Truth.

 

I've sat here half numb for most of the day. Carrie Fisher has died. A lot of people have died this year, but none hit me as hard as this one.

I didn't know Carrie Fisher. To be honest, I never followed her. I'm not a Star Wars person (gasp!). However, I knew that she was funny, unapologetically herself, and battled addiction. I didn't know that she also was bipolar.

I've read a hundred articles about her today. I've felt sick to my stomach.

I've been writing this blog post in my head for many months. Carrie Fisher would have wanted me to write it today, so here goes.

This past summer I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Not mild bipolar disorder. Classic bipolar disorder. Manic, crazy, intense, wonderful, beautiful, exhausting highs that lasted a day or so at a time. Sometimes they lasted a few hours only. Gosh, I enjoyed those. I had brilliant thoughts. I talked a mile a minute, it was hard to keep up with me. I COULD DO ANYTHING. Often, I would. I made my best (and worst) impulsive decisions during those highs. I could convince anyone that I was right.

Sounds good, right? It was.

But then came the crushing lows. The classic depression, except I didn't know what was going on. I was just so tired all the time. I cared about nothing. The first thing I'd think about in the morning was how long it'd be before I could take a nap. This would sometimes go on for weeks. I'd become completely immobile.

Sounds terrible, right? It was.

I have three children. I was a stay at home mom. This was unacceptable, to huddle up in my bed for weeks at a time, but I would push through it the best I could. Sometimes I just couldn't. Sometimes it'd take every ounce of energy to put on that smiley face as the kids would walk through the door after school. I'd have their snack ready, say the hellos, ask about their days, give out hugs. And then, when they were distracted and doing their own thing, I'd go out back to smoke a cigarette and finally breathe again. Alone. Not putting on the show.

I am 36 years old. I have known, in the back of my head, that I've always been bipolar. For my whole life. I asked my mom the other day when she first suspected and she told me they first noticed when I was 13, but they hoped it was just puberty and that I'd outgrow it. Then I went to college and was just gone.

I didn't outgrow it, still haven't.

For at least 23 years, I have lived with a chemical imbalance that makes life incredibly hard. And because I thought... whatever, I don't know what I thought. I didn't think about it. Maybe I didn't think I should even think about it, I don't know. I certainly never thought about getting help. That was the furthest thing from my mind.

I became an incredibly good actress. I know how to read social cues and to react accordingly. I've "passed" very well, even to the point of being "super mom" for many, many years.

That worked out ok for me for a long time. Until it didn't.

When it didn't, I'd look to change something. I have changed a lot of things over the years, trying to find that state of living where I'd finally feel comfortable, like I could let out that breath I'd been holding in for my whole life.

I never found it.

This past summer, the shit finally hit the fan. My life had calmed down enough that I was able to think for more than two seconds about what was going on in my own brain. And I didn't like what I saw. I went to therapy and it took all of one session for my wonderful therapist to diagnose me. I went to my MD and he agreed. I went to a psychiatrist and she agreed. Three for three equals me being definitively bipolar. No question about it.

To say that the last few months (six months??) have been hard is an understatement.

It's time for me to be true. If you've been following me for awhile, you've probably been waiting for this post. It just maybe isn't the one you were expecting. But hey, let's talk about the elephant in the room, shan't we?

I am on medication now. It's a struggle. I am constantly questioning whether or not it's working. The thing with bipolar disorder is that there isn't a cure-all pill. Different things will work for different people. Often, the pills that used to work stop working and you go back to the manic depression until you notice and start all over again with something new. A lot of people convince themselves that they're "better" and that they don't need the meds anymore. Until they go off the rails again.

Terrifying.

I'm lucky in that the first medication that I tried seems to work. I worried that I would feel flat, but my doctor described it as an intense up and down roller coaster... the meds would still leave the hills and valleys but they'd no longer be so harsh that I'd scream.

So, that taken care of (??? maybe, who knows? maybe tomorrow will be the day where the meds stop working, but I take them religiously and I have a great team of professionals at my back), I moved on to other things that seemed like they needed to be handled.

Truth.... phew, here goes. More elephants in that corner there.

My husband and I separated this summer. We've been married 13 years. I've known him since I was 20. That's all I want to say about that, but I'll let you imagine how hard this has been. I have never lived alone for one day, and now that is my ordinary.

I haven't really figured out my ordinary. It all feels so extraordinary now. So open with possibilities. Not scary so much as just... open. New. Fresh. Extraordinary.

A few months ago, I asked my therapist how you start to move forward with identity. She asked me to approach every moment and ask myself, "What do you want right now?"

See, guys, I don't even know how to be a real person. I know what the expectations are and I live up to them. I don't even know what I want, and I think that I never did. That's a deflating thought.

It gets easier. I've stopped actually thinking the question and now I just naturally move towards what I want to do. Sometimes I just sit and think. I listen to an insane amount of music. I go out with friends. I'm lucky in that I've found a bipolar soul sister who is going through a lot of the same stuff as me. We hold onto each other like life rafts sometimes. She gets it, I don't have to explain. Exhale breath.

I'm ready to exhale my held breath here now too.

Carrie Fisher said, "Move through those feelings and meet me on the other side. As your bipolar sister, I'll be watching. Now get out there and show me and you what you can do." I sent that to my bipolar friend. She responded, "I wow." Not a typo, I don't think. I said, "Yeah. Tears."

So Carrie Fisher, god, you gave it to me today. You punched me in the gut and told me that today was the day.

I should also just come clean and tell you that I'm an atheist, I say fuck all the time. I've smoked most of my life. I drink more wine than is healthy. I eat terribly and am pretty underweight right now. Meh. I know you have your thing too. I don't judge.

But you know what? I'm doing the very best I can.

Right now, I'm sitting here in my comfy bed. MY comfy bed. My children are playing with their Christmas presents. They know that Mom needs a break every now and again and they respect that. My dog is next to me. I'm listening to chill music.

But hey, I showered today. I'm eating. I cut both my daughters' hair today and made sure that they were clean. They're on their own for food, but that's cool with them. There's food in the house.

I'm doing the very best I can.

I'm simply exhausted of living that other way. I no longer see the point. It got too hard. The truth is, it got too hard a long time ago.

If this changes your opinion of me, I'm very sorry that this was even a consideration. So you may quietly exit now and let me live my ordinary without feeling one ounce of guilt over it.

When I look in the mirror, my truth looks different to me than it does to you.

Thanks, Carrie Fisher. RIP. You did good, girl. I appreciate the kick in the butt. I think you'd be proud as fuck of me. I can't wait to keep showing you and me what I can do.

 

How my Truth tattoo appears to you. I've actually never seen it this way. When I look in the mirror, it looks a lot different.

How my Truth tattoo appears to you. I've actually never seen it this way. When I look in the mirror, it looks a lot different.

Carrying mountains

I know I've been particularly quiet here lately, but today I missed this place for the first time in awhile, so I'm gonna give it a go. I have not had much to say because this hasn't felt like the right space lately. But not talking and not writing has been paining me almost physically, like having a toe amputated that I can't talk about.

I'll just really vaguely say that life has been hard. And my instinct is to internalize that and process it and find ways to make it all better and pretty and come here and tell cute stories about my kids or something kinda profound about life. But I don't have that in me right now. I am not palatable, if you will.

To be an adult and to have big feelings feels weird to me. Wrong. Like it's a secret. But you know, I see other people struggling too. I see it all the time now and it's kinda impossible to ignore it once you see it. Adults who seemingly have all their shit together who are also struggling internally. People who are keeping on at the surface, but are starting to crack.

On a particularly bad night the other day, a friend texted me about her bad day and my first instinct was to commiserate and say platitudes and let it go. But I had this THING going on myself and it felt not small so, after a second, I told her about it. I told her I needed help. That I needed HER. And 30 minutes later we were meeting over drinks, crying and laughing over ourselves, and how dramatic we were both being when 1. This is not the end of the world and 2. We are both strong, smart, capable, badass women. Point being, we both felt better. But I almost didn't do that, because I was hesitant to put my stupid privileged problems on one of my oldest friends.

But why? Why do we feel like we need to carry the load by ourselves? I feel like our people really want to help, but they can't help if they don't know there's a problem.

I think the privilege piece does play a part here. Like how can my problem even BE a problem when there are so many problems that are much, much worse. But I am reminded of a story where just because a friend has cancer, that doesn't mean you can't complain about your broken arm. It's all relative. A broken arm still hurts. A problem is still a problem. It may just need to be put into perspective. 

I feel so lucky to have good people in my life. I've been trying to reach out to them more without feeling too overly guilty about it. It's weird though, because it's not really my thing. I mean, feeling guilty is kinda my thing, but not reaching out. I don't know how my friends feel about this, but I'm pretty sure they're ok with it. I know this because I know I'd be. I have been. So if it's ok for me to be there for them, it's ok for me to ask them to be there for me. But HARD. But also BETTER.

A good friend told me to just roll with it. Roll with the process and let it unfold as it will. And that I needed to get out of my head. Both very true statements. Probably the absolute truth there. But this is the antithesis of who I am, or who I was. I don't know how to do this version of me. I'm intrigued, but terrified. I feel a little stalemated, unable to act or move. This was literally the case last week when I stayed in bed for 5 days because of my back, which is certainly not helping.

I'm not sure what I'm trying to say here, lol. That's where I am. I look fine on the outside, but the inside is a bit of a mess. And I'm saying it here because I think it's ok to say it to your people, even the ones not in your immediate circle. It's ok to not be ok.

I saw this and it stuck with me. ..

Stealing this from FB, Word Porn is the page. Don't know how to credit, don't care.

Stealing this from FB, Word Porn is the page. Don't know how to credit, don't care.

I haven't hardly begun to climb my mountain. It's too hard to even look at it. Too big. But I am definitely carrying it right now.

So I just walked away from this post for a few hours with the words "Roll with it" in my head, put on the perfect music, got a nice text from a friend, had my husband take care of a stupid chore that was annoying me, and sat down to a peck of peaches. Hours later, I am sticky and full of peaches, plus there are three bags in the freezer for my future self to find in the dead of winter when all hope seems lost.

Two things: I just taste tested about 30 peaches and there is no "perfect" peach. Pretty sure that's a myth. And, I could perfectly picture my February self defrosting these peaches and remembering my present angst/joy that these peaches brought me today. And gratefully enjoying every fucking bite because I PAID for those peaches. (Not literally, my mom brought them to me, thanks Mom!)

I should also add that the right soundtrack makes ALL the difference. Today my mood is DMB Crash.... perfect in every sense. So thanks, Dave, you're amazing. I love that music has that power.

I also laughed really hard at a really stupid joke. Like crazy, excessive laugh. And that made me feel good. I've got good people, seriously. And this is part of that.

I'm going to be ok. I just gotta set this mountain down.

I'm not sure what prompted me to write this, it doesn't make much sense. I really just wanted to write, to say something. But maybe you were supposed to read it. It's ok to not be ok. It's ok to ask for help, however that looks for you. And for God's sake, set the fucking mountain down. 

I'm totally talking to myself here. But maybe you, too.

Peaches, and Dave. Worth a try, anyway.

Peaches, and Dave. Worth a try, anyway.

Tattoo artists and moms

I got a tattoo last night. An elephant, smack dab in the middle of my calf. It's not small and I love it.

I took a friend with me to get it, but the tattoo artist said that his room was too small for anyone to sit with me. So I gave my friend a hug, sent her off to get a drink, and told her to come back and check on me. The tattoo was supposed to take two hours. 

When I went in for the consult a few days earlier, I was a little leery about how I was going to fit in at the tattoo shop. I feel like I look like a 36 year old white mom. These guys are young and super covered with tattoos. It's a little intimidating.

We were in a small room, me lying on my side with my foot in his lap, bent at an unnatural angle. It was awkward, to be sure. It was also quiet, so I was feeling the pain pretty good at the beginning, thinking to myself, "How am I going to get through two hours of this?"

And then I guess he got settled in and comfortable. He asked me how I was doing and I said fine and then I asked him how he was doing and he got tickled by that and belly laughed for a good 30 seconds. I asked him how I was doing and he said I hadn't moved at all, which I took as a compliment.

Then he said, "Sorry your friend couldn't stay." And I told him it was fine. And he said, "I have a lot of anxiety and I get claustrophobic if there are too many people in the room."

And I said I got it, which I did. It's his space and here we were, two loud girls. He was kind of a quiet guy, so I could see how that would be intimidating. And I realized then that he and I had both been intimidated by the other, because of our own anxieties and social notions, which was a revelation that made me smile. That I could intimidate a tattoo artist. 

I totally relaxed after that, and I stopped feeling the pain, and we had the best conversation for the next hour or so.  It was a little like when you're running and it hurts really bad but you keep going and then you finally hit the zone and realize that you could do this forever if you had to. Just like that, actually.

l told him that this tattoo was a birthday present to myself, that I had always wanted to get a big, obvious tattoo, but it was only recently that I had given up the notion that I may ever have a job that would frown on a tattoo like this.

I told him that I was a mom, and that Mom had been my identity for a very long time. He was surprised to find out that I was 36 with three kids, and that pretty much guaranteed that he was going to get a big tip.

The thing is, he got the whole Mom thing, the thing about people thinking certain things about you based on the way that you look. He said he deals with it all the time, too.

That was a pleasant surprise to me, that this guy could actually relate to what I have been feeling for the last six months or so. On the surface, here we are both thinking that we have nothing to say to each other, but at the core, we are quite alike.

He asked me what I was going to do/say if/when someone said something negative about my tattoo. I responded that I no longer cared, that this was for me. My last tattoo was for my kids and for me, but this one was all me. The elephant, symbol of matriarchy and feminism. It's mine, and I don't care if it bothers anyone.

"Yeah," he said. "Fuck em."

And I laughed, because yes. But also kinda no. Not "fuck them," just more "this is who I am and I know it and am comfortable here."

I get that that makes some people uncomfortable, people being comfortable where others feel like it might be out of their comfort zone. And I don't say, "Fuck that" because I do the same thing. But I think that there is a middle ground, where we look past what people look like or how we think they "should" be and just start accepting people where they are. At least that's where I am right now, and the example I want to set for my children. You do you. Whatever that means.

My tattoo hurts today, I won't lie. It feels a little like a burn and it's very sensitive to touch. It's starting to scab over and I feel it with every step I take. And all of that is good. It's a reminder that I'm moving in the right direction, because it's the one that I am choosing.

A friend told me recently that I need to give myself permission to feel. And that stuck with me, because I feel like, as adults, we sometimes forget that that's ok, to have feelings. Today, I feel calm. And maybe more than a little proud of myself.

Baby Girl took this. My house is a mess, but here's the tattoo.

Baby Girl took this. My house is a mess, but here's the tattoo.

Close up, right after it was finished.

Close up, right after it was finished.

And Baby Girl had to get a tattoo too, just like Mommy.

And Baby Girl had to get a tattoo too, just like Mommy.

Summer school aka summertime sadness

Well that was the craziest 3 hours I've had in a long time, aka the first day of summer school.

Boy child has to be on bus at 6:45 (his face at 6am today was a joy, let me tell you), Miss A driven to school by 8:20 and Baby Girl by 9. Loooooooong wait times in between, but I finagled a way to drop Baby Girl off at 8:30 for the rest of the time, thank you baby Jesus.

Boy is at a new school. Girls are in new classrooms. Everything is kind of the same, yet totally different. I almost forgot that I was supposed to pack lunches! Luckily there was infinity time to get that shit done. Pretty sure I got it all done. Too late now, they're fine.

My major hassle was with Miss A, wondering what was going on with her aide. They said she'd get one, even though her IEP isn't good for the summer. But then we lost our special ed bus, which is a whole different matter, but it made me think the aide was in limbo.

I realized belatedly that I should have spoken with someone about this before the regular year ended, because people choose whether or not to work summer school, and I wasn't even sure that our case manager was working. (Spoiler: she is. I totally could have emailed her. But I didn't know that and what if the email had sat in her inbox for weeks? Not helpful for my immediate need to know.)

Talked to the sub principal last week because the new teacher didn't know anything about an aide. Thank GOD I have spent so much time at their school that everyone knows me. He sent an email and verified that there would be an aide.

Get to the classroom, no aide. Teacher still has no idea, assures me they will be fine, but we both prefer the idea of the aide, especially since she was supposed to have one.

After we get Miss A situated, I tell Baby Girl, "Let's go find someone who can help us."

And then I see them, the special ed people, waiting for the busses. "My people!" I practically shouted. Luckily they laughed because they know I am a mess, but that I am always there.

Five minutes they spend reassuring me. I know the aide, she has worked with Miss A before. Her aide from last year will handle the car rider line. "It's all going to be fine," they say.

"I know," I reply. "I just have to ask these questions."

"We know you do," they say.

And it will be fine, it always is. I just need to ask the questions. Our schools are great and they are always on top of things, but until I verify, I worry.

Got Baby Girl to her school. My sister in law is the director there, which is a blessing for me. I ask her if there is room in the before care group and she says yes. I can drop her off 30 minutes early and avoid the big gap between the girls' dropoff times. Hallelujah! Best $60 ever spent.

Baby Girl balks at her new classroom until she sees her friends. I have a frantic tone to my voice now. "This is going to be so fun!!!!!!!" Please, just let me leave. Please.

And now I am here, telling this boring ass story to you all instead of sleeping, because I am dumb. But holy shit, that was intense. 

And I get to do it all in reverse in a few hours. 

Going back to bed in 3....2.....zzzzzzz.

 

 

Is this sideways? I'm on my phone and it hates me sometimes. This is what we did while waiting to leave for the third school. Kinda fun, kinda hot. Not really wanting to do this everytime. $60 took care of that.

Is this sideways? I'm on my phone and it hates me sometimes. This is what we did while waiting to leave for the third school. Kinda fun, kinda hot. Not really wanting to do this everytime. $60 took care of that.

Introverted extrovert

I hung out with a good friend last night and we hashed out a lot of things that I have been going through, and some things that she has been going through, and it was great. We've been friends for the last five years or so, and she is always someone I can call on for a good patio night dish session.

But the thing that stuck with me when I got home was how much better I felt. And I had to think about that for a minute. I had just spent the last four hours talking about kinda depressing stuff, so why was I feeling better?

And I realized that it came from the moment where she said that she'd really like for our families to hang out, not just the two of us. It's nice to have those times, but she'd really like for our entire families to be connected.

Huh.

She said it several times, to let me know that she was serious. I told her that we are still a bit of a mess as an entire family, that the girls still require a ton of attention and aren't kids that you can just send outside to play. And she said, "Ok, if it has to be short, it's short. You live a mile away. If you have to leave, you leave. No one's going to be judging them, or you. And maybe it'll be great."

Huh.

And then she invited me to her fiancé's family farm, for a girls weekend. "You will love these ladies," she said. And I could picture it perfectly in my head, how relaxed the weekend would be, the food that we would eat, the wine we'd drink, the ache in my stomach from laughing, sighing under the stars.

And I wanted it. Badly. And immediately.

I wanted to see our kids running around in her backyard, laughing their heads off. I wanted her to hand me a beer and laugh at something dumb my son said. I wanted to see the men in our lives connect. I wanted to taste the amazing dinner I know that she'd make (it's lucky to have foodies in your life, especially when you are iffy on cooking, but love to eat).

It hit me then that I have been saying that I'm an introvert for the past half dozen years or so, but that's not actually true. I do like being at home, and when I'm at a big party where I don't know many people, I get uncomfortable. I need a brain break at the end of the night. So I chalked it up to being an introvert.

But I really enjoy being around people. I enjoy family time, but I also like being around people who are different from me. I like finding new people that are just like me. I just like people.

My husband and I questioned why we have become this way, so isolated. We were very social when we were younger, maybe me more than him, but he was always along for the ride. What happened?

Even though it pains me to point this finger, we wondered if a lot of it hasn't been because of Miss A's diagnosis. That was a low point for us all, and so much time and energy was focused in her direction, it wasn't easy to drudge up energy for anything else, including our friends. And that's right to me, that we did that. It needed to be done. It wasn't anyone's fault.

Luckily, our friends have mostly stayed by us. They knew what we were going through, and probably felt powerless to help. It was hard to live, but I imagine that it was also hard to watch.

But that season is ending, or at least getting better. I don't know if she's gotten so much better, or if I simply care less about the judgy stares, but we DO things as a family. We just haven't opened up our circle to include friends. And I miss that.

It occurred to me last night, as I was trying to go to sleep, that I'm in a very luxurious point in my life. One where I can wake up in the morning and say, "What is it that I want from today?" And then do that thing. My days are pretty wide open.

That's not to say that there's not a ton of hustle and bustle in being a stay at home mom and keeping up with the house, etc. Just like in any job, I have duties. But I am realizing more and more that 1.) I can include the kids in these duties and 2.) Some of this stuff really doesn't need to be done. No one cares if I sweep my floors every day, me included. (I totally don't and never have, but I feel guilty if someone is coming over and the floors are dirty.)

If I want to work on a craft project, or write, it doesn't need to wait until the kids are at school or in bed. They can either help me, go find something else to do, or sit next to me and do their own thing. A-freaking-HA! I can still exist AND be a mom. The two are not mutually exclusive. It's amazing! And I am an idiot for not realizing this years ago.

We had groceries delivered this morning, for the first time ever, which if you follow me on Facebook you know was a life changing experience. No stress! Happy kids! Happy mom! It really got me thinking. There are all these ways that I can make life easier on myself. What other things do I not know about?? How do I find these things?

I joined a writer's group last week, and the entire experience was incredible, and pushed me a little out of my comfort zone. But as I sat there, I realized that it put me right back into my comfort zone. These people are my people. They speak my language. And it's not a judgy one at all. They listened to me reading and responded to what I had written. They laughed! They laughed at my stupid mom stories, which is the only thing I seem to be able to write right now. And I said that and they said, "You write what you know. No big deal. We all do that." And I felt like.... HOME! I am home. And it was a little bit of a miracle.

But it really wasn't a miracle. A friend told me about this group, I asked about it, I drove there, I wrote, I participated. None of this is earth shattering. I can do these things. Lots of people do these things. I do not have to be bound to my house and my children. This is doing no one any good.

So I can't wait to have dinner with my friend's family. I want to find more friend's families. I want to go to the farm and connect with a bunch of sixty year old, hilarious women. I want to let them breathe life into me and help me feel whole again.

I want all these experiences, and I want to include my family in them as well. While I have felt like this is a personal experience that I am going through alone, it really impacts all of them as well. And I think we are all perfectly capable of stepping out of our comfort zones and enjoying a new experience, as squirmy and uncomfortable as it may feel at first.

This has been an intense few weeks, but for the first time in it, I see that there are concrete things that I can do. Things that I know that I will do. My life has unfolded in this way, but it doesn't need to stay this way forever. Really, having gone through some uncomfortable conversations, it's so much better on the other side.

In an effort to do what I wanted, I put down a towel in the grass yesterday and took in some sun, while the girls played in the pool. They checked in on me, thought I was taking a nap. And we all had the best time ever. Because we were all (me included) doing exactly what we wanted to do in the moment.

In an effort to do what I wanted, I put down a towel in the grass yesterday and took in some sun, while the girls played in the pool. They checked in on me, thought I was taking a nap. And we all had the best time ever. Because we were all (me included) doing exactly what we wanted to do in the moment.

 

 

Sharing the burdens

I've not kept it a secret that I have been going through some pretty heavy shit in my personal life lately. There's no new news there, but it's just a slow process, and one that I'm constantly working on. It's hard to balance your everyday responsibilities and these really intense emotions that you're feeling, but I'm trying really hard to do that.

I'm not entirely sure how or why this has happened, but recently, I've had a couple different people disclose to me their own heavy burdens. In each case, it was absolutely shocking to hear these words from these people that I thought I knew so well. I can't go into any details at all, because they are not mine to share, but what I can share is how I feel about this, which is the only thing I can control. I absolutely cannot fix their things and I know that. So what now?

Back to therapy time, folks.

When someone tells you something that is a Big Deal, it is almost impossible to know what to do or say. It is quite literally shocking. Then there is the surprise that it took so long for them to tell you, which can be quite hurtful. Then there is the guilt that you're making it all about you and your feelings when you're not even the one who went through the experience. It's kind of an endless loop.

What I have taken from these experiences is that almost everyone has secrets that they feel they need to keep, for whatever reason... shame, embarrassment, self protection, etc. Keeping secrets is hard work. In order to keep them, you have to compartmentalize your life, and make sacrifices. We are only given so much energy and when you have a secret to keep, it is extremely draining. Therefore, other areas of your life suffer. It just happens, and it's probably not something you wanted to have happen, but if your secret is big enough that it must be kept secret, it becomes more important than any of those other things.

Dear god, how much energy that must take. It's almost admirable.

I wish that I could take these burdens and have them make sense, but it can't happen. They don't make sense, whatever way I turn them. I can't make them fit into a box. And I don't like that. I'm not used to not having control over situations. So that makes me feel extremely uncomfortable. I'm in an icky, gooey space right now where I FEEL things with INTENSITY, but I can't DO anything about them. I am quite literally devastated. I feel like this is the worst thing that has ever happened to me, and none of it is even MY thing.

I'm making this about me, which it is and it isn't. But I can't DO anything, like I said, and I am still feeling things intensely, so I have to work on what I control: me.

Part of why I am so upset is that it took these people so long, in some cases decades, to tell me these things. These really major things. It just makes me so sad for them, and me, that they didn't feel like they could trust me with them earlier.

The fact that these people that I know and care about have been having to carry these secrets alone makes me so sad for them.

The fact that these things happened are... incomprehensible. It took me three minutes to come up with that word because I just can't understand.

I have been wracking my brain, literally sleeping and crying off and on, with how to handle this. I was already in a pretty intense spot in my life, but it has been skyrocketing. Basically, everyone should tell me all of their things now because I will hear anything that you tell me. I will absorb this with you. I feel like I am at the lowest of low points, and you probably can't take me down any farther.

And I am not unhappy about this.

Quite the opposite, I feel so relieved that I can help share these burdens. This is something I can DO. I can take some of it on myself. I can listen to you talk about it. I'm so grateful that they trusted me with these things.

I can't take away what happened or make it better in any way, but I can be here for you. I will keep your secrets with you, even though it pains me to do so. It pains me most that you have these secrets to begin with.

Today I could not get out of my head, so I went to my safe place. I ran my fastest mile ever to get there, and I sat down expecting to feel better and... it didn't work. It didn't help. I sat there for three minutes and got disgusted and had to leave.

I walked for another mile, and I cried the whole time.

On the third mile, I stopped caring that I was crying, and I just let myself be sad. I am just so very sad.

I turned around and went a different way and found a place I had forgotten about. This place...

I can't believe I forgot about this place. It was literally shocking to see it again, and I am often on this trail, I just don't ever go this way. It's an old train tunnel on the MKT trail in Rocheport, if you're wondering. Turn right on the trail and it's a half mile up.

When I was in college, a friend's mom was in town and came and picked me up during my sorority's rush week, to steal me away for a few hours. Rush is super intense and I was grateful. This is where she took me. It's a longer story than that, but that's the important information. We sat here in this tunnel and I was able to come back to myself, where I had been so very far outside of myself. Hours and days and it felt like years of talking to strangers. So not my thing.

But this place has a sedative in it or something. It's impossible to be anything other than what you are in this place. It's bigger than you.

I was walking very slowly now, and I'm just trying to process what I'm feeling: Sad. Sad. Sad.

And then I thought, so what? What happens if I feel sad? Why do we not allow ourselves to just be sad sometimes?

I know that if these individuals knew that I was feeling sad, they wouldn't be mad at me for taking a minute to be sad. It's totally ok for me to be sad about these burdens that they have. In a way, I feel like that can maybe help them let go a bit of their own sadness. I'm sharing the sadness with them.

So I'm going to have to be sad about this stuff for awhile. If I'm sharing in the burden, I'm taking it on as much as I can. I'm going to be really fucking sad about it for awhile. And I'm giving myself permission to do so.

Then there was this guy, who followed me with his soulful eyes as I passed him twice. I felt certain that he had the mysteries of life solved and was trying to convey them to me, but I was too stupid to understand. It was a moment, me and the alpaca. I sent this picture to a friend and she responded, "That alpaca has Seen Some Things." Yes. Things that I may never understand but could potentially rock my world. Sorry, alpaca, I'm just not there yet. You tried.

So the fourth mile was me laughing at my own stupidity, then the perfect song came on and I was smiling. Plus, I just love that little town so much, it's hard to be sad there.

I sat with my sadness, and I still feel it, but I'm not crying about it right now and that's a win. Although it wouldn't be a lose if I was. It was a win that I'm sitting with my sadness.

When I was thinking about how hard it is to keep these things secret, I talked about how you have to compartmentalize, and I think I am doing that right now as well. My filter may be exactly nonexistent right now, because I can't even care about how others think of me. There are bigger issues.

Maybe that's one of the benefits in getting older, we just stop caring about things because we all have bigger issues. Other people's judgement doesn't matter, so we can't care about that. It's actually pretty freeing.

So, where I go from here is... probably nowhere. There is not one thing that I can physically do to make this better. I guess I just hope that these relationships I have can benefit from the sharing of the burdens. That's a very good thing.

I hope that these individuals feel better for having shared. I know that after I process the hurt that I feel, I will be so glad that they did. I do not think that there is any greater sign of trust than sharing an intensely personal secret.

So I'm grateful for that. And still very sad.

This will go on for awhile, I think. Be forewarned.

Ongoing identity crisis

I've been quiet on the blog lately, and I'm feeling the effects. Writing, to me, is like therapy. I think that a lot of women process things by talking about them, and I do too, but writing is when I am able to process things the best. Maybe because I'm just talking with myself, really. I usually don't even know how I feel about something until I start writing about it, and then the answer is Just! So! Clear! And obvious. Thus, therapy.

My life is a little like a self help book lately, and that's probably why I haven't been writing much. I have several drafts written, but they ring false when I read them back, which is why they are staying drafts. What is true is that there is life transformation stuff going on over here, and 1.) I'm not sure that this is very interesting to anyone but me and 2.) It's kinda personal. I'm not a super private person, but I haven't come to the end of this self-discovery period yet, and it feels weird to share about it when I haven't come to terms with what it all Means quite yet. I guess I'm writing this to find out. Or at least take a step in that direction.

I don't know what happened to me six months ago, but I feel like I woke up and looked around and said, "No, this isn't exactly the life I want to lead. I'm NOT HAPPY and that is no longer ok." All the pieces were there, but they weren't fitting just right. Then, in typical fashion, I read some books, and I had some Thoughts, and started making Thought Changes. About myself. And I'm kind of still on that process.

Then came husband. And I've written about that. We are still in the process, but it is so much better than it was a few months ago.

So I guess I thought that I was doing pretty good with the whole life situation. I do think that, actually, but I realized that I'm not done. That maybe I'll never be done, and that's ok. (Self help book, see? I hate people who talk like this and now I am one.)

My husband and I were talking the other night and it was all going just fine and wonderful, and then right before we went to bed he said, "I wish that you could be more relaxed like you are right now in the morning, too. You just always seem so stressed."

Now I know that this came from a good intention, really. He was honestly trying to help me by pointing out that evening time me (post kid bedtime) and morning time me (STRESS! Do all of the things and get all the people to their places) are two totally different people.

But I took it pretty personally. Of course I'm bitchy in the morning. It's not a fun time to be a mom, really. There's a million things I have to do in order to ensure that the day runs smoothly. My mind is running at warp speed and people just need to get out of my way so that I can do my stuff to make their lives better. See, I'm already seeing how ridiculous that sounds just by typing it out. "I know I'm being rude, but it's because I love you so much!" It's intense.

Then I got mad at him, like "How dare you put that pressure on me to be nice when I already feel so much pressure anyway? I don't have control over my mood and just back the fuck up already." Nice.

We both went to bed a little mad that night, to be honest. But it stuck with me, and I've had to think about this. Why am I in such a bad mood every morning? What's the worst that could happen if I let things slide a little and just relaxed about things? What if I actually enlisted the kids and the husband in helping me? Why do I take this all on myself? Is my idea of how the mornings need to run even right?

It's shocking to the system to learn that your idea of what is right could actually be wrong, or even just unnecessary. That the stress that I feel could all be self induced. That life could be so much better if I just calmed down about things a little.

Because I overthink things, I started thinking about where this idea came from, that things need to run a certain way. I don't buy into the traditional gender roles, so it's not that I feel like I need to do these things because I'm the wife and mother. I'm not afraid to ask my husband to do something just because he's the breadwinner. I don't consider it my job to keep the house clean. I consider it my job to keep our kids alive. Stay at home mom doesn't necessarily mean Suzie Homemaker to me.

I say that, but it's ringing a little false. When I say that I don't feel that way, what I mean is that I don't feel that way in connection to my family. My husband certainly doesn't make me feel that way, otherwise, I probably wouldn't have married him. But in society, I totally feel that way.

When I became a parent, I thought that I knew what parenting was, what it was supposed to look like. So I did those things. That is what I was Supposed to Do. I'm very good at knowing what I'm supposed to do. I've been doing those things, or purposely bucking those things, all my life.

The examples that we are missing in society is that of Mom who is also Person. We see Mom as Pinterest perfect. There are a million articles on parenting and I ate that shit up. I drank the Kool-Aid a long time ago. Being Mom means that you tamp down those sides of you that may take away time from being Mom. Being Mom supercedes every other part of your being, and we're just supposed to do that and be happy about it.

Last night, my husband and I were talking and I said that I felt more like me since we had our big divorce conversation. It's opened a lot of conversation between the two of us, and I feel like we are being so much more honest with each other. I said that I feel like I'm 10% me and 90% mom now. I think that surprised him, that it was so little me, so he asked me what percentage of me I felt like six months ago. And I said, "Maybe 0.5%"

Years, people! Years, I have felt like this and not said anything. And that makes both of us really sad. Because we had these ideas in our heads about how Mom and Dad look and act, and we just did them, but we kind of hated it. And we were maybe feeling guilty about hating it because what parent says that they hate parenting? So we didn't say anything to each other, or even to ourselves, and it just got deeper and deeper.

To clarify, I do not hate parenting. What I hate is how society expects us to parent.

We are not rule followers, he and I. We question everything. So why did we not question this major thing?

The revelation is that we probably imposed these impossible ideals onto ourselves.

Ok, Mark Doty, so what?

It seems almost impossible to blend the "real" me with the Mom me. In different environments, I am different percentages. At work, I am something like 95% me. The Mom me is always there, but it's just not a thing there. At the kids' school, I am something like 85% Mom me. I am there, after all, for the kids. These are two extremes, and I guess that I am just now noticing how far apart they are.

I don't have the answer, but the self help book in me is saying that it's ok just to know that there's a question.

The Mom me is screaming, "No! We don't talk about this stuff. Go back and do some laundry or something! You should feel terrible about yourself for even having these thoughts. Guilt! Guilt! Guilt! Go play with your kids."

Bitch, please.

The truth is, I'm done apologizing. I've always been the kind of person who feels the need to apologize for things for which an apology is entirely unnecessary. I don't know why I do that. It's not serving me anymore, so I'm going to let that go.

What I do affects a lot of people, peripherally, but it mainly affects five people primarily. I think those five people would be a lot happier with real me, so I'm going to try to do that. It's a little scary, to be honest. It feels a little cliché to be having an identity crisis right now. I feel too young for the midlife thing (gross). I don't know where I'm going to land, and I may lose friendships because of this.

I had to think about that for a second, losing friendships. But honestly, I don't really want to be friends with those people anyway, if they're not going to be cool with real me. I'd rather just know that upfront and save us all a lot of time.

Maybe that's the crux of it, wasted time. I saw a meme this morning that said, "One day you'll laugh at how much you let this matter." Yep. It's that, exactly. None of this matters. None of it. It's all made up. It's literally all in my head and I am just now seeing that. I guess it's time to actually figure out what I think of things instead.

Random weekend thoughts, and so what?

If you are a parent, you will get how special it is to have a child free weekend. How very rare it is. And how you have to make the most of it because there's no telling when it'll happen again. Bless my parents' hearts, they took on all three kids so that my husband and I could have this amazing weekend.

It was amazing, and we made the most of it, for sure. If you follow my Facebook page, you know most of this already, so sorry for the repeat of pictures. But as I am reflecting over the weekend, I have new thoughts and I want to get them down. This may be boring to you, like someone telling you about a random dream they had, but c'est la vie. It's my blog, I'm telling the damn stories.

We started with dinner. A fancy dinner for which you had to have reservations. We were one of the youngest people there, but it was amazing...ish. Ryland's dinner basically came on a bed of pork and beans and because we don't speak French, that was a bit of a surprise. But good!

The whole reason for the weekend was the centennial anniversary for the Theta chapter of Alpha Gamma Rho, my husband's fraternity. His brothers are both in the same fraternity and one of them was travelling from North Carolina to be here, so we definitely wanted to come. We started at the football stadium, which was kind of cool to be in when it's empty. We managed to be fashionably late and miss most of the "asking for money" talks, but we also missed most of the open bar.

It is weird to still live in the town where you went to college. It's not weird in the day to day, but it is weird when people come back to visit. They want to re-experience all of the places that they remember from college, but we know better, and we know there are many nicer places to go. However, it's fine. We don't visit those bars and restaurants very often anymore... or ever, so it was a little nostalgic for us too.

The group chose a bar, but we had other plans...

I've been wanting to get this tattoo for years and years, but the guy who did my original tattoo passed away a few years ago, and I don't know where to go to get a tattoo. A friend recommended this place and Ryland wanted to go with me, so we did it. It took about 30 minutes start to finish. And yes, this is my proud face.

Then, on to the bar. I showed every stinking person there my new tattoo.

Here's a close up I took the next day, after I got to unwrap it. It's three little birds, inspired by the Bob Marley song, and by my own three little birds. Random interjection: after we got home, Ryland put on the Bob Marley album and I got really emotional about it. I'm so glad I finally did it. Plus, there had been some drinking in between and I tend to cry. I'm glad he went with me.

We drove to the bar next, which felt odd and right after coming from the tattoo parlor. I didn't know a lot of the guys there, because there weren't a lot of people there from my husband's pledge class, but we had a good time anyway. Lots of random dancing with my sister in law, even though we were not at the dance floor. No one cared.

Most of our Ag Rho part of the family. My other sister in law wasn't able to make it, which was a bummer.

Randomly, one of the guys who was there has read my blog! He came up to my husband and said that he had read my posts on marriage and was really thankful that I wrote them. So, my husband made sure to introduce us. It's always weird to me when someone I don't know reads my stuff, but also extremely awesome.

So, the night was amazing, but also very long. And I had stuff to do the next morning. There was a book festival that was being put on for the first time in our town, and I was extremely excited to see all these great authors speak. I got to see two before I started feeling the effects of the night before and had to go home for a nap.

There's no good way to tell this story without gushing, so I'll just keep it to that I was extremely inspired. And for the very first time ever, I met an author who asked me if I was a writer and I said, "YES!" without even thinking about it.

A quiet thing that happened, but maybe the most important thing to me, was hearing Mark Doty talk about teaching. Mark Doty is a bit of an enigma in writing... he literally does everything. Stop everything that you're doing and read this poem and try to tell me that he's not awesome. I laughed, I cried. I wanted to write down all the words and have them all be beautiful and lovely.

So he was talking about teaching, and he said that one of the hardest things is when students want to write beautiful and lovely things, and they do, but then he says to them, "So what?"

So. What.?? What does it all mean? Why is this important? What are you trying to say here, and why should we care?

Thanks, Mark Doty. You've managed to come to the crux of my life. So fucking what? My heart literally stopped beating. I have so many thoughts about this, but I'll just say that he inspired me to move beyond beautiful writing and focus on the so what of my writing. It doesn't need to be beautiful, it just needs to say something.

I don't think I'll ever forget that.

Mark Doty

Mark Doty

The other author I saw was Laura McBride, and I had the chance to speak with her afterwards. She started really writing when she was older than I am, and I told her that she had inspired me to really go for it. She said to me something like, "You may want to quit, and that's ok if you do, but let it be your decision. Don't let somebody else's opinion make you want to quit." She told me a rejection story that was so achingly beautiful. I am very glad I met her. I posted a compliment on her facebook page and she wrote back, "Oh, your dreams will come true. Let them ripen." And gah!! Let them ripen. So what? This is my new life motto.

But the day wasn't over and we had a formal to go to. Are you getting tired yet? Because by this point, I was absolutely exhausted. I had to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in bed.

I worked really hard to feel good in this dress, and I did. Unfortunately, we were at a fraternity formal, which always sounds like more fun that it actually is. We didn't last as long as we had the night before, mainly because we are no longer in college, and one crazy night might be ok, but two is pretty much impossible. Plus there were really long lines at the bar because ag guys don't joke around when it comes to alcohol.

Triple and double fisting in order to avoid an hour long wait at the bar. Maybe I should have been the one to go.

So that was pretty much it. I was in bed by midnight, we had breakfast the next morning and went to pick up the kids. As soon as they got in the car, my husband and I both sighed deep, heavy sighs. And our wild and wonderful weekend came to a close.

But, as Mark Doty would say, so what?

If you've read my blog for the last six months or so, you know that I have gone through some personal changes, and that my relationship with my husband is also going through some changes. I really needed this weekend, and we really needed this weekend.

We realized that most of our friends can't just randomly come out with us, because, kids. And that kind of sucks, really. We feel young, we want to DO things, and not just kid things. Kid things are good and fine, but we really need to feel like adults on a regular basis.

What I figured out this weekend is that we really need to find a good babysitter because we are a blast when we are out. And, it doesn't even need to be as crazy as this weekend was because, really, that's not sustainable. Or fun at all the next morning if you have little ones.

But we need to get out of the house more. For real.

I love my mom life, mostly, but I want to love my own life. Our life.

Let it ripen.

So what?

And I love love love my tattoo. And, that I got it during this weekend because I will never forget it.

Moving forward

Last week I wrote this post and, while it was easy for me to write, it has been hard for me to know how to move forward on the blog. I realized, maybe a bit belatedly, that I shared something intensely personal and that you may look at me in a different way because of it.

I have felt like I need to reassure you that I am ok, that my husband and I are ok. And we are. Really. The last two weeks have been some of the better ones in our marriage, and we both feel like we are at a turning point, one where, years from now, we will look back and say, "Yes! Thank god we did that."

But now, moving forward here? I don't know what to say. This is what I am living all the time right now, trying to repair my relationship with my husband. And it's very private and sensitive and not really blog worthy, because it's ours, not mine, and it's not all mine to share. Plus, it's a little voyeuristic to give you all that glimpse into our private life, and it makes me uncomfortable.

Suffice it to say that no one needs to worry and that I am extremely happy with the way that things are turning out. I'm hopeful that we will continue to come to a better spot. I am very glad that this happened.

But I feel AWKWARD. Awkward with him, awkward with myself, awkward with the blog, awkward around people who I know have read that post. I don't know what to say. I feel like I exposed myself and now I have to go around seeing people who are aware of it. It's a little intense.

I also feel like once you say something big and ugly and personal, it's a little like drilling a hole in a flood gate. Once the crack is there, it's hard to stop more from coming out. I have always had a very thin filter to what I say and do, but it's becoming even more transparent. Social graces dictate that I don't say absolutely everything that I think, but I'm having a harder time doing that. Obviously I can't tell a co-worker that I think he's being a douchebag, but I've definitely had to bite my tongue a bit harder in the last two weeks.

After some thought, I don't know that this is necessarily a bad thing. I'm certain that we all have relationships that could use some refreshing, that could use someone saying, "Hey, I feel like we've gotten a bit off track here and I really think it could be better if we were just more open instead of pretending like nothing's going on here."

But that is UNCOMFORTABLE. For all parties, really. Sometimes you say it to someone and they give you a blank stare. Sometimes they get mad. Sometimes they are very hurt. It's hard. You try to anticipate the reaction and, often, in my case, I feel like it's more trouble than it's worth. I don't want to mess it up, so it's easier to say nothing.

Cue years of me saying nothing to my husband and then having a little bit of a meltdown. We'll recover, but we're freaking married. It's going to take a lot of effort to break this train down. Add in that we are both people who are open to change and growth, and it's been working for us.

I don't know how others would respond to me being as open, but I know that I am a lot more tempted to have this same conversation in its unique setting with many other people. And I don't know that it's wrong to do that, it's just not something I've really done before.

So, moving forward, I'm in a kind of uncomfortable, squirmy, stomach butterflies sort of state. Because it's unknown. I'm unknown to myself right now, really.

What I can tell you is that I absolutely chose the right husband. I thought I had, and he's put up with some crazy shit from me over the years, but he's really rolled through it with me. Even though we were getting pretty far off track from each other, he knew it too and didn't want to rock the boat either. We're very aware of where we are right now and what needs to happen next. And we're doing those things.

Basically, blog readers, I feel like you and I were at Mardi Gras together and I got drunk and flashed you and you smiled at me, but now it's the next morning and no one can pretend that they didn't see my boobs. And I'm really not even sorry that you saw them, because that's who I am, but I'm not sure if you were ok with seeing them and now it's kinda awkward. You know, just like that.

I'm not a flasher, but I am an oversharer. I will continue to overshare. I just feel like it's drifting more and more into my everyday life and I need to figure out how to work with that. I'm transitioning, and that's ok, but I feel a little new and uncomfortable about it.

I promise I won't really flash you, though. I don't do that. Hardly ever, anyway, unless there are shots.

Just don't buy me shots, and we'll all be safe.

I went looking for a picture to go with this and I think this fits. I'm on a long slide, moving fast, not really able to stop myself, out of my comfort zone, but perfectly happy.

I went looking for a picture to go with this and I think this fits. I'm on a long slide, moving fast, not really able to stop myself, out of my comfort zone, but perfectly happy.

On marriage, hills and valleys, and taboos

When you're in a relationship, you understand that there are hills and valleys. The highs are high and the lows are low. The point is to ride it through and hope that there are more hills than valleys. But what do we do when the valley that we're in seems endless?

I read this article the other day about exactly this, and how it's a taboo topic, but one that we all go through. I was nodding through the article thinking, "YES! This is exactly what I'm going through right now and why on earth is it so awkward to talk about it?" Then I clicked on the comments and got a pit in my stomach. 99 out of 100 comments were lambasting this woman for talking about her relationship in a public forum. Basically the gist of it was that everyone thought that relationship troubles concern two people only, and those are the only two who should be involved in the conversation. Or, maybe a best friend, but certainly not the Internet.

Well, I can tell you that even talking to a best friend about how your marriage isn't going through the best time is nothing but awkward.

My particular valley is private and it's hard to talk about while still respecting my husband. Which is the whole point of what I'm trying to say here, I guess. I respect my husband, but he's not perfect, I'm not perfect, and our relationship isn't perfect. Right now, I'd even go so far as to say that it's pretty bad. It feels really weird to say that.

I'm not one foot out the door with divorce papers in hand, don't get me wrong. I have been with my husband for 15 years. That's almost most of my life. I'm certainly in it for the long haul.

The gist of our troubles is that while we have been great co-parents for the last 11 years, we haven't been particularly good partners. We got stuck in a rut and our situation seemed so overwhelming that it seemed like all we could do was wait it out. But we're still waiting, apparently.

I feel like my life has gone through a lot of stages, but it's interesting that we don't really talk about the adult stages we go through. I was daughter, high school graduate, crazy college kid, then wife, mother. The end. The plan went no further than that. There are obviously a lot more nuances to each stage, but I find these new stages bewildering. It's only looking back that I can even see that I was in that stage, and then it's too late to do anything about it. I guess I rode it out and did the best I could in each one.

I have been recognizing in the last several months that I am entering a new stage in my life. And this time I am actively aware of it, because it's the first time in a long time that it felt like it was truly MY stage, and not dependent on a label.

Becoming a mom, and then staying at home with the kids, then handling the special needs scenarios CONSUMED me. My mom said it best when she said, "You totally took yourself out of the picture." And she's right. On a top 25 priority list, I didn't even make the cut.

So now life is a little easier, and I've made changes. I have more girlfriends, I go out more, I have a part time job that is mostly satisfying to me, I volunteer, I bought a different house, I had another baby. One of those things, surely, would make me happy.

But now there's nothing left to change, and I'm still not exactly as happy as I'd like to be.

The one thing that I never changed is how I relate to my husband. And I could do a lot of finger pointing here, and I have, but I also freely admit that I am a big part of the problem. We got married SO YOUNG. I was barely 23. I had my son the day before I turned 25.

We went from college couple to adulthood, zero to sixty. We never took that time to really figure out who we were as adults before we thrust ourselves into the crazy parenting world. And while we are very good at that world, we were still missing that connecting thread, the one that tied us together without our kids.

I completely realize that my husband is not my everything, he just can't be. We have a ton in common, but we also have a ton of very big differences. The things that make us different are great, but I have been missing connecting with someone about those things. So I filled my life with hobbies and pursuits that filled that hole.

But the hole was still there.

Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I am a talker. Like a you're not going to get a word in edgewise talker. My husband is not that person. He listens, but it's not in his nature to talk a whole lot. He talks in his head. This has driven me insane pretty much since the first day we met. I NEED TO TALK! Every single day. To a person who is not 10 years old or younger. And sometimes my husband is literally the only adult I see in a day.

Anyway, this is getting personal. I'm going to run this whole thing by my husband before I publish it. I talked to him about writing something about this last night, and I asked him if I could send it to him to see if it made him uncomfortable. He said, "Even if it makes me uncomfortable, you should do it, as long as it's well written." I love that.

We're on the same page here now. We've hashed it out in one of those epic, lasts until 3am conversations that leave you physically and emotionally drained. And I'm the kind of person who needs that, otherwise I sit and stew on something until I blow up.

I didn't blow up on my husband, but I talked a mile a minute for about five hours. It was cathartic.

And now here we are, new and tender, trying to figure out what to do next. I don't know what's going to happen next, but I know now that we are at least on the same ride, and that we're going to try our damnedest to get out of this thousand mile valley we've been stuck in. At least we're both aware of it now, and I feel like that was the first step upward.

Babies.

Babies.

This was a particularly good day last summer. And probably one of a handful of photos we have of the two of us since we've had kids. We need to work on making memories for each other instead of just for our kids.

This was a particularly good day last summer. And probably one of a handful of photos we have of the two of us since we've had kids. We need to work on making memories for each other instead of just for our kids.

Women's rights, voting, and Hillary Clinton

It's been kind of impossible, this year, to stay out of politics. It's a polarizing year, to be sure. I know that I have personally been having many more conversations about politics than I typically would be at this point in an election cycle. It is, simply, very dramatic.

I was interested in a conversation that my mom and I had yesterday regarding Hillary Clinton. I asked my mom why she thought that Clinton wasn't playing up the "first female president" angle more than she is, which is to say, really not at all.

We talked about how gratified black people were to see a black candidate, and how many people came out to vote just to vote for a black person. How far we seemed to have come to have a black president.

So why are women not feeling the same about Hillary Clinton? I wondered.

My mom said that she thought some of it was a generational thing. She said that women of my generation don't really know what struggles women in her generation, and previous generations before, went through to get where we are today.

I don't know that that's true, exactly. I don't know any woman who would say that she was ignorant of how far women have come in the last hundred years. We are educated women, after all. Did I personally protest for women's voting rights? No, of course not, but neither did my mom.

Then she said that the Clinton campaign had kind of started doing some of that marketing in the beginning, by getting Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinhem to rally with her, berating young women for not supporting Hillary Clinton, saying that we think that the work for women is done, but it's not. We think we're there, but there's still work to be done. "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other."

This turned off a lot of young women and, to be honest, it turns me off too. The campaign backed off from the feminist stand at that point.

Here's what I think:

I know that women are not equal, yet, but we are certainly a lot closer to it than black people are. We're not getting shot by cops, and I don't fear for my life if Donald Trump becomes president. I fear for abortion rights, but not my life. I fear for rape victims, for LGBTQ rights, for disability rights, but not my life.

I think young women are smart. They're (we're) interested in politics, but they (we) are not going to look at a candidate based on gender alone. We're smarter than that. If Clinton wins the nomination, I have no doubt that women will flock to her in droves. But Bernie's not exactly an anti-feminist himself. He's a pretty attractive candidate, even to a girl.

Women don't exactly like to be told what to do, Madeleine Albright. You know that. How dare you condescend the very group that you're trying to lift up? Maybe it's a semantics issue, and I can see how angry she is about it, but still. YOU gave us the right to be smart, assertive women who think for themselves. You can implore us to vote for Clinton, but you can't force us. We have minds, thank you, and we'll make them up for ourselves.

So, many women are starting to forget that Clinton is even a woman, that this would/should be a good reason to vote for her. Myself included, really.

But then today, after so many primaries, I see article after article about journalists asking Clinton to smile more, to stop yelling. The articles have a good point: would these same people be asking Trump to stop yelling? (Probably, they'd like to.)

It reminds me that Clinton is not actually having a good go at this. She's clawing her way there, and I do respect that. She's not playing the woe is me feminist card: look how hard it is to break through to the boys' club. She's freaking earning it. While we mock the wrinkles on her face and critique the color of her blouse, she grins and bears it, just like any woman, every woman, has had to.

If it ends up to be Clinton v. Trump, I hope that her campaign is ready to dial up the feminist aspect. The media has already proven how degrading Trump is to women. I hope that Clinton's got some balls of steel ready to throw back at him.

To be honest, I think she might be the woman to do it.

(To be fair, I voted for Bernie yesterday. But I'll vote for Clinton if she's nominated. As a woman, I cannot, in good faith, vote any other way.)

 

Life, animated

I got to participate in a documentary film festival that my city hosts each year. This was the first year that I really wanted to make an effort to attend (young children do not make good documentary film audience members), and I'm not sorry that I did. I have a feeling that I'll be seeing a lot more movies next year, but this year I was able to see two. Both were very good, in different ways, but the one that I want to talk about today is Life, Animated.

Life, Animated is about a young, autistic man who is going through some major life changes. He's finishing school and getting ready to move into an apartment away from his parents. That's basically it, but there's so much more to it than that.

A friend of mine saw it on one of the first days of the festival and posted on Facebook about how moving it was. After hearing the general premise, I knew that I needed to see this film. I was able to get last minute tickets, wrangled a friend and some free time, grabbed my tissues, and was super excited to go. Evidently the gentleman who is featured in the film, Owen Suskind, was at a few of the first showings of the film. I was hoping he'd be there when I saw it, but I saw the very last screening and he had already left.

I struggle with how I feel about this movie, honestly. I can see why people would think it'd be something I'd need to see. It certainly hit home, and I needed the tissues when the parents were recalling the diagnosis phase of Owen's life. Owen had developed typically until age 3, when he stopped speaking and lost a lot of his motor skills. His parents spoke about how it was like he disappeared.

Eventually, he did start acquiring skills, and by the time we see him as an adult, he is very well spoken. But, by the clips that they showed of Owen in his younger days, the skills were hard-earned. This young man has received a massive amount of therapy. He has an excellent support system in place, and affluent, caring parents.

When Owen started scripting Disney films as a way of communication, I could certainly relate. A lot of my own life was trying to find meaning in Magic School Bus scripts for several months. Owen's family did this for years.

After the diagnosis part, when they started talking to Owen about moving on with his life, I started having an anxious feeling in my stomach. The film started to skirt the line of inspiration porn, and I was so worried that it was going to cross completely over.

Here we are watching this young man deal with some very real life experiences, just like anyone does as they age. He falls in love and has his heart broken. He has anxiety about living on his own. He struggles with wanting to get a job. All very typical things.

As I'm laughing and smiling at how blatantly honest Owen is in his communication, I'm cringing that we are getting to see these very intimate parts of his life. He bakes cookies with his girlfriend and it is a total failure. Then, he burns his arm on the pan. His girlfriend says, "Well, at least we tried." The audience sighs for him. I do too, but really? Haven't we all done that? Owen's cookies didn't burn because he's autistic. We don't need to feel sorry for him for that.

I felt for him when his girlfriend dumped him. The most moving scene there was when his older brother, a neurotypical adult, gets the call. It was almost like someone had died. "Fuck!" he says. This is bad, yes. They don't know how Owen is going to handle it.

Owen calls his mom, lamenting life. Why do so many bad things happen?? Why does it feel like the world is ending? I really wish I could quote him directly here, because what he said was so great. But how the mom responded was even better. Bad things happen, she says. They happen all the time, to everyone. And it hurts. But it will get better.

Such a normal thing, heartbreak. A life lesson, as it were.

Also kind of cringe worthy: when his girlfriend wants to break up, they have to have both teams of case-workers there at the breakup. They didn't film that, thank God, but I shudder to think how that very intimate moment felt with several adults in the room with them. I kind of get why it needed to be that way, but seriously? How unbelievably awkward for everyone involved.

So here we are, following Owen. He's doing his thing, he gets a job, he gets invited to speak at a conference in France regarding scripting as a therapeutic tool. And, by the way, I absolutely loved how his parents approached that. When Owen was first diagnosed, they were in the early 1990s, and not a lot about autism was known. In fact, they were dumped by their pediatrician, who told them that he was in over his head.

But Owen's parents never did take issue with Owen's scripting. They heard what he was trying to say. After not speaking for three years, one of the first things Owen said was, "Walter is sad because he doesn't want to grow up. Like Mowgli." And his parents' jaws hit the floor.

We see several scenes where Owen is going through some life issues, then chooses the perfect scene to watch from the perfect Disney film. You can see how he processes his feelings by watching the films.

Then, the movie ends, undramatically. Owen's life is moving on. Credits roll and the audience is obviously very moved by what they have seen.

And I'm sitting there, thinking, "Huh."

The director comes out and starts answering questions. All is going well, he's known the family for a long time. He praises the parents, talks about his own work with the disability community. People are asking good questions.

Then, it comes. An older woman stands up and says, "I guess I need to do more reading about autism. I didn't realize that a child could develop normally and then have this happen. Did the parents consider something environmental, or vaccines or something?"

Chin to my chest, I whisper, "Please don't ask that question."

The director, bless his heart, says, "Yeah, there are different presentations to autism. Some kids do develop typically and then, like Owen, change. And we will probably never know what causes autism. BUT WE ARE NOT INTERESTED IN A CURE. We just want acceptance."

I was the first one clapping when he said that. And that is why he stayed on the safe side of inspiration porn, in my eyes. But this was a comment by the director that I had the benefit of hearing. I wish he had said that louder in the film. If he did say it, it was very quiet.

So, how did I feel about it? Did I need to see this film? Maybe. Probably.

But honestly, I'm happier that the other 1500 people in the theater got to see it.

See, even though Owen's story is not exactly like my daughter's, they are related. This is my ordinary. I already know all of these things. This was not a life changing movie to me, because we could easily be in a similar movie.

To me, the film was not earth shattering. But, the simple fact that so many audience members thought it was mind blowing made me think, "Wow, there's a lot of work to do, still." So, I am happy that the film exists. It will help do the work. I'm happy that the Suskind family shared their story. I'm sure it was very difficult to do. I think they are doing a great job. The mom and I would probably be friends.

I'm also very pleased that it was about an autistic adult. We tend to focus on children when we think of autism, but there are certainly plenty of autistic adults out there. There's work to be done in making sure that their voices are heard, instead of talked over or down to.

I'm pleased that I saw the film, but sad that it needs to be said: That Owen is a normal person going through normal things. Just a little differently. That's really the crux.

(Evidently the film is coming to theaters in the summer. I'd highly recommend seeing it. Whatever your relation to autism, even if it's non-existent, it will make you think.)

What I like right now

I like the way the perfect song sounds. I like the ahhh moment of finding it. I like remembering the words. I like the way the words feel in my mouth, and the sound that fills my heart and brings me chills. I like the way certain songs make me feel, how they make me cry, or smile, or dance, or seethe with joy. I like the unexpected happiness of hearing an old song, one that brings back an old memory and immediately transports you there, stopping everything.

I like the way the sun comes in the window in the afternoon. I like warming my feet in it. I like the warmth when I didn't know I was cold. I like the bright when I didn't know I was dark.

I like the way my brain works, how thoughts twist and turn. How new ideas make me stop talking and start thinking. How an idea keeps me up at night, wakes me up at night, still hyper-focused on it. Not worrying- thinking.

I like the way my second cup of coffee tastes. The first isn't the same, it's the wake up cup. The second cup is the best. I like the way it feels on my tongue. I like hearing it brew. I like seeing the milk swirl in. I like the way the spoon feels when I stir. I like keeping it in my mouth and swallowing slowly.

I like the way the shower feels on my back. The stolen moments of peace. The luxury in simplicity. Washing away what happened and getting ready for what's next with a new face.

I like the way an afternoon nap feels. The confusion of waking up and not knowing what's happened. I like the fog of reintroducing myself to the day, beginning again, refreshed.

I like watching people do what they do best. Instead of jealousy, I feel inspired. Inspired to find my best, and to put it out there.

I like feeling uncomfortable when someone says something to me that I don't immediately know how to respond to. I like the change in myself that comes from that. I like seeing someone in a new light because of an offhand comment that pleases or surprises me. I like that people change all the time and I like figuring that out.

I like the way my jeans feel on my hips; the way my shirt silks across my stomach. I like when the scale and the image I see in the mirror matches. Good enough. Good enough to feel pretty damned good about. I like that I feel good about that. I like feeling sexy when I didn't know that I had forgotten how to feel sexy. I like the freedom in being a little older and not caring that I just said that I feel sexy. I do, and I like it. I like being a woman; I like the curves and the softness. I like feeling good in my body.

I like not knowing what's going to happen next. I like that anything could happen next. I like the anticipation. It's often better than the event itself.

I like the way good food tastes in my mouth. I like the drips on my chin. The guttural noises I make when it's just the perfect thing, the very thing I didn't know that I wanted.

I like the way the sun bounces through the trees on a trail. I like the quiet. I like the respectful nods of strangers that I pass. I like sitting quietly, just smelling, and watching.

I like looking ahead and only seeing promise. I like that I know myself well enough that I will make things happen if they don't happen to me. Quite frankly, I like knowing myself. I like respecting myself. I like knowing that this is the best me that my kids can see. I like that I am setting a good example. I want them to want to be like me. I like that I don't have regrets about the way I am raising them.

I like surrounding myself with people who want the best for me, who see the best in me. I like how they push me forward. I like how they make me see opportunities that I may not have seen for myself. I like how they like me just as I am. I like how we change in different ways and still come back to the same place, the root of our connection. I like how we lift each other.

I like peaceful nights on the deck, watching the stars. I like having honest conversations that last until 2am. I like how the words sound in the quiet, like we are the only ones in the world, like we are the only people who have ever existed.

I like the way a cold beer feels in my hand, or a nice red wine tastes in my throat. I like the satisfaction of having picked the perfect thing.

I like laughing at irony. I like hearing something that a friend would also think was funny and getting the giggles in anticipation of telling them. I like telling them about it and having them say, "Yes! Exactly that!" Or, remembering a funny story when I'm in the car by myself and still giggling over it. Giggling is the best, really.

I like that I may be halfway done with my life. I like looking ahead at what's next and just wanting to always feel exactly as I do right now. I like that this feeling isn't dependent on outside factors, but, scarily enough, only on myself. I like being in control of what I do and how I feel. I like that I can change those things for myself.

I like that I am lazy. I like that I am the master at nothing, but the lover of everything. I like that I can't pick one thing because there are just too many other things that I would be saying no to. I like dabbling in a little of everything. I like the experience rather than the mastery. I like the options.

I like having an idea, writing it down, and having it come out exactly as I'd intended. I like reading something older that I wrote and feeling amazed that it came from me. I like knowing that this is what I'm supposed to do. I like the way a good sentence looks, the way a few finely crafted words can change it all. I like acknowledging that this is my gift, without being vain. I like the certainty in knowing that it's not vain to say that, even though my craft is far from perfect. I like the way the words spill from me and the release that comes from that. I like the pressure of having an idea build up until I can sit down and let it out.

I like saying exactly what I want to say, and not worrying about the reaction. I like being my best, true self. I like being honest, with you, and with myself. I like being sassy, reflective, open, inquisitive, funny, serious. I like being whatever I am at the moment. I like the truth in that.

I'm pretty damned happy right now and I like it.

 

On not getting it, and patience

Ok, I have to admit that I just really messed up. Like REALLY MESSED UP.

To preface, I am an advocate for presuming competence, to not assume that someone isn't getting something because they are not outwardly telling you that they get it, or are not able to answer questions that show that they understand. I truly believe that we must presume that all people are capable of demonstrating knowledge and understanding, just that some are not going to demonstrate that in a traditional way. It is up to me as a parent to listen for the cues and help modify the output of understanding.

Cue my mess up...

Miss A is just home from school the other day. She's being a little silly. She says to me, "Mom, I'm pretty confused about day and night."

I smile.

"What's there to be confused about?" I ask. "It's pretty simple. Day is when there is light. Night is when it is dark."

She kind of hmms along with me, then says, "That doesn't really clear it up for me."

I smile again. She moves on to something else.

At dinner that night, I relate the story to my husband, thinking it's just an example of Miss A being silly. She listens to me tell the story, then she says, "Yeah, that's confusing to me, too."

We can't help but laugh.

I tell the story to my mom the next day and she says, "Do you think you hurt her feelings when you laughed?"

"No," I say. "I really think she thought we were talking about someone else, and she agreed that day and night are confusing. But there's something else there, I just need to figure it out. I'll keep asking questions."

Miss A comes home from school yesterday and I say, "Let's talk about day and night again. What is confusing to you?"

She mumbles about morning and afternoon, so I jump on that and explain the difference between morning, noon, afternoon, evening, and night. I'm honestly thrilled that she's interested in the nuances of the day.

She listens, then says, "It's still confusing."

Ok, I'm not to the root of this yet, evidently. I let it go.

Then, this morning, I bring it up again. "What can I tell you about day and night?"

And she says, "Where does the sun go when it's night? Where do the stars go in the day?"

A-freaking-HA! There it is, the root.

She has not been asking about how to tell that it's day. She doesn't need to know what evening means. She wants an explanation of the Earth's rotation. She wants to know about the solar system.

I'm excited for a second, then I feel awful.

We try to find a kids video with a short explanation. I don't even know how to explain it quickly to a child. She's very interested. Then, the bus comes and she has to go.

She says, "I will ask my teacher at school today."

"Good idea," I say. "Make sure you ask her where the sun goes at night." I don't want the teacher to make the same mistake I did and assume that her question is more basic than it is.

There is a big difference between understanding that the sun being up means day and understanding WHY the sun comes up. A huge difference, actually.

And I assumed that she would ask a basic question, not a big one.

Shame on me.

And through all of that, my girl just kept asking the questions, waiting for the answer that she wanted. She didn't get mad at me for my quick and easy answer, she just kept probing. She wasn't frustrated with me for not getting it, she just kept asking. Waiting so patiently for her mom to get it.

The delight in her face this morning when I did finally get it just about broke my heart.

I have more to learn. And luckily I have a very patient teacher. I just don't want to let her down.

 

Luckily, Google understands her and always answers her questions. Shown here with her ipad, and full Rainbow Dash paraphernalia.

Luckily, Google understands her and always answers her questions. Shown here with her ipad, and full Rainbow Dash paraphernalia.

What does a good marriage look like?

Sometimes I hear a story that I can't immediately make sense of, but it's interesting and so I stew on it for several days to make up my mind about how I feel about it. Today, it's about marriage, and what makes a good one, and what a woman's role should be in a marriage. Maybe by the end of this I'll have a good, coherent argument, but I think we can all agree that this is a polarizing topic. Or, maybe I'm just starting to realize that people have VASTLY different opinions on what makes a good marriage.

Yesterday I came into the tail end of a conversation between two co-workers. Both are male, both are divorced. They were talking about another co-worker, D. I missed most of the details, but it came down to that D. had taken a trip by herself, and this bewildered the male co-workers. They were trying to make sense of it, and were jumping to some pretty amazing conclusions.

D. is not your average person. She's different in a way that can be off putting. But I have gotten to know her a little better over the last few weeks and am now finding her much more interesting. She's definitely a more than meets the eye kind of person.

D. didn't think she'd ever get married and she was in her late 30s when she met her husband. She really didn't intend to meet a husband, but it happened. Then, she thought she was going through menopause, but it turned out that she was pregnant. So, in the span of a few short years, the landscape of D.'s life completely flip turned upside down.

She ran with it, and she obviously dotes on her son. You can't get through a shift without hearing some story, or several stories, about her son. You can see that he makes her very happy, even though she had previously not thought that she wanted to be a mother.

D. is a little older now, and her son is grown and out of the house. She's still married, but evidently she wanted to take a trip by herself, and she did. She did not want to go with her husband or her son, she wanted to go by herself. And this bothered the male co-workers.

These guys were saying several things about D. and her husband that didn't sit right with me. One of them had said that he asked D. why she didn't talk about her husband much at work and she responded, "Why would I?" This statement bothered the man immensely and he took to assuming that this meant that D. did not care about her husband.

"It's a marriage of convenience," he said.

Things that make you go hmmmm.

Is D.'s marriage one of convenience because she doesn't speak about her husband at every single opportunity? Because her husband doesn't visit her at work, does that mean that he does not love her? If D. wants to take a trip by herself, does that mean that she does not enjoy spending time with her husband?

I don't think so.

Because I am me and can't keep quiet when something bothers me, I spoke up. These two men weren't listening at all. They had made up their minds about it, and obviously, I would agree with D. because a.) I almost never talk about my husband at work because, why?, b.) neither of them have met my husband because he never comes into the store because, hassle, and c.) I said that I would pay someone to take care of my family in order to go on a trip by myself. I sigh happily when I think about solitary travel.

Obviously, I'm in the D. camp and, therefore, my marriage must be one of convenience as well.

This was really bothering me, that they would think that, and I could have gone on and on about my husband and how safe and secure our marriage is. But, it occurred to me that it really doesn't matter one bit what they think of my marriage, or frankly, what anyone thinks.

And, I can't lie, I looked at those two men (divorced) and compared them to D. and me with our husbands (still married) and I admit that I felt a little smug. So I let it go.

But it sat with me.

We all know those couples that can't help but profess their love for their spouses at every opportunity, and sometimes it's quite icky (ok, most times). Sometimes we are lucky enough to meet a couple that really IS that happy, and are obviously meant for each other. Other times, we see couples that are struggling. Maybe we want to help fix it. Maybe it isn't meant to be fixed.

But that's not our place to say. Two people that have the only say in how a marriage looks are the ones who signed that marriage license and said their I do's. That's it.

My husband is never going to be my entire world. That's not how I look at marriage. He is not equipped to be that for me, and honestly, I would think less of myself if I depended on a man to make me whole. I make me whole. He contributes parts. As do my children, my family, my friends, my hobbies.

Just like D.

I guess that I thought everyone thought that way, but apparently not.

It's always immensely interesting to me to get to peek into other people's lives. I remember one time sitting with my step-grandma, after eating. We were just watching people and not talking. I asked her if she wanted to leave and she said, "No, I'm enjoying watching." Maybe this explains the fascination people have with reality television. We like that inside information.

That's all fine and good, but when we make judgments based on a small snippet, that's just not fair. If I could have had those two guys' real attention, I would have said that more eloquently. But I think you have to be in the right place to hear a dissenting opinion. And, quite frankly, it's none of my business how they think about relationships. I hope they can find partners who believe they are everything.

And D. and I will go on trips by ourselves and feel just fine about that. And then come home to our husbands.

Maybe this is just me? I'm genuinely interested to hear how other people think a good marriage should look.

Shoulds, shouldn'ts, and have tos

This may turn out to be the most rambling and intimate post I have ever written, but that's where I am at this moment. "She held it in the teacup of her heart." I am giving you a glimpse of the teacup in my heart. It is a delicate thing, so be careful, please.

I am so grateful that I have this blog, less for the readership (which is wonderful, don't get me wrong), but for the outlet.

Where to begin?

 

I read Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Big Magic, a few weeks ago. It should have been subtitled "Stop making excuses and just get up and do what you love already." It didn't exactly touch me in the way I thought it would, but several weeks later, I find myself thinking about what she said about Big Ideas. About how Big Ideas will look for you if you are open to them, and if you ignore them, they will go away, seeking another person as outlet for expression. The Big Idea doesn't die, it just won't wait for you anymore, and it's willing to find someone else who wants to play with it.

I had a Big Idea last night. For a book. I could see exactly how it would flesh out in my mind and it is perfect and wonderful. I am so glad that the Big Idea came to me, chose me out of all people.

Now what?

When I was in college (all my best stories start this way), I took a creative writing emphasis, which meant that I had to take all of three fiction writing courses. The first two were fine, but the last one I wanted to be special. I tried one teacher and didn't like her, so I dropped the course. The next semester, my final semester, I found out that the editor of The Missouri Review, Speer Morgan, was going to teach the class. I was thrilled. I needed Speer Morgan in my life to tell me what to do with this burning itch to write. I honestly don't think I have ever been more excited to start anything in my life as I was the first day of class.

Then, who shows up to teach but the woman whose class I had dropped the semester before? Speer Morgan has decided that he's too busy to teach the course. Understandable, but I was kind of devastated.

I had to finish this class to get my degree, so I plugged along. It was an uninspiring experience all around. I remember nothing that I wrote that semester.

But what I do remember is one guy in the class asking her for advice on how to get published. She had several books out, none of them big. She could have given advice on how to submit work, how to edit, etc, as she had spent her life doing those writerly things. She did none of that.

She kind of sneered at the class, these young, impressionable kids, really, and said, "None of you will ever get published, so it's best to just give up on that dream now."

Wow. Really?

I wish I could go back to that moment and bitch slap that lady. It's one of the few moments in my life that I remember with precise clarity.

Instead, my 21 year old self slowly let that dream die. It was an unattainable thing. I was unworthy to write, is what I heard. What are you going to do with your English degree?? Ad nauseum.

I know that wanting to write and publish a book is a little like saying that you're going to be a professional sports player, but you know, there actually are people in the world that do both. That's what I would go back and tell myself. It is not actually impossible, just unlikely. You have to want it and work your ass off to get it.

These years since college, I have done absolutely no writing. Some years have gone by and I haven't even thought of it. It was an old, childish dream.

I did what I was supposed to do. I got married, got a job, and had kids. If I felt a void ever, I filled it with busy-ness. I painted a room, sold a house, had another kid, got a dog.

This is not to say that all of those things were not, and are not, great. They are great. They are perfect. Honestly. I am exceedingly happy with how that part of my life is going.

They are just not enough. It sometimes feels like there will never be enough.

I remember when I quit my job at the bank to stay at home with the kids, before we even knew that Miss A had anything going on medically, I came back to say hi one day and ran into my boss. She asked me what I had been up to and I told her about school PTA, Mom's Club, etc. I was a busy person.

She said, "I knew you wouldn't be the kind to be content to just stay at home." And she was right. Immediately after I started staying home, I started filling time. I filled it with all the things that a mom should fill their time with. And it wasn't quite enough, but I kept filling it.

I threw myself into caring for my children. I spent so much energy concentrating on my daughter and her disorder. Rightfully so, of course. She needed that. Maybe I needed that, too.

I have always felt "other" in my life. If there is a survey and 95% of people think this way, you can guarantee I'm in the other 5%.

But I don't say that stuff. I talk about the weather. I volunteer at school. I decorate my house and take my children to their activities.

And I simmer, just under boiling.

A few years ago, a woman in my town published a book and it totally rocked my world. Laura McHugh, The Weight of Blood.

She is a little older than me and got downsized from her job, and her husband told her to take the time and try her hand at writing the book she'd always wanted to write. And you know, she freaking did it. And it became a best seller and now the rights to the movie have been sold. She has another book coming out this year.

Ironically, or maybe not so much so, the book was super gory and explicit. It was a little hard to wrap my brain around this woman writing this particular book. This woman who attends PTA meetings and such. But it was interesting and well-written and worth the read, if you're looking for a suspense story.

I met her awhile back, and I said to her, "You did it." And she said, "Yes, I did."

Now, I am not naïve enough to expect that kind of success. That's crazy talk.

But...

But.

Liz Gilbert would tell me to stop saying "but" and just start doing it.

Laura McHugh is me, I am her.

I am blessed with a good enough family situation, where I'm not having to stare at my children every minute. A husband who can be talked into just about anything, aside from getting a cat. A blessed amount of free time that I squander looking at the wall.

But, what?

I hear the Big Idea and I want to answer it.

I think I Have To.

In my life, I oscillate between feeling totally confident in my badass self, and feeling completely unworthy for human consumption, sometimes in the span of seconds. It is disconcerting. I am an ADULT, for god's sake.

Maybe I don't know what it means to be an adult. Or maybe that's exactly how all adults feel.

We just don't talk about it.

We talk about the weather, instead.

Except, you know, I'm kind of done with that?

Just like I tell my kids, I think I have to give myself permission to shoot for the moon. I don't think it's a choice anymore.

I think that in this world where we like to put people in boxes, I have always fought against that. That may make me hard to take, but I find this me much more preferable than the one that makes you comfortable. If I'm honest with myself, I quite enjoy surprising people.

You may see me in a certain light, and part of me may fit in that space, but there is a lot more there. I just choose who I share it with. I delight in exploring that. It scares me, and frankly, why can't we all explore that part of ourselves? The part that says, no, you've got it all wrong about me. I've got it all wrong about myself.

It's cold today, and grey.

 

"Poetry"

In my quest to read 200 books this year, I have found that I require a little more diversity in the books that I am reading. Otherwise, *gasp*, I am getting a little tired of all this reading.

I hit 25 books over the weekend, so I'm a little behind on my goal, for anyone keeping tabs.

I bought a book of poetry recently. I think the last time I bought a book of poetry, I was in college, going through my female angst, self discovery, "I should probably read a book of poetry because I'm an English major" period.

I am actually enjoying the book, but it's making me think in poetry, which is a little confusing and hilarious.

Here are some of my "poems." It's ok, as I stated before, I have a degree in english.

 

Ashes to ashes 

They have found their way in 

They scramble and burrow

The dog is fascinated  

My husband threw the babies into the yard

He said the parents would hear their screams and find them

I cannot comprehend how to feel about this

The mice have gotten into the compost bin again

 

Touching 

Sometimes we can be close and not touch 

Please go pick up the blocks

"I'm thirsty" is not a question and I am not your servant

You have hands, go get it yourself

Please do not touch your sister

Please do not touch your sister

Please

Am I still talking? 

Oh god, why am I still talking? 

I went to college

I remember, I did

Please, child, don't touch me anymore

 

Silence 

When they are gone, the silence starts oppressive   

I squander the minutes

I do not turn on the television

I sit in silence and breathe

I do not waste time missing them

I feel guilty about this

 

Sustenance 

Oh shit, what are we going to have for dinner?  

I question my sanity when I realize that I ask myself this question every single day

Why must they always be so hungry  

And then not eat any of it

The blue plate has magic power

I hate the blue plate

Three more green beans, please

 

 

So there ya go. I could keep going all day. I should've gotten that emphasis in poetry instead of creative writing. It's kind of fun to think in poems. 

  

About me

Remember those silly "25 things about me" things? I never did those, but I secretly enjoyed reading them. In a world of surface level relationships, we don't often get to know the "secrets" of those around us, the things that make us, that made our history, that make us unique and maybe possibly a little insane.

I'm feeling nostalgic today, and I'm doing this, so grab a cup of coffee and some snacks and prepare to learn more random information about me than you'd ever really care to know. Or close the page and save yourself some wasted time. Either way.

So let's pretend we're on a first date, you and I. I'll be the awkward one who can't stop talking. And here's what I would tell you. You may or may not get a word in edgewise; it's a problem I have.

- I firmly believe that food has a time of day in which it should be eaten. Dinner food is not for breakfast, with the exception of cold pizza. Smelling non-breakfast food at breakfast time literally turns my stomach. My husband does not agree with this at all and it is a source of struggle for me.

- My favorite years of being alive were 1997-2000. Those were the years that I had the most freedom and independence. I remember being most confident then. I literally had the best friends in the world and I spent every free minute with them. I did so much stuff that just thinking of it now makes me a little exhausted. I absolutely loved that time of my life and would go back in a heartbeat.

- In 1996 or 1997 I got banned from Six Flags for a year. And that's all I'll say about that.

- I had always wanted a tattoo. My mother did not want me to have a tattoo. Shortly after I turned 18, I drove an hour and a half away to get a tattoo, only to find that the studio was closed for the day. I drove back to my town and went to another tattoo parlor, only to find that the tattoo artist was extremely hungover. He told me that he was going to get something to eat and if I was still there when he came back, he'd do it. I waited. It's a butterfly on my left shoulder. His name was Spider and I later found out that he was kind of a legend in our town. He died a few years back. I'm not sorry that I waited.

- Out of all the books that I've read in my lifetime, two that I can read over and over again without getting tired of them are The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff and The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I was really disappointed in the movie version of Time Traveler's Wife and I can't let it go.

- I am not actually a book collector. I don't typically like to re-read books. I do not need to own all the books. However, that said, we have more books in our house than a small library, even though I haven't bought a paper book for myself in a long, long time. I hate it and I love it. I love finding new old books that I forgot about. I have a hard time letting go of my favorites.

- When I was younger, I used to go to concerts all the time. It's probably the thing I miss most now that I have kids and am nervous about other people watching my kids. I would go see anything. I had a friend that worked at a concert hall and could get us into almost anything for free. It was awesome. Sometimes we were one of only a handful of people there, and I didn't care. My favorite concerts, in no particular order are: G Love and the Special Sauce, Three Dog Night, Dave Matthews Band, Nickel Creek, and Simon and Garfunkel (which I saw with my mom, and I was easily the youngest person there and it was awesome). I really can't wait to start doing that again, I miss it so much.

- When I graduated from high school, my dad was the one who handed me my diploma as I crossed the stage. He had just been elected to the school board. It means more to me now than it did then. A few years later, he handed my brother his too.

- I totally got my desire for community service from my dad. He has always volunteered for everything. He could have been a politician. I don't remember feeling one way or another about it when I was growing up, but it obviously made an impression. I have had to learn how to say no to certain obligations since I started staying at home. I always feel better when I am volunteering, but there's a limit.

- In my jewelry box, I have a collection of pins that I've gotten over the years. I got "Volunteer of the Year" for our school in 2010. It was a nice honor, but I have to wonder where you wear pins like that? I have a few from the bank that I worked at too. Honestly, I'd rather that they just cough up the $15 or whatever and get a gift card.

- I have a not so secret addiction to 80s music. I'm not ashamed, I love it. Michael Jackson is my all time favorite 80s singer and whenever I hear any MJ songs, I have to stop and sing along. Human Nature is easily in my Top 10 songs of all time.

- When I was a kid, I was really mean to my younger brother. I used to convince him to do stuff for me all the time, like clean my room for a quarter. And he'd do it. I literally did not care that he was in the house with me, I was doing my own thing. It's interesting to me now, and probably karma, that my son does this with his younger sisters. It drives me nuts. I can see that I must have driven my parents nuts too. It makes me empathetic towards my son, because I was exactly like him in almost every way. It makes it easy, and hard, to parent him because I can tell him the mistakes that he's going to make, but he's not going to listen. I wouldn't have either.

- When I was in college, I went through a vegetarian phase. It really wasn't that I had thoughts about killing animals for food, I just didn't like meat all that much. It's kind of a pain in the butt to cook when you're living in the dorms or your first apartment. When I met my husband, I made him soy tacos. He told me to never do that again. He grew up raising cattle. And that was the end of that. Also, soy started giving me hot flashes so maybe it was for the best. I'm still a little indifferent towards meat though.

- I met my husband in college. He came over to our apartment to work on a project with my roommate and when he came in the door, I swear that I had a vision that this was the man I was going to marry. He did not have the same vision, go figure, but we got married anyway.

- I was the one who asked my husband out. He's not what you'd call observant about things like that. On our first date, we went to a bank dinner and then to a fraternity party. It was a really good night. At the end, he told me to stop talking.

- I have had a very similar life to my mother, so far. Even to the point where we lived in the house where she grew up. I look a lot like she did when she was younger. It took awhile for me to see it, but I remember one time at the mall, I came out of a store and a woman gasped and said, "Patty???" My mom's name is Pat and she hates being called Patty, so this was obviously someone who knew her from way back when. I frowned. I used to hate being compared to my mom, but it's impossible to not see it when I look at old pictures.

- My mom and my grandma and I all have the same exact voice. My brother had it too until he matured into a deeper, man voice. It was a little confusing growing up, when people would call and try to guess who had answered the phone. Even now, sometimes when I am telling a story, I hear my voice and think that it's just like the way my mom would tell the story. It's a little unnerving, to tell the truth.

- My favorite foods are mashed potatoes and Swedish meatballs. No one else in my house really cares for these foods. I also adore sushi and all fish. My husband hates sushi. It's a problem. I miss these foods.

- When I was in college, I wrote a short story that took me no time at all and flew from my fingertips. My creative writing teacher told me that it could be a book. I held that comment in my heart and promptly did nothing with it. I still wonder what happened to that story. I should try to see if it's in a box somewhere. It was easily the best thing I've ever written and I loved it.

- I have been a bit passive about my career. Writing was never presented to me as a career choice. Or, if it was, I never really pursued it. I applied to a publishing workshop and then I got engaged, so I never went. I applied to a college in North Carolina to study interior design and then I got pregnant, so we stayed here. It makes me a little sad to think about those missed opportunities, but I wouldn't change things.

- Women in my family have had to have hysterectomies pretty young. My great-grandma, my grandma, and my mom all had them. My mom was not yet 40 when she had hers. So, growing up, I always knew that if I wanted to have kids, I had to have them young. I can't say that this didn't shape the way I chose my life path.

- One of my greatest fears is that someone will break into my house and harm my kids. I used to worry about it a lot, and then we got alarms on the doors and I feel a little better about it. I still freak out when the dog barks at random things in the middle of the night. I sleep with the phone by my pillow when my husband goes out of town.

- Well, this got serious. Let's think of something funny.

- I cry when little kids give performances. It doesn't matter if I know them or not. I can't help it and it's something that I've always done. They are just so sweet and perfect. I cried when a friend gave a monologue at a talent show in high school, she was just so good.

- Sometimes seeing something beautiful can knock me on my butt. Nature or art, it doesn't matter, but especially art. I love to see people use their abilities to create something lovely. I strive for that.

- My son's name was partially influenced by a character on Survivor. That's where I remember hearing it, anyway, and he was a good guy on the show. I'm not particularly proud of that, but there it is.

I just counted and that's 25 things, so I'm going to call it done. If you made it this far, bravo. Happy to kill some time for you and to stroll down memory lane for myself.

Will we go on another date, maybe? You've seen parts of my freak flag now, so we'll see if you're up for it.

 

On friendship, old and new

Baby Girl has made a new friend, and thus, I guess I have also made a friend in her mom. It's funny that we base our adult friendships on who our children have befriended and hope that we also like the parents. It's not always the case.

Why this is on my mind is that I was thinking about how I have changed through the years. She and I were talking about being pregnant, and I have a really terrible story about being pregnant with Miss A. I told that story yesterday, and I realized that I don't have a nice and neat way to tell it- to tell about us. It came out sloppy and with all the details jumbled up, and I'm not sure it came across, at least not very well.

There is so much to the story, it's impossible to put it out there in a tidy version that you can present to a new person. And yet, it's impossible for a new person to know me right now without knowing at least part of that story. The pregnancy was only the beginning, a hint at what was to come. And it has completely taken over my life- good or bad, it's just who I am now.

For years, I feel like I have shielded myself. I didn't do it on purpose, but my life HAD a purpose, one that was sitting there staring me in the face. I did what I had to do and I set aside so much of everything else to help her. I didn't think about it or mourn that I didn't have time or energy for much else (very often). Things needed to be done and, for years, I just did those things. That was my 24-hour-a-day job for a very long time. I did not think to ask for help. I really didn't think that anyone could help us. I have always preferred to do things on my own and I fell back into that default.

I finally feel like that season is coming to an end. I can't point to any real reason other than that my girl doesn't require 100% of my attention any longer, which is a very good thing. She is doing so very well. I can go whole days without thinking about what else I could be doing and I no longer worry that the other shoe is hovering, waiting to drop. If it drops, I'll deal with it.

Don't get me wrong, I have a to-do list a mile long, always. That's the kind of person I am, and probably always will be. But now, just right now, I'm beginning to catch my breath. I'm beginning to sit and talk with a new friend and yes, look back at the conversation and notice how incredibly awkward I am with new people, but also to enjoy myself.

I have been the center of my universe for a long time. Of course, we all are, but I see that so many other people have giant support systems in place for themselves. I have not done that. It's interesting to wonder if this is just in my nature, or if my life experiences have guided me toward being that way. When you have a child who is atypical, it can be extremely isolating, even if you are imposing the isolation upon yourself, just to keep yourself safe. When she wasn't talking, I couldn't stand to be around other children who were. When her behavior meant that we couldn't participate in regular activities without eliciting wondering stares, I took us out of those situations. I told myself that I was protecting her, but I was really protecting myself. I didn't know how to exist in that typical world with my atypical child.

I'm learning better now. She's perfectly typical in many ways. And in the ways that she's not, well, that's just who she is, take it or leave it.

But me? I'm still me, really. I just have layers and layers of armor on now, and I'm just now noticing that. I'm noticing how far apart from the world I've set myself, how far I've buried myself in myself.

In the last year or two, I've made an effort to reach out to my old, security blanket friends who have known me forever. Like a balm to the soul, I have reached to them, when I can steal moments away. It is so refreshing to be able to shed that skin. They don't even know me with the skin, they know the old me, the real me. I'm different now, but my core is the same. I don't need to explain that to them, they get it.

I can see that new friendships are going to be difficult for me. We are a mess, one that not everyone will be able to accept. Or maybe it's just that I see us that way? Maybe we are just fine. We probably are.

I may never have my "neat and tidy" introduction prepared. I know it's not necessary. I may never revel in the surface level conversations that seems to be required in so much of "adult" life. I so wish we could just skip past all that nonsense and get straight to the good stuff.

But I know that, even though I call myself an introvert, I am a social person. Best one on one or in small groups, but I miss having my people. I need to figure out how to get my people. I like feeling free enough to recover that part of my life. I'm trying, I'm just really rusty.

Two of my best high school girlfriends, around Christmastime.

Two of my best high school girlfriends, around Christmastime.

And two of my best college girlfriends, last year, on a girls' weekend.

And two of my best college girlfriends, last year, on a girls' weekend.



200 books

Just for fun, in January, I set myself a reading goal of 200 books for 2016. It seemed manageable at the time. I read a lot, I thought. I can read 200 books in a year, no problem.

You may be laughing at me right now. I'm laughing a little at myself. It's a crazy goal, I know.

I typically read at night, before I go to bed. I like my sleep. Still, I thought, I can do this.

After a month, I'm not sure anymore.

In January, I read 14 books. That's a lot, but not enough to put me on track to meet my goal. In the last few days, I binge read, trying to get my total up. I set aside longer books for shorter ones. It was a little intense.

Is this a reasonable goal? I asked myself. Why am I even doing this?

After some thought, I decided that the answer is yes, and I think I know why I'm doing this.

I read a lot, to be sure. But when I was younger, I ALWAYS had a book with me. If I had five extra minutes, I'd be reading my book. I was able to pick it up and put it down and stay with the story, even though my time was limited.

Now, if I have five minutes, I'm checking facebook or playing a stupid game on my phone. I'm always on my phone now. I suppose I'm still reading, but it's definitely not the same.

In my binge reading last few days, I realized that I needed a new strategy. I needed to have the book with me all the time. Five minutes free means five minutes of reading.

I won't lie, it was hard to put the phone down. But after the first few hours, I realized that I was so far behind on facebook news that there was simply not enough time to catch up. And, even better, I realized that it really didn't matter if I knew what was going on in facebook world. No one even knew that I hadn't read it, and that I was reading a book instead.

If I'm honest, it was a little freeing. Sorry friends, I have no idea what you all did in the last few days. I think you'd be ok with that.

I'm behind in my goal already. I have 186 more books to read this year. That equals 17 books per month, or half of a book a day. I don't know if I'll make it. I'll be bummed if I don't. Last night I tried very hard to stay awake finishing the book I was on, but the eyes don't lie and I fell asleep.

I have a busy life, and I really don't know if there are enough hours in the day to complete my goal. I've never tracked my reading before, it seemed a little pointless. But the goal now is to simply break my electronics addiction and put my "alone time" towards something that I see as more productive.

Also, I can give you some recommendations from the 14 books I read in January. I always feel like you need to read a certain book at a certain time to have it mean something to you. Books that my family and friends have loved I have hated, and vice versa. I almost always think that it's because of my mood at the time, or other books that I've read right before that were too similar, or something. So, my recommendations will be books that spoke to me at that moment. Take it with a grain of salt. I take book recommending seriously. That's ten years at a bookstore for you.

 

That said, my top 3 were... (in no particular order, other than the order in which I read them)

 

Her by Harriet Lane. Super, super creepy, and I couldn't put it down. A story about an obsessive woman with a hidden history with the object of her obsession. I found myself relating to both characters in different ways, and the end, although seemingly abrupt, felt just right after introspection. This book was very quiet and calculated. I think that it made it that much creepier, and I loved every page.

Rosemary: the Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson. Maybe it's the romanticism of the Kennedy family, I don't know. They are fascinating to read about. This book focused on Rosemary, the sibling who had an unknown disability, and her family's reaction to that. It's interesting to see how she shaped public perception of disability, simply because of her family connections. There's a fair bit of family history in the book, presented in a way that Rosemary is the center. It's tragic, for sure, but definitely worth the read. I held my breath in certain places. This book certainly hit close to home for me, maybe that's why I enjoyed it so much.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald. Maybe it was because I'd just finished the heavy story of Rosemary Kennedy, but I needed a light read, and this book was perfect. I love books about booksellers. I love quirky stories. I love small town Americana stories maybe best of all. I adored this book and it found me at just the right moment. It's about a Swedish girl who abruptly moves to a small town in Iowa and completely envelops the small town she resides in.

So there you go. I have a lot of reading experience. I am about to experience a lot more reading this year. I'll pass along the goodies, I promise. If I meet my reading goal, or even if I just get close, I'll be happy. Putting down the phone was the first (and hardest) step. I'll see ya when I can tear my eyes from my book.