Monday, November 28, 2016

Holiday thoughts

This past week I had some time off of work for the holiday, and it was much needed.  My husband, who has less free time than I do, was able to take some time out of his schedule and spend it with the family.  It was a rare treat for both me and my daughter, who seems to acutely notice her lack of daddy time as weeks go by.  But he was able to play with her, and read her books, and spend the time he doesn't typically have to spend with her, which I think she needed.  I also got some time with him to actually talk, and enjoy his company, and that was a nice change of pace as well.  We sat on the sofa on Saturday night and just watched movies.  Nothing else.  Just sat and watched movies together.  It's been a long time since we've been able to do that without him multi-tasking on the laptop to get work done.  I've missed it.

The holiday didn't really give us much of a chance to slow down, since we host several holiday gatherings and the house needed cleaned, the tree needed to go up, there was food to make and shopping to be done, but when all of that was over, on Sunday when I had a chance to slow down and not focus on any responsibilities outside of my average every day chores, I was able to slow down and appreciate some things.  I actually got to sleep in.  Truly sleep in, as late as I wanted, for the first time I can remember in a long time.  I try to let my husband sleep in as much as possible, because I know how exhausting school and work are, and even though I'm supposed to get to sleep in on Sundays, I never seem to get to do it.  There's always somewhere to be, or my daughter has a meltdown and I get up to help deal with it, or I feel guilty that he needs to be working and he's managing her by himself instead, so I wake up earlier than I want to and push on with my day.  But this week, I got to sleep in and as I woke up in my bed, under my very nice down comforter, in my large airy bedroom, I suddenly appreciated how nice it can be to sleep late in your own bed.  When I got up, I stayed in my pajamas for a long time instead of immediately throwing on some clothes and dashing through my day.  I wore my pajamas, and I played on the floor with my daughter.  I rolled around with her, and laid in her tent with her while she pretended to go to sleep and then made me kiss her Red Fraggle doll.  I tickled her until peals of laughter rang through my entire house, and were met with cries of "AGAIN!" each time I would stop.  I read her books, and snuggled with her on the couch.  I made her toast, and I laughed as she gave me an enthusiastic "Tank ooo!" when I handed the plate to her.  She counted to five on her own, and correctly named some letters from the alphabet in one of her books, then named off all of the colors in her book about colors except for green, which she stubbornly refuses to remember. 

When I put her down for her nap, and finally got myself showered and ready to go out to grocery shop and manage the responsibilities I had for the day, I found myself realizing that this might be the happiest I've ever been.  Not to say that there aren't struggles, I hate that my husband is never available and that his work and school take up so much of his time, and I wish there was more time the three of us could spend together.  I still struggle with having no support system, and not having anyone I can be open or honest with, and that my social interaction comes largely from a nearly two year old, but on the whole, I think this is the first time in years that I can look around say that, yes, I am happy.  I am often exhausted, and frazzled, and sometimes at the end of my patience with the world, but this life I have in front of me is pretty beautiful.  And it's not one of those mom things like "Oh, I had a baby and suddenly everything was happy" because that's not it at all.  It's just that there have been so many years of absolute darkness in recent memory, and it feels like that cloud has been lifted for a little bit, and the sun is having a chance to shine through, and the little things are easier to notice and appreciate than they have been before.  I needed that reprieve.  I needed a little bit of light.  I'm just learning to appreciate it again.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Thoughts on being lonely and other things

I'm not sure what it is about the changing of the seasons that seems to trigger things in me.  It's not like a seasonal depression thing, really, but just a sense of restlessness and typically an impending dread of dealing with upcoming holidays and the drama they bring.  Plus, as much as I love fall, life changes a lot when school starts again.  My oldest daughter and husband are back in college classes, and my husband goes back to work, so his job coupled with his college classes often mean he brings a lot of work home, or spends evenings and weekends doing homework.  It means I have to find ways to occupy my time without him participating.  Where we might usually spend a weekend going shopping, or taking our daughter to the zoo, I now have hours and hours to fill without a partner.  I can take my daughter to the zoo alone, if I want, but it loses something when we don't share the experience as a family.  So, we run errands, and we spend time at the library, and we go to the park, but she's not much for conversation and sometimes I just miss having someone to chat with.  I've channeled my energy in the evening into creating some gifts for people who are having babies or have recently had babies, and that takes up my time and keeps me occupied, but it doesn't solve for my lack of conversation.  Sometimes I wish I had someone I could just meet up with for lunch or coffee, who didn't mind that I'd have a toddler in tow, so I could  I don't even have anything important that I want to talk about, I just want to chat with people.  So, maybe that's what fall triggers for me.  A sense of loneliness.  It allows me to be too much in my own head, and that's hard.  It's particularly hard at the moment, since the only person I really get to socialize with is my husband, and he's absent.  It just highlights the fact that my support system has crumbled.

 I think it just makes me think about other people who are absent, and how sad it makes me, terrible it makes me feel.  Probably because this sort of thing happens over and over and over, so it feels like I'm the problem.  And maybe I am the problem.  But I try not to be the problem.  And I try to understand what it is about me that does this to people, so I can attempt to change it.  But, I don't always understand, and there will always been lingering "What did I do that was so terrible?" questions in my head that are hard to manage because there aren't always answers to that question, because people just disappear.  And maybe that's another thing that all of this loneliness is triggering, it makes me notice more quickly when people start to pull away.  Then I get more sad.

But, I'm still there when people need it, even if they are holding me at a distance.  I haven't closed doors, I'm just not expecting people to walk back through them.  It's an ongoing battle I have with my self esteem, and my sense of self worth, but I'm still there.  If people want me to be.  That's about all I can do anymore.

So, it drives me to be here, writing this.  I know some people might think this format isn't the best way to deal with my feelings, but I think it's the best format for me.  It's sometimes just something I have to get out of my head so I have space for other things.  So, I get it out of my head and I move on.  I read something a friend posted a few days ago about why she writes, and she said "I am a (somewhat) well-adjusted member of society because I write.  Writing saves me from myself".  I think that's what I do here.  I'm saving me from myself by writing it all out and in some ways it keeps me balanced.  It keeps me from dwelling on the darkness that can creep into my head when I'm left to my own devices for too long.  And I need that.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A little bit of credit

When I first set out on the whole parenthood journey, there were a lot of people who were significantly less than supportive.  There were people, some very close to me, who said I wouldn't be very good at it.  There were people who said they never "saw me as a mom".  There were people who asked me if I was sure I was cut out for this.  That was hard.  That put a lot of doubt into my head.  It shook my confidence to the point where I actually didn't think I could be a good parent, because no one around me thought I could.  That's the weird thing about people.  When a person has faith in you, it's like you can do anything, but the second you feel like no one is in your corner, everything feels pointless.

Then, after my daughter was born, after I had been told while in labor that I "probably couldn't do it" ("it" being labor and delivery), I found myself in a panic at the idea of being allowed to go home with a baby that I clearly had no business taking care of because even while in the midst of birthing her, people still didn't think I could do it.  I panicked that I'd be sent home to care for her without the help of people who know so much more than I do about babies.  I was afraid to leave the hospital, because I thought that once I was on my own, I'd fulfill everyone's prophecy about me.

That's when something kind of amazing happened.  I did just fine.  I took care of her, kept her alive, seemed to know what she needed and when she needed it.  I got her through sickness, and through GERD, and through teething.  I snuggled her when she cried.  I played with her when she was alert.  I did all of the things that were expected of me, and I did them well.  It took me a long time to bond with her, but once things clicked, that was that.  It all worked.  I proved the naysayers wrong.

Then, we got to the point where my daughter was older, and despite the fact that she was thriving, people wanted to weigh in again on my abilities.  This time it was less about someone thinking I could do the basics of loving her and keeping her alive.  This time the thing that came into question was again about me, and about who I was, and whether I was a good enough example for my daughter.  The question of whether my daughter deserved better was brought up several times by people, and it cut deep every time.  It was so hard to hear that people thought that the person I am was somehow going to damage my daughter because I was going to set a bad example for her.  It was demoralizing to feel like you were finally doing something right in your life just to hear that others thought simply by being yourself, you were going to destroy your kid in some way.  I cried over that.  I cried a lot.  I ugly cried.  It was a weight that sucked all of the oxygen out of a room.

I took a hard look at things after that, though, and realized that those people don't matter.  When I look at my daughter, she is bright, she's funny, she's intelligent, she's well adjusted, she's curious, she's social, she's loving and sweet.  If people think that I didn't have anything to do with any of that based on the example I set for her, then they're dead wrong.  A lot of those qualities are just in her nature, but they continue to grow and flourish due to my encouragement and the example I set for her to continue to be this way.  I set examples for her to solve problems for herself.  I set examples for her on how to interact with the people she loves.  My whole life is an example for my daughter, and so far I haven't done so badly.  So for people to comment on how she deserves a better example really just goes to show that they do not know my daughter at all, and deep down they probably also don't know me.  They don't know that I always put my best foot forward for those that I love, and that I desire nothing more in this world than to see my daughter have a childhood that looks the polar opposite of the one I had.  Those people who wanted to talk about me as a parent haven't actually watched me as a parent.  They've drawn their conclusions based on who I am away from my child, or who they think I am based on social media, and not who I truly am when I raise my daughter.  And honestly, that's their mistake, not mine. 

When I take inventory of how things have gone to this point, and how I've handled this life I've sort of fallen into, and I let a note of conceit fall into my thoughts and opinions, I can allow myself to say I'm a damn good mother.  I don't do everything right, but I certainly have more right than wrong under my belt.  I am not perfect, but my daughter is thriving, happy, and vibrant.  So can anyone ask more than that of a child as young as mine is?  My older daughter is also thriving, challenging herself, living a life that she once couldn't have imagined living.  Her boyfriend recently said that our family is what he uses as an example of what a family should be, and he hopes to have one as great as ours some day.  That's high praise.  Far more valid than the people who have criticized from the outside, since he's basically living at our house and sees every day life.  So, yes, I'm a good mom, and maybe I need to say that out loud more often because it's true.  I'll always make mistakes.  I'll always worry over whether I'm doing the right things.  But on the whole, I'm always working to be the best parent I could possibly be, and anyone who thinks that's not a good enough example well......I guess that's their problem.

Friday, August 26, 2016

It's an ok life

This morning while driving to work I heard a song on the radio from a Broadway show, and the song itself was directly related to the show's subject matter, but every once in a while you hit a cluster of lyrics that you relate to and you think "Well, that's for me today".  Early on in the song, the lyrics were:

And if my life's not perfect,
If I'm anxious, bored, or sad,
Well, today may be less shitty--
With whole chunks of not so bad!

And I wouldn't change a thing about it;
No, I wouldn't want to change a thing.
In a world that's unreliable,
These are rocks on which to cling.
Nothing's great and nothing's new--
But "nothing" has its worth.

I liked these lyrics.  I liked them because it's a reminder that even if things aren't exciting all the time, and even if "nothing" is going on, that's ok.  Life might never be perfect, but there are big chunks of "not so bad" every day that you can be grateful for.  That's nice.  That's comforting.  Because we all have bad days, but when you shake it out as a whole, the entirety of life is a lot of "not so bad".

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Time to reflect

I went on vacation recently, which was nice because I really needed to get away from day to day life and re-center myself.  It's hard to appreciate the day to day a lot of the time, because you get caught up in the million demands of your average life, and often it seems as if the day is over just as soon as you feel like you've gotten your feet under you.  Vacation helps me turn off the noise of every day life.  It takes away those nagging responsibilities like cooking, laundry, dishes, grocery shopping etc. for a little while and just lets me be present in a place and enjoy it.  It's nice, and I need it every now and again.

Stepping away from life gives you space to think.  Space to breathe.  Space to sort yourself out.  This particular trip left me thinking about the last year of my life.  It's odd to think about "this last year" in the middle of August, right?  But, here we are, doing just that.  In many ways, the end of last summer was a precipice my life was teetering on, and when September hit, everything started tumbling in all directions.  My husband quit his job shortly after this time last year, and this year he starts a new one that is exactly what he wants to be doing, and he's excited about the work he's doing for the first time in as long as I can remember.  The journey for him to get from walking out on his job to where he is now was a series of events that all just sort of fell into place to lay this path for him, and while I was terrified of what would become of our lives when he walked away from his steady job, I can see now that it was the thing that had to happen to lead to where we are now, which is a much more positive place for our whole family to be.  While I initially was really angry and worried about how his decision played out, for the first time ever, I did the thing that was entirely out of character for me.  I let go.  I didn't try to control the situation.  I assumed that everything would work out in the end, and I let the chips fall where they needed to fall.  I stopped worrying about the next 10 steps down the road and just thought about the short term steps in front of me, and something miraculous happened.  Everything was ok.  Everything did work out.  Everything happened the way it needed to happen.  And, I learned that sometimes it's ok to let go a little.  I probably won't do this as often as I should, but now I know that if there's a voice in the back of my mind saying "It'll be fine", I should listen to it.

The Murphy's Law of my life, however, is that everything can't be going smoothly on all fronts at the same time.  I think it's some sort of curse.  Now that my home life is evening out, my extended family life is in a state of turmoil most of the time, and my friends at this point prove to be non-existent.  I suppose that's not entirely true.  The friends I depended on, the ones I cared about and opened up to, the ones I let see my rusted edges, those are all gone.  There are still friendships out there, many still small and in the early stages getting to know one another, but it doesn't replace the feeling that there were people you could depend on whenever you needed someone.  At least not yet.  Maybe not ever.  It's hard to say.  But, I suppose if I look back at the past year, maybe that idea that I could depend on people when I needed someone was really an illusion.  Between the people who simply disappeared, the people who have said that my daughter deserves a better example than I provide, the people who have backed away slowly, the people who literally refuse to attend anything if my daughter is present, and the people who find me to be somehow too much......did I really have anyone that I could honestly depend on?  When you look at the track record, I think maybe not.  But it felt that way, at least for a time, and sometimes it's the feeling that I miss most.  Now, instead of spending a couple of weekends a month with friends, I spend all of my weekends with my family.  It's enjoyable, though sometimes lonely.  Sometimes you just want to see people who make you laugh, who want to talk about their lives, or politics, or the motherfriggin' Olympics because the Olympics are awesome.  The family time is nice, though.  It's not a substitute for catching up with people you don't see every day, but at least we all enjoy each other's company, and none of us have to feel like we're forcing someone to spend time with us. 

I think maybe that's the lesson I'm supposed to learn here, though.  That there will likely never be other people you can truly depend on.  That you need to rely on yourself entirely, and friendships are best kept at a surface level where no one has to get attached to one another, that way it doesn't matter if those people disappear.  And I think I am learning that, slowly.  I may always envy people who have these beautiful friendships with people who have seen them at their best and worst.  My sister has several of those, and it's sometimes hard to watch and realize that can't be my life, but I think my life is just made to be different.  I'm made differently.  I'm not the person people keep around for years, and I need to be ok with that.  I'm starting to.

The upside to things is that because life at home is going smoothly, I enjoy the time spent with my family.  I enjoy my daughters.  I enjoy the life we continue to build within the four walls of our home.  I enjoy who both of my girls are becoming, and the way their lives are changing.  I enjoy my husband's newfound happiness, and the way our lives are growing together.  There are a lot of good things.  I just hope those good things keep growing, multiplying, and becoming better.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

An Update

It's been a while.  There have been a few times when I've sat down and wanted to work through my thoughts here, but lately writing has felt like a chore.  Life didn't stop moving forward, but my brain hasn't been able to stop and organize my thoughts in any sort of meaningful way for a while, so I would open the screen and immediately feel exhausted at the thought of filling it up, so I'd close it again and walk away.

I think part of the reason for this is that I've been working through emotional roadblocks here for basically the last two years, and I'm at a point where I just can't be bothered to do that anymore.  Nothing has changed.  Friends still don't talk to me.  Family continues to be a train wreck.  My weekends are still spent at home with little social interaction.  I still sometimes crave the freedom to be completely myself without having to hear about what I need to change to please others.  But, I can't be bothered to think too much on any of that anymore.  Nothing is going to change any of it, so the fretting and sadness over everything just feels pointless.  This is what my life looks like, and I honestly need to just accept and deal with that.  So, I guess maybe I have.  At least in some small way.  At the very least, I don't give it as much space in my head anymore.  I may crave what I see other people have in terms of personal relationships, but I think maybe that's just not the life the universe intended for me to have, and I need to stop trying to force it.  So, I have.  And it's ok.  I can think about other things.

As for life, it goes on.  My husband got a full time teaching job, which is amazing.  He's been working toward this for years and after he left his office job last fall, the stars all seemed to align for him and pieces kept falling into place, each piece leading him closer to this final step.  He's excited, and I'm excited for him.  He is the happiest I've seen him in years, and I'm glad.  I needed him to be happy, to be honest.  I tend to absorb the emotions of the people I surround myself with, so his misery was becoming my misery, and since he left his old job, it's like a weight was lifted from our lives, which I needed.  We both needed.  Probably him more than me.  But it has made the world feel like there's more oxygen in it, and it's good to breathe again.

My daughters are doing well.  The oldest has been dating someone for a while now who seems like a very good fit for her.  She's the happiest I've seen her since she moved in with us, and she keeps casually dropping comments about some day marrying this guy into conversation, looking for a reaction from us.  In reality, I think my husband and I would both be fine with that.  Not tomorrow, obviously, but if that was her choice somewhere down the road, he's a decent one.  Plus, I don't think she's going to find someone who matches her level of weird quite as well.

The younger is in full toddlerhood, which has its good and bad sides.  The fierce independence is hard, and it comes with tantrums that are epic and sometimes exhausting.  Then she swings quickly into moments of adorable that make you want to snuggle her to pieces.  Her vocabulary keeps growing, and she is starting to recognize letters when you point them out to her.  She continues to be obsessed with the cat, and insists on picking out her clothes each day.  Over all, she's turning into a stubborn, quick tempered, bright, hilarious little person, and there are times I wish I saw a little less of myself in her.  For those at home, it's not the bright and hilarious that she and I have in common. 

Was it Robert Frost who said that he could sum up everything he's learned about life in 3 words: It goes on?  I think it was.  I think he's right.  I think that's the best any of us can hope for.  It keeps going, and we go with it.  So that's what I'm doing.  I'm moving along with life.  And for now, that's ok too.  Sometimes it's nice to just go where things take you.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Departures are hard

A few days ago a friend of mine told me that she and her family were moving to Colorado.  It was casual, just a quick drop-in comment amid a conversation we were having, but it hit me in the gut like a punch.  I sat there, staring at my phone, trying not to cry.  I was crushed.  This was one of the only friends who didn't treat me differently after my daughter was born. She was the first person I told I was pregnant.  She has never questioned who I am, or asked me to be anyone different.  She talked me off the ledge every time I said I was afraid of being a bad mom, and she listened to every one of my crazy rants about how nervous I was, or how I felt like I was a bad person for not crying while I boxed up my daughter's newborn clothes, or not getting emotional when she hit new milestones, and each time she reassured me that I was ok, and that not everyone falls apart over little things like outgrowing an outfit.  She is my only friend who has never expected me to be more than what I am, and she's leaving.  I'm heartbroken.

I'm at this strange place in my life where all friendships are precarious.  People I loved, people I valued, people I would have given the shirt off my back, people I accepted for who they were despite their flaws, they're all disappearing.  It all started going down hill last January when my daughter was born, but it's just continued on and on to the point where my weekends are spent at home watching Netflix and communicating with no one.  If it weren't for my sister, I'd have just about no one left.  I don't know if that's my fault, or the fault of other people, or if it's just life and how people evolve, but it's sad. It's sad because I sill need people.  It's sad because I truly believe it takes a village to raise a child, and my village is gone.  It's sad because I feel like the reason is, as it is so often, because I am who I am.  I have tried, oh my goodness I have tried, so incredibly hard to be someone else, but at the end of the day I default back to this flawed and busted version of myself and it never seems to get better.  I have gone to therapy, I have done the work, I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone, and I have come up with the same conclusion each time.  At my core, I am me, and I'm learning that it's not what people want.  I try.  I try every day, in my work life, in my home life, and I'm pretty sure that every day, I fail.

Last week my family was in a state of upheaval, which is so often the case with my family, and the insult that was being wielded like a weapon was that people in my family were just like me.  Being like me was being used to insult other people.  It was clear that the general opinion is that I am the worst thing a person could possibly be, and I had to sit by and swallow that and pretend it didn't matter.  But it did.  It mattered a lot.  It just reinforced years and years of people telling me that the biggest problem with me.  Then I heard the same thing at work.  And I'm starting to wonder, some days, why I exist at all.  This isn't being said in an attempt to assign guilt, or seek some sort of pity.  It's a true and valid question I ask myself quite often.  Everyone is supposed to have a purpose.  Everyone is supposed to be here for a reason.  I just.....I can't seem to figure out what mine is, or why I'm here.  I hope it's to help my daughter to be so much better than the flawed and broken person I am, but I always fear that I'm going to pass my flaws on to her, and I'm going to leave her sitting in this same place 30 years from now, asking herself these same questions.  It's a huge fear I carry with me every day.  I've been told that my daughter deserves better, that I should be better for her sake.  The crushing thing about that statement is the assumption that I'm not trying every single day to be better, to be stronger, to be different for her.  So, if my purpose is to be a better example for my daughter than the one I had for myself, the implications here are that I'm failing at that as well.  And there are some days when I just need a win.

So....I guess that's why it hurts so much to hear that one more piece of my village is leaving.  I know we'll still have ways to communicate, but it's hard.  It's hard to know that when I need someone to celebrate with, she will be so very far away.  Her family has often included us as their own.  When her sister graduated college the same year I did, they threw a party for her, and when I arrived I saw that my name had been added to the cake.  No one had celebrated my achievement to that point, and there I was, at a party for someone else, and they thought to include me anyway, because that's who they are and that's what they do.  I will miss her.  I will miss brunches, and New Years Eve, and summer kickoff parties every year on the last day of school.  I will miss my friend.  Probably more than she will ever miss me.  She will always have her village, no matter where she goes, and I don't even know if she realizes how important she was to mine.  I just hope that distance doesn't prove to be impossible to overcome like it has in the past with other friends who have moved away.

I will miss my friend.

I miss all of them.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

What was I afraid of?

Today my husband and I met up with a friend at a local museum to see an exhibit that's housed there through the end of the summer.  We took my daughter along in her stroller, and she clapped and danced to the music playing in the exhibit.  Later we took her to an outdoor area and let her run around and look at animals on a working farm.  She seemed to have a great time, and we brought her home for her nap.  She woke up and played with her train set, shouting "Choo choo!" and rearranging the houses and trees on the train table.  She ran through the house, playing with toys, and on occasion when she'd run from one room to another, she'd do a run past me or my husband and climb up onto one of our laps and give us a big hug before going back to her playing.  At one point as she was hugging me, she said "Loooove you!" before sliding down onto the floor to run back to her toys.  I sat there for a moment, watching her look back at me with a huge grin on her face as she hugged a toy bunny and thought "Why was I so afraid of this?".

I'm always afraid of the unknown.  I'm afraid when I can't plan, can't anticipate what's going to happen, can't get ahead of the unexpected.  There were a million things about bringing a baby into our lives that scared me to death.  There were a million things about being a parent that scared me.  There was so much to be afraid of that I never had a chance to think about all of the things that wouldn't be scary.  And, if I'm being honest, even the scary things weren't all that scary.  I totally resent having to get up at 6:30 every morning, and I don't love having to work a day around nap time, but the big things I was afraid of weren't really worth being afraid of.  The payoffs you get outweigh the things to fear, and I wish I had known that.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Unnoticed lessons

Last week my mother bought my daughter a new toy.  This isn't really a shock, since my mother has a habit of buying things for my daughter whether she needs them or not.  This time it was a baby doll that has a stroller it can be pushed around in.  My daughter loves it, not because she loves baby dolls, but because she loves pushing things around.  She loves to be pushed in her stroller, and she loves pushing this baby doll in its stroller.  The doll itself is one of those weird dolls that makes noises when you squeeze its tummy, so it says "mama" and "dada" and then cries.  All of this is unremarkable, to be honest.  It's just a toy for little kids to play with.

So why am I bringing it up at all, right?  The thing is, after my daughter got this relatively unattractive doll and began playing with it, my mom sent me a couple of photos and a text message.  My daughter was kissing the doll in the first photo, and in the second one, she had picked it up and was hugging it.  The text message said "When the baby cries, she gives it kisses and hugs and picks it up and says "ohhhh" while she hugs it".  That was the moment when I realized that she knows what to do when a baby cries because she knows what my husband and I do when she cries.  Right down to saying "ohhhh".  My husband does that a lot.  He will hug her and say "Ohhh, it's not so bad.  It's ok".  I pick her up and give her hugs and kisses.  She knows how to love something else because she experiences us loving her, and that's really something I had never thought about up to that point.  I never really considered that so many of the lessons she will be learning are not through us sitting her down and actually teaching her, but through watching us interact with each other, and with her.  Every day, we are teaching her lessons in how to treat other people, how to behave in social settings, how to understand and interact with the world around her, and we don't even realize we're doing it.  I guess that, for not realizing this has been happening all along, we've been doing a pretty good job since she's a fairly well adjusted kid so far.  In reality, all that means is that if she's a reflection of what she's been watching us do for the last year and a half, it's a decent indication that we're not total assholes.  Hopefully.  I guess time will tell.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Thoughts on understanding

Over the past week or so I've read several blogs written by people of faith that have gotten thinking.  I'm not a person of faith, and generally speaking, I don't really like most people of faith.  I find them closed minded, bigoted, exclusive, and self righteous.  I understand these are sweeping generalizations, and I'm sure there are people of faith out there who are not like that.  I know a few of those people, and I appreciate them for who they are, but I also would contend that they're in the minority.  This leads to the question, "Why were you reading blogs written by people of faith if you don't like people of faith?" and that's valid.  But, I try to be a well rounded person, and I read a lot of things written by opposing viewpoints from my own because it's good to see all facets of this life we live.  Honestly, I've been reading one for years because I find the person so polar opposite in point of view from me that it's like learning about a completely different world.  And I think she's a bit nuts, so there is a pretty high entertainment factor to it.  The other ones I've read recently were from blogs that were not about faith at all, but about home renovation, or organization, or children with illnesses, and the faith just sort of came to the surface with recent posts.

The sad thing about reading some of these posts is when you find pieces of yourself in them, and realize that you probably still couldn't be friends with these people because the differences between you are still insurmountable, but you also see that there are connections.  Tiny little things that tie you to that person in some similar way and you think "If only we could grow that thread and ignore the rest of them", but that's not what life is like most of the time.  This morning I read a blog that was largely about missionaries and faith, but touched on being a parent.  Specifically, being a mom.  It talked about how being a mom is hard, and it's a big deal sometimes, and to ignore that really large piece of a person's life serves to make them feel isolated.  To make them feel they're misunderstood.  That hit me between the eyes.  It's so true, and I related so much to that one sentence.  It's what I've been doing for the past two years.  Trying to help people ignore that aspect of my life, which has just led to me feeling more and more isolated.  More and more misunderstood.  More and more alone.  Yet, I still try to help people pretend my daughter isn't a part of my life.  I hide her away when we have friends over.  I plan things for after she's in bed.  I clean up the toys as best I can.  I try not to talk about her.  I take a piece of myself, and I slice it off to appease people who don't "want to deal with it".  But, what that means is that people don't want to deal with me.  They don't want to deal with a huge part of who I am.  And while I never let my daughter be the dominant focus of anything, pretending she doesn't exist so that others feel more comfortable isn't fair either.  It's not fair of them to expect me to do that so that we can maintain a friendship.  I find I'm working so hard to make things easier for others to deal with, but they're not doing the same in return, and I have to ask how that's fair to me at all.  It's not fair to me.  So for others to feel ok, I have to feel isolated, misunderstood, cut off, alone.  When I read those sentences in this person's blog, I flashed to the many posts I've had on here over the past few years about feeling isolated.  Feeling alone.  Feeling a need for connection to other people that I used to have, but that seems to have died.  This person, who I will never be friends with, who I will never sit across from at a table having coffee, this person gets me.  In one sentence, they understand this piece of me.

The blog continued on about how those are the times she leans on her faith, and I started thinking about how simple life could be if I was the sort of person who could lean on something like faith as a foundation.  There has to be so much comfort in something like true faith.  There's comfort in the ritual of it.  Comfort in the sense of community that comes from it.  Comfort in the ability to feel like somewhere, someone else is always looking out for you and doing the right things for you for the right reasons.  Comfort in handing yourself over to the ritual and familiarity of faith, to turn off all of the voices sometimes and go on auto-pilot with ritual and repetition and to come out on the other side feeling whole and renewed.  I can see the appeal.  I just can't, personally, suspend my own sense of disbelief and skepticism to accept it.  I can't be a person of faith.  I've tried.  I don't think I necessarily want to be a person of faith.  But there are moments when I envy that trust.  That ability to feel cared for by a higher power when times get dark.  I envy those who can see everything as the plan a higher power has set out for them.  Personally, I look at the world and I see no plan.  I see happenstance, and inexplicable tragedy, and so many things that make me question how a divine plan could be out there working for the greater good.  There are days, though, when I wish I had the comfort of that belief.

I'm not sure what point I'm trying to make here.  These were just some thoughts going through my head after reading some of these things.  It's really just rambling of things to continue to think about.  And perhaps it's about me going through my own sort of learning as I read things by people on the opposite end of the spectrum from me.  That, no matter how much I disagree with the majority of what someone thinks, or says, or does, there may still be some small thread of understanding that connects the two of us, and if people in staunch disagreement can find that thread, maybe everyone would be better off because we'd be less apt to destroy one another over disagreement.

Just some thoughts.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mother's Day

Another Mother's Day has come and gone, and I find that Mother's Day is a weird holiday because you get to "take a break" as a mom, but then the next day you're just left doing all the stuff you didn't do when you were "taking a break".  It's just an illustration that you can't really take a break from your life.  Everything is still waiting for you when you get back.  It's ok, though.  It's nice that people want you to take a bit of a break on a day that's supposed to be special for you.

I think Mother's Day is generally weird for me.  I spent years functioning as someone's mom without getting the credit for it, and then I had a baby and everyone acted like I was suddenly hitting my very first mother's day and made a huge deal out of it.  But, because it's not just my Mother's Day, I find that we spend a lot of time doing things for other mothers, like mine, my mother-in-law, and my husband's grandma, so the whole "celebration" piece of it seems focused on other moms.  I think that's just how it goes, though.  Everyone has obligations to their moms, and you have to share the day, which I think would be easier if our families all got along and we could truly share it instead of bouncing from one house to another all day long.

I think the most striking thing this year was the contrast between this Mother's Day and last.  Last year I had a million text messages wishing me a Happy Mother's Day from all of my friends and family.  This year I got messages from the some people, but it was greatly reduced.  I think maybe that had to do with last year being the "first" one, but I find myself wondering if some of it was because people are putting distance between us.  It's been ongoing, it's impossible to ignore.  It's not just one or two people, it's almost everyone I know.  The only people who reached out this year were people who never got weird after my daughter was born.  People who, despite any flaws or missteps in the past, still show up when things matter.  The group is very small, but it's interesting to see who is still around a year later, and who still reaches out.  I'm sad that things have gone the way they have, but it's also not entirely in my control.  I miss a lot of things and a lot of people, but I'm not the one who pulled away so I guess that's just how things are now.

On the whole, as Mother's Days go, mine was nice.  We went to dinner on Friday to celebrate since we knew Sunday would be spent making the rounds to everyone else, and my husband and kids got me a lovely gift certificate that I look forward to using.  That's about as extensive as it got.  I think that's ok, though.  I don't love being the center of attention most of the time, so keeping things low key was nice.  And I got a lovely card filled with scribbles from my younger daughter, and a very nice card from my older daughter and her boyfriend that was filled with love and kindness.  That's really all anyone could ask for.

Monday, April 18, 2016

It's like the ocean

Last week I was talking to a co-worker about her life and a friend she has who she feels she's drifting away from.  She was saying that she just feels like it's hard to continue to be friends with this person because they don't ever seem to just fix their own problems, and it's frustrating.  I told her that I understood, but that people have said the exact same things about me before and it sucks to be the person who hears that the reason people don't want to be around them or whatever is because they don't just "fix it".  She seemed surprised that anyone would have that opinion of me, but in her defense she's my co-worker and it's not like she knows the deepest depths of my soul or anything.  She said that her friend just has so many problems and is always going through a rough patch and it's hard because she's not fixing herself.  So, I gave her this analogy:

Imagine you're out in the middle of the ocean.  Everywhere you look it's just water, and no sign of hope that anything good can come of this situation.  You're treading water where you are, and you're starting to feel a lot of despair.

Then a friend flies over you in an airplane, and they can see from above that there's a sand bar just 300 yards from where you're currently treading water in a bottomless depth of ocean, and upon seeing the sand bar they shout down "Oh god, just swim a little bit and stand up, you're being so dramatic!" and fly off.

The solution seems so easy to them, because they're outside and they can see it and they don't know all of the variables you're facing in the water.  They don't know if you're a strong enough swimmer to make it that distance.  They don't know if you've been treading water so long that you're too exhausted to actually swim.  They don't know if getting to the sand bar will REALLY solve your problem, because you'll still be in the water and maybe you're getting hypothermia, and at any rate, even if you can stand up, you're still in the middle of the damn ocean and you've got to get to land.  What they know is there's a simple solution from their perspective to fix your current situation.

The other problem is, they tell you to "swim a little bit and stand up" but they don't tell you which direction to swim, or how far you'll need to swim, or anything else.  All you know is you're being "dramatic", but from where you sit, all you can see is ocean and you're afraid of drowning.

Sometimes that's what it's like to be the person who "won't solve their own problems".

She looked at me as if I was some sort of incredibly wise individual, and said she had never thought about it that way and maybe she had the wrong idea about what was causing her friend to have these problems, and maybe she should consider the true cause instead of just looking at the situation in simple terms where a solution seems so very obvious.

I guess, in the end, I hope I helped her relationship with her friend.  But, if I didn't, at least I know I can craft a damn good analogy.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Maybe I'm a Vulcan?

I'm sure my geek husband will be a fan of the Star Trek reference here, but this is something I was thinking about the other day while I was painting my guest room.  That's how things often happen, I'm working on something that is relatively mindless and can let my brain wander into lots of other topics while I work.  Roll some paint, think about how absurd it is that some cultures used to believe in human sacrifice.  Roll some more paint, think about how easily hula dancers move their hips and wonder if it was hard to learn.  Role some more paint, and so on and so forth.  This weekend I was thinking about myself, because sometimes I'm self absorbed, and my life and some observations made by other people and why things are as they are.

Basically, I have a habit of taking care of a lot of things in my home and in my life.  Things that others may not think about, or things that may go unnoticed.  Things that I think people would only really remember to do themselves if I wasn't around to take care of it.  Sometimes, that's exhausting, because it's a lot of day in and day out cycle of work that makes your life feel like there's not enough down time.  For example, I cook dinner almost every single night, and after dinner I'm also the one who does the dishes.  In most households, the person who cooks doesn't have to clean up and in so many ways that sounds like SUCH a luxury to me, but it's just not the reality of my living situation.  I've argued with my husband about it a million times, and he always says things like "If you don't want to do the dishes, don't do them.  Just leave them.  Someone will do them eventually.  Your problem is they don't get done on your timeline".  My challenge with a statement like that is that, yes, eventually they will get done.  But probably not before I have to use them again to cook and I won't be able to.  So, if I don't do them, no one will do them in a timely manner, and I'll just be unable to cook after a day or two because there will be no clean dishes left.  I suppose I could leave everything sitting and just wait for someone to step in and do it, but I feel like that's more frustrating and stressful for me than just doing the stupid dishes.  I'm annoyed that I have to do them every night, particularly when I'm cooking food I won't eat (I'm picky, I don't always eat what's on the menu for the week) and then washing dishes for the food I didn't eat.  It gets annoying.  In the end, though, the reality doesn't change that the next day I will need to cook again and I will need clean dishes and if I leave the dishes in the sink overnight, no one else is going to take the initiative to do them.  So I do them.  I still don't love it, but I've started to take a sort of Vulcan-esque approach to my thinking about the situation.  I have three other people in my family, and they all need food every night.  They need clean dishes to eat that food off of.  They outnumber me.  Maybe I need some down time, but I'm only one person.  So, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.  This means I do the dishes.

When I look at my life on the whole, that's how I've always handled things, really.  I've been called selfish before, sometimes by people who are closest to me and I always feel like they should know better.  I have spent my whole life doing what's best for the most people.  I always did things with my siblings in mind and made sure that their needs were handled growing up before mine.  I have supported friends repeatedly through rough patches, when in reality what I really needed was support myself for my own challenges I faced, but I never asked for it.  Their needs came first.  I've been selfish at times, I'm sure.  I actually hate the idea of being seen as selfish, because I try so hard to be selfless, but I'm sure there are times when I've been a bit of a petulant brat about things.  On the whole, though, I typically put the needs of the many first, and the thing is, I'm not bothered by that.  I mean, sure, the dishes thing kind of pisses me off sometimes, but on the whole I don't mind that I'm never first.  I feel like people often think I should be bothered by the lack of balance there is a lot of the time, but I'm usually not.  And when I am, it's typically when it comes to something dumb like chores, because I just hate being the only one doing daily chores while everyone else gets to sit around and do once a week chores.  Yeah.  That sucks.  But, it's not like it's a deal breaker in my world.  There's a piece of me that actually LIKES making sure everyone is taken care of.  At the end of the day, I bring a lot of it upon myself by not telling other people they have to do things differently.  I don't think the chore thing would change, since I've already had a million arguments about that, but I could tell people I need more support, or that I can't make sure everyone is taken care of all the time.  I just don't really want to.  I think that might be a problem from someone else's point of view, but it's true.

I think that the only time it really becomes a true problem is when I need other people, and they're just not there for me the way I would be for them.  That's hard.  That's when I want to become a selfish person and say "I would do it for you!" but I've also come to understand that it's often expecting too much and that I'm seeing the world as I am, not as it is.  Just because I would do something for someone doesn't mean I should expect the same in return.  That's been a long and hard lesson to learn, but it's also true.  I've also learned that while it's often easy for people to give a gift card, or a meal, or a donation to something, the hardest gift to give up is their time.  And sometimes that's what people need, it's your time.  I know I've had friends who have needed my time from me and I've made that work, but it's been a struggle on occasion and it's often done with a sacrifice on my part of something else I may have wanted or needed to do.  But, it wasn't easy.

And that's where the Vulcan part of me comes in.  I've always just been like "Well, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" and that's who I am.  And, I guess, I kind of like that about myself.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

My kid is my bestie?

I made a joke the other day that my daughter is my bestie, which is both sad and accurate.  Not in the sense that I'm Amy Poehler in Mean Girls walking around like "I'm a cool mom!" or anything, but in terms of shared activities, it's sort of not wrong.  We go shopping together, we spend tons of time wandering Target for no reason, we run errands together, she goes with me to get coffee, we get lunch together, she listens to me sing songs badly in the car without judging.  When you lay it out, I do more with her than I've ever done with any individual friend or anything.

On one hand, I'm glad I can spend so much time with her without wanting to kill her.  Mostly because I sort of have to given that whole "She's your kid and you have to keep her alive" thing, but also because it's nice to genuinely enjoy her company.  On the other hand, I sort of hate that it toes the line of becoming one of those moms whose whole world revolves around their kid.  Or becoming one of those people who doesn't know who they are without their kid on their hip.  I don't want to cross that line, so it's something I try to be really aware of.  I try to make sure that when I'm out with just my husband (which, let's be honest, hasn't happened since before Christmas) I don't spend all my time talking about the toddler.  Or if I'm with friends, which also doesn't happen often lately, I'm not solely focused on telling them about my daughter.  Sometimes I actually look up and pre-select topics that I can talk about that have nothing to do with kids.  Just in case I run out of things off the top of my head.  I just don't want to always default to "Look at this photo of my kid!" in those situations.

I think it's a struggle a lot of people have.  You have all of this time and this contact with your kid, and because you love them and enjoy your time with them (usually), it can be hard not to fall into this trap where you define yourselves by your children.  I want to be a great mom, but I also want to be me. I imagine everyone worries about this on some level, and some do a better job of balancing it than others.  I'm hoping to be one of the people who is good at figuring out the balance.

Monday, April 11, 2016


My birthday is coming up.  Well, sort of.  It's in a month.  But, the point is, I have a birthday in the not terribly distant future.  I'm not really looking forward to it.  I'm normally the person who loves birthdays.  I make a big deal out of everyone's birthday, I make cakes, I organize dinners or gatherings, I spoil people.  I literally remember birth dates for classmates that I went to elementary school with.  I'm not sure why.  I think that, at the core of a birthday, it's a celebration of a person.  It's celebrating that they were born, and they're here, and they matter.  It's kind of like a day of saying "I'm glad you're here, and I'm glad you're in my life".  So, I make a big deal of birthdays.

I have to make a cake for a friend's birthday coming up the first weekend of May, and mine is after that, but I'm not planning anything.  I asked my husband not to plan anything either.  It just doesn't feel important.  In some cases, I feel like inviting anyone to celebrate would just illicit attendance out of some sense of obligation.  I don't want that.  Everything with everyone is weird lately, so I just feel like I'd rather not be bothered.  And I'm ok with that.  It's actually a choice I'm making, and I'm fine with it.  I'll spend the day with my husband, and my kids, and I'll know that I'm surrounded by people who actually want me around them, faults and all.  We'll probably get dinner and then go home and watch some tv and that'll be that.  It'll be low key, and peaceful, and free of any sense of forcing people into something they don't really want to do.  Now all I have to worry about is making sure the toddler makes it through dinner without melting down.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Nailed it

Sometimes I don't know how much I buy into therapy.  I did it for a while, because I needed to sort my shit out, but that mostly just made me realize that "my shit" was largely related to dealing with other people's shit.  I think the problem with things like therapy is that it's supposed to help you understand why you do things or feel certain things or whatever.  I over analyze everything.  I typically understand the why.  It's really the "how do I do this differently?" question I struggle to answer.  And, even after having gone to therapy, I still struggle to answer that one.  Today, though, I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw this post:

"All the highly empathetic people I know in my life have had abusive home lives, and that's because we were trained to read a situation at any given moment in our homes and learn how to react within seconds because if we didn't, and we said or did the wrong thing, we'd get yelled at or beat or hurt.

But, subconsciously always reading the mood of any atmosphere or space you're in, always being able to gauge how people feel, it's not exactly a gift.  It's exhausting.  You can't turn it off, even if you want to.  You read the situation, and if it's negative you freak out because if someone is angry at you, it's the end of the world.

We've internalized the scars from our childhood when an adult being mad at you was the worst thing that could happen, and it's been carried with us into adulthood.  It's hard to unlearn that.  So, a lot of us have mental health or anxiety issues because we also start internalizing all the energy from other people, be it positive or negative, and it can be anxiety-inducing and frustrating."

On so many levels, I know this is what goes on in my head.  I know that's why other people's moods affect me so strongly.  I know that's why I am always trying to push people to "look on the bright side" or trying to control situations and emotions in people.  Because, in the long run, it's a self preservation thing for me.  If I can control how someone else feels, I can then continue to feel ok myself because I don't have to absorb all of those negative feelings from other people.  I know that is why I freak out when I worry that someone is upset with me, or that I've done something wrong.  It's also why I sort of kick myself when I feel I've done something stupid.  Clearly I missed something, clearly I didn't do the right thing, clearly I didn't understand something and now I must over compensate and fix it.  I know all of this about myself.  This post, though.  This post sort of put it into words, which I haven't really been able to do before.  I understand, I get it, but I never know how to express it in a way that people who live outside my head would understand.

I think, sometimes, I wish other people understood this about me.  Not so that I get a pass on things, but maybe so that situations are handled with a bit more understanding than I typically receive. I don't think people necessarily get that I can feel it when things aren't going ok.  Even if everyone is acting just fine, and things appear normal, I can almost always tell when something is off.  Then I worry that I'm doing something wrong, and I trigger back to the idea of someone being mad at me or upset with me being the worst thing in the entire world, because the consequences of that are just astronomical in my past.  I start to think I should have controlled more.  I should have seen more things coming, I should have prevented more obstacles from happening.  I should have been out front to fix it.  It's a bit of a terrible cycle, and I'm still trying to figure out how to break it.  I know my husband hates it.  He hates that I'm always trying to diminish my role in situations so that I don't have to admit that I don't know the right decision or what the right answer is, so I avoid making decisions or choices on things that largely affect others.  He hates that I need him to "always be happy" because I'm always trying to push him into a better mood or I get really anxious when he gets angry about stuff, and he's always saying "People are allowed to get mad, dammit!  No one can be happy all the time!" but with me....if he's mad, I feel it.  I feel responsible, I feel upset, I feel stressed out, I feel a little mad too.  He doesn't even have to be mad at me, it's just the overall feeling when that happens that is hard for me to swallow.  His years of misery at his job weighed on me.  Perhaps not as heavily as they weighed on him, because his situation was really bad, but it was like a weight on my chest too and it was hard.

So, the universal question is how to make it all stop.  I'm not sure, honestly.  I try to ignore things.  I try to understand that someone being mad at me does not equate the end of the world, though I don't have a whole lot of examples where that hasn't been the case, I suppose understanding is only part of the journey.  But, I think that other people understanding is also a part of the journey.  If people understand why you do things, maybe they'd be less harsh in their judgement about you and that can help a lot as well.  I don't know.  I just saw the post and wanted to get my thoughts about it out of my head.

Monday, April 4, 2016


On Saturday morning I was out bright and early with my daughter running some errands and giving my husband some quiet time in the house since it's his morning to sleep in, and he often has some work he has to get done on the weekends so it's nice to give him a quiet space to do that.  This seems to be a pretty common routine for us on Saturdays.  We get up, she plays for a bit while I get dressed, she gets some breakfast, I get her dressed and then we run out to accomplish whatever is outstanding on our list for the week.  

As I was driving around, I was thinking about how much I enjoyed the familiarity of everything.  I know for some people, the idea of living where you've always lived sounds like the worst thing in the world.  I know some people desperately need to separate themselves from their home towns in order to figure out who they are, or find their place.  I know that there are a lot of people who would listen to me say that I've grown up and lived in the same general area my whole life and they would think about how sad and small my life must be, but in all honesty, I'm happy with it.  I think, largely, because what I do is not directly tied to my location.  I don't do the same things I've done since high school just because I live in the same town.  I've met new people.  I've done new things. I've traveled from this town across the country and even across the globe.  My life isn't small, even if my town sort of is.  In the end, I like the familiarity of the streets, and the fact that I can drive my daughter past my grandmother's old house if I want and show her where some of my childhood happened.  I like that the bakery my grandma took me to as a kid is still there and I can take my daughter to it.  I like that I can create and build some of these shared memories for my family because of where I am.  I like that I'm near my cousins, and near friends who are as close as family sometimes.  I like that on a Saturday morning, I can drive down the street and the sunlight looks the same as I've always remembered it looking that time of year, and there is comfort in that familiar feeling.  There is comfort in being able to embrace what you've always known and see it not as a hindrance or a thing that is holding you back, but as a space of comfort to come back to when you've pushed yourself out of that comfort zone for a while.  Sometimes that's a really nice feeling to have, and it encourages you to branch out sometimes and travel to places you're unfamiliar with, or do things you're uncomfortable doing, because you know there's always a soft space to land back home.

So, while I know some people might look at my life and cringe, I'm actually pretty grateful for it.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Broken people parenting

One of the things about being a parent who didn't necessarily have the best examples to work from is that it makes you constantly worry about repeating the bad example you had.  It's not passive.  It's never passive.  It's an active concern that you have that nags at you after every decision you make, and every reaction you have.  It is that voice in the back of your head that can't ever seem to be silenced.  Then you read articles, which are supposed to be informative, but just make you go into a panic.  Things about how children react when their mothers aren't loving enough, and how it damages them for life.  Those things make you think that every time your toddler clings to your legs while you're trying to cook dinner and stares up at you with huge pleading eyes saying "Up!  Please!  Please!" your'e going to leave her scarred for life by telling her no, that you've got something else you need to do.

I don't think most people understand that kind of constant concern.  I don't expect them to, honestly.  I think that most people understand average mom worries where you think "Am I doing the right thing?" but it's very different from constantly questioning "Am I going to leave her messed up like me?".  It's hard.  It's hard to be wholly unable to silence that voice.  It's hard to feel like no matter how well you do, the voice will never really be satisfied.

I think that's what makes it hard to accept if someone makes an offhanded comment about something you're doing as a parent.  Whether it be the person at Target who gives you an odd look when your kid is angry crying because you strapped her into the front of the cart because she was insisting on standing up in the seat and your reaction to her crying is "Oh yes, I've ruined your life and now it's over".  Or if your kid melts down while your friends are over and someone makes a comment about it and you find yourself worried that you're doing something wrong because your kid melted down to begin with.  Or if someone implies that you're doing something at a level less than you should be.  Or if someone questions how you're handling anything.  That just reinforces the voice, and it makes you think that you're doing everything wrong, or that you're handling something differently than you should be.  It's enough to leave a person ugly crying in the middle of the afternoon.

This is a bit rambling, possibly because I've had a large glass of wine so I could pretend I don't care about people saying things or giving me those looks.  But, I do.  Those things hurt.  Maybe if the voice wasn't there, they wouldn't, but they do.  So, yeah.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I get it

My husband had lunch with a friend yesterday who was talking to him about a situation she's come up against with a couple of other friends.  Basically, she and her husband are friends with two couples and have been for years.  Since high school.  Everyone in that group of six used to get along just fine, but there was an incident that fractured the relationship between two of the couples, leaving my husband's friend and her husband sort of caught in the middle.  It sounds as if the end of the friendship between two of the couples was ugly and people who had been friends for a really long time said some pretty harsh things.  In the end, one of the people in the situation ended up being told he was basically a piece of garbage and no one had ever liked him.  Ouch.

Now, my husband's friend and her spouse are sort of caught between the two.  They hang out with one couple more often than the other (the one who was most hurt in the situation) and the more injured of the two parties takes it very personally.  He gets upset, and he becomes sort of needy because he gets less time with these friends than the other couple.  My husband's friend finds it frustrating, because it's not intentional that one couple is getting more time than the other, but this friend seems to feel as if it is.

After hearing this story relayed back to me, my initial reaction was to say "Well, he's really making something out of nothing", but on further reflection, I feel very sad for this person.  I think I feel sad because I get it.  I get that hurt, and that feeling of insecurity that comes from it.  I've been that person who was told they were a piece of garbage.  I've been that person who thought they were close to someone only to have it all fall apart.  And I've been that person who watches everyone else get along just fine with those people and it can be hard.  It can be hard to always wonder if those people are poisoning everyone else against you, or to wonder if people saying something isn't intentional is entirely honest.  It's hard to know that you lost people you really cared about and see that other people are seemingly becoming closer to those people, because you wonder if the others are next.  You get put in a space of always waiting for the next shoe to drop.  You question everything.  You read too much into everything.  You become more afraid than you ever really knew you could be, because you just feel like you can't lose one more thing without going a little mad.  It's particularly hard when the assessment is that you're garbage, or you're the entire problem, when in reality all parties probably own some responsibility.  It's easy to feel like these other people are all hanging out without you, so your other friends are choosing sides and they didn't choose you.  I realized, the more I thought about it, that I really got where this person was coming from.

My husband told his friend that she had to understand where this person was coming from as well, and that he's been there and he gets it and it's ugly and hard and she said "Well, it's pretty exhausting to deal with" and his response was "Sometimes being a good friend is exhausting".

And it is.  Sometimes I think it's more exhausting than people want to put up with, so they don't.  They walk away because it's easier, and that exacerbates the problem.  I think for those who are used to being told how terrible they are, walking away just reinforces the message.  In the end, I hope my husband's friend finds some understanding and compassion for this friend of hers, and I hope her friend finds some love and loyalty where they need it.  But, in the meantime, I get it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Beyond 100 days

Earlier today I was reading this article after it was posted by a blogger I follow on Facebook, and as I sat there reading it and feeling like none of it really applied to me too much, I got to a couple of sentences, or part of a couple of sentences, that hit me right between the eyes:

"The loneliness that hits at random times..."
" have to figure out how you fit in this world again."

Whoa.  Like a punch to the gut.  What followed or preceded either of those snippets didn't feel like it applied to me, necessarily.  I don't feel like my life went through 100 days of darkness after my daughter was born.  There were rough patches, to be sure, but I know for sure that I was never stumbling through the grocery store like a zombie who hadn't even looked at herself in the mirror before leaving the house.  I didn't have days where I couldn't eat, sleep, or shower.  Often I didn't feel like I was able to get enough sleep, but I was always able to get enough to be able to function and take care of myself and my daughter just fine.  I wasn't anxiously waiting at the door for my husband to come home so I could hand her off just to regain some sanity.  At least not most days.  My marriage didn't take a hit from trying to balance baby care and our relationship.  We actually weathered that storm just fine.  We hardly fought.  I had one night where I cried because I felt like we hadn't gone to bed at the same time in weeks and I just missed being able to cuddle up to each other as we fell asleep, but that was the worst of it.

Those two sentence snippets, though.  Those I know all too well.  And they don't end after that 100 days of darkness the article references.  Those keep going, all the time.  Those evenings when you just feel terribly lonely and miss friends.  The moments when you want to send a text message to someone just to have some interaction, but you don't have anything to talk about because you don't DO anything anymore and you don't want to just resort to talking about your kid, so instead you do nothing.  Those times when your kid does something you're really excited about, but you realize as you scroll your phone that there isn't one person you can tell who would really care.  That loneliness goes bone deep, and it hits you hard when it happens.  You usually don't see it coming either, but it's a reminder of how isolated you can feel.

I think that couples with figuring out how you fit into this world again, too.  It's a constant battle of trying to figure out how you can be you and still be mom.  How you can balance your career with being a good parent who is present and able to be present and give your kids the time they need and deserve.  Constantly having to choose between your needs and theirs (spoiler alert: yours always lose that battle) and having to figure out where you fit in your group of peers when all is said and done.  If you even fit at all.  Which, I think most often, you don't.  I feel like trying to stay true to who you are while also having this other piece of your life that takes your time and attention is a huge struggle that everyone faces.  I've tried to fight against expectations and keep things as normal as I can, to remain as true to myself as I can, and yet I still feel like I have no idea where I fit in this world anymore.  All of the things I once thought were solid simply aren't.  That's hard.  That's the piece I'm afraid I'll never figure out.  I don't fit with the mommies, but I don't seem to fit with my friends anymore either.  So that contributes to the loneliness.  But what if I never find that space that I fit into now with this new version of me?  That's terrifying.

I think a piece of me wishes those things had ended after those dark days the article was referencing.  But, I think those ones might linger.  Possibly forever.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Intentional Kindness

I've been thinking over the past week or so as lots of things have been evolving in my life.  I've been thinking a lot lately about intention.  Intention is an interesting idea, because it's so easy to assume that when someone hurts us, or someone does something that negatively affects our lives, that it's done with the intention of seeing that happen.  I've done it.  Everyone has done it.  The reality is that we are all made of flaws and mistakes.  We're all going to do something at some point that someone misinterprets or that somehow hurts someone and they will assume we intended for that to happen.  That causes a lot of discomfort in friendships or relationships or whatever.  Sometimes, it can end them all together.

There have been a few things that have come to light lately that make me question the intentions of other people.  Betrayal by a friend has me questioning whether they intended for the damage that the betrayal left in its wake to happen, or if that was just a side effect of the things they said.  I'm honestly not sure what the intention was, or what the motivation was for them to do what they did, but it's hard to address the situation because the hurt part of me says "Why did you want to hurt me?" while the rational part of me says I don't know that this person wanted to hurt me.  It makes things difficult, I guess, to have two parts of at odds over what to do.

Though all of this, though, I've been thinking about what I feel is missing a lot of the time in a lot of people's lives.  In the end, I think everyone could just use a lot more kindness.  I know I could.  I feel like I've been left out to dry by a lot of people I invested in, and that I've been made to feel like the person I am is just too much work for other people to be going on with.  And that's hard.  But, if I flip that around and ask myself whether those people feel that way because everything else in their lives is also too much work and I'm just one more thing to deal with, wouldn't they do well to experience a little bit of kindness?  And, moreover, maybe I should show some kindness even though they didn't show much to me.  Because maybe we're all fighting a mighty battle behind the scenes.

I've always tried to be there for people who need it, or to support people who need some support, but I've just sort of done it through saying "Let me know if you need anything" and there's no real intention behind that.  So, that's what I'm thinking about as we move into the next few months.  Showing kindness with intention.  Taking an extra step to do something without being asked.  To do something without putting the burden of naming what that particular "thing" is back on the person who needs the help.  Intentionally being kind just because I think most people don't see enough of it.  I started last week when two co-workers were having a really rough time.  I spent $10 and brought them each flowers one day, because I can't fix what happened but I can brighten a moment within the aftermath.  I guess, in some small way, I've been slowly working up to this for a while.  A few weeks ago I cooked a meal and took it to a friend who just had a baby, because I know how hard those first days are.  I have been dropping boxes of clothing and second hand baby gear off to a former co-worker who doesn't have much family in the area, because I know how daunting it can be to gather all of those things yourself and every little bit helps.  And here's the thing, I keep thinking about this more and more and I feel like this whole showing kindness thing isn't just for people you're really close to, or who you have really invested in their relationship with you.  I think it's for everyone you know, no matter how casual that relationship might be, because in some way you've touched their life at some point.  So, who cares if it was 10 years ago?  Who cares if you haven't talked to them in a long time?  That doesn't decrease their need to feel cared for or loved in some small way.  So, that's what I've been keeping in mind.  And sure, some gestures might cost me a bit of cash.  The flowers cost $10, but I got a bonus at work and there wasn't a better use for it in that moment.  Taking a meal to someone might cost me a few bucks and some time, but how wonderful is it for those people to not have to worry about food for an evening?  Churches do tithing where you give a portion of your income to the church to do good, so maybe I need to just think of this as tithing to the universe where I can do the good that needs done.  And, it doesn't always have to cost money, since handing down clothes is free, or sending a quick note is also free.  But the point is that I plan to be more intentional in these things.  Not because I want anything in return, truly I don't, but because I know a lot of that is missing in my life and I can't change how I've been treated, but I can change how other people feel about their lives and how much they feel like they matter.

So, I think that's going to be my focus for a while.  To be intentionally kind in the absence of kindness.  Who knows, maybe in the long run it'll make me a better person as well.

Monday, February 29, 2016

A year of being selfish

I keep thinking about life as I currently know it.  My foster daughter had a party on Saturday, which I kept telling her was "her party" and that meant she was going to have to do all of the work for it.  Then I proceeded to do a bunch of work for it.  I made pizza dough.  I made brownies from scratch.  I mixed cocktails.  Some of them stayed over, so I got up early on my ONE day a week that I'm able to sleep in and I made cinnamon rolls and a quiche for her guests.  In the end, for being her party, I took care of a lot of things.  When I take a hard look at things, that's sort of how my life goes all of the time.  Even when I say "This isn't my job, someone else will be doing it", the first time someone asks me to step in, I say yes.  I am constantly taking care of other people and their needs.  I often give up my own preferences to make sure everyone else is happy and cared for.  This extends through almost all areas of my life.  I put up this front of being combative at work and being a rabble rouser, but when we look at it, I'm always fighting for injustices happening to other people and rarely for myself.  This makes me look bad for constantly fighting the good fight for other people and I rarely get anything in return by way of payoff.  Then, when I have to stand up for myself, I've sort of used all of my clout.   I'm working on it.  I really am.

The problem I have is that I never want to be perceived as selfish.  I try incredibly hard to keep myself from being selfish and awful.  I give up things I want because I'm trying to be selfless.  I shy away from offering input on any subject that could make me look like I'm not putting someone else first.  I don't give many opinions on where to go for dinner, for example.  It drives my husband insane.  The problem is that after a lifetime of putting others first in most situations, it leaves me feeling drained and unbalanced.

I keep thinking that 2016 needs to be a year of being selfish.  Not to the extent that I become a terrible person, but I think it means I need to do more things that will bring some balance back.  Take care of myself in addition to everyone else.  For example, I don't ever want to travel for work because I have nothing in my closet that is client-facing appropriate.  I plan to fix that.  I'm also realizing that my husband takes classes 2 nights a week and while it's not a break from life, it's a few hours a week where all he has to do is show up and be present.  I need something for myself that feels that way.  I need to find something to do where all I have to do is focus on that.  As it is, I can't even sit on my sofa watching tv because all I think is "I should be picking up those toys" or "I probably need to go unload the dishwasher" and it's too hard to actually relax in my own space.  I need to do something else.  I've also been having problems with energy levels just not existing most days, and I'm so tired of being tired, so I'm hoping that maybe I can find some sort of exercise routine that will help boost my energy so I don't feel like I'm exhausted all the time.  So, I want to figure some things out.

But, on occasion, I'm going to take the selfish route and see if life starts to feel more balanced.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

It's all about choices

Recently someone I don't really talk to very often sent me an instant message while I was at work.  She and her husband are talking about having children and she said "You seem to have taken to this motherhood thing and really have it together, so how do you handle life as a working mom?"  Initially, I'll admit, that comment and the question that followed both surprised me.  Partially because I look at myself and my life and I feel like I am the last person who would say I "have it together" but also because I don't know how to answer the question of how I handle being a working mom.  The answer to that, like so many other things I've had to handle in my life is that I  It's a thing that has to happen, so I make it happen.  I don't know that there's any sort of secret mystery to it.  I just do the best I can with what I have.  That's what I've done my whole life.  Motherhood has never really struck me as being any different.

But, at the core of what she was talking about, I understood.  I understood that she, like me, was sitting there freaking out about all of the what ifs, and the fear that you might not be good at it, or you might resent your kid, or you might have the kid and realize you never really wanted a kid, or things could get bad and you'll have another person to consider.  Basically the whole early stage of this blog, that's what she's really getting at.  And for once, I could say that I truly get it.  I truly get all of those things, because it was me not so very long ago.  Truthfully, there are days when it's still me.

In the long run, though, it's all about choices.  You choose who you want to be as a parent.  You choose what your focus is.  You choose who you want to be as a parent.  My husband sometimes goes out to lunch with a friend who brings along her daughter.  He said that it's nearly impossible to have a conversation with this friend during lunch because her focus is entirely devoted to her daughter the whole time.  That's fine, that's her choice as a parent, but it does make things difficult.  My husband and I are a bit more hands off on that front.  We set my daughter up with her food, we talk and more or less interact without focusing on her too much unless she truly needs something.  We feel that it teaches her that she's not actually the center of the universe, and that's ok.  That's us.  That's our choice.  But the bottom line is that both are choices.  So when you hear the mom who is like "Oh, I have a baby, I can't even take a shower" or "Unless I'm leaving the house, I don't get out of pajamas anymore because I'm a mom and it's not worth it" or "I don't leave the house during the week because putting on a bra is too much work these days", those are all choices.  Those people are choosing to view the world and their lives this way.  And it might work for them.  It would never work for me.  If I don't get out of my pajamas, I feel like a lazy slug.  If I don't leave the house for a few days, I go utterly insane.  I'm learning my daughter is a bit like that too, since she spent a whole week at home with my husband last week and he never left the house with her so by the end of the week she was super cranky.  When I asked her on Friday if she wanted to go bye-bye after we decided to go out for dinner, she practically raced me to her coat and we couldn't get her into the car fast enough.  That's us.  But I choose not to be the mom who views getting dressed and wearing a bra as too much work on top of parenting.  I choose not to be the mom who never leaves the house.  I choose not to be the mom who makes their kid their main focus in all situations because it's not who I am.

The nice thing that no one tells you about parenting is that you get to make those choices.  You can look at the day and think "Today it's going to be too much work to pack up the kid and go run errands" or you can look at the day and think "I have to run errands today and the kid is just going to have to deal with that".  Sure, you might have to reshape things a bit like "Ooh, this is too close to nap time, maybe we'll save this last errand for tomorrow" but it doesn't mean you can't do the things you want or need to do most of the time.  You get to choose what sort of parent you want to be.  You get to choose to be the soccer mom, if that's your groove, or to be a crazy crunchy mom who eats their placenta or whatever, or to be somewhere in between all of it.  But whoever you were before you had a kid, you can still be just as much that person.  You can still be the person who goes nuts being in the house for too many days and has to get out, you can still be the person you want to be, and chances are if you stay true to that person, you'll find your kid has a  bit of that in them as well.  You don't have to be someone else just because the world expects you to be.

At the end of the day, you choose, and knowing that can be very freeing.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Life as I know it

In the aftermath of being a crazy person, I'm continuing to feel incredibly embarrassed by the sort of crazy person I am and replaying my crazy over and over in my head so I can beat myself up over it because that's what I do to myself.

As I continue to reflect on the current life I lead, I find that while I'm sad that I don't get as much social time with other people as I might want or talk to people as much as I might wish I could, I also have to admit that I enjoy my family time at home more than I used to.  I enjoy rolling around on the floor with my daughter, or cuddling up on the couch and reading her a million books in a morning, or watching her scribble on some construction paper with a crayon.  I enjoy it so much that when Sunday night rolls around and I'm incredibly sad that I have to go back to work and miss out on that time.  Not because I can't stand to leave her or anything, but because I genuinely enjoy my time with her, but also the time I get with my husband and her together.  I enjoy that we've started doing Sunday night dinners with my foster daughter and her boyfriend where we all get together and find ourselves still at the table chatting long after the food has disappeared from everyone's plates.  I just find myself loving this quiet little space that's been created here with my favorite people.  Sometimes I enjoy it to the point where I don't necessarily want to let other people in, which leaves things at odds with my need to stay in touch with other people, and can be really hard.  I find myself craving more of that time spent with people I love, and it starts to make me realize how people can be stay at home parents sometimes, because that space space you exist in can be addictive.  And, to be honest, this is an awesome age to spend with my daughter.  She's funny, she's got things she loves and things she dislikes, she's learning new things every single day, she's becoming such an awesome little person, and there are days when I'm sad that I'm missing some of that.  I just want to get home every night so I can hopefully get a few happy hours with her before bedtime.  It's hard.  But, sometimes as much as I try to bury my life and hide this part of it from people I feel don't care about it or want to hear about it because it signifies that I'm a mom now and for so many of my friends that's annoying or boring or just a feature of my life that makes me alien to them, I wish it didn't have to feel that way.  I wish I sort of felt better about people continuing to embrace me as I am even though my life looks a little different now. 

Sometimes I feel like I'm surrounded by people who would be happiest if I kept pretending to be someone else when they're around, and I don't know how to find a place where I don't have to do that.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Being a mom can make you, literally, a crazy person

Lately I've been feeling isolated.  I go to work, I come home, I care for my family, I watch a bit of tv, I clean up the house, I go to bed.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  My job isn't really a place for tons of socialization and lately it's been really nuts there.  So, that leaves me with attempting to socialize in other ways, which aren't always the best ways to reach people.  I have defaulted to text messaging people, which is such a garbage way to communicate and socialize.  But, it's kind of all I have right now, so that's where we are.  Unfortunately, because of who I am and all of the history I have in general with, when there's little response from people via text, I start to worry that it's because of me or something I did.  I'm used to people having a short shelf life in my world.  A year or two, if I'm lucky, and then something will happen and I'll destroy it in some way and that'll be it.  On top of that there's the added factor of me now being a mom and worrying that all of my friends don't really want to be around me or talk to me anymore because I've becoming one of those obnoxious moms that I hate.  I feel like I've worked so hard to keep too many things from changing since my daughter was born.  I've tried to maintain weekend gatherings as we once did, to coordinate lunches/dinners/get-togethers as I always have.  And yet, here I am, alone most weekends, desperately texting friends for some sense of connection that I may not even deserve.  And this isn't isolated to just one or two friends.  This is like, all of them.

I think some of this is related to the fact that over the past couple of months I've learned a lot of things I wasn't previously aware of that have colored a friendship I thought was pretty solid and close.  So now I feel like I'm kind of down one friend, and the rest of them are busy with their own lives and it just feels like there's a distance growing.  I can't even blame them for having their own lives.  I'm glad they are all doing so well!  I just can't help feeling like life keeps moving on without me.  Like being home with my daughter, who I love dearly, is also pulling me away from people I care about.  Or pulling people I care about away from me?  I'm not sure.

The point is that in all of this isolation, I've become the thing I've never been, and something I've never wanted to be.  Suddenly I've become the high maintenance friend.  The one who has to be reassured that she's still wanted, or secure, or whatever.  I actually texted my friend last night with a pathetic "Are we ok?" message that today I'm both embarrassed and ashamed of.  I'm so irritated with myself for falling into that trap of thinking that I need to chase people and attempt to force them to talk to or like me, even when there's no rational reason to think they don't in the first place.  Being isolated, spending all of my time with an infant who I love to death but who also causes my life to have a different focus, has also made me into a strange insecure being that I'm not used to being most of the time.  I'm so legitimately afraid that choosing to have a kid has made everyone in my life push me away or distance themselves from me that I'm doing things that may be leading them to do just that.  It's's so hard to turn off those voices in your head sometimes that no matter how much you try, it's still there.

I've tried so hard to remain who I am.  To not become just someone's mom.  To keep up with friends and family as I've always done.  I've exhausted myself with trying to do it all and the fact is that I can't control how people treat me in these situations.  The reality is that now I am someone's mother.  and I can't change that any more than I can change my birthdate or the color of my eyes.  It's a part of who I am, and I need to stop shoving it aside and ignoring it for the sake of others.  I still don't want it to be the central focus of all of my conversations or social interactions, but I have to stop hiding away from it as if it doesn't exist in certain circles.  The reality of my life is that it looks like this now, and I can't force it to look differently just to please others so either they find a way to accept the new view, or move on from it.  That's so hard for me to accept, to be honest, but there it is.

So, that's what life is like in my head now.  Mom life can make you a nutter.