Thursday, October 14, 2010

30 Days of Truth Day 4 - Something You Need to Forgive Someone Else For

Over the weekend, several of my facebook friends posted pictures of the annual Autumn street fair held in the town where I lived in New York. Probably everyone I went to the first half of high school with was there and it was a beautiful day - the kind with the amber honey sunshine. I wish I had been there.

It's this time of year that I miss it the most because I love the fall. All year I wait for this season to come and down here in South Florida where most seasons are pretty much indistinguishable, I have to recreate a false version in orange paper leaves. We have apples and cider, but they're shipped in. Our pumpkin patches are in asphalt parking lots. The whole thing pisses me off, but I enjoy it because it's all I've got. I have to make do.

Since 1989, I've blamed my suffering squarely on my parents. My reverse version of Seasonal Affective Disorder is their fault and no one else's and for twenty-one years I've held a grudge against them for moving to Florida from New York and I haven't been able to truly forgive them for it.

We moved suddenly because my parents lost everything they had the summer between my tenth and eleventh grades. They'd fallen for an advance fee scam that they believed was going to make us rich beyond our wildest dreams. It was the summer of my french exchange student, the summer I met my first love and the summer I lost my virginity. My parents were broke and our house was in foreclosure and my father decided that we had to get out of town and that we needed to get back to Florida where my parents had met and married a decade earlier. I've never been clear on the exact, logical reason for the move. We could have been broke and moved to a smaller house in New York probably more easily than we could have packed up everything we owned, plus dogs, cats and two monkeys and headed far south. Maybe my parents wanted a change. Maybe they felt a fresh start in Florida would bring new opportunities and perhaps they felt it would be easier for them to make a living in a different state. I really don't know. Sometimes I wonder if they weren't just running from their problems and if it wasn't that, maybe they were, once again, indulging their wanderlust and passion for instability.

When I look back on that move, I see it as a major defining moment in my life. I'd been headed in a bad direction on my own. I'll admit that. I'd just been expelled from school and was supposed to be attending a school for troubled teens in New Jersey in the fall anyway. I'd gone to summer school there already and loved it, so, although I'll never truly know, I suspect that school would have set me straight. The move to Florida never allowed me to get back in line and instead, I veered further and further off course. The move set off a chain of negative events in my life that I still haven't been able to fully stop. Because we moved I dropped out of school. Because I was desperate to get away, I made bad relationship choices, repeatedly expecting boys to rescue me and provide the support, protection and stability I wanted from my parents (they never did). 

It sounds unbelievably shallow to say that part of the reason I hate Florida so much is because it is ugly, but I'm saying it anyway. I hate the sixties architecture, the flat expanses of strip malls with no real towns, no Main Streets and nothing but condos and housing developments. I hate gated communities and roads called boulevards that stretch from beach to swamp. I despise the lack of anything old, traditional and beautiful. I think palms, ficus hedges and oleander bushes look scrappy and undignified. Without real trees, our hazy skies look pale and overwhelmingly oppressive. Nothing grows well in our soil except nematodes. Hell, we don't even have rabbits. Do you know when I last saw a rabbit? It was when I went north for vacation and was a major event for me. People thought I had lost my mind I got so excited and I was like, no, no you don't understand. We don't have these.

What I mean when I say Florida is ugly is that I am disconnected from nature here. I have tried to visit the wild Everglades and to appreciate the beaches here with their clear water. I do like the beach, but this landscape or lack thereof, doesn't inspire me like the rolling fields and miles of dense woods I grew up with. I have no place to ramble here. There is no countryside for me to escape to when the endless grids of asphalt become too much for me to bear and I want to hear the comforting sussuration of millions of wide flat leaves on trees far older than I am. As a kid, I spent hours every day, in every season, in the forest at the edge of lakes. I splashed in rocky brooks. I need that in my life now and there's nowhere for me. I need the right kind of connection with nature to recharge and without it, I become terribly depressed.

I have never been able to see how my parents like it here. How do they not understand? I am unable to see Florida through their eyes. To them, this place is beautiful. They think I'm crazy. I think they're crazy. How can you not love this? Don't you see how lucky you are to live here? They've asked me these questions over and over for the past twenty-one years and we just can't relate to one another. What is the appeal to them? What do they find so thrilling about South Florida? Why do they feel as if they fit so well when I feel like I am so out of place and how can that ever be resolved? How can I forgive my parents for being the kinds of people who don't even care about cider doughnuts or the first snowfall and who never noticed the daffodils blooming in early March anyway? 

Any reasonable person reading this would ask me why, at 36 years old, if I hate where I live so very much, don't I just move to where I'd be happier. Believe me, I've asked myself this question repeatedly too. Sometimes I think the Universe is determined to stick me here forever as karmic punishment for something awful I did in a past incarnation. It's like my own personal purgatory of palms and outrageous news stories (like yesterday when my husband took 2 1/2 hours to get home because of a high speed chase on 95 caused by a 14 year old in a Pontiac). 

I am only to blame for this. My choices have super-glued me to the sub-tropics and it's hard for me to admit that. I'm here because I don't want to leave my family, because I feel guilty about leaving them, though at the same time I hold this bitter grudge against them for their wanting to be here. It would be so much more pleasant to not leave them if they lived somewhere I liked better. I'm here because of them. I chose that. I could leave if I truly wanted to. It makes me mad that I don't and that I've created a complicated life now with jobs and property that isn't so simple to extract myself from. This is the kind of crap that people can talk endlessly about, spending thousands upon in sniffling therapy sessions. I realize this. One of the greatest ironies of all is that I am so firmly rooted and that I rooted myself for my parents when they have always gone exactly where they wanted with no care for what anyone else thought or wanted. 

My childhood was defined by leaving and loss. Over and over I had to leave my mother: when she went to jail, when she moved away, when our court ordered visitations ended specifically at seven pm on Sunday nights. I never felt like I had her for long enough. I was always torn, because to see her meant having to leave another home and to get back to that home meant having to leave her. Most of the time I didn't know when I'd see her again. Then at eleven I could have her as much as I wanted but with a trade-off. I was abandoned by my father, and yes he was a horrible man, but I still felt the rejection and loss of a parent anyway. After that we moved a lot. I changed schools, lost friends and pets and homes and first loves. It was like I was always leaving someone behind and the losing and saying goodbye never ended. It has still never ended. I guess it's no surprise that I sought out a long distance relationship - it was what I was used to.

I moved to Atlanta. I did that. Not surprisingly, I did it after a huge fight with my parents, as if to punish them. A few years later they came up there too and got an apartment for a few years although they kept their house in Florida too. Soon, they tired of it and things didn't work out as planned, as usual and they were back in Florida permanently. I missed them and when I found myself helpless and ruined after my break-up I ran home rather than be alone. At the time I didn't think I'd stay, though looking back I don't know how I actually believed that. A decade, a full ten years later, here I am, still complaining, but I can't leave. It's like I waited so long to have my mother that I don't want to leave her and I feel like she needs me too in some sad way.

Why couldn't we have just stayed in New York? Why don't you love the seasons? Why are you blind to beauty? Why do I feel so trapped? Why can't I forgive you for choices that are just as much my own?


Vic said...

Sometimes it feels like you are saying the things for me that I cannot articulate about my own life.
Thank you.

Arwen said...

I understand. I don't really have similar circumstances but I moved in middle school and it soured the rest of my school years and college. I also hate where I live but will never move because of what little family I do have here (half my family lives in Europe). However, I'm the opposite from you and miss my sun-drenched So. Cal and hate the midwest with its too cold winters and too hot summers. As my family ages, I think "when they are dead, I will move... that is I'll move after the girls graduate from college." Which means I'll never move.

Anonymous said...

Totally understand! I was born and raised in Connecticut and moved to the west coast of florida after a series of events and married my husband about 8 years ago. While I'll concede that there are nice aspects of Florida, sunsets for one, it will NEVER be home to me. I ache for the Fall of New England, for the old colonials and the cozy feeling of being snowed in for the day.

The first chance I get, I want to move but I won't be able to for several years. I am stuck like you except that my side of the family is all in Connecticut. At least you have yours with you. My in-laws move all the time. It drives us crazy but we visit them as much as we can (as with my family) because we need our families. Even when they drive us crazy and their situation does not suit us :-).

Jean_Phx said...

What a great post! Thank you. I, too, hate Florida and don't understand the fascination that people have with the area. There are no mountains or anything to divert the eye. I realize that people say the same about Arizona but I don't see that because I love the desert - so there you once again have the explanation of why there is chocolate and vanilla :-) Again, great post.

Green said...

I didn't understand just how much I hated Florida until I'd gotten out.

catherine said...

I live in Ontario, Canada and Although I do like the season changes, it isn't all that romantic. Snow REALLY Sucks When you have to drive in it. I have a 4x4, but thats no guarentee that you won't go in the ditch. Nothing will help you stop on ice except a tree. The wind in winter is too lazy to go around you, so it goes right through you instead. It chills you to the bone. You will just get your driveway cleaned and the plow comes by and fills it in again. I suffer every year from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that leaves me depressed and isolated. It gets dark before 6 every night. I used to work at a place 8am to 6pm and never saw the sun in the winter. The snow is hardly ever that fluffy stuff of halmark cards, its either frozen hard and slippery or slushy and slippery. Either way you end up on your ass.
The only time I enjoyed winter was when I was a kid. Now its just something to be endured. The only thing good about it is knowing that spring comes after.

Anonymous said...

New York is beautiful, but trust me, you're not missing much. People are literally FLEEING this state.

In many small rural town, there are multi-million dollar budget deficits and in some cases proposed increases in property taxes were in the double-digit %'s.

There are no jobs here -- unless you work for the government. Businesses are fleeing too. Except for places like semi-tech and abudabi (a muslim arab company) that we are giving tens of millions of dollars to come here.

Semi-tech is coming from Texas after the milk money they got to go to Texas ran out, they are coming to NY for the next free lunch while Texas is investigating them because they do not think semi-tech created the jobs they promised while they were there.

And the Texas town where Semitech was will be in more debt for decades as the boarded up SemiTech campus sit vacant and the town is left holding the bag for all the infastructure they had to built to support that company.

Anyway, the grass really IS always greener. Ask any rabbit.

Jan said...

Spending an early morning on Biscayne Bay, listening to the gulls and watching dolphins break the surface can't compare with raking leaves.

Last Minute Lyn said...

We have rabbits...I saw a swamp rabbit in John U LLoyd while early morning riding and when I worked in Plantation I saw rabbits all the time on SR 84 next to the new river...Maybe they don't have rabbits in Miami-Dade.

LegalMist said...

I was born in Florida & lived there until I was 12. I loved it. But then again, I never visited South Florida; I lived in Gainesville. There were some woodsy areas & some lakes relatively nearby, and we had a huge oak tree in our yard. I loved it, and thought it was beautiful. Maybe you just need to move a couple of hours north? You'd still be close to your parents...

Then again, there were things I hated about Florida, too - giant roaches, for one thing, and the long, hot, humid summers... and so now I'm in Arizona, with long, hot, dry summers, as if that's any better... haha!

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