Becoming a Broad with Perspective

my favorite moment from the 1967 “Bonnie & Clyde”

This week’s edition of The Shedonist is going to be rather somber and pensive as it seems like I’m in a phase this week, where everything is either falling apart or finally coalescing. The contradiction of infinite joy and sorrow. That I am celebrating inasmuch that I am mourning.

Last Saturday, I was fortunate to participate in an in-person graduation ceremony honoring my time at USC. The coliseum was three-quarters empty, a bleak reminder of the events of this past year. Transitions are always a reminder of where we came and where we are going.

My high school graduation seemed to be hollow. I felt no ties to family or home, and was longing for space were I could seek solace as my authentic self. Here I was leaving home and family, determined to forget all about who I was. That these childhood wounds would not follow me to sunny California. That I could reinvent myself and no one would know me.

And to a certain extent, I did. Even if some of my lofty expectations were perhaps unrealistic (but I think it is only natural to aim high.)

I soon realized through dating and my platonic relationships, that I still had a gaping sense of emptiness. That in some ways I felt premature, that maybe I should go back to the womb because I was not fully formed. How to be, how to exist without a persistent feeling of lack?

I don’t think at first I was all that self aware. I just knew that in some ways I felt like a mime, that by trying to fake out the feelings and experiences of others, that I would finally come to find out who I am. That I needed someone to tell me who I am.

But setting others up to complete you is a recipe for deep agony, and there were certainly battles and injuries along the way. I think my quest to self-discover is what lead me back to my birthplace in 2019.

I feel like I grew up with secrets and vagueness. I never felt like I truly knew anything. That by prying into certain topics which had been swept under the rug, I was whining and perhaps ungrateful, rather than curious.

I grew up basically knowing nothing about my father (aside from the few summer visits) or his family. The maternal side that I knew and was raised alongside, was there but still unattainable. Distant, almost as if behind a glass.

I have been kicking and screaming with my mother all this time, and as it stands now, it appears that we are entering estrangement.

I never wanted to be like my grandmother’s family, who moved away and denounced origins, yet here I am doing the same. It is the last thing that I would have ever wished, but I’m tired of the kicking and screaming to be noticed.

This same week that my mother announced that she was “done”, I also reconnected with my paternal grandmother over dinner for the first time in over ten years. Though she was always painted as the black sheep, or that kind of woman, I always secretly admired her from afar (even if at times, I too was a bit wary.)

She has always been beautiful and boisterous. Whenever I was told I resembled her, I wore this with a hidden sense of pride because her looks have always been a gem.

She came from a place I knew nothing about and rode Harley motorcycles with her devoted slew of sugar daddies who couldn’t help being intensely infatuated with her. And in the tropics of Hawaii, at that.

Her brother lives in Redondo, so I made a dinner reservation in Manhattan Beach. It was my first time being there, and I had the impression of it being eerily republican, a suspicion I felt validated by some peach faced slob.

He saw a few slices of pizza remaining on our table and made the remark “man I’d like a piece”. In a gross tone that I could only infer meant a ‘piece of ass’. Because those kind of men never mean to be friendly. Their passing comments are always infused with a hint of malice.

During conversation with my grandmother, I was continually amazed that she could be so blasé while recounting the most horrific traumas. She would describe them with a laugh because if I didn’t forgive them, I’d want to destroy the whole world and that would kill me. The kind of words someone only imparts if they’ve been to hell and back and lived to tell the tale. I learned about my paternal grandfather, whose name I carry but have never met. Apparently when I was born they tried to contact his father, but he said he hadn’t heard from him in ages. “Dead probably,” Vicky says.

In addition to selling heroin and being in and out of jail; in the early 80s he tried to steal a diamond from the La Brea Tar Pits. Apparently he ended up in the newspaper for it. I’ve been searching online and have yet to find it.

My dad also tried to confront his mother and psychoanalyze her when he grew up, so I guess we are all living the same cyclical reality. As I try to increase my own awareness and levels of compassion, people become more morally ambiguous. And that in relational conflict, everyone feels wronged. But that people feel like they can’t move on until their wounds have been acknowledged, but sometimes we don’t always get that.

I’m hopeful that as we heal from the past year’s collective trauma, that other individual wounds make their way into the healing journey too. And that we won’t need to explain. I’m trying to extend forgiveness to my mother, but right now I am still hurting, but one day I will get there. There’s this adage I keep hearing/reading about in healing circles that goes “if you ever think you’ve found peace, go and spend a week with your family”. It’s funny how cliche but also resonant that statement is.

I’ve been on a kick lately to remove things from my life lately that increase my feelings of anxiety. I was feeling stressed while driving yesterday, so I drove in silence and focused on my breathing. The more and more I try to align myself with a state of calm, it’s like becoming more awake. I wasn’t even aware that I was operating with tunnel vision until as I was driving, I had the conscious realization that I was starting to notice more things in my periphery than I normally did. Building details, signage, the odd peak of the horizon in the distance.

I realized that I often operate in a metaphorical version of tunnel vision, in which I can only hold space for one feeling at a time. But I’m trying to expand my field of vision, hold space for competing truths and contradictions.

Side note: I feel pretty gross today, but I know it’s just a feeling, and it too will pass. ❤

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