MY oldest daughter was called “Chicken” as a term of endearment from my ex-wife. hen she was a new born, she would wind up and cry when she was hungry. She was very small and looked a lot like the bird in “Are you my mother”. I don’t really understand the logic of how it became “Chicken,” but it did. She now goes by “Monkey.”
I was thinking about that book recently. I realized that I am that bird. Not because I get hungry and wail an unhappy tune, but because I didn’t know how to form relationships. I still don’t, but I am learning. It isn’t important how I missed the message of relationship as a child, but I did. There was just something about it all that baffled me. I wasn’t clear on how to express my needs or get the attention I desired. I fell into the habit of crying and stealing. I wasn’t really a bad kid, but did seem to get caught a lot. I wasn’t very good at being bad. However, it did help me get attention. As I noticed that yelling, crying, and general mayhem wasn’t working for me, I ventured out of the nest. I also fell to the ground with a thump. I didn’t know how to navigate this big world and wanted someone to care for me and help me.
I came up to the cow in the pasture, asking if it was my mother. In my story, this was girls. I wanted girls to like me. I tried to be funny. I had to, I wasn’t very athletic. I tried to be nice, because I was also conflict avoidant. I tried to be smart, which didn’t work because I was also a last student. I flirted and tried to get attention. Occasionally, I would have success. I could do all the right things and try and be the perfect boyfriend. I developed the strange tendency to fall in love very quickly. By the end of my adolescence, I could fall in love, run a life scenario, be divorced and depressed by the time I got back from the bathroom. I wanted the fairy tale. I wanted to be the Prince Charming. I wanted to freeze frame my life whenever it seemed perfect. But it was celluloid madness. In fairy tales and romantic comedy (adult fairy tails with brief nudity), the reality of life never seems to sneak in. The cow was not my mother.
I went to the steam shovel next. The steam shovel was alcohol. IT actually made me feel better for a short period of time. When I drank, I was 6 inches taller, gorgeous, and brilliant. It told me that I was wonderful and funny. It also said I was sexy and smart. I held hands with this pseudo-mom for a long time.
When I left the steam shovel behind, the cow reappeared. It told me that it was my mom after all. That in order to know if I was alright, I needed to have others, and women in particular, tell me I was ok. I sought it in my marriage first. It was exhausting for her, and she was unable to rebuild me. It was like having 5 million dollars to rebuild the 6 million dollar man. I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know how to really love. I had been putting on a happy face and trying to do it right for a lifetime. The cow bit.
I would like to say that I had the same happy ending as the bird. I didn’t get to find my mother in the physical sense. I did hear her voice telling me that I did learn how to love, I just don’t recognize it. My fear gets in the way. My low self regard got in the way. My mom said I should stop yelling and crying and listen to my heart.
My head is confused with the songs and movies of the 80’s. I imagine that love is possessive and forever and grand gestures. I want to think that I will believe that every little thing is magic, and we will live happily ever after just like we are in this moment, and that all I have to do is hold a boom box outside her house before my kick boxing lesson.
IT wasn’t that I didn’t learn to love. IT was I didn’t learn to love myself first.