Posted in anxiety, Depression, family, happiness, kids, Life, love, Mental Health, mental illness, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, women

It’s Not Just About Me

I come to you this morning with my messy pony-tail and my ratty old robe, having not left this house once since around 3 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon, and only then because I had no choice. I was out of kitty litter, and the house was starting to smell pretty bad. The only reason I even noticed this was because I shielded my tender little eyeballs from the sun and ran a bag of trash out to the cans in another one of my weird surges of efficiency earlier that day. When I came back in, the smell about knocked me over. Apparently, sitting in the reek all day was fine, but discovering it after a brief moment of fresh air was unacceptable. So, to the store I went.

Of course, I went to the store in my beat up old sweatshirt I’d slept in, didn’t bother with my hair, and had a face so free of makeup that it looked as if I’d left my eyelashes at home on the bathroom counter. I have absolutely colorless eyelashes, I tell you. Anyway, it follows that I ran into a “friend” from Facebook in the produce section at Target. I say “friend” in quotations because, although we have interacted quite often, and for some length of time, this was our first time meeting in real life. At least she recognized me. I was about as mortified as I am capable of being at this point, which is to say, not much.

Here’s the thing. My anxiety has been strangled into submission by pure stubbornness, it seems. But left in its wake has been something I can ONLY describe as depression. Like, I have never been so disinterested in everything before in my freaking life. I’m even bored with the idea of being depressed. Like seriously, what the fucking fuck? Can I just pull it together for five minutes or WHAT? I’m sure it has everything to do with my period showing up Sunday, and that the minute my hormone levels start rising or falling or whatever they’re supposed to do, I’ll feel marginally better, but…my God, I’m OVER IT.

I’ve even been grouchy to my pets. It seems like Lucy (my black lab) is forever nudging her head into my lap, probably sensing that I desperately need some kind of support. And I am forever perfunctorily patting at her ears for half a second before pushing her away irritably, telling her “GO!”

I watched this little video snippet yesterday of a mother reading aloud a little thing she wrote about the fleeting nature of childhood- the way our babies turn to toddlers, then children, then adolescents and so on. And how, at every stage, we think we have so much more time…but really, we don’t. Take it from me, with my 21 year old and my 8 year old who were both, somehow, born like a year ago. It feels that way, anyway.

That video jarred something open in me. You know, I’ve been so incredibly busy being self-obsessed, trying to figure out not only what is wrong with me but how to fix it, that I had completely forgotten that I am shaping the life experience of others. Namely, my small daughter and my pets. I wasn’t thinking about anyone else because I was thinking so much about me. You know, I don’t have forever. Camryn won’t be small for too much longer, and Lucy…well, she’s 7 already. For a Lab, that’s up there in years. I may not be Camryn’s whole world, but I’m a huge part of it, and for Lucy, I AM it. I have no right to push her away when she needs a pat or a little reassurance that I’m okay.

So, just like that, I changed my attitude. On my lunch break, when I jumped in bed to take a little snooze, I patted the bed and invited Lucy up there with me- a rare treat- and we snuggled for 30 minutes. It didn’t escape my notice that she yelped a little bit in pain when she attempted to leap up onto the bed. I don’t have forever. I am her person. She deserves my love, even when I don’t feel very loving.

Cam, who’d spent the day with her dad, came home to find a big sign I’d made for her- big bubble letters of her name, decorated with flowers and vines, and various declarations of love. Just a little dumb thing to let her know I was thinking of her.

Here’s the thing- it made ME feel a thousand times better. Loving on my dog, playing with the kitten (who, incidentally, has the best, loudest, juiciest purr you’ve ever heard), petting the more stoic and reserved Frankenstein (my black kitty), taking a moment to do something sweet for my kid…I did it for them, but it helped me. I forgot how that worked. I forgot that when we think of and do for others, it takes us out of ourselves and fills us up with something wonderful.

So, I’m a mess- there’s no getting around that. I’m a mess that is always working towards a solution, though, and I am proud of that. But I figured something out yesterday at least- I’m not going to find happiness searching the very place where all the trouble is originating. That happiness I want is not inside my head. It’s over on the couch as we speak, snoring way too loudly for a dog, waiting for me to stand up so she can follow me anywhere I happen to be going. It’s in the little body in my bedroom, drooling on my pillow, waiting to see what adventures this day holds. Yes, I’m a mess. But I have the best tools in the world to lift me up, out and over. People and creatures who love me far more than I probably deserve.

Today, that is more than enough.

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Posted in adventure, Blogging, family, happiness, home, Life, love, Musings, People, random

Introducing…Lily!

It’s the moment you’ve all (well, at least two of you) have been waiting for. The first thing you should know is that I have created an Instagram page exclusively for my new kitten, Lily. Do I have other pets? Yes I do. Do they have pages of their own? Not even close. Do I feel a little bad about this? Kind of. But she’s tiny and feisty and so freaking photogenic, I feel I really had no choice. Anyway, her IG is @thelifeoflittlelily, and if you are a gram fan, we are just starting out, so come follow us!

Anyway, we adopted Lily a week ago tomorrow from this great animal rescue here locally called Animal Friends Rescue Project. I have fostered for them before (a dog) and am such a huge supporter of “adopt, don’t shop”. If you are an animal lover, you understand…it’s so hard knowing how many sweet cats and dogs are abandoned and unwanted, and I’m so grateful that these no kill shelters exist. And, at the AFRP they are so much more than a no kill shelter. They give the animals there a happy, sunny, good life. Lots of fosters lend a hand, so many great volunteers, these little babies get lots of love, attention and hope. So I was happy to support them.

Lily is something else. We walked into the shelter, and she walked right up to us as if she’d been waiting for us forever! Within 30 seconds, I knew she was coming home with me, and that’s exactly what happened.

She is everything I wanted in a cat- she’s full of spirit, bouncing around the house, defying gravity. She’s a snuggler, and her purr is loud enough to make her whole body vibrate. She head butts your face, hard, with affection, and she loves to sleep cuddled up close to either Camryn or myself. Or sometimes, on top of our heads, or across our necks like a scarf. Anyway, she’s pretty incredible. I’m so very glad she is part of this crazy menagerie I have here.

Everything else has been kind of rough this past week- not sure why, but I’m just kind of feeling low. So I’m glad to have this little bright spot to play with. She really is a breath of fresh air- if fresh air smelled like cat, I suppose.

Posted in Blogging, family, happiness, kids, Life, love, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, random, relationships, women

Babies, Kittens, & Change

they-grow-up-so-fast

So, I guess Camryn has decided to grow up over Christmas break. I mean, I knew it was starting when she would wait for me to leave the room before jumping in the shower. My daughters are both exceptionally modest about their bodies (I literally have no idea where they picked this up, unless it’s just one of those things where they are as opposite of me as possible), but still…she’ll let me come in and wash her hair once she’s in the tub. She just doesn’t want me in the room as she gets in the tub. So whatever, I play along.

Well, now she is washing her own hair, too. I’m not sure how well it’s being washed yet, but it smells okay. And I’m glad for it, I really am. These are things she should be able to do for herself, of course they are. But now she’s totally sleeping 100% in her own room. Just like I wanted. I’m proud of her, and glad that she just made up her mind and did this thing- this thing that I’ve been complaining about for at least the past year. I really wanted her in her own bed! Except…except last night, I had to threaten to make her come sleep with me if she didn’t settle down in her room and get to sleep. Sleeping with me is now a punishment. Sigh.

And yesterday? Yesterday, I said “Hey, can you do mommy a favor?” to her, and she said “Sure, but can you stop saying “mommy”? “Mom” would be fine.”

Well, shit. Why don’t you just stab me straight in the heart, you little beastie?

Only I said nothing, because she is doing what she is supposed to do- she’s growing up. Not too much, it’s just happening sort of all at once, and it’s alarming, and what’s more, it’s very, very sad. She is my baby. But she is not a baby anymore, and that is a fact. Trying to keep her there would be harmful and wrong, so…I’m just trying to mourn in private, and let her enjoy her tiny bits of independence.

Last night when her dad brought her home, he waited until she was in the other room and he was like “What is going on with her?!” I didn’t really need to ask what he meant. She’s been a little prickly, a little extra…extra, if you know what I mean. I said “Well, she’s growing up a little, and we need to be patient with her, but firm…and whatever you do, don’t tell her she’s a bad kid. Tell her she’s a good kid, and we expect better behavior from her.”

Because I remember being that age- that age where you just aren’t a sweet little angel anymore, and you do have an opinion, and you’re trying to figure out how to have some autonomy…and end up looking like a little jack-ass. The adults in my life were horrified, asking me “what happened to you?” or “This isn’t the Courtney I know.” and reinforcing what a monster I’d become. This was not helpful. I honestly believed the things I heard- and I’m sure no one intended it meanly, but it was how I HEARD it, and internalized it. I thought something had gone wrong with me, and I was a disappointment, somehow. But I was just growing up, trying to figure stuff out. Just like Cam is now. My job is to parent and love her through it, to guide her, watch her, and be firm with her. What a trip to be able to understand what is happening. I hope I’m up for the challenge.

In other news, Milo, the cat who didn’t have rabies, has come over from the dark side. The formerly hissing, spitting, scratching, biting little demon has started sleeping beside me in bed, and purring every time I touch her. She cries when I go outside. Proof that if you shine enough love on the saltiest of creatures, it will eventually get through to them and they will change. It’s easier to do this with animals than people, but it works on both. Just love the grouchy ones…they need it most.

So there it is- babies and kittens grow up and change, and who they become depends a lot on how much and how well they are loved- because you can be loved very much, and still not be loved WELL. Another lesson I’ve picked up along the way. Another thing I wish I’d known sooner. But I know it now, and that will have to be enough.

Have a beautiful day.

Posted in friendship, Life, love, Musings, People, random

One Year, Three Months, Five Days

One year, three months, five days. That’s how long it’s been since you left this earthly plane, on to whatever comes next. Which means that one year, three months and six days ago, you were still doing whatever it was you were doing- talking, smiling, popping up here and there as you were wont to do. No idea that the minutes of your life were winding down, down, down. Oblivious. I think about this sometimes, and it scares me a little bit. It’s a hard truth to swallow, the way we live our lives so blissfully unaware that this might be it- this might be our last day, our last hour.

Anyway, God, I fucking miss you this morning. Grief is a strange thing, isn’t it? Weeks pass, and the pain recedes, and then I wake up one morning, like I did today, and it just hurts, oh so very much. It still seems impossible to me that you are gone.

There is no way for me to describe or quantify or make sense of what you meant to me, how my life was altered because of you, or how it changed when you died. But I know that my life WAS altered, and your death stole something real from me. Because of you, I learned that love can evolve in all sorts of different ways- when you stop trying to fit a relationship into a box, stop trying to label and categorize it, and just let it be what it is, something wonderful can happen. The connection between us spanned decades, and changed many times, ultimately mellowing and becoming something rich, that I cherished. Knowing you were out there, somewhere, knowing that you would be there if I needed you…it mattered so much to me.

Your surprise visits were often the highlight of my week. Just drinking coffee with you out on my front porch, or playing board games with Cam. Getting to hear you laugh and seeing you be silly and playful with my kids lifted my heart. I just enjoyed your company. It had become as simple and easy as that.

I was not blind to your faults. I knew you well enough to worry about what the future held for you, to worry about where your life would ultimately end up. We even discussed it a time or two, with me lamenting what would happen to you when you got old, joking about which girl would end up taking care of you. “Oh my God,” I groaned, “It’s going to be me, isn’t it?” And we laughed, because it seemed far away and preposterous. I suppose it wound up being a useless worry, didn’t it? But for the record, I would have gladly taken on the job. Not that you ever would have wanted to be in that position, of course, but I would have done it. In a heartbeat.

The point is, I guess, that I loved you. I love you still. I used to feel angry sometimes, resentful that I so completely loved someone who could never love me back in the same way. It wasn’t as if I had a choice- we love who we love, and that’s all. But now I’m grateful for all of it, I really am. Because of you, I know I am capable of loving someone unconditionally, exactly as they are, with no expectation and no need for them to do anything to earn it. I realized that long before you died. I know I made it clear to you. I’m so glad I did, and so glad we were friends.

I just really, really miss you today.

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

Messy

messy

On the peninsula where I live, September and October are the most beautiful months of the year. We get these gorgeous, sunny days and the evenings and mornings are crisp and cool. It’s not like autumn anywhere else that I’ve lived, but it’s lovely nonetheless. I might be imagining it, but it feels like there is a quality to the light, too…it feels more fall-like, and I just love this time of year. My body seems to sense the difference, and I become more relaxed and languid. I want to be with my family even more than usual.

It’s a good thing, too. My daughter (who will be 21 in just a couple of weeks!) and her boyfriend had to move back in unexpectedly, just temporarily (we still haven’t pinned down exactly what “temporarily” means to them, but trust me, that conversation is coming), so I have a full house right now. They brought with them their cat and dog, and the cat is currently running around behind my chair, trying to play with/provoke her own murder with my cats. My cats are mostly just ignoring her.

So, my younger daughter is sleeping with me (nothing new about that), and my older daughter is in her sister’s room, and I…well, I’m happy. I’m sorry, I know I’m just one of those moms who sleep better at night when I know where my kids are. And the thing is, I ADORE my daughters. I sit here in the morning, and I think about how crazy it is, how lucky I have been, to have gotten the kids that I have. That I grew them in my own body, that they exist at all. It blows my mind. Of all of the ways I ever imagined my life turning out, there’s no way I could have expected this feeling of love. It is truly everything.

Don’t get me wrong- it’s not always sunshine and butterflies. The older one has mood swings that are unpredictable and incredibly swift, and the little one cries about thirty times a day for almost any reason you can imagine. They are people, not just little extensions of me. Which means they have minds of their own, and reactions I don’t expect, and feelings about things that are different than my own. But this is also what makes them so wonderful. I love their differences. I love them exactly as they are. I enjoy their company. Which makes me very, very lucky and blessed. And super grateful.

I have not always been a “good mother”, whatever that might mean to you. By anyone’s definition, I would have pretty much sucked. But more and more lately, I feel like I am doing it right. At least when it comes to them, at least in that part of my life, I feel capable and competent. And that makes me feel really good. Because when it comes right down to it, what else could matter more in my life? The way I loved my children has got to be right up at the top of the list.

My life is messy. I can’t ever seem to get a handle on my home, I can’t stick to a routine to save my life. I struggle to like myself, I’m harder on me than anyone else has ever been. It’s a challenge for me to just lighten up a little bit. But you know what? That is just LIFE. This is just who I am, and I’m working on accepting myself, warts and all. (for the record, I don’t actually have any warts. That I’m aware of.)

And there are some things I’ve gotten right- these beautiful, funny, smart, big-hearted young ladies that I get to call my own? I hit it out of the park in the kid department. They are part of the mess, I suppose. Which makes the mess a lot easier to love.

Posted in anxiety, family, kids, Life, living, love, mindfulness, motherhood, parenting, People

This Beautiful Moment

winnie

Yesterday, against my better judgement, I went to see Christopher Robin, the new Winnie the Pooh movie that is out right now. I had scheduled a play-date for Camryn and her little friend Robine from school- she’s this adorable little girl who is here for three years with her family from the Netherlands, and she is literally my favorite of all the kids in Cam’s class, aside from Cam herself, of course. Anyway, I had wanted to see The Incredibles 2, but as usual, I missed the boat on that one. So the only thing playing was Christopher Robin, and that was that.

I have never been a big fan of Winnie the Pooh. I don’t know why, I was just never into it. And honestly, the movie wasn’t all that great, but…that didn’t stop me from bawling my eyes out through half of it. Why? You want to know why? Okay, I’ll tell you: Because it reminded me of a few things- one of which is the terrible way we lose our true selves as adults, and become these tense, unimaginative people most of the time. We get our priorities so wrong, we place work and money above our families and the things we truly love. I think about this all the time, but I still catch myself doing it, no matter how bizarre and backwards it seems.

Another reason it made me so wistful was the way it portrayed the sad loss of childhood, the way we leave behind the playful, joyful little people we were. Especially right now, especially for me…dealing with all of this anxiety lately, just trying to hold it all together. It doesn’t allow me a lot of room for full-throttle happiness. I mostly feel like I am peering inside myself with a spotlight and a magnifying glass. Which is utter bullshit, because the world is far too big for me to spend all of my time gazing at myself. I need to stop it.

Which brings me to my third reason for crying- my daughter is having her childhood right this very moment. This is such an odd time for being a child, isn’t it? So different than the way it was when I was little. I played outside, unsupervised, for hours and hours at her age. I explored the woods next door to my grandparents house with a friend my age- we found a creek to jump in and a low-voltage fence to take turns touching, we explored abandoned buildings and did all sorts of stuff that was unwise and dangerous. But I never got seriously lost or gravely injured, and I grew up to be independent and mostly unafraid of the world.

With my anxiety being primarily about the safety of my children, you can imagine what the thought of that kind of free time for my seven year old does to my stomach. And yet, I wouldn’t trade my experiences as a kid for anything. What a quandary. If it is my responsibility to provide her with the most enriching and full childhood that I can, but I am scared to let her loose, what do I do? I guess I find a happy medium. Let go a little, but keep her in sight? Spend more time doing things I don’t really want to do because I’m lazy, knowing they will be the best memories for her? Yeah, I think that’s really all there is to do. Because lets be real- I’m not releasing her into the woods to explore abandoned buildings. I don’t know what the hell my family was thinking. LOL.

More succinctly, I was crying because it hit me that my littlest daughter isn’t going to be a child forever- not even for very much longer, really, and we forget, don’t we? We just live through the days as if they will stretch on forever, forgetting how fast it all goes by. The thing is, childhood is so short, but it is so beautiful and so important. I guess I just want to remember, so that I can make hers the very best I can manage. That’s what I am thinking about today.

Also, spoiler alert: Christopher Robin is a total dick to Pooh, and that also made me cry. The kids didn’t cry, but I was a mess. How embarrassing.

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.