Tag: Remembering


Mortification Monday, Ch. 3

Mortification Monday, v. 1.0 (Disclaimers here)
Chapter 3: Man of my Nightmares

When we last left Bethany and Igor, he had just taken their physical relationship up a notch–in public–leaving her embarrassed, “surprized,” and generously resolving to still like Igor, him being the love of her life past two months and all. But will their passion stand the test of time? Especially now that, merely two journal entries into their relationship, Bethany finds herself considering marriage with another man?

Wednesday, February 19th (Age 12)
“Last night I had a very vivid dream about 23 (or so) year-old Darrell Pritchard wanting me to marry him. There had just been a confrence about dreams having significant meanings, and I’m scared.1 It didn’t help, either, that at the confrence tonight, Darrell sat right in front of me. I don’t know why, but it almost makes me sick to look at him.2 Some people just look like that to me.3 I really hope I don’t have to marry him, but that dream was very vivid and realistic.4 I pray that it won’t come to pass.5

1 Our church religiously followed the 14th Commandment of Southern Baptists (right behind [12] “Thou shalt respect the potluck and keep it overabounding, lo, in bakedeth beans,” and [13] “Thou shalt maketh no less than five altar calls during any one church function, including potlucks”): “Thou shalt conduct frequent conferences in which the congregation will [a] be slain in the Spirit, [b] doubt their salvation and thus rededicate their lives to Christ, or [c] learn about hidden spiritual meanings.” It was at one of these conferences that I learned red-heads have divine powers (::flexes muscle of divinity, no other muscles being available at the moment::). At another conference, I learned that being “slain in the Spirit” generally involves being knocked over the head by an evangelist with very divine muscles. At yet another conference, I learned that demons were living under my bed. (That particular conference turned into a year-long children’s Sunday School curriculum, during which I slept not, nor did I slumber.) And at the “confrence” described in the above entry, I learned that dreams are no different than real life. Think Freud with an oversized Bible, a paisley tie, and the lingering aroma of baked beans.

2 I did know, actually, but was too scandalized to put it in writing. Darrell had one of those blank journals churchgoers use to write down sermon notes or play MASH with their friends, and the cover of his featured Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man.” Which has genitalia. GENITALIA! ::12-year-old self goes to throw up repeatedly::

3 People with genitalia, that is.

4 Oh crappeth.

5 It didn’t. In fact, I played in the orchestra for his wedding, babysat his children, and even worked under for him one summer during college. However, I never quite recovered from the shock of dreaming I would have to marry a man with genitalia.

(You really should see how hard I’m laughing right now.)

Next time on Mortification Monday: Wedding plans focus back on Igor, with underlining galore!


Mortification Monday, Ch. 2

Mortification Monday, v. 1.0
Chapter 2: Getting Physical

When we last left our heroine, she had finally admitted for the first time in twelve years the depth of her feelings for Igor Dreamboat (his personality, his company, and his theoretical willingness to marry her being paramount). However, two entire months of daily journaling pass without another mention of her soul-mate. Have Bethany’s feelings abated? Has Igor dropped off the face of the earth? Have enthralling family events like the purchase of “Star Wars” on VHS and desserts containing sugar driven everlasting love temporarily from Bethany’s mind?1

1 Yes.

Not to worry. Igor quickly recaptures her attention with a bold move:

Tuesday, February 4th (Age 12)
“Today, in classes, Igor did something which totally surprized me (and embarrassed me a little). We were rehearsing our play for “[play title removed due to identifiable nature]”2 and I was standing 4line next to Igor. Mrs. Dreamboat told me to scoot a little closer, and when I did, Igor put his arm around me — in front of everybody.5 I’ve always6 liked Igor, and I’ve heard from other people that he liked me, but he’d never told me. It’s kind of nice to know that my feelings for him are mutual.7 I still like him just as much, though.8

2 Let’s pretend it was something impressive and culturally insightful, like “Fiddler on the Roof” or “The Vagina Monologues.”3

3 It wasn’t.

4 in

5 Oh, the embarrassment! Oh, the surprize!

6 For two whole months!

7 Those feelings being undying love and devotion, as evidenced by his physically touching my shoulders and my journaling about him incessantly twice.

8 How noble of me to continue liking him even though he showed affection to me. Sign me up for sainthood now!

Illustration Alert: This entry is accompanied by seven hearts, one of which is pierced by an arrow greatly resembling a fork, and two of which have faces [presumably Igor’s and mine, though the female heart has half a perm — wishful thinking?] accentuated by puckered, thrice-Botoxed lips. There is also, inexplicably, the word “HHHHIIIIIIII.”

Next time on Mortification Monday: My dreams foretell a romantic future of… nausea?


Mortification Monday, Ch. 1

Mortification Monday, v. 1.0

Disclaimer #1: Do not be tempted to enjoy the following saga of love and heartbreak; it is a tragedy of epic proportions and, as such, tragic. In fact, you will be begging me to end it after the 482nd straight week of teenage melodrama. I promise.

Disclaimer #2: In the interest of not getting sued, I have changed The Boy’s name to Igor Dreamboat. Frequent characters include his mother Mrs. Dreamboat, his younger brother Habib, and various friends whose names have also been changed to protect their identities. (Lucky twits.) Otherwise, just imagine a giant [sic] after every entry.

Disclaimer #3: I was the product of a family that made the Flanders look like hedonistic liberals. (I mean, the Flanders occasionally ate pork products which are specifically forbidden in Leviticus 11. Plus, they knew about beer, which is so heinous a sin that God forgot to mention it in the Bible.) Please keep in mind that I no longer call my parents “Mommy and Daddy” or believe God’s divine purpose for my life is for me to marry Igor Dreamboat.

Disclaimer #4: Editor’s commentary will appear in footnotes.

Disclaimer #5: This is much more painful for me than it is for you.

Chapter 1: In the Beginning
Saturday, December 7th (Age 12)
“Igor is number 1 on my list of boys.1 I’ve always liked him, admired his personality, and enjoyed his company. He said, out of all the girls in our class, he would pick me to marry.2

1Don’t get too attached to the brief and factual nature of this journal entry. I soon master the art of hyperbole. Also bi-polarism.

2According to his mother, who also happened to be my teacher. Please note that this qualifies as a formal proposal. At age 14, he was hypothetically willing to marry me! Out of all the girls IN OUR CLASS!

3, even though there wasn’t actually a 3Dan would like me to point out that not only was this my very first mention of Igor, this was an entire journal entry. Introduction, character development, conflict, resolution, conclusion. (See footnote #1 regarding brevity, etc.)

Next time on Mortification Monday: Igor publicly demonstrates his love for me!


The Graveyard Shift

“People who get nostalgic about childhood were obviously never children.” ~ Calvin, to Hobbes

An idea has been rattling around in my mind for a while now. It sounds simple enough and maybe even fun: write down some happy childhood memories to share with my family, past, present, and future. But it’s not so simple. Every time I think about it, seriously consider starting, I find myself waist-deep in an emotional briar patch.

I’m sure everyone has things that he or she doesn’t like to think about, but I’ve made repression a way of life. It’s a twisted art form, learning to cope with trauma by shoveling six feet of dirt onto memories. Unfortunately, the good often gets buried along with bad, so I find myself in my twenties barely remembering my teens, much less earlier times.

I stare at this photograph

Young Bethany - Hudson Taylor

and remember my cat–his name (Hudson Taylor), his affiliations (Mimi the PMS-y wifecat), and his hobbies (poetry, cross stitch, world travel)–but I can’t remember my interaction with him. I can’t remember rocking him or wearing yellow overalls or being six years old.

I find this photo

Young Bethany - Ballet

and can’t remember my first ballet class, my first year of ballet classes even. I don’t know if I enjoyed it or if I liked my teacher or if I was any good. I wonder how long it took for my knobby-kneed legs to learn French. (And plié, and up, and pas de bourrée, jeté battu…)

I come across this one (I’m the third from the left)

Young Bethany - Smoking birthday candles

and remember the way the girls laughed, my first batch of genuine friends since first grade. I remember the pranks we pulled and the atrocious poetry we wrote and the boys we used to giggle about, but I don’t recall who I was in junior high. I’m told I was the one who suggested we smoke birthday candles, but was I really that silly? When did I start pulling my hair up? What was my life like at home, away from my friends?

The answer to that last question is the reason I used to cry and shake and write “fuck” in my journal and think about the afterlife in very near terms. Then I went the therapeutic route, talking to close friends, writing everything down, turning my brain inside-out so the pain could float away on the breeze. At least, I hoped it would float away, and when it didn’t, I started shoveling.

I’m now realizing that I’ll have to dig around in the graveyard for even the happiest memories, and let me tell you, it’s a mess. Fragments of memory are scattered like misplaced bones. Unmarked graves hold mental snapshots, many of them moldy and disintegrating. The dirt clings to me for hours afterward, even when I don’t manage to find anything.

I’m so, so reluctant to dig deeper, down to where the whole memories and undiluted hurt lie intertwined. At the same time, I know how much the happy moments of my childhood will matter to my daughters, to my parents, and probably to me. I haven’t found the necessary strength yet; I’m still clinging pretty tightly to the idea that my childhood was 100% bad. But I know there were times of laughter and imagination and closeness, and I owe it to many to rediscover those moments. I owe it to myself.

If at first you don’t succeed…


The Sexy Eyebrows Post

As promised, the sexy eyebrows post.

I remember the exact moment enlightenment struck. I was staring at the tweezers I had brought along to college in case I got a splinter and was suddenly struck by the idea that sexy eyebrows might not be a mythological concept after all. In fact, they might even be attainable by mortal humans. Like, say, myself. And oh, look at that, I’m holding tweezers! I plucked all but my four sexiest eyebrow hairs and decided that even though I now looked exactly like Jennifer Aniston, I would stay in school. Shall we view the photographic evidence?

High school–mutant wild boar brows:

Eyebrows before

College–invisible Jennifer Aniston brows:

Eyebrows after

You may be [justifiably] horrified that I was allowed into college without knowing the true purpose of tweezers, and frankly, I am too. But in my defense, I was not taught the womanly art of good hygiene growing up. My mother had good hygiene but was far too proper to speak of it, for instance, out loud. I had to personally invent the concept of shaving under my arms, though I self-consciously pinned my arms to my sides for a few years until I realized other women did the same thing. I also had a secret stash of Teen Secret deodorant to replace the rock my mom gave me. (Note: No matter how religiously you rub a rock under your arms, it does not make you smell powder fresh. Possibly by virtue of being A ROCK.) I snuck black market shaving cream and non-organic toothpaste into the house and developed an illicit relationship with Herbal Essences conditioner, but I didn’t think to discover streamlined eyebrows until I left home. C’est la vie.

I also made the following realizations in college:
I can dye my hair beautiful colors, like oh, let’s see, blue!
Skin was obviously made for piercing.
Q-tips are.
You know, life would be that much better with eyeliner.

And it is.


Disowning Regret

It stands out like a hologram from the pages of my journals:
Regret for being too innocent.
Regret for far surpassing the bounds of innocence.
Regret for being too shy.
Regret for letting boldness take over.
Regret for liking the boys I’ve liked.
Regret for rejecting the ones I didn’t.
Regret for being too melancholy, too low.
Regret for experiencing giddy highs.
Regret over my numerous emotions.
Regret over my compensating numbness.
Regret over being boring.
Regret over having fun.
Regret over every person, place, and circumstance woven into the fabric of my past.

I’m startled to see it pop out at me so clearly. Has it always been lurking between the pages of my past, waiting patiently for me to approach with open eyes?

An entire lifetime spent regretting myself…

This morning, I sat on the floor immersing myself in the ghosts of Bethanys past, laughing (at age 14, I decided I would marry my first boyfriend on October 20, 2003), aching (the Sunday my entire youth group stood in front of the church to promise abstinence for True Love Waits, I cried alone in the bathroom as the only teenager whose parents were unwilling for her to think about sex–even to pledge celibacy with all her friends), and wishing desperately for a time machine.

I wish I could protect the sweet little girl who learned about unfounded yet unrelenting, soul-crushing guilt at home every single day. I would tell her she was precious and wanted, that it was OK to smile and play and think that God liked her. I would show her that her beautiful little heart was anything but “hard, cold, and black” like she was told, that the daily accusations against her were untrue, that her deep little-girl wounds were not her fault. I would stop regretting my existence.

I wish I could give the excruciatingly lonely teenager a heaping dose of the love she lived without. I would tell her how funny she was in her blossoming creativity. I would hold up a mirror and show her how pretty she was, even (especially) with the freckles and red hair and too-long legs she hated. I would whisper to her about her intrinsic value and the luscious life ahead. I would give her reasons not to kill herself other than the sole terror of facing a God who, she was told, hated her. I would stop regretting how my goody-two-shoesness kept me from sneaking out at night to recapture my boyfriend’s attention.

I wish I could inject Valium into the college student’s frantically over-analytical brain. I would tell her to relax into the gentle process of learning, to enjoy each moment without dissecting it to death. I would give her the confidence to stand up to the guys who mistreated her and to unabashedly be herself with the ones who captured her affection. I would remind her to have fun dating, building friendships, learning, becoming an adult. I would stop regretting the fun and crazy side of my personality making itself known.

I wish I could extract the vast self-imposed disillusionment from the newly-inaugurated adult. I would help her see her fears and misgivings as the product of misguided childhood teachings. I would tell her that her perpetual doubts about love, capability, purpose, and belief were natural but not world-spinning. I would encourage her to enjoy rediscovering her identity, to face her life with courage and joy, to accept her new marriage as safe, to let herself feel at peace as a woman. I would stop regretting my imperfection.

I can hardly believe it’s taken me this long to realize that I’m a human and that that’s OK. I imagine most people realize this while they’re still in diapers or at least when their first smudgy fingerpainting is taped onto the fridge… not years after getting a minor in psychology or even more years of dedicated self-therapy or still more years of affirming friendships. (When did you find out it was perfectly OK to be you?)

Hello, my name is Bethany, and today I’ve stopped regretting Me.

I feel like a newborn being snuggled for the first time by ecstatic, weeping parents and thinking it the most natural moment in the world.

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