Thursday, January 29, 2015

Painful Memory, Useful Memory

So I was telling my therapist about my panic attacks the other day. She asked me when I had my first panic attack. That took me a moment because most of my childhood memories are laced with unease.

The first panic attack I remember having was at age 7.

Purple Owl (age 7)
Office lady

Mom: We have to go.

Purple Owl: I can't leave. I haven't finished my project.

Aunt: You have to go to school and we have to go.

Purple Owl looks at the table and down at the floor.

Purple Owl: But my project's due. And I can't present it if it's not finished.

Aunt: Do you think...

Purple Owl looks back at the adults.

Mom: We do have some time. Purple Owl, let's finish your project.

Purple Owl jumps into her seat. She picks up the materials to work on her project. Aunt pours a cup of coffee. And Mom reads while helping Purple Owl.

Purple Owl: I'm done.

Mom: Great. Let's go.

Purple Owl takes her sweater from Mom and freezes.

Aunt (from the open front door): Purple Owl, what's wrong?

Purple Owl: I'm late. I can't go to school. I'm late.

Mom: You have to go to school. Now that your projects done, don't you want to show your teacher and friends?

Purple Owl: No. I'm late. I don't want to go. Can't I just spend the day with you?

Mom: No, Purple Owl. You have to go to school today. Your project looks nice. You'll get a good grade.

Purple Owl looks down.

Aunt: We have to go, Purple Owl.

Purple Owl: Okay.

She follows the adults out of the apartment and to the car. She gets into the backseat and stares out the window.

School is going to be terrible.

Mom: Purple Owl, we're there. Are all your things collected?

Purple Owl: Yes, mommy.

The adults look at each other.

Purple Owl stares at her school.

Aunt: Purple Owl, you have to get out dear.

Purple Owl: But...

Mom: You've missed too many days. I can't take you with me. And you have your project.

Purple Owl sighs and closes her eyes.


Aunt: Purple Owl?

Purple Owl: I'm going. Just a moment.

Purple Owl eases the door open. She picks up her backpack and lunch bag. She climbs out and leans over to get her project.

Mom: Have a good day, Purple Owl.

Purple Owl: You too, Mommy. Bye, Aunt.

Purple Owl walks to the office. She waves to her mom in the passenger seat. She pulls open the office door and hears the car drive off.

Office Lady: Hi.

Purple Owl: Good morning. Purple Owl, room 15.

Office Lady looks through the files. She writes on the card and hands it to Purple Owl.

Office Lady: Make sure to give this to your teacher.

She opens the gate for Purple Owl.

Purple Owl: I will. Have a good day.

Purple Owl puts the attendance sheet on her project and opens the door. Down the ramp and across the yard.

She passes the restroom. Then stops.

Purple Owl: Hmmm, I could use the bathroom. I don't need to. But maybe I should.

She takes two steps back and enters the restroom.

She sits down and puts her project next to her. Purple Owl leans her head back and takes a breath.

She's late. If she goes in, everyone will stare at her. The teacher will ask what happened. She'll disrupt the class and ruin everything.

Purple Owl lets out her breath. Her eyes widen and her fingers shake.


She stares at her chest, confused about the pain.

She looks back at her project and sees the attendance sheet. Purple Owl picks it up and follows her name. Purple Owl... 8:45.

It’s been a few minutes. The restroom is a good enough excuse.

She closes her eyes again and tries to breathe. It's painful and difficult. The air won't go through. But she tries to breathe.

She looks at her project again and smiles warily. She worked hard on it. She should turn it in with pride.

But she can't. She can’t go to class. Her heart races and she stares at the bathroom wall.

Purple Owl pushes herself off the wall. She walks to the sink. She turns it on and wets paper towels. She wipes down her face and stares in the mirror.

Purple Owl: I can do this. It's just the door, teacher, and then my seat. Everyone in the class is my friend. They aren't scary.

She raises her eyebrows. Purple Owl in the mirror questions everything she said.

Purple Owl: I have to go. It will only get worse the longer I stay.

Purple Owl in mirror looks defiant. After a few moments, Purple Owl sticks her tongue out at her reflection and shrugs. She's not the one in charge.

She puts her backpack back on. She picks up her project and walks to the door. Purple Owl looks at the bathroom and shakes her head.

Purple Owl: Someone will find me if I stay here. I have the attendance sheet. I have to go.

She starts the walk to class. It seems so long. Her legs feel heavy. She gets to the door and takes a deep breath.

Purple Owl: Here it goes.

She opens the door. And as expected, her classmates and teacher turn to look. She walks up the aisle to her teacher. She hands her the sheet.

Purple Owl: I'm sorry I'm late.

Teacher looks at the clock.

Teacher: The attendance says you came 20 minutes ago. What happened?

Purple Owl: I was in the bathroom.

Teacher: For 20 minutes?

She nods.

Teacher: Okay. I'm glad to see your project. You'll present just before recess. Have a seat, Purple Owl.

Purple Owl goes to her seat and her guy best friend smiles at her.

Classmate: Why are you so late? Might as well not have come. I mean you never do anyway.

Guy Friend: Leave her alone.

The classmate huffs and looks away.

Purple Owl stares at her friend. Usually she's the one standing up for him.

Purple Owl: Thanks.

Guy Friend: You're welcome. You do it for me.

He looks at her.

Guy Friend: Are you okay, Purple Owl?

Purple Owl nods.


Guy Friend: Are you sure?

Teacher: No talking.

Guy Friend: Sorry.

He glances at Purple Owl and then looks at the student presenting.

Purple Owl feels a nudge. She looks up to the class and teacher staring at her. Guess it's her turn. She walks up and gives her presentation.

The bell rings as she finishes. She walks to the back of the room in a daze.

Her two best friends wait for her.

Girl friend: Are you okay?

Purple Owl nods.

Guy friend: For sure?

Purple Owl sighs. Her pain is gone. She can breathe. Purple Owl smiles.

Purple Owl: Yes, for sure. Let's go eat our snack so we can play.

Her friends follow her out.

Purple Owl talks to her friends while she eats. She laughs while she plays. And listens closely to the rest of class.

I filled out the conversations a bit. But the framework was the same. My first panic attack is burned into my memory. I wish I couldn't see Purple Owl falling apart in her elementary bathroom.

But I can. And it gives me understanding of the panic attacks I've had since. At 7, I didn't even know that phrase. But now it gives me relief. Relief to know I'm not alone or strange.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

In Loving Memory

In loving memory. I feel strange applying those words to my mom. I loved her as a mother but not a friend. I remember her as a friend, not a mother. It's all mixed up and I don't know if loving memory applies.

I know I love my mother. Everyone loves their mother. She gave birth to me. She raised me. And she loved me. It's only natural to love her as a mother. But she was an amazing woman. She should have been more than my mother. She should have become an adult friend.

I remember her as a friend because she talked to me like one. She reasoned with me. She counseled me. And never once talked down to me. But I wish that we had fights. Not at 8. But I wish we had time for teenage Purple Owl to fight with her mom.

I guess I also feel bad because I don't remember her. I remember my life with moments of her. As I try to tell someone who she was, I spin off into a story about me. I guess that makes sense. One, children are usually self-centered when telling stories. Two, people see the world from their point of view. I have stories that star Purple Owl because she's what I see.

I get so wrapped up in the mothers I see in media. I read and watch TV. I think that's the way it should be. I feel like we missed out on something. That makes me feel sad for us both. And I feel guilty about my lack of memories. But I do remember my mother, my friend.

How much more could a mother ask anyway? A child who may not remember you well but remembers your touch. Remembers your touch, physically and mentally. Who in part owes who they are to you. A child who had their own life outside of you but is thankful to have had you. Who knew what they had while they had it. A daughter who has no bitter memories of her mother.

In loving memory, Purple Owl's mother, mom, 엄마, 어머니.

P.S. This is basically what I think each December and January. These thoughts of guilt and regret are the reason I get more depressed than usual. But this is the last year I'll do that. In the future, I'll be sad about the fact that mom died in January. But I'll remind myself that we didn't miss out on too much. And the way she added to my life, without dominating it, shows the woman and mother she was.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

My style of Love

I give out pieces of my soul. That's how I love. I attach myself to people without them knowing. I let them have a piece of my heart.

I always thought I gave out the same number of pieces. I thought I loved everyone equally. But I don't. There are people I gave multiple pieces to. Every time I was with them, I'd give them a new piece. It's dangerous giving that much of yourself away.

Old Pieces

It started one summer
We talked
We learned
I loved

I carried the memories
In my heart
A special place
There they stay

I knew not to hope
I knew I was alone
That you didn't
Feel the same

You've carried on
Now I need to as wel
And like that
In a summer it ends

- CoJa Brown

And then I remember random people I've given my heart to. And I'm in pain because we don't talk like we used to. Because we don't laugh like we used to. Because we don't love as we did.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2015 Purple Owl

It's a new calendar year. It's my 20th year.*

But it doesn't feel like it. It doesn't feel new nor do I feel older. I feel the same as I did when I was 10.

My therapist thinks I stopped progressing when my mom died. I understood that to mean I stopped hitting my age accomplishments at age 8. And that is a fair analysis. However, I've been missing my age marks much longer than that. 3 year old Purple Owl wouldn’t be surprised that 19 year old her doesn't behave like an 19 year old.

I don't: go to school, have a license, have a job, or go out at night.

And I'm fine with it.

But I shouldn't be fine with it.

I know that logically. It puts me at war with myself. I want to be treated my age but first I've got to start acting it.

I'm going to spend this year hitting the age marks I've missed.

* I'm 19 but this is my 20th winter. You experience all seasons before you turn 1 year old.