Being Real

time

Nearly 10 years ago I started blogging.  It was another space in another time. I had things that needed saying and found a way to say them, to shout them into the vacuum of the internet where they had a life outside my head. Initially, I wanted validation, I wanted the community I saw blossoming on other blogs.  I felt so invisible in my own life and I wanted desperately to be seen.

It started out as a craft blog, but with no time or space to be creative, or to even be myself, I blogged about what was happening in my life.  Sometimes it was sunshine and roses, and sometimes swirling clouds rained darkness.  There was a lot of the latter.  I chronicled four years of failures and triumphs, break ups and new love, diagnoses and treatments – the makings of food, crafts and my early years as a mother.

I went back there tonight, to find a short story I’d once written, wondering if I might submit it for a women writers publication.  It was there, nestled between recipes, thoughts, and snippets of every day; moments of my life that I’d almost forgotten.  But what I discovered was far more than any short story.

On those forgotten pages of a lifetime ago, I found my voice. I found unencumbered authenticity. I found joy and sadness and 4 years of my journey in black and white, 4 years of my childrens’ lives, 4 years of my evolution as a human and a mother and writer.  I didn’t care who read it or didn’t.  I didn’t care about page views or hits or pictures in my posts.  I didn’t care about what days more people read blog posts.  I didn’t write for anyone else. I just wrote.  Some days I didn’t.  I was just there, in those posts, a million words or 10 words, there I was.

Those words wrapped around me like a perfectly tattered blanket.  It felt like coming home.

I felt a cognitive dissonance washing over me.  Where did I go?

I ended that blog because someone I knew was reading who, at that time, I didn’t want having a birds eye view into my life anymore.  When I started blogging here I felt free again, but then my goals shifted a little.  I thought about building my writing career; thought about this blog being something that editors would be able to reference when they wanted to know about my ‘work’.  Those familiar feelings of wanting to ‘fit in’, to be accepted, and to be validated crept in and took over. I started censoring myself again, my true voice but a small whisper.  And then, as it happens on the PUBLIC internet, that same person from my past found their way here and I just shut it all down until I could get my mental shit together enough to come back.

As I read those snippets of my life from ‘before’, I began to feel even more fully the impact of giving away my power to an ideal, to an unknown, to fear.  Yet as much as I feel sadness at the lost opportunity to have recorded the last 6 years, I realize that I still have now.  My voice never went anywhere, I just hushed it and made it sit quietly in a corner while I tried to fit who I was into a tidy pigeon hole. I have an opportunity, right now, to take this space and reclaim it one more time, in an even deeper and more fulfilling way.

I don’t have it all figured out and I never will.  But being real means not hushing myself, it means stepping into my life and living it, out loud, as real and authentically as I can.  And right now that means speaking my truth here, in my way, even if I’m the only one listening.

~~~

photo credit via photopin cc

The Privilege of Being Poor

mercedes

Most of us have heard about, or read, the article about the woman who went to pick up ‘food stamps’ with her Mercedes.  Though, from what I read it looks like she really went to get WIC benefits, which are a whole different thing, but let’s not get caught up in semantics.

The snapshot is this: an upper middle class white lady with kids has a blip on her economic radar and has to get benefits and has an awakening about what it means to be poor.

This is not poverty.  Not even close.

She’s not part of the population of women stigmatized and shamed for being poor.  She’s part of the pat on the head, look what they had to do to get by, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, better days are coming, poor for a few minutes poor.  When the conservative right talks about welfare reform, they’re not targeting her.  They’re targeting the millions of people in culturally propagated poverty.  People whose mothers and grandmothers were on welfare.  People who were raised in a multi-generational culture of poverty and lack and struggle and oppression, who often don’t know any different.  And if those folks raised in this ‘norm’ of poverty do know, if they want to escape the oppression, finding the way out can be harder than just staying in it.

I once had a teenager on my caseload when I was a Child Protective Worker.  One of her primary objectives as she approached her 18th birthday was not to graduate high school, get a job or go to college.  It was to have a baby so that she could get on benefits.  She grew up in a constellation of abuse, mental illness and addiction.  I don’t fault her at all – she knew no different.  For her it was a way to be independent, ironically, in the only culture of survival that she knew.

Welfare reformists might use this case to point out the need for reform, but that’s missing the mark as well.  Poverty for some is a jail they have lived in their whole lives where they have been, if they are lucky, provided food and shelter.  It becomes the only means of survival they know.  You cannot rip the roof from their heads and the food from their plates and expect they will ‘figure it out’.  Living in abject, multi-generational poverty is traumatic in and of itself.  And we can’t simply ignore the underlying contributors to poverty like mental illness, addiction, and racism – things that keep people in the cycle of poverty – and expect people to land on their feet when we pull the rug out from under them.

It’s not welfare that needs reform, it’s how we approach our humanity and the humanity of others that needs a complete overhaul. We need far better access to mental health services, to substance abuse treatment and services, and we could use a whole lot of compassion.  “Those people” aren’t the other, they are us.  They are us because we are all human.  We all deserve dignity, respect and love.

farmers market

Our warped sense of poverty and classicism was highlighted for me this week in an exchange that I’m still shaking my head at.  A fellow social worker was venting that she did not think it was “fair” that people on WIC and SNAP get a “50% discount” at our local Farmer’s Market.   Her rationale is that the Farmer’s Market is “so expensive, y’all” and she lamented that she can’t even afford it and she has a “job”.  She thinks everyone should get a discount, you know, to be “fair”.  Oh and, by the way, she’s not going to be giving the Farmer’s Market a cent of her money.  So there.  ::: insert stomping feet and hands on hips :::

The fact that SNAP and WIC recipients really don’t get 50% off the run of the Farmer’s Market is really moot.  What is also moot is the fact that many, if not a majority of, SNAP recipients work.

What this person does not seem to grasp is that she has the privilege of having choices that people who rely on SNAP and WIC do not.  Every day that she gets up in her 4 bedroom house where her children all have their own rooms, gets in her car that is not falling apart, drives herself to her job that allows her paid sick and vacation time, goes to Whole Foods for lunch or Starbucks for a coffee, leaves work early to go to her kids sports games, she has choices that those living in poverty simply do not have.

She gets to choose if she takes the day off with her sick child because she has a job with sick time.  For many working parents, taking the day off to be with your sick child means you do not get paid.  That means no money; at least 20% of your weekly paycheck gone.

She gets to choose if she spends $50 this week between Starbucks, Whole Foods hot bar and the local sushi place or spends that money at the Farmer’s Market.   Many parents on SNAP have a simple choice between eating and not eating; between cheap boxed chemical laden junk and healthy food full of nutrition (that they hope can help their children’s bodies combat the stress and trauma of living in poverty).

Please tell me what’s wrong with improving SNAP and WIC recipient access to fresh, local, often organic, produce.  I’ll wait.

The reality is, there are no privileges to being poor.  There is no red carpet of choices that opens up like the heavens when you finally are ‘lucky’ enough to have your head dip below the poverty line.  It’s not a privilege to have to justify your worthiness as a human in order to have access to healthy nourishment for your body.  It’s not a privilege to be trapped under the weight of shame, stigma, racism, sexism, mental illness, addiction, trauma and all the other things that keep people firmly planted in cyclical, generational poverty. It’s not a privilege to learn how to stuff and swallow that shame just so you can look at yourself in the mirror, get yourself on the bus, drop your kids off at daycare, go to your minimum wage shit job that no one else wants, go back and get your kids, throw some moderately healthy food at them, try to find enough love for yourself to give to them and pray for the strength to get up and do it all over again tomorrow.

Privilege is knowing, like that woman in the Mercedes, that one day she’ll drive away from that church basement never to return again.  Or better yet, like my former co-worker, that she’ll never have the ‘privilege’ of needing to go in the first place.

photo credit via photopin cc

photo credit via photopin cc

My Postpartum Progress


warrior mom

I was about 5 months post-partum with my youngest, whom I affectionately call “Mack” here, when things slowly started to unravel.

It wasn’t depression.  I wasn’t depressed. I was frustrated.  I was angry.  I didn’t feel like myself.  But I wasn’t sad.

So what was this thing happening?  Why the floods of cortisol, the tight chest, the explosive outbursts over nothing?  Why the irrational fears about my family being harmed, the constant feelings of being unsafe, the terrible, intrusive thoughts?

~~~

Mack’s birth was a long time coming.  Ten years before, his brother had been born, via an ultimately unnecessary c-section.  Mack, however, was born into a tub of water in my dining room, surrounded by trusted caregivers, The Man, and my sister.  Emotionally, my pregnancy and birth were very healing.  I had a lot of unexpected physical hurdles during the immediate post-partum period – nerve and tissue damage, tongue tie, very low iron/blood volume, and three back to back colds. Yet even with all of that going on physically, I was still happy, light, and able to find grace in small things.  I thought I was in the clear from post-partum ‘depression’.  I was wrong.

~~~

Mack was 6 months old when The Man decided to follow a job lead that would land him 500 miles south and land me home, alone, with a 6 month old, 10yo and 5yo, and no reliable income.  I had started to struggle a bit prior to him leaving, yet when he first left I was very supportive.  As things started falling through and not panning out like he’d hoped, I wanted him to come home.  But he had hope beyond hope things would work out.  He was confident he would land a position with the campaign he was working on. He wanted me to trust him.  I tried.

But I wasn’t sleeping.  I was losing weight.  I was yelling at my older kids, a lot.  My capacity for handling new stressors was non-existent.  Every day was a miracle if I could keep everyone alive and fed.  I felt trapped and scared most of the time.  I couldn’t watch certain TV shows because they triggered panic.

Eventually he came home when it was clear things weren’t going in the direction he wanted.  But for me, things had headed in a direction that I wasn’t going to be able to come back from on my own.

While he was gone I started blogging again, I found Twitter, and I found an outlet for some of what was going on. I also found a community of women on Twitter who were struggling in some of the same ways I was.

Most importantly, I found Katherine Stone’s website Postpartum Progress.  Before Twitter and Katherine’s site, I thought the only post-partum mental illness to worry about was depression.  But I knew I wasn’t depressed.

So what exactly was happening?

Thanks to Postpartum Progress, I realized that I was facing a post-partum anxiety disorder.  And it wasn’t the first time.  I had been misdiagnosed after my oldest child’s birth; it wasn’t PPD, I had an anxiety disorder then, too.  I finally found a spot for that square peg I’d been trying to fit in a round hole!

It had a name.  What was happening to me was REAL. I wasn’t crazy.  I wasn’t losing my mind. I wasn’t a bad mother.  Armed with this knowledge I could get treatment that would work.  I was still resentful that I had to deal with this, again, but knowing what I was facing empowered me to advocate for myself and treatment that was right for me.

And I did just that.  I went to my PCP’s office and when she would not listen, I asked for a referral to a Nurse Practitioner who manages psychiatric medications.  My NP was amazing.  She took time with me, she took my lead, she looked into medications and supplements I wanted to explore.  She walked me through fire.  And earlier this year I weaned off my medication with my only regret being that I won’t see her anymore.

I survived a post-partum anxiety disorder for the second time.  Thank you Katherine for being brave enough to share your story and strong enough to grow your personal journey into an organization that is valuable beyond measure.

~~~

Yesterday I worked with Katherine to help find a mom resources in my state.  Katherine took hours of her time to talk with this mom, to reach out for resources, and to support this mother where she was at.  Katherine isn’t just the story behind Postpartum Progress, she’s in the trenches, working and advocating for women both directly and indirectly.  If you have time, please go to her site, look around, and make a donation.  Every single dollar goes towards helping women get the access services and support they need.

~~~

Happy Anniversary Katherine, you deserve every ounce of gratitude and grace pouring your way today, and every day.

Surviving Your Child’s First Day At Daycare

1. Attempt to coerce potty training child to poop in his diaper before leaving for daycare so his brand new teachers won’t hate you for the shitsplosion they’re going to have to deal with.

2. He refuses, obviously, so pack 3 changes of clothes and enough wipes, diapers and pull-ups to outfit a small village. Warn teacher. Know that she already hates you.

3. Linger while dropping him off even though he is totally fine. Give him kisses and hugs while his wide eyed peer looks on, expecting your kid to freak out, which he doesn’t, but part of you, just a teeny tiny part of you, wishes he did.

4. Go to Directors office. Give her all your money.

5. Go to car, stand by fence looking like a creepy stalker trying to see your child. Feel anxiety welling up when you can’t find him.

6. Find an excuse to go back inside – perhaps some paperwork the director gave you that doesn’t need to be filled out right away. Sit in air conditioned car, start crying when you can’t find a pen, find pen, stop crying, fill out paperwork.

7. Bring paperwork back inside, get visual on happily playing child (being sure not to let child see you).

8. Go back out to car, realize you have no further excuses for prolonging the inevitable. Force yourself to leave and actually drive away. Circle back around the daycare one more time, valiantly hoping to catch a flash of your kid on the playground as you drive by. Accept defeat and head for home.

9. Forget tissues and wipe streaming tears and boogers on your shirt (it’s okay, you can change and shower once you get home to an EMPTY HOUSE if you need to). Realize this, cry harder.

10. Remember you forgot to bring a towel. And that you forgot to label his afternoon snack. Send an e-mail to his teachers that they may or may not have time to read because, you know, they’re busy keeping your kid safe.

11. Get on Twitter. Pretend someone cares. Make tea (because, caffeine!).

12. Talk to your child’s other parent on the phone, but cut it short to avoid bawling.  Again.  Decide to stop answering the phone unless it’s the daycare because talking to real live people will just make you cry.

13. Get sucked into the vortex of the internet while simultaneously beating yourself up for not using this time “wisely”. Throat punch that voice in your head.

14. Realize your ass hurts from sitting down because you haven’t sat down for longer than 5 minutes in the last 5 months since your partner went away to military training.

15. Write a blog post because you can’t think of anything better to do with your time. (Wait, yes you can, you can think of a million things to do, but you don’t want to. You feel anxious and worried and sad and happy all at once and scrolling through that list nothing seems appealing other than nap and even that requires all sorts of effort like climbing stairs and such, so you sit and you write and you hope you can get it all out on paper so that tomorrow will be just a little easier and you can get out of your own way just a little bit better).

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Co-Parenting: What Not To Do

findinglove

Until a few years ago I didn’t know there was a name for the tactic my father employed in his campaign of hate towards my mother when they divorced.   When I was 9 he pulled me aside to ask if I knew what cocaine was and to inform me that – he believed – my mother was a coke head.  He also asked if I’d seen any cocaine at her/our house. Not only did he try to tell me my mother was a drug addict, but he hoped I would rat her out to prove his theory.

I was 9 years old.  Barely older than my daughter is now.  On what crazy-ass mental plane did he have to be to think this line of questioning, and information sharing, was appropriate?

The truth is, I don’t know if my mom used cocaine.  Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t.  It was the mid-eighties, wasn’t everyone and their grandmother using cocaine? Didn’t they dispense cocaine in those gumball machines at the grocery store?

I do know this: my mom was not an addict.  However, my father was.  He was addicted to his anger, to his righteous indignation and to hating my mother.  Being angry made him feel powerful, it kept him from having to be vulnerable and it kept him from having to look at his contributions to the dissolution of their marriage.

He was fully committed to being as angry and hateful towards my mother as he could be, for as long as he could be.  They’ve been apart for 30 years.  He still hates her.  Thirty years!

But that’s not quite my point, this is:

What my father was doing is something referred to as parental alienation, also known as Hostile Aggressive Parenting.  As we become more aware of what this is, we also see the negative impact it is having on the emotional and mental well being of children whose parents engage in these behaviors.

See, when you intentionally attempt to make your ex look bad by demeaning, criticizing and saying negative things about them to your children, you are engaging in parental alienation.  And when you talk smack about your ex-partner/husband/wife within ear shot of your kids, that is parental alienation as well.

When you do either of these things, you are emotionally alienating your child from their other parent.  In essence, you are taking a sledge hammer to your children’s relationship with their other parent. And by doing so, you are making your anger, and need to have that anger validated, far more important than the well being of your children.

You hate your ex.  I get it.  It’s probably justified.  There is, after all, a reason (or two or three) that you aren’t together anymore.

But your children do not.  They love their other parent the same as they love you.  And here’s the thing:

You don’t get to decide if your kids will love or hate their other parent.

You don’t get to try to make your children side with you over the other parent or fertilize their own frustrations with that parent.

It’s manipulative and self-serving.  And it is also incredibly damaging to your children.

When your kids hear you spout hatred about their other parent, they feel their loyalty to the other parent is being tested.  You are making them choose between loving you and loving their other parent.  By outwardly bad mouthing and hating on their other parent, you turn their love for that parent into a betrayal of you.  You are exploiting their vulnerability to push your own agenda of hate and that comes at the direct expense of their mental and emotional well being.  The effects of parental alienation on the children are anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, self-hatred and issues with addiction.  Is that what you want for your children?

And buyer beware, you may also find that you’re destroying YOUR relationship with them in the process.  At some point, the children that you’ve been actively trying to brainwash into hating their other parent may realize that it is unsafe to have a relationship with you.  They may realize that you are angry and hate filled and, while their other parent certainly is not perfect, the way you have chosen to handle your feelings has made a difficult and painful situation worse for them.

All those times when he called my mother a slut or demeaned her in some way did not make me hate her.  And didn’t make me love him more.  His pervasive hatred and anger showed me he was not a safe person. His actions and words confused me and made me feel protective of her.  He put me in the middle and that is not where I belonged. Children belong in the forefront with their emotional safety and stability as THE priority. Children belong in a place where they are allowed to love and be loved by both parents.

It’s been two years since I talked to my father.  And this isn’t the first time we’ve been estranged.  I’m in a place of trying to heal from the damage caused by his behavior, including his parental alienation attempts, and I simply can’t have his pervasive negativity in my life while I do that.  There wasn’t an argument, fight or defining moment; I’d just had enough.

And what about my mom? While my father never wasted a chance to chastise my mother, my mother never said anything bad about him.  Ever.  There was no loss of factual negative things she could have said, but she never did.  She even went so far as to make us stop if we were badmouthing him.  She didn’t do it because she loved him, or even cared about him.  She did it because it was the right thing to do.  She did it because she loved us more than she hated him.

Do you love your children more than you hate your ex?

~

photo credit via photopin cc

The Break Up

A few weeks ago I decided to end a relationship. It’s funny to call it a relationship when, for the most part, I’ve been held against my will.  To some degree I’ve even developed Stockholm syndrome. But this relationship isn’t with a person or a food or an inanimate object. It’s not with anything physically tangible at all.

I’m talking about my relationship with fear.

Fear and I have been on the outs for some time. For too many years I have clearly seen the ways it has been holding me back, keeping me from doing what I love, from being who I am.  When I notice it, when I am honest with myself and really look at how trapped I am, I don’t totally ignore it.  Sometimes I even think… hey, maybe I should do something about that.

Instead I’ve just sat back, expecting that awareness would be enough, that my pathway out of fear and into light and growth would just magically become clear one day. And I’ve waited. And I’ve stayed, a hostage to fear, in a familiar place of worry and anxiety that kept me from having to take risks, to open myself up, to be vulnerable.

Prickly Landing

Over the last few months I’ve been in a position where I have to show up. There are no distractions.  I have to be present in my life and doing so has forced me to really look at what that life is. The tugs and pulls to do more, to unfold, to be authentic to myself have become strong tides. But, I’ve become so used to dragging around this ball and chain of fear.  I’ve become so complacent to it’s limitations that I usually don’t even let myself dream about what it would be like to run into the arms of the sea and swim untethered into the great ocean of opportunity.

Until now.

I had been thinking a lot about writing, which is one of the most important things in my life yet faces the most chronic neglect. In the past, blogging gave me the push to write, to create and to share. I’d been feeling the siren song to blog again. But I’d left this space and wasn’t sure coming back was the right thing.  I had to look at what I wanted to say, where I wanted to say it, and why I was afraid to use my voice.

I wanted to be here. This little corner of the internet meant so much to me in those early months of Rex’s life, when I was processing my post-partum anxiety disorder and what it meant to have a newborn and to change the constellation of my family and my partnership with the Man. The act of writing and sharing and connecting with other mothers was very healing.

Yet when someone who is no longer a part of my life, whose exodus was full of deep pain and remorse, found this space 18 months ago, I went into lock down. This was a space where I’d opened myself up wide, where I let myself be vulnerable, where I felt safe doing so out of perceived anonymity, and I barely looked back at first. But I’ve been looking back a lot lately, wondering what to do, whether or not to start over.

About a month ago, on a weekend, I was standing in my kitchen mulling my dilemma over the meditative act of making lunch for my children. Suddenly, the last tile of awareness shifted into place with an audible click and I stood there looking at a crisp, clear picture of all the ways I was not living my life because of fear.

The answers to all my questions became so obvious when I looked at them through this new lens. When I asked myself “what exactly are you afraid of?” the answers seemed so trivial.  What was I afraid of? That someone who hates me will read my words and… what?  Hate me, more? Judge me, more?  Exactly who cares?

By sitting in fear I had handed over gobs of power to someone who I wanted having no power over my life. The irony was a much needed slap in the face.

So I said “fuck it” and that sentiment cracked through my life like a bolt of lightening.  In a flash, it illuminated who I was and all of the parts of myself walled off by fear. Now that I could see, I looked at those parts of my life with reverence.  Instead of grieving lost opportunities or berating myself, I just sat with them, becoming so acutely aware of how fear permeated nearly every decision I made.

I can no longer accept a life lived through fear. I am done stifling the Realness of me because of the unknown. I’m done making choices based on how someone else might see me or how they might feel.

If I keep living with fear driving this ship: the parts of my life that make me who I am, that should be rejoiced and celebrated, will whiter up and die. And that’s just not what I want to do with this one life I’ve been given. I want to live it. I want to love with my arms outstretched. I want to love myself boldly, without a single care for what other people see because what they see doesn’t matter.

Does. Not. Matter.

For far too long I have kept myself small, quiet, and easily digestible. Who does that serve? Not me. And not my partner or my children, either. They deserve to know a partner and a mother who loves herself, who can teach by example that they are whole and perfect and worth loving just the way they are. I never want them to bear the legacy of that uncertainty I’ve felt my whole life. I never want them to be where I am today, having to re-learn the purity of love I was born with.

freedom

I am here. I am whole. I choose love, for myself, for my family, for those who love me and for those who hate me or don’t understand me.

I choose a life lived with love and not dictated by fear.

Finally, for the first time, I choose me.

photo credit via photopin cc

photo credit via photopin cc

just another Friday night

The days around here have been as long as the humidity level is high.  Friday was a particularly long day that had me holding on to the edge of my sanity by a very very worn thread.  As soon as the toddler was down for his nap, I left Pip (very responsible 11 year old) at the helm with an ear out for said toddler, snagged Hopper and ran to the store to get provisions for dinner.  Hopper and I grabbed what we needed and on the way to the register I spotted a classy display of markdown wine (classy meaning empty cart with a dozen or so bottles and hand written signage).

I stopped and eyed the wine.  Financially things have been very tight.  We don’t do extra – any extra. I rarely drink and even more rarely do I splurge on myself.  I picked up a bottle.  It said velvety, it said “sustainably harvested”.  Considering the day I’d had, the night I was likely going to have, and the inexpensive price, I was sold.

Fast forward and I’m wrapping up dinner.  The kids are stir crazy, hyper. I feel like a bloated, sweaty nanny.  I remember my wine and get really excited at the prospect of pouring a glass once they’re nestled all snug in their beds and visions of fermented grapes dance in my head.  Then it hits me.  Where is the wine?

I knew immediately.  There was no wine.  I left it at the store.  My bag had a deceptive heft and shape thanks to the dozen eggs I also bought and I thought the wine was in there.  I didn’t notice it was missing , though I had a niggling feeling I didn’t remove enough things from my bag when I got home.  Damn it to hell.

I consider my options.  It’s 7:00 pm. The man not only worked all day, he went to a class that started at 6 (which he let me know about at 4pm, ahem) so I wasn’t sure when he’d be home.  I could have him go out when he gets home, but that could be late.  I could leave Pip with the very awake and very busy Mack and take Hopper to the store with me.  Or I could haul all 3 kids out in the pouring rain for my wine.

Taking into account that Mack is too much for me most days, I chose the last.  We pile into the car and I think “I’ll just park out front, the service desk is right by the door, I’ll run in and run right back out.”  Thinking error #1.

I pull into the half full lot, rain coming down in sheets, me in flip flops.  Thinking error #2.

I park in the fire lane right near the door.  Leaving the kids in the car, I jog the few steps to the door, the service desk is empty.  The sign says “Go to the #9 checkout” (which adjoins to the service desk).  Okay fine, still fine.  No problem.  My wine will be sitting in it’s bag, waiting, maybe a little sad I forgot it earlier, but it will forgive me and we’ll be fine.  Just fine.  Thinking error #3.

The line is frustratingly long at the check out and the guys in front of me need something that takes the clerk, who I know from previous experience is slightly daft, forever to figure out. I try relaxing, but I really don’t like leaving the kids in the car this long, alone.  I can see the car, I’m sure everyone is happy happy happy in there, but it’s not ideal.

When it’s my turn, I hand the genius my receipt, tell him what happened and he looks at me like a deer in headlights.  Then he calls over a senior employee, a very helpful, bouncy older lady who I know from experience is very quick on her feet.  Relieved, I think she’s going to get it done and me and my wine and my three kids and my wet feet will be on my way.  Thinking error #4.

She beckons me to come over to the little manager kiosk up front while she figures it out.  On my way there, I overhear a round, balding fellow ask the genius cashier if he’s the manager.  He tells him no, but does he need one? Then the round balding man says:

“There’s a car parked in the fire lane with three kids inside by themselves”.

Oh fucking hell.

Instead of following the senior cashier to her kiosk, I nonchalantly beat feet out the door and jump in the car.  I throw the car in drive and zip over to the other side of the parking lot.  I briefly explain to the kids why I’m dragging them out in the pouring rain at which time, Pip tells me there was a man who looked right in the car and made a really crazy face, like this, and then he proceeded to bug out his eyes and drop his jaw so his mouth was gaping.  Great.

I’m praying that: 1. he didn’t write my license plate down because clearly he was horrified by my behavior and probably would see no problem calling the police, CPS, or both. In fact, he seemed so disturbed, I’m not sure why he didn’t just call 911 in the first place.  2. that the cashier didn’t notice I was missing. 3. that I could just get my fucking wine and go home because if I didn’t want it before, I really really wanted it now.

We slog into the store, after Hopper insists she must put on her sweatshirt so she doesn’t get wet.  I have no time or patience for almost 7-year old logic.

“Are you the wine person?” the cashier says to me as I stroll in with my three, dripping wet children.  I nod, the wine person, dear god.

She looks all through her bins, which apparently contain the detritus left by other absent minded customers like myself.  It has to be there somewhere, right?  Final Thinking Error.  It’s not there.

She leaves me standing there with my three, wiggling kids who for some reason keep wanting to talk about my social infraction of leaving them in the car without proper supervision.  I plead with them several times, in a low, hissed growl, to please please please stop talking about it, we can talk about it as much as we want when we get in the car.

I’m sure someone is going to figure out I’m “that lady” who left her kids alone in the car in the fire lane.

I’m sure that guy is going to come around the corner any time and tap me on the shoulder and give me a piece of his mind.

If I hadn’t been so wiped out, I might have told him it was my car and to mind his own business, but I just didn’t have it in me.  And I definitely didn’t have it in me to get scolded in public by a stranger.

Finally she talks to the ‘night manager’, finally she got me my wine, and finally we can go home.  However, I must first endure her letting me know, several times, that the rules about alcohol are very very strict and they are not supposed to replace alcohol but for whatever magic the Universe has bestowed upon me (perhaps the creases in my forehead and my chatty, busy children?), the ‘night manager’ has agreed to allow it. All in all I basically got put in my place for wanting something I bought earlier but simply left at the register. Thanks for making me feel like a wino.

She bagged my wine, wrote a dissertation on my receipt which I assured her I no longer needed, and we left. I was certain I was going to get jumped by the rotund, balding guy in the lot and I scanned around as we walked, convinced he was at the very least watching me.  I saw nothing but lights bouncing off the rain soaked pavement and the faces of my beautiful children as they shone in the promise of a velvety, sustainably harvested, hard won glass of wine when I got home.

photo creditvia photo pin cc

Triggered

I pushed the cart through the familiar aisles. Mack was buckled in the front, happy as a clam having just sucked down a fruit filled pouch. I’m not much for packaged foods, but these I find handy for Mr. GoGoGo. The store was relatively busy, a Friday, new sales, lunch time fast approaching. I’d filled my cart with staples, things we needed, things we probably didn’t.

More than halfway through our trip, I heard a child crying. It sounded like they were in the front of the store; we were in the back. I started to worry. I could feel my mind start to rifle through its file cabinets of memory and knowledge, trying to figure out how old the child was, trying to figure out what their cries meant. The child sounded older, a toddler maybe? I formed a picture of “her” in my head, probably offended by something her mother wouldn’t get her. But that didn’t quite fit what I heard. The child sounded in pain, hungry, inconsolable.

Anxiety started to prickle up my arms, my own distress settling in the back of my neck, spreading out onto my shoulders like heavy, burning tar. I thought to myself, oh my god, I’m getting triggered. This is triggering my anxiety. I propped my elbows on the cart and blocked my ears to get a break from the screaming that permeated the entire store. I could still hear it, though muffled. A break as she or he drew in breath, and then another desperate cry, and again, and again.

I had to see the child, find out if they were okay. I made my way to the front, eyes darting around, trying to match the direction my ears heard the cries coming from. I was on high alert, wondering if anyone else was as bothered by this child’s cries as I was. And I saw him. His mother at the register, one or two other children circling around her, holding her 5 or 6 month old baby facing out, his face crimson face crumpled into screams. I knew there was nothing I could do to help her, nor could anyone else for that matter.

I wheeled my cart down the nearest aisle to get away from it again, afraid I looked as frantic as I felt, embarrassed by my reaction and afraid what was happening to me was obvious to everyone around me. Three quarters of the way to the back of the store, I allowed it to sink in, the baby was okay, he wasn’t be neglected or hurt. He was safe with his mother. And I started to cry, my face folding into its own origami pattern of sadness, I felt my shoulders heave, and a breathed, deeply. I had to shake it off, keep walking, no one could see me upset in the middle of the grocery store.

Less than a minute later the screaming stopped. The family was gone. I finished my shopping there. I went to another store. I went home.

I was upset with myself, I couldn’t believe that triggered me. I know I’m often triggered by loud noises, but this wasn’t loud, except to me. That desperate baby’s cry seemed to float on top of all the other noise in the store straight into me. I couldn’t escape it. I couldn’t believe the panic I was feeling.

As I wheeled myself and Mack out of the store, I wondered why I responded that way, why today? My anxiety has been pretty well managed lately. But I’m on day two of a headache. And this morning I woke to news of the tragedy in Colorado.

I spent the whole morning thinking about the 6 year old child reported to have been killed. I thought about the 3 month old baby reported injured. I thought about the people commenting and debating on Twitter. I thought about the people judging those parents for bringing their kids to a late movie. I felt myself wondering about their choices – not judging, mind you, just not understanding them from my own parental perspective. I thought about guns and lack of guns. And bombs. And mental health. And sociopathy.

I thought about getting my conceal carry permit. I thought about what I would do as a mother in that theater. My children wouldn’t have been with me, but I imagine I would have thought about leaving them motherless as the heartless gunman opened fire on hundreds of innocent people.

I didn’t wonder about why he did it. It doesn’t matter. Nothing could logically explain such a cascade of thinking errors that would lead someone to do such a thing.

And then I heard the baby screaming; I heard it’s fear, it’s confusion, it’s desperation. And all the angst and confusion of the unknown surrounding the events in Colorado wrapped itself into that child’s real life pain and knocked me over like a huge wave.

Once the screaming stopped and my body started to relax. I had a decision to make. I could sit there, sand and freezing water swirling around me and chastise myself for letting it get me. Or I could get up.

So I got up. From a mental distance in the now quieter store, I could see where small, quiet waves collected into what would eventually take me down. It made sense, enough sense to allow me to let go of the shame, to see my humanity, to hold myself gently, to know that I am okay, that baby is okay, and some day that won’t happen to me in public. But today it did. And I’m still okay.

photo credit via photo pin cc

declaration

Last spring I had an epiphanie.  I decided I was going to turn something I love, writing, into something that could sustain my family.  I was going to find away.  I felt like I’d discovered some kind of secret key to the Universe.  Except, I was coming at it all wrong.

Essentially, I set a goal to use my writing, a skill and passion I’ve had my whole life, to make money.  It’s not a bad goal.  It’s not even terribly lofty if you’re willing to do a lot of leg work. The problem was, I still couldn’t say “I am a writer”.

When people asked what I was ‘doing’ with my time (you know, aside from maintaining a household and caring for an infant, 6 year old and 11 year old), I got brave enough to say something like “oh, I’m doing some freelance writing” in an offhanded, almost flippant way that seemed to satisfy most people.  But it still felt like a lie because deep down, I didn’t really believe I could be successful because I didn’t really believe I was “a writer”.

There were a couple pretty big barriers to me owning the title of ‘writer’.  The first was/is my self-esteem and gaggle of inner critics who grew strong through my adolescence under my father’s careful tending.  I have long been letting them ‘rule the roost’, if you will.  I’ve held this subconcious belief that if I could get my father to understand me and to be proud of me, the inner critics would simple whither away and die, like magic.  The problems with this solution were: it’s not going to happen and, even if it did happen, my inner critics would not just vaporize.  Nice try.

For the last few months, I’ve been working hard at disconnecting from the need for his approval.  I’ve been striving to get to a place where I don’t need anyone’s approval to be who I am.  I don’t need permission to breath, why do I believe I need permission to BE?

The other barrier to me owning that title is that I don’t write.  Well, I do, write, here and there.  I throw up a blog post once in a while; I started another blog about food allergies that I regularly post on.  But the practice isn’t there.  I don’t make the time and space for writing.  I keep waiting for permission. I keep waiting for someone to make the time for me.

It’s time for me to take the time.  Even before I was a mother, I was always giving of myself.  There is nothing inherently wrong with giving, and I like being seen as generous and kind, but when giving comes at the expense of the self or with an attachment to the outcome (again, a need for approval) then it is essentially disingenuous and ultimately draining.

I owe it to myself to take the time to write.  Writing has always been so deeply important to me.  I have at times felt myself grieving over the loss of such an important part of who I am when I wasn’t writing at all. I don’t ever want to feel that again.

I have decided I will not heeding Jeff’s request to declare that I am a writer to anyone else.  I am completely eschewing the need for outside validation.  If I were to declare to an other that “I am a writer”, regardless of who it was, I would still be too attached to the outcome.  It doesn’t matter if the other person believes in me.  I need to believe in myself.  Isn’t that the secret key to the Universe?

So here you have it, I am a writer.  I believe it.  And now, I’m going to start acting like it.

15 habits of great writers

I have lots of habits, but truth be told, I need some new ones.  And I need those habits to center around my writing.  Or my lack of writing.  Or what I need to NOT be a lack of writing anymore. Round and round the mulberry bush…

Even though our expendable cash is a big fat ZERO right now, I plunked down the $2.99 for Jeff Goins’ book “You Are A Writer (So Start Acting Like One)” on Amazon (link is to Jeff’s site, not Amazon and is NOT an affiliate link).  I’ve been intrigued by his book since it came out and my friend gave it props on her blog.  Jeff’s session was hands down my favorite and the one I found most inspirational at Blissdom in February.

I did that because I’m throwing my pen and paper (or keyboard) in the ring for Jeff’s writing challenge…

and he says it’s the basis for the challenge. Sold and sold.

{what am I getting myself into?}

{hi everyone, I miss you, I’ve been in a bit of a slump over here. clearly, as you see from my above stated intentions, I’ll be back. tomorrow in fact.}

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