There is no Hallmark card for those who have strained relationships with their parents.

A concept that boggles my mind is that we’re supposed to accept blood-relations as family under all circumstances. Gaby sent me a great article called “Motherless by Choice” by Katie Naum. Ms. Naum’s mother wasn’t loving or supportive — she inflicted psychological terror and abuse. After years of trying to build up her self-esteem while her mother constantly tore her down, Ms. Naum escaped. She has cut off contact with her mother and has become happier, healthier, and more mentally stable.

I commented on Ms. Naum’s article to congratulate her for working on becoming the great woman she always had the potential to be. I assured her that there are many of us who have toxic relationships with our parents, so ignore the naysayers and people who don’t understand. I couldn’t believe that numerous commenters shamed her for removing her mother from her life. People quoted the Ten Commandments about “honoring your father and mother.” People warned that she would regret not making peace with her mother when her mother died.

My relationship with my mother hasn’t been as toxic as the author’s with her mother. But I related to Ms. Naum’s feelings. For years, I attempted to be the perfect, obedient daughter that she and my father expected me to be. Any time I would disagree with them, they would berate me for being ungrateful and insolent. My father constantly itemized how much supporting me cost. I blindly accepted everything they said as true. I thought my worth was based on their pride in me.

Father’s Day is on Sunday. I’ll be in Alpharetta for the day, as Brie needed someone to watch her while her nanny makes lunch and my parents go to church. I’m looking forward to having sister time without our parents or her nanny. I didn’t attend Mother’s Day, as I took a trip to California with Andrea and Shaina, instead. I don’t regret missing lunch with my mother that day — she was still harassing me because I don’t make spend enough time with “the family.” (Even if for the past several years, I would go there for lunch or dinner once a week. I don’t know any other people in their twenties who make that kind of effort, especially with parents who are the vortex of negativity in their lives.) Raf is in charge of getting our card, but there is no Hallmark card for those who have strained relationships with their parents.

Family’s involvement in your life should be conditional, just as it is with anyone else. Sharing genetics shouldn’t be a free pass to repeatedly tear someone down. Birthing someone doesn’t give you the right to consistently scream that you hope she fails, since her goals don’t aligned with yours. On the surface, I’ll be civil. But I can never be sincere about celebrating the days that praise the two biggest haters in my life.

someday, you’ll see

someday, you’ll see there’s a (vast) difference between
teaching one’s child how to make good decisions
& insisting your way is the (only) correct path.
someday, you’ll realize that I’m not rebellious,
(adults don’t rebel; they act on their own accord).
someday, you’ll see that you removed yourself from my life
by (constantly) criticizing everything that garnered your disapproval.
someday, you’ll realize that love is (truly) unconditional
(not contingent on being who someone wants you to be).
despite your insistence that I’m nothing without you,
I’ve never been more certain that I’m becoming
the woman I needed as a role model, but got you instead.

the downside to (complete) empathy

the downside to (complete) empathy
is that when you have it,
you will never be
a rational observer
who doesn’t get involved
in others’ affairs.
if a friend vents about a horrible day
& you rage with her —
the burden rolls off her shoulders
& onto to yours.
there is nothing cathartic
about reading a tragic novel —
your eyes swell shut from bawling
because of the characters’ misfortunes.
you give up watching the news
because seeing widespread injustice
depletes (what little) hope for humanity
you have left.
the upside to (complete) empathy
is that when you have it,
you will never be
an oblivious bystander
who can’t be bothered
to help someone else.

the futility of deterrence

Once upon a time,
I aspired to be
a (perfect) good girl
whose existence was validated
(solely) by making you proud.
But your expectations
& mine were mutually exclusive.
Your (belligerent) efforts
will never deter me
from becoming the woman
I never knew I could be.

Real talk from a former party girl.

Last week, Ames was cleaning her closet at Odessa. (Odessa is the house we lived in during college. She’s lived there during med school as well.) While tidying up, she stumbled upon relics from college — notes we wrote to each other, hilarious photos, and gaudy clothes we retired because we had to be respectable young adults after graduation. (We’ve been reminiscing about and laughing at our misadventures ever since.)

The blast from the past prompted me to peruse old entries in my college livejournal. That person is foreign to me now. But I can see her motivations more clearly than I did at the time. During college (and even in LA, to some extent), I jumped headfirst into experiences so that I would have stories to tell. My worst nightmare was to wake up a shriveled old woman who had no exciting memories from her youth to stave off thoughts of her impending demise. (Morbid, I know.)

Most of the lessons I’ve learned between then and now are enumerated in this poem, but each new year calls for reflection. The new year isn’t a blank slate — you can’t erase the previous year’s events in hopes of achieving what you aimed yet failed to do.

Here’s some wisdom I gleaned (so you didn’t have to) from last year (and the previous two) a.k.a. real talk from a former party girl:

  1. Going out and getting hammered can be fun. But if you don’t enjoy it, don’t feel pressure to do so just because you’re young and should be partying every chance you get. If you would rather curl up with a glass of wine and marathon TV shows on Netflix during the weekend, you should. You will be more comfortable and will spend less money that way.
  2. You are in the relationship you think you deserve. If you want to be in a monogamous relationship, don’t settle for being someone’s booty call. If you want to be single but are passive aggressively trying to get your significant other to break up with you, put on your adult pants and end it. Figure out what you want and never convince yourself that you’re happy with something else simply because it’s convenient.
  3. Surround yourself with people who support you and let go of those who don’t. You don’t have time for bitchassness. You don’t have time for toxic relationships (of any kind). If they guilt you for minimizing (or eliminating) their role your life, that should reaffirm (not revoke) your decision.
  4. Don’t dread being by yourself. (This is different from being alone, which implies that you have no one to talk to at any time.) Don’t be self-conscious about grocery shopping or even going to the movies by yourself. “You” time consists of peaceful moments where you don’t have to entertain anyone or worry about saying/doing the wrong thing.
  5. Find at least one positive thing that happens each day. It’s easy to get bogged down in the things that frustrate us. But I’ve found that I’m in a better mindset when I do this. You will find yourself expressing more gratitude and being more patient, if you do this.

But what do I know?