A New Approach: Books on the side

It’s been four weeks since my last post. To be honest I thought it had been longer. It feels like it’s been longer, but that’s probably because of the time of year that it is (was)-
back to school time.
Back-to-school is always a pretty busy time of year so I probably shouldn’t be too hard on myself for slacking off on my blog, but I am a little disappointed in myself. I’ve started and then abandoned a blog more times than I can now count, I’ve lost track. I’m not proud of this, I’m actually a little embarrassed by it. I don’t like to be the type of person who says they’ll do something but then doesn’t follow through.

So here I am again, four weeks later, picking it back up. And I actually had to sort of make myself do this today. Pitiful.
There are several reasons why I decided to come back to this blog today, several reasons why I decided to keep plugging away.

  1. A lot of people know that I am attempting to be a “blogger”, some people even consider me a writer. I want to live up to this if at all possible, or at least give it more than a half-ass try.
  2. My husband got me this nice, expensive laptop for Christmas last year and the whole point of me asking for it was so that I would be able to blog. I need to do what I said I was going to do. It’s important to me that I be true to my word.
  3. I realize there needs to be more to me and my life than husband and kids.

One day my kids will be grown. They’ll be gone. Even if they still live close to home, even if they still live at home, the kids I know and adore today will be gone. Because they won’t be kids anymore and it will be oh-so-different. I know this because my son is fifteen. Obviously I can’t hold him and kiss him the way I used to. It’s a different relationship now. Luckily, my daughter is only eight so I can still hug her and hold her and smother her face with kisses. XOXO  And it’s a good thing too, otherwise I would be very lonely right now.

But one day that will change too. My daughter will grow up and I won’t be able to hold her anymore. And then I’ll have to get a puppy.

My point is, I know there has to be more to me and my life than my family. I don’t want to wait until the kids are grown and gone to start something for me. I want to already have it in place. Besides, I think it will make my kids respect me more and help them see me as more of an actual person. Having interesting, successful parents- parents they can be proud of- is important for kids. It’s good for the development of their own identities, and it’s good for the adult relationship between parent and child.
This is why I think it’s important that I keep blogging and writing.

I’ve almost always wanted to be a writer. I can remember thinking in fifth grade that what I wanted to be when I grew up was a writer. And from then on that’s what I always talked about doing. But I’ve always been too scared to actually do it. Besides, even if I did write an entire novel, how in the world do you get published?! Where do I send it? Who do I send it to?
I’ve tried looking into this a little bit but it’s so overwhelming, and now with ebooks and the internet making it so easy to self publish- it seems even more overwhelming to me.

However, I don’t want to give up on writing entirely. So I came up with a plan to help me keep going. First, I have given myself permission to choose something else to do in addition to writing. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before, I don’t know why I thought I had to choose one or the other. For about the last 6 months I have thought about taking some art classes. I’d also like to (maybe) do some “crafting”- but to me that still falls into the art category. I told my husband the other night,
“Hun, I don’t think I want to be a writer. I think I want to be an artist.”
He said ok.
I then said, “Would you be disappointed in me if I decided not to be a writer?”
He said no.
What I didn’t say in that moment was that I think I would be happier doing art vs. only writing. Writing can be exhausting!  Not to mention frustrating and depressing, at least for me. Most of the time I put a lot of time and effort into something but end up with very little in return- almost no one reads it, and I myself am rarely ever completely satisfied with my end product. I can’t stop editing!!! Writing is a very solitary thing, perhaps even isolating. It can be very lonely, which can be depressing. And I’m not saying anything that many, many other writers (if not all writers) have said before.

With me being already so prone to depression I figure I should have something else in addition to writing. Something that is easy to share with others, something that will naturally lead to me being around other people rather than alone with my laptop. I think art can fit that bill. Art classes are plentiful, accessible, and affordable.
And I used to be pretty good at it back in school. My creations were always being chosen to be shown in various shows…. But I never got to see them. My parents never took me to the events where my art was being displayed. That makes me so sad. That’s another reason I want to try it- I want a second chance to experience that. I think it would be good for me; good for my psyche, good for my soul.
As I mentioned above, when I write I am rarely completely satisfied with the end result, but when I do something more creative- something that involves color and the use of my hands-  I’m more likely to feel satisfied, even happy. And, like I said, it’s easier to share with others. For example, card making. Occasionally I will make cards- birthday cards, thank you cards, Christmas cards, etc. It’s fun and it’s very purpose is to be shared with someone else. I want to do more of that kind of thing.

But I don’t want to give up writing entirely. The most realistic way for me to continue writing is actually this blog, especially if I do it in more of a journal style. That’s the kind of writing I’m best at anyway- less structure, just let the random thoughts flow. If I allow myself to do that I’m more likely to sit down and do it. I wanted this to be a book blog, that’s the type of blog I’ve wanted to do from the beginning, but I discovered something. I love to read, but lately when I’ve been reading with the specific intention of writing a review/blog post it takes away the enjoyment that I usually get from reading.

So I realized that I needed to take a step back and rethink this blog. Should I give it up altogether? Should I completely change the type of blog that it is? I didn’t want to do either so I found a middle path. I’ll continue with the blog but switch to a more intimate, diary-like type of approach. I’ll focus more on the details of my life and inner world. Considering everything I’ve been through (and what I continue to deal with), all the therapy I’ve done, the tremendous growth I’ve experienced– I have a lot to offer. Maybe that should be the main course and books can be on the side. I’ll still want to share my thoughts on books sometimes, but not always. I have to allow myself that flexibility.

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Self-soothing my way through depression

Ho-hum. ; (

I’m a little bummed.

Sorry for the lame rhyme…

But I really am a little upset, maybe even more than a little- maybe a lot. I’m a lot upset! I’m mad and sad and frustrated and… I think, basically, I’m a little depressed. I’m sure lack of sleep has something to do with it, and a sinus headache…. But mostly it’s because I’m putting a lot into this blog and I’m not getting much in return. It’s very disappointing.

Yeah, yeah, yeah– I know I need to give it more time. It hasn’t even been a year. And I know there are other things I need to do in order to gain followers and readers. But I put a lot of hard work into “The Alice Coincidences” and “Ripple, the Water-Spirit”!
And for what!? I get zilch! Nothing! Nada!
And it isn’t fair. It’s good stuff- I know it is, and I think it deserves to be read by somebody. It may not be the best writing or blogging ever, it may not be award-winning, but it is good; and, like I said, I put a lot of hard work into it. And a lot of time! I deserve for it to be read, not ignored. (To be fair, I did get three likes on Ripple, the Water-Spirit.)

I’m sorry I’m whining about it but not talking about solutions, or even asking for them. What to do to make this blog more successful is not the point of this particular post, neither is wallowing in self-pity. Given my mental and emotional challenges (anxiety, depression) it’s best for me to not wallow in self-pity, it can snowball very quickly. Although “snow” isn’t really the best visual representation.

Wallowing in self-pity can get pretty dark pretty quickly. For example, all because I was a bit sleep deprived, had a headache, and was feeling disappointed about the lack of activity on my blog, I was ready to completely give up- just delete the whole thing and then cry about it. That’s probably not an entirely atypical reaction, I’m sure many bloggers have felt like giving up- especially when sleep deprived.
However, it got worse. From there I started to question my whole life! I started to become majorly dissatisfied with my house, with myself, with my position as a stay-at-home parent. I started to go down the path of thinking that I have no value at all, that I’m not good at anything, I’m pathetic, I don’t do anything “cool” or significant and I never will, my life is pathetic, I’m pathetic, everyone probably looks at me like I’m pathetic, why bother with anything- everything is pointless…

In other words, I was spiraling. I felt very, very sad and quite hopeless- that is depression. And it’s a problem. I shouldn’t start questioning and doubting myself so harshly just because a blog isn’t going the way I had hoped. It’s okay to be disappointed, but it’s only disappointment– a temporary emotional state. My perspective was obviously way off kilter. I had to remind myself that there were still plenty of reasons to be happy.

It was time for a little “self-soothing” and some left brain activities. So I made myself mentally list all of the little things that make me happy, and what activities I could do that would calm me down. I learned about self-soothing in one of Dr. Marsha Linehan’s books on Dialectical Behavior Therapy. I think it may have also been her book that talks about engaging the left brain when the emotional right brain gets too hyper. At any rate, they’re both about calming down when you feel yourself becoming emotionally overwhelmed.

So, like I said, I made myself think of what makes me happy.
What always makes me happy no matter what? What do I have that will always be there, solid and true, and can’t be taken away or denied?
Well, obviously my first thought was books– namely, Harry Potter and Jane Austen. Because, no matter what, I always have them.
At almost any time I can open a copy of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone and poor, abused, orphaned Harry will find out that he is actually a rich and famous wizard. Every time I open a copy of Jane Austen, her beautifully written words will be there on the page- chocolate for my brain- and the heroine will prevail.
Harry Potter and Jane Austen make me sooooo happy.
My list got easier from there. Next thing I know I’m thinking about how much I like the light-blue interior lights in my car. I decide to wear my red stripped shoes because they make me happy when I look at them. The shoes make me think of my current favorite nail polish, Cherries in the Snow- a bright and cheerful pinkish-red.
Color therapy.
Cherries in the snow reminded me of my snowflake-themed adult coloring book, which reminded me of other color infused left brain activities, like card making and cross-stitching. I think about the Christmas cards or cross-stitch project I could work on. Or I could make a thank you card for my mother-in-law.
I keep going with the Christmas theme. Christmas makes me so happy!  I think about lighting my Holiday Garland scented candle, or going to that one gift shop at the mall that smells like Christmas year round. Or I could go to Macy’s and sample the perfumes.
Aromatherapy.

All very good ideas, but I ended up not doing any of these things. I didn’t need to. Just the thought of them, just simply knowing they were there as options, was enough. Reminding myself of what makes me happy saved the day!
I’m very thankful, and very lucky, to have been introduced to the work of Dr. Lineham and her concept of self-soothing .

What makes you feel better when you’re feeling low? What are your self-soothing activities or exercises? What’s on your Happy list?

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Book talk and thoughts: The Alice Coincidences

Something strange…
Something very, very strange has been happening…

strange: (adjective) unusual or surprising in a way that is unsettling or hard to understand.
Synonyms: extraordinary, unusual, odd, peculiar, funny, bizarre, weird, unexpected, puzzling, mystifying, perplexing, baffling, curious

Alice in Wonderland has been popping up in my life the past few weeks, but especially over the past weekend. First of all, I knew several weeks ago that the movie Through the Looking Glass was coming out soon. I was looking forward to seeing it since I like movies like that and I really liked the first one.
Then, enter Interesting Alice Coincidence No. 1.
About 14 days ago I got a book from the library to help me with part of my current ‘family situation’- Understanding The Borderline Mother by Christine Lawson. It drew me in right away. I took to it and liked it immediately, not only because it’s one of the most validating books I’ve ever got my hands on, but because the author incorporated quotes and themes from the novels Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.
Brilliant.
Absolutely brilliant.
Why, you ask, is that so brilliant?
Because the quotes and themes from Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland novels fit Lawson’s book, or any book about BPD, like a pair of True Religion jeans. (So I’ve heard.) The home life of a child being raised by a parent who has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) truly is like living in the “Wonderland” depicted in Lewis Carroll’s novels.

A place full of contradictions, denial, and doubt. Consistency is unheard-of, everything is unpredictable, nothing makes sense- riddles with no solution, questions with no right answers, questions you have no right to answer, and you have no right to ask questions! Up is down, down is up. Wrong is right, right is wrong. Quietly accept the unacceptable. Silently tolerate the irate, intolerant tyrant. Trust is fantasy, denial is reality. Every path you choose is the wrong way. There is no right way! It’s not a maze, it’s a trap!  A game with ever-changing rules made up by the self-appointed tyrannical “queen.” (She has mistaken the horns on her head for a crown.) You have to follow the rules she’s made but she doesn’t. And when you try to tell her that there seems to be no way to win or end the game, she insists there isn’t a game at all! She looks at you like you’re crazy! But you know she’s the crazy one!
The audacity! The absurdity! It’s maddening!
But you know the truth. You do. You know it… You know you do…. and yet…. and yet… When the “queen” decides to play nice again you start to doubt your former perceptions… And before long she bullies, corners, traps, isolates, confuses, and silences you yet again. And on and on it goes, back and forth, back and forth-  until the anger and frustration build up within you so much that you really do start to feel crazy.

Understanding+the+Borderline+Mother

The author of  Understanding the Borderline Mother has dubbed this “Borderland.” When I talk to my therapist, husband, or close friends about my mother and the things she has done and said, I like to use the term “the twilight zone.”

twilight zone: (noun) a situation or state of mind seemingly between reality and fantasy, a region or context located in between others and therefore not subject
to their norms, a region in which surreal, bizarre, and incongruous events occur . . .
I’ve never watched an episode of The Twilight Zone, but I heard people use that phrase when I was growing up so I guess it just kind of stuck with me. I have, however, read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I had to read it for a lit class back in high school and I really, really loved it. When I picked up Understanding the Borderline Mother I was pleasantly surprised to see quotes from one of my favorite books. I love quotes! Especially when used so creatively. I wish I could go into further detail about how well the author incorporated the themes and quotes from “Alice” into her book, but that will be for another post. Below are some of my favorite “Alice” quotes used the book:

“I used to read fairy tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!”

 

“. . . they don’t seem to have any rules in particular: at least, if there are, nobody attends to them- and you’ve no idea how confusing it is . . .”

 

“We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”  “How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice. “You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

 

“Alice said nothing: she had never been so much contradicted in all her life before, and she felt that she was losing her temper.”

 

“You know very well you’re not real.” “I am real!” said Alice, and began to cry.”

 

“I know they’re talking nonsense,” Alice thought to herself, “and it’s foolish to cry about it.” So she brushed away her tears and went on, as cheerfully as she could.”

This really makes me want to read  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland again. I always planned on reading it again, and I will, but it will be a slightly different experience this time around. I’ll never think of that book the same way again. I also want to read Through the Looking Glass, which brings me to Interesting Alice Coincidence No. 2., After Alice.

I saw the Through the Looking Glass movie with my mother-in-law this past weekend, but the interesting part is that before we even discussed going to see the movie together she gave me a copy of Gregory Maguire’s After Alice. I had no idea that he had done an “Alice” book. I read Wicked and I’m a little familiar with some of his other books- Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Son of a Witch, etc. But I had no idea about Alice.
When my mother-in-law gave me that book I just couldn’t believe it. Here they were AGAIN!
Alice. And Wonderland.
What do they want with me?
Enter Interesting Alice Coincidence No. 3.
Well, like I said, we saw the movie, and I noticed it was heavy on themes that really hit home for me- family, time, and the past. Namely, that we should treasure our family and understand that “we cannot change the past, but maybe we can learn from it.”

Family and learning from the past- these are both challenges for me, especially the family part. However, another very interesting thing about this past weekend, I spent a lot of time talking to my mother-in-law. I told her about the ‘situation’ with my mom. She asked me how my mom was doing, so I told her the truth. And then some. I told her things about my mom and my childhood that I had never told her before, and I’ve known her for 12 years.
I don’t know why I so strongly felt the need to tell her, but I did. It was very therapeutic. But why? I suppose it’s about validation again. Validation is so important. Author and psychologist Jean Shinoda Bolen emphasizes the importance of having someone “bear witness” to our story. I get that, I really do. I agree that having someone listen to your tragic “tale of woe” is, somehow, immensely helpful and healing.
But how many times do I need to tell my story?
How many therapists have I told? How many times does my husband have to hear the same stories? And my friends? And now my blog. How many people need to bear witness before I’m satisfied!? And what, or who, is it in me that feels the need to purge all the time!? And is it really purging if it’s all still in there? Because even though I keep repeating and retelling- it’s still in there…
I know you can’t change the past. You can learn from it.
Well, I have learned from it! And now I’d like to move on!

facepalm

Now, about these Alice Coincidences- the new movie, the quotes popping up very unexpectedly in a mental health book, my mother-in-law giving me After Alice, seeing the movie with my mother-in-law (and my son), and then sharing details about my “Borderland” mother with my mother-in-law….
Are these coincidences pointing to a path? Should I follow? Should I re-read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass before finally reading After Alice?

Or are these just silly coincidences that have no profound meaning and I should just let it go? Maybe that is the message. Let it go. Don’t go chasing Alice like she chased the White  Rabbit down the rabbit hole, don’t fall down into that dark hole…
Eh. It’s probably not that serious! Haha!

Well, I might read After Alice. I don’t like Gregory Maguire’s writing style, but I like the concept of revisiting well known stories from a different angle. And I like the challenge of reading his stuff-  ’cause it ain’t easy! Not for me anyway. However, I feel like I’ll get more out of After Alice if I read the original Alice stories first… We’ll see.

(After finishing this post I noticed another strange coincidence- I used an Alice clip art pic in the second post of this blog many, many months ago. So I went ahead and inserted it in this post as well.)

 

I’m back, Part 2: Final updates

In my first blog posts, all those months ago, I wrote about being a stay-at-home parent and how I was feeling about it. I also wrote in detail and at length about my dad and brother, Daniel, and I’d like to briefly address those topics.

Last August I was dreading the kids going back to school. It seemed as if I had nothing but emptiness and loneliness to look forward to… Turns out I was needlessly worried because I have been absolutely fine! More than fine- I’ve been loving it, I’m happier than I’ve ever been!
I didn’t even have to find ways of occupying my time. I had been brainstorming about part-time jobs or volunteer opportunities, but I haven’t once felt the need to find something to do. I spent a little time in my daughter’s class, but that isn’t really my thing… All those kids and all that chaos- I don’t tolerate it very well. I have been busy enough with regular daily life things- laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, doctor’s appointments, emailing teachers, doing homework, etc.
And I love all of the quiet alone time I have during the day! Lots of alone time is a necessity for my well being, and I am getting plenty of it. I’ve also been feeling like I have purpose. I’m available to do things that my husband, son, and daughter need- often even at a moments notice, and I really like that. I know they do too.
Another key to the success of my stay-at-home-parent-experience is the time that my husband and I get to spend together when he gets home from work. Last school year, and for five years before that, once he got home from work I left for work. We get to see a lot more of each other now that I don’t have the part-time job at night, and because I have all day to myself to get things done at my own pace I’m refreshed and happy when he gets home. We are so fortunate to have a set up like this and it is working very well for us.
So that’s where I’m at regarding the whole full-time-stay-at-home parent thing.

As for my dad and my brother….

Back last summer, at the end of July or beginning of August, I had my dad over at my house  for the first time in years. As I mentioned before, I don’t see much of him. I can’t spend time in his apartment (unhealthy) and because of his drinking I don’t usually have him over to my house. Well, last summer I had my youngest brother bring him over. The visit wasn’t very good and thankfully lasted only an hour, but despite how uncomfortable it was I had resolved to do it again. My goal was to have him over maybe once a month, but I didn’t follow through on that. I have seen him, but not at my house. I’ve given him a ride a few times so that he can pick up his work equipment, but that’s it. However, I have started answering his calls a little more often.
As for my brother, Daniel- the one who’s an addict, in and out of jail and rehab….
I haven’t heard much about him in several months. The only reason I ever knew anything before was because my mom would tell me. Well, I obviously haven’t had any contact with her since February, but even before that, back in January and December, I was keeping more distance between us than usual because I was avoiding having that uncomfortable conversation with her. (See previous post- I’m back, Part 1)
Occasionally my brother Nick will give me an update, but he hasn’t mentioned Daniel for over six months. So the last I knew (from my mom) was that he was in yet another jail/rehab program. However, my dad called this past Monday to wish me a happy belated Mother’s Day, so while I had him on the phone I asked him if he knew anything about Daniel. He didn’t know much, but he knew enough. He was able to tell me that just a few weeks ago Daniel had asked our grandmother (my dad’s mother) for money. Well, we all know what that means.

Honestly, I don’t think he will ever be sober. He will never stop. It is going to kill him. I gave up hope years ago that he will ever stop doing drugs and live a normal life. It’s sad… It’s very sad, because I don’t think he’s ever known a day of peace or happiness in his entire life.
And sometimes, some days, I’m hit with a sort of “survivor’s guilt” because my life is so very different from his. I know peace and happiness everyday. I have my kids, my husband, my husband’s family, friends, a nice house in a nice neighborhood. Our kids go to good schools, we drive nice cars, travel, eat good food, go to nice restaurants…
And on top of all that I have Netflix and books! Ha!
I have Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, and Dr. Frasier Crane.
I have Jane Austen, Harry Potter, The Hobbit, and Ripple, The Water Spirit...

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.

 

Why I’m Jealous of My Husband

It’s weird to be jealous of your own husband, right? That’s not a good sign, is it?

This blog was supposed to be about my passion for words. A well organized, well researched, masterfully articulated blog showcasing masterful articulation. It’s supposed to be about books and quotes and song lyrics; a celebration of creative, intelligent, inspiring language- and lovely shit like that. But sometimes plans change, and this is one of those times, because I’ve got other things I need to say right now. 

You know what? That’s it. That. Is. It!!! I’ve HAD IT!

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Yeah, well, those are obviously empty threats. So I’ve had it. So I’m fed up. What am I really going to do about it? Apparently I’m going to blog about it, a.k.a. write about it. Because that’s what I do.
I turn to words- listening to them, singing them, reading them, or writing them. I always have. I once wrote an essay about my brother Daniel. I was 9. I wrote the essay because I loathed him so much I seriously wanted to injure him. He used to make me so mad, and I needed to do something with that anger. Usually I just attacked him, but that day I somehow came up with a better, non-violent option. I had to get that anger out of me and, without questioning it, I went right to pen and paper to deal with those feelings.  That’s right- I wrote an essay when I was 9, not because it was homework, but because I actually wanted to. I needed to. It had an opening statement, an introductory paragraph, at least 2 body paragraphs consisting of 3 to 5 sentences, and then a conclusion.

My mom found that essay last year, or something like that, and gave it to me. I had forgotten all about it, but as soon as I saw it the memory of writing it came back to me pretty vividly. When she presented it to me she was kind of laughing and smiling at me like, “Remember this? Oh, how cute!” I was embarrassed and pretty uncomfortable. I was hurt and sad, too. I’m not exactly sure why… Maybe because when I wrote that essay I was serious. I wasn’t trying to be cute. Those feelings described in that essay, the anger and frustration, were very real- then and now. That essay was nothing to laugh at. It was, in part, a cry for help. My brother acted the way he did because of how we were being raised. I suspected it even then, and now at the age of 36, I know I was right. There is a certain amount of satisfaction in that, but the memories and ramifications of my childhood are still hard to live with….

Okay, honestly, sometimes there is a lot of satisfaction in knowing that what I thought was fucked up when I was a child really was fucked up. Growing up I could never be sure of my assessment of the situation because my parents denied it. My dad pretty much just didn’t talk about it, or acknowledge it, in any way -unless it was about my mom being crazy. He was always drunk when he talked (ranted) about my mom’s behavior so… that doesn’t exactly count as validation.  My mom just out right denied it. She would verbally acknowledge certain things, but then she would follow that up with either down playing how bad it really was, or blaming her behavior on external factors- including me and my brothers. I don’t think she meant to make us feel blamed. I don’t think she realized what her words were conveying, but… that’s pretty much what she said. There was no other way to take it, especially for a child.

To some readers it might seem like I’m being too hard on my parents or unfair to them. Maybe that’s true. I have a lot of anger towards them and I give in to that anger, but I wasn’t always this way. For years I tried to forgive them. I forced myself to be around them even though they made me uncomfortable. For years I went along with the denial- either not talking about any of it, or telling myself, “It wasn’t that bad.” But several years ago I came across the book Toxic Parents. My parents are in that book. Not by name, of course, but by definition and description. That book did something for me that no other book or therapy had ever done- it gave me the freedom to be angry. Instead of trying to push forgiveness- which I had been trying to do- the author basically said Bullshit. You do not have to forgive people who abused you, especially people who have not taken responsibility or apologized for what they did. That book made me feel ok about being angry. It told me that I wasn’t a bad person for being angry with parents who were toxic to me as a child, and who continued to be toxic to me in adulthood. Like I said, it gave me the freedom to be angry. Do you have any idea what a relief that was? For there to be even just one person in the world who would allow me to feel that anger and not judge me for it… It was life changing. The freedom to be angry– I snatched that life line, clung to it, and still haven’t let it go. It has done wonders for my self confidence and empowerment.

I’d also like to point out that the public service announcement from the ’80s is true: “Parents Who Use Drugs Have Kids Who Use Drugs.”  My dad is an alcoholic and drug abuser. My brother Daniel is also an alcoholic and drug abuser. He is currently pretty much homeless. He’s been addicted to heroin for 3 years now… I think. Maybe longer. Before heroin it was pills- all kinds of pills. I heard rumors about Oxycontin and methadone, just to name two. I don’t know the names of the other drugs he crushed and snorted. Before the pills I had heard rumors of crack and cocaine. These rumors came via other family members. I have never actually witnessed my brother’s addiction. I’ve always avoided being around him. It wasn’t hard to do; as soon as he was 18 my mom helped him get an apartment and a job, and he was out. O-U-T, out!
Anyway, where was I…. Before the crack and cocaine it was marijuana and alcohol- lots and lots of marijuana and alcohol. This I know first hand, either because I heard him talk about it, or because I could hear him throwing up in the bathroom when he got home. He was 17. He had his first drink and smoked his first joint at the age of only 13, maybe 12. We grew up watching our dad roll and smoke joints and get drink on a regular basis. Is it really any wonder that his son followed in his footsteps?

My mom did not do drugs or drink, but her father was an alcoholic. I don’t know half the details (not even close) of what went down in the home she grew up in, but I know there was a lot of anger and a lot violence. I am positive she has PTSD, and would also likely be diagnosed with a personality disorder if she would go to therapy like I have. With her father being an alcoholic she, of course, married an alcoholic. A very common pattern. And even though I’m not an alcoholic (and my husband isn’t an alcoholic), I’ve had a great deal of emotional issues to work through so my kids have still been effected by it. This is why alcoholism is called “a family disease.” Not only is there the genetic component, but there is also chaos, insanity, and dysfunctional behaviors that get passed down to the next generation.

Lucky for me I turn to books and writing rather than drugs and alcohol when I need help or comfort. It’s always been a natural instinct. For the past 15 years my focus has mostly been books, not as much writing. But recently that has started to change. I’ll start writing- a blog, a story- but then I stop. I abandon it. Yet here I am, trying it again because I need something. I need something that is mine and mine alone. Not something that I’m connected to because I’m someone’s wife or mother.
However, on the other hand, it truly is absurd for me to complain about anything. I have a good life, a really good life- especially considering where I started. I have been able to accomplish some incredible goals- a bachelor’s degree, an amazing husband, a good life for my kids. And I have the luxury, the choice, of being a stay-at-home parent, which is exactly what I said I wanted about 8 years ago. I don’t want a full-time job right now but… I don’t know how to explain it… I feel so pathetic because I don’t feel like I do anything important.

When all you really have in your life is yourself, your family, and your home- you will hyper focus on those things, and that can cause problems for all involved. Small things will seem a lot more important then they really are.  I hyper focus on myself, I’ve been doing it for years- my hair, my weight, my skin, my clothes. Am I  pretty? Am I sexy? Am I ugly? I am unattractive? Oh, god, I’m repulsive. Then there’s the house- we need to repaint, we need new carpet, new closet doors, new windows- we need a whole new house! We can’t actually afford to move, and we don’t need to- our house is just fine. We’re working on minor cosmetic things a little at a time, but, like I said, sometimes I hyper focus on small, insignificant details because my world is too small.

So let’s say I get the house, the hair, and the body I want. Then what? I’ll still feel like I’m lacking purpose. I’ll still feel insignificant. I still won’t have a career. I don’t even have a hobby! I still won’t have anywhere to be; nothing to accomplish beyond dishes, laundry, and dinner. I’ll still be lonely all day long. I’ll still feel unimportant and, frankly, a little pathetic. I mean, this shit is getting bad. My children are my main source of companionship! That is not ok. When our dishwasher broke I wasn’t in a hurry to get a new one because washing the dishes by hand gave me something to do! At the end of the last school year I started taking the long way to the grocery store because there’s more traffic, which meant I’d be around people. Sort of.
So I’m not exactly thrilled about the kids going back to school. I mean, it will be nice to have some peace and quiet, and to get the house back in order, but…. Mostly I’m terrified by the emptiness and loneliness that I’m afraid will bear down on me.

This is a very new feeling for me. I’ve been a stay-at-home parent for 8 years, and it wasn’t until the end of this past school year that I started to feel this way. I have no idea what I’m going to do. The thought of being alone all day, day after day…. I just want to cry. In fact, I’m sure I will break down crying at some point within the first week of school. But even having them at home isn’t as fulfilling as…. I don’t know what. When the kids are there I’m not lonely, but I still don’t feel as important or significant as I perceive my husband to be at his job.  I know it means a lot to him that I’m at home with the kids. I’m sure it means a lot to the kids too that I’m here for them and do things with them, and it might hurt them if they knew that I sometimes feel this way. I like being home with them and there for them, but, like I said, I need something else. I need to expand my world.

My husband’s world is huge. My husband’s world is the world. Literally. He works for a large financial corporation that flies him to various cities around the country and pays for nice dinners. He talks to people in Manila and Mumbai. He’s even had the opportunity to go to Philippines or the India. I’m sure he will one day. He has more than just a job, he has a full blown career. A very successful one. He is about to get another promotion. He doesn’t even have to apply for promotions anymore, they give them to him. He’s at a 6 figure salary, and that doesn’t include bonus. He deserves it, of course. He’s very smart, he works really hard, and I know he does it for us. I’m very proud of him and grateful for how well he provides for us. And he’s a great guy! He’s thoughtful and generous and treats me very well. He’s my best friend. And he’s a great father.

But I have to admit I’m very jealous of his career. I’m sure it feels really good to be worth $100,000! I’m sure it must feel amazing to be around important, intelligent people and be treated like an equal. I’m sure if feels really good to be respected, to feel needed and valued, and rewarded for something you’re good at. I don’t have any of this.

My husband also has a really great hobby. He loves cars, so one day a few years ago he did a little research about how a person might go about becoming involved in the racing world. Lo and behold, he found out that in some race circuits the people who are behind the scenes, in pit row, or doing the flags are actually volunteers. He then discovered that not even 2 hours form our house is Mid-Ohio Raceway where could volunteer for SCCA- Sports Car Club of America. All he had to do was send an email, pay a small membership due, and attend a one day training course. Even that was cool. He learned how to put out different types of fires and all kinds of things. He has sense been given an award for New Race Volunteer of the year, been offered a position as a pit crew chief, and he’s been trained on flags. When he arrives at Mid-Ohio people are happy to see him- not only because he’s a nice guy, but because they need him there! Even his hobby has him out in the world, being valued. And on days when the SCCA volunteers aren’t busy because the larger race circuits (Nascar, Indy car) bring there own crews, he still gets to be there behind the scenes, checking out the cars, meeting cool (sometimes even famous) people.

Between his job and his hobby he meets all kinds of people. And he knows how to do it too. He has the knowledge and the confidence it takes to make the type of first impression that makes people remember you and want to know you. I don’t have that kind of confidence. I think I almost did, once upon a time. I know I had more confidence at one point, but that was before I was pregnant with my son 15 years ago. Still, even then, I didn’t have the confidence that my husband does. Yet, he’s humble. He would tell you that all he does is “try.” Okay, yes, it’s true- he has the guts to try new things. However, I have told him that it’s more than just that. Lots of people try but end up with zilch or only mild success. For my husband though, things just seem to have a way of always working out for him. He’s blessed. I don’t mean blessed as in “we are blessed with good health, a roof over our heads, and food on our table.” I mean blessed, as in you are The Golden Boy, The Chosen One. “GOOD FORTUNE IS BESTOWED UPON YOU MY SON.” He had to agree. The evidence is irrefutable.

So, let’s see…. successful career, provider for family, awesome hobby…. Oh, yeah. He also has a really great group of friends. The last time he got a group of guys together I think there were at least 12 of them. Umm, I don’t have 12 friends. I might have 6….

And then there’s his family. My husband has a great family. He has a lot of family. And they’re all really amazing people- not barely functioning people, not crazy people, not people who are incapable of having a healthy relationship- but amazing, happy, caring, successful people. Meanwhile, my family is dysfunctional and I’m not in contact with 99% of the people I’m related to.  My dad is always intoxicated. He gets drunk- completely drunk- every other day. So even on the days he doesn’t drink he still isn’t actually sober. The only time he calls me is when he’s had a few- or several- beers. Shit, he might also be high for all I know. He lives in a sketchy neighborhood and…. he has no teeth. That’s right. My dad has no teeth. They all had to be pulled because they were black and rotting away right before your eyes. He didn’t tolerate the dentures very well, got frustrated, threw them, and broke them. He can’t afford another pair, his 90 year-old father paid for the ones he broke!
I’ve never really had a relationship with my dad’s family. It’s a large family, but not a close family. He has 6 successful (older) brothers and sisters, but I hardly know them, or my cousins, or even my grandparents. I think it’s awkward for them too. My brothers and I never really felt like we fit in.

Then there’s my mom. Growing up she was very, very angry and unpredictable. Living with her was extremely difficult. To illustrate just how difficult it was I’ll share that I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, among other things. My dad was the alcoholic, but he was a lot easier to tolerate than my mom. He was even easier to be around. But as the years have gone by my mom has slowly calmed down. She has more self-control now, but she can still be difficult to be around. She is, however, a really good grandparent. My relationship with her currently revolves around my kids and that’s about it. As for my mom’s family….Wow. Crazy, crazy, weird, unhealthy people. Once I started going to Al-Anon and therapy I stopped forcing myself to spend time with them. I was never comfortable around them, but I thought I had to be around them because we’re related. Well, I know better now. I will not tolerate people who do not speak to me with respect, who make fun of me, call me names, and de-pants my child! They are not healthy people. I just stay away from them.
I was, however, very close to my grandma- my mom’s mom. In fact, my mom became very jealous of the relationship my grandma and I had. But she was nice to me! My grandma was nice to me; she made me feel loved and special, which probably saved my life. But Grandma died several years ago….
That brings me to Nick, my youngest brother. He’s in school working towards a degree in electrical engineering. He’s getting good grades too. I’m proud of him. He did a few years in the Navy so that’s paying for school. Smartest thing he ever did. He and I were close when we were growing up, but we haven’t been close for a very long time. He doesn’t avoid our parents or my mom’s family the way I do, but, then again, he also drinks a lot. It’s possible he’s an alcoholic. However, I do give him kudos and admire that he is loyal to his family- even if they’re a mess. I just can’t do it.
So the closest thing I have to family right now is actually my husband’s family. They are very, very good to me- but it’s not the same. I still kind of feel like an orphan sometimes.

I had always planned to get as far away from my childhood as possible, and I have with my husband’s help. He has helped me grow emotionally, he’s taught me maturity and responsibility, how to be a more patient parent.

It’s hard not to feel like I owe him. So, I feel like I owe him and I’m jealous of him. And I love him- all at the same time. It’s hard to feel like his equal. It doesn’t come up often, but I’m starting to feel embarrassed to meet or spend time with the people in all of his many circles. He does so much and I do so little. People always want to know what you do. What can I say? I don’t have much to say. It’s all about what he (my husband) does, and what the kids are up to. But I don’t actually do anything. Certainly not anything that’s conversation worthy. I feel like I’m in his shadow, like I’m important only by extension.
He certainly doesn’t see me this way. And I know that, in reality, no one else does either.
But I still feel like he has everything, and I have nothing. (I know I have a lot more than nothing. I just want to wallow in self pity, okay!?)

It doesn’t seem fair. I’ve worked really hard too, and I continue to work hard to be the best I can for my kids. I’m terrified that I’m going to screw them up the way my parents screwed up with me and my brothers.
So I work hard to be sane and healthy for them, but you do not get bonuses or a fancy title for being a good parent. You do not graduate from therapy with a degree, there is no “most improved patient of the year” award, and self-improvement is not a paying career. It goes largely unacknowledged. Overcoming generations of alcoholism, overcoming poverty- these are necessary for a healthy life, and they are major achievements, but there’s not going to be any formal record of these accomplishments. And none of this is appropriate dinner conversation.

I said I have nothing…. But I have a lot more than nothing, I know. Still, I’m jealous of everything my husband has. I try to be happy for him when all these good things come his way, and most of the time I am genuinely happy for him. I try not to resent him. I love him. We have a great relationship. He’s my best friend. I adore him and I’m so proud of him! I’m proud to be his wife!
But I do need more. I need something of my own. I need to expand my world. It’s a good thing I’ve read The Feminine Mystique, otherwise I wouldn’t understand what the hell is going on with me. Because of that book I know that what I’m struggling with (loneliness, insignificance, lack of purpose) is not uncommon for a stay-at-home-parent. But I have to do something about it before depression really takes over. I have a few ideas. We’ll see…..