I have been tasked by my newest therapist, pause for *snickers – to put my story in the form of an allegorical book. Please forgive the process, and feel free to respond with opinions if my memory perceptions do not ring true, because you may recognize the characters along the way. I have learned that friends or fr-enemies can be excellent sources of constructive criticism, especially when I struggle with timeline details. Strive for humorous honesty along the journey.
Today, I wanted to mention the positive aspects of living and/or leaving Mississippi had on me in various stages in life. I ‘used’ to think going back to the ‘Sip after the transplants was just another choice poorly made. People said I looked good, but I knew I wasn’t. I am bizarre because I can process inconceivable events in ‘conceivable’ ways, using absurd logic. Most survivors, present themselves as ‘capable’ and together, regardless of the turmoil underneath. That is part of the charm, and it drives me to invest my time in learning others stories before I make any assumptions.
Given the luxury of time, I can go back through the old stories to reflect on the marvelous things I noticed along the way, and my kids can read it later in life, and maybe have a better understanding of who their mother was and where she came from… In the beginning, my process might have been less healthy, but as I grow, I am enjoying the journey.
Summer of 2014, I was still a toxic zombie recovering from the last transplant, and waiting for the divorce to finish and pay off debts before I chose a place to plant roots down south. This idea seemed simple, yet elusive. I had ideas of healing and thriving with a core group of friends, with hope and a faith I missed, plus the ocean view in my horizon. I imagined opportunities in a place I thought I remembered, with people I knew I missed. I thought I could finish my education and get out of debt before I got sick again. I got sicker instead… so did my thoughts, and the debts climbed. Sounds funny when I say it now *? I still have an insatiable desire to possess an ability to “handle my own business” and sustain in life like my peers, and shame when I fall short. For as long as I can remember, I believed myself, incapable. Not a fan of asking others for help, but having children made it a prideful luxury I was not always afforded to avoid. I want to be in the position to help others. I believed it would make relationships easier to make or even rebuild later in life.
My sensitivity to misunderstanding, misperception-fueled and fearful emotions helped me conclude people might view me with pity or mistrust. And at various stages of weakness, not secure or respectable. Personal stinkin’-thinkin’ trains do not help my fragile ego. I know now, I was mentally tethered to past and present traumas, but now I can only look forward and hope to do better the next time life cycles itself back around. Truthfully, I pray/meditate daily asking for at least 7 to 10 years healthy with opportunities to show my daughters everything they need to know to handle themselves in this world.
My mother daughter connection tells me: I won’t pass on to any other place immediately when I die, especially if I am not finished, so I may end up as Casper-the-Friendly but Vicious-Mama-Bear-Ghost-Energy-Ball radiating out of a time and space in order to foil any master plans to destroy my southern family line. *snickers* As long as my spirit self sees the kids are living self sustainable lives, my littlest self will rest in infinite pieces and disappear. I work daily at settling these inner thoughts ‘post haste’, because… it sounds pretty nuts. I would like to stop worrying about what happens next. A bonus to having a job would be to stay busy and not have time to think what went wrong in life, right?
Ok, Mississippi life pondering. People are nice there, but you must be open-minded (for your own sake). Due to a deep cultural or spiritual belief system most of us have (depending on the person). Note irony, you may not be wrong about a thought or belief you have, but if you are visiting… it would ‘behoove’ you greatly, to be respectful when sharing your opinions… The south is nothing without our deep and abiding respect of Basic Etiquette and Manners. I was raised that rudeness or back-talk will get you no where, so you better keep that in your back pocket, if you want to experience that Southern Hospitality we all hear about. If you do not behave yourself, we all know it’s your mamas fault, so just let that resonate before you forget to ‘check’ your Childs behavior in public. If you don’t somebody will. ;). This advice is only if you want to make new native-southern friends #friends4life *Tips for tourists or yankees… You, are welcome.
If you were born and raised southern fried, you mind your business, you can go back home, but they will always remember you from back in the day. So give it up, if you want to go back there at a reunion to impress anybody as some new name and enlightened soul, good luck. Folks will remember that goofy expression, those colorful braces, that mullet or bad perm, umm… and that little 1979 Red Volkswagen Rabbit that broke down weekly in front of the high school when your poor brother asked a million times that you drop him off farther away so he could just WALK. And then HE HAD TO PUSH Start you again… every time, because Gosh-Darnit, he’s a Man!, Lord Have Mercy, the Gulf Coast remembers you… Welcome back Tina Triplett.
Ok, back to southern rumination… you may get a dirty look or ‘shocked expression’ if you swear in the wrong company, go to Wal-Mart without makeup, forget to say yes mam, or yes sir, or your kid does, or if you are out in your pj pants, or any clothes that don’t match in a pleasing fashion, if your kids don’t all match if headed to Easter church service, or in black clothes out of season or your daughter does not wear a big beautiful bow, in her perfect hair. Somebody may ask who your family is and they will actually want to listen, or you might hear “Bless your Heart” because you went on just a tad too long – knowing the different connotations, it’s up to you and your level of awareness to know what it means for you.
You may attend a church that has strict time schedules, and members are ticked by the service running over, and you say Bless His Heart, shake pastors hand, thank him silently for FINALLY wrapping it up, because somebody new joined, and he had to introduce them, and you are starving and can’t wait to get to the buffet before all the other church crowds are letting out, (not Chick-fil-et, because it is Sunday) and back home for a football game and relaxation before night services. There are many artists from, films and stories created about Mississippi life or generational-rooted southerners, BECAUSE, it legitimately is a different world to outsiders. It is cool and strange simultaneously. It is beautiful some days, ugly on others, and under construction during hot, humid or sticky weather. Layers, with heart and soul, triumphs, and tragedies alongside a diverse military & elderly population. People carry themselves with a certain level of dignity that is enviable. I think people should adopt the elderly, because we need them as much as they need us, plus they have amazing STORIES, but only if you slow down and listen… Maybe real healing social change could start truly grow..
A reason I did not fit at times… was I had lost some of that pride I used to carry in my chest as a young person about being southern in general, the more I learned in school, the more I found myself apologizing for myself. I was still broken and raw, still needing to be recognized as the soul I felt I was, but lost. I had this impossible standard to present as “crushing it” 24/7, fooling only myself. My perception as a southerner is we are proud of our self-sufficiency, and ability to rebuild from nothing. If a person is hurting, there is a bible verse to explain why, or to help you ‘turn off’ your fear about it, by believing in Gods ability to catch you or keep you from ‘falling’. Otherwise you would stop, so you press on fearlessly, but reality is often more than we understand once we leave that spiritual safety bubble we were grown in. I think we were all hurting too much at the time to embrace the opportunities while we lived there.
Please forgive my memories… I was born and raised in Mississippi, and left and returned many times over the last 2 decades. Starting with the summer of 2014, I am thankful for my brothers family, among other things, they helped us in the initial move and even donated my first decent bedroom set. I am grateful for my mother’s texts, calls, visits, and financially when we struggled. She offered funny-memorable escapes for the girls when she was over, and took me any place I asked at the most inconvenient times. Family members made holidays special, which we had not been able to feel in a long time, and we all made great memories with our cousins. We attended huge bon-fires in my aunt and uncles back yard, and huge bonfires on the beach. Fishing, paint-balling, more fishing, creepy homeless guys on the Biloxi Pier fishing, and oh fostering all those animals from the shelter. *I am truly LAUGHING OUT LOUD as I type this.
I made new memories at a Water Park & July 4th with dear old friends from Junior High. *priceless* I have this cool uncle angel that secretly helped us for years following my hospitalization, and another boy cousin who delivered ’emergency’ groceries a time or two, neighbors help with gardening tips, furniture, helped packing. Another boy cousin and wife helped with flat tires, and even transferred a title on a car too. My little sister bought and remodeled our last family home, put us in a minivan, and invited us to stay a decade ago. Her family shared good cooking, the Fair, the Circus, a Snake friend, dogs, and real Southern Mississippi life… and they took us to our first Sea Hawks Hockey game with them. But sleeping in my old bedroom as an adult single mother, was not my finest hour. I spent amazing moments with my favorite aunt, I was present when she left us as devastatingly as she entered the universe I imagine. I held the hand of a christian woman dying, and love her through the process, and lastly, I was able to spend several years worth of quality time with my grandmother, and she held each of my daughters. In fact, most of my closest friends held my first born daughter at least once. This is what it means to me about being a Mississippian. For this, I am thankful.
With my daughters, I got to ring some Bells at in front of the church; attend Dinners on the Ground at Handsboro “like old times”, little Red went to Harry Potter Land with my bros family, my stepdad took my family to Disney World and they LOVED on us – in spite of whatever emotional state we may have been in at the time. My dream was to at least visit Disney World with them once before or ‘if’ I got again. I went tubing, and on family canoe trips, attended birthdays, we did Crawfish Fests, I photographed weddings, brides, newborn babies, cared for others precious grandparents, got stuck in traffic Cruisin the Coast, July 4th Fireworks on Biloxi Beach, connected with high school friends and learned about Advocare, and what Faith, Love, Hope, Drive, and Determination looks like in several families. I got inspired seeing old friends again. Hmm… ok… Mardi Gras, and other cajun treats, seafood for miles, dirty beach water, casinos, and pretty white sand. Mississippi is famous for the underdog rising from the dirt poor firey ashes like a phoenix to become SOMETHING… ANYTHING… but at least, you rise to become SOMETHING, BY GOSH.
Remembering random acts of kindness, makes me happy. Restoring some relationships over time is a blessing. I have a particular friend that went above and beyond to keep in touch with me, and she did not live close by. She set a little time aside from her schedule and met me for lunch at least once a month, and always treated me like a sister. I am grateful for relationships I have had in my life. In spite of my sadness some days, or displays of self-loathing, she had a prayer army amassed since… (Jr High?) She still prays for us all. I wish I still had that kind of faith; I wish I were the friend I used to be.
I do have a couple of friends that I can still talk to on the phone across the country or the globe or those that still send me the occasional message. Friends across America and the United Kingdom that send me handwritten letters or cards, are priceless gifts in todays instant ‘everything’. I used to struggle with the solitude once I got sick. I lost my way at times, unable to find a spiritual or inspirational boost in constantly struggling to do something right and failing (at least from my perspective). To use a loose quote from the song “Heavy” by Linkin Park, “sometimes there is comfort in the panic”. My days were spent doing homework, going to appts, taking children to their appointments, getting to school, paying bills, walking dogs, cleaning house, just striving against the currents of life. Life on autopilot, obsessing over everything I ate or drank because I thought I could starve the cancer in the absence of good medical care? Mysteriously, not losing weight no matter what I did. Often too tired to do any weight burning exercise. When I looked at myself I saw a grumpy fat man with a curly Afro.
If I did not have my dog to talk to, I would not have talked to any body other than my kids, and that’s not healthy for a woman my age to not have significant adult relationships. I will probably stay single because 16 years married left me off-balance. I cannot fathom being in a romantic relationship *shudders. If I can, after my children are old enough, I will spend my life serving others as a missionary far away from here, because I know that is something I am good at. *Fun Fact: Radiation + 2 transplants + heavy chemo = indescribable changes to your brain (cancer survivors will relate).
I initially moved from Missouri to Mississippi in search of a support network to catch the things that I was losing. I was not myself; I did not reach out in ways people needed me to. During those isolated moments of weakness, I allowed myself to open to trusting the untrustworthy. I believed my girls needed a strong and positive male role model, but they had me, and I was too self-doubting to see I could be whatever they needed me to be on my own (at least temporarily). They girls need -‘more of everything’, but I do not always know how to provide it… They worry about me because they see I when I struggle keeping track of things that used to be easy. They saw how the medications were changing me each day. I was not built for continuous solitude, but I built up as a result.
*notes internally to self* “Hey Christina – High Five for still standing!”
When I fail before this audience I created… Do people judge me for being a naïve idiot? I am curious, asking these questions. From my intense psychological self study, I see: hyper, obnoxious on social issues, think too much, love deeply, get excited over small stuff, obsessed with my children’s happiness level, talk-thinking-rapidly, self-deprecating, goofy, weird, sensitive, generous, honest, anxious, self-doubting, funny, but it is my practice to not seek to harm another living thing if it is possible. It causes me physical pain if a person I care about lies, or does not believe me when I am trying to share my heart. I am usually the last to know when lied to, or if I present myself in a unintentional way. This stresses me out about human kind.
The greatest part of GroundHog Days, is once you get it RIGHT, you get brand new days until you find yourself stuck again. This my friends, is my current existence. :). Thanks for hanging out.