You. You. But not you. You don’t deserve any love.

felist

I learned how to pronounce “corrugated” two days ago. A lot of people think that learning stops after you leave school, but just look at me, constantly improving and smartering myself. I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to say it again, but not that many people want to talk about cardboard or metal.

The more I learn, both about myself and my surroundings, the more I start to question everything I already know- beliefs I’ve accumulated through personal experiences or because I just assumed they were the truth.

We went to church on Sunday, mostly because Cal had been asking to go for weeks and I finally relented out of guilt. I’ve been trying to incorporate more of what she wants to do into our plans. For a while, the simple task of driving Cal somewhere was overwhelming. It must be difficult and shitty to be a 14-year-old with a myriad of interests and a parent who says “no.” I feel so much anxiety about leaving the safety of my house sometimes, but I’ve worked out a pretty solid system to keep my fears in check. I allow myself to act like a little bitch until 3:15 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and then I just have to get my shit straight and be a functional human being until Cal goes to bed. My desire to be the kind of mom Cal deserves trumps my issues.

During service, I started thinking about the lessons I learned as a kid during Sunday School. My biggest takeaway was that Christians really like felt boards and activities that involve cotton balls. From the very first Sunday, I also learned that God is merciful and that Jesus loves without exclusion.

I want to talk about Jesus loving everybody. I don’t want Jesus to love everybody.

I almost never share this thought with anyone because I think it’s really telling about my true character. There’s just no way to say that I want him and him and her to suffer and suffer deeply without sounding small. Maybe that’s why I never grew any taller. Hate is heavy, and it pushes you down.

I believe that some people are defective and malicious and broken beyond repair. When I think about these people receiving God’s love and mercy, it makes me question my faith. It makes me angry to know that the worst AND the best of the bunch still receive goodness and grace, and the wayward often get more compassion. When I am confronted with a person who has caused me immense pain and an opportunity to be forgiving, I choose the other end of the spectrum.

I once told someone (a man that I was dating) that I thought he should kill himself. It is, by far, the most heinous thing I have ever said, not just because the sentiment itself was cruel and evil, but because I really, really meant it.

I hated him because I felt like he took everything away from me, and I hated myself because I let him. He wanted to be #1 in my life, first and best in every category. He resented the love I had for my daughter and the time I spent with anyone else.

By the time I said that fucked-up thing to him, I realized that he had carefully executed a plan to cut off everyone in my life. Because he was violent and because he would not “let” me leave, I sent Cal away for more than a year because it was the only way I knew to protect her.

I tried to keep the most shameful and volatile moments as late-night affairs because Cal would be sleeping then, and she wouldn’t have to witness her mother doing degrading things, like getting on her knees and begging for forgiveness for an offense she wasn’t even sure she had committed.

But Cal overheard us. I know this because recently, out of the blue, she turned to me and said, “Do you remember when he said that you were stupid and you cried? I don’t think you’re stupid.”

I want to turn away from my faith during these moments. I don’t want to be loved by the same God that loves that man. Coupled with that hard-to-stomach truth is the knowledge that the dude is still alive. Let this be a lesson that no one gets everything they want in life.

It gives me pause to think about him reading this one day. But I’m not sure if prisons have internet access or if he knows how to spell “flourish.” Not only do I know how to spell “flourish,” I can also correctly pronounce “corrugated,” so it’s pretty obvious that we’re unmatched. Checkmate, bitch.

Maybe God sent Harv soon after this man to show that for every badness, the goodness that exists is so overwhelmingly bright. Light always overpowers darkness. Always.

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P.S. Mommyonthespot, you are the winner of last week’s giveaway. Please holler at me (flourishinprogress at gmail) with your mailing address.

P.P.S. Pics from our Fam Jam over the weekend on Instagram (username: flourishinprogress):

famjamdvfI love you first. I love you best.

Daddy Issues (aka: Girl, Why You So Typical)

wanted
One of my most…no, my #1 MOST FAVORITE activity is to devote large blocks of time making up complicated hypothetical dilemmas and then challenging myself to find an efficient solution that still has a little bit of panache. I don’t like it when people walk around with their chest puffed out because they performed an act of kindness. Questions form. Did they do it for the accolades? Is he going to write a Facebook status update about his bravery and pray for at least 15 likes? But I also don’t like it when heroes act like it’s NBD. I tread a fine line. I never ask for a parade or anything extravagant at the end of my make-believe dramas, but will I turn down an edible fruit bouquet? That’s just stupid. Fruit is a wonderful source of vitamins.

Once in a while, I allow myself a happy scenario. A place or a situation that could never actually exist in real life but I can’t help wanting anyway. My father is in most of these moments. Sometimes I pretend that he stayed for my entire high school graduation. I erase all the shame I used to feel when my friends saw my father in his industrial coveralls and Volt sneakers from Wal-Mart.

I don’t talk about my father a lot, but it’s not because I dislike him or because there aren’t any stories about him. He’s been absent for so long that I just don’t think about him that much anymore. At least I think I don’t. But my behavior seems to indicate that I have daddy issues.

I never wanted my badness to be the result of anyone else. I refused to accept that other people influenced my choices and my outlook on life. I didn’t want it to be about other people because I can’t control other people. I can only control me. And I’m not even good at that. Ask me about the entire bag of wasabi peas I just ate. Lord Jesus, my esophagus is on fire.

My father was rarely at home as I was growing up. He worked odd hours as a government employee, and on his free days, he spent most of his time in the garage, tinkering with cars in various stages of crisis. I only went out to the garage once before I left home permanently at the age of 17. He preferred solitude, but he let me stay just this one time.

As I sat on the hood of his car, he showed me pictures of tools that he wanted. They were some brand called Snap-on. He said those tools were serious business and very, very expensive. One day when I grow up, I thought, I’m going to be a millionaire and then I’ll buy my dad the whole entire set of Snap-on tools. Even the little accessory parts and a red Craftsmen chest to store them. The rolling kind.

To this day, every time I see a Snap-on company truck drive by, I think about my father and my unfulfilled promise.

But maybe I’m thinking about this all wrong. Maybe he’s the one that was supposed to give me tools. Tools so that I could navigate adulthood. Tools for me to repair the cracks in my relationships and seal the leaks in my friendships and tighten up those loose ends that happen when you focus on one area of your life for too long and let everything else slide. 

I spent four months locating my father in 2012. We hadn’t seen each other since he divorced my mother in 2000. When I found him, I flew to Texas and we met for lunch. I didn’t have anything in particular that I wanted to say. I just wanted to see my father. And I thought he might want to see me all grown up.

I told him that I turned out okay. You know, in case he was worried about me. I always feel better when I know Cal is safe. That doesn’t mean I coddle her or anything though. She’s on spring break right now and when she asked about the activities I had planned, I told her that she would be building me some Ikea furniture. Nothing crazy. Just a bookcase and a rolling cart. Some people are really sensitive when it comes to child labor, but I’m not one of those people.

Ironically, on the day that I was in Texas having lunch with him, this Huffington Post piece about the absence of my father came out. We exchanged phone numbers after lunch. He wanted to plan a get-together for the summer with my aunts and uncles. He said he would call me. I don’t know why I believed him because he made that exact same statement years before.

I haven’t heard from him since. I think my father needs to work on follow-through.

Sometimes I think about what that phone call would be like. You know how you talk to someone on the phone and there’s not one awkward or dull moment? And in that giant expanse of all those words, there isn’t one tiny moment of stupid? And then you want to talk to that person again?

It would be just like that.

“This is what I know: People’s hopes go on forever.” -Junot Diaz
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Holler at me: Flourish in Progress on Facebook (I post a lot of quotes and thug shit here. Pretty decent way to waste time.) Instagram @flourishinprogress (evidence of child labor, that lap dance I gave a panda at SXSW, me and some rappers) Twitter @ElizabethJLiu (I complain a lot here.)

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Look How Far You’ve Come (Notes on Therapy)

futurecalled
I’ve been going to Corner Bakery for their Loaded Baked Potato Soup once or twice a week for the past few months. Sometimes, I upgrade to a bread bowl for an extra $1.89. I don’t do it all of the time because I don’t want luxury to become my standard. Plus, all of the soups come with a focaccia roll anyway, and it’s really not that hard to dig out a little soup moat. I treat myself to these soup lunches on the days I go to therapy.

I’ve avoided therapy for most of my life because the whole concept seemed like a crock of shit. Still, I’ve gone on occasion over the past sixteen years. Many of those visits were part of different drug treatment programs. You have to go every day and act like you’re making breakthroughs, but really, you’re just thinking how many more times do I have to lie to this homegirl wearing all Talbots errything before she recommends my release. It’s never made a difference because I had no interest in sorting through my sordid past. Processing and transcending and letting go takes time and effort. Not only did that seem painful and unnecessary, I also believed that I had earned the right to harbor all of my rage and depression. They were my souvenirs for surviving, and I fucking love souvenirs. (A big shout out to my Disney lapel pin collection. You guys keep my lanyards looking fly.)

The only gift Harv wanted for our anniversary last fall was for me to find a therapist I liked and start going on a regular basis. At some point in 2013, I moved into Rock Bottom, and he could see that I had no interest in leaving. Actually, I was getting settled and quite comfortable in my new little hole, and every time I left and came back, it just felt like home.

The request came at a bad time because I had already ordered a Full Dozen Strawberry Medley from Shari’s Berries as an anniversary gift for Harv. Highly perishable items are extremely tricky to return…if you can return them at all. I said I would “think about it” which is basically a “no” in adult code language. He didn’t pressure me nor did he bring it up again.

A few nights later, I had a hankering for something delicious and ate seven of the nine remaining Berries. I am surprised by my own selfishness from time to time. This was one of those times. Shari, why you gotta make your products so delectable? It didn’t seem right to order another dozen, and I thought about blaming Cal but decided against it. I felt horrible and guilty so I told Harv that I would start going to therapy. I don’t know. It made sense at the time.

My advice to you would be to think carefully before putting someone else’s food into your mouth.

I am trying something new this go-round: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. EMDR for short. It sounds kind of creepy. Maybe it is creepy but it can’t possibly be worse than everything that I have ever done to myself because I, on a deep level and in a non-transient way, dislike myself.

EMDR is supposedly effective for people who have experienced severe trauma that remains unprocessed. It goes directly against the coping mechanisms I have become so good at- denial, dissociative amnesia, detachment. In each session, I recall traumatic and distressing experiences, and as I allow the memory to fully unfold, I am taken through a series of sensory exercises.

I can’t describe it more than that. I don’t have the right words and it sort of makes me sick to think about it. Poet Nayyirah Waheed’s words on love now cross my mind each time I walk through my therapist’s doors:

“like everything I’ve ever lost come back to me.”

Except none of my memories involve love.

I still go and I haven’t given up on EMDR yet, although I feel like I am being punished twice for each moment I recall- once by living through it and a second time by inviting it back to invade the small amount of peace I have gathered and stored. Everything that I have ever pushed out and ignored and left by the wayside is coming back to me.

Each time I leave, I call Harv. The conversations are most often about how lonely I feel. I complained about this loneliness for months. Just two weeks ago, it dawned on me that it wasn’t loneliness at all. It was grief. But since I had not allowed myself to grieve about anything for such a long time, the only label my mind could attach to the heavy feeling was loneliness.  I’m not very good at grieving, but I feel like it could become one of my better skills. Like scrapbooking. My scrapping skills are fucking legit.

“Sometimes just the act of sharing a painful secret can relieve some of the pain.” -Anonymous

I hope so.
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Holler at me: Flourish in Progress on Facebook (I post a lot of quotes and thug shit here. Pretty decent way to waste time.) Instagram @flourishinprogress (me in a crop top, my crack house window, shit like that) Twitter @ElizabethJLiu (I complain a lot here.)

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