Cheers

 

Today I am 52 days sober. I had planned to write this closer to the New Year’s Day. And I’m not sure I ever intended an outright declaration or “announcement” per say. But I posted an image on Instagram that hash tags a movement in the sober society and it got positive feedback and support. So here goes nothing. Or everything.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been known as a drinker. The girl who can drink long past most people. Someone who is in love with vodka, tight with tequila, besties with beer and whimsical with wine. In other words, my liver would take a beating and not say a word. The abuse I’d put it through was all in the name of fun. Or for the sake of chasing away a bad day. Of avoiding an unpleasant situation. Escaping anxiety, suppressing depression, avoiding life for just a few hours. Yet, all those things I was avoiding always seemed to come back the next day. Along with a wicked headache I’d laugh about. Pouring hair of the dog that would turn into a whole puppy.

I think there is a stereotype or a pigeon hole of what people think of as a drunk or an alcoholic. But there are so many degrees of having a problem with drinking (or any addiction, really). I was functional. I waited to get home from work to drink. I day drank on weekends if I wasn’t driving anywhere. But isn’t that what all the fun people do? I’d swear I was going to cut back after this day or that day. I was only going to drink every other day. I was only going to drink on weekends. I was only going to drink on days that had an 8 in the date. I was only going to have one drink. Or two. Yet somehow, I never seemed to make it to any of those goals. There were always excuses. It was a shitty day at work. I was upset with my current relationship and just needed to avoid it for the time being. My kids were being difficult. I was sad. I was happy. The sky was blue.

There are a variety of reasons I stopped. But honestly, one day I woke up, unsure of the night before. Panicked because I wasn’t sure what I had done now. Don’t get me wrong, this was something that happened on a regular basis by the time it got to the weekends. But this time felt different. There are reasons that are too personal to share here. But overall, I suddenly knew. I was never going to be able to moderate my drinking. I was always going to go out and be the one to push shots on people. The one to brag about how many I could take. I wore my tolerance like a badge, yet never realized it was a bandage covering a gaping wound I refused to address fully. I had mornings where my kids would remind me of things I had said or promised and I didn’t fully remember them. The shame of all of it would overwhelm me, my depression would plunge and I would ultimately and ironically suppress the resulting feelings by drinking again.

Yet, as I said, I was fully functional. The most people knew was that I enjoyed drinking. I could drink a lot. I would get liquor as gifts. Beer as thank you’s. Wine to improve a bad day. I was the girl who could keep up, who would always go out for drinks and who seemed okay with it. It was a large piece of my identity. Both to myself and others. Those who know me well know I struggled with the effects. They know I kept trying to quit. They’d listen to my laments over another foolish night. But what Jessica wants to do in the end is always what Jessica is going to do.

When I quit, it felt different than all the other times I had “quit.” It felt like the time I truly needed to. Over the first few weeks, my depression was completely manageable, with very few depressive episodes. The dark circles under my eyes started to fade. Stomach pain I had been experiencing disappeared (which I had even gone to the doctor for and pretended I had no clue what it was. But deep down, I knew). But my anxiety, life, my feelings, oh boy. I had clearly been chasing my anxious nature away with bottomless glasses of Absolut. High strung as a natural tendency, my anxiety was along for the ride like the drunk guy you have to cart home at the end of the night, puking in your backseat and passing out before you get to his place. There’s something I learned about in sobriety called the “pink cloud” and it’s essentially a feeling of euphoria as the weighted effects of alcohol leave your system. It’s when you start to feel all the things you’ve been avoiding, you learn happiness and everything is just there and intense. I have that. But I also now have the lows. The lows of realizing I have to learn how to face my anxiety without running away from it. When something makes me sad or mad or scared, I can’t avoid it with Cabernet. I have to break down each piece and understand what I can change and what I can’t. I have to be in control of my reaction and how I let it take me over or if I even let it into my mind in the first place. Tequila no longer gives me reprieve from feeling lonely. I’ve started tearing up at movies again because my emotions are becoming richer. A bad day sometimes leaves me with a full blown attack that I have to suppress completely so no one knows. Because I still have to function. I have to fight my addiction, carry on like a “normal” adult, be a parent, pay my bills, keep us all fed and clothed and safe. Sober. I can’t buy vodka on the way home. Funny story, I used to stop and buy myself alcohol for later, on the way to get my kids and I would pick up some juice for them at the same time. You know, to be nice to all of us. Maybe they had a rough day and needed some sugar (I’m kidding, simmer down). It was also to suppress the guilt I had over the stop I was making to begin with.

I fear future social settings as the novelty of my sobriety wears off and becomes a wet blanket to some. Don’t get me wrong my friends have been phenomenal. It truly is a part of this that has been much easier than I expected. One of my primary fears was losing people who would no longer see me as fun. Who wouldn’t get to know the sober Jessica. Who would have to find alternate presents to liquor. I luckily have surrounded myself with amazing people. Who are supportive and kind and loving and who don’t give a shit if I order a shirley temple at dinner. (And I don’t care if they order drinks.) Someday, though, there might be a situation where they may not know if I’m comfortable at an event and I may be omitted from the invites. But I’ve made this choice for my own personal health and path and I have to be okay with that. While dating has essentially fallen off the radar in the early part of sobriety as I’m learning who I am, and how to face the intricacies of the nuances of life, I do get lonely and it will come up. (But lesson from sobriety is dating inspired by loneliness is the never the right kind.) Yet, I know from a long history of dating that almost every meeting opener is “want to go have a drink?” As a result, I’m wary and curious how many will end before they’re even planned when I say “I don’t drink.” I mean, I’m well aware I’m fun sober, but alcohol has been welcomed as that social lubricant to the point of it being abnormal if you DON’T need it. But again, as with friends, I know it’s best to surround myself with those who understand my choices, support them and don’t try to dissuade me from doing what’s right for me.  I’m sure there will be more land mines along the way that I wasn’t expecting as I traverse this new trail. I’m going to trip, I’m going to be disappointed and I’m going to see all the things with new eyes.

The key to my success isn’t allowing fear to change my course. Because ultimately I know that fear is what got me here. Fear is what drove me to avoid everything I possibly could. Fear is how I no longer know who I was.

Now, I find out who I am. I’ll let you know about what I find along the way.

The Behinder We Get

“I don’t have time for this.”

If I had counted the number of times I said that phrase this morning, yesterday, last weekend, etc. I likely would have lost count by the second day. Sadly it’s a phrase often uttered to my kids and as the spontaneous words come out of my mouth each time, I cringe a little as they stack up.

What don’t I have time for? To break up fights between two brothers? To calm crying over something seemingly irrational, but very serious to a child? To not subdue my irritation due to lack of sleep and a child not listening? Fearing running late as though what I have to go to is more important than an extra 30 seconds with someone who calls me their most favorite mom ever.

And it’s not even always children I think this phrase slips out around at one time or another, or at least passes through our mind. Friends whose perceived drama just seems to be more than we want to get into. A family member who wants to chat on the phone. Waiting in line for that fourth cup of coffee, you really don’t need, but your productivity does.

We’re all human, and as parents we’re sometimes feral humans trying to figure what the hell we’re doing and then doubting it all five minutes later. Driving away from the school, having left a child who probably needed one more hug, but after five hugs we once again panicked over that meeting we were going to be a minute late for. In the moment our frustration, our urgency and the speed at which we have to live life took over.

What haunts me, what sits with me in the back of my mind in that meeting I ended up being ten minutes early to after all, is what happens when that lack of time is directed towards us. When our children are adults and we try to call, but they live their own lives and have their own perceived time constraints and text us to tell us “I don’t have time right now.” That moment when we’re struggling and we need a friend, but our friends aren’t available and we realize we don’t have anyone who does have time for us. When we lose someone and realize we don’t get to have that time we thought we didn’t have back.

In the end, and cumulatively, the person we end up having the least amount of time for throughout these proclamations, is ourselves. If we convince ourselves we don’t have time for our children, our friends, our family, we lose time later fretting and worrying and wandering through a guilt trip we wish we didn’t make time for. Regrets are what eat away at the time we could be using to make up for those moments our life impedes our ability to slow down.

Don’t get me wrong. Parenting can be exhausting and we’re completely justified in getting worn out. There are times we just can’t dedicate the right amount of availability to that friend who needs us, or we’ve already helped them through this situation multiple times or we have our own shit going on. Those moments we don’t have time for are sometimes justified. They’re natural and just a part of the constraints of life.

If we stop for a minute, and really think about each time we’ve said it, we may find that we did have time. However, what may have been missing is our ability to truly handle that moment. Uncertainty as to how we should respond to children fighting. Anger at them not listening. A lack of words for the friend who needs us. Again, ultimately, it’s us we’re not making time for.

We all move so fast, so urgent, always late. We’re perpetual White Rabbits from Alice in Wonderland and the hurrier we go, we think the behinder we get. Perhaps the reason we say “I don’t have time for this” to children so often is because they haven’t yet learned that it’s possible to run out of time. Or at least have the perception that there are more important things than the very present moment we’re in at any given time. Maybe our mental reaction to a friend in need is an eye roll and begrudging tolerance because we can’t handle the emotion of knowing we’re worried about them. That we know what we think we’d do in the same situation, but watching someone else need to learn what they should do can be taxing. Instead of taking a deep breath and knowing we each live our own lives the way we need to survive and maybe their survival and path towards a solution is in fact having us to reach out to. The relative who calls and wants to chat on the phone is someone who appreciates that familial bond and wants to connect accordingly.

Perhaps, what we don’t have time for, is proper perspective of time. What it means. The understanding that it disappears. We can’t get it back. It doesn’t mean we won’t still get irritated, we don’t still have responsibilities that require punctuality. That we do have a friend we truly can’t help anymore simply out of a need for boundaries. But in the grander scheme of things, we can probably reduce what we think we don’t have time for. Maybe half of the moments are ones we can stay in. That half will give us all the time in the world.

It Can’t Rain All the Time

This storm was predictable. Hints of a sharp current in the air; energy bouncing off the trees. Her brain signaling that the clouds were rolling in. The precursors making it clear she could only find shelter, not flee what was overhead. In the past, the storms had battered her and the rain had been torrential and the sadness had washed over her.

She knew it was coming because the changes had started with her. The atmosphere was her comfort level with life. Even if it wasn’t that comfortable; any disruption was sure to affect the air and potentially leave her to encounter what was ahead without the buffer of the temperature she had grown used to.

What she knows is this. Sometimes we come upon a crossroads. One way, is what we know. The other, could be a road previously traveled and it could be an entirely new pathway. More than likely it’s all a part of the same forest; one we’ve known the entirety of our lives. But there are parts of it we’ve never entered; trees we’ve never seen and walkways that haven’t bore our footprints. The sun may filter through spots where the trees aren’t as connected and we may come across clearings where we can bask in the warmth and have our way lit with what seems like all the rays the sun has to offer.

Other times, it’s dark in that forest. And we walk a path we’ve been walking for what seems like ages, and thunder cracks and rumbles. The only light guiding us are the flickers and the flashes of lightning. Bolts streaking across the sky showing us what’s barely in front of us and leaving us back in the dark as they just as quickly disappear. We weather these storms with what we’re carrying. Our fortitude to find shelter. Our logic to know it can’t rain all the time. Understanding that eventually the sun will break through the clearings again, and the latticework of the treetops that let that light in will paint their intricate patterns.

We decide how we brave the downpours that batter the forest and block off paths and flood some of our old walkways. Sometimes trees fall in these storms that give us a bridge to find a way to another part of where we’re going. Only if we notice these brand new pathways and understand it’s where we’re headed next. However, sometimes, it’s so dark up ahead, crossing that tree takes us somewhere there are no clear paths. The underbrush is still flourishing and overgrown. The smattering of brightness through the tallest of the trees isn’t certain. We don’t know how many storms we’ll endure in these parts of the forest.

Whether she knew this storm was coming or not, she still has to get through it. Figure out where the trees may fall and what gets washed away in the end. She knows if she stays out in the open, she risks it all. Should she choose to not seek the shelter right in front of her, she may not realize until it’s too late that she was guiding the way for the other travelers walking alongside her, behind her, ahead of her. In her footprints, or conversely clearing some of the pathways so she doesn’t have to, just as she has unknowingly been doing for them.

There are some days she’s tired of walking. Some where she just wants to stay in the shelter she’s found until the next storm rolls around instead of forging ahead. There are other moments she languishes in the light she sees and embraces it. Instead of thinking to the next rain, or lightning, or darkness, she basks in the momentary warmth. Feels every beam on her skin, looks ahead to that next path she sees. Realizes how alive the forest is around her. Knowing the next storm could keep her sheltered for longer than she’d like, she’s finding these moments to cling to, the further into the woods she gets.

Storms bring change. They renew the earth and the rain nourishes its surroundings. Making everything stronger. Including her. She just has to see it through, to find the flowers growing down the next path she’s on. Because sometimes the patter of the rain on what’s overhead reminds her that she’s been through enough storms and eventually, they stop. Sooner or later, she can keep on her way, finding that next fallen tree or a clearing that is filled with the sun. This shelter is okay. Eventually the rain will slow and the clouds will move away and the noises around her will be of life. Washed clean, ready to find the next part of the forest.

A Boring Old Blog

I was lamenting to a friend today about some choices I had been making and where she found strength to fight her similar demons. Her wisdom was simple and straightforward. Honest as you hope your friends will be. I’ve watched this long-time friend find her way over the last two years or so. We’d always been a little crazy; fun always found us and we always found fun, but not without its caveats. She reached a point where she had stumbled, but suddenly her strength found her and she approached life with a new mindset. I watched her set goals, and reach them. She’d then add more goals, and reach those, too. She grew into herself and I truly was watching her blossom into her own; which at our age, apparently we’re already supposed to have done.

I won’t lie, I was even a little jealous.

I’ve always had discipline. However it’s quite easy for me to talk myself out of some of it. Rationalize it. Just like writing. I love writing. It defines me, it allows me to express myself and it’s helped others. This same friend convinced me maybe I should be doing it more often. In fact, she does that often. When I logged in to my blog admin panel, the first thing I saw was how long since I’d been by to visit my words and add more. And as I sorted through my comments section, and deleted all the spam; I saw one that was either spam or real. Either way, the minimal wind in my sails died down to incredible stillness to a point where I felt as though my boat was stuck on the water. It honestly may as well have just sunk. The comment said that my last few posts had been boring. That they used to like my writing, but I had been off lately. I don’t even know this person. I re-read my last couple and shoot, I thought they were still good. But it was enough for me to wonder if I should even bother.

Now I realize how much I’m doing that to myself. Defeat. Looking for an easy way out or pretending I’m seeking answers, but I’m really just running from the ones I don’t want. I consistently talk about the hurdles I face, the strength I find in jumping them and some of the messes along the way. Not to mention how many times I’ve face planted instead of jumping them. While some situations have happened to me, it truly all is in how you handle it and perhaps I’m still hanging on to them more than I think. I’m going through the motions again, in a moment of simply surviving and as many times as I’ve written about moving past that, here I find myself.

It’s truly an experience to watch another person find who they are. Even more so than experiencing yourself doing it because you can see it with objectivity and compassion. Empathy and love for them that’s often so easy to avoid altogether when it comes to ourselves. Even as we find our way, I think we tend to; or at least I tend to still find the faults and flaws in our course. I’m aware enough to know this is all hitting me because I’m nearing 40. Which is absolutely terrifying. Following my most recent birthday, a strange calm settled over me. A drive to accept myself. A passion to find peace and accept what I cannot change and change the things I can.

It lasted about four days. Small things started to happen, and I righted my course, and then larger things happened and I said screw the damn course and I went back to just getting by. Yet, something stopped me from sinking fully back to just living minimally. I presume my kids are part of it. My age is another.  I started to realize how much my sons are seeing of how I get through life. This was one of the catalysts to my friend’s journey as well. She loves her children fiercely and deeply and she knew her path wasn’t one she wanted to find herself at the end of once her children were grown. I know this not only because she told me, but because I have those same feelings and emotions. An understanding that even when Ty thinks it’s funny to say asshole, or Dylan kicks the wall in anger or they both lose their shit on the way to school, they’re still good kids and it’s my job to raise them right. But also, because this part of life, just like all the others is mine. Each part is. And I’m going to reach a point where I look back and see what I could have done differently for myself and regret is a wicked retirement partner.

I realized as I was watching my friend flourish, and cheering her on and supporting her and loving her evolution; I was simply standing by when I could have been following her lead. Using the inspiration from her to find my fire and live as I wanted. Realizing what she was attaining wasn’t impossible. It didn’t mean I had to set exactly the same goals; but I could stop languishing and start flourishing.

I know, I know. Same shit, different day. Especially if you’ve followed my blogs along the way. (Boring as they may be. Haha.) So I think instead of ending this with some type of resolution; any type of prophetic wisdom, I’m going to highlight the importance of admiration and encouragement. Don’t just see your friends; watch them. Not in a creepy way, unless they’re into that. If you can’t be your own inspiration, be their cheerleader. Support them while they strive towards their goals. Maybe it’s not about you for a while. Maybe it needs to be who you are for others. Perhaps that’s how you find your way. Maybe you’ll find that what you were cheering them on for is something you can cheer yourself on for down the road. Not to mention, if you see it from the perspective I’ve painted above; they are likely not as prone to seeing their success objectively. Don’t be afraid to tell others what you respect in them; to share honesty without fear; but be there if it’s not quite what they were hoping to hear, so they know you still love them. Find your strength in knowing you give of yourself, and you might just find yourself along the way. Still maintain your own courage and tenacity, but maybe for one day or one hour or one minute, lighten up on yourself and project the happiness you’re seeking onto others because they may be seeking the same. Perhaps in the reflection, you’ll see who you are.

An Open Letter to My Kids

kids

 

Dear boys,

As a mom, I know that I am your stability in this world. I keep you safe, I keep you fed and clothed and sometimes I spend too much at an arcade because picking toys you’ve won lights up your faces. I took on the responsibility of bringing you into this world and know that means seeing you through every piece of it.

As babies you never slept. Some nights I had no idea how I was going to make it the next day on one hour of sleep. I’d stare at your cherubic little face in the 2:00 a.m. quiet as we rocked and I’d beg you to please try sleeping. Close your eyes and rest and let me rest so we could start again the next day. Sometimes I got mad, sometimes I cried; there were times I found myself pleading with a two month old realizing how little that was going to do. I loved you through all of it.

As you grew and as I grew and started to realize that the opportunity I had received to stay home with you wasn’t fulfilling me, I started to question myself. What kind of mother doesn’t want to keep that opportunity to be around you at all times. Who was I to want to go back to work when I had the chance to always be the one you woke up to and played with and learned with. I selfishly worried what I had done to my career by staying home. How would I find something new and make the decision to send you to strangers every day. I worried I had failed you by staying home when I wasn’t equipped to. Feared I wasn’t teaching you enough or letting you flourish. I spent so much time feeling out of place. Uncertain where I belonged. But I loved you deeply and immensely and without fail, every second of every day.

When I re-entered the working world, I wondered if it would work. Feared I may not be able to make it all flow smoothly. How often would I be able to pick you up if you were sick. My mind raced with all the things that can happen in daycare, positive and negative. Other kids could be mean, you could get hurt. Almost worse, you could get your feelings hurt. What if the teachers looked the other way at the wrong time. All while realizing I was facing proving myself to my employer and demonstrate why I was a value, after being out of the working world for an extended period of time. I didn’t know if those two years had done any damage to my success when I already started out with hurdles ahead of me. But being successful was a must. I had to do my best for myself and for you. You were always my priority. Always my driving force.

About a year later I made an incredibly difficult life choice and put you both in a confusing, hard to explain position. You were going to have two homes. Your mom and dad would have separate time with you. I had no idea how it would all work. And looking into the faces of two children under four and attempting to explain divorce will always be one of the more difficult periods of my life. You truly had no concept of what was happening. Just that your whole world was upending. All while mine was as well. I was lost, sad and trying to find my way. Keeping my head above water and still giving you the best life. I couldn’t tell you any of this, I couldn’t talk to you about those rough moments, the tears, the ugly times. I was strong for you and remained your pillar even if I was usually crumbling and patched together with crappy glue and duct tape. You were my hearts and you were what mattered.

As my life went on, and you got older, I made some pretty stupid choices. I had some life moments that are still bewildering. More hurdles, more difficulty and more sadness. But you couldn’t see that. You couldn’t be privy to those moments because you needed to know everything would be okay. I was a crumbling façade and at times you saw my weaknesses. You saw my tears and my pain and my inability to hold it together. But I kept you safe, I kept you happy and I loved you. With all of me.

During all of this, I suddenly found myself in a position of explaining death to two kids under five. Ty, with a crayon sticking out of his ear, not really understanding why we couldn’t see Grandpa anymore. Where had he gone, why did he leave. Would he be sad now that he was all alone. I kept my composure, but let you see me sad and told you how that part of life works. Even when months later we’d drive by a cemetery and you’d ask if Grandpa was coming back some day.  In that moment, I made sure you knew that Grandpa loved you very much. That he thought the world of you and that would never change.

As time has gone on, and I’ve seen how the world can be, the good and the bad, and I try to not let you see some of my latent cynicism. I don’t want to spoil any of the world for you, while your eyes still see good and your brain still processes primarily innocence.

When kids were mean to you, Dylan, I felt a rage I’ve never felt. I hurt and I cried and I wanted to put you in a little bubble and keep you with me always. But I knew that wasn’t the best way to see you through this part of life. I restrained from finding those kids and telling them they were not nice. I didn’t call their parents and ask what the hell they were doing. I got you through it. Knowing it will happen again. It’ll happen to both of you. And I have so much to fear sending you out into this big, sometimes scary world, but if I share my fear I don’t set you up for the best life you can have. If I scare you, your fear becomes too large for your hearts and that’s not what a mom wants. That’s not how I help you flourish.

As I’ve faced more difficulties, I hold it together because that’s what I do as a person. But also what I do for you. Knowing that my strength will be what you carry with you, always. The moments you see my emotions, good or bad, are the moments that shape you. Prepare you. Show you my love. Show you love in general.

Life’s going to be a real asshole sometimes. It’s going to knock you down, only to push you back down once you brush yourself off and get back up. It might do it multiple times until you just don’t know if you can get back up. But you do. Because that’s living. That’s knowing that when you didn’t realize it, you had friends helping you back up. You had family making sure you could stay up. And bandaging the wounds from falling in the first place. Life will be unfair, it will hurt, but it will also be great, wonderful and beautiful, if you let it. I’m still figuring out how that works myself sometimes. When you’re in the dark, wandering and lost, just know the sun has to be somewhere. The light has to be in a place you’ll eventually find it. Don’t give up. It’s not who you are and it’s not who we are. Because together we are strong. Together we can find our joy and what makes us who we are.

Don’t let anything stifle you. Don’t let pain guide you in the wrong direction. Keep your beauty and I can only hope the kindness I’ve tried to instill in you. I hope that as life goes on, I can continue to be your rock and the person you know isn’t perfect, but tries her damn best at everything. I hope you’re not embarrassed of my failings and while I would never tell you this now, because I know it’s unfair, sometimes it’s you two and only you two who are the reason I get back up, brush myself off and ask “What’s next.”

Because I love you and I always will.

Parks and Puppies

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

As another birthday passes, I tend to have high hopes in that this is the year I get my shit together. Sometimes I feel like I have most of it at least contained, but for a good portion of the time, it’s still the same uphill battle. My well-earned façade is great at first glance, yet it masks more than anyone would guess on some days. It’s like shutting a bunch of puppies in a room together. If you’re outside, it’s just a closed door. But inside it’s probably one big mess.

I’ve finally, after 20 years, figured out how to manage my eating disorder. The one that has made me hate myself every day I look in a mirror; throw tantrums over how my pants fit and essentially decimates the rest of the day. It’s exhausting to live in constant dislike for everything you see when you look down. To wage mental abuse for how I’m shaped. I’ve longed for (and had) bones extruding, knowing that’s not my body type. I feel massive guilt if I’ve crossed any food boundaries. Yet, within the last year, I’ve reached a point where I’ve been able to move past some of that. I eat meals, and sometimes I even let myself eat before noon. I’ve learned to be okay with what size I wear and if certain pants don’t fit, to just not wear them. These are huge strides for me that have taken so much work; so much rationalization and constant, unending dedication to preserving my self-worth.

There are trade-offs, though, as none of this is without negotiation with the thoughts that linger. These allowances are all as long as I continue working out. So I’m still striking deals with myself, but they’re healthier than striking the deal to avoid food to make up for any I’ve allowed. Yet I still find times where it would be easier to be waif thin; going against my athletic pre-disposition. Making sure I work out, so I can eat still feels like a compromise with my disorder and at times it’s just exhausting. I don’t just work out to stay “thin” or to eat, I do appreciate how strong it makes me feel and the progress I can see myself make. But the caveats are still there, latent because of how I’m wired.

Despite my affinity for working out and desperation to just accept who I am, I find myself sabotaging it consistently with poor outlets and vices that quiet my brain. These vices tend to negate any hard work or effort I make to stay healthy and be happy with myself and go against the thoughts demonstrated in the above rambling. Therein lies the crazy circle that is my brain. It’s like an amusement park. A really lame one. Where the rides are all broken. Every week I set new goals, or measures of moderation. Every week I slip far away from those intentions and set new goals for the next week. Excuses, rationalization, promises, etc. are all my tools of holding off another week on making those difficult choices to limit myself.

As the above starts to crumble, my depression sets in further, like fish hooks, curving back in which makes them much more difficult to remove. The smallest things trigger my anxiety and dark feelings and it compounds in that same little amusement park. Suddenly it all feels out of control, unsettled, like happiness is too far reaching of a goal and the rollercoaster is stuck at the top and none of us have safety restraints on.

Now, at this age, that usual, familiar cycle is wearing out but beyond that, now I feel like I’m too old to ride this ride. Yet I can’t shut it off and it’s often going too fast to jump off. Even as much as I champion for acceptance of mental illness and struggles, I still lambaste myself for experiencing them at times. Why can’t I get myself under control, why does self-harm have to cross my mind as an option. Will I be 60 years old and experiencing suicidal ideation? I sometimes want to just stomp my feet, and say it’s not fair because I truly don’t know what else to do to manage it.

I certainly don’t intend this to sound self-absorbed or whiny; more in that when I’m struggling, I really struggle. I’ve done such an okay job of managing it and learning the best ways to do so, that if I’m crumbling, it’s been a long time coming. My mental health collapses are now cumulative potentially due to ways I handle it, but also because I’ve learned to be strong through so much, I let less break me until I just don’t have any other idea how to maintain my composure.

This is probably the most selfish thing I’ve written in my blogs; the most juvenile and elementary. But I just want things to be fucking easy and maintain that smooth flow for longer than the blink of an eye. While I understand that things aren’t all bad. I do have positives in my life, things I’m appreciative for and treasure. But mental illness and strife just doesn’t allow you to experience those. You’re too busy surviving invisible monsters who just don’t know how to stay under the bed.

Each time I write one of these darker pieces, I sometimes leave it unresolved. Other times I throw around magic fairy dust and claim I’m going to start living and stop fearing. This one, though, leaves me neutral. I’m admittedly struggling with my age and again, wondering if this is how I’ll continue through life. Stumbling, surviving and managing instead of thriving and enjoying the vibrancy that’s often dulled. What do you do when you feel as though you’re too old to be broken? There are paths I haven’t taken in life I’m starting to realize I may never get to and suddenly I face accepting my story. There’s been so much time spent learning from the last hurdle that the next one is upon me before I get to enjoy walking a road with no interruptions. As I get older I start to wonder if I bartered my happiness and levity in some unknown deal that has been wiped from my memory. That’s extreme, I know. But these are all the only ways I can truly express what goes through my mind during these bouts.

On this one, I really am lost currently. How do I find inner peace and learn to navigate depression and everything else in a way that I am able to find joy again. It’s there in little ways; my kids, a joke, that one moment where I’m okay with me. I’m striving for it to be there without interruption. For it to be easy. I know I can never be too old for any of the issues I face; but I do kind of wish I could “grow out of it.” It’s the part they don’t tell you, or at least broadcast as much. We’re stuck with these brains, and we can do all the work in the world and find progress and really apply therapy the best way possible. But we’re still all wired in that one finite way that certain aspects will find little flexibility and that’s not something we can grow out of. I’m seeking a balance and I desperately hope I find it before I age another year.

The Next Generation

I’m piecing this together from words I’ve said and expressed recently and it just seemed as though I’ve said so much, it was worthy of sharing.

Every damn thing we do stitches together another piece of what our life will mean to us. And what we can handle and who we want to be. You didn’t know if you could handle a situation like this, which is a generalization of life, and now you’re figuring it out. Do what you need to if you’re happy along the way. Happy is not always cut and dry or black and white. It’s intricate and edged with strange little facets.

Parenting is the one of the most difficult areas to know what you’re doing or even know if you are completely screwing up your kids for life. You find your happy moments in the good days, the days that follow the really bad ones where the simplest of improvements can turn everything around.

I got an email from Ty’s teacher this week that broke me a little. Ty, my high spirited, low attention span, impulse control lacking child who fears nothing and no one except at the most surprising moments. He’s loud and loving, forceful and kind. His heart breaks when you don’t ask if he’s okay should he trip or bump his arm or cough at the most random of moments. Wrangling his emotions is an incredibly confusing process for him and it leaves me wondering about the line of nature versus nurture. Whether I’m too kind of a parent in my soft-hearted motherly love or if I’m too stern for him to see the moments when I’m applauding a positive behavior. I spend more time disciplining him than I can rewarding him which leaves us in a paradoxical circle of not enough positive reinforcement because there’s never time and outbursts because he doesn’t get enough positive reinforcement.

He’s already been switched kindergarten classrooms due to some behavior issues (along with a few other kids). But also their inabilities to understand him. Granted, he’s a difficult kid. I love the shit out of him, but it’s so fucking hard. And I’m scared. Of his teenage years. Of his adult choices. Whether he’ll let me help when I need to or if he’ll carry my genetically shared stubborn nature, only learning lessons after the damage has been caused.

The email at hand: “…  I am emailing you today to tell you about an incident that happened during free play today. Ty was playing with a couple other students and I am not sure what happened between them, but it turned into a fight. Ty was standing over another student that was sitting in a chair and he was violently and repeatedly kicking the other student. I have written up an incident report as he was fighting. Ty knows this behavior is totally unacceptable at school. We will continue to help him follow the rules here at school. Please let me know if you have any questions.”

Yes, I have questions. Why choose to use the word violently with a six year old. I realize the difference between maliciousness and child’s play, but he’s six. It’s that fine line of schools being incredibly cautious about bullies in what has become a scary world in which to send your child to school. It opens your eyes when it’s your child who may potentially be targeted not as just as the bullied, but as the bully. And as his mother, I know he’s intense, I know he lashes out, but I also know he’s charismatic and kind; perceptive and complex. The combination is confusing for even him, I think.

It’s an intricately emotional feeling when your child is making you question everything. A deep down pain that makes your brain writhe in confusion and completely unavoidable and intricate heartbreak. All while having to be the adult who should resemble the sane, stable one. You’re doing the best you can yet it doesn’t seem enough. And pieces are broken in you and you see a break in your child, which I see in both of mine in different ways. You realize they may feel the pain or the upset in life you hoped to keep from them.

On the flip side and in my completely opposite battles of two entirely different personalities I’m responsible for, Dylan was terrified to go in the Halloween store the other day. He’s terrified of everything new or uncertain. And it’s him and he’s anxious and he paces and he hugs the parking lot sign post as he screams and hysterically fidgets as adults walk by and two year olds exit the store. In one of my weakest mom moments yet, I called him a wimp after ten minutes of trying to reason with him. I realized as the words left my mouth that it was primarily driven by my own fear of what this could mean in his adult life; his fear. His trepidation. His weakness, which isn’t a weakness at all, but a personality caveat that will likely continue his positive presence as a tender soul. And I cried and told him he couldn’t live life like this and be happy. And we left and I sobbed in the car, next to Dylan full of fear, and Ty who had trotted through the store with no fear at hand. Who had come out multiple times to convince his older brother it was okay inside and he would keep him safe. I felt I had failed my child somehow. In a way I’d never identify. I’d never make mentally tangible; but that would make me doubt who I am as a mother. Because I love the shit out of my kids. Pure, unadulterated, confusing for emotional adults, raw love. And I had let my own fears allow me lose sight of how to comfort when I needed comfort instead. Parenting doesn’t inhibit selfishness. It just makes you realize how terrible it is to allow it to speak for you. In the end, I just wanted him to be okay. I wanted to take his fear and give him my bravery. The badges of honor from walking through life’s fires.

As a parent you realize sometimes it’s going to be hard and scary and tumultuous because that’s just your story. But the complexities of your story are what makes it okay later. For some of us, parent and child are just each wandering with our demons and pitfalls and positives and delights and all the other little facets that will make us stronger later.

Everyone has skeletons in their closet and ghosts in the room, and the ones who turn a blind eye to the battles we all face stigmatize in their perfection proclamations. Leaving behind the brutally honest ones who present in a raw expression of what we battle and feel. We’re humans. Living, breathing beings who have no guide book, have no caretaker like less developed animals. Yet who says we’re not our own animalistic iteration? As feral as that makes it sound, we’re bumbling around the same confusing navigation. Some ignore that, some realize it to a fault, some fail at it and we all bounce off each other’s little bubbles and shift the placement of humanity and interaction.

It’s weird. And it’s hard when you recognize it all. When you feel it all.

And when you recognize you’re responsible for raising the next ones to continue the cycle and evolution.

Untitled

The air conditioner kicked on, its slight rattle either from her poor installation or just its standard machinery awakening. The air conditioner would only be needed for a few weeks longer. Summer passed like that, by degrees and the reduced layers of clothing; in moments that somehow seemed emphatic when bathed in sun.

Summer was nearly over. She thought about what summer had come to mean, as an adult.

Your days still go on; you’re still following nearly the same schedule. If there are children, you try to find more time for them when it’s available, yet realize too late that you haven’t.

This summer seemed lost to her in a way. A blur of confusion, choices, fear, laughs, reassurance, stress and aimlessness.

She had survived, she had fought, taken a chance. Yet, somewhere along the way, she felt sad.

Sad that she hadn’t done enough. Diminished in her ability to be the parent she wanted to be. Hell. The person she wanted to be. Worried that she had worried too much. Certain she’d continued patterns she’d hopefully outgrown.

At an age where it all felt in the balance. You keep learning as you go, but the more lessons you encounter, the more chances you’re hampered by the weight of experience.

She spun in the chair, where she had sat far too long; yet was too tired to do otherwise. Worn out by her thoughts and her days. Thoughts whirling enough to just bump against each other at this point. Somehow summer’s vigorous energy felt as stunning yet cloying as the chilly air ahead.

For some reason she identified this as a pinnacle summer. No rhyme or reason. No inclinations how that would even be defined. But the same patterns, the same choices had led here. To a point where she wanted to ensure the experience was rewarding.

She knew she could potentially feel that way for the rest of her summers and maybe that was the idea. She wondered if she was missing the point.

Closing her eyes, she thought about what she wanted. She only knew the basics. To love and be loved. To be happy and know kindness. She wanted to know her children knew how important they were even if her skills in showing it were less than fine-tuned.

She wanted habits that haunted her to diminish in their hold; yet wondered sometimes if that’s what her identity stood on. She sought to feel content in a human way instead of constantly dissecting the flaws, real and perceived. Knowledge that it had started to get better because it was supposed to.

The fatigue from this many summers was catching up. Time doing its diligent best to tick down. She found she was focusing on the fears instead of relishing what emotions and experiences can inspire fear. Sometimes they’re not negative; just so your gut knows the difference between wanting to fight or finding flight away from what’s in front of you.

She sighed as she realized she’d always known, there would just come a point where she took ownership of the knowledge. How she could possibly have been missing the story, when she was the story.

Yet it all still made little sense. What seemed like it should be a somehow tangible thought was no more able to be held than the humid air outside.

So here she sat. Wondering how the answers were supposed to come to her when she was too afraid of actually looking for them. Too tired to pursue accomplishment and satisfaction.

Realizing she’d sat out the summer. With no self-pity for doing so; in that she wouldn’t wallow. What remained was what she would take with her to each season that followed.

She stood and opened the door.

 

36 Candles

We all get a little introspective as our birthday approaches, right? Or maybe that’s just me. It’s just a day, after all. 24 hours. The sun rises and sets and we do what we do on any other day that isn’t reminiscent of the day we arrived.  Mad, confused, our warmth disturbed. A familiar place where we developed gone. Welcomed into the arms of those who created us.

It’s that day that it begins. We won’t know until much later how significant it is. What we’ve been handed in life. We plod our way through first steps; first day of school. That moment when we realize our complexities are growing; that our choices have rewards and consequences. The choices become more and more significant as we age.

Our personalities grow, some of us stumble. Make harmful choices. We realize how scary life is; the dangers the world hides. The fragility in our being becomes so painfully obvious. Hopefully we get to the point where we find the glimmers, the friends, simple beauty and what makes our heart swell in our chest. What gives us the warmth that overwhelms in all-encompassing moments and the giddiness in our souls. The pieces we use to keep us whole when we could easily break in our humanity.

I’ve spent parts of my life wondering what the hell I’m doing. Parts feeling every emotion feasible. Struggling, thriving, stumbling and just being. I’m old enough that perceptively and characteristically I should have it all in place. Yet I continue to find that I’m starting over. Making mistakes and taking a step backward all while leaping forward in strength. I’m a parent who doubts my child-rearing abilities. I’m a friend who consistently hopes I’m doing enough. A human who feels like I’m not sure my significance in the bigger picture, yet finding the moments when I can smile and feel okay for the time being.

I’m not old, but I’m starting to reach the point where I’m not technically “young.” I worry that I’ll never not feel selfish in doubting who I am, given that I’m here and for that I should be grateful. My intensity can be cloying, my weirdness puzzling, possible a deterrent. When I love, which is freely and often, I split open my heart and leave it on the table knowing it can be easily knocked aside. My company can be thrilling, intoxicating and also calming and kind. I fight my demons and satiate my vices. Sometimes clarity comes to me in the moments I eschew distractions and escapes and I realize I’m really just trying to be someone I’m proud of, yet I’m disappointed when I worry I’ve come too far to get there, or rather, maintain it.

We’re all the same, foundationally. Body parts, feelings, interactions, and our own choices to do with that bundle of person that was what came together as we grew in that one place where it was hardest to hurt us. Each of us has love to give, and in some cases sadly disregard in favor of toxicity and venom. We’re an unpredictable being with autonomy we can use or abuse.

I’ve reached the point where the little things have to matter. What are seemingly blips that can carry significance when we reflect. What made us smile; what inspired a gut laugh that carried over the room. When our hearts are touched unexpectedly and momentarily. Love lost is still love possessed even if it runs its course or ends bitterly. What was once there is what was supposed to be as we piece together the progression to our next mile marker. There are things that surprise us when we’re low that can be seemingly innocuous. The hug that healed; the anger that expressed turmoil and discontent, yet also healed at the same time. Who we have in our life, whether it’s groups of varying personalities or those few who know us and who are like us or are our complementary opposites. Those we’ve chosen to have in our life and reciprocally choose to remain. Who sees us through the dark days, delights in the bright, silly times. Those who can handle our intensity if we’ve been given that proclivity. The simple kindness of others that isn’t shown in grand gestures, but honest ways that define our presence to them. The forgiveness of children when they tell you they love you, moments after you feel as though you’ve failed. Still in the pure points of their life where the complications haven’t increased or become so affecting of them. Birthdays ahead and mountains to climb, to fall from, to stop mid-way out of breath.

I’m getting older, yet sometimes I still feel like I’m not an adult. Both in carefree and sometimes precarious ways. And honestly, while sometimes I second guess it, I also own it. When I seek perspective, I don’t want to regret my depression because it makes me really focus on what makes me happy. It makes me respect my strength and my tenacity to not just give up. I don’t want to negate previous loves, because they’ve given me pieces that have shown me joy, pain, confusion, and moments I never could have predicted, both good and bad. I don’t want to fear being alone because it’s how I know who I am and what will fulfill me in a positive way, should it ever come my way again. I want people to know I appreciate them, I want my friends and family to know I love them. I want my children to know they mean the world to me and I’ll do everything I can to express all of that openly. I hope to continue finding the smallest moments instead of seeking out the monumental occurrences. I hope to continue diminishing the insecurity that has eaten up so much of previous years and embrace what matters. I want people to know they’re important, and I want to make myself important to me.

Anecdotally, my son has this trait where literally every time he’s using the bathroom, he tells me he loves me. This is my high strung, bundle of fire child who never stops moving. For some reason, when he’s in the moment of doing something we all do, and has to stop, his thoughts come to him and he expresses it. And as weird as that analogy is, it’s endearing. Humanity has those things we’ve all decided are taboo, what we don’t discuss, but we all know we do it. But those little things are what make us the same. I certainly don’t plan to yell to everyone in my life that I love them from the bathroom, but it’s the idea. When you slow down, let your thoughts come to you, express them. Take advantage of those chances you have to appreciate what you have, and by whom you’re surrounded.

Most of all, who you are and who you want to be, each time you blow out the candles.

 

Life –

 

the letter

 

What are you doing with your dash?

If you know me, you assume I mean that completely inappropriately.

But this time I don’t. A good friend helped me see the side of this thought. Good friends are your heart. Your saving grace. Your life jacket.

Your dash is the point between the beginning and the end. It’s what you see on a gravestone. Birth to death.  The date you were born to the day you reached your end point. No one likes to talk about that end point.

Death. It’s so heavy. Somber. Scary. But it’s a fact of life. Sometimes it comes early. Other times it’s late, which is quite subjective based on what we want. It’s surprising, selfish, peaceful, chaotic, and so many more adjectives than we can express or come up with words for. It inspires grief, which is a monster in itself. Pain, hurt, closure, completion.

As someone who battles depression and is fairly open about it, death is a factor in thoughts that make you want to shake its hand. Is that selfish, completely. But it’s inexplicably and painfully something that crosses the lost person’s mind.

As someone who fights and conquers life’s darker moments, I’m ready to share something I’ve alluded to. Something I’ve touched on. A piece that has been the larger half of my puzzle.

When you need saving, you look to those who have either lost the battle, this time out of perspective or additionally you seek those who want you to be here.

I’m going to share a letter from someone who just couldn’t find those moments of peace. Those life jackets. Someone I loved deeply. Who was troubled and conflicted and made mistakes.

This letter hangs with me. It stops my own choices of selfishness. Whoever loves me going forward will have to accept this as a part of me. But this is a part of my dash. This supplements my story. It saves me.

The image included is an actual picture of what I’m about to share. It’s raw. It definitely happened. I’m sharing this because we’re all human. Very few loved ones of suicide victims get this. Very few. But I did. And I’m sharing it. Openly. Finally.

 

“Jessica,

I’m not really sure where to begin. I’ve been wondering what to say to someone who has not only given my life purpose, a family and meaning… As I write this, I go back to memories of us, of our first date, of the late night “conversations” and it’s good. It makes me smile, and more than a little sad that I won’t be there for you in the years to come. You deserve to be happy and have someone by your side, but it won’t be me. I’ve struggled to fix my life for the last two years, and have contemplated, many times, on “checking out.” I’ve done well to hide it from everyone, but you always seemed to pick it up, when I was in one of my more pensive moods. That said, you have been the one constant that has kept me from acting on it until now. You and the kids showed me what it was like to have a family and made it easier for me to forget the past for a time. I will always love you and those boys for giving me that. Both the memories and feelings of a true family. The reason I left, the reason I’m no longer here is because I can’t get past the past. With my ex, my job, losing everything. I’ve said to you I don’t feel as though I had a purpose, which was only partly true. I lost something after the divorce, after another leaving me. Hope. Trust. A reason for being. Respect for myself or others. To this day I feel listless. Lost and can’t truly imagine a future beyond tomorrow. I used to wake up every day and feel nothing but heartache and despair. It’s what made me drink, smoke too much, lie to you and everyone else I knew. I’ve come to realize I’m living just to live. I plan, scheme, and view everything with a singular thought, myself. It’s no way to live. You are the one bright, trustworthy and unselfish part of me that still exists, and I hope that despise all of my flaws, that I was a good influence in your life as well as the boys. I love you so much, love them so much, it makes me cry to know what you will go through. I want you to know, you were always enough. You were always there for me. Stood by me, by us and for that I am forever grateful. In the end I was just to broken to fix.

I love you, Jessica, forever and always. Maybe one day we’ll see each other again. Take care of yourself and those boys and damn it, woman, you better eat!

Also, I found that shirt you were looking for, the blue sweatshirt. I’m holding it now, and god help me, it smells like you. I’m going to miss seeing your smiling face in the morning. Hugging you, catching your scent as you walk by. I’m glad I have this shirt and photos of you to look at as I drift off. It brings me peace.

I want you to have my tablet and accessories. I know it’s not much, but it’s all I have left to give. I only wish I’d had more…

I love you, hun. Please forgive me.

Fred.”

 

And his dash ended there. It was a part of mine. It always will be. It shapes me. It saves me.  I’m sharing as much to honor the pain there, as much as to show how it can feel to be in that place. It happens to so many of us. I was his saving grace until I no longer could be. We find our purpose and either hang on to it or we let it pass us by.

We’re all human. Strange beings who are just trying to find the happiness.

We have to make the in between whatever we can, while we can.