Posts Tagged With: relationships

being a weird mom builds character

I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about relationships.
Specifically about mother-daughter relationships.
I firmly believe that all mother daughter relationships are complicated.
I’m not sure how they couldn’t be. Mothers are complicated in that if you boil it down to the most basic function, we’re kind of flying by the seat of our pants with the task of keeping other, smaller humans alive. Daughters are complicated in that they learn how to be women from the adult woman they spend the most time with. Of course, what they don’t know is that we don’t exactly know how to be women any more than they do, we’ve just been pretending longer.
But here’s another thing I know about the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters: with enough love and honest communication it can be a truly spectacular experience.

While it’s hard for me to have conversations with my daughters about my own mother, luckily they both knew and loved her, and I think they both know they were loved by her. Though they will tell you that she terrified them. They also understand that they’re pretty fortunate that I’m their momma and she was not. Of course, I’ve f**ked them up in my own special way.

Yes, I did say sorry…but it had a question mark behind it. And they received this message when they were together, so they laughed and then told me they love me.
I am a weird mom. They certainly have character.
I’m going to call this one win-win.

Hey, at least we can have honest and intimate conversations.

It’s curious to me how different my relationship is with each of my daughters. Thing 1 and I are close in a way that’s completely different than the way Thing 2 and I are close.
Here’s an example of a conversation with Thing 2 regarding how it’s easier to love than to learn to be loved:

This is one screenshot of a long and beautiful conversation we had about love and relationships, that awed us both.

I’m actually having a text conversation with her right now as I’m writing this. I expressed that I’m struggling to write after not for so long, she shared that Mercury is in retrograde and that makes words tricky.

This is interesting because I’ve been losing words again this week. I continue to chalk it up to my brain never actually healing properly…but if it’s Mercury being in retrograde, I’ll take it. (must learn what a planet in retrograde actually means)

But I digress…(YBW would tell y’all that’s par for the course with me)

The way that Thing 2 and I are close is an easy yet deep intimacy. We can talk of deeply personal feelings and the whys and wherefores behind them.

My daughter’s muchness is something I’ve discussed before. It’s something everyone that knows her is acutely aware of. The trick of it is that it truly is undefinable. She’s hit a beautiful developmental place in which she understands that her muchness is powerful. She understands that it will be what keeps her standing when life tries to knock her down. What she doesn’t yet understand is how exactly to tap into it to make it work for her. But she is young, that will come in time. Only when you’re twenty, you don’t often feel like time is on your side.

Thing 2 has told me countless time in the last two months that I’m awesome, or a wonderful mother, or something of the like. She also said, “You’re the best Momma We really don’t tell you enough”
We really don’t tell you enough.
But when she does tell me…

Thing 2 and I have the ability to open our hearts to each other and just kind of move seamlessly back and forth between the two.

My relationship with Thing 1 is loving, but with a practical twist. We don’t have the ease of intimacy between us. I think it’s partly because of our personalities. I worry that it’s partly because of the way our relationship faltered when she was a teenager. I oftentimes think that I should have worked harder to stay connected with her instead of being as stubborn as I was.
Only I can’t shoulda coulda woulda myself to death. We lived through that. We survived it, and found our way back to each other.
And honestly, we were never all that intimate before that time. So I believe we’re in a strong and healthy place that is similar to the one we were in before that time.

Thing 1 is quick to call with practical questions. ‘How to’ questions and ‘What about this’ questions. Our relationship manifests itself in a practical way. It’s interesting, she always called me Mommie, but when Thing 2 first began talking she said, Momma. Eventually, Thing 1 switched to Momma too. Unless she’s feeling particularly needy. If she’s physically or emotionally sick she will use Mommie.
Right before we went down to her house for Thanksgiving, I got a text about a reoccurring health issue of hers.

Observe the use of Mommie.
When my girls were little and hurt or scared or whatever, I would bandage their boo boos, or help them feel safe and it always ended with a big kiss to give them a dose of “Momma(ie) poison”. Mommie(a) poison is that lasting bit of me helping them heal or keeping them safe. Sometimes you need great doses, sometimes you might just need a booster.
Well, Thing 1 needed a big ol’ dose and she got it when I arrived at her home. It was good for both of us.

We have loving conversations. They’re of the practical variety more so than of the existential variety. One powerful conversation we had was about mental health. However tricky it is, we share common ground when it comes to diagnosed mental health issues. And she is the person I wanted to talk with when I was wrestling with the emotional aspects of my physical health. She reminded me I hadn’t always been “sick” and I would not always be “sick”. She fully supported my decision to go back into therapy. She reminded me that if I was aware of this emotional struggle then I was already better off.
Seems we rely on each other for that practical kind of love. Maybe sometimes I need a dose of Thing 1 poison too.

However practical our love, it is also delightfully silly. We love to communicate via bitmoji when we’re feeling playful.

Mothers and daughters are tricky, curious beasts. What’s wonderful about that is the fact that weird mom’s do build character. Weird daughters build flexibility in even the most control freak moms. We can fly by the seat of our pants and love and learn and grow all at the same time.
Mothers of daughters have the unique blessing of seeing how their girls relate to each other. From the time they’re children through their teenage years and into adulthood. The relationship between my daughters makes my Grinchy heart grow three sizes every time I even think about it. Their love for each other is truly something to behold.
How blessed am I to not only love each of them, but to be party to the love they share!?!

Mothers and daughters have been on my mind for months now. After my realization that I suffered insecure attachments and was (am?) and unloved daughter, I’ve actively worked to suss out my place in this world as a daughter and as a mother. This new understanding created more confusion that I could have imagined. I needed this time to sort it all out. To find a way to have it make sense. To adjust my personal barometer when it comes to mothers and daughters.
Like the Grinch, I puzzled and puzzled till my puzzler was sore. But, I finally feel like I can put it to rest.
I can leave the tricky and curious world of mothers and daughters knowing I’m more informed than ever before. And while I’m not sure I’ll ever be truly comfortable as a daughter, I know being a mother is my truest joy.
Perhaps I didn’t experience unconditional love as a daughter, but I certainly have as a mother. And that actually is enough.

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Categories: on being a mom | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

why I’m “like this”

I’ve always questioned why I’m “like this”. Ever since I can remember, I’ve wondered why I associate love with fear and anxiety. Why, when (even as an adult) I thought, “I want my Mommy” I knew instinctively that I would not be comforted.

Turns out this is because I have what’s considered an anxious/avoidant attachment style. This comes from earliest childhood when attachments with primary care givers are formed. Inconsistency from the primary caregiver can impact brain development and foster an insecure attachment.
In insecure or anxious attachment, a child will often express need for the caregiver but then not be able to make eye contact. The child will be upset by the absence of the caregiver, yet not be soothed when the caregiver returns. The child learns that while her needs will most times be met, there is great inconsistency in the process. This creates an anxious and fearful child. One who learns that comfort and love are conditional.

Bartholomew’s Two Dimensional Model of Attachment

This entire thought process came about because I saw an article Tuesday about unloved daughters attracting narcissists.

This article was total click-bait, but I was waiting at an appointment that was already running late and left my book at home, so I clicked it.
I mean, I knew I spent the first seventeen years of my adult life being married to a narcissist, but was it because I was unloved?

I thought about my mother.
(Let’s face it, my father was absentee and would rather smoke weed, snort coke, and party in discos than be a dad. And his narcissistic shenanigans didn’t really noticeably impact me until I was an adult.)
My mom was my primary care giver. My mom is the one who stuck it out and raised us. My mom is the one who made sacrifices so we could have, and do, and be more.

I have never once doubted that my mother loved me.
(Even the year of my fifteenth birthday when she signed a card ‘Mommy’ instead of the standard, ‘I love you, Mommy’. It was the only time there was proof of her withholding love because she was angry with me.)
Obviously, her actions weren’t always indicative of that love.
She was cruel in the things she said. She placed a great deal of responsibility on me at a young age. She always shut me down when I expressed my thoughts or creativity. She was critical and quick to strike. She had such unrealistic expectations of me that I was always falling short. My brother was the golden child and I was the responsible one.

I grew up knowing that my mother’s love was conditional. That if I pleased her, or met her expectations, I would be loved. I learned to over-function so I’d be sure to get some love even if I didn’t do everything “right” or “well enough”.
I learned that I was not to be loved simply because I’m me. I was to be loved for what I could do, how I could function.

In doing research on this topic to create better understanding in myself, I came across Peg Streep’s blog, knotted.
Um…DAMN!
This chick knows my soul.
She writes that the unloved child longs for specific things even as an adult.
The things she lists are as follows:

to feel safe
to be understood
to be accepted
to simply be
to belong
to be loved for who she is

This.
This is me in six little lines.

Is this why I love so fiercely?
Is it because I don’t exactly know what it feels like to be safe in love?

So it seems that because these patterns are set in childhood, however self-aware one becomes, they are extremely difficult to break. This is because brains are pattern-seeking. And once brain patterns are developed, they can be altered, but those created in earliest childhood will always remain.
These patterns are in my brain. This insecure and anxious attachment. Actively (albeit unconsciously) committing self-sabotage because those deepest patterns are where I lived for so long.

I sought similar situations because they were familiar. Because I understood how to function in them. Of course, I was unaware of this at the time.
I married a man who lead me to believe he wanted nothing more than to take good care of me and give me babies. He was stable and reliable and consistent. All the things I’d been searching for without really understanding it.
Only it was a ruse. He manipulated me from the beginning.
He belittled me the same way my mother had.
His passive aggression was the stuff of legend. Gaslighting was a thing I experienced before I ever knew there was a word for it. Manipulations so subtle that I didn’t even realize what was happening.
I suspected it wasn’t meant to be this way, but because it felt familiar I didn’t question it. I drank the kool aid we made and I even served it to other people.
I learned the hard way not to question what was going on. His rage was epic. His ability to twist my words made me question my sanity. I was suffering from insomnia and chronic migraine pain. I was weak and helpless.
I turned my focus to my girls. To love them so fully they’d never have to question it. To keep them safe always. To protect them from the way their father treated me.
I remember the exact moment I realized that I was not the crazy one. Yet, I stupidly tried to talk with him about it.

I functioned from a place of fear and anxiety. It negatively impacted my health. It negatively impacted my daughters.

All these years later, I’m only beginning to understand that I made the choices I did because I felt unloved as a child.
The guilt inside me is overwhelming. The powerful urge to deny this treatment. My initial instinct is to quickly defend my mother. She loved me. She did everything she could on her own. Blah blah blah. Saying these things out loud, writing them here, it feels like a betrayal of epic proportions.
Only, that’s just how it goes for women (and men) who grew up like me. We spend our entire lives protecting the ones who abused us. That word made my stomach turn. Abuse is a big, scary, bad word. And to outsiders, my childhood, and marriage to the former husband, never looked like abuse. And for most of my life it didn’t look like abuse to me. Only it is abuse. And it’s horrific.
An unloved daughter is trained not to talk about what she thinks or feels. Everyone around her quick to tell her why she’s wrong. Quick to tell her how ungrateful she is. Quick to blame her and be sympathetic to her abuser.

If we don’t talk about it we can’t heal. And healing is of the utmost importance. I am actively attempting to learn self-compassion. Not pity. But honest, healing, compassionate love for myself.

This discovery has had me questioning everything the last few days.
Did I do this to my girls? Are they damaged by me? Did I abuse them? Did I protect them enough from their father? Do they see him for who he really is? Did they know this about me innately, before I ever even had a clue?

Did I specifically choose YBW because he’s not like this? Did I choose him because I question his desire and commitment to build a life with me? Am I simply sabotaging us to create my self-fulfilling prophesy that I’m not special or worthy of anyone’s love?

I’ve sat with these feelings since about eight o’clock Tuesday morning. I’ve struggled to research and understand. I’ve struggled to process and write. And that’s saying a great deal as I’ve damaged the tendons in my thumb and cannot hold a pencil. That means I cannot journal this.

I’ve talked with Jessica at length. Against my better judgment, I even talked with YBW about how I’m thinking and feeling. With one teeny exception of cracking an inappropriate joke, he surprised me and was a kind, loving, and wonderful listener.
Without doubt, I’ll be having this conversation with my therapist next week.
I feel as though I should have it with my girls too. Because if I am either abusive, or simply crazy, they have a right to know why.

I feel like I’m betraying my mother by saying I’m an unloved daughter.
That feels absolutely wretched.
But you know what feels amazing?
Finally beginning to understand why I’m “like this”.
As Albus Dumbledore said,

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.”

Dumbledore knew what was up.

Categories: me | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

while my behavior is (probably) unreasonable, my motivation is not

Things have been tricky with YBW lately.
Tricky may not be the best word to describe the situation, but it’s the word I’m purposely choosing, and that means I’m hopeful.
Here’s the thing, it might be mostly me. I’m completely wrapped around the axle about feeling overwhelmed by the fact we still have kids at home.
I am acutely aware that I’m overreacting to this.
I’m letting fear and anxiety drive the bus.
I’m smarter than that.
I’m more mindful than that.
I’m more capable than that.
Yet here I am. Shrieking and flailing and foaming at the mouth at the man I love.

I’ve worked myself into a state of chaos that I cannot seem to break from.

While my behavior is indubitably irrational and unreasonable, I stand behind the feelings behind them.
Now, those feelings are quite possibly a jumbled hot mess, but I feel them just the same.

What it ultimately feels like to me is that I sacrificed everything in my life to come here and have my life revolve around YBW’s children.
I’m not exaggerating.
Here, life is focused around the boys.
You may find it interesting to know that I understand why it was that way for so long. What I don’t understand is why it’s still that way.

Here’s what I know. My husband and I love each other. And we’re committed to each other and our relationship. And that gives me hope.

Hope is a powerful ally. One for which I am grateful. For without hope, I would feel that we made the biggest mistake of our lives. But because I have hope, I know we didn’t.
At the moment, what I need more than hope is an end date. I need practical reassurance that my hope is well founded. That there will come a time in the not-so-distant future that the life I am creating with my husband will revolve around our relationship and not his children.
He told me once that he didn’t want to be a step-parent to my girls. Well, first of all, this was hurtful to hear, and secondly, this was obvious as hell when my daughter came to live here. And more hurtful that I can even express.
Yet here I am, living my life for his children.

In my vision, we are a little solar system. (Interplanet Janet, much?)
And in that solar system, YBW and I are a planet. Our four children are nearby moons. Only, unlike a “real” solar system the moons and planet can occasionally occupy the same physical space and be together.
In my heart of hearts, I don’t consider that unreasonable.
What hurts me so much, is that it seems to me that YBW does.

I don’t want to “get rid” of his children. I want them to follow the natural course of development and fly the nest.
I think this goes back to what I was musing over parents developing at a different pace than their children. And while I acutely understand the pain of it. I don’t believe following the natural course of development is unreasonable.
I can want it to be the way it was when it was ‘we three girls against the world’, but that’s not the natural course and it’s not fair to them, or to me.
YBW never had to make the choice to accept the discomfort of those feelings. It was, and remains, these three boys against the world.
Only here I sit, ‘against the world’ adjacent.
Who’s against the world with me? Not a damn body.

Here’s what I’d like…YBW realizing I’m on his side. That I can be part of his against the world with his kids. BUT the time for that is waning, that soon they’ll be on their own, with us as back up.
I’d like to experience the shift from three boys as a unit, to YBW and me as a unit.

We’re parents. We will always have the backs of our children. There is no doubt of that. But there comes a time when having their backs is less active than it once was. That life is more focused on each other and our place in the world and we know that we’ve got our eyes on the moons that are near us.

In Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Belle sang,

“I want adventure in the great wide somewhere.”

Well, I want that too. I want that with YBW.
Truth is, ain’t nobody adventuring while the focus is on an adult male that chooses not to launch, and a nearly grown male that chooses not to be invested in his own life.
Sad truth is that because they’re not choosing, they’re missing out.
That actually makes me feel worse.
I want more for them.
Unselfishly.

I see my girls struggle in their lives, but they’re out there trying.
Thing 1 and Husband N haven’t any money, but they have tenacity and they have love. They have a plan and they’re making it work.
Thing 2 is stuck physically, but has decided not to let that stop her from making the best life she can. She’s working within those constraints to get her life together and make something of herself.
I have their backs, helping them when they ask for it.
I suffer discomfort at their struggles.
But I see them making the choice to live their lives.

Contrary to opinion, I love YBW’s boys a great deal. I want them to choose their own lives! I want them to try! I want them to be successful humans in this world.
I want YBW to experience the pride and joy I feel when this happens for his children.

I don’t share these comparisons to point fingers. I share them because I know what it feels like to be on both sides of the coin.
Just because I didn’t give birth to his children, doesn’t mean I don’t love them. Doesn’t mean I don’t want the best possible lives for them.

Yes, I want to be a unit of two.
That’s what you’re meant to do with grown-ass kids.
The thing that kills me is that honestly don’t know if that’s what YBW truly wants.
And I don’t know how much longer I’m supposed to silently wait and see. All these thoughts and feelings I have can no longer be contained! In my trying to be kind, or respectful, and say nothing, I’ve created a toxic pit inside me. I much less successful at controlling it. I’m much less concerned about being kind to others than I am in being kind to myself.
I shouldn’t be silent when I’m unsatisfied.
Neither should I lose my shit completely.
It’s a delicate balance.
I’m not super successful at mastering it.

I refuse to believe that wanting what I want is unreasonable.
Though, I am aware that I am inclined to present it in a way that probably is.
I’m being mindful.
I’m working at it.

I’m tired of the same old conversation. Eight years later and I’m still wondering if he truly wants a life with just me.
Do I just need to get over myself?
I have no earthly idea.

Categories: me | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

undermining myself

I have this terrible habit of not expressing precisely how I feel if I think there’s a chance it’ll be met with resistance. Example: I sort of wanted to go to a partly last night. A party for a woman who is the mother of a child I used to teach in preschool. She’s celebrating a milestone birthday and I thought it might be fun to “show my face”. It’s important to say that I was not clamoring to go, I just felt like I might want to. YBW asked me earlier in the day if I wanted him to go with me. I told him, yes I did. (And here’s where I begin to undermine myself) But I also told him that if he didn’t want to go, that was OK too.

Later on when it was time to think about leaving the house, I got frustrated because he chose to take the out I so graciously gave him. I came upstairs and changed into my pajamas, brushed my teeth and got ready for bed. I was cutting off my nose to spite my face, but I was in no frame of mind to be around people.

I set myself up to fail.
I’m so adept at it, I almost never realize I do it.

Last night I realized it.
YBW and I had a conversation that began on an unrelated note, but found it’s way to this particular subject matter. I said something about how when the roles are reversed, I would go with him because I knew that he wanted to go and would like it if I went with him.
He said something to the effect that in that case, I’m being the better person.
At first I thought he meant I did it purposefully. That I thought I was a better person than he is, that I do these things to be the better person. He assured me that wasn’t the point.
So I asked then why did he choose not to be the better person.
I don’t remember if he answered me or not.
But here’s why: What I did was give him an out and hope that he wouldn’t take it.

I’m not skilled at saying what I want.
I spent a lifetime learning not to express those kinds of things. I learned quickly that what I may or may not want didn’t matter. I learned that I was to do what was expected of me without question. This was my childhood.
The moment I began to do what I wanted, I was unceremoniously ejected from my home.
Let me assure you, a traumatic event like that will give you pause. And reinforce the fact that anything I may or may not want were irrelevant.
I chose a passive aggressive, master manipulator as my first husband. I was expertly fooled into believe I was not only able to express what I wanted, but that I would also get it. This was tricky for me. It looked like I was finally able to articulate what I wanted and I was amazed by it. Only, it wasn’t really what I wanted most of the time…the sabotage was so subtle I didn’t realize it was happening.
I might express my desire, but for the most part it went unfulfilled.
Eventually I began to understand how it worked and stopped expressing my wants all together. I would simply deffer.
Example: If asked where I would like to go to dinner, I might have something I really wanted to eat but I would never say it, I would simply respond with something like, It doesn’t matter to me, where would you like to go?

It was hurtful to be specifically asked what I wanted and then not actually get it. So I learned to stop wanting things. I learned to stop expressing my opinion.
But I didn’t like it.
It created a toxicity in me. A bitter resentment.

A pattern is created and then it creates how one functions. I knew better than to express myself, but I hated it. I hated the people who started it, and I hated myself for perpetuating it.
Most of the time I try to be hyper-aware, but it’s so easy to fall back into a lifelong pattern…

I am creating a self-fulfilling prophecy with YBW.
I’m not giving either of us a chance.
If I don’t say what I want, I won’t get it. And then I get mad. At him. At myself.
If I say what I want and then add a caveat based on his wants, I hope he’ll show me how wonderful he is and do what I want even though I’ve given him an out. I’m setting him up to fail. I’m setting myself up to fail. And then I get mad when we fail.

Now, I’m not saying this is entirely my responsibility. It’s his too. But I need to trust that he’s not going to repeat the same patterns I’ve already experienced. I need to be clear and then see what his choices are.
If I’m clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that I want him to go with me to a birthday party and he chooses not to go, then I have a right to be hurt and frustrated and mad.
But if I’m not clear, if I say, but if you don’t want to, that’s OK, then he’ll choose what’s most comfortable for him. And when I get hurt and frustrated and angry it won’t make any sense.

I’m not good at expressing what I really want, sometimes I’m even worse at even understanding what I really want. It’s a skill set I need help with. I need to practice more.
It’s just so much easier to deffer, to say, “It doesn’t matter to me, whatever you want.”
I’m still getting hurt, but I’m not letting anyone else hurt me. I’m doing it myself.
I’m aware that is some kind of twisted logic…but it’s my logic.
And I’m working on it.

I’ve tasked myself to journal about expectations.
I have a feeling I’m going to surprise myself.

Categories: me | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

teeny little significant things

It’s the little things. The teeny little seemingly insignificant things.
These little things make the biggest impact.
I got a teeny little thing with huge impact this morning in the form of a text message from YBW.
I’m not going to tell you what it said, because, well…I don’t want to. And that’s not really what’s important. What’s important is the act of writing and sending the text.

Each of us gets caught up in our own “stuff”. Makes it tricky to remain aware of what’s going outside our own heads. I had a long talk with my friend and mentor the other day. It was lovely. But it took so much of my energy. I’ve been trying to have an important conversation with Thing 1 for well over a week now. I honestly haven’t had the emotional energy. Haven’t seen Sundance or even talked to her for a while. Haven’t even been doing simple hashtag communications with my sister in law.
I’ve been to much in my head. I’m working on slowly shifting my focus outward. It’s hard and I feel lazy…but I’m working at it.
That sweet message from my husband this morning furthered my effort and helped me see he’s working at the same thing.

Tomorrow is September 1. The start of ‘meteorological fall’.
Now, most people see fall as the dying time. I see it as a time of starting new. Perhaps that’s residual from all those years of new children in the classroom in the fall? I don’t know…
But I’m looking at fall as a time to start everything new. New attitude with old projects. New projects with excitement.
Perhaps the wretched hot and humid weather will decide to become new and bring cool crisp air for me to breath. And temperatures that don’t cause you to break out in a sweat the moment you walk outdoors.
But I’m not expecting that until October…Indian Summer is the way of early fall in the Metro area. I know this. I’m just feeling hopeful!
Hope springs new for this little red haired girl in the Autumn.
I’m ready to do the hard work.
This used to be my “catchphrase”…it’s been a long time since I felt like using it…but to life in general, I say a great big, “BRING IT!”
(Until I wake up tomorrow in a foul mood…then I’ll be back to my grouchy self and have to start all over again.)
oscar
Sometimes, Oscar is my spirit muppet.

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the only way out is through

I’ve not been shy about discussing my recent emotional dilemma.
I’ve not been shy about talking about it with my friend and mentor, Sundance, my sister in law, and Nora. I’ve freaked out to them about relationship stuff, but also just my stuff. Girlfriends lend a sympathetic ear when you’re frustrated. They provide a hard look at your own reflection when you’re feeling overwhelmed. I’ve gotten great advice from each of them…I’ve gotten a bit of crap advice from each of them…but mostly, they’ve just loved me through my struggle.
I have the luck to be friends with a man who is an excellent listener without giving unsolicited advice. I’ve talked to him about me. Where I am personally. In my life…in my head.

Where I’ve been emotionally has a great deal to do with perspective. Mine was skewed. It isn’t anymore. I experienced a shift in my perspective and everything became more clear.
It hit me like lightning! And I became a completely different girl…well not really, but I began to think about things in a completely different way.

Sundance fed my OCD cravings for organization by presenting me with the idea of going back to a paper planner. We discussed brands and what she was using and how, for her, it’s like “scrapbooking” with a purpose. I’m enthusiastically embracing this “old” way of keeping myself organized!
My sister in law encouraged me to write down everything as I thought or felt it, which lead to a new and rather visceral way of journaling.
Nora encouraged me to be patient…and I was…sort of…and turns out being patient lead me to this place.
My friend and mentor reminded me to place the anxiety where it belongs.
A conversation with Jack regarding my reservations about my degree plan lead me to an exciting new idea. He suggested I explore this mind mapping as a way of prioritizing all my “stuff”. The more I looked at this mind mapping, the more I realized it’s rather┬álike an integrated curriculum web! Now this is something with which I have quite a bit of knowledge and experience! And a new, but familiar way of sorting my shit was born!

sample mind map:
mm_examrevision
sample curriculum web:
drake2004_fig1.1

The Robynbird stuff is feeling much more settled. I feel grounded. I feel like I’ve got this. “I am at home with the me. I am rooted in the me who is on this adventure. This is me breathing.” Dr Oatman ain’t got nothing on this little red haired girl.

I finally feel like I can take big deep breaths and move forward.

The relationship stuff…well I didn’t exactly place the anxiety where it belongs, I was simply able to finally put down the anxiety that isn’t mine. Understanding, patience, love, and time is what will ease that weirdness. It’s journey, right? I’m not on a lone journey…how silly of me not to take that into account.
So, we don’t have a clear vision of the journey. So, we don’t know exactly where we’re headed. So, the path gets tricky. The only way out of the woods is through the woods…if we come across lions or tigers or bears (oh my!) we’ll just figure that out then.
The journey we’re on as a couple might just need to make a pit stop. We can do that. Take a break, take a breath, take a nap. And when we’re ready, when each of us is ready to move forward, we’ll begin to move again.
My personal journey, the journey I’m on as a girl getting along and singing her song, is moving at a full tilt boogie. I’m so enthusiastic about it! I’ve been spinning my wheels in the ick for far too long.

The only way out of the ick is through it.
Alanis knows what’s up.

Categories: me | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

doubt is being a jerk to me

faith
I came across this last night and it stuck a chord deep within me. I had to sit with it for a while before I could really process why. I dreamt about this in my sleep.

I know who Elisabeth Elliot is. I’m aware this references faith in God.
God and I had a falling out many, many years ago, and I turned my back to God. Doubt came. It was the first time in my life I doubted God, and I doubted my ass off! But God never left me. Over time, I was able to find my way back to God. Our relationship is different now than it was before, but it’s better. I have a new kind of faith. Not the faith I was taught, but the faith I earned. God and I are square.

That said, I’m realizing what rang true in me last night does’t have anything to do with God.

I’ve been struggling with who I am in this life. In this world. I’ve become distant and distracted. I’m questioning everything. Every choice I’ve made. Did I place my faith in something that isn’t what I thought it was?
I’m Gob Bluth saying, “I’ve made a huge mistake.”
And it has been eating me alive from the inside out.

I’ve pushed everything to the back burner to spend my time obsessing over this doubt. I’m actively digging up in doubt what I planted in faith. I’ve done almost nothing remotely healthy for a month. I haven’t slept well. I haven’t eaten properly. I don’t work. I just obsess. I have spent an entire month obsessing over doubt.

When Thing 2 was a small girl, and something didn’t work the way she expected it to, she would lose her patience. She’s quick to lose her patience, lose her temper. She’s a bit like her momma that way. She had a little phrase she would use. Here’s one example. If she couldn’t open the front door, she would grunt, stomp her foot and say, “The doorknob is being a jerk to me!”
She’s nineteen and still grunts and stomps her foot when she’s angry or frustrated.
I’m forty five and I grunt and stomp my foot when I’m angry or frustrated.
You know what they say about the apple and the tree…
We are what we are.

I share this story because I want to say, “Doubt is being a jerk to me!”
Doubt really kind of is being a jerk to me.
Actually, I think doubt is being a jerk to faith. But faith isn’t sticking up for itself. That means I have to stick up for faith. Which is much harder than it sounds. It’s hard to want to stick up for something that you think duped you.
But you see, that’s what faith actually is. Believing when there’s no ‘real’ reason to believe. I forgot that. I let doubt come to the party. Um…I let doubt throw the party. I’m kind of over this party.
My mom used to say, “This party’s getting rough. I’m going to get my undies and go home.” She was a curious woman, but she made a fair point. So, I guess me and my undies are leaving doubt’s party. (I feel the need to state for the record that I made the choice to use bad grammar.)

I don’t know how to reconcile what’s going on inside me. But I know that it’s time to send doubt packing. I’m going to pull a Jenna Marbles on doubt and tell it to “Pipe the f**k down!”
Once I get rid of doubt then I can pay attention to faith. Which might actually be trickier than kicking doubt to the curb.
I don’t really want to pay attention to faith. Faith hurt my feelings. Faith frightened me. Faith rocked me to my core. Hmm. Seems as though faith is being a jerk to me too.
Faith and I going to have to get it together. I’m not quite sure how we’re going to do that. What I do know is that I can’t dig up in doubt what I planted in faith.
That means I have to keep believing.
I must have faith no matter how difficult it is to believe. I mustn’t listen to doubt no matter how lovely it sounds.

Perhaps I’ve gone about this all wrong? Putting my faith in other things…
Perhaps I must have faith in myself. Trust that I made all the right decisions that led me to where I am in this life, this world. Believe that faith is stronger than doubt. Believe that I was built on a sturdy enough foundation that I can reconcile faith and doubt without getting lost in the weeds. (Mixed metaphors much?)
It’s easy to say that. It’s even easy to know that. It’s in the doing that it becomes tricky. But I know from tricky. I’m a mom. I’m an Auntie. I’m an early childhood educator. Tricky is in my wheelhouse.

To faith I say, “Bring it!”
To doubt I say, “Pipe the f**k down.”
To God I say, “Thanks for having my back.”
To me I say, “Get it together.”

I know I can balance doubt and faith. I simply have to try. You know what Yoda said about trying…but I haven’t even been trying. I’ve been obsessing. I’ve been swimming in doubt so long my fingers are all pruney. Time to get out and dry off.
Gotta shake it up. Get out of my head.
I’m going to remember to believe. Remember that faith falters, but that’s just doubt trying to throw a party. Faith is still there, just like God was.
Perhaps I need to do it the same way…find my way back to faith and make a better, stronger kind of faith. Not blind faith, not faith on the word of others. But a new kind of faith. One that I earned.
Hey, if it worked for God and me, making it work for my life should be a cake walk, right?
Stay tuned…

If you don’t know Arrested Development…well that makes me sad for you. It’s on Netflix. Check it out.
Will Arnett as Gob Buth:
gob

Thing 2 and her friend Jordan introduced me to Jenna Marbles. She uses foul language profusely, but I adore this concept of ‘people that need to pipe the f**k down’.

Categories: me | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

my defining moment as a frog in cold water

Acute stress feels like it will crush you where you stand.
I promise you it won’t. Your fight or flight instinct will kick in and save you. Acute stress feels overwhelming and most of us would do anything to get away from it. But, acute stress won’t kill, no matter how much you believe it might.
Chronic stress is what will kill you.
Chronic stress is like putting a frog in a pot of cold water and then slowly turning up the heat. The frog doesn’t realize what’s happening until it’s already boiling! That’s when one of two things happens. Fight or flight kicks in to save you, or you just die.

I’m an expert in chronic stress. I’m that frog in the pot of water. I was lucky enough that my instinct for flight is so strong. It saved my life.
I spent seventeen years with a man who emotionally abused me.
His sabotage so subtle, his manipulation so nuanced, it was poetry of pure unadulterated evil. He brought passive aggression to new and frightening depths. For the most part I was unaware on a conscious level. I went about my daily life feeling anxious without actually realizing it.
Sometimes I would wonder…Why did I require so much sleep? Why did I turn so much of my focus to my children? Why did I feel nauseous when he would come home? But never for long because there would be some sudden kindness and I would smile and believe him when he told me everything was lovely.

But on some level, I did know what was going on. I did know that something was amiss. I focused on my children to be a buffer between him and them so he couldn’t treat them the way he treated me. I presented the picture of the perfect little family to the rest of the world so no one would realize that he was not what he seemed.
I was scared of him. And scared isn’t a big enough word, but I’m honestly too lazy to thesaurus right now. He frightened every fiber of my being. Somehow I knew he’d never lay hands on me. I wasn’t worried about that. I didn’t realize the internal wounds could occasionally be worse.

He used to tell me that I was crazy. That I was certifiable. That they would put me in a straight jacket in the padded cell and that was where I belonged. He told me no judge in his right mind would give the girls to me. I had nothing and I was crazy. He told me that he would take the girls and I would never see them again.
I would have done and would still do anything for my girls. So I stayed with this man.
He read my journals. He read my email.
He even tried to sabotage my friendships…he had to do that carefully because he didn’t want to show his true colors. I was lucky that most of my friendships were strong enough to withstand his tricks.

I was trapped in a hell I helped create.
Every single day of my life I was scared.
Every single day of my life I was anxious.
Every single day of my life I was angry.
I was miserable. My girls were miserable. I was failing at being a mother. I was failing at being a person.
I was the frog in the pot of water suddenly aware that I was boiling!

This was the defining moment.
Would I die in that pot of boiling water?
No! I would save my own life!

The chronic stress was literally killing me. I was dying. I had to do something to preserve my own life.
I told him that I was done. I told him that I was empty and dead inside. I told him that I had nothing left to give. I told him I was leaving because I knew he would never leave.
When I finally left, he acted as though he was surprised. As though I’d never expressed any of my concerns. I didn’t even argue. I just walked away.
That’s when he turned on my girls. He manipulated them. He used them as weapons to hurt me.
That’s the only thing I regret about leaving him…what he did to my babies. You want to hurt me? Come at me directly.
My poor babies had to suffer for me to live.
That doesn’t seem right. But it was how it was.
A dying person is a desperate person.
I had to save my own life.
They’ve moved through that part of their lives. Will they ever heal? I honestly don’t know.
I know the only one who came out unscathed was their father. He has no clue what he’s done…or he doesn’t care. How’s that for crazy?

I was told by friends and family that I was strong. That I was brave. I felt neither. I felt as frightened as I’d ever been. I did what I had to do to stay alive.
It was the hardest thing I ever did, saving my own life. I only wish I’d been strong enough to do it sooner. Of course, the frog doesn’t realize what’s happening until the water comes to a boil…

I’m writing about this because of a conversation I had with my friend Nora last night, and a conversation I had with my sister in law today. Nora and I talked of relationships and life and celebs and sports stars we’d like to have our way with. We talked of previous lives and choices we make. We discussed “winning” at divorce. (When your life is better than it was before AND better than your ex’s current life.) We talked about being mothers. We ate pasta and drank a goodly bit of wine. We were “just girls” together, but we talked of important topics.
She’s actually the one who verbalized the frog in water analogy.

This afternoon I had a distressing conversation with my sister in law about her relationship with her children’s father. Apparently their state of chronic stress has escalated to acute and he’s announced he’s leaving. Knowing him as long as I have, I think he’s having a bit of a temper tantrum and it will blow over and they’ll go back to their life of chronic stress.
It is killing my sister in law. Now, there is a fairly decent amount of her stress that has little or nothing to do with him. She has some of her own shit to sort.
I told I knew what she was capable of. I suggested she tap into that deeply rooted power and make a better life for herself.
She expressed her fear.
Fear can ride shotgun, get it out of the driver’s seat. Fear will never drive me again. But it sure as hell likes to go along for the ride. I was scared half to death to make that huge change. Especially considering what impact it had on my children.
She’s not ready to do that hard work. She will eventually have to decide to save her own life or she will die.

I can’t run other people’s lives.
Some days I can barely run my own life. Seems that way lately.
I have stress in my life. But it’s acute stress. It causes an immediate reaction. And though my flight instinct is the strongest, I’m learning to fight. Fight the good fight. Fight for what’s right.

I fought the good fight by flying all those years ago. The fight to save my life. Because I tell you, I was dying. Not metaphorically dying. Actually. Physically. Emotionally. I was actively dying.
I learned the most important lesson about myself by saving my own life.
I learned that I can do anything.

Categories: divorce, loss, me, on being a mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

let’s communicate in hashtags

I got a text from my sister in law in Charleston on Friday suggesting a new way to communicate. She said she wanted to send me a hashtag of what she observed in the world and as a barometer of how she’s feeling.
I adore the idea! We can go as sedate or over the top as needed. Sometimes it’ll be ridiculously long and complicated, other times less so.

I present for your consideration as sampling of our hashtag communication.

Friday July 29, 2016
Hers: #sometimesitsbettertojustdoityourself
Mine: #ineedanappy
Hers: #icantbenicetoday
Mine: #justcallmethemistressofallevil and then #f**kem

Nothing transpired on Saturday.

Sunday July 31,2016
Mine: #phantomoftheopera
Hers: #luckyduck and then #ilivevicariouslythroughyou
Mine: #igotyouyo and then #mikesfordinner
Hers: #fml
Mine: #ihatetherforeiam
Hers: #cestmoi
Mine: #iloveyyouohmygoodness
Hers: #validation
Mine: #iwillalwasyhaveyourback

I wrote about my emotional struggles last week in strangest, weirdest, most complicated woman and I’ve written about my beloved sister in law in emotionally safe in the nest.
She and I have a curious relationship. We tease that she, and not Thing 1, is my first daughter. We are truly sisters, but as I am the consummate nurturer, and she grew up without a healthy maternal relationship, we simply fell into that pattern in our own relationship. Neither of us mind, because she has nurtured me when I’ve needed it too.

We all struggle with our lives, with our choices. We have real love for the people in our world and sometimes real dislike. It has it’s own natural ebb and flow.
Her suggestion to communicate in hashtags was brilliant as far as I’m concerned. It’s a simple way to not overthink or overstate what we see and feel. Sometimes it my seem more negative than positive, but that’s the genius of it. One tiny hashtag can expel a great deal of negative energy, thus creating space for something positive.

Yesterday, YBW and I went to see Phantom with friends. Before we even left the house, I told YBW that I was uncomfortable. If it hadn’t been since I was pregnant with Thing 2 that I’d seen Phantom, I may have even begged off. I love this couple as individual people, and I can see how much good they are for each other, but I absolutely cannot stand to be with them any longer than I have to. They don’t socialize in the ‘group’, they socialize with each other which leaves others in the ‘group’ working hard to create a healthy social climate within the group. And I simply was not having it. But I wanted to see Phantom and I’m perfectly capable of keeping my mouth shut and ignoring what goes on around me enough to enjoy the show.
I actually fantasized about jumping from the moving car to get away from these people. Of course, YBW was going damn near 80 up I95…so I considered how much skin I might lose and what sort of head trauma might occur and made the decision to remain safely buckled in the vehicle. #dammit

Now, partly this is me. I’ve been in a strange place emotionally. I’m aware of and admit that. In the last week I’ve been told (by people who love me and have my best interests at heart) I’m quick to judge and that I because I speak my mind, I can come across as abrasive.
Um…thanks? #kissmyfrecklywhiteass
I know these things were said to me out of love, because I trust the person who said them. But if I was to boil myself down to two descriptive things those would not be the ones. #notreallyabitch

I apologized for being caustic, explained that was not my intention.
If I can’t speak honestly and from my heart, why speak at all? I’m a straight shooter. I don’t pull punches. I say what I think and feel out of love. Out of a desire to help others, and continue to learn. #velvethammer

I’m tired of censoring myself for the sake of other people’s feelings. I honestly can’t believe I’m as bad as all that…if I was, nobody would want to be around me ever. And guess what? Folks want to be around me.

I understand my sister in law’s desire to communicate via hashtags. I’m going to continue to text her hashtags and enjoy receiving hers. It amuses me. It’s a playful way to say what you need to say without fear recrimination. Because more than anything, more than judgement, more than annoyance, more than anything, I love. And that right there is enough reason for me. #hatersgonnahate but #ilove

Categories: love, me | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

speaking truths or the time to hesitate is through

After several days of struggling with my thoughts and emotions, I feel a little better today.
I had to be honest with myself before I could suss out what was going on. Journaling helped that. I had to get it all down on the page to see what was troubling me so. After being honest with myself I was able to be honest with others.
I had good conversations. Speaking truths that are hard to say out loud, especially when these truths could be hurtful to people I care about.
I feel like I’m at a place where I can proceed. Though not gone completely, my instinct to run has been quieted.
Being mindful and present in my relationships will keep them true. To love and be loved, to share and experience in this state of being more present is what’s best for me.

These are things I know. Things I preach. But I’m realizing it’s easy to become complacent. It’s easy to simply acquiesce. That needs to stop. For me. For the people I love.
I must be proactive. I must…do!

I feel much like Lucas at the beginning of Empire Records.
Lucas

Categories: me | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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