"My guitar is not a thing. It is an extension of myself. It is who I am."
Wow. I haven't posted a blog since mid-April. That's probably a good indication of how stuck I have been. But today I had a really big problem. I'll get to that in a second.
Of course I have been struggling a lot since my dad's death in February. Unfortunately, sadness turned to anger when I found out about my dad's will and that he had left absolutely nothing to my brother and I. My dad was wealthy and had more than enough money to share with his children. Instead, he left everything to his wife of five years. It was a total slap in the face and undid a lot of the forgiveness that I had worked so hard for so I could have a relationship with my dad as an adult. He had convinced my brother and I that he was a changed man. In the end, my brother and I felt bewildered and abandoned. It isn't even the fact that all of his assets had previously been left to only me and my brother before he met his wife; it is the fact that he chose not to leave anything to us. He even told my brother that he knew that would piss us off, but that's the way it was. I wish my brother had told me about that conversation (he only told me about it last week), because I would have said something to my dad.
I know that disinheriting us does not actually mean that my dad did not love my brother and me. But to see this woman, who he only met six years ago, becoming an instant millionaire has been unnerving. My brother and I always felt like we were second to the women my dad was dating when we were growing up. Moreover, his wife's behavior has been rather disturbing since he died. She is not acting like someone who has lost someone, she's behaving as though she won the lottery. She started selling my dad's stuff within a week of the funeral. She made my poor brother help with cleaning out some of his stuff, and I know it was way too fast for him and he was very upset. Not four months after his death, she has moved into a huge house overlooking a lake. Needless to say, she doesn't afford that on her pay from her part-time job at a church.
I wasn't overly upset with the whole situation until a couple of things happened. I finally accepted that my dad chose not to leave anything to my brother and I, although it is very difficult not to feel re-abandoned by him. A couple of months after my dad's death, I finally started to think of some of his personal items that I might want. His wife had only offered my brother and I what she considered to be junk, whatever she and her sons couldn't make use of. She gave my brother and I a few of the turtles from his turtle figurine collection, which granted, I did want some of those. My dad also collected magnets wherever he went, his collection increasingly crowding his refrigerator throughout my lifetime. She gave me all of those; she handed the large plastic bag filled with them, saying, "Ugh, it's heavy." In sorting through them, I found a lot that were from trips that he had taken with his wife. Some even had her name on them, but I guess they didn't mean anything to her. However, she never actually offered to my brother and I to go through his things to take what we would like of his personal items.
I realized it wasn't the money, there was only one thing that truly encompassed my father for me, and I wanted only one thing: his Martin guitar. F*ck the money, f*ck everything else, I wanted that guitar. My dad was a very talented guitarist. He had played most of his life. When we were little, he would play "You Are My Sunshine" to us a lot, his deep voice vibrating the words through the air. As he played various rock songs from the 50s and 60s, I would spin around in circles, my golden pigtails almost swinging behind me. My dad always had a hard time communicating with us when we were children, but he could speak loud and clear through his guitar playing.
When I was a teenager, he bought a high-end Martin acoustic guitar. I was with him when he picked it out. He looked like a giddy schoolboy looking at the wall of guitars, trying out different ones until he found the perfect Martin guitar. The Martin was stored in a hard plastic case, the locks clanking loudly against the side when he opened the case. He would not allow my brother and I to touch the guitar unless we performed a surgical scrub first, so our hands were always stripped clean with Dial soap when we picked it up. I didn't know how to play, but the sound that came from strumming the strings was exquisite. He rocked out acoustic versions of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zepplin, and The Beatles. That guitar was the very soul of my father.
I sent his wife an e-mail asking if she still had the guitar. She wrote back that she had given it to her son, and did I think that she would have been silly enough to part with such a great guitar? She rambled on about how much her son enjoyed playing it and that she might play again some day, and by the way, was there a specific reason I was asking?
Oh hell no. No way.
That guitar was absolutely not going to stay with someone who didn't know or love my father. It was not going to stay with someone who saw my dad as a big dollar sign. I was enraged that the guitar had already been given away. Didn't I know that it was a GREAT guitar...I wanted to say, "Lady, I don't want it because it's a GREAT guitar, I want it because it is my FATHER'S guitar." Instead, I told her that it was of great sentimental value and that I would like to have it. She responded that, if it really meant that much to me, that I could have it.
She had absolutely no idea what that guitar meant. None. All she knew is that the guitar had been expensive and was a valuable item. This woman did not know my father as a lifetime; she knew him as a snippet. She knew him as security for her future. And if she did not know what the Martin guitar meant, then she did not know my father.
I would not despise this woman and her sons so much if they acted like family. But she looked around my father's belongings and saw dollar signs. Her sons, who both acted insanely bored at my dad's funeral and have made zero attempts to be there for me and my brother, will probably attend grad school on my dad's dime. In any case, it took about a month, but the guitar is back in my hands. I was on edge the whole time waiting to get it back; it was the only item that truly defined my father. If his wife were a real family member, I never would have been on edge and I never would have been worried about getting a hold of it again.
My brother and I went to my dad's house for the last time last week when we went to get the guitar. The house was empty because she was moving, but I had been there a few weeks before and there was already no trace of him there. She had refurnished the place. There was not even a single picture of him anywhere. My brother was visibly disturbed. He was not ready for our father to be erased, and neither was I. Even with the mistakes he may have made as a father, he was still my father and I love him. Even without being able to tell him, I need to forgive my dad.
I consider myself to be a kind and decent person, but I have my limits. And with this woman, my limit was having to beg for my dead father's guitar. I will never forgive this woman for making it difficult to get the guitar back, nor that she was thoughtless enough not to offer it to me or my brother. I will never forgive her for erasing my father's existence almost immediately after his death. But she is inconsequential; she was my dad's wife, but she was not my family. Now that she is out of my life, I am starting to feel like I can move on from this anger. I have no plans on following this woman around and kissing her ass in hopes that she will share some of my dad's money with me and my brother. My dad blatantly chose not to share any of it with us, and I have much better things to do than to keep such a toxic person in my life to get money. I am way better than that. But I have the Martin guitar now...and yes, I do plan on taking lessons, although I regret not sticking with the guitar so I could have played with my dad.
When I got home after getting the guitar, I opened the case, the familiar smell of the varnish wafting from the case. I gingerly picked it up and examined it. I picked at the strings, having no idea what I was playing. I grinned a little, realizing that I had not washed my hands before picking it up. I always was a rebel. I don't know how to play yet. I can't even remember how to play Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady," one of the few songs I learned well as a teenager. This guitar needs to be played by someone who knew my father. These six strings are what is left of my dad, and although it is unlikely that I will be as skilled as he was, I hope my love for him shines through the notes.
The anger I have been feeling--towards my dad, towards his wife, towards the unfairness of the whole situation--has been almost incapacitating. The anger and confusion has been so exhausting that it permeates my bone marrow. Unfortunately, I have directed a lot of this anger towards myself.
I have been eating whatever I want when I want. I feel puffy, bloated, and sluggish. I've been eating wheat and dairy. I haven't been tracking. I have been drinking alcohol, something which I normally rarely do. I have been drinking soda.
I don't even LIKE soda.
It's like I want to do anything to prove to myself that I have never changed. That my dad's death and being disinherited by him has undone me. But of course this is not the case. I am a grown woman, and I can handle this. Deep down I know this is true. That does not mean that there will not be struggles, but it is foolish to believe that these events have caused me to revert to my old habits permanently, and that I have become a person I deem unworthy of taking care of myself. It is not that I am not motivated...even the most motivated people can be seriously sidelined.
I have been bad about exercise. I feel like just about anything but a personal trainer in the making. It isn't that I don't WANT to work out hard again...I really want to want to...and I know I will feel like it again. I have not been practicing Jiu Jitsu as ardently as I would like. Even when I do show up, I just kind of lay there and let people kick my ass. My teacher Marcelo asked if I was planning on competing any time soon. I told him although I really wanted to, I just didn't have it in me right now.
He nodded. In his thick Brazilian Portuguese accent he asked, "Your fire has gone out?"
Fighting back tears, I nodded. "Yeah." He patted me on the shoulder and gave me his kind smile. It is hard to look at Marcelo's sweet eyes and deep dimples and not want to do better.
I got tired of laying there and doing nothing. I kept telling myself that at least I was showing up to class sometimes, so that's something. Nuh-uh...it's not enough. I needed to BE there. And I knew if I couldn't BE there for Jiu Jitsu, then I don't have anything else.
Last week I was rolling with one of my classmates and the image of a match came into my head. As the match struck, I noticed the very moment the match head made a spark, before the sound could even register--the tiniest of sparks that starts every fire. That first spark exploded into a flame that died down into a small steady fire. My partner was on top of me beating the crap out of me while I did almost nothing to fight back. But this time, my fire was lit. I wanted the fire to burn. I wanted to fight back. As she reached to put me in a tight hold, I grabbed her arm. Her eyes widened. I grinned as I threw her over and took her back (a dominant position). I did not submit her that time, but I stayed in a dominant position for the rest of the match. I did not give up and would not be beaten.
I finally felt like moving again. I felt like kicking ass again. But I still felt like I didn't know where to start. A habit can be so ingrained, but strong emotions can lead us in aimless directions, wandering through a wilderness in our mind trying to hack our way through the jungle. I WANTED to get back to the way I was a few months ago...so strong, so positive...but I felt like I had strayed so far. But my kick-ass self was peeking around the corner of my mind asking, "Can I come back out now?"
So, back to the problem I had today. I wanted to take the dog for a walk and realized I hadn't done laundry in a while and none of my exercise clothes were clean. I started digging through my closet and drawers to find a pair of pants. I tried on several pairs.
Not a single pair fit...not even close.
Some of the pants were so huge on me that they almost fell down. I pulled on one of the pairs of jeans and pulled on the waistline, like in those weight loss "before" and "after" pictures and looked at the huge amount of space between my waist and the pants. I used to fill that space. I didn't just have a different body, I had a different mind. I won't venture as far as to say that I was a different person--I have always been me. I have always just done my best...although my best over the past few months has been pretty lame. I can only build upon myself and strive to make myself better. My mind and body may change, but I am always me. Just like my old clothes, that other mind just doesn't fit anymore.
It is so easy when we are in "crisis mode" to convince ourselves that we are unworthy and that we have never made any positive changes. It is easy to only focus on our mistakes and to tell ourselves, "See, you haven't changed at all." I've been very stuck in this negative mindset. But if it were true, that I have never made any positive changes, that I just mess up everything I try to do, I would still be squeezing into those gigantic jeans.
I am near tears now, just writing these words. My fingertips are flying across the keyboard, finally wanting to reach out again. Finally feeling worthy of saying something. Finally being able to put those thoughts together in some coherent manner.
My fire may not be burning bright, but it has been lit again. It has been lit enough that I can see in the dark. I can't see perfectly, not yet, but the warm glow is spreading again. My way will be lit again. I can keep nurturing the fire now; soon, I know, it will burn again. In the meantime, I will pluck at the Martin, making nonsense noise until I can afford to take some lessons. Even through the nonsense, I know my dad is playing right alongside me.
And he always will.