Posted in family, Goals, kids, Life, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, women

Close, but no cigar.

Before I even get started, I have to tell you this: As soon as I wrote down the title to this post, I had to go and look up where the hell this expression even came from. Apparently, from what 30 seconds of googling could tell me, it originated during the 20th century at carnivals when they would hand out a cigar as a prize when/if you could win one of the carnival games. So there you have it.

Anyway, what I am referring to here is my attempt to make it a full 24 hours without raising my voice. I did pretty well, honestly, right up until I was getting ready for bed. Cam was out in the living room with her dad, doing homework, and I was trying to figure out why all my sheets and blankets were all over the floor…and in the hallway. This isn’t what irritated me, though. I like to make sure my bed is made properly before I get in it anyway, so I would have been fixing it no matter what. What made me forget my goal was the pile of milk-soaked cereal, not in a bowl as one would expect, but sitting ON the surface of my antique wood dresser. Just sitting there, soaking in. Ewwww…not cool at all.

So I may have raised my voice, just a bit (although, in fairness, she WAS in the other room, so I needed to be heard) to demand what the hell was happening on my dresser. A silly question, as I obviously knew what it was, but…maybe just a little clarification as to whether or not she knew it was there, and why, if so, did she simply leave it there? Her father, who reads my blog, reminded me of my goal to not yell- which I both appreciated and found very annoying, in equal measure- and I simmered down. But still! What the hell?

So, I kinda fell short. It was a brief episode, and it didn’t leave me feeling guilty and terrible, but I still fell short. I will continue today to try for 24 hours without raising my voice- same rules as before.

In other news, I know, and have known for a while now, that it is high time to get my kid into her own room. She thinks my room IS her room, and her room is just where she stores her belongings. I know lots of people have lots of opinions about this, and I am going to be very upfront here and say I HAVE HEARD ALL OF IT ALREADY. I always have allowed my kids in my room…my older daughter didn’t start sleeping in her room until she was probably 8, and honestly, I have no regrets about allowing her to sleep with me for so long. They grow up so fast, and one day they want nothing more than to hole up in their own room and have no interest in snuggling with you at all. So I created this situation, 100%.

And now I am ready to start transitioning her into her own room, and her own bed. Sleeping with Cam is like sleeping next to a very active windmill. She’s a bed hog, she’s a blanket thief, and she takes up an incredible amount of room for a child. When she spends the night away, I find that I sleep quite well and that my blankets are incredibly neat in the morning. I feel guilty for even saying this, but it’s true. So, putting her into her own bed, in her own room, will solve a couple of problems- it will alleviate the things like wet cereal on my dresser, and it will also give me a good nights sleep, without being punched in the face by anyone other than myself (I actually did this recently and gave myself a bloody nose. True story).

So, goals for today: No yelling. Get Camryn to at least lay down in her room, if not spend the entire night- I’m not stupid. I know it might not happen on the first night. Let’s see how this goes~!

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Posted in anxiety, family, kids, Life, Mental Health, motherhood, Musings, women

Challenged

Warning: This post will mention periods- and I don’t mean the kind at the end of this sentence. You’ve been warned.

Yesterday was kind of a disaster. I tried, I really did- I wrangled most of the dishes into the dishwasher and remembered to turn it on. I also remembered to put the chicken I’d thawed out into the crockpot, AND I remembered to turn it on, too, so that’s a win. I managed to get a good chunk of work done, as well, although…I did notice that by 10:30 yesterday morning, I was extremely stressed out, trying to navigate my way through our new system while seeming to have forgotten everything I’d learned over the past two weeks. Everything looked different. I was sure they’d done updates or something over the weekend and forgotten to tell us. I switched from one work queue to another, hoping it would sort itself out. Eventually, I just took a break, if for no other reason than to unclench my jaw and try to turn the volume down on my anxiety. I was just about to take the garbage out when my boss called me- she asked me some questions that I didn’t know the answer to, mostly because I didn’t understand what she was saying- yes, she was speaking English, but my already frazzled brain couldn’t quite wrap itself around this new lingo that came with the new system. Sigh. I muddled through. I must have given her some semblance of a proper answer because she let me off the phone- either that or I confused her so much that she gave up. Either way, the garbage went out. Another small win.

By the time I clocked out, I was feeling incredibly drained and ready for a nap. I had planned on going to the gym, but I couldn’t figure out how to fit in a nap, AND my daughter’s first day of second grade homework, AND the gym, and somehow not die. So the gym was out. This is where things shoot straight the hell downhill. Homework. It’s always homework that pushes me over the edge.

I had such high hopes this year. I imagined Cam and I sitting together, peacefully working through her spelling words, me a bastion of patience and support, her a shining little genius, impressing me with her brilliance. HA! I forgot about the whining, the tears, the outrageous behavior. And that’s just me- you should see how she acts! Hahaha. Seriously though, WTF? How hard is it to trace over some letters and copy a few sentences? Why is this such a struggle? And why oh why oh why have I not learned by now that me yelling does nothing at ALL to help the situation? I am so utterly sick of my yelling…I’ve just had it. I’m the adult, and sometimes I am as prone to fits as a two year old. It’s embarrassing.

There was one moment of grace in all of that, at least. After I completely lost my shit, and after she had lost her video privileges for the rest of the night, we moved on to our 20 minutes of reading. I decided that she would read to me for five minutes, and I would read to her for 15, at least for now. We started “The Boxcar Children”, and to my surprise, she really liked it. For at least those 20 minutes we matched the vision in my head- a mother and daughter, totally sane, curled up together on the couch reading, in a house that smelled like delicious dinner. When the timer went off, she asked me to keep reading! That was a first!

Unfortunately, I was dead on my feet by 7:30 and insisted that we go to bed early. Everything would have been fine if I hadn’t suddenly realized I’d forgotten to take my vitamins and gotten back out of bed. That’s when all hell broke loose. Somehow, on my way back to bed, my cat got a little frisky with me and bit my hand- this is fine, we play like this all the time. Except this time, the cat somehow got his claw STUCK in my little finger. STUCK. I had to pull it out of my own finger while it was still attached to the cat. To say that I was furious would be about correct. It HURT! It was bleeding, and my finger was throbbing like a heart beat. I banished the cat from the room, and Camryn was crying because I was so mean, and I was mad at everyone, and…then I started my period.

And everything suddenly made sense.

Why I was so angry. Why the Kids Baking Competition on TV made me cry. Why homework was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. Why I could not stop eating all day. And why I was so exhausted.

Listen, this is no excuse, I know it. Lots of times I still act up and it has nothing to do with my hormones at all. But hormones are REAL. When they are out of whack, you really do have less room for error, less space to negotiate with before spouting off. At least I do. And I know that is not true for everyone, and congratulations to you if you are one of those rare birds, but I am not. I have to track my cycle like a pro, and even then it can catch me off guard sometimes. Like yesterday.

Now I’m getting to my point, and yes, I actually have one- You know I love nothing more than a good challenge, right? So today, I am going to see if I can go just 24 hours without raising my voice once. Just 24 hours. No excuses. Unless, you know, someone is about to unwittingly walk off a cliff or in front of a car or something. No raising my voice in anger or frustration. Do you think I can do it? Well, I’m about to find out. Wish me luck.

Posted in Depression, family, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, mindfulness, Musings, People, random

Good Morning

Outside, the fog has been thick, every single morning for days and days. Just a typical summer here on the peninsula. My garden is in full bloom, wilder than I know how to contain, and the whole world smells like the ocean. It’s not quite daylight yet.

Inside, I sit here at my desk with my little desk light on, writing this. The wash machine is chugging away, and the dryer, too. My house smells like clean laundry. My daughter sleeps soundly in my bed, and the dog is snoring in her own bed. The cats wind around my ankles, demanding attention, and I mostly ignore them. Mostly.

Thursday, Friday, and yesterday I was bogged down in exhaustion. From Cam going back to school to me having to change my whole schedule for work, not to mention getting used to our new computer system and doing all the chores that the new school year entails, it’s no wonder I was tapped out. But I always worry when I start to feel that way, as it’s often the first sign of a new round of feeling low, depression nipping at my heels. I worry. It’s hard to tell the difference between just plain tiredness and something more serious. And I’d only just started feeling better, so…

Luckily, I woke up this morning feeling rested, peaceful, and ready to take on the day. Good thing I did, because I have a LOT to do around here. Being out of the house for the past two weeks during the day, and coming home ready to collapse into bed, things have reached a new level of disarray in this house. The laundry is piled up to the ceiling (almost) and the fridge is full of food that is no longer edible. I have shopping and cleaning and laundry to do, so this would not be a good time to fall into a funk. I’ll do what I can today and not a sliver more.

But for now, for right this minute, I’m going to revel in contentment. Pour myself one more cup of coffee and read another chapter in my book, watch the world wake up. Exactly the way a Sunday morning should be. Hope you are having a good morning, too, wherever you are. 🙂

Posted in Depression, escape, family, inner peace, Life, meditation, Mental Health, mindfulness, People

This Crazy Brain

anxiety

Sometime last week, I was driving home from somewhere with Camryn in the back, and she goes-“Mom, do you ever think about about the things you think? Like, isn’t it weird that you can think about your thoughts?”

And I was like, whoa- pretty advanced stuff for a seven year old to come up with, but I just said-“Yeah, actually, I do. Isn’t it cool that we can have thoughts and also somehow observe those thoughts?”

“I don’t know…I think it’s kind of weird.” She said worriedly.

“Well…you know, that’s why mommy meditates so much- so that I can learn how to not get too caught up in all that thinking. My brain makes me crazy sometimes- it goes and goes and goes, and sometimes I just wish it would settle down.” I told her.

“Maybe I should do that.” She said thoughtfully, “Because sometimes I wish I could just open up my head, pull out my thoughts, and throw them out.”

Uh-oh, I thought. She’s exactly like me.

Although I know I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have the brain that I have, sometimes it really would be nice to slow it down a little bit. I don’t mean physically- hell, I could sit still in a chair without moving once if the right channel was playing back to back episodes of a good enough show. As a matter of fact, I think the reason I CAN do this is because it cuts off the incessant thinking for a little while. Because my brain is exhausting. It literally never shuts the fuck up. I know that is what brains do, but I feel like (and I have zero proof of this, obviously) mine is just a little extra. It has the ability to run off in several directions at once while playing horrible songs from the 70’s on repeat. It likes to ambush me with terrible memories at the most random moments, and if one doesn’t upset me enough, it comes prepared with an entire montage of unrelated but equally horrifying past transgressions.

Sometimes I think my own brain is out to get me.

Yesterday I had an anxiety attack triggered by one of my weird bouts of catastrophic thinking. The pretty mild, innocent incident that triggered the attack was a missed phone call. I took a missed phone call, and my brain made some enormous, poorly judged leaps to conclusions that had me shaking, sick, and nearly out of my mind with panic. I just knew that something horrible had happened, I just knew it. But…I also knew that I was probably wrong, and that I was acting crazy, and that I needed to stop. Except I can’t stop when I get like that, I don’t know how. I know lots of things that should help, that, in theory, sound helpful- but in practice they simply do not.

One minute passed, and the phone call was returned, and I acted bright and happy and chipper, and everything was fine…except it wasn’t fine. I wasn’t fine. My anxiety did not retreat, even after everything was okay, not for the rest of my work day. And when it finally did calm down, I was so tired that I couldn’t function.

For dinner last night we had popcorn, ice cream and tortilla chips. We ate on the living room floor with the blinds closed because it was 4:30 and I was sick of the sunlight. We watched Sherlock Gnomes from a pile of blankets stolen off of both our beds, and every pillow we could rustle up, and Camryn thought it was fun, but I knew I was just hiding. Recovering. Trying to figure out what the fuck my problem is.

I tried talking to my mom about it, but she has her own shit going on, and she has a way of sort of dismissing what I’m telling her that makes me feel like I am just blowing it out of proportion. I know she is probably trying to make me feel better, but it just makes me feel like…like I’m being dramatic. Which I AM. Which is kind of the whole problem in a nutshell- my brain is super dramatic, and I can’t control it. That’s kind of what my anxiety looks like.

Anyway, I have a new day to start fresh with. Hopefully nothing horrible happens, like, I don’t know…someone doesn’t pick up the phone the first time I call. Or Camryn coughs once and I assume she’s choking to death. Sometimes I wish I could open up my head and pluck the thoughts out, too. I know exactly how she feels.

Posted in family, Life, love, Musings, People

Lucky

I’ve always thought of myself as one of the luckiest people alive. I know that might sound weird, considering…well, you know- I was a raging drug addict for a bazillion years. Sometimes I was homeless. I couldn’t keep a job for very long, my love life has been pretty disastrous, etc., etc. Where is the luck in that, you might wonder?

Well, I didn’t look at it like that, to be honest. I always thought how lucky I was that I didn’t die, or worse, look really ugly as a drug addict. (I’m kind of joking here- I mean, I did get to keep almost all of my teeth, which really is lucky, but I thought I was cute as hell. I have some pictures that say otherwise, however). And yes, I might have technically been homeless, but I didn’t feel homeless- I always had a place to crash, and friends who helped me out. I never had to sleep in my car, when I had a car. So that was lucky. Maybe I couldn’t keep a job, but I could always get a job, so it wasn’t bleak. And my love life? I didn’t view it as disastrous- it was just exciting, that’s all.

So perhaps I wasn’t super lucky, or perhaps I was. The important thing is how I looked at it. If I looked at my life as blessed, even when it sucked pretty majorly, it still felt blessed to me. When I gathered with my family on Saturday evening to honor the life of my Uncle who passed away recently, along with many, many of his friends from as far back as his childhood, it came to me why I might feel as lucky as I do.

Man, I have a GREAT family. Normal? Hmm-mm, not really. I would say, if I had to describe my family in terms of a color scheme, they would be considered BOLD. Big colors. Loud. We talk loud and laugh loud and even our lives are above average messy, but, and this is important- above average awesome, too. We make big mistakes, and learn from them big-time, and go on to have large amounts of success and happiness. It’s heartening to know that I belong to this bunch. I feel lucky to have been born into my family.

On first glance, you might not think that my Uncle fit into that bold category, but I can tell you that he did- maybe more than any of us, honestly. His life was marked by tragedy at the age of 21 when he was nearly killed by a drunk driver, and he survived. He didn’t just survive, though, he beat the odds. He had a five percent chance of surviving, a broken back, brain damage, blindness in one eye, and was paralyzed on one side of his body. So you know what he did? He took a job as a ranch caretaker and went on to write music and play guitar in places all over his hometown and beyond. He loved everything about Native American’s, and he read hundreds of books about their lives and cultures. He was adored by so many people. His life could have been sad and depressing, but he chose to feel lucky. He chose to be happy. Oh, he was one of the funniest people around, too- you know, humor helps so much. Anyway, at the end, it was harder for him- his body was harder to cope with, and he was frustrated and angry after dealing with it for so many years, but…he still made room in his heart for the people he loved. He still treated me with so much kindness and love whenever we spoke. It was crazy how much love I heard in his voice when he spoke to me.

Sitting in our family home, the home that my grandfather built, and the only place I have consistently called home since the day I was born, I felt not just his loss, but the loss of my grandparents so deeply- it was like losing each of them all over again. I told my mom I could close my eyes and swear that my grandpa was in his room, taking a nap, and that grandma was fussing around at the coffee pot, while my Uncle was outside with the dogs or something. I mean, I could FEEL it, like it was real. I have memories that are so ingrained in me, so much love in them that I can’t describe it to you, that I can barely contain it all…

How lucky am I? How lucky is that, to have known so much love and joy and laughter and happiness? No matter how far off the path I ever wandered, I have had that love inside of me, anchoring me to what matters in life. I always knew there was a better way because I had seen it with my own eyes. What a gift these people gave to me. That even now that so many of the important ones are gone, it lives on inside of me. I feel them still.

I’d say I’m pretty lucky, indeed.

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, family, Life, recovery, twelve step

Things I Forgot to Remember

Death has been an unrelenting presence in my life over the past year, which is very, very unusual for me. Beginning with the loss of my beloved friend Joe in August of last year, then his dear friend Che, just a few weeks ago- Che, who spent countless hours on the phone with me after Joe’s death, listening to all of the stories I have to tell about Joe, that I suddenly needed to re-tell to someone who knew him… and sharing his own with me. Then, in the late hours of July 5th, or perhaps the very early hours of July 6th- we don’t know for sure yet, but oddly enough, every member of our family found themselves awake at 3:30 in the morning on July 6th- my darling uncle, Louis Earl Fulton, passed away. His life was not an easy one. One day, I will tell his story properly, but I want to do it right, and I want to have all of the facts straight first, though I will tell you this- due to an accident with a drunk driver when he was just starting out into adulthood, his lot in life was hard. He suffered, for the bulk of his years on earth, with a busted up body and what I would guess as being trouble from a traumatic head injury. Over the past several years, his health seriously deteriorated, and he had many falls, broken bones, and other injuries. He suffered from seizures, and I think he even had a stroke recently, but honestly, there was so much going on that I would have to ask my mom to be sure. The fact is, he wasn’t doing well. So you would think that his death would be less of a surprise, and maybe in some ways it wasn’t shocking, but…when someone just dies at home, and they haven’t been in the hospital or particularly sicker than usual, it really is a shock.

This blog is not going to be about him, because like I said, I would rather honor him by writing his story correctly, and I can’t do that without getting some help from my mom-she was alive when his accident happened, and I was not yet. I will tell you this- his given name was Louis Earl, but I haven’t heard anyone call him that since my grandmother was alive. His nickname (one of them) was Fizzle, because he was born on the 5th of July (get it? He fizzled out! My grandfather had a strange sense of humor) and, coincidentally, he died, near as we can tell, on the exact same day, many years later. There will never be anyone like him- there will never be anyone like any of the people I have lost this past year- and nothing I know brings a person into sharper focus than their death. And nothing slaps you out of your own miserable funk like the loss of a life that belonged to someone precious to you.

For the past month, or maybe even longer than that, I have been struggling like crazy with myself…upset about things like: hating my job because it is boring, hating myself (low-key) because I am not perfect, wishing I had better friendships, wondering why I am still single, wishing I could connect in a more meaningful way with my youngest daughter, and…this is the one I didn’t even want to write about or admit out loud to anyone who could talk some sense into me…wanting to quit being in recovery. I wanted to quit. I wanted to start drinking again, and I was really, really close to throwing the towel in. Closer than anyone but me knows. I felt like I was missing out on something. That my life wasn’t fun enough because I couldn’t go out and have a drink. That maybe it would be easier for me to deal with men if I could just relax a little bit, like everyone else does.

My uncle died on the day that my daughter was going out of town with her father for the first time in over a year- so I was already incredibly anxious without the addition of a death in the family. I took the rest of Friday off, and I cried and cried and cried. I cried so much that by the time I went to bed, my head was pounding. I woke up on Saturday morning with eyes that looked like they had been bitten by mosquitoes, or injected with saline. But I had made plans with a girlfriend earlier in the week to go hiking and hit a morning meeting, and she is notoriously hard to pin down, so there was no way I was cancelling. I pulled myself together, worried that I would be too somber to be any fun, but I went anyway. I needn’t have worried. We had a nice hike, and plenty to discuss, and it was just what I needed. We almost didn’t go into the meeting afterwards, but we did, and again, it was perfect. I came home afterwards, ate a massive amount of food, and fell asleep the way you can only when you are grieving and exhausted- face down on the mattress for four solid hours. When I woke up (which took a good hour of just sitting, staring into space) I knew instinctively that being still would be a bad idea, so I grabbed my dog and went for a long walk on the beach. That night, I went to another meeting.

Over the course of my 48 hour weekend, I managed to hit four meetings, hang out with two good friends (one of them twice), go to the beach two different times, and take two solid naps. I did something I had never done before in the course of my recovery- I doubled down on what was good for me, and sidestepped an almost inevitable relapse. I was reminded that both life and recovery require my active participation in order to work the way that I need them to. I can’t just sit here and cry about what isn’t working- or, I can, but it isn’t going to do me any good at all.

I’m sorry if this is sort of all over the place- I don’t feel like I am explaining myself well at all, but there is so much to what I am feeling, and it’s all jumbled up. The bottom line is, my uncle’s death helped me to remember what I had forgotten- that life is so precious, that while I am here, I need to rejoice in the gifts that I have been given, and they are many- my health, my beautiful children, my job which provides so well for me, and my recovery which is the only reason I have all of the other things. I will not dishonor myself or my wonderful life by giving up on that. I have all of the ingredients, but it is up to me to make something worthwhile out of them. Today, I will choose to do just that.

Posted in faith, family, kids, Life, Musings, People, random, Uncategorized

Discord and Darkness

I’m struggling with my work today, and it’s due to a sense of increasing overwhelm and despair. A friend of mine died yesterday, ANOTHER friend of mine, and he was way too young. There are children being torn away from their parents in my country, which is currently being run by what seems to me like the Antichrist himself, and all of the many minions an Antichrist could ever need. On social media, people are either heartbroken and sickened over the direction our country is headed, or defensive and sickening. Discord is everywhere. Things are Not Good.

I think a lot. Probably too much. But some of those thoughts are helpful, and those are the ones I want to share today.

1.) Save your outrage. Save it up for something worthwhile. I figured out a while ago that it might feel good to get it all out on your Facebook page, but it doesn’t do any good there. Find a place to put it where it helps. Email your state representative (I did this today, and it was super easy), find an organization you can align yourself with, donate money or time. Channel that outrage into something productive.

2.) Step back. You can only know so much before it’s too much. At a certain point, you may find yourself reading the same bad news four or five times, or a slightly different version of it. I decided today that it’s time for me to get off the social media circus for a while, maybe even just for the rest of the day, maybe longer. My energy is not needed there. It helps no one, and it hurts me. I am not strong enough to not read the awful comments, I’m not smart enough to know when to shut up. So I need to be in charge of myself, and step back.

3.) This one is the most important: Love your life right this very second. Love that you are upright and breathing, and love every part of you that works. Love your shitty car, and your too-round middle, and your dog who thinks the bathroom garbage is his personal snack tray. Love your irritating kids and your boring job, find something to love about every part of your beautiful life. Because we are truly blessed, to live in this time, and to have what we do. And one day, it’s all going to stop. One day, there will be no more of any of it. And we don’t get to know when that day is. So fill your life with all the joy you can muster, right now. Don’t wait.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again- this world needs all the light it can get. Shine as brightly as you know how.