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.

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.

Throwing Down a Rope

My therapist asked me once what would happen if I ever found myself bored.

And not in the simplest aspect of the word; but in a lack of chaos. An absence of turmoil and pain, at least on a regular basis. If you know me, or have read my entries, you know I’ve encountered some storms that should have toppled me. In humility, I acknowledge I’ve still had positives; and some of my experiences have been self-induced. It’s slightly frustrating that I feel I have to disclaimer my thoughts, but I don’t want anyone to find me self-absorbed. Just reflective, lost, unsure of what path my life is on sometimes.

I recently returned to therapy after taking a break, due to feeling as though it wasn’t helping me any further. Potentially detrimental, as it’s not as though my depression was “cured,” since that’ impossible. I can’t even say it was fully managed. My anxiety and panic attacks hadn’t necessarily dissipated, they still ran roughshod over my brain. Depression and anxiety still scurried away like cockroaches when I could find a way to turn the light on, but the room was often dark and I somehow just became even more adjusted to the dim lighting.

As I spoke to my therapist, I said, “I’m bored. And you’re right, I don’t know what to do with myself or how to face life.” How selfish of me. To have things going okay and I find dissatisfaction in it. Yet, I also realized there are larger issues at hand.

I’m entirely neutral and shut down; I’m numb and I didn’t even realize it was happening to me. Self-preservation. I’m not sure when just getting by became how I function. I imagine the death in my life, the emotional breakdowns and recovery from them; the emotional toxicity I was exposed to all wore me down. Somewhere along the way, instead of getting stronger, I simply just started maintaining. Surviving.

I’ve always appreciated every aspect of my senses. Emotionally, I found the ties to physical effects from happiness, joy, fear, pain, etc. were what kept the experience of life complete. When you’re encountering joy and your chest swells and it feels as though a wave is rising from your stomach to your heart. It’s often momentary, but it’s there. Or the clench of your chest when you’re afraid and experiencing the fight or flight reaction to a questionable experience.

Those are gone. And I miss them. I feel broken; even more so than usual, yet I appear whole on the outside. A mirage. I still feel what I know; my depression, because it’s a mainstay. Disappointment, because it’s a common theme. My life isn’t shitty; I just can’t seem to be able to open myself to that idea or that realization.

I drink to shut the wallowing off. I drink because it’s what I know; yet it makes me irritable; it decimates the work I’ve done to get my body in shape and it often just leaves me feeling additionally depressed and run down. (Shocker that a downer might have that effect, right?) Sometimes I think it’s because my vices are one of few forms of chaos I have left. I became so used to riding tidal waves that now that the waters only throw me an occasional wave, I don’t know who I am. I live in this endless cycle of saying I’ll get back on track; yet I find myself only doing that in some ways and letting the other negative choices stay where they are. I’m excellent at making excuses for myself and fantastic for essentially justifying a negative choice.

I’m disappointed in myself for not pursuing more of my interests that keep me whole. I don’t write, though it used to make me feel as though I was accomplishing something. Yet it’s incredibly easy for me to explain to myself that maybe I’m not as good at it as I think. I can easily tear myself down in regard to my skills.  I don’t get out of the house as much as I yearn to; there’s just a mental exhaustion I carry around with me that makes me find excuses out of it. I often find myself questioning what kind of friend I am, because it seems at some point I became a less than exemplary one for various reasons. I’m caving to my depression because sometimes it feels like a comfortable friend and I don’t really know how to find the other side lately.

I’m going through the motions and it terrifies me. I used to be able to carry the negative with me; yet allow the positives to shine through. I want to laugh freely and with vivacity again. Find the intensity with which I used to approach life. Find my balance; knowing that my mental health will never be free of some of the shackles, but that I used to be able to dig up the key to free myself most of the time. I’m failing myself; I’m letting down my kids. I’m not being the friend I once was. I’m not me, and I don’t know how my strength allowed this to happen. How it slipped away without me even seeing it happen. I’m watching myself, instead of being myself. I used to chase rabbit trails in my thoughts; in my writing and now I have simply fallen down the rabbit hole. This is one of the first times I’ve written these thoughts out, shared them and not found a resolution. There is no tidy ending; not epiphany. I;ts not even my best writing.

I’m simply expressing myself because it’s a little piece that takes me back to where I once was. I’m yelling up from the rabbit hole in hopes maybe I can start to climb out. But I’m the only one who can throw me a rope, and I’m tired. So tired.

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.

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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.

 

A View from the Fork

I’m writing and re-writing this opening sentence, as it tends to be the springboard for the streaming rambling of my thoughts. My attempt at proper characterization of emotions is indicative of their actual definition. A gray area, written and re-written. Backspaced and re-typed.

I’m tired. I’ve said it more than people probably want to hear. I’m not entirely sure where it happened along the way. Single parenting, work, life, love; all topics that are nothing or out of the ordinary for really anyone. Yet I’m feeling swallowed whole. Somewhere along the way, I forgot who I wanted to be or at least an attempt to claim it.

I’ve spent my summer deciding to have a clear mind, yet failing. Living the same cycle I’ve lived again and again. Determined to figure out who I am and own it; no second guessing or debating with myself over my significance.

I might have a good day with my kids, but focus on the bad ones. The rough drop offs; the therapy sessions where I uncover emotions I’m proud my kids understand yet defeated in that they face them. Find someone who cares, sabotage it. Whether it be through second guessing or a brick wall around my soul I’ve pieced together somewhere over the last few years. Through my realization that my beautiful empathy has seen better days. Weathered storms that tore my sails and made me dock the boat. I’m defeated; and it sucks, for lack of eloquence in speaking.

I miss my sparkle. My sass that broke through even the most difficult of moments. I’ve referenced my laugh that carries and I know is too loud. It seems to be in a place where I make it loud in nostalgia of when it was there with little effort. A heart I bear on my sleeve, both metaphorically and literally in ink. Yet right now, it seems to be below the surface of my skin, much like the tattoo mentioned in the last sentence.

There’s nothing to pinpoint being wrong, and that creates the biggest struggle. I battle stress I used to thrive on. I have trouble feeling sufficient as a parent; yet my kids are cared for and loved and I work hard to meet their emotional and physical needs. I have someone who cares for me; which I’ve lacked as of the last couple years, yet I pick at the tiniest fissure I can find in an effort to tell myself not to get comfortable. I’m 36 and I still can’t eat freely without wondering how much I’ll gain and how I’ll feel in the morning. I resist wearing what makes me happy in an effort to cover what is currently haunting my comfort level with myself.  I have friends who are real and substantial and matter and I pull away, to hide the immensity with which I battle myself regularly.

I share this often, and now it rings true:

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

I’m staring at this fork in the road, facing my path. Large grinned cat staring at me in the form of my doubt and questioning. My vulnerability to find myself on an unknown path that could mean I find the next phase that will bring me the peace I’ve sought. My acceptance to live one day at a time with whimsy and handle adulthood with one hand tied behind my back. I honestly don’t know what’s down the other path. It feels familiar. Like I’ve taken it before, and just keep following it to come back to the cat again and realize this fork has been my landmark through my life. I just don’t choose the other path.

This isn’t one I end with resolution. One of my more rambling pieces that visualizes what I’m trying to break through. How I’m trying to find my way out of this darker place and live like the person who has put it all out there before. Thrown caution aside and embraced the potential. I’m woeful of my fear because it means I’ve let it win. I’m not the same as I was before. I was much more. Muchier. I’ve lost my muchiness and I look to go the right way to find it and keep it much safer this time.

 

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.

 

Sweet Child O’ Mine

TY

I took a picture today. An idyllic, charming spring time portrait of a child’s whimsy. The kind of picture that you share and know becomes a moment of blue skies.

I didn’t share the photo, because it was forcing a moment. I was looking for something after struggling and it lacked substance and accuracy of the life snapshot.

As a parent, fear can be your greatest enemy. Fear of damaging the life you’re guiding and supporting. Melancholy at whether you’re doing it right; and the resounding realization that you’ll never truly know what right or wrong even mean in that role.

The child in that photo was transfixed on a popsicle; sun on his cheeks and determination in his posture. A bright spring day, which allowed kids to play outside and parents to enjoy the distraction.

The child in that photo has made me cry three times in the last week.

I know it’s possibly seen as irresponsible; potentially out of line to place blame on my child for tears. But just as my scolding can prompt hysterics in them, their interactions can sometimes bring me emotional breaks.

Children are bundles of unstable ends coming together. Forming the chapters that start the story of who they’ll be in the future. But for now they’re messy, raw, pure and kindling next to gasoline and matches.

He defies me, shows no remorse for actions, spits attitude at me with gusto and pomposity. He’s his mother’s child in his stubbornness, but hasn’t yet learned you can’t just use it in ways that don’t consider others.

And as I sit in the car, as he says he hates his brother and looks at me with intensity of disrespect, I break down. There has been minimal time I haven’t been raising my voice, or feeling exhausted or like sometimes the weight is a test I’m not sure I’ll ever stop taking.

As my parenting comes into doubt surrounding the situations, it’s very apt to bleed over to my everyday life and choices and doubting myself as a whole. Overanalyzing, mulling over as verbosely as I write.

I stared at that picture and behind it was capturing a moment I wanted to make normalcy while knowing I was merely hanging onto the pieces that gave me the heart swells. To balance the heartache at wanting to be perfect. Life metaphor, perhaps and cloying at that.

The same kid stands at the door, the door I’ve asked of them no less than fifty times to leave closed and he looks small and whimsical and pure. My heart fills and expands like a water balloon in my chest and I hug him. He tells me I’m his favorite thing. I want this to be my memento.

Moments later we hit the downswing and his impetuous actions arise that seem to be what I’m always battling and I feel the moment make me exhale with failure.

And these are our days, rushes of love from a truly kind soul that are combated by unbridled, complex emotional development at its messy worst.

There are the days where I just wonder if I’m fucking up the whole damn thing. Days where I realize there could be moments of this I reflect on when it’s been five, ten, twenty years and I won’t know the lessons until then. Moments where I hope I’m not the only one; that I’m not the roost cause and/or precipitant of what’s happening. Whether for the environment I provide; the selfish moments. If my hurdles have become theirs by default. The moments where I sit and absorb the moment and just feel helpless.

I want the knowledge that he is one of my favorite things be enough to make everything okay. The sage advice “this too shall pass” is slightly inaccurate. Because parenting doesn’t pass. That’s the best part of it. It’s always a part of you. You fight the fight together and come out on the other side hopefully as beautiful humans.

Your favorite things are sometimes your favorites because they’re not only unique to you; but also because they take more work to get and the reward is having them. Your favorite things are the pictures that are left behind. Childhood memories of bright blue skies.