Small town trash…

Trash. It’s what I was called growing up in a tiny town full of judgmental folks who, as it turns out, were just better at hiding their own dirty laundry than my dysfunctional family was. Everyone had their secrets, their failures, their shame inducing moments. This is going to be about just that; the purposeful degradation of others in order to hide or deflect our own personal foibles, if you will.

I’m going in deep so hang on to your hats!

When I was around 8 years old we moved from the state I was born in to a much more rural area in another state. I don’t see any sense in naming this town or state because it’s the people who created the atmosphere of gossipy backstabbing and constant belittlement not the locale. And, it was these people who made living in this small town feel “not quite right” for me. Well, they shared in it, but weren’t the sole reason. We weren’t a healthy family unit to begin with and I’m certain they could sense it, like hungry sharks can sense chum churning in the ocean just waiting for a chance to gobble it up!

They circled our inner turmoil with delight and picked and picked and picked until all of our previous wounds burst open again. It’s hard to recover when there is always another predator waiting in the shadows to partake in the bountiful bucket of YUCK that was our family. And, yes we’ve all heard the saying that only hurt people hurt people and that was true in our case but, it still felt very personal and very vindictive. Was it just my imagination? Was I overthinking the situation? Maybe, but these “hurt people” seemed to enjoy the heaping of scorn and the stabbing of backs and the not so whispered gossip that was clearly intended to get back to us. “Oh, you heard that? I was just kidding. Don’t be so sensitive!”

The utter misfortune of moving from one emotionally precarious situation to another, and then another and then another was a big part of my childhood. My family moved around a lot and I recall going to kindergarten in two different states before being moved further south a year later. Multiple different houses, different towns, moving one state over and then back to where I was born, only to up and move on to another state entirely. No wonder I never felt like I belonged anywhere. To this day, if asked where I grew up, I’m not sure what to say. Do you mean the place I’ve lived the longest or the place I learned adults can be very cruel and they can’t be trusted when they say, “this is for your own good”?

My very first encounter with the local folks came not long after we arrived. It started with a sneering look cast my way by a woman at the church my father chose for us. He chose many different churches but this one seemed to fit the bill for him in that it looked the other way on the issues of domestic violence and child abuse, two things the man didn’t believe existed so it was a virtual match made in hell for us. We were told we had to attend every time their doors were open, no matter what and if we were caught misbehaving then a beating, physical or verbal, would await us at home. Every Sunday and Wednesday were met with deep dread and even our summers became consumed with church camp, when some of the good church folk took pity on me and paid my way, or “vacation” bible school. If all of our time was eaten up by talk of sinning and how God would punish us then there wouldn’t be anytime for fun! Fun is for the rich and church was for people like us, I was told. A training ground to prepare for our “great reward” which, I quickly found wasn’t so great and involved more punishment than actual reward.

So, back to this sneering woman; I recall her face very vividly, her gaze of searing judgment, the pursed lips, the perfectly coifed hair and stylish clothes. She was looking at me as if I were a steaming bag of garbage she didn’t want obstructing her rose-colored view and her crinkled nose indicated she feared breathing the air around me. I could never compare to the utter angels she birthed so I was dismissed as being beneath her and those perfect offspring. At that point I knew I would never be friends with any of the other children in that church. Oh, we would talk and pretend to get along but I wouldn’t be invited for sleepovers or birthday parties. I wasn’t one of them and I would never be good enough. So much for those loudly proclaimed Christian values and ideals. They only applied to those of a certain socio-economic standing, those born into the correct families and not interlopers who dared cross the tracks into their fair town, filled with idyllic 1950’s, all-white, male dominated nostalgia. You know, from the GOOD OLD DAYS!

And, who exactly were they GOOD for again? Not me. Not my female family members who were subjected to the bible-backed adage that “boys will be boys”, men are in charge and women have no say, no power, no worth. In looking back, everything added up to a pretty bleak outcome for those labeled meek and female. As for myself, I was far from meek. In fact, I had a hard time keeping my mouth shut, especially in situations where I knew something wasn’t right. It didn’t matter if it was the brother of a friend, the son of another church member, a male teacher or even a male member of my own family. If I felt I was being treated unfairly or expected to quietly endure personal insults, I would try to get at least a few words in before being shut down by withering castigations or, in the case of my father, a fist. It was worth it though. I knew they would never be right.

Of course, as with any tale of woe involving tiny towns with emotionally stunted, petty people there are always the “exceptions to the perception” and I have the great pleasure of still being in contact with a few of those gems. No clan mentality for them, no strict adherence to small town pride and being loyal to your own kind. Own kind? Was it just the color of skin or how and who they prayed to? No, that wasn’t it completely because they made a few, on the surface, accommodations for the very few minorities in town but, I would suspect that if they had been poor their happy song of inclusion would have sounded much different. Just a hunch. Was it the similarity in size of their bank accounts? Again, not entirely because sometimes the HAVES extended a hand to a few who didn’t HAVE AS MUCH but, the cavate was looks. As in, “she’s pretty so we’ll let her on the team”, until they used her up, tore her down and then trashed her reputation that is. No, it seemed the kind they were referencing was more of a homogenized jug of lukewarm milk, devoid of any flavor, culture, imagination, humility, empathy or compassion. Just straight hatefulness chased with a side of bitter vindictive spite. Followers, the whole lot of them. Stuck in a box labeled NEVER CHANGE-NEVER PROGRESS.

I was neither jealous of the small town ruling class nor did I feel sorry for those still stuck there after getting married young, divorced, remarried, and then divorced again. Despite the assumptions that may be made about what I am describing here, I simply wanted out, I never wanted to be them. I had no desire to take their spot on top of the dog-eat-dog heap and while I may not have gotten as far away as I wanted, in my heart I know I’m insulated from any reprisals. Let them come though, if they want. I’m ready, as always. And, that’s the thing, I actually was pretty adept at dealing with judgement and criticism because I faced it daily in my childhood.

Yes, the insults they reserved for me; troublemaker, thief, white-trash, dirt poor, stuck-up, whatever made-up nonsense that came to their narrow little minds, stung and made me want to lash out. But, I bided my time instead. I smirked at their attempts to put me in the low place they felt I belonged, laughed out loud and kept on moving. It was my defense mechanism and I think that might have pissed off more than a few. I know that many in that town readily described my father as a know-it-all asshole so, maybe I should thank him for that? He did teach me how to really agitate the feudal class of that rural fiefdom. The only difference is that I made sure my “knowledge” was accurate rather than the unsubstantiated bloviated ramblings of arrogance. That man possessed enough hot air to power a dirigible all the way to Australia and back! Ask around, I’m not exaggerating.

Anyway, here we are at a point in time when we are no longer as young as we used to be and yet, not as old as we could be or, as Paul Simon would say:

Now the years are rolling by me—
They are rockin’ evenly.
I am older than I once was,
And younger than I’ll be.

“The Boxer”
(1969) Simon & Garfunkel

I have moved on from my childhood but, many from my youth have not and they remain trapped. Some have passed away entirely too young, having lived their lives on the edge, either by way of drugs and alcohol or they suffered the potential physical ramifications that go along with following such a dark path. Some fought debilitating health issues bravely only to have those diseases win. And then there are others who ventured out and traveled well beyond the borders of town, state and country. These wonderful few have experienced the immense joy and satisfaction that comes from living in the moment rather than wallowing in the shadows of the past. I see all of their purported moments of happiness on social media, some may be exaggerated, that I know, but for the most part I can tell which have grown up and which have stagnated.

To even think that life was better back then is so ridiculous to me because finally letting go of caring what others thought has been the healthiest aspect of my adult life. It took me a long time but, I’m now at peace and all of the hurtful interactions get lumped into a category of petty things insecure people did that no longer matter. None of those early negative influences have any power over me now. Not the woman from my parent’s church, not the parents of one of my former friend’s who regularly called me and my family those people because we weren’t from there and were poor. Not the big-eyed, red-headed little girl who actually did invite me over for sleepovers for a while only to drop me like a scalding rock as soon as the connected and popular girls started taking notice of her. It always started out good, let’s be friends forever…but only until someone better comes along. She was new to town just like I had been a few years before but her desire to status climb was greater than mine so I couldn’t keep up.

Many years later I received a Facebook friend request from her. Our first conversation involved her apologizing to me for spitting water in my face on the last day of school when we were in 8th grade. I had forgotten all about it until she brought it up but then I started really thinking about it. I wanted to ask if she did it because she knew she could get away with doing something potentially humiliating to someone like me who was unseen, poor and unpopular or did she do it simply because that was her true nature? To be cruel simply to gain additional clout with the popular girls?

I accepted her friend request and we commented back and forth on pictures and posts for a while but then, after she scoured my connections for the people she really wanted to reconnect with I was unfriended, again. Thinking this was simply a mistake, because we were now adults, I reached out and sent a new friend request myself. We repeated the same pattern as before, commented here and there and then I was banished yet again! I finally got the answer to my earlier question. I won’t be sending another request.

Nope!

Some things, and people never change but I have changed a great deal, with the help of a lot of hard, personal introspection and therapy. I own that and will announce it every chance I get. I remain a considerate person, a good friend for those who need one but also a determined woman who refuses to diminish her enthusiasm and passion for certain causes in order to keep from ruffling the feathers of the unchanging throng. That may be where my past and present collided but, I can’t turn my volume down and I shouldn’t have to. Having something so banal and juvenile happen as an adult, like being deleted as a “friend” on social media just makes me scratch my head, express a momentary feeling of annoyance but then keep on moving forward.

I will still wonder about her from time to time though. Is she really happy? Do her comments on mutual friends posts really ring true? I wish her well and hold no grudge because, after all, we don’t really know one another. We are grown women who have been apart for over 30 years. That’s a whole character on Friends, or like a 1991 Honda Accord, big red bow attached, as a present for completing college on-time. In other words, and aside from my clumsy attempt at humor over how old we are…it was a lifetime ago. The cuteness has faded and the power steering no longer works.

And, isn’t the real point here to not respond at all? To not waste precious time? That small town and the small-minded people in it, connected to it and, impacted by the experience of having lived there are all just a small drop in the larger ocean that is the world. It’s okay for me to let them think they have bested me because I know otherwise and can just smile and nod should I ever see them again. Or not, it won’t change a thing for me or them. No engagement, no catching up because I already know where they are and what they have been doing since I was last in their presence. But, they have no idea what I’ve been doing and that, right there, is my power. If they had stayed in my life and were an actual part of my sorrows and joys then maybe, just maybe, they would be allowed to know me. I have never been one to tell all and have been accused of being vague and secretive but I choose to call it self preservation and the wise conservation of personal energy. It keeps me true to who I am and who I want to remain going forward. I won’t play for the crowd no matter how lucrative the pay is.

It is in that exact sentiment that I realize I never was “trash”, I never was less than or deserving of being ostracized. I told myself this many times and then forgot about it. Life moved on, tragedies occurred, joyful memories were made and the past dimed in the rearview mirror. Now, I have time to think about it more and believe their calling others names was a fumbling attempt at coping and I feel sorrow for the ones left behind, the ones still holding onto edited teenage glory that really wasn’t all that glorious to begin with. The good old days were never all good, they are just old and in need of a better view. An updated perspective coming from the eyes of an adult who has experienced life outside of that carefully curated and decisively biased bubble. That wasn’t real life, that was nostalgia brushing back your hair to wipe your tears and say, “There, there little one. The world is a scary place so just stay here with me and you’ll feel better.”

Staying stuck does not make anyone feel better. It just keeps you stuck. Come out into the sunshine and take a deep breath. Take in the scenery, the people, the exotic cuisine. I’ve been here for decades and can attest to the fact that being an adult is liberating. It’s not scary in the least. I promise.

© 2021-2022 L.A. Askew

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to “In the Land of Reverie” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

When memories try to drown you…

Today has been hard. Like, every past mistake, missed opportunity, multiple moments of abject failure kind of hard. Excruciatingly bad even. I have come to the realization that I truly hate my job, I hate the town I’m living in and I certainly can’t imagine growing old in this part of the country even. Something has to give. And, after decades of it always being me who gave up everything, the thing I want most is for the looming specter of unpleasant experiences, trying to choke out my few cherished memories, to go away for good.

I never intended to stay in this godforsaken place for so long. After graduating from high school I wanted to hit the road, attend college in another state and create the dream I always had in my head of how my life was supposed to be. I was going to be a journalist or a writer, whichever, I was going to be successful and happy. Instead, I followed my much older, very damaged boyfriend to a state university that was entirely too close to the darkness that made up my childhood. Granted, I had a mother who told me not to expect much out of life and that should have been my first red flag on things yet to come. Fast forward 34 years and I’m still stuck, still being pulled in all directions by negativity, anger and dysfunction in this same dreary town, this same immobilizing state. To say I feel depressed and hopeless would be an understatement because now I have moved into the territory of anxiety and despair. It’s a crushing feeling, like all the weight of my past is pressing down hard on my shoulders, drilling me further and further into the ground so my feet can’t move.

It never dawned on me, until now, that I even had the right to say NO to a life I was neither excited by or inspired to live well. I was simply going through the motions of breaking free from one bad relationship just to jump right into another because the thought of having to go back to my childhood home would be mortifying. That was one of the few things that did spark a fire under my feet, a fire hot enough to make me say yes to moving in with someone I didn’t know well and then once again, 4 years later, when asked if I wanted to get married. My parent’s ugly marriage should have made me shy away from the idea of wanting to tie that noose around my neck but, the fear that saying no might send me but back into that hell left me feeling as if I had no choice. Take what you are being offered, do the bare minimum and look for happiness later became my new motto. Each day dragged into months, into years, into decades until it seemed as if my chance to be happy had been thrown away. I lost my shot because I chose poorly. At least, that’s what I believed until today.

So, the reason today has been hard: my one good decision in life, my daughter, came to visit this past week. When she first decided on a college almost 7 hours away I won’t lie, I panicked a little but, I was not going to hold her back. I did not want her to feel the disappointment and regret I felt for letting my dreams slip away so I loosened my grip and let her go. To have the ability to make that time slow down so I could take in every moment with her, to savor every last second would have felt amazing! I live a lot in my own head at times but when I spend time with her the only thing that matters is making sure she knows how much I love her and how proud I am of her. She is a big reason why I hang on, why I endure living in a place that holds so few good memories, aside from the amazing partner I’m lucky enough to have now! She loves him just as much as he loves us both and I am grateful she has one positive male role model in her life. Her father, my ex-husband of almost 12 years now, still lives in the same town as does his stepfather, our daughter’s only sane living grandparent. But, that could change at any moment, leaving me the one left behind again. That is why I slid head first into that old familiar darkness, the dread, the absolute belief that I failed miserably at life.

I MUST have failed after all! I settled for financial security over love and happiness and, despite knowing I was making a huge mistake, I tied myself to even more dysfunction than the family I was originally born into. Most people long to trade up or do better than their parents but I just swapped one screwed up situation for another and then lost all courage to walk away. In looking back the thing I regret most was bringing my daughter into that pain, uncertainty and resentment because it was no place for either of us to be. The promise of stability was a lie and sabotage of self-esteem existed around every corner, which was the favorite past-time of my former mother-in-law. She too, was a horribly damaged person with many similar childhood experiences as me and so I thought that might help us bond but, I was wrong. I horribly underestimated the level of petty vindictiveness residing in that barely 5 foot frame and quickly learned that I wasn’t going to be allowed to be a successful wife or mother for that matter. The first time I told her no was the last time I received any kindness or cooperation from her. I was on my own and every milestone, from the birth of my daughter to all accomplishments after that time would become a power struggle. God, it wore on me; to the point where I wanted to check out, completely and finally. I just wanted it to stop.

My daughter’s 1st birthday marked the beginning of the long war waged to establish who the real ruler of the family was going to be. It wasn’t me, my ex-husband or his step-father, it was my ex mother-in-law and she always made sure I knew it. She had an opinion on everything from all of my daughter’s clothes and toys to where she would eventually go to kindergarten, grade school, middle school, high school and so on. Once those opinions were verbalized they quickly became law and I was overruled at every turn by my daughter’s father. “Just let her do this. She’s just trying to help! If you just let her have her way then I can keep getting gifts too. Why do you have to ruin this for me?” My ex-husband completely ignored her purposeful interference and sided with his mother because if she was picking at me then she wasn’t criticizing him. I became a non-person, a surrogate, a womb for rent and a complete nuisance to my then spouse and this woman who must have her own way, always. Her opinion of me stayed negative until the day she died and I never had a chance to show her who I really was. I don’t think she would have cared, in hindsight, but I feel I deserved to at least have my say.

The first 9 years of my dear daughter’s life were a blur of hurt, disappointment and growing anger for me. I couldn’t make friends with any of the parents of my daughter’s friends because my mother-in-law got there first, whispering to each one about how I worked and didn’t have time to do play dates or school events…but she could. And then, it metastasized into, “I’m more of a mother to her than she is. I’m more of a wife to my son than she is.” As sick as that last one sounds it rang pretty true since she did actually buy all of my ex’s underwear and socks until he was well into middle-age but, I digress. It never got better, she never let up and I just grew more and more distant from everyone except my daughter. The loneliness and despair I felt must have been evident because her need to know where I was at all times while she was young turned into panic if I was more than a room or two away. I feel great regret over that. I worry that everything I thought I was hiding inside somehow spilled over onto her, creating a sensation of anxiety that would not have otherwise been felt had I been stronger. Again, I felt I had failed.

Each year this gnawing emotional sickness chipped another bit of my self-determination, motivation and mental well-being away until I had had enough and no longer cared what anyone but my daughter thought. I was not going to let her think all relationships were as one-sided as mine was with her father nor was I going to let her see me get trampled by her grandmother any longer. After more years than I care to admit, I walked away. I filed for divorce. I took back my life. So why do I still feel as if I have never really lived for me? Can I chalk it up to old habits or damaging ways of thinking being hard to break? In the beginning, of my New Beginning, I wrestled with the notion that I wouldn’t have had my beautiful daughter without accepting all of that drama into my life. After several years of therapy, where my therapist told me that was utter “horse shit” I stopped thinking in such black and white terms. It wasn’t a suffer with or without her situation. Whether I had her with him or with someone else I still would have had her and while she may have looked different she would still possess all of my intelligence, quirkiness and imagination. Of this, I am very certain!

Yet, today I still felt gutted and utterly drained, like I was just floating aimlessly. After my daughter drove away I went for a walk in a neighborhood close to my office. It was the neighborhood I first lived in with her dad, the place I settled when I felt I didn’t deserve more. Today I was back there and as I walked by that old apartment complex my head was swimming. What if I had said NO? Or, rather, “No thank you. I need to make it on my own.” Could I have said no? Yes, I could have and just acknowledging that should be enough but today that little self-affirmation wasn’t enough. My mind zeroed in on conversations I had, emotions I felt, places I went and it all led me straight back to emptiness. Maybe it’s really just self-pity and given the fact I am no longer young and my daughter is now the age I was when everything went so horribly wrong it’s logical to feel a bit of fear for her as well. Don’t do what I did! Don’t settle and never, ever let anyone talk you into setting your dreams, your life and your power aside! I want to scream this, and I do, in my head. Always, forever, living in my head but never out loud. Today is the day to stop that, right?

Yes, today is the day. I find myself, once again, unable to take anymore. The negative self-talk stops here and now because I am ready to be free of this damaging legacy set forth by people I wouldn’t even give the time of day. They hold no power over me and, to that I say, finally, “No thank you! I will make it on my own. I will make it without memories of you dragging me down.”

We deserve to break the chain, once and for all.

© 2021-2022 L.A. Askew

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to “In the Land of Reverie” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Chopping Down the Family Tree of Misery…

Just when I think that old gnawing discomfort caused by mentally reviewing the past has finally gone away…something else occurs to bring it back to the forefront. It may never be done because there is just too much misery to go around and too many players who failed to get the memo that we were planning to improve ourselves and our lives.

That something else, which recently occurred was tragic, saddening and completely preventable. It came out of the blue and if I had been asked whether I thought such a thing could happen I would say, no, even though anything awful is highly possible with my family. I’m still processing why it came about at all and remain puzzled as to how I even talk about it because no matter how I word it I will always, forever, be part of the problem with this one. To say I didn’t know things were so bad is a lie and to say there wasn’t anything I could have done different is just the same old lip service we apply to every negative cloud following us.

Misery does indeed love company

A little over a week ago one of my adult nephews died. The circumstances remain uncertain and they probably always will remain so because his father, my oldest brother, chose not to have an autopsy and the local coroner hastily called this senseless death “natural causes.” Case closed. We have no way of knowing one way or another what really happened but I do know for sure that it was, in part, a death caused by emotional and mental neglect with 100% certainty. The death of our father was expected and, if you’ve read any of my other work, that event was greeted with relief but this? This loss was shocking because of my nephew’s young age and also because it took so long for anyone to even notice he was dead.

I feel like I need to provide a bit of back-story here but honestly, I have very little additional information to provide. You see, I didn’t know this nephew very well and had only been around him maybe a handful of times over his sad, short life. None of this was his fault, it was entirely my fault for not trying harder to be present in his world. I fell into the “judging” trap that my family so despised from outsiders yet they gleefully heaped judgment high within family ranks without hesitation. Tearing each other down is a familial pastime after all and the sins of the parents get readily transferred to any offspring in this ragged clan. It’s not an excuse. It’s a huge part of one of our many problems.

Because of our less than warm relationship with our oldest brother the negative feelings felt for him impacted the way we interacted with his children, our nephews. It was one side of the family against the other even though we were all just as damaged inside. It made no sense but here we are now, standing amongst the rubble of yet another life destroyed by generational anger, abuse and neglect of soul. To an outsider we would appear cruel but to us it was just “normal” behavior. “Oh, you won’t talk to me? Well, I will just shun your whole family!” We reap what we sow…still.

We were not normal then and we aren’t normal now…

To the point on why it took so long for my nephew to be found: one has to understand that peculiar deficiency in humanity we all inherited from the Grand Patriarch, my recently deceased abusive father. Indifference. We all, at one point or another in our lives were indifferent to the suffering each one of us experienced. Granted, some hurt and got hurt more than others but the inability to express that pain in real-time or recognize it in each other is but one of the many side effects of abuse that went unnoticed for decades.

And so, because we were brought up in “every man for himself” mode we don’t always see how disturbing it may be to fathom someone’s son, nephew, cousin, and grandson going to bed one night, passing away and then not being discovered until 24 hours (even possibly 48 hours) later. To care so little as to simply not see the importance of checking in, paying attention or, giving a damn.

I see it now.

The horror is setting in.

To be so broken yet unable to see the multiple layers of cracks and sharp edges ready to cut and maim.

Sickeningly broken.

I don’t know the exact events that led up to my nephew’s passing and I won’t speculate on his life because I wasn’t part of it. Also, neither my brother nor my mother will speak to me about it because I am effectively dead to them as well. I DO know that this occurred as a continuation of the misery perpetuated by this particular DNA chain, a tragic chain that needs to be broken, reconstructed and fortified with kindness, patience and love. This didn’t have to happen and I know I don’t bare all of the blame but I still feel leveled by the extent of damage one man started and the unfortunate progeny who continue to carry on his harmful legacy. To say our experiences combined had nothing to do with this particular loss would be foolhardy because pain begets pain and until it’s healed it won’t stop.

Please, let it stop!

It must stop for my nephew’s sake and for every other potential casualty of this family tree strewn with hollow, disease ridden limbs. Let the suffering stop here and now because we can be better than this.

We MUST be better than this!

© 2021-2022 L.A. Askew

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to “In the Land of Reverie” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

It was the unintentional emotional withdrawal for me…

The past 12 months have been an somber pit of nothingness. Dark moments punctuated by occasional bursts of energy that are quickly extinguished by the knowledge that the world is filled with festering human sores, intent on infecting everyone and everything. Beauty replaced by ugliness, the fire of happiness and joy instantly put out by the pissing and moaning masses who have been sucked in by lies, misinformation and internalized nastiness. This world is incessantly exhausting and…utterly disappointing yet, we trudge on, one reluctant foot in front of the other.

I truly admire motivated people and, occasionally, I research their advice for success and say, “Yeah! I want to be like that!” And then, I look around and see all of the thousands of things I need to accomplish, groan and just sink back into my chair, wasting precious time scrolling through TikTok videos and searching things like, “How to access my Akashic record” and, “Why do I belch like a wild beast after drinking Topo Chico?” You know, the important stuff. It could be Covid fatigue or depression or even adult ADHD, because I have a long history of jumping from one thought to another, making wild plans only to see them crumpled up in the corner of a closet, packed to the brim, in the back of my imagination. The idea factory between my ears is still up and running but the distribution center has been closed for over a year.

The main takeaway from that is….at least I can still dream up wild ideas. It’s the implementation that needs work.

And so, because of my current apathy, I haven’t really written anything of merit since January. I simply lost the will to come up with pithy prose and, if I’m being completely honest, I just don’t feel like sharing my life, my memories and my hard earned wisdom with people anymore. Why should I? Each request for input is now met with suspicion because the maliciously ignorant are huffing and puffing around every corner waiting for the chance to spray their troll shit all over, ruining a good joke and an even better bit of satirical therapy. I used to share because it was cathartic for me but, it was also an attempt to save others from making the same mistakes I made. Now, I don’t care as much, if I ever really did at all and the unsolicited opinions of strangers mean even less to me but, now, this time in space does feel different. It’s hard to explain but, the air in this social media reliant world feels thicker and harder to breathe yet, also much easier to stop trying to exist in such inhospitable environs.

The shit is indeed getting deeper and deeper and my patience is growing shorter and shorter. Even more so than before so now, I spend my time painting weird shit, talking to my plants, dancing in my kitchen to music I know no one else likes and generally feeling pretty great about being exactly who I am supposed to be. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea but, you know what? I didn’t offer to make any damn tea for those who aren’t me so take that unsolicited opinion you’re itching to share, roll it tight and deposit it straight up your angry ass! I have no time for you. I’ve got oddities to create and clouds to gaze at endlessly while I swing in my hammock. That’s my release, my zen, my everything that doesn’t have to include anyone else unless I so choose. Easy. No worries. No stress. NO FUCKING DRAMA.

Also, I have come to the harsh realization that the people I once knew, like former classmates, coworkers, friends, neighbors, most family members…well, I just don’t like them very much anymore. I probably never liked them to begin but just pretended to out of some warped obligation that I hung on to for nostalgia’s sake. My daughter would scoff at this and say, “Mom, you’ve never really liked people,” but I know that I did my best to test that theory these past few years; looking for the good, slogging through the trash in hopes of finding commonality somewhere, anywhere. I was reaching out, wanting to connect in a meaningful way, more so than in the past and, I felt the effort and exertion on my part but nothing of a reciprocal response came back which made the cutting of ties much easier. The personality quirks and characteristics I once overlooked, falsely describing them as “charming”, I now find repulsive, arrogant and tedious. People have literally out-peopled themselves, gone and exposed their asses to the whole world, forever branding themselves sociopaths, racists, homophones, xenophobes, sexist, fascist and just generally vile, all while wearing a proud as punch, shit-eating grin from ear to ear. Assholes, the whole lot of them.

There! I said the obvious part out loud.

It felt good.

I don’t care if it angers anyone.

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I stopped being so concerned about how I possibly impacted others. I never went out of my way to influence anyone, I merely stated how I felt, nothing more. And, for many years I was harshly assured that my thoughts didn’t matter at all and no one cared but obviously some of them did or I wouldn’t have received such backlash for saying the ugly parts out loud, for refusing to be silent. Good, bad, indifferent, none of it matters anymore because the reactions of others are just that, theirs and are of no consequence to me anymore. I will lose no sleep at night fretting over whether or not I should be gentler, nicer or less honest with my words. The candy coating no longer sticks and if I have zero control over how those words are perceived then why dress them up? It never mattered how hard I worked to make my words palatable for the masses anyway because someone ALWAYS found a reason to be offended. It was never about me anyway. It was always about them.

Fuck ’em!

I’m not here to soften the blows, I’m just here to say my peace and then keep on moving. It really makes the most sense because wasting time pondering and ruminating over trivial shit never got anyone any place positive now did it? So why keep doing the same thing over and over only to come back around to that nauseatingly familiar place of nasty unfinished emotional business? It’s not going to change just because you say it should. Put some grit into it! Get that business finished and be done with it once and for all, never looking back, never taking the time to get acquainted with regret.

I regret nothing.

I don’t have time for regret anymore.

I’m too busy living.

© 2021-2022 L.A. Askew

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to “In the Land of Reverie” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

After all the words that hurt where are the words that heal?

Words have power and intent matters. The things we say can illicit beautiful and positive emotional responses but, they can also incite violence, hatred and destruction. Words have the strength to motivate, to move hearts and they can, in some instances, change minds. Some say what they think others want to hear, some say nothing in order to avoid confrontation and then, there are those who say whatever the hell they feel like, consequences be damned.

It’s clear that very few minds are changing. Those who felt something is, and always has been, wrong with this country aren’t changing their minds and, those who want the balance of power to tilt firmly and homogeneously, back to the status quo certainly have no intention of changing either. What I see as utter disgusting lunacy comes across as perfectly logical to, in the wise words of REM’s Michael Stipe, “followers of chaos out of control.” Inciting a mob to violence while standing back to watch your handiwork on television is VILE. Not only is it just that but it’s also illegal. This is not normal, this is not okay. We are broken.

Why can’t everyone see the danger we are in?

Because, to some this is exactly what they were hoping for.

I am not afraid to use my words to call out injustice, bigotry, propaganda and blatant LIES. You. Are. Lying! Long ago, I stopped feeling shocked when I heard or read utterly outrageous falsehoods because I quickly grew to understand that those who lie do so for a distinct reason. It’s not without purpose. It’s not, “just because” they can get away with it. The main reason, in my mind, is to cause disorientation brought on by the intense initial outrage. If they can tire the honest, logical and empathetic just enough to create a momentary pause, a window for ill-intent to creep in then they can get away with anything. And, they are. It’s disgusting.

The death of trust is happening now…

Here is where I take a moment to pose a question to the chaos creators; what is it about helping others that you find so abhorrent? I know it isn’t the bullshit argument that, “my tax dollars shouldn’t go towards giving a handout to people too lazy to work,” or the worn out tome, “Socialism is evil”. You are a broken record. None of your dire predictions of doom have or ever will come true but, the part where you are literally willing to overthrow your own government in order to hang onto the limited power afforded simply because of the hue of your skin and your male identity has. Again, it’s disgusting yet, predictable. We knew you would cling tightly to the past, a past that only favored you and your ilk. A past that made good work of trampling anyone exhibiting the determination to create change because, after all, change is exactly what you fear the most.

Change is your kryptonite and, it’s also quite amusing that I’m using a completely fictional substance to describe your true weakness. You are growing weaker by the minute and more desperate, judging by the actions taken on January 6, 2021 so, how will your ultimate downfall occur? Will we all get to watch it on TV or will you just slink back into the shadows to plot the next coup attempt? With a diet comprised of hatred, envy and fear it’s only a matter of time before vital organs shut down and it appears that process has begun given the loose grasp on reality and increasing cognitive impairment. Your belief that you are somehow smarter, stronger and more resilient than those you rage against is an illusion you apparently find great difficulty reconciling with.

Fighting words don’t taste very good do they?

I have written about the absurd notion that those of a more “liberal” mindset are expected to, nay, are duty bound to forgive and forget and be tolerant towards even the most rabid followers of chaos out of control. That’s a big NOPE for me. I am not a fool. And then, the self-proclaimed opposition sneers, “I thought liberals were supposed to be so tolerant! You’re not being tolerant towards me!” To that I reply, who told you I was a liberal and, you really don’t understand the meaning of that word do you? Liberal? Do you mean the Latin word liber (meaning “free”),  or do you mean liberalis, which means “of or constituting liberal arts, of freedom, of a freedman,” which is it? Personally, I believe you mean this: “I can do whatever I want against you or say whatever I want about you and you just have to sit there and take it because I said so!” Again, big NOPE.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/liberal-meaning-origin-history

Getting back to the title of this piece, where are the words that heal? I suppose the best question to ask now is, who needs the most healing? Is it the perpetually marginalized groups in this country or is it the segment that harbors the most animus towards everyone not like them? Ironically enough, those the rage-filled continually strike out against learned long ago how to fortify themselves against unending oppression so, who’s figured out life better? Quick answer, not you! And by healing I mean self-reflection, personal growth, deprogramming and, ultimately re-humanization because I see this part of the population as the most damaged by their own hand, heart and mind. The ravages of life-long putrid hate makes these pitiful patriots almost unrecognizable as any type of former friend when FOE is most consistently written on their name tags. Today, knowing ones enemy has became exponentially easier while also simultaneously mind numbing.

Is this the future you want for yourselves?

I ask because I’ve grown weary of your self-indulgent circle jerk, chock full of worn out excuses.

Shhh…it’s time to learn a new way of existing with purpose rather than just taking up space in the universe. It’s okay, we can help you but there is a caveat; if we help and still get stabbed in the back well, don’t take it too personally when the door is closed on you permanently. It’s the long-time in coming reward you will have justly deserved.

© 2020-2021 L.A. Askew

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to “In the Land of Reverie” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

An open letter to MAGA, closet white supremacists, Proud Boys and any other divisive actor responsible for the events of January 6, 2021

Thank you.

Wait, what?

I said, thank you.

But…why?

Over the course of the past 6 years I have witnessed the rapid decline of America’s love affair with Democracy, ethics and truth. No, it wasn’t actually a love affair at all, it was more like a fairytale in which certain actors portrayed “patriots” while never truly believing in the constitution they claimed to uphold. The stacked actors never intended to be ethical, fair or honest. Liberty and justice for all, to them, really means double standards will apply. And, it also means that white Americans get a wink and a nod as they are being waved through security gates at the Capitol building in Washington D.C., while BLM protesters are met with tear gas, flash grenades, baton strikes to the head and a litany of felony charges. It’s glaringly obvious yet, nearly half of the American population insists on playing a rousing game of “What if” while also juggling multiple “Yeah, but” scenarios that aren’t even based in reality but are instead the product of propaganda and conspiracy.

Yeah, but…uh, NO!

For this I say, thank you! I am grateful that you have chosen to come out into the light. I am relieved to know that I can finally identify who is an ally and who is a complicit co-conspirator. I now know who to do business with, who to support and who to deny oxygen for their rants and hatred fueled bile. You get no more of my time and you certainly get no more second chances. You won the prize for being awful. Wear it proudly because you earned it heartily when you posed for a candid shot in the Capitol rotunda holding your “war” prizes. Be proud of who you really are. Sing the praises of your true god, the god of greed, envy, sloth and ignorance. Let that be your swan song.

When I say thank you to the horribly misguided masses I do so earnestly. I like knowing where I stand with people, just as I like letting everyone know exactly where they stand with me. Simplicity at its best and brutal honesty in its rawest form. Rip off the coddled Band-Aid and feel the pain. It’s nowhere near the pain they have caused during this ridiculous reign of deluded terror but, it’s a tiny start. To finally be able to see themselves through the lens of the world, through the eyes of the horrified bystanders watching in stunned disbelief, that would be a blessing indeed! But, it won’t happen. They are too far gone. I accept that and, I was also not surprised one bit about the outcome. It’s a disappointing feeling being right about this. I feel no joy, only sorrow over all that we have lost.

So, wear your hats and wave your idol worshiping flags for they will act as a beacon warning logical, reasonable, kind and loving citizens to grant you a chasm-sized berth. You have chosen this path so walk it to the end of the plank with all the false bravado you can muster. The world will still be watching. You are the new “reality” show and the ones you have marked ENEMY will go about their lives, confident in the knowledge that the spotlight will never leave your faces. No more covert ops. No more secret signs, websites or hiding places. You made it baby! Welcome to the show! Accept your scarlet letter with PRIDE and know, always know, you did this to yourselves.

© 2020-2021 L.A. Askew

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to “In the Land of Reverie” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Is change on the horizon or are we in for more of the same?

I’m tired. You are tired. We are ALL tired of the same nastiness, the worn out excuses for bad behavior and the smug arrogance that has punctuated the past 4 years. If you aren’t tired then you are part of the problem because the pressure cooker of abuse, bigotry, sexism, and every other “ism” used to corral and cage those demanding equality is about to blow! Eons worth of nasty condescension mixed with an appalling lack of accountability is the calling card of many a “privileged” lout. The alarm has been sounded, the battle cry of the oppressed is finally being heard and the days of complacency and willful ignorance are, hopefully, coming to an end.

It shouldn’t come as any big surprise that we, as a nation, have willingly sunk to such abysmal depths. We have, after all, been training for this since birth. Every generation is primed and prepped for all manner of “what if” scenarios based on current events (or conspiracy theories) and every non-minority generation fails miserably in the department of actual change. And, I’m talking about REAL change and not just the lip-service variety of change we, the white population, have grown accustom to. The t-shirt slogan kind. To speak of changing the world and actually moving forward, in full unity with those who have been marching on their own for centuries, are two entirely different things. Many of us, those who are melanin challenged, don’t see that though. Some violently refuse to see it. If it hasn’t happened to them personally then it must not exist right?

Wrong. It doesn’t work that way. You no longer make the rules.

And, rules set forth by those with suspicious motives and callus disregard for the well being of ALL should be challenged! None of that colonizing, conquering, or highly edited history deserves the crown of ultimate and infinite power. Those who have been walked on are now standing up. We either walk together or we flounder together. Which sounds better? Also, what is so wrong or scary about change? Don’t you change in looks, weight, health, wealth or attitude as you age? Yeah, many fight all of those things via diet, exercise, plastic surgery, stock options or therapy but, in the end we ALL end up in the same place once our light has been eternally extinguished. Dead.

We are ALL born. We ALL breath the same air. We ALL bleed the same blood. We ALL face adversity but some are better at this change thing than others. Why is that? Who told some of us that we don’t have to change. And, who told us that everyone else needs to become more like us or they can leave? Does any of that make sense? No, it doesn’t, especially when many beautifully melanated people succeed well beyond white expectation yet…it’s still not good enough for us. WE asked them to CHANGE while we are allowed to stay the same, uneducated about the many different and exciting cultures all around us and unwilling to consider how our “rules” have trampled the rights of the oppressed since the dawning of time.

Now before anyone gets all self-righteous and agitated ask yourself this question: If I don’t have to do what I am demanding others to then how is that right, just, or fair? And, how exactly can true change even happen when it’s so one-sided? Short answer; it can’t but if your answer was, “Who cares?” then you will be the one to eventually stagnate and fall. Flowers can’t survive without water, warmth and the kind kiss of the sun and so, when the seasons CHANGE, the flowers fade and fall from their once lofty perch. So will be the fate of those who refuse to change personally. So will be the fate of those who refuse to allow anyone they erroneously consider “inferior” to stand beside them as equals. It’s only a matter of time and the people who were forcefully made meek are here to accept their inheritance.

My door is open. Is yours?

*I had intended to publish this prior to the White Sedition Parade of January 6, 2021 but got understandably delayed. Watching that disgusting display of privilege overload topped with a big paranoid, ignorance filled cherry turned my stomach. I will address it in another post as I need time to process that shit show.

© 2020-2021 L.A. Askew

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to “In the Land of Reverie” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Friend, where have you gone?

I lost you somewhere along life’s path.

We used to talk.

We used to laugh.

Now, we don’t communicate at all.

Where have you gone?

Over the past 5 or 6 years I have noticed a disturbing personal trend. People I was once able to have meaningful conversations with gradually began to wall themselves off emotionally and intellectually. Many have become so unrecognizable that it takes my breath away just thinking about how quickly they declined. It was as if they had to frantically protect themselves from some perceived threat, a threat they felt I was creating each time we talked apparently. Was I? I can’t get a straight answer so I may never know for sure.

In trying to coax the truth out, getting at the real source of their fears, without resorting to bile filled retorts, I hit a nerve. Over and over I hit that nerve without even knowing that I had but, they were keeping score it seems. For that, I am sorry. It was never my intention to cause internal strife or conflict for you, within you or between you and other acquaintances we had in common. And, while I know that I am not the sole cause of the obvious pain you may be feeling now, I will take the blame. I want to help you heal.

If you will let me.

And, just so we are clear, per my last post about not wanting to “be good” with those who lashed out over political differences by being threatening…this isn’t the same. This is more like a need to host an intervention of sorts. This is a desire to reach out to someone that I feel is struggling mentally, someone who got so caught up in the fervor of political divisiveness and felt that taking sides meant cutting ties with anyone who disagreed with them no matter what. It took a bit but I now respect their decision to cut off ties. I get it now. My firm stance was intimidating and, again I’m guessing, they came to the realization that I will no longer back down and defer to “the man speaking” because I have a right to speak as well. I know who I am now but, it seems they haven’t found their true self yet. I’ll be here waiting when they get that figured out.

Now, back to my internal dialogue with my former friend; this is just a guess, so pardon me if I am wrong but, I feel as if the anxiety, turmoil and anger you exhibit started long ago. Long before you even knew I existed. I feel, and again, this is just a hunch, that somewhere along the way to adulthood you were let down multiple times. Maybe, it was a parent who betrayed your trust. A father who held himself up as a Man of God but, merely a man none the less who failed miserably in the area of fidelity and honor. A mere man who would not own his mistakes. A mere man who set a miserable example. Maybe it was a mother who, despite her best efforts, never held that Man of God accountable for what he put you and your siblings through. I could always be way off the mark so take my words as an amateurish attempt at trying to understand your apparent torment and nothing remotely resembling mockery. I don’t like to see people hurt, especially people I was once so fond of.

So, when did we first start to go wrong? I know I should have made more of an attempt to visit, call, email or text over the years and I tried but, I don’t think that was it. What began as our usual back and forth banter, just like old times, suddenly turned into biting barbs designed to land flat, emotionless and seemingly heartless. Where did you go? Is the person I once knew still in there, somewhere trying to break free from cynicism and paranoia? Do you need help? I have offered it multiples times only to be rebuffed with an LOL, a curt, “No thank you, I’m fine”. I know ALL about the “I’m fine” response and am pretty certain it’s not fine, you are not fine and we are not fine. You are talking to the Queen of I’m Fine who resided in the Land of Not Fine for 20+ years. I recognize the distress call.

How can we repair this damage? I’m not certain we will ever get back to where we once were and that might not even be wise but, I want a new connection with you. An adult connecting with another adult and not two emotionally damaged kids, lashing out at everyone and misunderstanding everything meant to be tongue-in-cheek. We used to have fun but now…we don’t. Where did you go? Am I allowed to come and find you? I really don’t know what to do with this uneasy feeling but that isn’t your fault. I’m the one who apparently still feels deeply and still has the ability to care but, even so, if the answer is NO I can take it.

I am strong.

But, I want you to be strong too.

That is all.

© 2020-2021 L.A. Askew

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to “In the Land of Reverie” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Are We Good?

No. No, we are not.

“But, can’t we all just come together and be one America now?

No.

Really? So much for being tolerant and kind!”

Yeah…that isn’t how this works anymore. Bygones can no longer be bygones, especially when Facebook, Twitter and now the off-brand version, Parler, continue to breed trolls who both covertly and overtly advocate for the harassment, injury or death of anyone non-MAGA. It appears we are now a country of Americans and MAGAcans, or MAGAs or MAGAricans? Either way, you idol worshiping, false flag waving, tacky Trump merch buying twats have drawn a pretty deep line in the sand. It’s your line, I will respect your wishes and not cross it…even to pee on you should you find yourself on fire. It’s a matter of respect of personal boundaries, you know?

https://www.businessinsider.com/arkansas-police-chief-lang-holland-resigns-parler-posts-threaten-democrats-2020-11

For 4 long years, the toll exacted by taunts, insults, and blatant threats of violence makes this request no longer reasonable or doable. Anyone on the receiving end of the massive shit sandwich that is 2020, coupled with the snarling vitriol lobed on the daily, would be utterly foolish to fall for this glaringly amateur manipulation. To use our kindness, empathy and desire to help others against us now that the reality show has been cancelled is really quite laughable. And you call us sheep? We aren’t the ones who fell for a spray tanned con-artist who is so vain he wears lifts in his shoes and has dried out cotton candy for hair. The same con-artist who presides over a family full of equally humorless cons that are just as eager to take advantage of their adoring cult followers and casually toss them aside when they are no longer necessary.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/11/ivanka-trump-was-my-best-friend-now-shes-maga-royalty

That increasingly uncomfortable “reality show” was setting the scene for rampant paranoia, unbridled anger and for every nasty human trait, and their possessors, to be lifted to a standard of respect they do not deserve. There is nothing respectable about a group of Americans chanting and cheering for violence to be committed against other fellow Americans. There is nothing respectable about a group of Americans turning their backs on facts, truth, science, human rights, civil rights, and basic human decency in order to march to the tune of whack-a-doo conspiracy theory bullshit.

And, there is definitely nothing respectable or decent about gleefully bilking taxpayers while simultaneously goading your rabid followers/dupes/marks into turning on fellow Americans. Nothing to see here! Now go “Yeah, but” and gaslight the sane populace until they no longer know what’s fake or real, what’s truth or fiction or whether they are living in an alternate universe where everything is horribly backwards.

You stepped in the shit willingly and made it your new life. It’s not our job to help you scrape the shit off your shoes. It’s not our job to re-educate you. It’s not our job to re-humanize you. We tried, you mocked, threatened and dehumanized us so now, we are merely taking the not so subtle hint. We know you will turn on us again, in a heartbeat, and have decided to take a page out of your grubby rule book and build a WALL of personal protection. Snowflakes may be kind and gentle but they ain’t dumb…we paid attention in school.

I don’t have to smile, wave or respond to your now timid greeting if I feel my time would be better served attending to my own best interests. I still have the right to mistrust the untrustworthy. Isn’t that what good MAGA boys and girls would do too? Attend to their own and to hell with everyone else? I’m confused as to why my doing the very thing you ranted, raved and preached about would upset you now. Because it was really a, “Do as I say and not as I do” kinda thing? Got it! What’s good for the MAGA is good for the SNOWFLAKE now. Grasp page from play book and RIP!

“Oh, come on! I was only teasing when I said all Democrats, BLM supporters and civil rights protesters should be shot between the eyes.”

There is no going back to benign pleasantries. You reap what you sow and while this isn’t an eye for an eye, law of retaliation type of action on my part it is a refusal to associate, do business with or otherwise extend an extra helping of grace to those who wished literal harm to befall me and those I love. Keep flying your ridiculous idol worshiping flags and memorial signs of a campaign lost (fair and square) though. They will forever act as your mark of Cain so that all may see who you really are and what you willingly support.

© 2020-2021 L.A. Askew

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to “In the Land of Reverie” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

To Be A Hero

Everyone either dreams of being a hero or wishes to have something heroic done for them in their time of need. Savior or Saved. But, what about those in-between people? The ones who never realize they need rescuing and then, after years of self-reflection, inadvertently fall into the role of becoming their own heroes. What are they called? Victims? Survivors? These “make-do in very bad situations” people? Are they the perpetual dirty, worn doormat or are they the loudly chiming doorbell proclaiming the arrival of a new player in life’s chess game? They know who to avoid, who never to tell secrets to and also how to self-soothe when the internal weather becomes choppy. And, trust me, it’s hard to accept this heroic status when everything feels like rainy depression and constant protective defense. Very hard.

Growing up, my siblings and I had many instances where heroic intervention was necessary but, the opposite occurred. The closer we came to the edge the quicker people, aware of our situation, backed away. The knowledge that our little voices had the right to ask for help was completely foreign, completely unimaginable. We had no one to throw that dysfunctional ball of confusion to. No one to share the burden. No one to strategize with. And, the one who should have been the hero became the villain instead, and then we, the prey, were left to fend for ourselves. Always left to go it alone because, you know…

BUCK UP! PULL YOURSELF UP BY YOUR BOOTSTRAPS! STOP BEING A BABY!

I heard it all, even at 5 years old the grand expectation for my success in life was one of merely accepting my fate. The fate of a rudderless ship sailing toward an inevitably rocky shore. People like us shouldn’t expect much! How dare we even ask! It was also the expectation that every abuse heaped upon my child self was somehow a lesson on how to toughen up my adult self in the future. This gave no hope, no anticipation, it only led me to believe that if I was being trained to look at life as a constant battle of wills then I would always be on the losing side.

I was being prepared to lose.

I did not want to lose.

Let’s go back to the bootstrap thing. The “pull yourself up” part is a quaint motivational poster slogan but, one that is not even remotely realistic for the vast majority it’s hurled at. How can it be when, at each attempt, someone else’s boot stomps on the clinging-for-dear-life fingers of the one desperate to improve themselves? Or, and this one is classic, how about those moments when improvement or success is acquired only to have it criticized or mocked by the very people demanding said improvement to begin with?

What the hell do you people really want from us? It’s a fair question. A question I know has no honest answer because to answer honestly it to uncover the true animosity or jealousy that resides within. You call us ugly, worthless, sinful, lazy or pathetic yet, and this is real rich, none of those descriptors are deserved because they are mere projection. Projection is not motivation. Learn that. To project inner loathing on others as a means to LEVEL them is not a positive life lesson, it’s a testament to life-long resentment. It is the act of engaging in a personal war where the only winner intended is the projector. We see you. We truly do understand what is happening and…

That’s not going to happen anymore.

I said it.

I mean it.

As a child, and on into young adulthood, the only “heroes” I could identify with were writers, musicians and artists. They spoke my language it seemed and I drank it up like the antidote to a poison I was being force-fed daily. I found no heroes in my own home. Zero. I found no heroes in my small community and I found no heroes in the church my parents demanded we attend. In those limiting areas I only found the requirement to accept fault, beg for forgiveness and then forever comply in order to, maybe, obtain a tiny sliver of acceptance. But, what was I complying with and who were these people I was told I needed acceptance from? Even asking the question earned punishment because, how dare I question the elders?

Elder, thou doth lie!

I know it’s frustrating when I use “fancy words” to weave a comforting blanket of protection from the shit I have been served most of my life. I hear this A LOT. I get that it angers certain people who accuse me of being “vague” or not courageous enough to name names or face my abusers. I have faced them all my life, that job is done. They know their names, I am not required to utter them anymore. I’m not required to prove anything to anyone. And, I’m allowed to sculpt, twist and bend my experiences into any kind of art I chose, whether that be through the lyrical play of words or the hard slash of a paintbrush on a canvas. The audience has no control over the actor’s performance, you are merely there to look, listen and learn.

Look around at the heroes in your life. See one in your mirror every morning. Listen when they speak and listen even harder when they don’t. Observe body language, the subtle yet very apparent signs of a life fraught with challenges but also gifted with limitless grace. And, in the end, learn that when others fail us miserably the win is still within reach because we can write our own rules. We always could.

© 2020 L.A. Askew

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