Having a child does not make you a parent or your child obligated to involve you in her life.

*This is a draft I wrote a while ago so the comments about the state of the family are likely dated.

I’ll be honest, I have about as much interest in Meghan Markle as I do in scotch tape. I have no ill-will against her and, as a fellow human being, appreciate that she has value and hope she has a good life. Her wedding–which I was forced to wake up at 5am to watch (but that’s another issue for another day; it’s actually kind of sweet)–was beautiful and she seems like a good person who deserves happiness. But she’s just a person baking under an immensely overheated spotlight trying to work through life issues most of us face (imagine trying to deal with some of the most complicated issues in your life with your pants on fire). Those issues, provided no group is being physically hurt or oppressed, are about at much my business as yours. Granted, I am an American and can also appreciate that I don’t entirely understand the sociocultural connection between citizens and their respective royal families. On the other hand, this isn’t an exclusively English issue.

What does really bother me, hence the need to write about it, is this business about her family and both society and the media weighing in on her not involving them in her life. I have all kinds of thoughts about that, not so much her decision, but our confident and intrusive judgment of family issues which, we should know from experience, are more complex than they can be described in words, let alone the words of outside observers.

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Vanity Fair posted these photos of Meghan and her older half-sister (left, from Splash News) and Meghan and Thomas Markle (right, from Coleman-Rayner).

If you don’t know, here’s the situation: Meghan Markle’s parents are unmarried. Her mom was present at her wedding and is clearly involved in her life. Thomas Markle, her father, has proactively drawn attention to their strained relationship by either contacting the press or, when contacted, delving into the family dynamics between Meghan and his side of the family. He was invited to the wedding and then, following some publicity stunts he staged, he was not in attendance. Regardless of his motive, it’s fairly clear he thought it was more important to speak to the press about his frustration’s with his daughter leading up to her wedding than to preserve that sacred time for her, respect her wishes, and resolve to sort it out at a later date.

Children aren’t prisoners to their parents and chained to them even when it is damaging.

I’m not a father so maybe I don’t understand but if somebody doesn’t invite you to their wedding and doesn’t speak with you, what do you think going to the press will do? Get you invited to the wedding? If you get invited you will know you forced your way in, regardless of whether or not you thought you deserved to be there. Get the person to talk to you? Forced conversation is not conversation. Whether intentional or unintentional, involving un-involved and uninformed parties is only going to drag you and your child through the mud, which definitely isn’t going to restore trust or communication.

In spite of the fact that this did not work the first time, he and his other daughter are back to playing the victim and again, trying to either control a situation or get back at somebody during her new marriage and early pregnancy. It’s one thing to be shut out by somebody you love and want to find a way to resolve it. It’s another to do it in a way you know will hurt the person. That shows where your priorities lie and it will be in vain. I’ve been on both sides of this issue, the person shut out and the child who just cannot handle a parent who is dysfunctional or an emotional vampire, and both suck. Meghan Markle has little to gain by not talking to her father. We only get two biological parents. That role can’t be replicated. If somebody doesn’t talk to her parents, it probably is for a good reason for at least that person.

It is incredibly self-centered to think we can judge others’ behavior toward their parents based on our understanding and personal experiences of childhood and parenthood.

Chances are, this is more about self-preservation and parenting a child you chose to have does not make the child beholden to you for life, especially when it is damaging to them. In society we try to mythologize this idea of parenthood and parents as a sacred role. It’s a middle class thing in my opinion. Because anybody who grew up in a dysfunctional and/or lower class family can tell you that family and parents are as gritty and enigmatic as other areas of life. Upon conception, we have no choice who parents us and some parents are really shitty biological donors and/or emotional vampires. An underlying assumption based on this ideal and pedestal some people project–primarily mothers who want to cast this Juno-esque identity of the selfless and gracious mother (in my experience from five minutes on social media)–is not one size fits all. There are parents who are negligent, absent, abusive, the list goes on, and you never know what goes on behind closed doors (unless you’re Madeye Moodie in which case, we need to talk). It’s bad enough to be denied decent parents and that sense of wholeness one might get from it. It’s a double offense to apply this general belief about parent-child relationships to all parents and children and, when a child does not involve the parent accordingly, judge that person’s character. Maybe it is that social media allows us to see more of people’s mindsets but we are so obtuse and egotistical to think we can comment as experts on the family dynamics we don’t see on a firsthand basis. It is incredibly self-centered to think we can judge others’ behavior toward their parents based on our understanding and personal experiences of childhood and parenthood.

 

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This photo by Alastair Grant was posted in a local news article from Amarillo, Texas.

 

It is a parent’s job to help his or her child. That does not mean the child is entitled to everything (I am a strong believer in teaching children responsibility and the need to play a proactive role in their own care) but having people criticize how she accepted her father’s help in her career and is therefore wrong not to speak to him is incredibly shortsighted. If you create something, you are accountable for managing it. If I go get a dog and bring him into my house, choosing him when he has no agency in the matter of who takes him home, it is my job to feed him, let him outside, and teach him how to live in his environment. The same stands for a child. Just because your parent helps you with something, you are not obligated to speak to that parent permanently when, if you choose not to speak to a parent and must have a good reason, it feels wrong. Children aren’t prisoners to their parents and chained to them even when it is damaging.

There are some interesting things Thomas Markle has said that, in my opinion, are questionable and at least shed light on some of the possible reasons for Meghan’s actions . Granted, if you put anybody under a spotlight long enough, that person will say something that can be misconstrued but he is actively seeking the microphone and while these things do not definitely place the blame on him, they at least should make people pause before trying to play “Monday Morning Quarterback” from their couches and weighing in on the flaws of her decisions. Maybe those with simple suggestions on how she should behave in what is clearly a complex issue should take all of the time they have to act as expert judges on this particular parent-child relationships and, at the least, become more informed on the issue and estranged parent-child relationships. If not, their time would be better spent writing Chicken Soup for the Father’s and Daughter’s Souls so at least their willful ignorance is contained in a book that gets forgotten on their nightstands.

*The featured photo came from Paley Suits-26 on Flickr.

Suicidal thoughts, a faulty system, and societal shaming, oh my: why getting help is easier said than done.

I’m sort of proud of this post. It’s a little too close to home for me to be entirely proud but I’m settling for a little proud. I’ve re-posted it before but I’ve been caught up in my life and essentially just trying to hang on as the hot mess express barrels through it so I haven’t been writing. I want to get back to it and thought what better inspiration than a post I really enjoyed writing?

via Suicidal thoughts, a faulty system, and societal shaming, oh my: why getting help is easier said than done.

I stopped writing a bit.

I’m in a new job in a new part of the country and this is literally “Building Atlas” or a master class in building myself. I would really like to write about navigating a new work environment in a new job, responding to transitional challenges, etc. I think I will and have some pieces in the back of my head. Check back for them.

If you’re reading this, I would love to hear how you are doing.

What kind of person cuts off her parents?: an experienced reflection on an article admonishing Meghan Markle to involve her father in her life.

What kind of person cuts off her parents? I ask myself this fairly often. While I had no interest in or emotional connection to the recent royal wedding, or any royal wedding for that matter, the confident, opinionated commentary on the relationship between Meghan Markle and her father has been of particular interest to me. I’ve been intrigued primarily because I’m curious to see how the world perceives her decision and the judgment it hands down. Is she a brave, sensible person who has enough self-confidence and self-respect to do what is emotionally sound for her? Or is she a selfish, cold-hearted spoiled, snobbish individual who is icing out anybody who is of no use to her? Is this occurrence evidence that blood isn’t always thicker than water or is it an example of an inhuman abandonment of the unconditional love and loyalty popular culture associates, and basically prescribes, with family life?

Is she a brave, sensible person who has enough self-confidence and self-respect to do what is emotionally sound for her? Or is she a selfish, cold-hearted spoiled, snobbish individual who is icing out anybody who is of no use to her?

While I do not need the public or media to form an opinion on this, I have been curious to see her handle this very personal and intimate issue in one of the most public spheres in the world. As she tries to merge lives with a royal family and create a new, shared life with another person, she is also trying to negotiate significant familial dysfunction. It’s almost like observing a phenomenon in an experiment which is surprisingly common but placing it under the most stretching and intense conditions. I’ve been curious to see if Meghan has all of the answers to these questions because I’ve yet to form my own.

I should start by saying my personal rule in life is that I cannot make a judgement on anything I do not personally see and hear myself. I can have feelings and opinions about the hypothetical situation presented to me or supposed actions a person is said to have taken, but I am generally reluctant to commit to a harsh judgment or fervent, positive appraisal of a person’s character based on hearsay. Only in extreme cases–where it is blatantly obvious and the festering reality is so thick you couldn’t cut it with a knife and would need a hacksaw (I’m looking at you, Donald Trump and company)–do I move towards a more definitive opinion. Although a very passionate person who sometimes loses check of this value, it keeps me oriented in about eighty percent of situations.

 

Is this occurrence evidence that blood isn’t always thicker than water or is it an example of an inhuman abandonment of the unconditional love and loyalty popular culture associates, and basically prescribes, with family life?

I explain all of that because I believe context is everything and it is so hard to know a context without witnessing it firsthand. Just as victors write history, any description of context is shaped by the intentions, beliefs, and prejudices of the person relaying it. That makes situations like Meghan Markle’s, which people are often all too eager to weigh in on given the domestic nature of the issue, particularly hard to judge. While I may be wrong, I am reluctant to confidently assert Meghan should put family first, do what is natural, and let bygones be bygones–because I know from personal experience that this sort of thing is so disorienting, dysfunctional, complicated, messy, politically fused within a family, that Meghan Markle may not understand the situation or her feelings herself.

So when I was laying in bed, trying to wind down, naturally the most sensible thing I could be doing was reading the news on my phone, (Fox News of all things which hinges forcefully on the emotional). Sometimes their human interest or other stories not trying to convince us the White House isn’t burning down while the hems of their pants and suit jackets begin to smolder from the giant fire behind them (which generally means they are intended to be a distraction), can be thought-provoking. Occasionally, I will see some reason to an article but generally it is abrasive sandpaper preaching close-minded, restrictive and completely unrealistic social norms to a willing choir and calling them “family values.”

Clearly I have a lot to say on this topic so I’m going to break it into two posts. That way it’s more digestible. Some of the questions I’m working through are personally relevant to anybody who has biological family (so all of us) and I hope you stick around to read it and tell me what you think. I’ll post the other half by Friday 6pm Eastern Standard Time (EST, United States).

In the meantime, and before I tell you what I think, I encourage you to read the article: Meghan Markle is ‘playing a dangerous game’ with dad Thomas, royal biographer says.

I’d also love to hear what you think about situations like this. If you have thoughts, please let me know!

 

Holy Hell.

I got my dream job and move in a month. This is like one of those dreams where it’s July but you dream it’s the first day of school and you somehow ended up there but you’re late, the only one who hasn’t done a huge project, and trying to bide time until you can figure out how you got there and what the hell happened in the last few hours/days/months that jumped you from one part of your life to an entirely unfamiliar part.

I’m excited but because I am so caught off-guard, it seems too good to be true. I just feel like it’s like I felt in college or high school a few times when I walked into class one day feeling really good and satisfied with how on top of things I was, how much time I had to finish a project after pacing myself well and taking it seriously, only to find out that it was a false sense of confidence because the reason I wasn’t overwhelmed was I didn’t realize there was a project worth 40 percent of my grade due at midnight.

Kind of like that.

White men scare the shit out of me.

I’m sorry to have such a loaded title. But it’s the honest title and I feel like it wrote me if anything. To any white men, I’m sorry if this offends you. I suppose it’s fair for you to be offended.

I live with a wonderful, kind, 6″3′ tall, white man and he is, if anything, living proof that my sudden and abrupt fear of certain white men isn’t the most rational thing about me (although, statistically, it has some grounding given the over-proportionate cases of violence, specifically mass violence, committed by white men between 17-55). As a white woman, my saying this, even from my own perspective, is a little too “trying to deny my privilege by separating myself from it.” But here I am, shaking, with as much lactic acid in my calves as when I played intense sports. A subtle but insidious tremor running through my muscles like adrenaline disguised as electricity. Random jolts jump-start my muscles and, like a reflex bump to the knee, I flinch as if I’m about to stand up only to realize how silly that is and, although alone, feel embarrassed and sink reluctantly back in my seat. And this is just a recollection of a response to an episode, not even the effect the situation itself had on me (the one I am about to describe).

Sitting at the tiny table in a crowded restaurant, I memorize the pattern of the wood grain on the table while trying to tune out all of the stimuli I have picked up, the seemingly innocent environmental factors which only I would notice and consider screaming flags of warning. I don’t think I could put two words together out loud but given that my hands are itching to shake and pick at something, tear a napkin or something apart before it tears at me. And out of nowhere. I feel about as embarrassed as I felt as a kid, maybe nine or ten, when I went to haunted houses and couldn’t do it. I’ve made a fool out of myself, yet again, primarily to myself.

And in spite of how many times this has happened, I go through the same routine all over again as if it is the first time I misread a situation. Like a few years ago when I went to this haunted orchard where you go in many different haunted houses and a haunted hayride, all the while scary shit casually walks around the orchard too–and I gritted my teeth, grinding them together and locking my jaw so hard I thought it would snap, pressing the tops of my bottom front teeth forcefully and intently against the backs of my top front teeth.

I got through most of it. Until we tried to go through the haunted asylum which was too much for me, too close to home. They sat us in a doctor’s waiting room with a mirror where the actors on the outside could see us and beat on the walls as blood red words showed up. The nurse asked for volunteers to go first and be the first patient this quack sadist doctor was supposed to see, and I would assume experiment on like they did back when anybody who didn’t look like they walked out of Stepford or Pleasantville was sent to an asylum for lobotomies and to get needles stuck through their brains. Naturally nobody volunteered and she pressured me to do it. I sat down on the bench while we waited for the doctor to see us, wincing as if the wall behind me might lift and somebody grab me forcefully and slamming my feet to the floor as if preparing to resist being dragged forward. When she opened the dark door and I could hear joyous screaming as they waited for me to walk through, those same muscles in my calves slammed their feet to the floor like a driver breaking to stop a gruesome accident. And I said I couldn’t. She paused and finally she said okay and opened the door and my ex, who was my ex at the time, left with me. The tool bouncer announced to an entire waiting line about 50 yards long calling us chicken liver or something and how nobody chickens out of a haunted house and holds things up when other people were waiting to go in. He shouted to the crowd that we wasted spots in a group and that meant they waited longer. I was too pinned up, locked inside my own body and all the chemicals flashing through it but I know the part of me that was processing the shame had never wanted to bury her boot through somebody’s scrotum so badly. But that version of me, the one who can do anything but shrink into a dark corner, was a stranger to me at the time, almost a so unfamiliar to me I would have said I had never met her.

I have PTSD. But somehow I have the awfully lucky PTSD in the respect it’s like those doctor’s bills when you go to the emergency room in July because you’re sick with something that, a year later when you get the bill, seems silly. I can’t point to a moment, a week, a year that caused it. I can’t say exactly who but I have an idea. I grew up in a home where I can remember seeing violence for the first time at age 4 and the last time I experienced it to a degree I didn’t know if I was getting out of the situation in tact, I was a senior in college at 22. And at least once to a hundred times every year since then depending on if I was in college or not. All white men. And while I know it’s “#notallwhitemen” it has been all white men in these situations and, when you can’t be sure you are safe with people who are supposed to care for you and protect you, you form the rigid, subconscious instinct that you can’t trust strangers who fit the same description. After all, wouldn’t you guess, if you had to, that between a man related to you and a man you don’t know, the former is less likely to be able to do something to hurt you?

I don’t like it when anybody has their hands in their pockets but white men, especially if they look like the type who could be frustrated, lonely, and feel like the world cheated them, scare me. I always feel badly when I’m walking down a dark street at night and I cross it when I hear footsteps, especially those heavier or that thud differently like a man walking with his hips and stomach forward, leisurely, not hurried or self-conscious and measured like the cadences of most women’s walks. I feel bad because before I turn my head, I start looking for an escape route. And when I dare look over my shoulder and see a black man, I almost feel sorrow or remorse because I know from my male friends who are black, especially those who are bigger, they are really self-aware around white women and they’ve said it makes them feel badly or frustrated or hurt or degraded, or accused of terrible things. But I am really mindful of the fact that black men in this country have to be more careful, especially around white women because they could get shot for calling the cops, much less what might happen should somebody jump to conclusions. I try to make sure when I see black men out that I make eye contact and say hello, that I clearly am not afraid of them. And I know some white people do clutch their purses harder and there is something true in there. But truth is, I look up and see a black man, and as badly as I feel because I’m making unfair assumptions about white men in this moment, I look up and see a black man and relax.

While this might sound manufactured, think about it this way. If there are ten solo cups in front of you, six red and four blue, and you are told to drink all ten. Five of the six red cups make you violently ill. While you know it isn’t all red cups, if you come back a year later to the same experiment with red, yellow, blue, green, orange, etc. cups in front of you and you are told to drink half, would you go straight for the red cups?

It’s because of experience. The people who have repeatedly hurt me and threatened me the most have been white men. And the men that spook me half the time, almost all the time, don’t deserve my fear. But in my world, frustrated white men without jobs or frustrated white men with blue collar jobs who are told off by their middle class foreman all day, or some other boss, they come home drunk, tossing beers in their truck beds on the way, passing out in the garage when your mom locks them out, then come roaring alive when they wake up and stumble inside, picking a fight tin he middle of the night and before you know it, you’re in your closet, pressed as far into the dark corner as you can be and as hard into the wall as possible, scrunching up your toes and sucking in your breath to keep every piece of you in the shadow in the hopes that if that door is opened and somebody calls your name, and if they happen to open your closet door because everybody knows you hide, maybe the light won’t bounce off your toe nails.

It’s like when you shoot a toy cap gun and it kicks back a little, making pop, pop, pop noises that pierce the air. I’m the cap gun. And my bloodstream is the chamber. Except it’s jolts of fear, alternating between stunning and shocking me. Am I going to freeze? Do I try not to move and not create the very situation I fear? I do what you might do if you were bracing yourself for an expected hit. I freeze and drop all other thoughts and concerns for the sole and consuming, very demanding task of running a cross-assessment between my risks, resources, vulnerabilities, and options trying to determine as quickly as possible whether I should make myself as small and unnoticeable as possible, make myself as distant and unreachable as possible, or blow up and take up more space to ward off a less serious threat. I do this every single time I walk into a room. And when it gets too much, especially when I can’t stop it even around a person I trust more than anybody in the world who is living proof that I don’t always have to be afraid, I lock myself in the bathroom and try not to breathe, lest I be heard, and push my forehead into the cold, blue tile or wall of the tub. It doesn’t go away and every time a man walks by me, familiar or unfamiliar, I simultaneously experience the shame and immense guilt of making an unfounded and ridiculous accusation that, to me, feels like a dire warning.

It is redundant and harrowing every single time.

Afraid of the dark. (Relevant Re-post about Reluctantly Emerging from Depressive Episodes)

I’m feeling better. This is the moment that always scares me because it is in such close proximity to when I have felt my worst and I can still taste that bitterness and feel how it makes my mouth water as if I’m going to vomit so violently I can feel my stomach spasm. I’m […]

via Afraid of the dark. — There Ain’t No Atlas.

It’s been a while.

If I still have any followers, hello! If not, well I get it and we all move on with our lives.

I kind of went MIA in October and I tend to do that, have big goals and just disappear when things pile up. I relentlessly criticize myself at a normal base level but it increases when I don’t meet the high expectations I set for myself. This validates the things I already feel about myself and I consider myself a failure and just close myself off. It’s kind of like when you have a fort and it is invaded by people seeking to do damage, except I am that person and to protect myself from any vulnerability to the impulsive or unintended choices of those outside of the fort walls, I close the gate and trap the worst offender in, accepting there will be a max level of damage I can do to myself.

Screwed up. I know. I’m all kinds of screwed up and I’ve been working on that for a long time. I’m not sure if that is a reflection of how ineffectual I am at becoming a functional human being or how screwed up I was at the beginning of the process.

Anyways, when I am not doing so well on a psychological level, one of the most damaging but, ironically, also protective measures I automatically kick into gear is a set of cold, silver (as I see them), heavy metal walls that drop with a deafening and absolute thud. Nothing is getting through but I’m also not getting out. Sometimes this goes so far that I struggle to force myself to respond to my surroundings, such as acknowledging people speaking to me. In my experience, that can become tense, which slips into a heated conversation and, before you know it, it’s volatile and I have more damage to account for than if I had quit while ahead.

Your basic mal-adaptive behavior. Anyways, I’m a little better. And like every time, hoping this is the time that I manage to put protections in place to prevent doing this to myself to this extent again. And knowing that will probably be futile despite my stubborn will at present. I just never seem to be stronger than the forces of depression, PTSD, and all of the ghosts of memories crawling along my skin.