Monthly Archives: October 2012

Autumn Draws Us Home

Happy Halloween! I don’t know about you, but for me, Autumn really begins today…or maybe in the days just before Halloween. I just start to feel differently when the giant bags of candy and baking supplies start to line the aisles of the grocery store, and the fruits of summer fade from the produce aisle, replaced by what seems like an awful lot of root vegetables whose names elude me. I start to think about hauling out my crock pot and making heartier meals. I notice the few fallen leaves we actually see around my home in California, and the way the days are so much shorter, and I want to be home, with my kids, in front of the woodstove. I want to eat popcorn and watch movies (although if you can think of a movie that a two year old, a fifteen year old, and a 37 year old can ALL enjoy, I’d like to hear it!) and start to nest a little.

But it’s more than that, even. The changing of the seasons ALWAYS affects me, but especially the one from summer to fall, and from winter to spring. I get a physical sensation of excitement and wonder, even at my age. From warmth to cold, from cold to warmth. Both have their own magic, their own possibilities, don’t they?

I am going to keep it at that today, just a short little check in. I hope your homes are filled with warmth, love, laughter and family this Autumn and Winter. Please let me know if the changing of the seasons affects you in a similar, or totally different, even, way.

How To Survive Your Disastrous Life

Hi guys! I never got around to writing anything today, but I do have this little “draft” that’s been hanging out here forever- please note, this was prior to my “little episode”, so if you hear a distinct, biting undertone to my writing, don’t worry…I’m not backsliding, just posting old stuff.  Enjoy!

I’ve been ruminating over different variations of this theme for weeks and weeks now (How to live life; Things I wish I’d learned earlier; How to not totally suck at life, etc…), but tonight it occurred to me that the one thing I have heard again and again, from many people, about myself is that I am “strong”. It has been my experience that when all sorts of people who do not know each other tell you the same thing about yourself, there is probably some truth to it. So, though I don’t really feel especially strong, I will concede that I do have certain attributes (both inherent and learned) that have made it less painful to live through the insanity and upheaval I have built my world upon. So, I will be happy to tell you my secrets in case you were considering trading your good credit, security and relative happiness for the bipolar white trash amusement park I call my own. Here goes:

To really flourish in a messy life, the best thing you can do is #1) Be young and be pretty. This will really give you an advantage anywhere you are. It’s not considered “PC” to think this way, of course, but let’s cut the shit, shall we? Young and pretty gets you in the door every time. Unfortunately, most of us don’t realize the power we possess until after we lose it. So the best advice I can give to young, pretty, chaos-prone women is-ENJOY IT WHILE IT LASTS! If you cannot be young and pretty, you need to be able to make people think you are, anyway, by thinking so yourself. I have seen really unattractive women pull this off so well that I forgot how unattractive they were and became jealous of how comfy they were with themselves rather than snarky about their bad luck in the face department. If you can’t pull that off, either, you really need to be willing to do just about anything in bed or clean houses and cook amazing food for free. Disastrous lifers often find themselves without a permanent home, and must rely on the kindness of friends to stay off the streets. Food and the ability to help out inspire that kind of kindness.

2) Okay, so number one was kind of a joke…although it was also kind of true. That’s not something one can count on for long, though (ever, in some cases) , and it’s really not all that important at all in the long run. #2, however, is for real: Have an amazing sense of humor- how can you tell if this is something you already have? Easy. Do you crack up at your own jokes all the time? Do you sometimes burst into laughter while driving, alone, in your car because you just thought of something hilarious? Well then, you probably do. And really, as long as you think you do, you do. We’re talking about how to survive your own life, so the ability to laugh, especially at yourself, is indispensable. Life is ludicrous and terrible, sometimes. Things go so, so wrong that all’s you CAN do is laugh. Or cry, I guess. Laughing is usually my preference, and it’s way less upsetting to the people around you.

3)Don’t be afraid. I’m not saying be an idiot, either, don’t misunderstand. What I’m saying is dragging your feet and digging in your nails to hold onto your safe little spot (even though we both know it’s just familiar misery) is lame. What are you afraid of? That you might wind up screwing up and letting all of THIS (see above) go for a whole new load of shit? Well, at least it’s a NEW load of shit! You have to keep moving forward. Even if you are afraid, you just do what you think you should do anyway. When I was twenty nine, I loaded everything I owned into my Camry and moved to another state, to a town where I did not know a soul. Was it nuts? Yes. Was I scared? A little, at first. Was it worth it? It may have been the single best decision of my life- I had nothing left where I was living, and no prospects. A bad reputation and a lot of burned bridges. So I bailed. The first year was an eye opener, and I saw how bad life could really get, having a serious drug problem in a gambling city. But I turned it around, and ended up being the best I have ever been by the time I left. So suck it up, and move, already!

4) Never relinquish hope and optimism. I feel like this really goes hand in hand with the sense of humor and ability to laugh. Laughter is nothing more than a burst of joy one can hear, correct? In order to laugh and feel joy, you must have hope. If you can find the silver dollar in a pile of dung, you are going to be ok. I remember having my heart broken when I was still in my early twenties- the pain was so awful that I physically hurt from it. I couldn’t see my way out of that overwhelming ache, but I remember thinking “Today is TERRIBLE. But tomorrow, it’ll hurt less, and it’ll hurt less every day, no matter what, because time takes it away, so I can get through today.”  I really remember thinking that very thought, in my car, in agony, on a gloomy day in Pacific Grove. I had hope. I was optimistic that sooner or later, I’d feel ok again.

5) Another thought I had at that time was “I wonder what I’m supposed to learn from this?” I don’t know about you, but I believe that there are big lessons when we are going through trying times. This belief really helps me put things in perspective, and gets me looking for the point, which makes me feel like there is some order and sense to things, after all. I really believe everything happens for a reason, and exactly the way it is supposed to.

6) Be likable. When you are friendly, outgoing, and happy, people want to help you out. They want to be near you, get to know you, be your friend. You need all the friends you can get in this lifetime, man.

So that’s where I left off…whatever my state of mind, I think it is still sound advice. Tell me what you think! What would you add?

Only You Know The Truth

As you know, a while back, I began the messy process of falling apart. Now, I consider myself somewhat of an expert at this particular activity…only, this time, it was different. Usually, it takes some type of EVENT to start my little disaster a-rollin’, but in this case, nothing had outwardly changed. I still had beautiful, healthy children. I still had my home and my awesome job. I still had a roller-coaster of a relationship with the same guy I’d been riding along with for the past four years.

And yet…day by day, my misery mounted. My moods, at first, were mercurial and alarming, but eventually settled down into “horrible”. For a good while, I soldiered on, putting on my Stepford Wives face for work, then discarding it the minute I got home, locking myself in my room, snarling at anyone who interfered with whatever nonsense I was doing. I withdrew from EVERYONE who loved me, either because I didn’t feel like hearing whatever they had to say, or because I didn’t want to bring them down. I desperately wanted to get better, but I wouldn’t do any of the things I knew I needed to do to get there. I was tired of asking for help, and too stubborn to help myself. In short, it sucked. Bad.

One day, I woke up, and I just could not, under any circumstances, do it for one second more. I could not get up, get dressed, go to work, and pretend I was fine, while in my head I was terrified that, at any moment, I was literally going to run screaming from the hospital. I could not pretend I was fine, period. It was killing me.

So I hit my pause button- stopped everything dead in it’s tracks- and I went out on FMLA for mental health reasons. At the time, I felt like I was a full of shit liar, but HELLO! Why is it so hard to see our own dysfunction while we are in the midst of it? I was off my freaking rocker, and anyone who knows me can vouch for that.

I knew it was pretty bad when I told my mom that I had taken leave from work, and, rather than the scornful scolding I expected, she said “Oh, Thank God!” or something like that. I mean, she lives ten hours away, and she could see how ill I had become.

The first three weeks were not so good. I slept a lot, I ate a lot, I gave in to my depression. I spent a lot of time crying, and the rest of the time trying to figure out what I was going to do. Should I check myself in somewhere? Should I get the hell out of dodge? Should I just go back to bed? I thought I was just spinning my wheels, but I see now that I was doing something incredibly important. I was giving myself some time- a LOT of time- to breathe, to think, to grieve, to fall apart- with no pressure. I mean, what an incredible gift I gave myself…a long chain of days to just feel what I was feeling instead of fighting it and masking it and pretending I was fine.

In the midst of all this, my mom, who is the queen of practical gifts for your crisis (she once, when I was in my early thirties, sent me this package that I excitedly opened, only to find a case of laxative TEA. No shit. Pun intended.) sent me a book called “Finding Your Own North Star” by Martha Beck. I had my doubts, but cracked it open anyway. Have you ever been completely lost in the middle of your own life and suddenly found the exact set of directions you needed to find your way home again? Well, this book was that thing for me. Or the first part of that thing, anyway. It described to me exactly where I was, exactly what was happening, and precisely how to deal with it. I am still reading it, weeks later, bit by bit, but every time I open it up, it assures me, yes, yes, what is happening now is what is supposed to be happening.

You see, apparently, the way I was living was so out of sync with who I truly am, that I was losing my mind. When you are doing what you think you are supposed to be doing ( in other words, what your mom and your boss and “society” thinks is correct) and it is in direct odds with what the REAL you, the one that wants to be a cross dressing ballroom dancer, lets say, NEEDS to do- it can make you do exactly what I did. You can bet your ass you are going to wake up one day and, though that good and obedient, people pleasing you will want to get up and go, go, go, happy to perpetuate the facade of happiness, the REAL you is going to refuse.

So, here I am. Doing what I am meant to do, which is write. I don’t care if I am writing MY truth, as I am in this blog, or writing the make believe story of a make believe person in a novel (which I have done, and will be doing again for nanowrimo, yay!). When I am doing THIS, I feel alive and excited. I feel like what I am saying is important and worthwhile, and I feel engaged and full of that fire that I cannot access any other way. For me, this is LIVING.  There is more to it, as well, but this post is getting REALLY long, so I will leave it at that.

What is it that you feel passionately about? What path does your heart long to follow? I want to hear your answers, even if you feel stupid and have never told another living soul. Please don’t wait until it goes to hell in a handbasket before you set yourself free. Can’t wait to hear from you!

Waking Up Angry

Seriously, is there anything worse?

Well, it happened to me twice in a row, in one eight hour stretch. Yesterday, I spent the day in San Francisco with my two best friends. I love them both dearly, but what unfailingly happens when all three of us hang out together for any length of time, is I start to get seriously annoyed. The drive up was fine, it was just Grace and I, so no issues.

We get to Vera’s new place and almost the first words out of her mouth are “Do you want a drink?” Which automatically puts me on edge- I was never a big drinker, anyway, and one of my LEAST favorite things to do is hang out with people who are buzzed when I am not. Now, it is like, one in the afternoon and I am just NOT into middle of the day-drinking- friends, you feel me? But whatever, I am still fine.

Fast forward what seems like a million hours and fifty seven thousand thrift shops, one lunch and one gay bar later, and I am just GRUMPY. Don’t get me wrong, I had a fun day, but I wanted to do a lot more than we did, which was basically look for Halloween costumes for them. I wanted to go to some book stores. I wanted to poke around in some different kinds of shops than the ones we ended up in. Add to this that I ate french fries with my lunch ( the first fried anything I’ve eaten in weeks) and had a stomach ache, and all of my previous thoughts about spending the night were GONE. I wanted to go home. Honestly, I think my two favorite parts of the day were meeting the elderly couple that Vera cares for, Bob and Virginia, and trying to take a picture with all three of us that didn’t suck. All the shopping in between was…eh.

Still, it was a typical day with the three of us, and that was nice- that we can spend so much time apart and then be as grumpy with each other as ever as soon as we are together. I left them both feeling content…and exhausted.

I arrived home so tired I could barely move, to a house full of people. At least two teenagers who are not mine, and then the one who is, and the baby, and the boyfriend. I was starving to death, having only eaten two crab cakes and a hand full of fries the entire day (Who goes to SF and doesn’t EAT? Only idiots who spend the entire day in thrift shops, that’s who.) but I was too tired to eat anything except four triscuits and some hummus. The kids went to McDonalds with Devon, which only made me more upset- I am trying so hard to be junk food free, and I wanted a burger with every fiber of my being. But I did not give in.

What I did do was yell at Aisley about ten minutes into a deep sleep for waking me up to ask me for…something…oh, my keys, so they could go to McDonalds. Then again, at Devon, about forty five minutes into the next deep sleep for leaving the baby home with me without telling me WHILE I was sleeping. Then again, at three F*****G thirty in the morning, when I had to get up to tell Aisley to GO TO BED, and “NO, you can’t take your medication now, you will never wake up for school!”. Then again, at about four, at Devon, because he was sleeping on the couch AGAIN. I finally threw the towel in at 4:58, and just got up. I did yell a little bit more at Devon for STILL being asleep on the couch, but in all fairness, who would want to sleep with a chick who keeps yelling at everyone?

There is this little acronym in NA, HALT- Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. I’m pretty sure these are all things you are supposed to avoid being, or not say anything when you are any of those things or something. I realized this morning that I am all of them.

I am offering myself a little solution, though…I will eat something, Let it go, cuddle with my BF on the couch, and go back to sleep. Maybe I’ll feel better when I wake up.

In Honor of…Well, Me.

I am a terrible housekeeper. As much as I dislike the mess, I am just not that great at picking up after myself. My mother, who is not only organized and neat but has a home that could be featured in a home decor magazine, does not understand this.

“If you just get in a routine…” She tells me, “It’s really easy.” All the while looking at me as if she doesn’t understand how she could have missed my learning disability all these years. But I am not so clueless that I don’t GET how ridiculous it is for a relatively intelligent woman to be baffled by a pile of dishes in her sink, overwhelmed by DUST, and incapable of remembering to pick up her panties off the bathroom floor before her company arrives.

The conclusion I have come to is that it is easy for HER, and it is hard for me. Sort of like the way being a bleeding heart liberal is second nature for me, but not so much for all the conservative (insert any other colorful descriptives you want) republicans littering our streets. We are what we are, and until it becomes imperative, or really, really important to ourselves that we change, we remain that way. Sometimes, even then, we can only make a fraction of the improvement we wish to.

I am so not saying that people can’t really change- I believe with all my heart that part of our jobs here as humans are TO change. Especially those crappy little parts we keep hidden from all but those lucky folks closest to us. What I am saying is that maybe, instead of focusing a ton of energy on being who other people think we should be (MOM), we ought to save the bulk of the work for becoming super awesome at the best part of who we are. Yes, it is important to live in a home that has some cleanliness and order- otherwise, your children will contract previously unknown bacterial infections that will then be named after you, and that is how you will be remembered for all of time. Lets face it- you don’t want to go down in Wikipedia as the originator of “Duncholera” or “Duncanyllococci” or something, and have school children cutting and pasting your visage into their essays until an antibiotic is found, right? So for me, that means understanding the difference between being lazy and using my ineptitude as an excuse for slobbishness, and making a solid effort to not wind up on the show “Hoarders.”

I think part of what led to my recent descent into the pit of doom and depression was my despair at being unable to adapt the way I thought I should have into my role as the mother and woman counterpart in a family unit.  I felt like I wasn’t good enough at running my household, at getting dinner made every night, washing the dishes, singing the lullabyes, paying the bills and fixing all manner of domestic wrong. And to make matters worse, I didn’t just feel like a failure…I resented and disliked that role as well. Here I had given up everything that made me happy in the world for THESE PEOPLE (i.e., my children and boyfriend) and I sucked at it. Enter all forms of self sabotage and abuse, causing depression and further dysfunction, blah blah blah.

Well, duh. I was trying to do what I thought I SHOULD be doing instead of what was right for me. This morning, I was sitting outside, sipping my coffee, thinking about things, and it occurred to me that my current happiness is directly related to me being excited about my life again. I have plans to head out of town today with my best friend Grace, to go visit our other best friend, Vera, in San Francisco. Next week, I am starting NanoWriMo, this month long writers event, and I’m excited to be attending the first write-in on the first. The day after that, I am going to Reno for an NA convention with some friends.

Every single one of these things feeds my soul, and makes me happy. When I am happy, somehow the dishes get done, the bed gets made and life becomes easier to manage. The baby and I have even found a new way to cope with each other when things start to get a little tense between us- we get into a warm bath together with about a gallon of Lavender scented bath products and we soak until we can stand each other again. There may also be some rubber ducky antics thrown in, just to keep things fun.

Today, I am going to honor and adore who I am, not who you want me to be, who you think I am, not even who I wish I was. Because the greatest service I can provide the universe is to be the very best version of myself I am capable of being. And not to infect you all with Duncholera. Have a fantastic day!

I Don’t Know How To Help You…

Something I haven’t talked about in a while, and something I don’t know how far I should get into, is my older daughter. This has been a REALLY trying year for us. I always think of it in terms of how hard it is for me, dealing with her. What I am only now starting to really consider is how hard this past year has been for her.

I found this out, unfortunately, when she was placed on a 72 hour hold at the hospital after making threats of killing herself. No matter how much you want to call “Bullshit”, when it is your child telling you that she has been thinking about killing herself for a year, you do not take it lightly. As a matter of fact, it shatters your heart and fills you with fear. If you are like me, you look back at the last fifteen years of dysfunction and beat yourself up for every kindness you didn’t show, every error in judgement you have made. If you are REALLY like me, you can’t remember them all, there are so many, and you are pretty convinced that everything wrong with this kid is your fault.

Since she has been home, we have been doing so well…or so I thought, anyway. We went to the pumpkin patch, out for family dinners, sat down at home for family dinners. We went to Santa Cruz and to the beach, and we have spent a lot of time together. When she told me she didn’t want to take the medication they prescribed her, I told her I wouldn’t make her if she really didn’t think she needed it. She seemed happier than she had been in a long time. So happy, actually, that I forgot to make her that appointment with the psychiatrist that we were supposed to follow up with.

Last night, it was clear to me that I had made a huge mistake. She had been talking to her boyfriend, Josh, (who I love dearly), and then after he left, she talked to him on the phone again almost immediately. I asked her why, and she said they were talking about something important. Of course, I immediately assumed she was pregnant, and followed her through the house, harassing her, until she broke down.

It seems things are not as okay as I thought they were. She is feeling really, really bad. She doesn’t see the point to life. The world looks violent and hopeless to her. She does not feel smart enough, worthwhile enough, special enough. She feels like she has no friends and does not fit in. She is anxious all the time. She isn’t happy, at all.

Now, as a mother, this is by far one of the scariest conversations I have ever had with my beautiful, smart, funny, wonderful child. I mean, give me a good old fashioned talk about sex and birth control any day over this…Because what do you say? When your daughter tells you she is just unable to find any joy in life at all, how do you show her all the joy around her? How do you help them? If they cannot see it, how can you point it out to them? When you are in a dark place like she was last night, the answer is clearly-you cannot. Talk about feeling helpless. This is my baby we are discussing here…I just don’t know.

What I do know is this- I could not imagine one day on this planet without my child, for ANY reason. God forbid I ever have to face that day. And so today, after a long talk with my daughter, we went and picked up the medication that she was prescribed. She’ll start taking it tonight. And as soon as I finish this paragraph, I will pick up the phone and make that appointment. I will do my part and pray and pray and pray that she does hers.

A Good Place To Be…

This will be short and sweet, today.

I just wanted to talk for a minute about being in a good place. When you say “I’m in a good place.” isn’t it funny how it has nothing to do with where you literally are? Well, that’s true for me, at least.

When I really break it down and examine it, it has nothing to do with how much money I have, where I live, what my kids are up to or whether or not my relationship is panning out. It has everything to do with how I feel about me.

Right now, I am in a really, really good place. I feel healthy, calm, happy…I am content. Irritations still come up, but I don’t need to hold on to them right now. I just brush them off and forget about them, the way I ought to. My older daughter still tries to push my buttons, but it’s a lot harder to do. My little one is on the fast track into the terrible two’s. The other day, she threw a fit the likes of which I have never before in my life seen. I did a few things to try to calm her down, and when they didn’t work, I simply sat her in her crib and walked away. She was fine in a matter of minutes. A month ago, I would have been sweating with anxiety, screaming at everyone around me to “Help!”, making everything a thousand times worse.

My boyfriend and I are really struggling right now- I have no idea what the future holds for us. Yet strangely, I am okay with this, too. It concerns me, of course- I love him, and I wish I knew how to solve all of our problems. But I don’t, and I can’t, and it is the way it always has been. It will either work out or it won’t, and I’m okay with waiting until the right time to figure it out. Still, I am good. Happy, at peace, level. Clear as a bell.

Every morning, I get up before the sun and walk my beautiful black lab, Lucy. For me, this is like a moving meditation. I think a lot about my life- what I want to do with it, what I can do now, where I want to go. I think a lot about writing- I am working out a storyline for nanowrimo, a month long writing event that starts November first.  And I do a lot of NOT thinking, just moving, just being. I walk along the ocean and watch the sky and the water lighten, little by little.  Lately, I have started running for about half of the length of my walk. If you are capable of thinking while running, I’d like to hear your secret. On second thought, keep it to yourself. I think enough the rest of the day.

Yep, feels pretty good to be right where I am. A good, good place.

5 Little Things

Well, hello.

You’ve probably all forgotten me, and I don’t blame you- it’s been a long time since I’ve sat down here with something to say. I need to apologize, I suppose, for my absence. There is this thing that people do when they are feeling incredibly bad, and sad, and miserable, and overwhelmed…it’s called isolating. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Anyway, I sort of had a  little nervous breakdown, took some time off work, and I’ve been doing a lot of work on myself. Work that did not include writing this blog, unfortunately.

The good news is, I am better. The great news is, every time I go through something like this, I learn more about myself and what I really need to do to keep myself well. I am lucky that I have lived a life that has afforded me the luxury of safely taking care of myself- a job that allowed me to take a couple of months off to get better- I know that is not the case for all the people I know ( some of whom could DESPERATELY use a little self help…or ANY help, for that matter.). The point is, I realize how blessed I am to be where I am and have a great employer who really does give a shit about their employees ( they were probably like “PLEASE, PLEASE GOD, let that girl request a LOA before we have to fire her!)

So, back to my point…what was it, again? Oh yeah! What I have learned this time about me, and about my happiness and mental well being is so simple that I have whittled it down to five little things, henceforth called :

The Five Commandments of Courtney:

  1. Thou shalt not imbibe ANY illegal narcotics, ever, for any reason, other than major surgery.
  2. Thou shalt go to bed when tired and get eight hours of sleep, or more, whenever possible. And it is usually possible, so thou shalt not make it into something harder than it is.
  3. Thou shalt eat good, healthy food.
  4. Thou shalt get off your lazy little butt and MOVE. Exercise is good for your mind, body and spirit.
  5. Thou shalt have a spiritual program of some sort.

That’s it. That right there is the recipe for happiness for me, and since I have been making sure to live by these rules, guess what? My life is completely okay. Alright, I feel a little embarrassed about it, but in all honesty, my life feels WONDERFUL again. I forgot that when I feel great, my life is automatically going to seem more manageable to me, and by default, will become a pleasure again. I forgot that when I feel like a giant ball of shit, everything in front of me is going to look like shit, too.

Life is really not supposed to suck all the time. If you find that yours does, you may need to do what I did, and take a look at what the problem is. Chances are it is going to be you, but don’t despair! That is GREAT news- because YOU are the only one YOU can change. So there’s hope.

If anyone even still subscribes to my blog, I’d love to hear what your “commandments” are. How do you live your life to stay happy? Was there ever a time in your life when it was so bad you had to make some serious inner (or outer) changes?  I can’t wait to hear- so I’ll obsessively be checking my stats all day again!