For A Moment, I Forgot

We went sledding today, the kids and I.

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We bundled up, knit hats covering their tiny ears, me teaching them all the tricks of keeping yourself dry and warm. Together,we trudged through the snow, our bulky hands in one another, the cold blasting the skin that wasn’t covered, to the hill that sits just a block or two from our house. It was only covered in a light snow, the long grass still poking out of some corners. My son excitedly chattered about snow angels, and making new friends at the hill, while his sister whined about her sock, and covertly jumped in the sled so she wouldn’t have to walk anymore (walking in snowpants when you are that small is hard).

For an hour, the depression and stress I’ve felt lately, lifted. I pushed my kids down the hill, as they pretended they were bobsledders. We came up with new and crazy sledding positions to try. They took turns going down the hill, with no fighting. They made friends with a three legged dog who took a particular infatuation to my daughter. The kids played on the nearby icy playground, loving the slide that would launch them off when they came to the end. We quoted Cool Runnings, because, obviously.

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They laughed. I laughed. 

With rosy cheeks, sniffling noses, and smiles, we slowly made our way home. As I walked behind them, I watched as my two children, best friends for that moment, lost themselves deep in conversation about whether they would have tea or chocolate to warm up. When I was permitted, I joined the conversation about returning to school tomorrow, about the Santa Parade on Friday, and what friends they were excited to see tomorrow morning. They bubbled about all the things they had to tell Daddy about their sledding adventure.

“Mama, can we do this again? Can we go sledding again?” my son asked as we walked up the steps to our house.

“Of course!” I responded, “That was lots of fun!”

We went sledding today, and for an hour, I forgot that I was depressed.

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Gasping For Air

The snow, it’s fallen over the entire weekend. It brings the delightful realization that Christmas is inching closer. It’s brought about animated conversations about sledding, and advent calendars, lights, snowmen, and Santa.  The kids have excitedly peered out of our windows, frost starting to move in slowly. We’ve had a break, a wonderfully lengthy one from school for Remembrance Day. We’ve made the most of it; there’s been snuggling, PJ’s, a pizza party, romping in the fresh snow while the sun dances slightly behind the clouds. There’s been movies, and maybe a bit of fighting. We’ve read books, drank tea, talked about the upcoming holidays, and shared hot chocolate.

It’s been good.

But.

Ever since my husband came home and told me about his promotion, I feel as though someone forced me under the water, and has been holding me there. It’s been a daily dance of remembering that right now, it’s just not about me. Admittedly, I go between feeling strong, and feeling an ugly sort of resentment toward the man that I love, who I know isn’t coming home at 2am on purpose, or because he wants to. It just our new normal. It’s not permanent, I remember, and remind him when he’s faltered in this new schedule, that we’re still transitioning, which is always the hardest part.

Yet, as much as I am trying to be flexible, to bend when I don’t feel like I have any more room to do so, the harsh reality winterthat I’m not superhuman crashes into me. While there are some people who expect me to do the roles of two parents because I’m the stay at home parent, it’s just never been how our marriage works. This change has meant a total upheaval of our lives, for all of us, not just him.

I’m not used to all of this. I’m not used to a husband who works until 11 at night, or longer. I’m not used to having a partner who literally has no idea what is going on with the children, because work has totally enveloped his entire being. I’m not used to people assuming because my husband is never there, that I’m a single Mom, and the looks they give me when I offer, “He’s just busy with work”.  I’m used to being able to find small moments to carve out for me, alone, but thus far, the only moments I’ve claimed at the the ones right before I fall asleep in exhaustion.  I’m not used to yelling so much, and not always being this frustrated.

This weekend, I gasped for breath as I came out from below the water. All those punches, all the smiles and the encouragement I’ve been providing to others has hit a wall. It’s my turn. I need to be taken care of, if only for a moment. I want to be told it’s all going to work out, that we’re going to be fine, that this won’t last forever. I don’t want to feel like an obligation, a bother, or an annoyance to anyone.

The magnitude of all the obstacles we’ve been navigating over the last couple of months have peaked. Finding a therapist for my son, the result of his incredible breakdowns of his own. The death of a friend, unexpected. The unexpected, sudden promotion, and the resulting impact of that;  Longer hours, more worries about his commute, the kids reacting because they haven’t seen him in days, the sheer loneliness and exhaustion of doing it on my own. There’s the stretch of our budget, something that always happens this time of year, and the worries of how we’ll make things work (even though we always do make it work). There’s the stress of our impending move, and the being unsure of when, how and where that will be. It’s the lack of texts, phone calls, or any communication from close friends; Nothing I take personally, but it makes the late nights a little harder, and makes me feel a little more alone.

Really, that’s the bulk of it. This is my way, before I have to dunk my head back under of reaching out.

I feel lonely. I feel isolated. I want to be cared for. I want someone to say to me, as I pour my worries out, “You can handle this. It’s okay to feel tired, because it’s a lot, but you got this.”  Even if I don’t believe them. Even when I know, I do have this. I just don’t feel like it right now. I just want to feel as though I’m more than just a post for others to lean on, to use, to expect to be there but never appreciate.

I’m more than that.

I may not be super human, but I am still human.

Things I Found In My Son’s Room While Cleaning

I try not to be too harsh with my kids about cleaning. I really do try, even though I don’t like dirt or clutter, or dust or disorder… Well, you get the picture. This comes from living in a home growing up where things were consistently dirty, unclean and always, always cluttered. When it comes to things being clean, I sort of become neurotic; I think things like, “Oh my god, if someone saw how mess my house is, they’d take my kids away”, which is of course, overly dramatic and totally untrue. I apologize when people come over and the house wasn’t perfectly clean; I usually get laughed at, or have eyes rolled in my direction.

When you have kids, things get messy. Stuff gets ruined, and walls occasionally get written on (even if I’ve told a certain child that drawing happens on paper only, and not on her $30 ballet tights most of all). However, the rule in our house is this: Saturday and Sunday are free for all for technology, but before all the plans on Minecraft can be executed, respective rooms need to be cleaned. Properly. Since my son’s allergy diagnosis, this is absolutely a must. We change the sheets, vacuum the floor, mop and dust. I’ve tried to explain to both the kids if they spend 15 minutes a day just tidying, that by Saturday, it’ll be quick and easy.  This has been the rule since we went No Technology during the week, so the kids know.

They know, but they pretend they don’t. A lot.

If you thought my kids were perfect and follow this rule every week with no reminders, nagging, or bribing, I’m here to smash your dreams. Ideally, my kids would develop a taste for all things clean and germ free, like I have. But they are kids (and much like their father, they don’t see messes like I do).  They like dirt. They like messes and seem to thrive in them to a certain degree. They like to keep things that I might qualify as garbage, because it means something to them. Apparently, it’s good for kids to have messy rooms, and I even commented on this in an article for Today’s Parent last year.  Confession: I laughed at the journalist when she suggested I just close the door and forget it. I may have also twitched. Maybe.

After a bout of busy weekends (read: I wasn’t home, Dad was, and all the Minecraft was played or someone was sick), the rooms respectively have gotten out of control. My son started complaining he had “too many toys” which is a sure sign the organization in his room has gone to hell, and he’s overwhelmed. When I said I’d help him clean the room, as long as we did it thoroughly, he looked overjoyed. A kid who wants to clean their room? Do it right now. Drop everything, and clean all the things.

As we went, I started to ask him about some of the things we were finding:

(Disclaimer: I swear, out of this whole list, there was only one small bag of garbage. I promise. Also, I dust with vinegar water. Which obviously means nothing, but you should know. Don’t judge me. Please?) 

- Eleventy billion cheerios that was “food” for the Angry Birds, apparently.

- A broken butterfly catcher that has now been re-purposed as a wand and is not garbage.  I tried to argue, but there may have been sad eyes, and an almost panic attack. We’ll keep the wand, for now.

- Six store clothes hangers that I’m pretty sure I had thrown out, but were recovered because they work well as “swords, light sabres, and Captain Hook’s hook”.

- Three bottle of my lotions that he needed because they smell like me, and he likes that. Be still my heart.

- 11 pens, which I was told a week ago did not exist in the bedroom and when I triumphantly pointed out that I had been right all along, my son said, “I didn’t see them, so they weren’t there, I guess.”

- One package of yogurt covered raisins.  For a late night snack, he said.

- Two lost books that weren’t really lost at all but hidden under the bed. I was just grateful they weren’t library books. Because they have been in the past.

- My car insurance slips (!?)

- Thousands of  lego pieces, because lego is fun, and awesome, but everywhere.

- A book order form from September, circled and marked, but never turned into the keeper of the money (that’s me).

- Three hair ties, and at least 20 bobby pins (They apparently keep all his papers together. Note: Get paperclips.)

- Two rolls of paper towels. Specifically the two I’ve been looking for the last week, but was being used as blankets in the games him and his sister play. I’m so sorry, Mother Earth.

-Two pieces from my husband’s Risk game, which caused me to whispered, “You better find a way to put these away in the game without Daddy noticing.” He nodded in affirmative, knowing how Daddy feels about his Risk collection.

- A lot of dust. A LOT.

- Way too many Kid’s Meals toys. I don’t want to admit how many lest you judge me for feeding my children fast food (Yes, it happens. I do it. I’ll await my letter to kick me out of the Good Parent Club shortly). I tried to throw them out. At first, I was brazen and bold with my throwing out, but that didn’t go well. So I started throwing out pieces covertly. Until I got caught again, and  was further watched like the toy criminal I am.

- A deflated basketball, and a deflated water toy. I do not remember either thing every being bought, or given to my children. And, we had to keep them. Because.

- An empty wine bottle that was used as a tower.  “You should drink more wine so we can have more towers.” Okay, dear child, that’s a challenge I’ll gladly except.

- A ice cube tray. Which was obviously a bus for the tiny dinosaurs. Duh.

The room is cleaned. The sheets are changed. Minecraft is being played. I’m planning all the wine I can buy so they can build more towers.

But now I have to do my daughter’s room too. Pray for me?

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Fear Becomes The Grief

Grief is a funny thing.

It ebbs and flows in such a sporadic manner, one moment numbing you from it’s realness, the next sawing open all the wounds you thought had healed, putting a spotlight on the absolute heartache that comes from losing someone. There is a helplessness in a sudden loss, especially suicide. It’s the grasping at broken threads, at the space where that person disappeared into. There is a hope that you can make it all better, and rid yourself of the guilt for not stopping the inevitable. Even, when it’s just that. Inevitable. Unstoppable. Something entirely out of your control.

There’s a process where you decide almost that it’s real, that it’s actually happening. The initial disconnect that happens in the beginning, it unravels, and the freezing wears off. That’s when the fears, the regret, and the full enormity of the loss comes riding in. A death especially can trigger so many different areas within your soul; Sean’s death has left me feeling as though I’ve been hit by a train.

It’s not entirely the loss of him that has me stumbling through my daily activities, though it’s hard to admit that the next time our adoption group meets again, he won’t be there. It’s the awakening, the bombs he detonated with his death that has me feeling lost, and unsure.

My grief has morphed into a rabid sort of fear.

“This cannot be my son one day,” I whispered to my husband the morning after Sean’s funeral. I fell to pieces in his arms, and sobbed, while he comforted me as best he could, but what could he really say?

I couldn’t stop thinking about the visceral pain that Sean demonstrated to me through our emails, and through our meeting in August and how that could be my son one day. I didn’t want to fully breathe in the reality of adoption for some; A loss that never dissipates. Because, as much as I know this to be true, sometimes I just forget that adoption doesn’t end on relinquishment day. Ultimately, it’s a tearing of bonds that inexplicably causes a primal wound that, for some, is never repairable. It wasn’t for Sean, a man who admitted, tears in his eyes that he wished that he had been aborted. Because it would have been better.

Please, please, don’t let it be my son one day.

griefOf course, my husband, and those I’ve reached out to in support have told me it’ll be different for me, for my son. The comfort feels hollow because I know that none of us really know how this will all play out for him in the future. No one wants this sort of end for any loved one. But, I can’t help but be swept away in the statistics of adoptee suicide, the many voices of adoptees who discuss their own loss, and even more in the adoption community that have ended their life as Sean did.

In my grief, or rather, my fear,  I’ve avoided writing to my son, which feels entirely counter productive, and destructive. Yet, I’m terrified of all the time we’ve missed. I’m worried that my letters won’t be enough. I’m scared that all of this openness may slip through my fingers, and be just a memory. Mostly, I’m just paralyzed at the notion that my decision, one that really wasn’t my decision at all, has left a scar that will never fade. What if even despite all of the best intentions of myself, of his adoptive parents, and maybe one day his biological father, it’s just not enough?

#GameNight Brought To You By Monopoly Junior

With my husband’s new schedule for work, the time we get together as a family is limited. Add to this equation the fact that both the adults in the house are exhausted come the weekend, and I’m a little ashamed to admit that we’ve seriously lacked in the “quality time” department. We’ll get there, I’m sure, as the routine becomes more normal for us. Despite that, we still try our best to make sure that we spend time together, even if it’s not as routine as it was before. In the past, we’ve done our weekly movie night. We rotate who picks the movie, we have an assortment of snacks, and sometimes, we camp out in the living room. It’s our way of reconnecting as a family.

Other times, we find smaller things to do together. My tradition of doing a December advent is fast approaching and it is totally my favorite part of the holiday season. Beside that, my son is big into puzzles lately, so often we’ll sit down before bed and put together a small puzzle. On the weekends, we’ll go for walks, bike rides, or take in a movie. It’s important that we spend together as a family, especially now when things are so hectic.

My kids newest infatuation is board games. When we aren’t playing, they tend to pull the games out (much to my husband’s chagrin) and make up their own games. Board games were a big part of each of our respective childhoods. Even when we visit the inlaws, it’s not uncommon for us to play a game or two while we drink our after dinner coffee, and eat dessert. It’s really a great way to get everyone involved, laugh your ass off (have you played Cards Against Humanity or What’s Yours Like? Highly recommend). It’s not a stretch that our kids have started to be interested with board games given the fact that they’ve always been a part of our extended family time.

When I was sent Monopoly Junior to review as a part of Influenster Vox’s Hasbro #GameNight campaign, I was excited. gamenightRealistically, Monopoly can be tedious to play, even for adults. When my husband and I started dating, we’d play it for hours, but it generally wound up never being finished because it’s one of those never ending games. A couple of months ago, at the request of my oldest, my husband played it with them both. It was far too complicated for their age range, and it wound up losing it’s appeal fairly quickly.There was just too much going on for them to keep track of, and even though they liked the idea of it, they couldn’t really sit for the duration of the game. .

This week we had a rare night when my husband was home at a reasonable hour, so the four of sat down together to try this version of Monopoly out. It really is Monopoly Junior in every sense. The amount of money you get is child friendly and easy to count out. My four year old was capable of counting out the money as she bought properties or paid money to the rest of us. This also meant that she didn’t feel left behind, which is a common issue.  She needed very little assistance, save a nudge to remember to roll the dice when it was her turn. A game that includes all of us is always a win.

When a player runs out of money, the game is over. Since each of us was only doled out $16 (this amount depends on the number of players), the game went fairly quickly. It also allows the kids to decide if they want to buy a property, or if they want to hold on to their cash until they’ve made it around the board a couple of times (SAVING!) Each property is priced similarly to the regular game, just in much smaller increments which is great for number recognition, and simple math skills.The game also includes Chance Cards and not at all vindictive, allowing for a less competitive vibe all around.

The consensus at the end of the game from the kids was that they loved it. When I asked them to tell me the best part, they said unanimously, that the “whole game” was the best part.

Monopoly Juniorr is perfect for little kids and great for a family game night!

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(For this post, I was given Monopoly Junior through the Influenster Vox program. All of the opinions stated within are my own, and no money was exchanged for this post).

The Look That Says We’ll Move

After my husband had completed his certification panel, he was told that he wouldn’t be moving to a new location for at least a year. We figured we had about 18 months, possibly more, until we had to move for real. Our plan included saving to buy our own place, and getting a feel of the rental rates in the area that he was told he’d be likely taking over. We had a plan, even if it was sort of vague, and dependent more on elements that had yet to come to fruition.

I really, really like plans. A lot. I’ve always been a list maker, but having a child that thrives on routine, who needs to know the next step, and the one after that, and that one after that, has launched me into this sort of planning monster. Having a plan for this huge transition was a must. Especially given the fact that we had all of three weeks notice for the last promotion/relocation my husband took.

Image Credit: AJ Batac
Image Credit: AJ Batac

Two weeks later, maybe less than that, my husband came home. Instead of his normal get home routine, he came straight to the living room where I was vacuuming. He did this half-hearted smile, one I’ve become familiar with over the years. Without turning the vacuum off,  I simply quipped, “Oh. They transferred you, didn’t they?”

When you have a spouse who works one of these jobs where schedules change at a moments notice, where you sometimes don’t know if you’ll see them for a day or two because of their wickedly long hours, when they’ve been given less than 24 hours notice before they are going on a two week business trip, you learn that look. You dread that look. You learn to not react to that look. You praise it because it means to some degree, the hard work they are putting in is getting noticed.

He nodded, of course. The word was that he would be taking over a store in Edmonton. It would happen in November, maybe December. It wasn’t clear yet. He had no idea what he’d be getting paid. It wasn’t ideal, he explained, but the location had so much potential, and it was exactly the kind of situation he wanted to walk into as a manager. Potential for growth, potential to be noticed, and potential to grow in his career further.  We also knew that there was a likelihood they may find someone else and he could be staying put. Nothing was for sure. Nothing is for sure, until it is.

The next night, my husband did the same half-hearted smile. My response was a little more tired this time, “What now?” This time, everything was moving forward. In fact, starting right after Canadian Thanksgiving, he would be working in the store. Officially.  There was no transition for us, really, as we found this out on a Friday. The next time he went back to work, he would be at his new location.

We’ve been at this a month now, almost. It’s been a long, tiring month.  I’ve effectively become a pseudo-single mom, and most days, that’s just fine. There are days when the kids are little crazed, when I have to handle appointments that are really for both parents to be involved in, or extra meetings on top of the normal activities we have every day. That’s when I wish I had another adult to defer to. It will pass, I keep saying, even when I’m not sure when or if it will get better soon. We’ve decided that we’re not moving until the summer, which means, until then, his commute has doubled, tripled if he leaves during rush hour. Which means, he leaves wickedly early in the morning, and gets home wickedly late. Granted, it’s the busiest time of the year, so maybe, hopefully these insane hours will subside come December. We’re all tired, stretched, and hoping that the payoff is as good as we’ve been led to believe.

But, beyond all of that? I am proud of my husband. This, leading his own location as a manager, has been one of his goals since he began with his company in 2010. For him to have come this far in four years is pretty impressive, in my opinion. He’s worked his ass off, and I’m happy that he’s being rewarded for that.

If you could send us all the coffee, and maybe all of the wine until we finally move, that’d be great. Or talk to me on Twitter at 11pm, when my husband is still not home. Sometimes, I go a little crazy.

Four Random and One “Scandalous” Fact About Me

My lovely, fabulous friend Phyllis, (who met George Takai the other day, OMG) tagged  me for in an old school meme of sorts. Five Random Things About Me? Why, sure, if you insist!

 

RANDOM1. I drink my coffee black. Sort of like my heathen heart, I guess? Black means no calories. Black means more caffeine (maybe? Don’t tell me it doesn’t).  Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve developed a dairy intolerance. We won’t discuss that because that’s gross.

2. I’ve never taken a single swimming lesson. Never. Not one. I grew up with those plastic floatie devices, and swimming a lot at a local beach in Ontario (another fun fact! I’m from Ontario, not Alberta). I actually love swimming, aside from the whole having to wear a bathing suit thing. Yeah, that part, I hate.

3. When I drink too much, I totally talk like Shoshanna from Girls. I’m fast talking, upward inflection, ridiculous anecdotes about nothing, and the attention span of a gnat. It is really funny, and totally throws a lot of people off because I don’t talk like that AT ALL normally- hello, INFJ! I also like to talk almost completely in song lyrics, and see how long it takes people around me to notice.

4. Speaking of Girls, which also reminds me of sex, one time, a long time ago, I was in a threesome. Anyone who knew me then likely knows the details (because it was such a piece of scandal…yawn), but that’s not  important. All you need to know: It was messy, and awesome, and totally consensual. I’d definitely highly recommend if the circumstances allow, because it really was a great, empowering sexual moment for me as a woman. Mostly because it was consensual, safe and sort of mind-blowing. Sex is awesome.

5.  I’ve admitted it before, but I’ll do it again. I’m terrified of ducks. This isn’t a joke. Stop laughing at me. The struggle is real. Ducks are pecky little fuckers that go from OMGSOCUTE to ZOMGTOEBITING in ten seconds. All of the nope.  I do not like ducks (Canadian Geese? NOPE). In fact, most birds sort of creep me out. I also have a fear of stairs, specifically going down them. This is due to the fact that I fall down them, frequently. ESCALATOR, PLEASE.

So, now you know me a little better. You should totally share your own Five Random Facts on your own blog, or right here in the comments. Because, FUN!

30

The last decade of my life has been difficult. That’s not to say it was all bad, because difficult isn’t always bad. Difficult can mean challenging, stretching, and enduring. These things can be great things for a person’s character. They were even in the muck of a enduring trial, good for me. No one explained to me that being an adult and becoming an adult were two very different things. There was this naive idea that I would just suddenly have the whole world figured out. That wasn’t the case, at all. I struggled to make sense of who I was, where I wanted to fit in this world, and how to make my life my own. As I welcome my 30′s,  I’d like to say that I’ve figured all of that out now but the truth is, the betterment of self is a never ending process. I suspect I’ll be figuring myself out until the day I die, and I am okay with that.

In the last ten years, so much has happened:

I had my two children, those two beautiful, wonderful, goofy, quirky humans who make me want to live every moment of this life as best I can. Who taught me to be a mother, to love fully and unconditionally. They showed me the family I’ve always wanted. They’ve taught me patience. To laugh more, to read more. To talk so much more. I met my husband, a handsome stranger who I worked with, who declined me when I asked him on a date (because football), but made it up a couple days later when he showed me the “good parts” of The Day After Tomorrow. This man broke my walls, taught me what unconditional love feels like, has been my biggest fan, and sometimes, my worst enemy. He’s taught me the importance of a joke, of a smile, of believing the best in people. Together, we’ve built a home, a life, and this incredible family that I feel blessed to call my own.

I started writing about my adoption experience, which saw me through a promise for more openness, closing it and then miraculously having it reopen just months ago when I got to write to my son. I went from being the girl who sat on panels for the adoption agency she relinquished through to finally realizing that they were using me to hurt other families. I found my voice and I decided to use it to help others. I sought out others, just like me, not stopping when my natural reaction was anger. I learned that my anger was just a secondary reaction, and beyond it, there was so much brokenness that I needed to heal. I’ve read emails from people who’ve read my words, privileged to have people trust me with their stories, proud that what I write resonates with so many people. I’ve never stopped believing that this adoption could change, even when I was saying that it wouldn’t. I never stopped loving my son, in fact, I’ve only grown to love him more.

These years saw me through a crisis of faith, the act of losing the religion my parents raised me in, learning that I didn’t have to fall into it by default, and that leaving wasn’t a horrible thing. It made me walk into a bookstore and pick up the literature I was told to stay away from. It made me demand philosophical discussion from those who I trusted about believing. It saw me take the final step in my journey; Removing my name from a religion that had wreaked so much havoc in my life. I learned confidence and gained a love of the unknown through atheism, which also led me to other wonderful people who absolutely understood my journey.

I started therapy. I stopped therapy. I was diagnosed, re-diagnosed and then had the diagnosis redacted. I took a lot of pills.  I saw many doctors, many therapists, and I whispered thoughts in small offices safely, hoping to finally heal all of the wounds from my childhood, and teenage years. I started to speak openly about my mental health, the impact it has on me, and relationships. I found solace and comfort from those who get it, and who live it.  Most importantly, I realized I was absolutely not alone.

I learned to love people more, even though I still trust very few, I found my best friends, two woman that I cannot imagine my life without. I lost a best friend because sometimes people aren’t what you think. I lost a lot of friends because of my departure from Mormonism, and inability to stay quiet about it. I had friends fall away, but return, and I was always grateful for that. I watched my friends go through divorces, marriages,and deaths crying with them in their joy and happiness.I went through my own divorce, finally free from a decision I made in my late teens. I watched my husband and his family mourn the sudden loss of his Grandfather.

I found feminism. I found the power in other woman, in realizing that I am more than just my gender. That it’s okay for me to want things to be better for all of us, for my daughter. That we need more woman who will speak out about inequality. And I was happy to join the chorus of voices. I learned to feel pride in my skills, my writing, and to bravely ask people to listen to the things I had to say. I was published in a magazine twice. I’ve been featured on multiple websites.

I learned that family, sometimes, no matter how much you want them to be amazing, aren’t always. I walked away from my own several times during this decade, and only just realized the damage it was doing to me, and my family. It’s okay, I’ve learned, to walk away from toxicity. It’s okay to say that you deserve better.

Being an adult, I learned, is far more complicated than the one semester health course you are required to take in High School leads you to believe. When I look back on the last ten years, I see a collage of everything that has made me who I am today. It’s easy to pick out the bad stuff, the things I wish I’d thought twice about. Mostly though, I see a woman who carved out her own path, even if she stumbled or had to turn around a time or two.

I did good with those years, I think.  I did really good.

The next ten will be even better.

SUNSET

The Inner Bully

If we were all able to hear the internal chatter that we have echoing in our heads every day, I’m sure we’d be stunned to hear what others are saying to themselves, about themselves. I know that when I give my husband a tiny glimpse into my own self-deprecating narrative, he awkwardly asks me if I really truly believe what I’m saying. Responding to that reaction, that question is incredibly hard. On some days, I don’t really buy it, even when the “voices” are there. On other days, especially when I’m in a bout of depression, I believe it. All of it.

negativeJenna at Stop, Drop and Blog, bravely wrote about this issue, and went a step further, listing some of the statements she says to herself. As I read her words, I wanted to reach through the screen and tell her, “Are you kidding?!” because absolutely I don’t see any of the things she listed. However, it was my own reaction, the relatability of the words she wrote that caught me off guard. I’d said some of those words, worded differently, but in her own admission, I saw myself.

Years ago, when I was in therapy, my inability to love myself, and see myself authentically was often brought up in session. As we dug deeper into my past, it became incredibly apparent that the first person, my own mother, was the one who initiated the negative stream of thought in my life. When she should have been loving and affectionate, she was harsh, insulting and abrasive. When I would succeed at something, she was always there to take me down a peg, reminding me of my flaws. Eventually, her voice became my own, internally. In the duration of my therapy, I worked hard to correct the language I used with myself, but like anyone who’s been abused emotionally, it’s not a habit that is easy to correct. In all honesty, I’ve just learned to live with it.

I often joke about being self-deprecating, as if it’s a badge of honor. I can and do laugh at myself, but beyond that, often I’m like the person who teases you, but continues on once she’s gotten a laugh. The humor is a tool to deflect from the reality that I don’t actually find some of these things funny at all. Today, I decided that I would actually pay attention to myself, and write down the things I said throughout the day.

By 11am, I was exhausted. I only wrote a few more before I quit. To take the time and actually acknowledge what I was saying to myself? It was brutal.  I felt beaten and torn. I felt ridiculously pathetic. But, mostly, I felt so sad. I am vicious to myself, a complete bully. See for yourself:

7:30am-8:30am:

“A better mother and wife would have folded that laundry last night before they went to bed.”

“Why can’t you get up early and make a proper breakfast for your kids instead of being lazy and feeding them oatmeal?”

“You should be embarrassed that you let people see your handwriting.”

“The teacher is going to think you are a bad parent for bringing your son in late to school tomorrow.”

“You really should put makeup on before going out in public. You look so ugly.”

“Your hair looks so stupid.”

“You are so fat.”

8:30am-10:30am:

“You are lazy because you don’t get out of the car and walk your son to the doors.”

“You didn’t pay the school on time. Only a bad mother does that.”

“Wow, your blog is getting a lot of traffic today.  Too bad it’s not because of your writing.”

“No one wants to hear from you. Don’t bother pitching any ideas. They’ll just get rejected.”

“You don’t get published more because the editors don’t like you. They think your writing is crap.”

“Only a terrible housewife would let their house look like this.”

“You are the reason your son needs therapy. You broke him.”

“No one texts you because they don’t care about your life.”

“Stop messaging her. You are annoying her. She hates you.”

“What’s the point in going? You aren’t a good blogger. No one cares about you or your blog.”

“You haven’t written a letter to your son. Obviously you don’t deserve to be in contact with him.”

11:00am- 1:00pm:

“No one talks to you because you are fat and ugly.”

“No one will remember your birthday tomorrow because you aren’t worth remembering.”

“They probably say terrible things about your kids, who are obviously a reflection of poor parenting.”

“You are not a good enough feminist.”

“You’ll never write a novel. Why even bother trying? No one would even read it.”

“No one wants your opinion, just shut up.”

“You sent her to school one day when she had diarrhea, but wasn’t showing any other symptoms. What sort of parent doesn’t keep her kid home for that? A bad one.”

“You are going to eat that for lunch? There goes your diet for the week. I guess you want to be fat forever.”

“Those new jeans look awful on you. All you can see is your fat stomach.”

“Your writing is awful. You should just stop.”

“There is no way you are good enough to write for an entire month.”

“You didn’t respond to your husband right away. Clearly, you aren’t a good wife.”

I stopped there because I was overwhelmed. I already knew that I’m a bully internally. I knew that I had a problem with loving myself inside and out, but for the first time, I had actual tangible proof of just how incredibly awful I am to myself. In an attempt of self-care, I took my daughter and I down to my bedroom, searching for some reprieve from the battle. How, I wondered, as I snuggled with my daughter, was I going to parent her and my son not to think like this, when I could barely make it through five minutes without doing it to myself. How do I fix this?

There’s no easy answer, I think. This thinking holds a level of comfortability with it for me. It’s what I’ve always known, and it’s become a constant companion. Even when I don’t notice it, like I did today, it’s there. Reminding me that I’m not enough. That I’m less than. That I’m nothing. No wonder I struggle with my confidence. No wonder I struggle to believe when people compliment me. No wonder my self-esteem is abysmally low. I’m constantly undoing any work I’ve done to be better to myself by giving space for these thoughts.  I know, somehow, those statements that I made today, can’t all possibly be true. I can’t possibly be as hideous as I think I am.

I’m the only one who can change that voice. I know that. It doesn’t matter that the origins started in my abusive childhood. It doesn’t matter if it’s become “normal”. None of that is important. What’s important is that I’m now aware of how bad it is, and that I work every day to try to eliminate even one of those statements. Even just one being erased will change so much.