Dear Diary: I’m Back (Part 1) We’ve got a lot of catching up to do

Sheesh, I’ve got a lot on my mind….

Obviously, first of all, I have to address my 8 month absence. Eight months! That’s embarrassing. It’s not that I didn’t want to write, or that I didn’t have any material or ideas- lack of shit to say is definitely not my problem. If anything I have the opposite problem- too much to say and too many ideas to contend with. I become a bit oppressed and overwhelmed by all of my thoughts and ideas. I try to tell my right-brain that its creative demands are unrealistic but it won’t listen, it just keeps chattering on. It’s fun and all, but also exhausting and it kind of kills my motivation.
However, the main reason I suddenly abandoned this blog, even though it was going so well, is because I didn’t have a working laptop or PC. It was torture trying to use our old, outdated, virus ridden laptop! Torture! That thing couldn’t even handle a simple Word document! The most basic tasks couldn’t be completed in a normal amount of time, if at all.  I tried to make it work, but I eventually had to concede that persisting in what was clearly a lost cause was looking less and less like dedication and more like insanity or obsession. I didn’t have the time or patience to deal with it- what rational person does? What should only take an hour to do was taking four hours. It became too frustrating and disappointing so the right thing to do (for the peace of our household) was put it on hold until I could get a new laptop.
So, for Christmas I told my husband I wanted only one thing- a new laptop. Not just any laptop, but a Macbook. I had heard good things about Macs. I did some research and I was sure I wanted to give Mac a try. Obviously it would cost a lot more but I thought it would be worth it so my husband ordered one for me. I got my Macbook the first week of January and here I am now, finally able to give blogging another go!
I realize that my laptop issue accounts for only half of the time I was “gone.” So what happened between January and now? What stood in my way for those 4 months?
First, it was recovering from the holidays. Once winter break was over and the kids finally went back to school I spent a few weeks alternating between cleaning and re-organizing the house and sitting down to do absolutely nothing! Next, believe it or not, I joined a gym and I was going almost everyday. I was doing really well! But then…. then disaster struck.

About mid-February I had a terrible argument with a friend. This, for me, is a very unusual thing. I’m not a confrontational person. Disagreements make me very uncomfortable, even just minor disagreements that probably wouldn’t bother most people. Unfortunately, what happened with my friend was a lot more than a minor disagreement- we weren’t fist fighting or anything like that! But, still, it was a pretty heated argument and it sent my anxiety soaring. I think I mentioned in a previous post that I have PTSD (among other things) so anxiety is a major issue for me. I’ve done a lot of work in order to be able to manage it and keep it from ruining my life. It took about a week before my anxiety finally started to subside. During that time, in order to dissipate the anxiety, I listened to music, made sure I completed my regular daily chores, and even went to the gym a few times. I was starting to get back to a normal anxiety level, the negative thoughts that had been looping incessantly in my mind had finally slowed down, but I was still a little on edge. The next thing that happened sent me over the edge.

No one in the world can cause me more anxiety than my mother. You might laugh at that statement, but I’m tellin’ you that this is not the normal ‘oh my mom is so annoying’ kind of thing. When I say my mom makes me anxious I mean she scares me. When I was little, even when I was a teenager, she scared the hell out of me. My mom…. I don’t even know how to explain her…. Especially not in a concise way. Once again I feel myself wanting to over explain and add too much detail.
I’ll try not to.
Well, like I said, throughout my childhood my mom scared the hell out of me. Why? Because she’s unpredictable, insecure, needy, emotionally abusive, full of rage, has a bad temper and is capable of violence. Oh, the stories I could tell you…… However, it’s been about six years since the last time I was in a situation with her where I thought she might hurt me, and almost twenty years since she last physically attacked me, but I’m still afraid of her. That fear never left. How could it? Because even when the physical abuse stopped the emotional abuse continued for a long time. Eventually I was able to create boundaries- physical and emotional- that she hasn’t crossed in about five or six years. But 2 months ago she crossed that emotional line…. and I lost it. I lost it.
It all started with the kids…
Overall she’s been a really good, healthy grandmother to my kids. She certainly has been a much better grandparent than she was a parent. Obviously she has less stressors in her life now than what she did when I was a child so she’s able to be more calm and patient. However, over the years there have been little things here and there…. things that we didn’t like, things that the kids didn’t like- things that made them uncomfortable.
Recently it got to the point where the kids decided they didn’t want to spend the night at her house anymore. My husband and I had already reduced their time over there as it was, but one Sunday afternoon, after my mom dropped them off, they told us they did not want to go there again. Apparently she had gotten emotional the day before, she was crying and repeatedly questioning them about something they said. Long story short, all they said was that they didn’t want to go to the grocery store. Kids don’t like to go to the grocery store! It’s a very normal, very typical thing. But not for my mother….
Me asking her to please not take them to the store because they don’t like it- I might as well have said, “They don’t want to be seen in public with you, they don’t like you.”
Instead of coming to me to discuss her hurt feelings (not that her feelings should have been hurt!!!) she interrogated the kids. They were very uncomfortable-even a little scared- and it was not the first time she had made them feel uncomfortable with her constant questioning, but it was the worst. So that was it. They had had enough and they started to tell me things they had not told me before- nothing to alert the authorities about but, still, things that I don’t think are appropriate to repeat on a blog. After what they told me I knew there was no way they were going back to her house without us. Ever.
But how to tell her that?
I avoided that conversation for as long as possible. I was so nervous about it. I mean, if she cries and interrogates them because they don’t want to go to the store with her, how was she going to react to me telling her that they don’t want to go to her house?!  Not to mention all my years of past experience reminding me of what she’s capable of when you tell her something she doesn’t want to hear.
So, needless to say, my anxiety regarding this matter was quite elevated.
And don’t forget to add in the anxiety I was still feeling after the argument with my friend.
Now here is where “disaster struck.”
After two or three months I could no longer avoid it. My mom texted me about seeing the kids, specifically about them spending the night with her. We exchanged a few texts and I gathered my courage and told her I needed to talk to her about that. Now, I could have taken the easy way out and continued to text her, but I wanted to be an adult about it. I didn’t want to be afraid of her anymore. So I decided to tell her over the phone.
I told her only 2 of the things the kids had told me. I certainly did not tell her or even indicate to her that we had all noticed a pattern.
At first she seemed to take it ok. She denied it of course. She all but said the kids were lying. That alone was hard enough to process… Either she really didn’t remember doing and saying the things she did, or she was lying and she’d rather accuse her own grandchildren of being dishonest than take responsibility for what she did. I don’t know which is worse or which is more scary… I just simply did not comment on that. I tried to steer the conversation towards the future, like, “Hey! No worries! We can all still hang out, you can just come on over to our house!” I mean, that’s pretty much what I said.
Anyway, like I said, she seemed to take it ok- at first. It even seemed like she was trying to laugh it off and make light of it. But then, little by little, that evil spirit that lives inside her started coming out. And then she did exactly what I should have known she would do. I can’t believe I didn’t see it coming-  She blamed me.
She. Blamed. Me. She started back up with the emotional abuse of the past.
It started while we were still on the phone. One minute we were talking about the kids and I was inviting her to my house, to the movies, to dinner- all of which she declined- and then the next minute she starts talking about me, and about our lack of a warm and fuzzy mother-daughter relationship. We have never had a good relationship. Ever. Not ever. I described her to you- unpredictable, insecure, needy, full of rage, bad temper, capable of violence….
I don’t know what happened to her during her own childhood, but she was broken long before I ever came along. And it is so hard to accept that she will never see the truth, but she won’t. She never has and she never will. In her version of reality I refuse to have a relationship with her and she has no idea why. And that is just absolutely insane.
This is where I struggle the most… Not only did I have to live with her abuse for over twenty years, I have had to struggle to overcome the damage it did to me, AND I’m to blame for the state of our relationship?! It’s just too much. I just can’t believe it. I mean, why in the world would I distance myself from her if I didn’t have a solid reason for it? Why doesn’t she think about that? Does she honestly believe that I don’t engage in a relationship with her just because…. what? I’m a bad person? I just don’t feel like it? No reason at all? Does she really not see that perhaps she might play a role in why things are the way they are?
I do know that she thinks part of the problem is that I don’t “know” her. Okay… once again I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone when she says this, and it’s not the first time she has said this. It’s such an infuriating statement because it is so untrue, it’s the exact opposite of reality! I think to myself,

I don’t know you?!??!  Woman, I know you like prey knows its predator. Knowing you was a matter of survival.”

The real problem is that she doesn’t know herself.

Anyway, like I said, she blamed me. Not only for our lack of relationship, which she has always blamed me for, but also for why the kids don’t want to come to her house anymore. Even after we got off the phone she wouldn’t let it drop. She continued to text me even though I wasn’t responding. It was her final text that really put me over the edge. She texted, “Unfortunately kids learn from their parents.” I’ll paraphrase the rest. She basically said that because I don’t have a relationship with her and because I neglect her the kids are following suit. I set a bad example for my kids. That’s why they don’t want to go to her house…..
So…… it has nothing to do with her or how she behaves or that she makes them uncomfortable and dresses inappropriately! Nope. It’s me- the one who has always encouraged and fostered a healthy relationship between her and her grandchildren despite the  fact that she was terrible to me! How screwed up is that?!

Well, I tried to hang on. I tried not to let it get me down. I did the things I had done before. I listened to music, I tried to keep up with my daily chores, I tried to stay focused on the present moment- especially when I was with the kids…. But I think that’s when I stopped going to the gym. The anxiety and depression were really pulling me down. I was just so mad- so mad!– that she would blame me for anything! I was fuming… and I couldn’t seem to let go of the anger, it just kept building and building, and all of the memories and emotions from the past just kept coming and coming and coming; and then they stayed stuck on a loop- continuously circling and circling, looping and looping in my mind.
I lasted a week before I finally succumbed to the internal madness and stopped fighting the urge to be crazy. I just wanted to be crazy! I wanted to go out and be wild! Fuck it! What did I have to lose??! My father’s an alcoholic! My mother’s crazy! My mother abused me and now she blames me! She abused me but I’m a terrible daughter!???  Well fine then- fuck it! I’m out of here!….
So, like I said, I lost it.

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I went and bought a six pack, drank all of them within a span of 2 1/2 hours, blasted music throughout the house as loud as I could, screamed and hooted and hollered at the top of my lungs, and started to pack a bag. I decided I was gonna go to Jamaica or Vegas. Woohoo! I really did pack a bag too. I made sure I had my passport and a credit card in my purse and I left. At the time, I considered it to be a real possibility that I was going on vacation somewhere, maybe even out of the country! Somewhere where I could dance all day and all night! And I wasn’t coming back for a month!
You might be wondering, “where were the kids when all of this was going on?”
They were in school. My son did come home in the midst of it but I handled it in a very honest, very transparent way…. That’s a whole other story- a short one and not a bad one! He was ok. My husband also knew what was going on and he was only 10 minutes away so we were good. I made sure my son got my daughter off the bus and took her to a friend’s house. She never saw a thing.

In the end all I did was hang out with an old friend for a few hours that night. We actually had a really good talk, she was very helpful. She has similar “mama-drama” issues so she understood, she knew what to say. We were at her house for a while then we went to a bar, it was kind of dead but the music was good. I had fun. It only took a few hours and I was ready to go home. I missed my house, my kids, my husband, and my cat. Not surprisingly, by the time I left the bar I was pretty exhausted, and I was so grateful to have all of that to go home to.

So… that’s what I’ve been up to the last 8 months. Ha! Well, that and recovering from all of that. I’m back in therapy and I’ve started reading again too! Finally! I felt I deserved a treat so one day I went into Barnes & Noble and let myself get a few things- including a beautiful hardback book of short stories, The Snow Queen and Other Winter Tales. It was perfect for me! I have been absolutely loving it and will share more about it in my next post.

 

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Dear Diary: Starting to see some light

Wow, my first post for this blog was quite lengthy and didn’t contain any visuals- sorry about that. I did go back and add an awesome pic of Alice (as in Wonderland) doing a facepalm.  That first post did, however, contain profanity- which is unusual for my writing- but damn it I needed to vent!
Okay, okay, I’ll stop.

I dumped a whole mess of personal info in that first post. What’s really funny is that when I first attempted a blog (years ago) I had no intention of including anything personal at all. I wanted to focus only on books, quotes, movies, music and song lyrics. But keeping the personal stuff out of it has proven to be unrealistic for me.  I have found that it is very difficult to share my thoughts and knowledge without including the grit and chaos that has lead to them. If I mention books like Toxic Parents, The Feminine Mystique, Courage to Change, Emotional Blackmail, Stop Walking On Eggshells, Goddesses In Every Woman, Dance of the Dissident Daughter- I want to be able to say why it is that I’ve read that book. Even the fiction books I read have a connection to the personal, and if I include that then I have a better chance of inspiring readers and giving them something to relate to.

Speaking of personal, I wrote that first post on my dad’s birthday! I didn’t realize that until today. And, speaking of my dad, I actually saw him last night….
First let me say that I never call my dad. I’m not proud of that. He’s always the one doing the calling. Half the time I don’t even answer, but that’s because I know he’s been drinking and sometimes I just don’t have the patience to handle it. It’s not like I can have a real conversation with him. His personality during his intoxicated state has gotten worse over the years. It’s bizarre- sometimes even Twilight Zone bizarre. I could have a field day with adjectives attempting to describe to you what it’s like, but I’ll save that for another time.

Anyway, I do feel guilty for not calling my dad. I feel guilty when he calls and I don’t answer, and I feel guilty for not seeing him. Half a year can go by without me seeing him and he’s only a 15 minute drive away. Lately it seems like every time I’m on the phone with him he mentions that he hasn’t seen us. So I’ve been feeling a little more guilty than usual. However, I should clarify that Al-Anon helped me bring my guilt down to a more realistic, more manageable level, and although I feel some guilt it certainly isn’t debilitating or unhealthy. Still, it’s there, and it motivated me to do something for my dad. He is, after all, a human being and I know he loves me (and my kids) even if he isn’t capable of having a real relationship with us. So I asked my brother if he could bring Dad over to my house.
(My dad doesn’t drive. No car, no license. Long story.)
Like I mentioned in the last post, my dad lives in a sketchy neighborhood so I don’t want to take my kids over there. Also, my dad’s apartment is difficult to be in because of all the cat hair and years of cigarette smoke. There is a sticky film over everything and the once white walls are now brownish.  We all feel like we can’t breathe and our eyes start to burn. My husband and daughter have asthma and allergies so there’s just no way they can survive in there. The kids feel very uncomfortable. It doesn’t feel like a safe place. We actually stopped visiting years ago for those reasons, and because we would all have to shower and put our clothes in the wash as soon as we got home! When we left his apartment we would smell terrible! I would be nauseous the whole way home. These are the reasons why I asked my brother to bring him to my house instead.
So, we saw him. Of course he was intoxicated. I like to use the word intoxicated sometimes because ‘drunk’ sounds so harsh… I expected him to be intoxicated, but he was very intoxicated. He couldn’t even walk straight. I was afraid several times that he was going to fall, and it seemed like he was having trouble focusing- his motor skills were off. He had trouble reaching for the door knob on our back door, then he couldn’t get it open. It took him a few tries. I think my brother had to help him. It was a very, very sad thing to see, and it was also strange to see it but not say anything. None of us even looked at one another. I felt like we were all pretending it wasn’t happening… But that isn’t necessarily true.
I mean, what can we say? What is there to say? He is what he is and we know it. No one is necessarily denying anything simply by being politely silent.

My dad and brother didn’t stay long, and as terrible as it sounds, I was glad. I was relieved when they left. My dad was trying to join in the conversation we were having, but it was clear that he didn’t really know what we were talking about. And he looks so unhealthy. So unhealthy. He looks terrible! But of course he does. A person can’t smoke and drink to excess for decades and not end up like that. I could hardly even look at him, and I felt bad about that but…  I don’t know how my brother can stand to see him like that so often. Then again, Nick has always been very loyal. And even though it was hard I’ve decided I’m going to see my dad again- not often, maybe once a month- but I’m going to make an effort. He’s sick. Alcoholism is a disease. I’ve been treating him like a pariah and a leper for too long. And, frankly, I don’t know how much time he has left.
So…. Well…. Yeah… I saw my dad. And that’s that.

Moving on… As I mentioned in my previous post, I have a few ideas about how to occupy my time in order to add meaning and purpose to my life, to expand my world. This blog is one of them. I really hope I can keep it going this time! My other ideas are volunteering in my daughter’s classroom (a very real possibility), going back to Al-Anon (very doable), having lunch with my friends who work full-time, and visiting my friends who are stay-at-home moms. Even though they have small children, and both of mine are now in school all day, that doesn’t mean we can’t still hang out. And I bet they would like that- they’re probably lonely too!
When I was in college I volunteered for the Suicide Prevention Hotline, I could do that again. I’ve also looked into some unique fitness opportunities like Pure Barre and aerial yoga, but Pure Barre is pretty expensive so that’s probably out. I’ll keep looking for things like that though. Or, here’s a thought- maybe I’ll get a job!
“The word today is job.  J-O-B.”
Okay, not really today, but maybe soon. It feels so strange, so wrong to not have a job, and especially to not even be looking for a job. This hasn’t happened since I was 16. Up until May 21st of this year I had a job, but the hours were at night and since we could finally afford it- I quit. Now I know more than ever the things a job can give you in addition to pay. So, anyway, sometimes there are part-time positions available at one of the local libraries. Or I could volunteer at the library- I love being around books!

Speaking of books, that’s what this blog is supposed to be about! The title, after all, is Words and Plots. Clearly that title implies books, novels, stories…. Clearly that title implies a sophisticated wonderland of quotes, insights, and intelligent reflections! The strange thing is I haven’t felt like reading lately, which is unusual for me, but I know what caused this accidental book sabbatical. I overloaded myself with reading. No, really. I was reading non-stop! Last summer I re-read all of Harry Potter, and then in the fall and winter I read several more novels back to back. From October to February I read The Wolf Gift (eh), half of The Wolves of Midwinter (eh), 2 Jane Austen mystery novels (loved them, will read more), Girl With A Pearl Earring (very interesting, really liked) and David Copperfield (LOVED). And these are just the ones I can remember. I think there was 1 or 2 more. I also did a few very time consuming blog posts/book reviews back in October, but they were taking up too much time (stupid old laptop!) so I abandoned the whole project. Yet, here I am, still with the same old laptop, trying again. It really is a shame I wasn’t blogging as I was reading all those books, the inspiration was flying through my head as I read them. Such a missed opportunity! But, like I said, I can try again. I’ve accomplished two new posts so far and I feel pretty good about it already. Today I’ve been blogging from my kitchen table, but Saturday I was at Starbucks so I was at least near other people- possibly even seen by a few. Actually, one guy even spoke to me- something about how standing is better than sitting. Thank you Random Stranger!
Until next time…