Tag: growing up

In Which Saponification is as Magical as Dragons

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(I’m 14 years old here. In my gold lame jacket and feeling very ABC)

There are so many sentiments a large enough percentage of my peers share with each other that I don’t that I inevitably feel like I’m looking into their lives from a dark shadow in the shrubbery outside with my night-vision goggles on. When I talk about these things I don’t understand, I can feel peers feeling either pity for me or judgement from me. There is cause for neither. But there’s no question I am uncomfortable in the world I live in and always have been.

These things scratch at my brain like tree branches in a wild storm. It hurts, but not in a way I can ever adequately describe. I don’t want to be like everyone else, I want them to see like ME. There are a number of things that make me feel painfully otherly.

One the the most recurring themes is the penchant adults have for worshiping what they see as the innocence and magic of childhood. I used to think people worshiped childhood because they had great childhoods full of wonders and things mine wasn’t filled with. I believed that only people who were allowed to fully be children could be nostalgic for childhood. That people like me who had never really been allowed to have a childhood free of responsibility and grim reality were the only ones who couldn’t understand the cult of youth. But then I noticed that people with equally difficult and responsibility laden childhoods often worshiped this ideal of youth they’d never experienced for themselves and I reasoned that it was because they were longing for a thing denied them. But tonight I saw a little further into the living room window of the myth of the magical childhood:

That free-wheeling tree-climbing smug club of superior living and supposedly free thinking and dreaming that adults abandon in order to follow rules, lose all magic, and  pretty much die. Apparently.

I’ve got such messy thoughts about all of this. Thoughts that may not make a lot of sense. Thoughts I haven’t vetted for cleverness or approval.

The first is that you don’t lose anything with adulthood that you aren’t tacitly in agreement with losing. If you feel less magic in the world because you started taking on responsibility then it’s your laziness or willfulness that has let magic go.

(I say this as a person who doesn’t believe in fairies or dragons but who believes absolutely in the everyday magic of natural science as well as inexplicable beauty and wonderful weirdness)

You only lose in adulthood what you are complicit in losing. If you lose your sense of wonder then you didn’t have that much wonder to begin with or you didn’t value it enough to hold onto it as you grew. Can’t have been that great if you let it go with the onset of adult ambitions and responsibility.

I just said the same thing twice because I think that first thing is possibly the ONLY important thing.

People talk about innocence. I never had that. Sure, I was a virgin until I was 17 years old. If that’s what you mean by “innocence” then Lord have mercy on all you people. I knew all about sex and what it looks like in reality and what it actually MEANS when I was – I can’t remember a time I didn’t understand about sex. If by innocence you mean that you weren’t aware of the real horrors in this world – you’re fucking fooling yourself. Children are super aware of the horrors of the world, they are sensitive to it in ways adults become immune by exposure. That’s why they see monsters everywhere. THERE ARE MONSTERS EVERYWHERE. They just don’t know the specifics yet of the very real danger they’re sensing so they come up with creative explanations for it. But in the end it’s not cute or quaint, that childhood explanation for horrors they feel but can’t name with newspaper headlines. Adults just want to believe that kids don’t know shit.

Let me tell you, I know kids. Yes, me, the person who doesn’t treasure the thought of spending any time I don’t have to with children, I UNDERSTAND CHILDREN. We get each other. Sometimes I think it’s because I must have never stopped being a child in some way. But the truth is that children aren’t innocent magical beings full of endless joy and love. They live a confusing existence in which they know EVERYTHING by instinct but don’t have the words for any of it yet. If you talk to kids like they’re adults they still GET YOU. In fact, I swear they love you and cling to you for talking to them like they’re simply other humans instead of precious vessels of adult wishful dreaming. I’m not making this shit up. Call me a kid savant. Whatever. I will never seek out the company of children because I’m not interested in watching my language or trying to preserve their parents misguided desire to perpetuate beliefs in ridiculous and often creepy crap like Santa Claus when there’s so much real cool stuff to celebrate like the existence of such things as platypuses.

Kids love me. They always have. Because I don’t keep up weird pretenses with them. They’re sharp humans with just as much of a capacity for suffering and love as adults but with fewer experiences and words to help them articulate their feelings. It’s fucking frustrating.

My son has had a loving and somewhat sheltered childhood with no abuse and he is just like me. He’s never had a moment’s innocence. I tried protecting him from harsh reality and thoughts but he already knew about kidnapping and sex and murder and death and suicide by the time he was 3. These are things I tried so hard to shelter him from because I was so unsheltered as a kid but he taught me that some of us, if not most of us, are born knowing most things on a primal level.

I hear so many adults talk like being an adult kills their sense of wonderment and imagination. A dear friend was talking about this tonight and, as usual, it brought up such a visceral sense of disconnect for me. That I’m alien to this experience and thinking. I have exactly the same amount of imagination now as I did when I was a child. I have exactly the same amount of curiosity and sense of wonderment at things now as I did as a kid. In fact, I believe it has become greater, sharper, and richer as I’ve aged. Knowing MORE, learning MORE, and experiencing MORE has increased my sense of excitement and wonder. I have an incredibly curious mind that is constantly exploring ideas, thinking up the most ridiculous and/or creepy questions and thoughts. The more I know, the more questions I have, the more I want to know and explore.

When I was a child I was hindered by a sense of powerlessness and the darkness of my life got in the way of this supposed freedom others experience in childhood. But as I was emancipated from my parents and I began to meet the world on my own terms I was also free to explore it in earnest. I was free to think thoughts I was too afraid to think when I was young. I was free to do with myself as I pleased and that agency allowed so much more power and creativity in my viewpoints and my experiences than I ever had as a kid or a teen.

As a mentally ill person I am frequently grappling an appalling darkness in my own body and mind but even this cannot shake my innate curiosity and enjoyment of exploration of thought and the world. I am freer than children. I am freer than adults who are nostalgic for childhood.

There is nothing you let go of as you reach adulthood that you aren’t complicit in letting go of from your childhood. If you’re not feeling more free as an adult than you did as a child then it’s you who are setting yourself limits on what you can achieve and do and think and imagine. The one thing that responsibilities like having a family and a job do is limit your time. That might make free-thinking and creativity harder to harness (understandably so!) but that’s a function of the choices you make as an adult and not the fundamental limitations of age.

My mind is completely free. I can’t share half of it out loud because the world, and YOU, can’t handle it. But there is no thought I’m unwilling to explore. No impossibilities. I see magic in the ordinary and I believe that if you can’t see magic in the ordinary then all the things you think you miss and love about childhood have already been wasted on you.

 

I Fired My Biological Father

I don’t hate Jews.

I don’t hate Muslims.

I don’t hate Christians.

I felt I should make that clear in case anyone was confused about it.

I had to fire my biological father today.

He and I don’t agree with each other about politics or religion or world events.  He thinks I’m always wrong because I don’t agree with him.  He thinks I never read about or research world events (particularly the events that take place in the Middle East where he lives).  He only comments on my blog to tell me in a condescending way how many ways I’m misguided.  He does compliment me once in a while on my writing but it is always delivered with a little chastisement or a barb.

He thinks I hate Jews because I have said that the Jews are oppressing the Palestinians in Israel and I have pointed out the irony of a people who went through one of the world’s worst ethnic cleansings only to turn around and take over Palestine and eventually  manage to push huge numbers of Palestinians out of homes they owned into segregated portions of the city.  I think that’s wrong and I would expect better of a people who just went through the holocaust.  It has always struck me as an example of how humans don’t really learn anything from their trials by fire.

I don’t hate Jews.  I hate oppression wherever I see it exists.  I have done my research and I’m not stupid.  Every group of people on earth has taken turns being oppressed and being the oppressor.  No country is clean of this.  The majority of religions have a hell of a lot of blood on their hands.  Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus alike.  None of them can claim to be superior to the others based on their track record of violence.

My father is a racist.  He hates Muslims.  Perhaps he means to only hate the extremists in the Taliban but his hand is sweeping when he points out their widespread evil.  I think that living in Israel for over 30 years has not been good for him.  It has made his views and his mind brittle with hateful beliefs.

When I visited him the most shocking thing that happened – that seared itself in my mind forevermore – was listening to a Jewish lady originally from Chicago say “All Palestinians should be shot.”

A Jew.  A Jew talking race extermination.  You see how the holocaust image came to mind?  The sheer mind-fuck of someone who doesn’t see that they have become the very evil that tried to snuff them out?  How does any Jew live with themselves thinking such thoughts?  I couldn’t talk to her.  I couldn’t look at her.  I could barely stand to be in the same room with her.  I went and smoked ten cigarettes and tried to un-hear those hateful words from someone who used to be a citizen of the United States.

When I told my mother about cutting ties with my father because he’s always such an asshole to me and mentioned his bigoted comments that only get more bigoted over the years she gave me a surprising piece of information.  She said that when she was married to him him he was anti-Semitic.  He believed in the conspiracy theory that Jews own all the banks and are trying to rule the world through them.  I think if he’s reading this he’ll become apoplectic with rage that she could be so wrong (like she always is, like I always am) and would itch to deny it and say more mean shit.*

My biological father is not Jewish.  In case you didn’t know.  His biological father was a Polish Jewish soldier but he was raised by his Norwegian mother and his Christian Canadian step-father.  All his in-laws are Jewish now and his last name is Jewish but he’s never in his life been a practicing Jew.  My step dad on the other hand is Jewish and though I was raised more Hippie than anything else – I grew up celebrating both major Christian and major Jewish holidays.

I am going to share with you this passage, this last communication he has made to me (you can read it in the comments on the post “Newtown Massacre” – this isn’t something he said privately to me – this is the comment he left on my blog publicly):

You brought up the Mid East by throwing Iraqi civilians and Muslims into your soup! But is it any wonder that Americans treat their Muslims like “potential terrorists?” when 95% of these acts have been commited by Islamists (Muslim extremeists)? And it would’nt surprise me that your home grown variety were inspired by these jihadists as well!
As to INSULTS…probably your biggest barb was comparing the holocaust to the Palestinians. Haven’t you figured out yet that the last thing the Muslim world wants is peace between Israel and her neighbors?…It’s their trump card for our final eradication–and you fell for it! So who’s the bigot now?
And since you refuse to study your history, or even read the tiny list of books I recommended–which aren’t from a Jewish perspective unless you include the Koran as Mohamed’s take on the Torah–my only solution for you is to drop you and your dog into a Taliban village, where women and dogs aren’t even 2nd class citizens…but no class citizens! It will lend perspective to your endless tirade against America–and also Israel, which is, in fact, the only “rose up the ASSHOLE OF THE WORLD” (the Middle East).
Be well! and after your sojourn with the Islamists,I’ll be expecting a contrite appology to your fellow Americans as well as all the Jewish people…Till then, GOODBYE!

I don’t hate my fellow citizens.  In case anyone mistook my criticism of my country for hate.  I am anti-war.  I am anti-ALL-wars.  There is no justifiable reason on earth to start a war.  I can just barely allow it to be justifiable to join a war to help an ally.  It’s not that I don’t want to fight oppression or genocide – it’s just that my conscience says that bombing people and shooting people is always wrong and Mahatma already showed us how to fight oppression without violence.  There’s precedence.

So I’m anti war and I hate the political views of the Christian conservative right in my country.   But I work daily not to hate the people who have those views.

I have never had a comfortable relationship with my father.  He left my life when I was two.  He divorced my mom and married and Israeli woman and moved to Israel and left me to live my life as I may without his presence.  He also refused to acknowledge that my brother is his son even though my brother looks more like him than I do.  I took that harder than I took his abandonment of me.  It mattered more to my brother to be acknowledged by our father than it was to me and I love my brother and one of my deepest regrets was my inability to protect him when he was small because I was small too.  We are not the only children our father left in the dust.  He had a son with the first Israeli woman he married.  They divorced and he and his son became disconnected.  He married another (lovely) Israeli woman and had another son.  My youngest half brother is the only child my father has raised out of four of us.  I have been trying to be okay with this for much too long.

No one likes being rejected by their biological parents.  There’s something so ugly feeling about having them find you not good enough to stick around for.  Even now when I know I would not have been better off being raised by my biological father – it stings to have not mattered to him enough to remain a part of my life when he and my mom divorced.  He visited me once when I was eleven years old but he insulted both my mom and my step-dad so much and completely ignored my brother that it was a bitter memory.

After visiting him in Israel when I was 26 years old and having a huge blow out fight during which he said hateful things I decided I was going to sever our ties and I believe I wrote him and told him so.  It’s hard to say if I ever sent it or not.  I was also having to send my racist asshole grandfather** a letter to tell him off for his treatment of my mother.  It was a doozy of a time.  A real fucking festival of family fun.  That’s when I knew I could never bring children into the world.

I’m struggling with this tonight.  I’m angry that he has the power to hurt me after all these years.

He crossed a line today that I would never cross with my child.

It was clear when we reconnected when I was twenty one years old that for my father I was not a real person, I was a fantasy daughter.  I was an angel.  I tried to show him that I’m flesh and blood and nothing like he dreamt I’d be.  Planting seed and then leaving your work unfinished is not going to result in a mirror image of yourself.  I carry the imprint of his genetic makeup.  That is all.  Something made me hang onto the connection in spite of his obvious delusions.  In spite of the fact that early on I could see that the reality of me was going to continually rub violently against his fantasy daughter.  Your daughter can be anything you want her to be if you leave when she’s still a baby.  You can give her any attributes, any characteristics, any talents you want her to have and you can imbue her with all of your own opinions.

My biological father doesn’t like me.  My biological father doesn’t love me.

So I’ve fired him.

Growing up with my step-dad was really hard but tonight I want to say out loud that my step dad has been my only dad for 36 years.  He fucked up royally parenting young kids.  That’s the truth.  The divorce between him and my mom was brutal.  But he has stayed in my life.  He’s been there for me so many times when my mom was checked out.  He stayed the course with me even when I was being a shit, even when I was angry with him about the past, he didn’t walk away.  He never walked away from me.  It used to matter to me that he never officially adopted me and  it used to hurt so much that he didn’t want me living with him when my parents divorced and that after the divorce he never once took me on vacation with him and my sister.

But tonight I can let go of all of that because it’s much more important to me that my dad has never wished something horrible would happen to me to teach me a lesson.  More important than anything else to me is to know that my dad LIKES me.  More than that – I know he loves me.  Even when I develop a phone phobia and also get too poor to call him for two years.  He’s still there when I reach out.  He still reaches out to me.

My dad loves me.  It’s not something I ever have to question.  Whatever pain we share from the past we also share so much enjoyment.  He has been there for 36 years, part of my life.  Fucking warts and all.  I’m no fantasy daughter to my dad – I’m the pain in the ass reality sandwich all kids are – but one he still likes to hang out with and one he manages to  be proud of even when I’m stumbling through life barely hanging on.

I love my dad.  I also really LIKE him.  I like spending time with him.  I love his laughter and his candor and his love of music and birds.

So this is where I’m landing tonight – in a place of gratefulness.  I can’t promise there won’t be more posts about this.  It’s a weighty matter I’ve been carrying on my shoulders for over 20 years.

Please be patient with my process of exorcising ghosts.

I’ll find my way.

I always do.

*If he tries I will block him from commenting on this blog.  I haven’t yet because I’d like to believe that he’ll respect my request not to read this blog or comment here anymore as a last favor in our relationship of no favors.
**He really was horribly racist and he really was a horrible asshole much of them time but I did love him.  I saw good things in him and he told great stories and there are memories of him that I will treasure forever.  But I will never be able to scour his words about black people from my brain and I don’t thank him for that.