Big Box Stores vs. Our Own Identities

This was an interesting news article.  Especially when you consider the popularity of the big box stores.  Now, there’s a lot to be said for big box stores and the comfort of knowing that when I walk into a Wal-Mart, it’s going to be just like every other Wal-Mart store and my allergy pills (which I cannot live without and still function as a human being) are going to be exactly where I expect them to be in every single Wal-Mart store in not only the country, but the world.  There’s a certain comfort to walking into Wal-Mart in Cancun and knowing that it’s going to basically have the same stuff as my local Wal-Mart in Dipstickville, Indiana except for the Spanish on the packaging.

As I said, there is alot to be said for this.  However, I enjoy going into a little hole in the wall store and finding something unique that no one else will have and reveling in it.  I guess this is why I love vintage shops so much.  Even at the dawn of mass consumerism there was not always alot of continuity.  Whenever we travel, I am always looking for that little shop that epitomizes the character of a place without packaging it for mass zombie-ism.  I love learning where the weird lies in a place and I love walking around in it for a few minutes or a few hours depending on how big the shop is.

How can you deny the pleasure in walking around an antique or vintage store and discovering all of the uniqueness of a generation before.  I love clothes that are pre-1970’s simply because people still made alot of their own clothes and the fabrics that they chose in conjunction with the pattern and their own unique twists make them truly pieces of artwork to own.  Besides the fact that women were masters of seamstressing back then and could take 3 or 4 patterns and make soemthing truly spectacular to wear out of them.  And the jewelry!  I love vintage jewelry!  So many pieces were dismantled to make those stupid jewelry tree pictures in the 70’s that it’s nice to find a little rhinestone piece with all the sparklies intact.

I’ve never strived to be like everyone else…well, I’ve never been able to pull it off anyway.  So, why not celebrate what is truly unique in all of us.  We have gone too far in creating a generation of kids that think they are all special.  Because, in reality, humans would be boring if we were all “special”.  For those of you who are wierd kids in my readership, you recognise the code word for “weird” because weird became a bad word in so many people’s vocabularies.  I even had a sort of bad taste in my mouth after years of growing up and being derogatorily referred to as the weird kid in my family.  One day, though, something in my head clicked.  Why not be accepting of the weird title and wear it proudly?  There isn’t anything wrong with the way that I think, it’s just different.  Different is good. 

The United States was built by a group of men who thought differently.  They truthfully were probably a bunch of ADD kids who couldn’t follow the rules and rejected authority at every twist and turn.  But look at what those authority buckers built!  A country that supposedly prides itself on its ingenuity and has built a bigger, better, more efficient way for all of us to join the ranks of the cookie cutter people!

I used to wish that I could be a cookie cutter person, but life is not any fun when we are all the same.  Think of how we might be living if everyone just accepted that we were supposed to live in caves and never farm or do anything but hunt.  Think of all the wonderful parts of your life that you would be missing out on because you just accepted that this was the way things were and that nothing should ever change!  Think of all the wonderful experiences that are part of our world today that weren’t around 25 years ago or 50 years ago or 100 years ago.  I for one greatly appreciate that some guy thought that it was a good idea that we should be warm and safe in our own house to go to the bathroom.  I hate camping for exactly this reason.  I do not like to worry about bugs and spiders just for the sake of having to go pee.  I will seriously consider diapers as a new fashion for that one little reason.

I think that we are beginning to lose our ability to think outside of the box because we are always being herded into the big box.  Third world countries are going to start filling this niche because our brains are too busy walking around Wal-Mart trying to find the stuff that they offer.   In our small town, the offerings have gotten less and less as the big box stores make more of an effort to be a cookie cutter army.  Did you know that every Wal-Mart has practically the exact same clearance items as well as sale items?  It’s frightening.  Even Big Lots has that feel of big boxness.  You used to be able to walk in to one store and it would be sort of the same, but not quite.  Hell, even Goodwill has lost it’s sense of uniqueness in the era of big boxness.  Goodwill used to be my favourite place to shop, now it’s just like Wal-Mart but with used clothes.

I have resigned that we must have big box stores to some degree.  I think of my early hatred for K-Mart because it symbolised everything that I was not.  My mother would drag me in there shopping so that I might have a chance at being the same, but I never quite pulled it off at all.  I still managed to be weird even in cookie cutter clothes.  I couldn’t resist the rhinestone pin or the shoes, or whatever my current sense of identity was wrapped in.

I have just learned to love myself for my own uniqueness.  I have just learned that I need to demand that of the other people in my life as well.  I have just learned that I should not fill my life with people that cannot be accepting of that uniqueness in me because they tend to make me question that I am okay in that uniqueness.  So, once again, to my critics and you know who and what you are….I’m okay being weird.  I love being weird.  I revel in it.  You need to get over it.

On the eve of another anniversary…

I decided that the best way to deal with a horrible anniversary is to write a blog.  So, I write this a letter to my son who I dearly miss.

Dear Kale,

Today is the day before your 19th birthday.  If someone had told me 19 years ago when I was in labour that I would be sitting here not knowing anything that was going on in your life, I don’t think I would have believed them.  If they’d told me that your dad would be at the root of this problem, I would have believed that.

I hate that I’ve missed your last 4 birthdays.  Let me rephrase that, I haven’t missed them at all, I’ve been deprived of them.  I have never chosen to be out of your life.  At this point I guess that there is some explanation in order and since no one else is telling you the truth, I guess that once again it is up to me to be the bad guy.

That day 3 years ago when your dad decided that I couldn’t talk to you anymore, it was not a court order.  In acutality, the court has never taken away my 15 minute daily telephone visits with you.  Your dad suddenly decided that I no longer could contribute positively to your well being.  Then he blocked all our phone numbers from his phones.  He then began a very systematic washing of your brain.  He embroiled you in the a cult and made it so that you cannot associate with anyone outside of the church.  Then they told you that you have 3 chances to convert me. Well, I’m not sure if they actually told you that, but they made it happen that way.  There were exactly 3 phone calls where you ranted and raved at me like some sort of religious fanatic on crack.  Then I never heard from you again. 

I am in absolute heartbreak about the way you acted at graduation.  I try to rationalise it and think that you were a scared little boy who saw an exit with a locked door and started to yell at the only person in your life that you have ever felt safe with.  I know that I’m safe for you to yell at because I won’t punish you or hate you or hit you.  You knew that no matter what you said to me that I would still love you.  And I do.  I’m hurt and I’m angry, but I still love you.  There was a moment when I thought you were going to hug me and then your face changed.  You suddenly became your dad and I was in shock.  Every word out of your mouth was some lie that he’d poured into you.  Every movement that you made was some crazy move he made.  It was frightening that in 3 years he had taken away the son that I was so proud of and replaced him with a drug addict who cannot think for himself.

I know this seems harsh, but no one takes the amount of Risperdol that you take for ADD issues.  It’s a mood changer.  In fact only two diagnoses take Risperdol with desireable results : Asperger’s and Schizophrenia.  We know you’re not schizophrenic and we know you have Asperger’s.  You are smart enough to put the pieces together.

I guess on that same note, I should apologise for making you Asperger’s.  You will notice that I did not say that I’m sorry for making you think you had Asperger’s.  Because I didn’t make you think that, you brought the Asperger’s diagnosis to me.  You found it!  But I also think about what a great kid you were once upon a time.  You had such a fantastic personality.  We laughed so hard and so good!  There were silly laughs and good laughs and gutbusting laughs.  We shared tears and joy and most of all respect and love.

I don’t think you actually respect your dad.  You can’t respect someone that you are afraid of.  You can’t respect someone who has belittled you and made you feel as if you are not important.  You can’t respect anyone who has told you that you are mentally ill and that you are not special. 

Kale, some day, you will understand the horrible position that your dad put me in.  Some day you will be able to be free and think for yourself again.  I hope that someday when you are free and can think for yourself, that you will remember the good things about me.  I hope that you will remember that I always fought for you.  I hope that you will remember that I never missed an activity, a soccer game, or an art show.  I hope that you will remember that I was never unkind in my criticism and that I never hurt you. 

Overall, I hope that you figure out that I never abandoned you.  I had no choice.  Your dad blocked our numbers, your dad made sure that you could not get messages from me, your dad made it so that I was not in your life.  This was not a choice I would have ever made.  Why would I?  I’ve never not been there for any important event in your life until your dad started to make sure that I couldn’t be there.  Think about it really hard for just a moment. 

Think about what kind of person your dad is.  I am pretty sure that I don’t need to go into anymore detail.  We both know what kind of person he is.  We both know that it’s not the good kind of person that everyone should aspire to be.  We both know that he is not the kind of man that you want to be.  Definitely not the kind that you should start out imitating.

I will tell you a secret that I’ve learned, as well.  People like your dad only exist to help themselves and keep other people down so that they have a road to walk on.  I learned that people like your dad only feel good when they are making other people feel bad.  I have learned that when you listen to other people tell you what is wrong with you, that you start to believe it even when they are utterly and completely wrong.  I have learned that it takes an incredibly long time to dig yourself out of that hole after you’ve let someone put you into it.  I have learned that only you can measure the sort of person that you want to be and you are the hardest person to be accountable to.  I have learned that after you have let someone make you believe that you are not worthwhile, that you always have that little tiny seed of self doubt inside of you.  It never goes away.  No one can bring it back and no one can change that ultra critical picture that you have of yourself.  Eventually, you can meet someone that makes you feel as if that picture is not quite right and could use some adjustment, but you will always wonder if that person knows what the hell they are even talking about.

I hope that some day we can put our relationship back together.  I will always be your mom.  I will always love you unconditionally.  I will love you no matter what you say or do.  I will not always be happy with you or like what you do.  It doesn’t change that I am your mother and you are my son.  It will never change that I have this Kale sized space in my heart where only you fit.  I cannot change that your dad has made us lose 4 years.  I cannot take it back.  We will never get back all of this time. 

I will never be able to share your 16th birthday. Or your 17th. Or your 18th. Or your 19th.  I will never be able to share teaching you to drive.  I will never be able to share your first love. I will never share your first heart break.  Your dad stole all of those things from us.  While he was complaining on Twitter about every aspect of your being, I was sitting here wishing that I had you to complain about.  While he was taking you for granted, I was missing you and wishing you were here.  While he was being petty and scheming, I was wondering how you were and what you were doing.  I was wishing that I could read every FB post no matter how stupid.  I was wishing that I could see your talent grow in front of my eyes.  I was wishing that I could encourage you in that talent.

Kale I miss you.  I hate that I’m not in your life.  I hate that you are thinking that I shouldn’t be a part of your life.  I hate that I think about you every day and that I can’t just share some little silly joke or some major thing that I know isn’t major but that you don’t.  Please come to your senses and realise that you need your mom in your life.  Please come to your senses and realise that I never would have chosen to not be in your life.  Please realise that I love you and that I will never give up hope. I will never give up on you.

Selling out

Wish You Were Here (Waters, Gilmour) 5:17

So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from Hell,
Blue skys from pain.
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

And did they get you to trade
Your heros for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

I posted this because this is a song that has always been near and dear to my heart.  There are many reasons that it’s so close to my heart. Outside of the obvious message of longing for someone that is not there with you.  The bigger picture is that it is a song about giving up something or someone that you hold dear, for something that looks good, but doesn’t really hold up.  So, I ask you, darling reader, what part of yourself have you sold out?  What dream have you traded for society’s picture of what life should be?

So, in thinking about this bit of poetry, I think about the parts of me that I sold out.  Worse, I worry that somewhere I set a precedent for Kale.  I wonder if I made it okay for him to sell his soul to organised religion and not getting beaten on a regular basis.  Did I model for him that his dad had more power than he did?  Did I figure out where my feet were and stand on them way too late?  Worse than that even, did the court teach him that?

I guess that in a way, I could be excused because of the years of abuse that I suffered at the hands of his dad.  But the court has no excuse whatsoever.  The court made a monster out of his dad and then handed him the keys to the insane asylum.  They gave him all of the paperwork to do whatever he wanted and have no worry of punishment for his digressions.  Isn’t that nice of them?

So, today, I ask the question: Kale what piece of your soul did you sell for your dad’s reality and was it worth it?  Was it worth it to deny who you really are?  Was it worth it to lie about what you knew was true?  Was it worth it to lose yourself in all of the glitter only to find out that the glitter was little more than shiny paper and dust?  We all have to make choices in our lives.  We have to make sure that in retrospect we do not feel as if there is nothing left of ourselves in those choices. We have to make sure that our choices are informed and not made out of fear.  Choices made of fear are always wrong.  I know this better than anyone.  I made lots of choices that were motivated by the fear I had of my ex.  The best decision I made was to leave.  I weighed the evidence and discovered that if I was going to keep me and Kale alive, I was going to have to leave.  He was nuts in the end and told me constantly that he would kill either one of us at a moment’s notice and never blink.  I believed him, I had seen what he could do and it was not pleasant.

I can say with no uncertainty that I miss Kale horribly.  The hole that he has left inside of me is undeniable.  I dream every day that this crap will all be over and things can go back the way that they were.  But they won’t.  I know the job of clean up that I will have to do to eliminate all of the garbage that my ex has put in Kale’s brain.  I sigh and wonder if it will be worth it.  I weigh those things out in my head all the time.  I try to think of the end results.  That maybe some of the future milestones will be there for me to enjoy.

It’s sad that my ex is so wrapped up in getting his revenge that he can’t see past the damage that he’s done to Kale.  I guess I can only hope that Kale will realise it and get away from him.  He can’t just hate his dad for what he’s done, he has to make himself a better person in spite of it.  Because in reality, he’s doomed to just repeat his dad’s mistakes if he stays on this road.

So, Kale, I wish you were here.  I understand you.  I can help make the world make more sense.  I’ve never forced you to blindly believe or trust in anything in your life.  I have let you make choices and figure out how to react to your circumstances.  Not that I was always a perfect parent.  I know that none of us are.  I have never pretended to be.  I have always done the best I could with what I had.