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Dear Ms. Love n Happiness: The Case of the Pessimistic Pops

Dear Ms. Love n Happiness,

I hear that you are sort of an expert on “really ridiculously dysfunctional families” and “trying your damnedest to live a good life”. I usually rely on excessive introspection when it comes to my troubles but I could sure use some help unraveling this exasperating character that some might call my father but that I prefer to call “Eeyore”.  Allow me to make a long and unpleasant story short and unpleasant. After years of being mean, stingy, unloving, and well, an asshole my father recently had some sort of soul spasm and seems to have started having normal human feelings. While that itself is moderately irritating, I can forgive and forget for the most part. The problem lies in that he insists on acting victimized by life and demanding constant pity. No matter how many times his kids call or visit him it is never enough and he makes that known every chance he gets. While I want to tell him that he is lucky that any of his kids can stand the sound of his morose voice and the sight of his disgraceful face I find myself just avoiding his calls which leads to unpleasant indignation at the inevitable email I soon receive. (Yes, Eeyore learned how to use a computer ONLY because he craved one more avenue for spreading his misery). All I want is to live a good life and be a good person. As Pooh would say, I “think think think” but all I know is that if I avoid him it only adds to the load that my sister has to endure, if I continue a relationship with him I will have to sacrifice my precious few moments of peace, and if I kill him I will go to jail. Oh, bother. I apologize for the sullen tone of this question and I promise that next time I will lighten the mood by hashing out some of the homophobic and racist comments I had to endure at Thanksgiving dinner.

Much love and kisses,

Your biggest fan 🙂

Dear Biggest Fan,

Oh bother. I sure can relate.

I wish these “characters” in our lives would just stick to the script. I mean, your inner director is  probably saying “Look, Pops, you are the asshole father. That is your role. I have learned after many years and a shitload of tears to deal with your two speeds: angry or absent. And now you go and try to add a third?  Despondent and downtrodden? CUT! This is bullshit.”

And I am right there with you. This is bullshit and it needs to stop. The only thing, and I mean the only thing that your father has a right to complain about to you is how crummy he feels that he attempted to screw up large portions of your life.

Now, as I see it there are two possible explanations for his behavior. Note the use of the word explanation not excuse.

Explanation One:  You said that your father is  having some sort of “soul spasm,’ my guess is that this  convulsing is due to the huge gaping hole inside his soul.  Your father is trying to get you and your family to fill up the hole for him. He realizes that he can no longer use angry threats to get what he wants. That does not work with a grown-ass strong woman such as yourself, so he figured how to get you where you are weakest and he is tugging at the strings of your big ‘ol heart.  But don’t you see that what he is doing is manipulation? Sometimes manipulation comes to us wearing a pretty smile, bearing gifts or in this case brushing tears off his weather worn cheeks.

Even though your father was a total shmuck, it must feel good to know that he needs you and it is probably tempting to start trying to appease him by pouring what ever we can spare into that cavernous pit in his heart.  But the truth is even if you gave everything you had, it wouldn’t work. No one else can fill up that hole for your father, he has to do the dirty work himself.

Explanation Two:  He does not even know what he is doing, to be honest your father may not even be capable of masterminding true manipulation. Chances are Pops did not have much training on how any relationship works, let alone on how to be a father.  He feels bad about the past and his aching soul hole demands to be filled up so he grasps at straws and tries what ever might work,  and apparently the Eeyore routine works. Like a Pavlovian dog he wines and cries until you give him the little scrap of food he needed to momentarily fill himself up. This will go on and on until you run out of scraps to give, because as we discussed above, these soul holes can not be filled by others.

Regardless of the motives behind his behavior, I think we can both agree that this shit needs to stop.  You have been a big enough person to forgive this man for the pain he has caused you and let him back into your life, then the very least he can do is play life by your rules!

So here is what you do, damn it: the next woe-is-me communication you get from Pops you very simply tell him, “Dad, I’m happy to hear from you but I really have to insist that we focus our conversation on positive things.” You must use your words! Whatever words those are, use them. Do not infer this, wish this, tell your friends and family about it, or  ignore him and psychically channel the words to him. You must speak up and use your voice. Why? Because first of all it feels damn good, like you are wearing the best big girl pants ever!  And because it’s true that people will treat you the way that you demand to be treated, but first you have to give them a chance by telling them how to treat you.

When it happens again you say: “Dad, I really can’t talk to you when you are being like this.” And then, DON’T. Remember Pavlov? That lil doggie has gotta learn you mean business. And as far as you sister goes, I suggest she do the same damn thing. Gang up on his ass.

And really, what’s the worst he is gonna do? Get angry? Go away? You have seen and survived both just fine. And the best? He has a moment of blinding clarity and he never darkens your door with his morose nature again and instead become the father you always wanted. Or . . . maybe something in the middle.

Trust yourself. Use your big ‘ol heart and smarts to stand up for yourself and the life that you are creating. It’s not the same old same old. It’s new and nifty and pretty damn brilliant.

♥ & ☺,

C

p.s.

Thank you so much for all your questions. Keep ’em coming. “Dear Ms. Love n Happiness” rolls around every Tuesday. I am really digging this and I hope you do too!

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“Dear Ms. Love n Happness,” Like Dear Abby off her meds.

Dear Readers (all two of you),  

You lucky dog! You have experienced me bending your ear about my wack-a-do problems. Now it’s your turn.

 I thought it would be fun to experiment with a “Dear Ms. Love n Happiness” feature on my blog. Like this one: http://mslovenhappiness.com/2011/11/09/chicken-soup-for-the-soul-or-dear-ms-love-n-happiness/ and I could really, really use your help.

 Could you PRETTY, PRETTY, PRETTY please take a moment out of your crazy-ass life to do two things:

 1) Jot down a question about life and fire it off to me. @ ms.lovenhappiness@gmail.com

Don’t worry! You and anyone you speak about will remain completely incognito, unless of course you are glutton for glory.

Fear not! If you don’t have the time to craft a cutesy question, it could be a simple prompt. Think Mike Myers and Coffee Talk:  “I’ve been dating this guy for a few months and the first time I spent the night at his house he came to bed in pajamas and a breath right strip. WTF? This was an absolute deal breaker and now I won’t return his calls.  Am I shallow? ” I can take it from there. Of course if you fill inspired WRITE ON!

My areas of (supposed) expertise: Single parenting, parenting, dating, blending families, relationships, crazy ex’s, really, really ridiculously dysfunctional families, antics, rants, fun and trying your damnedest to live a good life. And!  Powered by the world-wide web and a library card, I will even do research if I don’t have the answer. I. Am. Not. Scared.

And, while I may be a snarky puss the majority of the time, I am capable of being rather kind: http://mslovenhappiness.com/2011/10/25/the-amish-instinct/ and kinda deep. Kinda. See: http://mslovenhappiness.com/2011/11/04/an-open-letter-to-my-father-the-meth-addict/

 2) Recruit a friend to do the same! Let’s face it, I am usually always stuck at a desk or chasing a toddler so getting my writing out beyond my circle has been tough. Please, let your friends, colleges and family members critic my perspective and crappy grammar! The more the merrier.

 Let’s Talk!

You are achingly beautiful and wise.

♥ & ☺,
C.
ps
This is like butta!

An Open Letter to my Father, the Meth Addict:

I’d like to take a moment to thank you for the two gifts you gave me. One: roughly fifty percent of my DNA. Two: the image that is seared in my mind, the vision I see every time I close my eyes, of you, my father, being tased by the police. You are the perfect picture of white trash mania, handcuffed, feet bound and flailing around the parking lot of a third-rate convenience store in suburban hell.  “I’m being burned alive!” you scream, as your cracked out saucer eyes roll back in your head like some kind of epileptic monster. For a moment your eyes focus and you look at the camera that is filming your thirty minutes of derelict fame, and I can see where the drug went in and spooned out heaping portions of your soul. I can see that you are a hollow shell of the man you used to be. You thrash around more, screaming obscenities and shout “Oh God, someone help me!” Help you? Didn’t we all try? And who helps us, the charred victims you left behind on your mission to burn yourself out?

I tried to help myself by staying as far away from you as possible. For the last ten or so years you’ve been either absent or an addict, and I’ve grown accustomed to cutting you out of my life. The first time hurt, a lot. While I was busy studying my face off in college, you were busy perfecting your Methamphetamine addiction. While I was working to get a job and navigate the adult world, you were busy alienating your wife and children, driving your once successful business into the ground and picking your sores because you believed bugs were crawling under your skin. But I didn’t understand what was going on. It didn’t hurt that you are a fantastic liar and that being your daughter; I am predisposed to buying into your bullshit.  I didn’t even know what meth was, until the day I heard it speak.

One Saturday morning you were expected at my house and you never showed up. Nor did you bother to answer any of my phone calls. Sunday afternoon, after still hearing nothing from you, I began to worry. I placed a call to every hospital between your house and mine. Monday afternoon I placed a final phone call with a sinking feeling in my stomach.

You answered.

But it wasn’t you. Or at least, I thought it was not you. I thought I’d misdialed and called hell, the ranting and raw voice on the other end sounded more like a demon then my dad. You did not know where you were, or who you were. From all I could gather, you were in the woods somewhere hiding from The Faceless Men who had been following you for either days or years, you were not sure which because, as you informed me, time was not what we thought it was. After you divulged all that information to me you panicked:

 “Wait?! Are you one of them? One of The Faceless?? Did The Faceless send you? They put the bugs under my skin and now they send you to trick me. They want to lock me up; they hate me because I know the truth. I know how to fly!! Who the hell are you, you slut bitch??”

“It’s me, Dad” I whimpered, “It’s your daughter.”

“HA! Daughter. I have no daughter you Faceless bitch, I come from where they fly and I have no daughter.”

And you hung up. And I did not speak to you again for seven years. During those years you made your rounds of meth dens and prison cells and occasionally you would leave me a paranoid message from a blocked number. The first few I listened to, afterward I cried uncontrollably for hours. Eventually I learned to hit “erase” the moment I heard your demon voice coming through the receiver.

My son was about a year old when you called me and this time when you spoke where I used to hear the drugs I heard pain and regret in your voice. Eventually, you convinced me to let you back in to my life. I decided to let you in my house for a few hours. You stepped off a bus carrying a backpack and I almost threw up. Your eyes were cloudy and your hands were drawn up and shaky.  You had been chewed up and spit out.  When I could bring myself to look at you, I could detect that something was missing and that it may very well never come back.

You handed my son a stuffed zebra. I made you a plate of pasta. I took you to the playground where you watched as I pushed your grandson on a swing. Afterward we sat on my patio while you chain smoked and I listened to you talk. It was your voice again, but somewhere in the distance I could still pick out the tone of the demon.

“I don’t know how to ask this,” you said, “but, do you ever think about what we are? I mean do you ever wonder what we are supposed to be doing here?”

I stared straight ahead at the candle in front of me.

“Of course I do Dad. I have wondered every day for as long as I can remember.”

“I want to believe that we are here for something. That there is something here,” you grab where your heart should be.

Your face is distorted by candle light and the shadows of the clouds passing above.

“I do believe that. I have believed that for as long as I can remember.”

I put you back on a bus because I did not trust you to sleep even one night in my house. I put a smile on my face as synthetic and engineered as your bathtub poison and I said good-bye to you. Afterward, I cried uncontrollably for hours. I knew you were not done with the drug and I vowed to cut you out of my life again. This time the decision was not as hard. I looked at my son’s big brown eyes, the same ones I inherited from you, and I knew I’d never let him see the demon that resides in your eyes now.

The years that followed brought more of the same for you, tweaking and doing time. Occasionally I’d receive a call from a number I didn’t know and my heart would race. One day, I figured, someone was going to call and tell me you were gone for good this time. I was standing in my kitchen cooking dinner when you called again.

“What are you doing?” you asked.

“Making meatloaf,” I said.

“Oh, well, I just got out of prison.”

“Oh, well, it’s nice to know you are alive. I tell you what; if you manage to stay sober for six months you can give me a call. Otherwise, stay away.  I can’t keep losing you over and over again.”

And perhaps I should have left it there.

But I didn’t. I let you back in. But not just back into my home, back into my heart.

I looked on as you spread mulch and raked leaves with my son and fiancé. I watched you slice a cucumber in my kitchen and my heart soared.

You left my house, hugged me and said, “I love you.”  I believed you.

And then like a recurring nightmare, it started again. You didn’t show up when you said you would. Weeks passed and phone calls went unanswered. Finally I mustered up the courage to confirm what I already knew.

I open my laptop and, as I have done countless times through the years, I type your name into the search engine, followed by the word: arrested.

All the breathe in my body was beat out of me. The headline reads: “Man tased after fleeing police, kicking out cop car window. Deputy says man’s behavior consistent with meth use.”  There is a laundry list of charges including: armed robbery, attempted kidnapping, fleeing and eluding, and felony obstruction. I cannot fathom what I am reading, but as fate would have it there is a link to a video, where I can watch with my own eyes as you supply some of the best footage imaginable for a scared straight film or a public service announcement.

I’d like to tell you what you have done. I’d like to explain how you have hurt so many. I’d like for you to understand the love that you shit on the last time you went out to score. I’d like to say to you that I am ashamed to have your blood in my veins.  I’d like to convey the nausea that wells up when I think of where you are now.

 Most of all,  I’d like to tell you that all my sympathy for you dried up like one of your nasty meth scabs the moment I saw you restrained like an animal and shouting to the camera, “Show my kids this video, please, show my kids this video.” I’d like to make you see all of this and more, but it’s pointless because you are gone. I cut you out again, and this time with as little hesitation as someone cuts out a cancerous growth.

So thanks again for your contribution to my life. I’ll never know why I always valued mine immensely more than you valued you own.  Watching you destroy as much life and love as possible taught me how to grow lots of both for myself. Your disregard for your spirit and your purpose here gave me an even greater reverence for my own. I suppose that inadvertently you taught me a lot.

The last text I received from you reads, “I just want you to know, I’ll never be high again. I’ll always be there for you. Sleep tight, I love you.”

And the last words you will hear from me are: “Fucking. Liar.”

Sincerely,

An Open Love Letter . . . To Target.

Logo of Target, US-based retail chain

Image via Wikipedia

My Darling Target, how I love thee.  It is true that while in your presence I’ve been known to black out. When I awake I have purchased fuzzy Christmas socks in August,  a dozen bottles of mini nail polish, jeggings and a Hello Kitty cookie jar, and somehow these items came to a total over a hundred dollars. That’s ok, because, your little red bull’s eye came to represent a beacon of hope to me. Nine months pregnant, feeling like too much of a whale to be in public and slowly going crazy back at the nest, you were where I would turn.

Of course, you are one of a kind to me, but with your many locations I could pick a store off my beaten path and shop in anonymity. At that point, acquaintances were dangerous. They would want to discuss the fact that I was going to pop any day, or they might innocently ask me how things were with my “boyfriend,” or they may even be bold enough to ask me what my “plans were for after the baby was born.” In my hormonal and slightly paranoid state, I would of course interpret this to be a comment on my marital state, or lack thereof. To be honest, Target, I was deeply ashamed to be a . . . (gasp). . .

Unwed Mother.

I really have no idea where this strange shame came from. I am about as open-minded as they come.  I was a bohemian at heart before I started grade school. I think one of my imaginary friends was a homosexual. My friend group looks like a United Colors of Benetton ad, but for some reason, when I was pregnant, I found myself hiding my ring finger. So I would slip away, as much as a woman carrying forty extra pounds and the weight of the world on her shoulders is capable of slipping, to the place I felt the most free from judgment. And in a giant twist of irony, this was a suburban Target.  I would wonder your aisles, soaking in solitude and sipping on a sinful iced late.  Oh!  My dear sweet Target– you  created my personal version of heaven and put a Starbucks right inside your door. I can shop your wares with a caffeine buzz!

Within your sanctity, I would joyfully purchase a jewel toned Mossimo Empire waist top in a size XL reasoning that $13.50 for yet another top to fit over my belly was a small price to pay for the temporary increase in self-esteem.  I could shop, with little to no judgment from the foodie/health nut types who frequent my neighborhood grocery store, for the Market Pantry brand of spaghetti sauce that I adored and ate almost exclusively for the last weeks of my pregnancy.

We had a little routine, you and I, for our meetings. Once my coffee was secured, with eyes averted, I would discreetly walk past your “Club Wed” section. I didn’t really care to be reminded of the wedding I was not planning. I would then make my way to the baby section and spend hours gawking at baby bumpers, onsies and burping cloths. I would awe at the tiny shoes you carry, knowing that very soon I would be responsible for feet that would fit into these miniature shoes. Then I would well up with tears looking at the “big boy” section, wondering at the fact that my yet to be born child would one day wear a shoe size bigger then my own.

If I was not numbed and/ or emotionally exhausted enough from all this, I would wonder over to home section and stare at random items like, weed wackers or skillet sets. These domestic items objectified my unhappiness and shed harsh light on the uncertainty of my situation.  As hard as I try, I couldn’t make myself buy a weed wacker for a home in which I didn’t feel comfortable. I reasoned that I didn’t need a whole set of skillets; I could get by with one if it was just the baby and myself. Here in front of the storage solutions and slip covers, I was safe to quietly process things I didn’t allow myself to think about anywhere else. Like, exactly what were “my plans for after the baby was born”?

And if all this retail therapy got to be too much, I could always head to your dressing rooms. There I would find a bench to sit on and the privacy to shed a few tears before I put my brave face back on, complete with my new Sonia Kashuk kiwi lip gloss, and drive home to face my boyfriend. He never noticed, Target, how much time I spent with you, or the money that went into our relationship. Truthfully, he never noticed much. Had he asked me, I would have had to confess: I was having an emotional affair with you. You offered me the solace of routine, safety and small creature comforts, usually for under $29.99. Most importantly you offered me little glimpses of the truth I could barely stand to look at by myself.  At that point, no offence Target, I would have taken those things anywhere I could get ‘em.

Now, we’ve all moved on. I still visit your red sanctuary from time to time to pick up an inexpensive pair of shoes for my little boy, or stock up on some shampoo. But, times have changed darling. When I peruse your home goods, and neglect to buy cozy blankets or welcome mats, it is only I am searching for the very best for my family and my home.  When I cruise by Club Wed, or the baby section, I only see possibilities. Were I to shed a tear within your walls, it would undoubtedly be due to seasonal allergies or one of the sappy sweet greeting cards you carry.

We’ve been through a lot, Target.  I’ll never forget what you have done for me and I will secretly miss the frequency of my caffeinated shopping dates with you.

Ever Yours,

C.

p.s.

THIS IS AMAZE:

What to Expect When You Were NOT Expecting.

“Either you got a boob job or you are prego. Your boobs look HUGE!” Lynn announces. It was the end of a busy night at the restaurant where I waited tables and I was hunched over wiping down a shelf full of condiments. I took a deep breath, put down the mini mustard and say to Lynn, “Unless the University is giving out student vouchers for books and a boob job, I think it’s safe to say I must be prego.”

Lynn’s face turned the color of the ketchup I was wiping and I could have swept the floor with her jaw. Normally I would have fallen over laughing at her reaction, but I had only known that I was unexpectedly expecting a baby for a few weeks, and I was still busy picking my own jaw up off the floor.

That was four years and nine  months ago, but lately I have noticed an influx of my friends and acquaintances who have come down with a case of the “Unexpected Pregnancy,” or they, like my friend Lynn said upon finding out I was pregnant, “got knocked the fu$k up!”   I would like to point out that I am intentionally not using the expression “Unplanned Pregnancy.” I imagine that those are words that are most often whispered by not so well-meaning individuals around water coolers and hors d’oeuvre tables. “Unplanned Pregnancy,” is an expression that implies some sort inherent flaw in the mother to be, as if she was too callous and/or lazy to bother planning her pregnancy. I prefer the expression “Unexpected Pregnancy.” It sounds like a zany surprise, a last-minute house guest, or a freak weather pattern, and best of all there is no judgment. I mean, an unexpected house guest could happen to any one of us.

So now that we have the terminology down, I’d like to share a few of the things I learned during my own unexpected experience.  Here is what NOT to do when you are expecting:  please, please, please, for the love of God, do not go out and buy that book, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” If you insist on buying it please read it slowly and sparingly, not obsessively and compulsively, like I did. Let me be clear, this book could scare the maternity jeans off even the most courageous mom-to-be. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” is a bunch of prego-elitist fear mongering and no matter how much I bitch, I’ll  never get back that hours of sleep and general sense of peace I lost due to reading that book. The text will go into long detail about birth defects that effect something like one in every one million babies that are born under a full moon. Then it will heap on guilt and have you believe that if your baby did have this rarest of birth defects it would most certainly be your fault. Everything from Alka-Seltzer to zucchini is hypothesized to have some adverse effect to your unborn child.   “What to Expect” will make you feel confused, paranoid and completely inadequate, and these are two areas in which pregnant women need no additional help.

Now, what TO do (the very, very abbreviated version): Go ahead and get over all your preconceived notions of what a mom should be, which are probably based on what your mom was (or was not) and what society says a mom should be. Guess what? This is your experience, your life, and you get to determine what kind of mom you want to be. You want to make casseroles in your Manolo Blahnik’s? You want to make organic casseroles in your Tom’s? You never want the word casserole mentioned again in your presence?  Great, fine, whatever, because you are in charge now and this is one of the few perks of being an adult.

Immediately after this first step, proceed to step two: get over all your fears, insecurities and doubts about your ability as a mother. So, you’re unmarried? So, you don’t have the perfect job? So, none of your friends have kids? So you are afraid you don’t have a maternal bone in your body? So, your friends don’t quite trust you with their house plants let alone their children, your idea of cooking is a microwave chicken pot pie and you find the idea of breast-feeding simply repulsive? Well, this is my advice: So what? Really, it does not matter.

Line up all those feeling of inadequacy, look ‘em in their beady lil eyes and say, “So what?” Because, you are about to live outside of what you ever thought yourself capable of and you will look back and say to yourself, “damn, I did that!” Sounds deceptively simple, but make no mistake it’s actually one of the most difficult things I’ve ever faced. But it’s worth it.

Take it from me, an admittedly somewhat selfish girl who found herself: pregnant, unmarried, in a dead-end relationship, with no nearby family, a waitress, a college student, with little to no personal example of what being a good mother was, and with the strong suspicion that I had accumulated enough liquor over the years that milk would immediately curdle upon making contact with my breasts, it is very much worth it.

 There is a sign above my son’s bed that says, “I am a Dream Come True.” The thing is, when he first came into my life I didn’t know this, but now I know there are no words that are truer.

 And my last piece of advice is: what you should expect while you are unexpectedly expecting is that you will rise to the occasion of creating the perfect situation for you and your loved ones, as only you can do.

Enjoy, and just be glad THIS can’t happen: