flawed, and somewhere inside I cling to that, and keep working on myself.  “You come from strong stock;” my aunt’s words replay in my head, and help me heal. “Your writing really helped me;” a young, grieving reader’s comment pulls me back to solid ground. “Mom, not many other mothers would go on an adventure like this!” My own son’s matter-of-fact verbal hug shimmers from the corners of my self-destructive mind. I sense a shift, as I lick my wounds and turn away from the sea.

And I begin to reclaim my ground again, and work on myself… some more.

Times have changed. Kids are coming home, and they have some attitude. It’s a different generation, with new challenges and issues to deal with. In many ways it’s harder for them than it was for me and my friends, and in other ways, they have it easier. The economy is tough; a college education doesn’t guarantee a job, and kids return to nests in ways that my generation would not have considered, confident that their parents will welcome them home. It’s not easy, and I’m not alone. I’m not the best mother in the world, but I’m not the worst either. You know kiddos, I may be lame and sometimes clueless, about things you find simple. I may be lame, and clueless, unreasonable and demanding sometimes; I may be all of those things, but you still came out of my vagina– So check your attitudes at the door. My door.

Are you parenting older kids? Are you cruising along, or flailing in the water with me? What has worked, and what doesn’t? I’m not looking for reassurances that I’m a good parent, thanks though. I’ve said it before, this is where I work my shit out. Thanks for riding along.

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If you enjoyed this post, please hit Like and then leave a comment; I love to hear what readers have to say.  Check out Tales From the Motherland’s Facebook page (my goal is 500 likes this year; I have a ways to go!), and Twitter, where I struggle to keep it brief.  If you see ads on this page, please let me know. They shouldn’t be there.  © 2014 Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks.

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Friday Fictioneers: Just Like Those Movies…

friday-fictioneersWelcome to Friday Fictioneers, a weekly 100-word flash fiction challenge with a photo prompt. Rochelle Wisoff-Fields leads our merry band of writers, asking that we do our best work, and make an effort to read and support our fellow Fictioneers. If you’d like to join in, or check out the other stories, visit Rochelle’s blog, Addicted to Purple. This week’s photo comes from Björn Rudberg. And a big thank you to Mr. Rudberg, for reminding me to link up… something I am notoriously bad at! Forgot again this week.

bjc3b6rn-6 Just Like In Those Movies  (102 words)

“When I were little, I dreamt of a differnt life– a handsome prince in a fancy car… Our family took the bus to the market and church; we couldn’t never afford a car. My prince would have a small, sexy one and he’d drive up to our tiny house and whisk me away to his castle on the hill.

And that’s just what Johnny done! His red Pinto was so hot– he didn’t have to ask twice! We’ve lived in our beautiful house on this hill for twenty years now. The road is steep… but life is sweet, just like I dreamt.”

*     *     *

veryinspiring_bloggerawardNote: I’d like to thank Jill at Ripples of Truth for sending the      my way. I told Jill that I don’t really participate in these awards anymore. Too big for my britches? No; I just don’t have the time, and I’ve answered all of the questions that come along with the gig. That said, it’s always an honor and I’m always touched when another blogger recognizes my work, and sends some love. So I’m sending love back to Jill (a pseudonym) at Ripples. She’s a twenty-something year old blogger and “wallflower,” who writes about her life as she tries to make sense of it. She’s studied in the UK, traveled a lot, and she shares her experiences on her blog. Check it out! Thanks Jill!

If you enjoyed this post, please hit Like and then leave a comment; I love to hear what readers have to say.  Check out Tales From the Motherland’s Facebook page (my goal is 500 likes this year; I have a ways to go!), and Twitter, where I struggle to keep it brief.  If you see ads on this page, please let me know. They shouldn’t be there.  © 2014 Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks.

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