Dear Brain: Stop Messing With My Head

I am really, really trying not to develop a crush on Javier.

Es no bueno idea. Es un muy bad idea.

Es happening. Un poquito. Or poco. One of those.

Aaaaand I’m out of Spanish.

The other night, in the neighborhood meeting place, we met up for a neighbors-who-hadn’t-seen-each-other-in-a-month drink (two glasses of wine for me, one for him – he paid when the check came, which I never expected) and wound up talking there, on the walk back to my house and in front of my house, for three and a half hours. Nothing crazy or really deep – though he did tell me what he’s struggling with at work on a meta, interpersonal level, and he did get treated to a version of the stalker story, for reasons I cannot recall, and then said he wants to hear the whole thing sometime, which he probably definitely does NOT, because men always say they want to hear a whole dramatic story and then remember after the fact that they don’t like drama and maybe they were just trying to be nice. Or pretend to be nice.

I digress.

There has been a bit of a situation in my psyche lately because of the impending nuptials of Puh-Puh-Puh and Blythe Danner’s fake daughter (I can’t even use actual not-actual names at this point). I blame this situation for the fact that I’m flailing a bit in my resolve not to develop a crush on Javier. Also I’m blaming his sexy accent.

Seriously, the other day I caught myself imagining an argument with him just to invent what he would sound like when he’s upset. Like Andy Garcia in “When A Man Loves A Woman.” (Which boasts one of the best of the gazillion covers of “Crazy Love” I’ve ever heard, performed by Brian Kennedy, not that anybody knows who that is.)

And the other night kind of felt like a pre-date. Which it absolutely, positively cannot have been.


It’s been kind of a random few days around here, if I’m honest. Miss Ella down the street has been all kinds of cray, which is really very sad and I can’t ignore it. One night I wound up in her kitchen with another neighbor because she claimed she smelled paint fumes, and I knew there would be no such thing, but we found a serious dearth of food, as well as a disconnected stove/oven because she baked an ice cube tray and its molten corpse remains in there while she insists with indignation that an elderly lady did it. Which is technically true.

The night that Javi and I met up, she was outside after midnight, asking us where her mother was and thinking she was out partying. This was Javi’s first dose of Miss Ella. He told me to let him know if I need help checking on her.

I’ve thought about taking her food nightly for dinner since she can’t heat anything up, but she also has no teeth. I took her some soft hot food the other night (for which Javier called me “so sweet!”). But the next night, when I tried to scope out whether she’d eaten it, the whole container was gone. I looked in the fridge and freezer and all the cabinets and drawers. There were a few new food items – some milk, a pound and a half of lunch meat still sealed days after purchase – but no rice and teeny-tiny chicken pieces and no container. So I’m guessing whoever came to check on her and bring her the lunch meat found the container still full of now-spoiled food because she never ate it. She was going to share it with her brother John, she told me. John, who some days is dead and other days is not.

It was when I heard her shuffling up and down the street calling out, “Mommy? Mom? Mommy?” at 5:00 Monday morning that I decided to contact the department of aging.

Well, that warranted a non-work-related conversation with Rick. I needed a direction to go in with the agency.

Yeah, it’s possible I slipped backward a little with him, too. Not far, just… not as cool and distant as I’ve historically been. It’s possible I was coy and coquettish.


I’d been doing so well.

Meanwhile, this weekend is the final official whole-family weekend for the final official weekend of the summer at the beach. I haven’t talked to my mother since the last time, which was August 1. Not out of spite, just out of upset and discomfort, and I even told her that via a brief email in response to her message telling my sisters and me (and my dad, because apparently they don’t talk to each other despite living in the same house as retirees) that a family friend’s toddler has cancer. She said she’s over our fight, “it was a bad night, but we can move on from here.”

Yeah, um… no, we kind of can’t.

But tonight, when I got home later than usual from work, I headed down to the next block to feed the neighbors’ cats while they’re on vacation and found my little neighbor Montrose walking down the street with $1.25 in his hand. Today was his second day of second grade, and he was going to get toilet paper from the store because they were out at his house. We chatted while we walked to the store and back together. Then I went to feed the cats and water the flowers outside while the little ones from a house nearby shyly tried to help. And on my return, there was neighbor Sly, who is delightful if constantly drunk, sitting outside with his arm in a makeshift cast after a fall. We chatted for a  minute or two before I moved on to Miss Ella, who chatted to me about how she can’t wait to move because she doesn’t like the neighborhood anymore. And then I went home and gave an old toaster to a new resident of the neighborhood.

And resisted any attempt to make any kind of contact with Javier.

Serenade, motherfucker. Or: On the Occasion Of Your Wedding

I’m slowly congealing a fantasy about showing up at Jack’s wedding reception and blowing the doors off the place.

Metaphorical doors, since I imagine it will be outside. I don’t know why I imagine that, but I do. He’s not one for showiness, and it’s hard to find an indoor venue that doesn’t fairly smack of showiness, even in tasteful settings. I don’t know exactly what I would do, but I’m pretty sure it would involve a mic drop immediately followed by – in a graceful fit of vengeance I got from my gay-bor Steve the other night when he was telling an interminably long but hilarious story about how he was cock-blocked at every turn one summer by a particular Asian doctor – the single-motion swiping clear of every finger sandwich from the refreshments table on my way out.

It seems I’ve made it to the Passive-Aggressively Bitchy Stage of Loss/Grief.

Do you ever get pissed off at yourself for not being over something that happened, let’s say, four to 18 months ago? Yeah. Me too.

But how bad-ass would that be, for me to show up at wherever this bullshit joke is taking place (poor Gwyneth – no idea) and somehow pull off with class and grace and aplomb a giant Fuck You? “And although there’s pain in my chest, I still wish you the best with a fuck you…”

Cee-Lo Green is a damned poet.

I feel like I would need to channel Audrey Hepburn instead, though. But singing. I just Googled “song about a guy getting what he deserves” to figure out what I could sing at the tasteful reception that could end in a mic drop and the spectacular hoarding of crustless watercress-prosciutto-and-cucumber nibbles. And then I tried “song about guy who cheated getting divorced.” That brought up, I shit you not, 75 country songs. 

I hate country. And I can’t do a mic drop after “Friends In Low Places.” Also I’m now irrationally angry at Tracy Byrd for recording a song called “Revenge of a Middle Aged Woman.” Predictably, it ends with Tracy in the woman’s bed.

Someone send Cee-Lo over to Tracy Byrd’s house.

(Pause for image of miniature Tyrannosaurus Rex trying to throw punches at a doofus in a ten-gallon hat.)

(That’s funny ’cause Cee-Lo has weirdly short arms.)

Then I Googled “song about woman getting revenge,” and either there has never been such a thing or I’m starting to freak Google out, because the screen was blank.

Sara Bareilles has a song called “Sweet As Whole” that I find completely delightful and very singable and even kind of pretty, but it blames Gwyneth a little too much. Still, it would work with my voice.

Jack never heard me sing. In ten years he never once heard me. He had plenty of opportunities, always knew when and where I was doing it, but he never once showed up. Didn’t even ask, usually. One time he offered to pay for my voice lessons because I was stressed out about a vocal problem I was having and about being able to afford the lessons. He said it would mean a lot to him if I let him foot the bill. Which I, of course, refused to allow because no one else should have to spend $200 a month on a voice they never care to hear.

Huh. Not even once.

What do we think of Kelly Clarkson’s “Never Again”?

Yeah. That’s the one.

Can Someone Just Write This Thing For Me?

Probably I should be writing a 1,000-word-or-less statement for my graduate school application right now, but I’m not. Because I can write anything you ask me to… seriously, pretty much anything, I got this… but a 1,000-word-or-less statement about my academic and professional experience with researching, planning, executing and evaluating communications campaigns? Despite being, you know, what I do for a living? 

Totally incapacitating.

Can my 1,000-word-or-less statement be, “I work here. I’m actually your office’s PR and marketing person. If you’d like samples of my work, see every publication you’ve sent out to a prospective student in the last four months. Also the institution’s website. Admit me. Thanks.”  Forty words. Short, sweet, to the point. Here’s my application fee. 

Yeah, one of those sentences isn’t really a complete sentence. Points off for that.

Because don’t make me think about what I do for a living. I’m quite familiar with what I do, but if I have to deconstruct it into all those subcategories and figure out how to apply them directly, I’m going to have writer’s block for days. Which I can’t really afford, because classes start in… soon.

It’s weird, thinking about going back to school. I say “thinking about” because obviously I’ve been lax in getting my application finished. The statement is all that stands in my way right now, but I’m really not in an all-fired hurry. If I don’t get to start in the fall, that’s fine, I’ll save my money for books and fees and start when they let me. Apparently I’m going to be forced to take a statistics course before I can start the M.S., so that’s going to suck, but maybe I could get that out of the way if I don’t get in right this minute.

Or whatever minute I finish the statement.

Which has not yet been started.

That first sentence is so clutch, right? I pick up books and judge them by their first sentence. I really do. And although the first sentence of my blog posts has never been a huge priority for me, I realize this is a different thing. I can’t think of how to start this statement. 

Generally, if I don’t know what the first sentence of something I write should be, I just start writing from whatever point is already worked out in my head and go backward if I have to. But I got nothin’ for this.

I graduated with my B.A. 14 years ago. And I didn’t want to do another minute of school. I didn’t hate it or anything… I just knew I’d had enough of being a ridiculously good student for a while. My father had told me that, if I went for my master’s right then, he and my mother would pay for it. But as much as I appreciated the offer, I couldn’t bring myself to look at one more textbook.

Now I’m not sure they even use textbooks. Does anybody still know how to take notes with their fingers and a pen?

But now, boo-yah Dad: I get to do the degree for free. On account of I work there.

Wooot! Saved you a bunch of cash! You’re welcome.

If it weren’t for the free schooling, I wouldn’t be doing it at all. I love learning new things – hell, there’s so much cool stuff going on at the school, I could audit classes for years just for the sake of learning new stuff. But I wouldn’t pay for a master’s degree because, while I do believe in the value of education, I don’t believe I have any idea whether it would really be helpful to my professional life. I mean… it seems like everybody’s got a master’s degree these days. It just ups the ante, doesn’t it? 

But then I remember that still not everybody has a college education at all. Sure, in a professional capacity, pretty much everyone in my world does. But maybe the master’s does help somehow.

Here’s hoping.

I debated getting my MBA, actually. And then I stopped debating because it would take me another year as a part-time student (three instead of two, year-round) and would involve me being completely bored to terrible, bitter crocodile tears by every single class in the curriculum.

But occasionally I think, “Well… maybe that is what I should do. Because it’s supposedly a universal master’s degree that can work in any professional forum, and if it’s free as long as I work here, maybe it’s better to get the degree I’ll hate getting for free instead of waiting until they realize I clearly have no idea what I’m doing and fire me, and then I have to pay to get a degree it turns out I really do need.

“But wait, maybe not, because if it’s universal then doesn’t that put everyone who has an MBA into the same pot of relative ability and then somebody has to get a doctorate or something?”

And then I stop the whole thing, because wine.

Which, by the way, is also what allows me to continue procrastinating on writing this statement they require. (I had to stop and think about what word I wanted just then before I came up with “procrastinating.”) 

School is going to be much harder now that I’m A) much older; 2) half-crazy; third) a big fan of vino.

The good news is, my friend Angie, who got her master’s at 25, says you get better at writing papers while buzzed as you go. 

It’s weird we didn’t discover that as undergrads.

4am Disasters, Real and Imagined

Either my psyche or my home decor is trying to kill me. Possibly both.

I tend to dream in the wee hours of the morning. Or sometimes mid-wee. I guess that makes sense, since I go to bed (now that I work normal-person hours) around 11pm. Often, therefore, I’m awakened in pre-dawn by some ridiculous dream.

This morning, I had two really bizarre imaginings. In the first one, I was at some sort of outdoor festival with two guys: Leo, who I barely know, and Bob, who I dated several years ago. While there, we ran into a man I sing with named Jim. I was holding Leo’s hand at the time, but wound up going home with Bob; Leo stood kind of befuddled and watched as we got into the car. Jim saw all of this and emailed me, telling me he thought some of my innocent flirting and smiling and misleading the guys was inappropriate (obviously!), and that I might have a kind of personality trait or disorder for which he wanted me to know about a support group.

Now, I think we all know that I can definitely use a group of some kind. By the way, my NEW insurance now claims they don’t list my shrinkapist as a provider even though they totally do, and I have a screen shot of that shit to prove it, and that’s only after the shrinakpist’s Office of Incompetents sent the bills for the two appointments I’ve had in the last month to my old insurance despite having taken my new information and copied my new card twice. 

For fuck’s. Sake. People.

I had fallen asleep crying over Jack (dammit), and I’m not the slightest bit interested in dating anyone right now, though Leo is a nice guy, so I have no idea where this dream and its included hand-holding (his hand was warm and not too soft and the perfect size and I am only talking about his hand, you guys, jeez) could possibly have come from. But even in the dream, I felt terrible about confusing Leo and Bob, and being seen and judged by Jim.

Because I need to feel that way while I’m sleeping.

After that came a dream in which I had bought a condo. I never actually saw it, I don’t think, except maybe in dream flashbacks when Dream Me was thinking about the condo… I’m telling you, this was some complicated mental shit happening while I was trying to catch some shut-eye. Anyway, I dreamed that I had bought a condo (apparently instead of my actual real-life house), loved it, lived there for a month… but then second-guessed myself, sold it and bought a house in a city an hour away. A big, old, creaky, drafty, beautiful house. And while I was standing in the kitchen shortly after moving in, all alone, I looked behind me down a hall and wondered if the house was haunted. I thought about how old it was. As my stomach started to tighten (yes, I felt that in my sleep), I realized how many questions I had never asked and things I had never considered. My God, the windows weren’t even energy-efficient. My bills were going to be astronomical.

Slowly, so many things dawned on me… I had screwed my credit and left a condo I had loved for a beautiful house I could never maintain on my own without even asking fundamental questions. I had acted impetuously and now I was stuck.

I went outside and found myself walking around the block as I thought about being an hour away from everyone I knew. Why had I done that? Why did I suddenly decide to leave a place that felt like home to be in a place that was disconnected? And – as I approached the side of my house on my walk – what was that noise? Was that noise coming from my house?

And then I woke up, chest aching with the classic sign of an anxiety attack. And immediately after I woke up, the 42″ x 36″ decoration above my headboard fell and nearly crushed my skull.

Or it didn’t fall on me at all but it was really close. And it’s not that heavy but it definitely, definitely would have hurt if it had hit me.

It was 4:48am. Thanks to the senseless anxiety attack, I was awake for another half-hour.

So that was restful.

No idea what any of this means, by the way. The house thing… I dunno, maybe it has something to do with the fact that I had the builder’s contractor here the day before, trying to figure out how to cool down the upstairs because there’s no bulkhead carrying ductwork to my bedroom… he suggested putting a vent in the roof to let some of the trapped heat escape. Is the dream telling me not to do that? Or just that I should chill out about tiny imperfections in my house because it could be worse?

Is an 8-10 degree difference in temperature between floors “tiny?”

Or is my nocturnal brain the same thing as the vent the guy said he’d put in my roof… just blowing off steam?

Can it do that without the anxiety attack in my sleep, maybe? Because those things have never made sense to me.

Or was all of this just a psychosomatic warning that my wall decor was about to come crashing down so I had better wake up and maybe the best way to wake me up was to make me dream this?

Probably not that.

Any guesses?

This Thing Which I Stole From the Internet

Because aside from #s 8, 11 and 12… YES.


27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

1. When you need to take breaks and recharge after socializing for too long.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

I’m not antisocial, I swear! I just need to recharge my introvert juices!

2. When people mistake your thoughtful look for resting bitch face.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

You like to give thoughtful answers, but sometimes people assume you’re just silently judging them.

3. When your friend wants to invite more people over, and you don’t want to sound like a dick by saying no.

When your friend wants to invite more people over, and you don't want to sound like a dick by saying no.

You might even secretly like a little more company, even if it does give you anxiety.

4. When spending a heavenly weekend alone means that you’re missing out on time with friends.

When spending a heavenly weekend alone means that you're missing out on time with friends.

5. And the fear that by doing so, you’re slowly turning into a hermit…

And the fear that by doing so, you're slowly turning into a hermit...

6. Who will likely die alone.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

7. Having visitors stay with you is a nightmare, because it means you have to be on at ALL TIMES.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

8. When people stop inviting you places because you keep canceling plans.

When people stop inviting you places because you keep canceling plans.

9. Too many social obligations + no alone time = a total grump.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

10. When you’re asked to do a group project, and know that you’re going to hate every minute of it.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

11. When your ride at a party doesn’t want to leave early, and no one seems to understand your distress.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

12. When you hear this question, and your palms start to sweat with anxiety.

When you hear this question, and your palms start to sweat with anxiety.

Because the answer is “no,” but you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

13. When you hear, “Are you OK?” or “Why are you so quiet?” for the umpteenth time.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

Just because you prefer to listen or only speak up when there’s something important to say.

14. Trying to be extra outgoing when you flirt so your crush doesn’t think you hate them.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

Seriously, I just have resting bitch face, it’s not you!

15. That feeling of dread that washes over you when the phone rings and you’re not mentally prepared to chat.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

16. When you have to deal with that one friend who ALWAYS wants to hang out, and you ALWAYS have to say this:

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

17. When you have an awesome night out, but have to deal with feeling exhausted for days after the fact.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

18. When people pressure you to be more social, whether you like it or not.

When people pressure you to be more social, whether you like it or not.

19. When you’re really excited to go out, but those good feelings don’t last long enough.

When you're really excited to go out, but those good feelings don't last long enough.

20. When you’re trying to get something done at work, but you can’t, because everyone else is talking.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

21. When someone calls you out for daydreaming too much.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

22. When you carry a book to a public place so no one will bug you, but other people take that as a conversation starter.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

23. When people make you feel weird for wanting to do things by yourself.

When people make you feel weird for wanting to do things by yourself.

24. When someone interrupts your thoughts, and you get irrationally angry.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

25. When people can’t seem to grasp that being in small groups is where you excel the most.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

26. And when you need to be completely alone so you can recharge and get back to being awesome.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

27. Because even though introverts are misunderstood constantly, you know this to be true:

Because even though introverts are misunderstood constantly, you know this to be true:


The Pot and the Kettle

I do not like my mother.

My mother does not like me.

The two facts landed softly after hard words and deep pain, on a 180-mile drive down a dark highway, silent but for the sound of my tires on the road, leading me back from a family vacation a day earlier than planned, grateful and relieved to be home at 1am.

I think I first sensed my mother’s dislike when I was about 10. I can’t say when she first sensed mine because I can’t pinpoint when it became obvious. I have, and I believe she has, spent a lot of time and emotional energy since then trying to either rectify it, dance around it, pretend it wasn’t there or ignore it.

None of those things have worked, and none of them ever will. That’s clear now.

I am always the quiet one on family vacations. Part of that is because my family is loud. With the nephews and niece, we are 12 people in one house, and no fewer than three are running, shrieking or arguing at any given time except those few precious dark-night hours when even the baby is sleeping. I tend to be an observer; I take things in – I rarely initate. It’s just who I am. For countless summer vacations I have been happy for some time with my book and a spot on the beach or in the house that’s away from the din.

But somehow I am expected to be someone different from year to year, so that there are always questions about what’s bothering me, what’s wrong with me or why I’m anti-social.

Nothing, nothing, and I’m not. Since I was a teenager, this has been my vacation routine. I have lived alone for 14 years, and I am not used to being around 11 other loud, shrieking, arguing, running people for 24 hours a day for a week. I like my space, I like my quiet, and I don’t have anything to say because I’ve been with you for all this time and therefore nothing new has happened in my life of which you are not aware.

I cannot talk for 15 minutes about a pair of shoes. If you ask me a question, my answer will only have so many words. I don’t count them. I just answer. Not everything is fodder for a full conversation.

Was anything bothering me this week? Yes. Two things. One was Jack. I have spent the last ten summers thinking of Jack on the beach. I’m still struggling with it and I’m still hurting and I am reminded of that when I’m sitting on a beach in a tiny town I love, to which I invited him many times, only to have him refuse each time for one reason or another, and then visit it with Gwyneth instead, while hiding the nature of their relationship from me. I had dreamed about him in fitful sleep. I wish it weren’t bothering me, but it was. My family doesn’t know about how my relationship with Jack evolved, devolved or ended because I’m a very private person who doesn’t share her personal life much. My family knows that.

The other thing that was bothering me was my mother. Over the course of the week, the two thoughts that gelled in the car in the end had been pushing their way to my consciousness. I was struggling with them, too. Nobody likes to admit that she doesn’t like her mother, and nobody likes when her mother doesn’t like her. It seems unnatural.

What has finally broken the surface is that it is completely natural – as natural as disliking anyone. The only thing that’s unnatural is trying to force oneself to change the feeling in the absence of a change in the person.

I am me. She is she. What we do not like in each other are things central to who we are. Though we can move to accommodate differences in whatever way is possible, the fundamentals of our selves cannot be changed.

But my quiet and my feelings about my mother had created a tension that erupted at the dinner table Friday night when I jokingly insisted that a young band performer’s four-inch acrylic heels were trashy and my mother told me to put my chin away. The long, slow simmer of the pot’s relationship with the kettle ticked from 210 degrees to 211, and I told her, with an effort at joviality to belie truth, that she had jutted hers first. And she told me, nastily, to shut up. Twice.

I got up from the table to do the dishes and try to control my anger, and a few minutes later, she ordered me to sit down. Still furious, and now resentful of being an adult ordered to a chair for a lecture, I ignored her. When she yelled at me again to sit down, I turned and looked at her but made no move to obey, my mouth firm because anything that could come from it now would be bad.


She stood shrieking obscenities and came at me. My sisters and brothers-in-law scattered from the area with the kids. My mother’s fury made her stronger despite being four inches shorter, and she grabbed me by both shoulders, turned me around and threw me into the chair. Then she leaned over me, finger in my face, still screaming profanities, and threatened to hit me.

It was then that I knew I would not stay the night.

My father stood close-by but made no move to stop the incident, instead coming to tower over me, telling me to obey. I wondered in what way I had behaved as a child who might warrant this treatment and was admittedly not receptive to a conversation when my father mandated it, convening what felt like an intervention because I had been quiet this week.

I think, now, that he was initially motivated by concern until I told them that if they know I’m quiet and I tell them there’s nothing wrong, they need to accept it. He ceded that. Was there something wrong? Yes. I had a broken heart and I don’t like my mother. The former is of no matter here, and the latter might yet be best left unsaid. With both of those truths considered, accept the negation and let it be.

The next twenty minutes picked apart my faults as a person and what my mother called my life’s blessing and curse: “You are smarter than 90% of the people around you and you don’t hide it.”

I also fail at greeting card shopping.

“The last two Mother’s Day cards you sent me were funny.” This was an accusation.

“Are you fucking kidding me right now?!” The only time I swore.

How do I explain that my failure to send mushy greeting cards to my mother is not out of an inability to express warm feelings, but out of a lack of having those feelings for her at all?

“You hate me, don’t you?” she demanded to know. Her chin jutted and her eyes hardened. It was a challenge, a goading – an effort at drawing ire so she could play the victim from here forward.

“If I hated you, would I send you a card at all? Would I think of you? Would I call you? Would I ever talk to you?”


“Okay, then.”

My father asked what my mother has always wondered: why he and I can talk for an hour on the phone and she and I cannot. He knows the answer, but always stops at a single reason: we can talk about business and work. I gave the real reason: he and I talk about a lot of other things – including politics – and I cannot talk with my mother about those things. And when I do try to talk with her about work, she doesn’t care. She changes the subject – sometimes when I’m in the middle of a sentence.

She apologized and said she would try to do better. It was a score she kept, so that later in the conversation, she could say she had acquiesced to two things and I to none.

Which wasn’t even true, but is her standard of operation.

When the demand came for an explanation as to why we have always had such a tense relationship, I started with my answer but was interrupted with accusations. And when I calmly tried to point out that something my mother had just said was an example of why I feel she is judgmental, she rolled her eyes, shrugged her shoulders and said, “This is futile.” Then she got up and left the room.

I pointed at the empty chair while my father stared down at the table. “I don’t know how to fix that,” I said quietly.

Minutes later, with my father and me both still at the table, my mother came back to finish the dishes I had started, and told me that if I insisted on leaving that night, I should think about how it would affect the family. This was her way of constructing a narrative to claim that I had been the one to walk out.

There was no good path to take, but the moment that had sealed my decision to leave had not been mitigated and no forgiveness had been sought. I had been commanded to respect her by virtue of her motherhood and told that I didn’t have to like how I was treated and that I, as the child, do not warrant a similar degree of respect.

On that, we will never agree.

I packed calmly and waited an hour for my sisters and their families to return from the amusement park and ice cream shop so that I could say goodbye and tell them I was sorry if my decision to leave that night hurt them.

My sisters and their husbands told me that they were not hurt, and they understood.

I said goodbye to my parents, with hugs, and I drove three hours home, with a new acceptance of our destination and no idea of where to go from here.