Ghosts Of Blogger’s Past II

“If you would know the road ahead, ask someone who has traveled it.” [Chinese Proverb]

I have never been to Kuba. Well actually I have not been to a lot of places, but Kuba just happens to be a place I’d really like to go sometimes, but that’s besides the point. If I were ever to travel to Kuba, I would research it first, because that’s just the way I am. I like to know where I am going and I like being prepared. I love lists and plans and even more plans and sticky notes. It gives me a sense of direction and security knowing I have thought everything through.

Part of that planning for me involves internet research and best of all talking to people who have gone there already. Trying to get their scoop on things. You know, finding out where they had the best time, where to shop, where to eat or where not to go.

Obviously other people’s experiences don’t necessarily 100% always equal your own experiences, but I do feel it can give you a sense of where you are heading.

So today Thordora will be my tour-guide to the Kuba of being a motherless Daughter: How to become a woman. The funny thing was, reading her post I felt like going “Check!” “Yeah, that’s me!” all the time.

I was a tomboy growing up just like her. However, I realize that her mother was still around (unlike mine) and she had more of a choice than I did. She chose her father as a role model where as I had no choice. There was no female role model I could relate to.

Yes, my dad did the best he could with what he had, but let’s get real here for a second he didn’t have a lot when it came to becoming a woman. There were times (and they were not that far and in between) when my kindergarten teacher would spend the first 30 something minutes of class doing my hair, cleaning my face and trying to clean me up as best she could. My father seriously had no clue about raising a little girl and he couldn’t even comb my long hair for the life of him. It’s a wonder he didn’t just chop it off all together (actually I really don’t know why he didn’t).

Thordora in her post talks about her father trying to pair he up with motherly figures. So did mine. She said it made her despise being a woman because it scared and saddened her. Reading that hit home, because it echoed so strongly in me. I remember those pair-off’s being so unnatural and awkward. I wanted to go “la-la-la” and plug my ears the entire time. Also it made me feel ashamed and like a charity case. So I rebelled against it, strongly.

My paternal aunt is a Jehovah’s witness. Her way of connecting with me was always through her church and believes, but I was never to interested in it. Mostly I think because I had to wear a dress to her church, whereas I could get away wearing a niece pair of slacks to our church when we went (that might have been just because my father couldn’t be bothered though – looking back I don’t remember any other girls in slacks).

But it’s not so much about the dress or the church or a girly touch, it was more that I had decided that women were fo- reign, frightening creatures that I couldn’t understand. I felt by not having a mother to guide me through their scary world I had no right venturing in it. I felt like the clumsy girl in ballet class (wait, actually that was me!). Overall, I was terrified at the thought of not knowing a metaphorical secret handshake and standing out in the crowd as the girl that doesn’t belong. So I didn’t go near it.

I owned one Barbie doll growing up, but except for cutting her hair with my paper scissors I never paid attention to it. I loved my roller skates, soccer balls, basket balls and basically anything that would make you sweaty, grubby and muddy. I played with the boys mostly because their rules seemed easier to understand and if I didn’t understand something I could ask my father. Whenever I did play with girls, I always wanted to play house and be the dad. I knew dad stuff. All I ever saw was dad stuff. There was nothing gentle and girly in our appartement, nothing sweet and fluffy. Everything was practical, had a sense and a purpose that went far and beyond looking cute.

Thordora said: “Having a vagina doesn’t make you a woman.” True, but it does force you to admit that you are not a man at some point. When I started my period I was furious, shocked, outraged, ashamed and mostly confused. I didn’t want this to be true. It felt like a personal insult. So I ignored it as best I could thinking it would just go away, if I didn’t pay attention to it. I felt too humiliated to buy pads, so I put clean-ex wads in my underwear and walked like a waddling duck.

After a while I realized it wasn’t going away. Telling my father was one of the most humiliating conversations in my life (only seconded by going bra shopping with my father for the first tim). I couldn’t even look at him. Like I said he tried the best, but the pads he bought for me were huge and felt like diapers sticking out everywhere. Poor Dad he wasn’t ready for this! Neither was I though.

The funny thing is, once I accepted that yes, I was becoming a woman and no, there was no way of getting out of it, I really got into it. I always liked learning (I’m a dork, I admit it!). So to me, this was like studying a foreign culture. My first make-up sessions made me look like a $ 3,- hooker. I had no clue what fit my body shape and nobody ever taught me about shaving my legs. I also bruised my ankles a couple of times learning to walk on heels. I was a hot mess! But I was determined to make this work on my own. I hated other women or girls interfering. Now I know they were just trying to be helpful but back then it felt like they were belittling me. It’s like when you are learning a foreign language and somebody constantly corrects your pronunciation or grammar. You know they are just trying to help, but gosh it’s annoying!

For the longest time it was learning by doing or better learning by copying for me. The role mo- dels I picked were the one’s easily available, me- aning literal cover girl models. I tried to do my hair like Cindy Crawford, dress like Kate Moss and smile the way this one shampoo model smiled over her shoulder. Did it work? No, of course not. The only thing it did was frustrate me, because no matter how hard I tried I didn’t look like the models I was trying to copy. I was like a little girl walking in her mother’s high heels: They didn’t quite fit. I didn’t quite get, that most to all women don’t look like models and actually most models don’t look like they look all photo- shopped on a magazine cover. Basically it just took me a while to figure out that there wasn’t ONE way and one way only of being a woman, but that I had to find the woman I wanted to be or better the woman I already was in- side.

All well that ends well, I guess. Today I love being a woman and I think I am very confident about it for the most part. Do I think I should be skinnier, prettier, better dressed, with whiter teeth and all in all a lot more grace full? Sure I do! But than again, show me one woman who doesn’t? Being insecure seems to be part of being a woman, motherless or not.

But there are still times when I feel insecure about “female stuff” as my father would call it. Something will feel off with my period, my hor- mones will be off and I’ll freak. Those are the times when I feel 13 again and motherless. Sometimes I call my aunt (maternal), but at times it feels weird. Sometimes my boyfriend is tortured with weird stuff he’d rather live without (I know I’m sorry!). My gynecologist has had to answer many strange questions throughout the years, too. But then again that’s her job, right?!

The scary thing is, I know I have not come to the hard part yet: becoming a mother… . Becoming a woman was scary enough when the only person I could mess up was myself, but a baby? I want it so bad, but it also literally scares me to death. Sometime soon I know I will have to face that fear and dig deep for some maternal instincts because I sure as hell can’t rely on passed down experience.

But than again maybe I can. It will have to be book smarts again and substitute knowledge, but I survived my teens, right? I think that gives me a pretty good chance a surviving motherhood. I think I’ll plan for a psychologist fund for my kids though too, just in case.

So how was it for you? Was your mother there long enough to show you the ropes? Were you just a natural-born woman? Are you a girly girl now or more of a practical no-nonsense woman? Do you think not having a mother impacted on the woman, not person, you are today? Comment below and let me know!

Ghosts of Blogger’s Past I

“You cannot help but learn more as you take this world into your hands. Take it up reverently, for it’s an old piece of clay with millions of thumbprints on it.”

[John Updike]

When I started blogging here, less than a week ago, I read through the “Are you new here?” instructions on the top right corner of my screen. I don’t know about you, but I am not a computer whizz. Yes, I get a hang of computer programs rather sooner than later and once halfway adept I can work my way around them, but I have to read instructions and I have to play around with it first.

So obviously, except for the general ABC on posting I was really interested in getting blog traffic (shocking isn’t it). The funny thing is, not so much because I want people to indulge in my fine and eloquent writing (yeah right), but rather because I knew I had to get out there and be seen to meet the other motherless daughters I am looking for.

One of the first things the instructions tell you (and if you are a blogger yourself you obviously already know this) is to use their search engine and read up on other blogs.

Unfortunately, I think I am running a little late. Most to all the blogs I found keying in “mother”, “motherless”, “motherless daughter”, “dead mother” seem to have been abandoned somewhere between 2007 – 2009. Reading through the comments from a couple of years ago almost feels like wandering through one of those old western ghost towns (I’m actually not to sure those really exist, but that’s how they were portrayed in the old western movies I watched as a child).

However, just because their creators (for whatever reason) have given up on them doesn’t mean they are worthless. Well yes, granted, I can’t really get in touch with these women because the phone line has been disconnected so to speak, but I can still pick up on some of their thoughts and feelings: It’s really kind of like listening to ghosts of blogger’s past.

Two of those have really hit home for very different reasons and I feel it’s only right for me to cite them here.

The first of them (and the one I want to talk about in this post) is Jen. In her post: “Happy Birthday, Kate” she shared her thoughts on selling her childhood house. She said: “Yet the ghosts have never moved on.”

Sometimes it can be eery to see your own thoughts in writing. That’s especially true, when it wasn’t you who spelled them out. When I read Jen’s post, I thought about my father’s move about 7 years ago (maybe 6, maybe 8 – I am not good a keeping track of time). I felt that she had somehow read my mind or tapped onto my feelings in a strange way.

Up until then he had still lived in the same appartement that he had lived in with my mother when she died. The bathroom she died in was my bathroom. This must sound creepy to anybody else, but to me it was comforting. Her ghost, to me, had never moved on.

Moving day was rough. Jen said in her post that it felt like she was losing her mother all over again. I couldn’t agree more. I wasn’t able to partake in the general buzz and excitement of that day. I remember sitting on the dirty floor in the empty kitchen while everybody was outside trying to find words to say goodbye. I didn’t have any.

I walked outside and saw that my mother’s coffee mug (blue with cream “Mama” logo) that had always been stored away in the depths of the kitchen cabinet had been thrown out with every thing else. The mug was chipped and a long crack ran through “Mama”. My father was leaving everything behind. For him separating from the past was vital to face a fresh future and I don’t begrudge him that.

The only problem was that I was trying to keep the past alive, because that is all I had to connect with her. A shared bathroom, some old clothes and a Mama-coffee-mug.

Even though Jen may be long gone it is comforting to know, that her ghost also is still here – Thank you!

Phantom Pains

“Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you are ashamed of them, and hide them, you’re letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.”

[ Jim Morrison ]

I’ve said in my “About” that the reason I have taken up blogging about being a motherless daughter is to find “kindred spirits”.

Last night I was laying in bed talking things over with my boyfriend who is so empathetic it’s scary (although my choice in men is a whole nother post on its own) and he phrased it quite well. What he said is:

” Losing your mother to you is like losing an arm or a leg. Of course you can function without it and you will find methods of cooping and maybe even improving other skills that you usually wouldn’t have, but you are still missing that arm or leg. And yes, people won’t be able to relate because they have two arms or legs. All they see are the advantages that come with it like someone open- ing a door for you because you can’t, but they can’t see that you would give all of this up in exchange for just having two arms or legs.”

See, I told you: He is eerily empathetic! This is exactly how I feel. He nailed it.

Since I lost my mother at such a young age, I was able to develop certain skills that I wouldn’t have had to otherwise. I have become incredibly independent (although I am incredibly needy at times too), I’m very empathetic to everybody else’s feelings and emotions and usually tap on to them quite easily without them being voiced, I was/am always really mature (although I do regress in certain situations), I have become an analyzer and a thinker with a highly acute emotional side.

Would I have been able to obtain these skills without the loss of my mother? Yes! Of course I would have (at least I think I would), but I don’t think it would have happened so fast or in such an intensity. It is almost like the blind person that has incredible hearing. Maybe he had a great hearing to start with, but not being able to see forced him to develop this natural ability even further. To perfect it.

Did I have any other advantages in life? Is someone always opening the proverbial door for me because I can’t? Yes and no.

In elementary school I was doted upon by my female teachers (and somehow I only had fe- male teachers). They paid a lot more attention to me than to the other little boys and girls in my class. I didn’t get a free ride, but I did get more attention and more incentive to do good. Obviously this helped me to progress as a student and essentially served as a foundation to my further schooling. So yes, that was an advantage.

Also, especially grandmotherly figures, would try to make up for my loss with sweets, treats and attention (although not so much my own grandmothers, neither paternal nor maternal – but that again is another post). So yes, I guess that was an advantage too.

I also believe, that if my father were writing this post he would point to many other advantages: financial (I received a sort of “half-orphan pension”), emotional (attention from the entire family – always being the special child) and a lot of leniency in discipline and parenting from his side. I can’t bluntly disagree with those, but I don’t fully agree with them either, but again this is another post (gosh, I’m saying that a lot today).

However – yes there were advantages (internal and external) for me through the death of my mother.

Would I trade all of those for the chance at having a “normal” life with a mother, MY mother? In a heartbeat!

No advantage of any sort would ever make me reconsider this.

I miss her painfully. I long for her constantly. Sometimes I break down and have this intense need for her, that it catches my breath.

Now, obviously you can object to this easily citing the age I was when the loss occurred. You could argue, that me being so young means, that I don’t know what I am missing, I don’t know what I am longing for. I hardly got to say hello, before I had to say goodbye.

Agreed, I can’t mourn the person my mother was because I didn’t get to know her, but I can mourn exactly that. I can grieve being robbed of getting to know my mother. I can long for the ability to look into her eyes or smell her scent or touch her hand. I can have the need for a motherly touch.

Also I believe that having lost her so early on in my life, I might not know what exactly I am missing out on, but I DO know that I am missing out on something. Maybe I hadn’t gotten used to having two arms and two legs yet and so I don’t know what it feels to have them, but I do feel something vital is missing and it hurts.

This hurtful feeling that stems from her absence is almost like phantom pain. It’s gone and so it shouldn’t hurt, but my heart and soul remembers her from when she carried me in her womb and this nervous memory triggers pain. Denying me this pain is denying my reality.

So now I come full circle once again. Although I am blessed with this amazing man in my life, I feel the need for other “motherless daughters”. Women who will not only empathize with my phantom pains, but know them as their own. Know the feeling of longing, hurting and feeling lost and maybe even those moments of feeling alienated to friends and family because they don’t feel this way.

I believe that pain is a message your body, mind or spirit sends you to let you know something is wrong. To search inside yourself and to mend and grow stronger from it.

It would be so much easier to mend whilst learning from others who have travelled down that path before me.

And even if it were just to compare battle scars.

Broken Time Machine

“We all have our time machines. Some take us back, they’re called memories. Some take us forward, they’re called dreams.”

[Jeremy Irons]

Growing up I realized a very peculiar thing and if you are a motherless daughter, I’m sure you will have no- ticed it too. Mentioning my mother’s death to other’s is a conversational weapon of mass destruction. When- ever mentioned, mostly en passant, it kills conver-sation. Faces go blank, followed by a split second of awkward silence, before hasty apologiesare spluttered.

As a child awkward silence is not something I could handle – I am not sure anybody could. I always felt ashamed, as if mentioning my mother’s death was committing a social crime. I didn’t want anybody to feel bad and I didn’t want to feel alienated.

Therefore I quickly adapted a little social mantra to deal with these reactions and try to smooth them over. When asked about my mother, I would openly admit that she had passed away and then quickly, before the other party had a chance to react, I’d say “but I was two and half when it happened, so I really don’t have any memory of her, so it’s not such a big deal because I really don’t remember it any other way. I’m not missing anything”. I know this helped people. It took some of the horror out of the four horrific words: “My mother is dead.”

It is almost like saying: “Oh don’t worry, I never really liked it anyway and it was already chipped”, when somebody breaks a plate/glass/cup of yours. It takes away the other person’s guilt. And yes, peo- ple do feel guilty. They feel like making me say the words out loud is going to cause me more pain. We are all raised like that. We want to make people feel happy around us – getting someone to say their mo- ther died usually doesn’t make them feel very hap- py.

The key point of the verbal defusing of the weapon was alway the “no memories”. Somehow people always felt this was a blessing disguise, as if not remembering her ment I was spared the pain of missing her. I believed that for a while myself – a long while actually. I felt that not having any memories ment I was not allowed to grieve. Now I understand that I am grieving my mom, that I should have had and that I can do that without actually remembering the person she was.

For a long time, I felt that lacking memory of my mother was almost like adding insult to injury. Not only was she gone and I couldn’t spend time with her building new memories, but also every random person knew more about my mother than I (her only child) did. It seemed unfair and it still does.

When I was 11 or 12 I heard that smells can conjure memories, so I stuck my nose into every spice container in our kitchen cabinet. No results. I spent hours in the basement, my nose buried in her old clothes stored away trying to sniff out anything, but dust and the irritating basement staleness. Eventually  I gave up. I won’t ever have my time machine in the past. My time machine is broken and only works one way. The problem with that is that driving is harder when you don’t have a rearview mirror and can’t turn around because you are going to fast. Dangerous situations can occur when feelings creep up on you.

I think that’s (in essence) what happened to me in my “horrible teens”. I hadn’t gotten around to setting my time machine on “future” yet, the present was unbearable and my past felt incomplete. I felt lost. Lost in time and space.

I’m trying to find myself again and working very hard at it, but I will always feel insecure about not being able to fully grasp the one moment that defined my life forever.

At times it feels like juggling chain saws blindfolded. It’s frightening and I don’t like being frightened. I guess it would be better to say, it feels like watching out for monsters under the bed.

You know they’re not there, but sometimes you can’t help checking.

Related Article

Beginn At The Beginning

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop”

[Lewis Carroll]

The beginning of my story is the end of my mother’s. Even though she didn’t die giving birth to me, this rings truer to me, than any other sentence used describing the connection between the death of my mother and my life.

My mother passed away on her 30th Birthday on April the 20th 1984.She was an epileptic and had a seizure whilst taking a bath, hit her head and drowned. I found her, although I can’t remember that.

At that time my parents where sharing our appart- ement with another married couple and their young daughter. We called all of them by the first name, there was no “mommy” or “daddy” and the other girl and I were raised like sisters for the time being.

The story I have pieced together through many, different tales by various people goes like this:

“On April the 20th 1984 my mother was getting ready for her big 30 party. My father (Jay) and my parents friends (Be and Ce) took me and their daughter (Enmi) out to prepare everything and give my mother some breathing space.

Upon our return, they thought it would be sweet to send me into the bath- room baring thirty long-stemmed red roses.

Girl Holding Dead Flowers

Image by This Is A Wake Up Call via Flickr

I returned after a while and very seriously ordered everybody to be quiet because “mom was taking a nap”. Obviously everything happened very quickly after that. Be and Jay rushed into the bathroom and got my mother out of the bathtub and did C.P.R. on her. Ce called 911 or rather the german equivalent to that (yes we were living in Germany) and then gathered up Enmi and myself and took us to a near playground as to have us out of harms way.

Everybody did what they could to save my mother. In the end nothing could save her. She had left for good.”

A bit more than a year later Be, Ce, Enmi and their new baby boy (Bema ) packed their bags and left for France. I lost my “other mother” and my “sister” that day. They left for good and their was nothing I could do to stop them.Actually my first real memory is a snapshot of them driving off.

Years later I found out that they had discussed taking me with them, but my father veto-ed the idea because he didn’t want to lose me as well. I understand and I don’t. This might sound weird to anybody reading this (and at this point, I know it won’t be too many), but I believe my father made a very selfish decision that day in keeping me with him. He is an attorney and was just preparing to sit his second bar exam (yes, in the german legal system you sit two) at that time. He literally had no time for me. Even though almost 28 years have gone by and so much has changed this hasn’t. There is no place for me in my father’s life, but that of a spectator.

My father never got remarried, but he did have long and longer relationships in the past. Some women had kids, some didn’t. Some were significantly younger than my father, some more the same age. Some had a career of their own, some were housewives. Not one of them was a mother to me. Their relationship was always exclusively with my father.

To be fair, once I hit my teens I became the poster-child of girls gone wild – running away from home, boys, parties, skipping school, lying, stealing, smoking – I was not a pleasure to be around and I didn’t make anybody’s life easy – especially not my own. Even though I have moved on from that stage of my life and more than outgrown my “terrible teens” a lot of what has happened during that time severely wounded me and my family. None of those wounds have healed.

I have been in and out of therapy throughout my life, without it having the desired effect. I am currently in therapy again, but this time it’s different. This time I am in it because I want to be.

So the big question remains: Why blog about it?! Well, it’s not an easy answer. A lot of aspects have gone into my decision to write for the world to see (even though I know – at least presently – nobody is looking). The main reason is, that apparently (at least in Germany) there are no self-help groups for adults that dealing with a deceased parents. Maybe because society has not yet fully understood the long-term effects this trauma has on women of all ages. Also I don’t know anybody who has lost their mother; – divorce yes, death no. So sometimes I feel like an alien to my friends and family. My hope is, that maybe this will help me find people who have gone through similar things in their life and in the meantime, maybe “writing things out loud” can help structure some of the turmoil in my head and soul.

Here’s to new beginnings!