they might not recognize that woman in the front making all that noise."
-from “waiting on you to die so I can be myself”, Danez Smith.
For so many years, I’ve figuratively tossed and turned the idea of displaying my authentic self to the public. For too long, I have feared what people would think of me. During my childhood, I was raised to be a people-pleaser. Any time I showed my real self, I was shunned, teased, laughed at, or stifled.
As I grew older, I found partners who I changed myself for, whether it was the metalhead who liked it when I spiked my pixie cut with gel and wore black boots with mini skirts or the stoner who didn’t care what I wore as long as I smoked a joint with him and wore the hemp chokers he made me.
A few years ago, I met someone who encouraged me to be the realest version of myself. He told me what he saw in me and encouraged me to chase that idealized version of myself – the artist with paint on her hands and lyrics on her soul, the girl with eyes bright and sparkling. He encouraged all aspects of me: my screaming emotions, my fiery passions, poet, artist, tarot card reader, whoever I wanted to be.
He taught me to accept myself. To treat myself like I treat my best friends. “To delight the dreamers when they see you,” he had said.
I have learned about surrounding yourself with people who love the authentic you. That’s how you will be successful, regardless of what’s in your bank account or what’s written on your resume.
I mentioned on social media that I have a new outlook. I am no longer waiting on others to die so I can be myself. I’m ready to flourish. I’m ready to be my favorite version of myself.
I took a week to write this post because I wanted to make sure I chose my words carefully. I write a lot of poetry about my own experiences because it is cathartic for me, but I also write it so people who might be in the situation I once found myself in know that they are not alone. Therefore, I write poetry that touches on various traumas, abuse, mental illness, and more. It is healing for me, and I hope, some day, healing for my readers.
I have explicitly said to fellow authors that I do not want my blog to become a diary. [The Anna Nalick song “Breathe (2 A.M.)” comes to mind…] However, I am aware that I am transparent in my poetry, and as a result, I want this blog to also be fairly transparent.
Mother’s Day is not an easy holiday for me. I was raised by abusive parents with my mother being diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder later in life and my father being diagnosed with ASD. As I touched on in a previous poem Silly Girl: a Poem, I have two sons I gave up for adoption. Therefore, the holiday (Mother’s Day) is fraught with emotional overload for me.
I treasure the boys I created in my womb for nine months at a time. I adored how it felt to take care of myself because I was busy creating life, a life-that as it was still inside me-that loved me unconditionally. I remember reading at the time, if a pregnant spider feels fear, her baby too feels the heightened sensations that the pregnant spider feels-this might not be true, I’m not an entomologist-yet the message stuck with me. If I began to feel fear, I thought of that little baby spider.
But nonetheless, the adoption process is emotionally draining. I decided two months before giving birth to place my first son for adoption. It wasn’t an easy decision nor one I made lightly.
We agreed to an open adoption, yet through the agency policies, we weren’t allowed to know their last names or phone number. That changed over time. I was also only allowed to see him a maximum of four times a year. That changed too.
Last time I saw the two boys, they were becoming so mature. The one dictated a short story on my typewriter explaining every event that happened that day, making sure to include that “painting with Izzie was the best part”.
He also asked me my favorite color while we were painting. Off-guard by the question, I responded purple. Then, he snuck into my art studio before dinner and painted me a heart on a purple background.
I found it after they left and cried.
The youngest typed a story too, but he’s hurting so his was all about his adoptive parents and their pets.
He needs answers. Answers that aren’t easy to give.
Why wasn’t my birth dad at the hospital when I was born?
Why do we never see him?
Does he love me?
I originally had some answers prepared, but he caught me off-guard. I fumbled with awkward responses.
This brings me back to Mother’s Day. Most people wish specific women a happy Mother’s Day, usually women with children, or women of a certain age, or even women who look like moms.
As a birth mother, I don’t often get wished a happy Mother’s Day. It’s one of those taboo topics people still struggle to understand: like abortion, gender identity, or addiction. I encourage people to ask me questions about the adoptions.
I sat on a panel a few years ago, answering questions from prospective adoptive parents. It was rewarding to be able to help them through the process and give an accurate, honest look into the way it all plays out.
Yet despite my openness and willing to discuss this (as I think being more open than it being a taboo subject would help erase the stigma around adoption), I still have days where it hurts…like Mother’s Day.
This, coupled with a mother who abused me for not being perfect, makes Mother’s Day difficult.
Let’s not forget the nontraditional mothers next year: birth mothers, adoptive moms, foster moms, mothers of angel babies, expectant mothers, single mothers, moms who don’t talk to or see their children because of estrangement, et cetera, et cetera.
All mothers should be cherished this day.
That being said, I dug around this past week and discovered a couple of poems I wrote for Baby.
Hopefully you’ll be interested in reading them as they further open up the issue I’m addressing in this post.
Poet Brandan T.C. McCarty lives in Washington and in addition to writing poetry, he is interested in music and art. As a member of the Makah tribe, he has been a dancer, singer, and artist in that culture.
Brandan, you have said before music influences your writing. How exactly does music play a role on the poetry you create?
Yes, music is an influence. I listen to a large base of music because of family and friends introducing me to new music. It depends on the music sound being played, and it could just be a lyric(s). Metallica is a huge influence.
Writing is a form of art, but I know you also paint. What does the intersection of art and writing mean to you?
In ’01, I was hurt emotionally by a teacher in art college. I would destroy any art I created, so I switched to writing to deal with traumatic past events. In ’11, I started to work with acrylic paints. By ’18, I became a visual artist as well as a New Age Coastal Artist for my Native art. The past two and half years, I have been using many mediums and platforms to create art pieces. I still wrote, but not as much. I figured why not do both and maybe blend them together in some pieces. ‘The Wanderer’ is close to a visual concept of what I am evolving into as an artist.
Your Makah roots are very important to you, as is family and knowing your history. This is evident in the poetry you write. What would you advise the young poet who is not as well-versed in their past as you?
My roots are important. My dad has said to me all that I do reflects back on your teachers and persons involved with you. My mom said the same thing in her way of communicating to me. I read. I read just about anything. I was told to figure out the style you want to write, and then go find published work similar so your skill can be honest. As for past of culture, read and spend time with families and friends. Listen, take time to actually listen. Even if it is a day spent sitting in a kitchen drinking coffee and watching grandpa carve, or dad paint a mask. Open yourself to learn, to fall and get back up.
How would you describe your being a father as an influence on your poetry?
I used to have some selfish habits, and those habits almost claimed my life. I came to realize, I don’t want this for my eldest son. Nor any other child that looks up to me. So I turned from booze, I went back to arts. Poetry is art, to me just about anything could be considered an art. Now, with my baby I have been relearning to sing my Native Family songs and dancing the dances. I have been away too long from it. I guess I can say, being a father has enriched my poetry with more care and love than I had before.
Who are some of your favorite poets? What aspects of their poetry appeal to you as a reader? As a writer?
Charles Bukowski, as a reader, good comic. Biography spoken in poetry verse. As a writer, someone once said my work reminds him of Bukowski. Raymond Carver, as a reader, his work involving water or daily life. As a writer, I met Tess Gallagher and she said I reminded her of her late Husband Raymond. J. A. Janice has one book of poetry. Read a little a bit of it. A strong woman, and a gentle soul. She writes crime novels. Met her a couple times in person. My mom got me into her works. My late Mama Valerie, because she had a talent of words and wish I recorded some of her work better.
My son's feet, at birth his right foot was clubbed. After NICU we had early mornings in the kitchen sink. Cast removal, a bath, and singing to soothe my baby.
As we grew together, I remember my great grandma teaching me to dance. Flour on the kitchen floor, after dance practice we would practice oral history and storytelling. We would also split cedar bark near wood stove.
Now as I stretch and massage my son's feet, I remember the joy I had as a dancer.
For years I wouldn't dance or sing. I was still, I was silent.
Best as my spent feet can, I dance with baby in my arms. Later I will massage my aching feet. Ease the bone spurs to be calm. As I work my pain out, I think back to his laughter and sparkling brown eyes.
Embracing baby close to my chest. I take a deep breath and sing the first note in years. I sing deep, and low rumbling voice. Soothe his tears, balm my own hurt and begin healing my spirit.