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.

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.

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.

 

Light My Fire

Life scurries by us like a child who has stolen a cookie; rushes by like traffic during our commute home. It passes us during the hours we count down through our daily life. We live in a flurry of responsibilities, obligations and sometimes just functioning to make it to the next day. As I dwell in a time of year that has sorrowful significance for me, as well as the positives gained from surviving, I wonder if I’m doing it right. But don’t we all. If you’re not questioning, you’re not acknowledging. There’s not always a need to over-think, but there is a need to embrace the here and now.

No one wants to get to their death bed, no matter the timing, and wonder if they did enough. If they loved enough. Asking for do-overs and second chances. Because it comes upon us in the cycle it should.

As does the rest of our life. We don’t realize it at the time; but every move is defining who we are and what we’ll leave behind. I fear not enough are cognizant of this; including myself when I’m simply trying to get to the next day. Because it’s incredibly hard to stop and acknowledge.

I realize my introspection can be cloying; I don’t write mildly. I don’t live complacently. I’ve held the world for those who need me to, while mine lies at my feet. Conversely, I’ve had help with mine. An extra hand to keep it propped up while I rally the strength to keep it there. Those are the times when I realize we don’t get through this alone. Every person has their purpose and they come into ours like oxygen fuels fire. Quietly, subtly but with flickering, blazing outcomes.

Life is fucking hard. Let’s face it. Its trials, tribulations, rewards and gains. Losses and changes. I realize I make it all so grandiose. As though I neglect the smaller details. These thoughts come to me during the smaller moments, as much as the big ones. As I parent alone; two little boys whose life I’m inevitably shaping. While I work a job that is challenging and requires complete diligence to every detail. At night as I come home to fix dinner, clean the house, decide activities, get my kids ready for bed. Go back and forth between helping one in the bathroom (details spared) and giving the other his allergy medication because he can’t breathe through his nose. Already past bedtime and still answering question and giving hugs. The nights when I’m without them. Occupying my time, finding ways to thrive and sometimes just sitting in quiet or cleaning the house. Again.

I realize this doesn’t make me special. It makes me human. I lie awake at night and wonder if I was on my phone too much and if my kids watched too many shows. If we’ll get to later years and I’ll realize I’ve missed so much in the flurry of life. That’s just something I don’t want. We’re all going to have regrets. But if you can see them ahead of time, accept their purpose, not their misinterpreted negativity. You probably learned something. Gained something. Potentially lost when you were supposed to.

As I ramble in my typical way, no pre-defined message, I’ll say this. If nothing else, be kind. If you love someone, tell them. If you like them, make sure they know. If you want to hug someone, do it (but as I tell my son, ask first). If you’re unhappy, don’t let it swallow you whole. Do everything you can to not only survive, but to revel in all of it. Leave a trail behind that lets the world know who you are and make sure it’s someone you want to be defined as. Sometimes when you’re someone’s sunshine when skies are gray, it’s you that you’re actually shining for and it’s them you’re supplying the glow for.

We live for ourselves, but we live life for the pieces we connect. Find yourself so you can be wholly present for all those who dance in and out of our life. Sometimes staying for a while, sometimes leaving a memorable light we bask in like the fire that’s been fueled by what it needed.

Life’s going to kick us in the proverbial balls sometimes, grab it back when you have the chance.

 

Circus Fires

I had sent my blog into hibernation for professional reasons. I’m too raw to be taken seriously if any of my words might be misinterpreted. Glossed over. I could be seen as weak, when in reality, I know the strength I tenaciously hang on to every day. My blog was serving a therapeutic service and I had reached a point where some parts of my life had taken an upturn. Where I was getting back on level playing ground. But as someone who openly struggles with depression and other illnesses; but fights in a healthy way. Making it simply a character trait that I don’t let become a character flaw; I’m never done maintaining a balance of trying to stay okay.

I have a tendency to fight on the surface. Still practicing coping behaviors long set-in that have never truly been conducive to actual healing. Never created true acceptance of myself and the emotions my sensitive mind experiences on a daily basis. The ebbs and flows of self-doubt mixed with pride in continuing positively. Never letting my pain or my difficulties be apparent to others. Because I aim to serve as that positivity to others. To bring them happiness; brighten their day, even if clouds hang over my head. My intention is that it simply appears that I’m basking in the sun on a clear day. I carry an empathetic nature that means that I’m genuine in any support I offer to loved ones; friends and even strangers; but in turn it also means that I feel all of their emotions. It’s why I can be there, because I’m not just offering encouragement, I’m understanding their sadness, pain, anger, etc. and wading through it with them. Offering my help in ways that I’ve used to navigate the monstrous hurdles I tackle on a regular basis.

I simply love other people. I think everyone can be amazing in their own way. I see the good in anyone who might have even a sliver of good in them. My personal faith in appreciating others and knowing that I can bring them positivity is what allows me to accept a part of me when I don’t always embrace the whole package. When I doubt many aspects of who I am. Choices I’ve made. How I’ve ended up here. I find failure in feeling as though I’m not liked. And if we want to go all psycho-babble on it, I know that ties back to early school days when I wasn’t as welcomed into the fold of small town life. Kids who knew each other because their parents knew each other. I was always different. Always a beacon of complexity. I know it relates to being an only child. I’m as strong as I am because of the loneliness of never having a sibling. But it’s also made me struggle to accept being alone. Being okay with just me.
I get through my days sometimes feeling okay. But knowing I’m more than likely going to try to escape from my brain at day’s end, when in reality I should be feeling the brunt of it so I know how to get up the next day. I’m going to divert my feelings to other thoughts, other behaviors that allow me to not really feel any of what I should be taking on. I have my shit together, yet somehow I’m regularly falling apart. Some days I want that crystal ball that shows me that I’m going to have long-term peace eventually. Life will be simple. There won’t be mountains to climb; but rather hills to walk over without getting out of breath. I want to momentarily jump ahead to my kids being adults so I can flat out ask them if I was a good parent. If they knew I loved them every day and I was always so sorry that some days I just didn’t know how to parent like other people. I want to survey everyone who’s ever been in my life and find out what they really thought of me. If all the time I thought I was being kind. Being supportive and understanding. Self-sacrificing. If I really was actually just cloying. Too sensitive. If I shared too much, if I wasn’t enough. And before anyone says that’s not what I should be doing to base my worth, I know. But it’s who I am. I find my worth in being a value to others.

Perhaps that’s been my mistake all along. Maybe I’ve never asked myself those questions. Really and truly listened to the answers. Truly been there for myself first in order to be the best personal support I can be. I seek an escape on a regular basis. When it’s just me, I escape from myself. I escape from that person we’re all supposed to be with during out most private and raw times. Being alone with our thoughts and letting them wash over so we learn how to swim through them to shore is what makes us grow. I think ultimately, I’m just terrified. That everything I need to sort out is going to hit me like some of the pain I’ve felt. The grief I’ve worked through. The poor choices that have created utter rock bottom feelings. I feel so much, I’m kind of tired of it. But I’ve ultimately created my own self-fulfilling prophecy. I know that I’ve tucked so much away for later; that eventually, I’m going to stop my temporary coping behaviors; being positive instead of letting some negativity happen quietly and it’s going to be difficult. Self-accepting. As intense as a circus fire.

If you’ve read this, rad. If you’ve read this far; let me state I’m not a shrinking violet. I’m the softest thick-skinned person you might find. My surface is jaded and scarred, but the important parts of me are there. The kindness and compassion are purely genuine. I strive for self-improvement and can take criticisms with grace and acceptance. Anything I reference about the storm that’s in the distance for me; will simply be isolated showers. I’m not going to implode or go off the rails. I’ve been doing this long enough that I’m personally responsible in any ways I tackle chaos, particularly internal. I’m simply stating that sometimes I’m sadder than I let on. Completely unsure if I’m succeeding. I am okay with being this open, but I do fear judgement. That I’ll be seen as a mess if my words aren’t treated carefully. If people haven’t taken the time to accept pure and utter humanity. That we’re all fragile beings. I simply choose to bare it because it’s how I improve. It’s how I present the best person I can to everyone whose life I get the honor of being a part of. Because I value you all, it’s just that I accept that I don’t necessarily value myself. Which I probably should by now. I probably should have years ago. And if I demonstrate anything to my kids, I hope it’s that. If I create an impression in anyone’s life, I hope it’s positive.

You all matter.

 

Fight or Fight

This was originally an essay I wrote for an online community for moms with depression. It hasn’t been published yet, so I wanted to put it here, with a new intro. As like my other writing, it’s unapologetically raw and honest.

A dear friend said something to me very recently that rang very true and was the most understanding and accepting I think anyone’s been in a long time.

“Honestly, I don’t know how you keep going every day. You just keep getting hit with one fucktastic things after another. It’s unreal and and I totally get why you’d be suicidal. Are the boys the only thing keeping you alive?”

Here’s an old answer for a common question.

My kids have saved my life. I’m a single mom who has faced a hellacious year; hell, tumultuous lifetime. Sometimes due to circumstances, other times due to poor choices. All while grappling with an ongoing 20 year battle with depression, anxiety, eating disorders and addictive behavior. I can’t truly pinpoint the moment I knew I could crack from the inside out. There are memories of my downfall, and rise back up. On repeat. I know the crippling internal paralysis of a panic attack while attempting to present the right image of a professional, mother, friend; whoever is required in that situation. Drawing hash marks on a note pad to diffuse my brain or counting backwards from 10, so my kids can’t see the monster on my shoulder.
The moments of darkness inhibiting my vision of how to act properly while feeling the crushing weight of depression on my chest. Being embarrassed for what is merely an acknowledgement of the faults in a non-perfect being. Not knowing how to explain whether this suicide note was real this time or merely an outlet of feelings to prevent getting that dark.
Outwardly and most of the time I am a chipper, happy and friendly person. I can find positives in the situations of anyone in my life, guide them through to a more peaceful state of mind. Locate the reflection that will lead them to their silver lining. I often wonder if I’m so good at that, because that’s the only way I know how. I certainly don’t always do the same for myself; I at times am merely living to accomplish the present without thinking of why or how. Just doing.

I don’t remember what’s saved me before my kids. But I know now, that even in my darkest moments, I can’t leave them with that legacy. I can’t resist fighting. Clawing my way from the bottom; even if only to get knocked back down to starting position. Again, and again. I do fight for myself as well, but ultimately, fighting for them is fighting for me. They are a part of me. Blood to me. I brought them into this world knowing what they might face. Knowing what I face. If I lose all other parts of who I am for a moment, I’m still their guide. I’m have to see them through and be here until it’s my time. Not by my choice, but the way it’s meant to happen.

I’ve cut, starved, binged, purged, drank, overspent, had emotionless flings with ease. I’ve been there most times without anyone even knowing. Hiding. Keeping my place behind the wall seen; living in the alley behind. I’ll never hide my life from my kids when they’re old enough. Those parts of my life aren’t badges of honor, but I don’t regret where I’ve been and what I’ve done. Those hash marks on the paper, the literal scars fading over time built me. They’re my story. It’s merely been my responsibility to get to the next chapter. That’s how I move forward, keep climbing back up; smiling the entire way. I’ll always be a fighter. I want my kids to know judgment should never easily be passed. Every person’s story is theirs to keep close to their chest or share with whoever likes a good story. And just because you don’t like that book doesn’t mean you shouldn’t understand that others do.

I fear for their emotional health. What they will end up with genetically and environmentally. There’s still so much to understand about our brains and our bodies; even on the surface. Grasping an in-depth and thorough understanding is not something I’ll see in my lifetime. On the flip side, I don’t want them to fear the world. To worry that what they’re feeling is wrong and also realize that how others feel can affect them and shape their outcomes.

And the darkest thoughts; what if I have to save my child’s life someday. If my recognition of very familiar signs puts me into fight mode; tooth and nail to get them help either saving them or never being able to do enough. That’s a situation of failure I can’t handle envisioning; but I have to if I’m logical about life and cognizant of how difficult simply feeling in control of ourselves can be. I like to hope that by being open to the possibility of anything can put me in a position to be there completely. If I see my child fall down to the bottom, I’ll do more than throw them rope. I’ll jump down there and show them how to climb back to the top. Doing my damndest to show them the way far from that edge.

Icarus

sun

I made a pros and cons list yesterday.

It was about me.

The cons list went to the back of the paper. The pros list had two things on it.

I thrive on being nice to people. Making them feel better. Doing anything they need. Being there at any time. Showing kindness with no end. Never expecting a return; simply doing it because seeing people happy and supported is amazing. But somewhere along the way in my life, I forgot how to give myself the same kindness. I’ve always struggled with insecurity. Not in regard to life, just me. Who I am and what people say. I have an intense personality and demeanor and I know it makes some people not a huge fan of me; yet I can’t compromise myself accordingly, nor would I. People not liking me, though, stabs right down to the middle of my soul. I find that I base my worth on what I have to offer as opposed to what I like about myself.

One thing that has always given me identity, purpose and drive was my job. I’ve had two jobs since the age of 18. One for 13+ years and the other for 2 and half. In between, I stayed home with my kids; yet found I just wasn’t cut out for it. My first job was my life. I was successful, good at it and sincerely loved the people I worked with and the customers I encountered. Hundreds, maybe thousands of them; different demographics, passions and personalities. I enjoyed every one of them, even the cranky ones.

I thought I’d be good at staying home. But I just have always felt like I wasn’t naturally inclined for kids and have had to work on that. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids, but it’s so hard to remember how to be a kid again and see things from their perspective; at least when they’re angry or misbehaving.

My first job gave me a reason to be, even as I struggled through the strange tornado of life that was my 20s. I grew up there, earned success there and honed my skills to ones I thought I could be proud of. Already fighting the stigma of not having a degree, I had to work additionally hard; learn programs from the ground up to the point of knowing them in and out. Researching anything I didn’t know. Educating myself. Along the way, learning how to work with all different types of people, understand the business world always has its quirks; it’s which ones you’re okay having a part of your daily routine. We’re all human and aren’t perfect. Emotions don’t stay out of the workplace, regardless of what anyone says.

I built my professional life there, sometimes through trial and error. Mistakes were my stepping stones and the lessons I learned were what created positive results. I thought about work all the time, in a positive way. I worked as much as I could, at times being made to take a day off and being locked out of my email. It was how I identified myself. All while still living a life with friends and social activities.

Then I got pregnant. I was certain I would be working while on maternity leave, eager to return to work. Silly me should have known with my history of depression, I’d be slammed with a case of postpartum depression, different perspective and a confusing tornado of love for a tiny person who confused the hell out of me most times. As my maternity leave started ticking to a close, I was gripped with utter fear and mixed feelings. I had no idea how to leave this little person, all while being intensely depressed and emotional. Hormones are no joke, no matter how funny those jokes can be. So I left. I gave my six week notice, whittled down to part time and ultimately, my last day. Bittersweet, second guessed and a whole new territory of life that I had no clue what to do with.

Before I even chose to stay home, I joined a mom group. Thinking it would keep me busy, which it did. Getting my kid (eventually kids) socialized and participating in activities, which it also did. But other than being happy that my kids and I were together, I was lost. I needed to be working, the thought of which filled me with immense guilt over what that said about me as a parent. I didn’t fit in anywhere. All the moms were incredibly nice people, but as had always been the case, I had no place. No defined group, clique, whatever you want to call it. I tried, desperately, but I was so crippled with losing my identity and being uncertain of the new one, I was never fully there. They were my friends, for sure and talking to them got me through some incredibly difficult times. Yet, I never found that I was anyone but just a friend, for lack of a better description. That’s on me and no one else, for my perception of it and determination of where I stood. As for my kids, I did my best, but I was often overwhelmed, lost and unsure I was doing anything right by them.

When I started my next job, I was reinvigorated. My kids had structure in a daycare setting and I had a purpose again! I excelled at my work. I was around people, so many who were good people. I had learned from the mom group that it was up to me to simply put myself out there, never avoid being nice or kind because I thought someone might not like me nor did I need to make them best friends. Just having people in my life should be enough. Professionally, my skills were back in use and I was learning new ones. My life came crashing down around me, through my own choosing and outside circumstances and I fought to get through it. At work, though, I was almost always on. My difficulties were kept quiet on my part and I did my job with motivation and hunger to create work of which I was proud. Through anything else, it gave me identity and a place that I could still do something right and have some happiness.

And now. I fight to understand the unemployment process, try to figure out state assistance and medical insurance for myself and my kids, how I’m going to pay my bills and keep the place where I live. All of which I could fight through, surmount what’s ahead of me if I had a purpose. A place. Something that defined me. Some days I think I have the world ahead of me; opportunities and chances are endless. Then I get that rejection email from the interview I thought went well. And another. And another. It can tear you down. Piece by piece; shoot bullet holes through your pride. Interviews are never going to be objective. There’s always some aspect of emotions involved; human judgment. I’m not ashamed I stumbled over that a few times when I was hiring employees. It’s hard to separate that, and I don’t think you should. You’re getting a human being working for you; not an android. There is going to be a new type of personality you have to acclimate to the work environment in a way that best suits them. Knowing that can mean I leave an interview I was definitely qualified for, wondering if they liked me or not. If they didn’t, I want to know why. What’s wrong with me and if it can be fixed.

Nothing is definite anymore; I fear the next hurdle. What will go wrong next. I can’t relax without stability. I’m truly and utterly terrified of what’s going to happen. But it spills over to me, it spills over to my friends and loved ones. Being a single mom was hard while working, but again, I had somewhere to go. A place to throw myself into. Deal with what I saw as parenting failures. Tantrums that drove me to tears as I ran out of options to diffuse them. Now it can be incredibly overwhelming. I just want to feel as though I’m at least parenting right, but it’s incredibly easy to feel like you’re drowning. Lost in not knowing how to escape the anxiety that utter chaos of behavior can create. My kids are great kids. But they’re 4 and 5 and have had a tumultuous couple years as well.

I fear losing friends, because my depression causes me to barely hold my head up some days. Worry that my inner panic of losing those closest to me will continually project outwardly and create a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m in here somewhere, watching the me I’ve become and hating her. The misery, sadness, fear, mistakes and behavior. I feel like I yell to get out, to be happy and to like myself, but I can’t get through the invisible barrier keeping me back. Everything is in limbo and it’s easier to guard myself. I find happy moments in showing love to others. Doing everything I can for them. In those moments, I can see me for a second and it’s ok. It fades fast. It never occurs to me to do the same to myself because I can’t find the reason.

It’s like a twisted Icarus situation. I actually fear getting burned, so I don’t even attempt to fly. I took those wings off and locked them away to stay safe. But the ground sucks. It’s cold, and lonely and limited. I stay here and fight myself. I want to feel okay for longer than a few minutes, I want to send goofy and sassy text messages to my friends; not ones where I need support or help. I’m tired of burdening those close to me with my pain. It’s not their issue and I feel as though they need to be able to focus on any they may be experiencing. It’s one thing to be there for a friend, it’s another for that friend to bombard you with intensity. I keep a lot in to avoid being too much. Taking up too much space and making it seem as though I take priority.

I don’t expect life to be carefree. There are always problems, things blocking your way and moments to struggle through. I have periods of happiness; moments where I want to let my breath out and feel at ease. They’re just near the sun and I don’t know how to get there without getting too close.

Sink or Swim

Divorce, break-ups, endings. They’re hard. They’re messy. Even in the most simple, mutual of ways, they’ve left their mark. Emotions are felt differently by each person involved. And even on the parts of those who aren’t, but are more than happy to share their viewpoint (requested or not). When you join your life with someone’s, whether it’s 2 months or 20 years, there’s a connection, a dent left behind in your armor that will leave you either respecting it as getting through or focusing on the damage incurred. There’s never a right or wrong way. Endings can come about in so many different ways; anger, changes, growth that doesn’t match, fear, hatred, realizations, death…..

At some point you have to move forward though, no matter what side you were on. You’re entitled to all of the emotions you encounter, but sometimes they’re overwhelming. Smothering, almost. You rise to the surface for air or you push it to that last minute where you’ve got to catch your breath to save yourself. Moving forward means new encounters, which can make some uncomfortable; can cause others immense fear and in others encourage curious excitement. But truth be told, moving forward involves something new. Finding a fit and a place. Understanding who we are on our own, as opposed to being someone associated directly with another. And depending on how much of yourself you’ve either held on to, or lost along the way, the path can be muddy and dirty and tiring or a cakewalk. Somewhere in between is where more probably go.

If you’re the introspective type, song lyrics suddenly mean more; if you’re the impulsive type, you indulge in momentarily soothing behaviors typically bordering on self-destructive. Those who can ignore their feelings simply land on the next day and don’t look back. Not to say they aren’t blindsided by the acceptance of the situation down the road, but some just see the constant rotation a way of life or what they deserve.

The addition of children to the equation is the hardest part. And that’s how this started. Becoming a single parent, whether you are solely single, as in permanent custody or a co-parenting situation, it’s really effing hard. I respect any single parent who maintains their sanity, even if that means pizza and two hours of Curious George to get stuff done for an hour, only to get those five minutes to sit down before someone needs water. Or food. Or can’t put their pants on. Life’s not fair, we all know that one. But this was a situation created by one or both parties and you can’t rest on the negatives of it. It’s life. It’s the present. You suck it up for the benefit of the kids. Especially because you have to explain to them that life isn’t fair when they use the phrase on you.

Everything is more complicated. Scheduling, dating, planning, identifying your new chapter; all while remembering it has to be as smooth as possible for the children who are involved. One parent brings someone new into their life and that new person goes, you have to address the idea of loss more than once with children. (Break-ups are losses, so that counts any situation). One parent brings more than one person into the children’s life through impulsivity and searching for air in a situation where they feel they’re drowning. Excitement can be that person’s air, and the balance between that, being a good parent and mental health is a potentially combustible moment. A parent decides to move; it creates more change. More upheaval. No matter your age, adult or child, those types of changes have effects. The parents fight and the children are in the middle and the kids absorb that regardless of age. That’s not to say all parenting situations are bad. Some of those aren’t necessarily bad, depending on how the parents handle it individually and with or without a united parenting understanding.

Having a bad day? Suck it up. Those kids need you. You might be lucky enough to have a co-parent who will change the schedule to allow you the time you need to decompress. Yet you also have to understand that you are the parent at that time and you can’t expect another person who has been removed to be that understanding or flexible, given that you now have separate lives, especially if they have brought someone else into their new path. (I hate using the word path. But it’s really the best description. Road? Trip? Go with it.)

You have to understand what you can do in your alone time and what can cross over. The mistakes you make, the losses you experience, those are all a part of their lives and if the children are young, explaining can be difficult and if they’re older, the ability to comprehend the situation without explanation will mold some part of that child’s future. You can have a bad day with the kids, but then you also may get the whole next day off (for lack of a better word) and know that while you’re dwelling on other life moments and feeling sorry for yourself, that parent may be having the same rough day. While having to solely monitor, watch, feed, give permission to, drive to events; etc.

Being alone is hard, no matter how strong you are. No matter how used to it you are. Being with kids alone can be incredibly trying and also incredibly rewarding. You manage to keep a roof over their heads, food in their stomach and clothes to wear and some days, that’s what you have to pat yourself on the back for and be okay. There are days where you have to leave the room and that’s okay. There are days when you don’t have the kids and be okay with that and not feel guilty. If you’re the sole caregiver, you don’t have to feel guilt for relying on a support system, or feeling burdened by the lack of one. We all just do our best, even if our best can suck, subjectively.

As usual, I’ve strayed from place to place. My end implication is always the same. Life is hard. Tricky. Either handed to us or earned. It’s what we do with it. Some choices will be right, some will hurt, some will leave marks and some will be in a gray area. If you want the less sunny description of life, you could compare it to a swimming instructor. Life is either going to teach you by keeping on the arm floaties or standing on the sidelines, yelling “Sink or swim, bitches!”

You can hate yourself for mistakes, feelings, emotions and reactions or you can face them and then make your next choices accordingly. I’ve contradicted myself in the last statement, and I acknowledge that. That’s kind of life, though, isn’t it.