HORIZONTAL MYSTERY SHIP when you leave at seventeen rarely home more than two weeks at a time months, years and decades can be surprisingly unreliable markers of adulthood only once in the summer of ‘88 a recent college grad wide-eyed and wanderlust-fueled my tonsils required more I stayed a whole month once healed, packed, and in possession of necessary visas off to the southern hemisphere a young pioneer in search adventure and different stars now, when visiting after a lifetime lived elsewhere grey hairs visible no matter my efforts I find myself sliding into a peculiar second adolescence of sorts driving Dad’s truck windows down, hair blowing mile after mile of expansive, wild beauty the prairie a determined cellular homesteader forever staking a claim in my blood and bones I want to sneak out to the bar play Space Invaders sadly, no longer a standard unlike 1982 drink beer, eat junk food and avoid the endless expectations of being a grown-up Looking back with midlife sensibilities I realize those late nights in high school tenth grade, I believe laser focused, playing Space Invaders provided a surprisingly valuable education initials entered, quarters stacked protect the bunkers, defeat the aliens monitor the horizontal mystery ship with vigilance my peripheral vision unknowingly trained to notice things beyond immediate scope bonus points pinged while friends waited impatiently twenty more minutes, please under a waning August moon only one lunar phase ago I was still my father’s daughter a middle-aged, South Dakota teenager pretending time actually plays tricks wanting desperately to disregard reality one more visit on the calendar one more phone call cheeseburger or ice cream cone one more evening watching Everybody Loves Raymond M.A.S.H. or Mayberry RFD twenty more minutes, please quarters stacked no longer Space Invaders the nearly forgotten teenage relic of a heartbroken fifty-something fatherless daughter once again, I am protecting my bunkers monitoring a new horizontal mystery ship paying very close attention to what's just beyond my immediate scope just twenty more minutes, please
a thousand words? Or do the stories we hold onto shape the narrative a lot more? My Mom always told me that as a newborn I possessed a striking resemblance to Winston Churchill. I can’t tell from the photo and I don’t actually really care. I find it funny. However, I’ve always held it to be the absolute gospel truth.
What other stories of greater consequence have I never questioned that I was told as a child?
Since I’m not a twin, I can’t imagine what it’s going to feel like for my girls to split up and go to different colleges. I have a hunch they can’t quite imagine what it’s going to feel like either. Please note the title of the article in the first beach picture. I believe it’s about the Kardashians, however, with high school graduation looming, it’s a funny photo to unearth at this time. Oh, the irony of life, isn’t it grand?
My twin daughters are graduating from high school on Thursday, June 14th at 10am and nostalgia along with a handful of other complex and occasionally irrational emotions are settling into my midlife psyche. For so long photographing my girls was my muse, something creative I could do all the time. However, as they got older (and had cameras in their pockets) I photographed them less frequently together. I have plenty of travel and birthday photos, but I can see now as the years progressed, they increasingly grew into their individuality, less of a unit and I followed their lead. Now, every photo has to be “approved” which I can understand for a 17-year-old coming-of-age in this era and about to graduate from high school.
Here’s to honoring nostalgia however it surfaces in your life. I know for me, it’s helping the transition to an empty nest to take a look back. I’m less anxious that I could’ve been a better mother and prepared them more by seeing these photographs through a slightly different lens. A pleasant byproduct of middle age wisdom, I suppose.
When my three kids were young, to offer a little grace at the end of those seriously ass-kicking days, I would ask myself:
“Did you love them more than you were pissed off at them today?”
The answer was always the same. I can live with that.
There are so many photographs to sort through, here are a few of my favorite black & white shots of Lucy and Willa.
I’ll post my favorite color images next.
I love it when an idea won’t let me go…it seems that it’s demanding more of me. I have some travel time to sketch and write today on my way to my niece’s wedding in South Dakota and maybe some thoughts will take root. I’m pretty sure these images are in reaction to my “shitty roommate” post from last week. Perhaps these images represent the flip side of our lousy inner voice? I thought of this quote as I worked on these photographs.
“Courage is like—it’s a habitus, a habit, a virtue: You get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging.”
Below is the link to the post I”m referencing.
diagnosed with ADHD inattentive presentation. I’ve suspected this for years, but at this stage in my life it was becoming unmanageable. As an artist and mother of young kids I naturally had to shift gears constantly just to keep things running in our household. There were endless ways I could stave off boredom and feed my brain’s insatiable hunger for disruption, distraction and change.
I could hide my challenges quite easily because the whole universe was operating in a constantly distracted way. The endless buzz in the world rewarded my brain with “quick fixes” and made me believe I was managing just fine.
Then four things collided at roughly the same time.
1. My children became more independent and my day to day responsibilities shifted.
2. My husband, children and friends were telling me that I was leaving out crucial information in my communication AND I was getting defensive about it.
3. I studied positive psychology and the necessity on both a personal and societal level to quit spinning, slow down, reflect and get more focused on how I want to spend my energy and talents.
4. I turned fifty.
I know people joke about the endless diagnoses out there. I’m a little OCD or that’s my ADHD talking or I can’t get that done because of poor executive function etc. I was resistant for years because I didn’t want to be off the hook for the behaviors that were affecting my life and those around me. I did however, need some answers and solutions for help to narrow my focus and allow me to better utilize my skills in both my private and public life.
Now being able to look back at the ways ADHD manifested in my life has provided a certain amount of ease and less shame about my deficits than before. As a child I was highly adaptive, creative and curious about so many different things. However, I also was a day dreamer, a poor tester, I rarely followed directions and was often told that I wasn’t working to my potential. I was always armed with loads of ideas and didn’t follow through on them. I created a narrative around my deficits that I was less than.
I fell asleep during the science portion of my ACT test in high school. I got the minimum score required to go to private schools in South Dakota. I also dozed off during the ADHD test I recently took with a psychologist. I think my brain was bored and the competition of it all wasn’t enough motivation for me. I wasn’t getting any juice so my brain just shut it down.
I recently remembered as a high school kid reading one page of the dictionary before I went to sleep to boost my vocabulary. When I think of this now I believe I was trying to find ways to boost how my intelligence presented to others because it was less quantifiable than my siblings and my peers. The really smart kids wanted to be friends with me, but my grades were very average unless I loved the subject. Then I could focus. Thank you English and creative writing.
My husband remembered that my Dad told him when we got married that he would have to help me with certain things—paying bills, insurance and so on. My Dad knew on some level that I had some challenges with organization. I recently found insurance paperwork he had requested in the 1980s for me to sign and send back. I never did. I guess he asked me again.
I did all of the stuff I was told to do to quiet my brain and help my focus—manage stress, exercise, meditate, rest and eat well…and yet it just wasn’t quite enough. I’m taking a low dose of a psychostimulant on the days more focus is required of me. Now, with greater knowledge about my brain’s chemistry, I have renewed hope and focus about my life.
So, I’m unsure why I need to share this now on such a public forum. I guess I feel that storytelling is what we need now more than ever in this uncertain world. I believe that a willingness to be vulnerable and share our stories and fears is very important in 2017.
I don’t want to hide behind this diagnoses. I really am the only one that needs to understand my brain. However, if my story helps you share your story than this was well worth my time. We are all in this together.
As promised, Herrick folks, my niece and I paid a visit to Marilyn at Bernie’s Inn. It was so much fun to see the place and be reminded of childhood memories—working in the honey house, hanging out after games and high school weekends driving around stopping in for a pop. I hope you all enjoy the little trip down memory lane. Be sure to visit next time you are in the area. It’s well worth the effort.
I’m very curious about how our interior geography affects our moods and choices in life. I find myself at nearly 50 years old realizing that I need a lot of spaciousness to feel most comfortable in my own skin. I truly understand how growing up and forming my identity on the prairie instilled an interior geography within me. I want to understand this better.
I layered these images of flying into South Dakota and the Town Neck Beach approach in Sandwich, Massachusetts. The vastness of the ocean gives me the same feeling of ease that the prairie gives me. It doesn’t matter if I’m driving country roads in South Dakota or kayaking the Cape Cod Bay. The inner feeling is the same.
I just ordered this book: Geographical Psychology: Exploring the Interaction of Environment and Behavior by Peter J. Rentfrow, PhD.
“The research described in this volume indicates that personality, political ideology, well-being, happiness, human virtues, and personal concerns are related to several important geographic social indicators.”
I can’t wait to delve further into more understanding about this subject. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.