Posted in adventure, faith, family, fun, happiness, kids, Learning, Life, living, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, random, women

Playing Outside Again

I just got back from my morning walk with Lucy- we left a little later today, and we went a little further, since Devon is here (albeit, locked in the spare room where he has been since last Tuesday when he arrived- he caught a bug somewhere between California and Maine, and though he was only sick for 24 hours, I am not willing to take any chances) and I don’t have to worry about leaving Cam alone.

It occurred to me while I was walking along, up and down streets I haven’t been on before, that my best moments since I have been here have happened almost exclusively outside. Or at least, outside of my apartment. Because some awesome times have been had just out driving around as well.

Here in Maine, at least the part I am in, everything is beautiful. I’m not just saying that, either- it is really, really pretty here. But sometimes, you come around a bend and see something utterly breathtaking, so gorgeous it’s almost unreal. The urge to slam on the brakes and jump out to take a photo is pretty overwhelming at times. I’ve been trying to resist the urge to capture everything, and simply enjoy it, tuck it away as a memory.

The other thing I keep realizing is the way I feel when I am out on my several-times-daily walks, whether alone or with Camryn. It’s the closest I’ve felt to being a child in…a really long time. Do you remember that feeling? When you were a kid on a Saturday morning, and you took off on your bike and you just felt this expansive sense of freedom, like you could go forever and stop wherever and who knows what you might see? When you would turn down alleys and zig zag back and forth through neighborhoods you could never see so well from the window of a car? That feeling.

Everything is new here. And because the weather changes all the time, it is new in other ways as well. Since I have been here, I have kicked through many piles of autumn leaves. I have jumped and kicked through puddle after puddle in my Maine- appropriate lace up boots. I have fallen over in snow banks, made butt prints and snow angels, thrown snow balls and simply delighted in the crunch-crunch-crunch sound of my boots in the snow. I have slid through slush on a golf course and grown braver and braver about slipping down paths and darting through yards to see what is on the other side. I have yet to pass an iced over puddle that I didn’t give in and crack, just to see if I could. I can’t help tricking my dog onto ice patches, either, just to watch her slide. I have swung on swings in several parks, and slid down slides, laughing with Cam as we flew through the air. The birds and plants and trees and buildings are lovely, the sunsets and sunrises unmatched. But it’s the walking and playing and taking it all in that really does it for me.

I thought that I had forgotten how to play- I despaired of this fact, actually, many times. Because I have a child, and it’s important to me that I engage with her this way. The truth is, I just needed a little bit of wonder. I needed a change of scenery. I needed puddles and piles of leaves and waking up to streets that had disappeared under a foot of snow. I needed swing sets and ancient grave yards and candy stores that are a hundred years old. I didn’t know that was what I needed, but I found a way to give it to myself anyway.

Maine is not the solution I thought it would be. It has not changed me into some easier, more calm-minded person. That just isn’t how things work, I don’t think. But the gifts of this adventure are not few, and though they are different than what I thought I wanted, they are somehow…perhaps exactly the ones I most needed.

Posted in adventure, happiness, inner peace, Learning, Life, living, manifestation, Musings, People, random, women

The Longest Night

I have never lived in a place like this before, with this strange juxtaposition of wealth and wildness, this funny mix of such salt-of-the-earth people and streets full of empty summer homes, front steps blanketed in untouched snow. The people here are friendly but mostly quiet, and it often feels as though I am too much. Too loud and too chatty and too…other. It’s nothing new to me, but that doesn’t make it pleasant. I want very much for people to like me, and eventually they tend to come around, but…these are very strange times. With the pandemic and having just arrived here, and now winter…well; strange times, strange situation.

Still, I have the feeling that this is exactly where I am supposed to be. As uncomfortable and unsettled as I still am, I have nothing but time and space to face things that need facing. As I mentioned in my last post, there are things right on the surface now that were so easy to push down before. I am seeing things about myself that I suppose I always knew existed, but I could bury or flick away with the distractions of my busy, routine life.

And if you are bored of reading about me figuring myself out, you are more than welcome to go find a crafting blog or some TV review or something. I really don’t care. This is probably more for myself than anyone else anyway. I’m just trying to sort things out.

So here is where I’ve landed- I can’t be mad at myself for being myself. I can wish all day long that I were some other type of person, I could strive like mad to be quieter, or more of this and less of that, and maybe I could even manage it for a minute, and then beat myself up when I dropped the act again and went back to being me. I might just as well try to be a goddamn frog. I could do that for a minute, but eventually I’d be a human again, right? I am me, and if that is too much for some people, well that’s fine. They can do and think what they like. My job is to stop worrying about that so much. How in the world can I ever be okay with who I am if I’m looking to everyone else to tell me I’m okay?

And that is not to say that I can just lay back now and say “fine, fine, I’m done with myself, let’s eat popcorn and melt into the couch.” No, of course not. There is still so much I would like to untangle and resolve. But I have to work within the boundaries of who I am. I cannot become a different person, but I can become a better iteration of myself.

Maine is a really good place to get started. Because here I can see how very much I get in my own way. How desperately I cling to old routines while just as desperately I long to do other, better things. How fiercely the two halves of myself battle for control. It was much easier to keep up appearances when there were people around to keep them up for. But here, it is just me, and all my messy, strange thoughts and habits, all dumped out on the floor and needing to be picked through.

Today is the longest night of the year, and it is a deeply significant marker of time, ancient. Though winter has just begun, already the days will grow longer, a promise of spring and the rebirth of the world on the horizon. It seems fitting to me that I think about these shadowy things this morning- that I face the truths I keep hidden, and stop running from them. Because you know, it really isn’t working.

So what is the point? What can I do then, with all these bits and pieces that are becoming heavier the longer I drag them around? I think…I think I just need to accept them. To accept myself, just as I am, right where I’m at. And not grudgingly, either. But with love and tenderness. The dark parts and the awkward parts, and even the maddening parts. I need to stop wishing to be someone I will never be, and concentrate on loving who I am. I need my own love more than I’ve ever needed anyone else’s. I think we all do.

These are awfully burdensome thoughts for such a joyous time of year, but I need to release them. And I think we can all agree that this has been…such a hard year. If you haven’t come face to face with your deeply hidden self at least once or twice, I’d be surprised. But you know, I believe we deserve to have peace. I was going to say “be happy” but happiness the way I think of it isn’t something we can have all the time. It’s a feeling that comes and goes. Peace is something we can hang onto a bit more reliably.

These are the things I will be working on as I enjoy this longest night, and as I greet my first winter in New England- loving and accepting myself, facing the truth of who I am, changing as much as I am able because it will help me find peace…not because it will help others think better of me. This is my one precious life as me, I have no idea who I’ll wind up as next time around. I certainly want to make the most of it. So I am choosing to go forward as bravely as I am able, with an open mind and open eyes.

Happy Solstice to you all.

Posted in adventure, faith, family, happiness, Learning, Life, Musings, People, random, women

Grace Period

A funny thing that recurs repeatedly for me is the realization of how well I think I know myself, how much I think I know about the way I show up and operate within my life…only to be smacked upside the head with reminders of just how forgetful I am. Now, here’s the thing- I can predict pretty accurately how I am going to feel and react and show up in a familiar situation. But put me in a new situation, one where I feel completely out of sorts and out of my element…and all bets are off.

Last night was the fifth night I spent in this incredibly odd condo I rented in Maine (more on that later) and, had you asked me even yesterday morning- even last night, for that matter- how I felt about all of this, I don’t know what I would have said. Probably depends on who was asking. I might have lied and said (in a rather flat and unenthusiastic voice, as I am a terrible liar) “Oh, it’s good- just getting settled, you know.” More likely still, I would have talked about how gorgeous the neighborhood is, which is absolutely the truth, and mentioned that I was kind of lonely, the condo was not exactly what I’d expected, and I was FINE.

A few of my trusted friends and family got to hear the story of my toddler-style tantrum in the bathtub the night before last when I realized the tubs plug didn’t work, after I’d dumped in my expensive bubble bath and jumped in, excited after not showering for two days. I was REALLY looking forward to that bath. My mom is the only one who got to hear the story of how, while loading the new dishwasher that is set up completely differently than my old dishwasher, I forgot that the silverware was in the front and stabbed myself in the webbing of my hand with a dirty fork. Hard enough to draw blood. These are little things, I know, but when everything is so different- and I mean everything- these little things feel so big. Insult to injury, you know?

What I have said to no one at all are the things that bother me the most. Like, why am I not happier than this? Why don’t I feel the way I expected to feel? I got what I wanted most in the world, shouldn’t I be jumping for joy? What if I made a huge mistake? Why am I so homesick already? What is wrong with me?

I have felt this unnecessary pressure to plop right into this entirely new life, three thousand miles away from everything familiar, and be ecstatic about all of it. Overjoyed that I got lost three times in one car ride to the local CVS. Thrilled to shit about the dead spot in town where my GPS glitches out, telling me “turn right in one mile” “turn right” and “proceed to route” all in ten seconds. I feel embarrassed that I’m homesick when I couldn’t wait to leave, embarrassed that I haven’t slipped into life here like an old pair of jeans. I know how lucky I am to get to do all of this- keep my job and follow my dreams and get the adventure of a lifetime- so I’m a little ashamed of how ungrateful I’ve been feeling. Not ungrateful, even. Just…freaked out. Lost. Adrift. Frustrated.

Well Jesus Christ, Courtney. I am not a Muppet on Sesame Street. This is real life, it’s my real life, and it’s pretty turned upside down and inside out right now. I spent the last month packing and cleaning, sorting and selling. I spent five days driving from California to Maine in a car with two cats, a kid, and half of my belongings. I spent four nights in different states. I arrived here on Monday and was back to work by Wednesday morning. I am trying to set my life up in the midst of a pandemic while half-heartedly quarantining, which is easier than it sounds when you take into account that I know exactly four people here and they are all one family. I am exhausted, disoriented, and on my own in a way that I am unfamiliar with. In Monterey, I was on my own, but I didn’t have to be…and I knew where everything was, you know?

So yesterday I started thinking about what I could do to restore some sense of normalcy to my life. Thursday night, I’d unpacked my candles and incense, my crystals, tarot cards, and books and arranged them on a shelf as a sort of mini-altar. Later that evening, we picked up dinner from a restaurant in town and sat down together, Cam and I, at the dining room table and had dinner. I liked that a lot. Yesterday, I meditated for the first time in a long time. Last night, I cooked dinner here for the first time, and again, we sat down together to eat. After dinner, we sat in the living room- she watched TV while I read, and it was nice to spend time together.

We don’t have a yard here and I was worried that would be a problem with a dog, but…actually, it’s been kind of a bonus. There is a beautiful beach half a block from my door, so Lucy gets walked about four times every day, which means I get to walk four times every day! I like that a lot, too. The sunrises here are the most incredible things I’ve ever seen, and a brisk walk at sunrise is a pretty great way to start a day.

And yes, the condo is quirky- it’s filled with too much furniture and SO much junk. The floors slope up and down, the blinds are broken, most of the furniture is rickety and falling apart. It’s also not very clean. BUT: the beds are clean and new, the carpets and couches are nice, the washer and dryer are very new. Most importantly, though, it feels warm, and not spooky at all- which is important in a place that’s over a hundred years old! It’s so quiet here, and very dark at night- no sirens, no neighbors outside yelling, no loud music or fireworks.

There is much to like and be appreciative of, but I forgot that it takes time. I forgot that I might need a moment to catch my breath, to figure out where the steak knives are, to feel at home. I forgot that the way I felt the first day I arrived wouldn’t be the way I always felt, or even how I felt the next day. I forgot that I needed a grace period. And today, I am feeling a lot better.

Oh, and I also found a hardware store and bought an old fashioned bathtub plug. So, I think I’m going to be okay pretty soon.

Posted in adventure, family, fun, kids, Life, motherhood, Musings, People, random, women

So Many Breakdowns, So Little Time

The range of emotions I have been grappling with over the past several days has been pretty astonishing. On Saturday, I had a yard sale- maybe the third one I’ve ever had? I remembered that morning, as I was making my ten billionth trip from the back yard to the front, exactly why I had only had two others before. Because they SUCK. I don’t like sitting around, waiting for people to show up. I don’t like haggling single dollar amounts over my belongings. I don’t like feeling judged when people slow down in their cars, look at my stuff, and then drive off. And it’s boring. And it was HOT. And my back hurt. Yep, on Saturday, I was a full-on whiner.

On Sunday, I let people come over and pick through the remains for free. I put up a post on Facebook marketplace, in several groups I’m in, and said “It’s all free, don’t message me about specific items, don’t make a mess, and just let me know you are on your way over please.” Guess how many messages I got about specific items? Like thirty. And people are so RUDE. Messages that just said “Address?”- no hello, no good morning, nothing. Honestly, I would rather drive my crap to a donation station than give it to a rude person. So, I ignored those ones and only replied to the polite people. On Sunday, I was petty.

Yesterday though…yesterday was special. In the morning, I had a panicked fit because my ex, who has been my literal savior throughout this whole moving process, had the audacity to choose employment over helping me for free. I know, what a jerk, right?! Hahaha! I kept stopping mid-breakdown, as I shrieked the list of all the things I needed to do but wasn’t going to be able to accomplish without help, to announce that I wasn’t actually mad at him, I was just freaking the fuck out. But I could tell he felt guilty anyway, because, you know…I’m his assigned human in distress. Poor Devon. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know we’ve had a rocky, hard relationship. When we fight, which is not unusual, they are big fights. We put up with a lot from each other, but we help each other a lot, too. So, Monday morning, I was ridiculous.

Later Monday morning, I realized that when I’d rented the AWD car to drive cross country, I’d forgotten to specify the cross-country part. Which is why it was such a reasonable price. I had to fix that, obviously, and found myself about fifteen hundred dollars lighter as a result. Five minutes later, the guy at Uhaul told me my trailer hitch hadn’t arrived and they had no ETA on it, either. So that’s bad. Later Monday morning, I was a lunatic.

Monday afternoon, I flooded the laundry room. It has happened two other times since I’ve lived here, but never to me- a point I’d taken great pride in. I was smart enough to never leave anything in the sink the washer drains into. Well, until yesterday, that is. On the plus side, the floors underneath the washer and dryer are super clean now. On the down side, the litter box was basically poop soup. I still haven’t dealt with that. On Monday afternoon, I was defeated.

Monday evening, I realized that both of my children were ungrateful sociopaths, and that it was probably my fault because I am a terrible mother. On Monday evening, I was resentful. And hurt.

And those are just the highlights, my friends. I didn’t even mention the guilt I felt while looking at my cats who are clueless about what next week holds for them. Or the part where I was laying in bed, wondering if it would be weird to change my mind…or if I even could at this point! I mean, I signed a lease. I forked over the cash. It’s too late…right? Or even the part where I imagined my future self lonely and full of regret, comforting my sobbing child as she begs to go home to California. There’s more, I’m sure, but I’ll spare you. I think you have a pretty clear idea of my mental state by now.

You know what’s missing, though? Gratitude. Excitement. Joy, elation, the awesome sense of adventure that fueled this fire in me to begin with. I will give myself a pass at the moment, simply because…a move of this magnitude is hard. And doing it in this short of a time is really hard. But I will get it done, just like I get everything done- maybe not perfectly, but well enough.

In a little more than a week, I will set off for Maine, yowling cats and all, and this chapter will be done as another begins. I’m going to do the best I can to enjoy the journey through the country while keeping my expectations low. As long as we get there alive and in one piece, I’ll be happy. In the meantime, I’m hoping today won’t hold too many surprises…or if it does, let them be happy ones.

Posted in Dreams, family, Goals, happiness, kids, Life, love, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, relationships, women

Telling On Myself

I wrote a post yesterday. Ever since I posted it, I’ve been annoyed about it. You want to know why? Good, ’cause I’m gonna tell you- I’m annoyed because, though there were a few grains of truth in there, it was really a fictional account of how I want to feel; it had nothing to do with how I actually felt right then.

Do you want to know how I actually feel? Good, ’cause I’m gonna tell you that, too. I am scared. Scared half to death. And also, in case you were uncertain, I want you to know that I have absolutely no idea what I am doing. Like, I mean, I guess I kind of know, but what I mean is…I’m not really sure I should be the one in charge of making big decisions around here. I’m not nearly as confident as I probably seem. I often feel like a very young woman in a middle-aged woman’s body, baffled by life. I frequently wonder if I deserve the good things that happen in my life, and then I feel guilty, which is weird.

I want very much to be positive, but there’s a fine line between positivity and being disingenuous. Yesterday, I was having a really hard day and in an attempt to bolster myself, I wrote a post that was utter bullshit. I’m telling you this because honesty is so important- now more than ever, in my opinion. When I tell the truth here, when I am really open about my feelings and struggles, I know that someone will read my words and feel less alone. I know, because it’s happened time after time. I put my real feelings into words, and someone says “Oh my God, I thought it was just me, thank you for saying that.”

We don’t tell the truth about human stuff, and then we suffocate on shame. As they say in recovery, we compare our insides to other peoples outsides. And that’s not a fair comparison. Social media makes it so much easier to do that, because we post the best pictures, and the funny moments, and we leave out the personal stuff that makes us real people. Well, guess what? I’m a real person. Flawed as can be.

Yesterday, I had a terrible realization. I realized that I have made the last ten years about my kids (that isn’t the terrible part, stay with me), and the past five I doubled-maybe tripled- down as a parent. But I did it wrong, I think. I gave these girls the impression that I lived only for them, to serve them and save them and give to them, even if that meant overlooking myself. And now, when I have this amazing thing happening for me, I am being met with open resentment. I am selfish, I have ALWAYS been selfish, I don’t deserve help, I don’t deserve appreciation…UNLESS I am doing what they want me to do. It occurred to me yesterday that I kinda have no one who is really in my corner. And man, that makes me sad. Like, really, really sad.

Do they love me? Oh, without a doubt. That’s not it at all. It’s the lack of boundaries with them, the path I laid out that is the problem. I gave as much as I could in some areas to make up for what I perceived as shortfalls in other areas. And now I find myself in a lonely place because I devoted myself to people who are ultimately supposed to grow up and go off to their own lives. Obviously, my nine year old is still dependent on me, but she’s spoiled, too. And that is my fault. But my eldest is PISSED, and cannot see beyond her own needs right now. Needs that are, I might add, not mine to meet. At all. She’s 23.

Yesterday, it hit me that I need to take care of myself and show up for myself, especially if I’m the only one doing it. So all this family resistance I am hitting is actually only driving home the point that I have got to do what makes me happy. Because making other people happy is great, but it isn’t getting MY needs met. My kids will be fine. I will always be there for them, but I will also be there for me. As I should have been all along.

So yesterday, I painted a pretty picture that didn’t tell the real story. Today, I am telling the truth. Because you deserve to hear it, and I need to lay it out, too. Life is hard, being a grown up is hard, parenting is hard. For everyone. Most of the time. You are not alone, and I know I’m not either. One thing I wrote yesterday is true, though. Things really do have a way of working out. I’m counting on it.

Posted in Addiction, adventure, faith, happiness, inner peace, Learning, Life, living, Mental Health, Musings, People, recovery, spirituality, women

1,825 Days

On this day, five years ago, I woke up and chose to stop putting drugs into my body. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it both is and isn’t a simple thing. You have to understand, and I know it’s hard if you haven’t lived it, but…when you are deep in the throes of addiction your brain tells you stories, and, because it’s your own brain talking to you in your own voice, and because you are very sick and things aren’t right inside of you, you no longer have the discretion to discern the truth from the lies. Your brain tells you that you can’t just stop on a dime- you have to plan ahead, you need to wait for the weekend, you just need to finish off the rest of the dope you have. You’ll have to call in sick, you need someone to help with the kids, tomorrow would be better, next month would be better. It’s going to be so hard. It’s going to feel so bad.

The truth is, you only need to be ready. Before you are ready, nothing will make it work. And nothing can force you to be ready until you arrive there on your own. That place looks different for everyone.

I want to share a part of my story that I’ve been reluctant to speak about for a couple of reasons; I am not in recovery, not in the traditional sense, anymore. One year ago in February, I made the decision to leave the 12 Step world and live life as a free agent. I was terrified, honestly. I had found myself thinking, for quite some time, that I wasn’t comfortable with defining myself by my addiction anymore. I was tired of rehashing the sordid details of my former life in order to identify with the newcomer. Healing from something while reliving it constantly began to feel counter-intuitive. I had done everything that was asked of me, all of it. Service work, step work, meeting attendance, and I felt I was at a crossroads- it was time for me to start sponsoring women or time to move on. I agonized over this decision. I worried that my brain was lying to me again, that I would leave and somehow, though it seemed impossible to me, wind up on drugs, right back where I’d started. But I knew that in order to sponsor women in their most vulnerable time, I had to be committed. I had to buy what I was selling 100%. Lives were at stake. And that made my choice pretty easy. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t tell someone there was only this one way to live for the rest of their lives because I no longer believed it was true. So, I left.

At first, it was really weird. But, once I found my footing, I realized this choice was the right one for me. I thought I was endangering myself by walking away, but what I did was…I set myself free, and gave myself permission to live my life the way I chose. I trusted myself to make good decisions. And it was the most loving thing I have ever done for me.

The reasons I have been hesitant to share this are not far-fetched at all. I would never, ever want to encourage another person to follow me out of recovery. Every one of us is different, and I think that, scared as I was of breaking from the norm, I knew in my heart that I was done with dope. I knew I wasn’t going back to that life. So, I don’t talk about it because I don’t want to give people the wrong idea, you know?

The second reason is…I don’t want to take away from the fact that I have accomplished something fucking marvelous. I know what my friends in recovery are going to think about this, because I thought the same exact way- pretty sure I even wrote a rude blog about it here somewhere: It only counts if you do it THIS WAY. Well, I’m sorry, but that just isn’t true for me. You know what is true? That my life is not ruled by substances of any kind anymore. That I don’t have to hide or lie or feel ashamed of myself because of the way I am living. That, in the past five years, I have made fundamental changes to my life that have allowed me to become the woman I had wanted so badly to become. The woman I was afraid I had lost all chance of ever being.

So no, I am not in recovery anymore. But that doesn’t change the fact that this morning, when I woke up and thought about what that number meant- One thousand eight hundred and twenty five days- I wasn’t overwhelmed with gratitude. I thanked God profusely and sobbed because my life is so incredibly beautiful. The freedom, the healing, the changes…they are so precious to me. The difference between who I am right now and who I was on this very day five years ago is profound.

When I shared that I didn’t go to meetings anymore with a friend of mine a while back, she said to me “Oh, so you’re cured?” in that “tone” one can get when they think they know something you don’t. Today, I would like to say this- I might not ever be cured completely, but I’m closer than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m free. I’m not afraid of myself anymore. I trust me. I’m so proud of myself. And nothing anyone else thinks about the way I move through life can change that.

So, happy anniversary to me.

Posted in family, Goals, health, kids, Life, motherhood, Musings, People, random, relationships, women

When This is Over

this too shall pass

When this is over, I will say yes to everything.

I will never be too tired or grouchy or lazy again.

When this is over, I will have barbecues and parties. I will have friends for lunch and fancy dinner parties for no reason.

When this is over, I will visit when my mother asks me. I will wander through my daughters garden and take my time, listen and look as she points out every flower. I will hug her and not let go for a very long time.

I miss her. I worry, you know.

When this is over, and I can move freely through the world again, I will remember. I’ll remember what it was like to fear the grocery store.

To fear the goddamn shopping cart.

To feel my heart race every time Cam touched a handle or a box.

When this is over, I swear I will go camping with Jen instead of trying to figure out how to get out of it.

I’ll find the time. I’ll make the time.

When this is over, maybe I’ll stop crying every day.

Or maybe I’ll cry for a long, long time.

I just really hope I’m here

I hope all of us are here

When this is over.

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

Unconditional

unconditional

It is 4:42 a.m. and my eyes pop open. I bring my wrist to my face and squint up at the green numbers on my Fitbit, then slide awkwardly towards the foot of my bed to exit, grabbing my phone from the charger as I go. There’s a child sleeping beside me that had not been there when I went to sleep, and I don’t want to risk waking her. This is as much for my sake as her own- maybe more for my sake, honestly. These little hours of the morning are the only ones that are truly mine, and I am not willing to share them with anyone.

Camryn, though, is not the child that sleeps lightly. Aisley was the one I had to tiptoe around to keep from waking, the one who would always wake simply because the warmth of my body was missing beside her. From the moment she was born, she lived her life perched in the crook of my arm, balanced on the side of my hip. She slept pressed against my side, curled herself into my lap as we watched TV. Camryn was different- she wanted to sleep near me, but not too near. She wanted down, she wanted to explore, she wanted to do it herself. I told myself it was a good thing, her independence. It meant she felt safe, that I was doing something right. The truth is, I missed all the cuddling, and it probably had nothing to do with me. Children, in many ways, are born with personalities intact.

Last night was a rough night. Though there is nothing I love more than my daughters, and having them both home, under the same roof, brings a peace to my heart like nothing else, my girls are…polar opposites. Like two ends of a battery, they go together, but they are not the same. Positive and Negative. Cam is happy and hyper, kind and silly. At the far end of those things, she is obnoxious, relentless, impulsive and incapable of pumping the brakes. Aisley is…quiet, calm, practical and sensitive to her environment. The darker side of her is moody, agitated, intolerant and…unhappy in a way that you can feel, even when she is silent.

Her sister gets on her nerves. I can feel the tension building, and it affects me, too. Cam is bouncing off the walls. Aisley is stewing. I am in the middle, trying to warn them both “She’s only eight, be patient.” and “Camryn, you need to settle down.” “Settle down.” “Camryn, THAT IS ENOUGH!” Poor Cam, thinking she can crack just one more joke, and everyone will laugh and be happy, not realizing that every time she opens her mouth, she’s pushing both her sister and I closer to the edge. It ended with me losing my cool, Aisley jumping in, and Camryn in tears, feeling (rightly) that she’d been ganged up on. My poor little peanut.

I apologized, but was not granted permission to hug for several hours. I explained to Aisley that, though it isn’t her intention to do it, her moods are contagious for me. They always have been. I’ve always been pretty empathetic, but with her it’s next level. I’m like a little sponge, soaking up her vibe. All I really want is to be happy with my kids, to treat them kindly, to feel good about our time together. I didn’t feel that way last night. I felt terrible, actually, and ashamed at losing my cool. I went to bed early just to be done with it.

Today is a new day, though. I ran to the store at 6 to buy sugar, and the streets were deserted, the sky still dark as night. At the stop sign down the road, the twinkling lights of Monterey spread out across the bay, and the heaviness in my chest leftover from last night lifted. It’s still early. The possibilities are endless.

It is 7:17 now, and my daughters are still sleeping- the big one in the little one’s bed, and the little one in my bed. I wonder if they know, if they will ever really know…how much I love them? Exactly as they are, whoever they should become, no matter what they do. My love for them is…profound. It is the definition of unconditional. No hormonal “I hate you!” or “You’re a TERRIBLE mother!” could penetrate or even disturb the fortress wall that is my love for them. As a matter of fact, the cruel things said, the unintentional slights, the outright insults? They slide right off that wall, forgotten almost immediately. Ironically, Aisley cries to me sometimes about terrible things she said to me when she was younger that I don’t even remember. It means nothing, I tell her. I forgave you before the words left your mouth.

I am proud of them. I am proud of them, and in awe of them, and amazed by the people they are, knowing it has nothing to do with me. They are their own little souls, forging their own paths in life, separate from me, but entwined also. Most of all, I just feel so incredibly lucky to know them. To get to have a hand in any of this. To have had my life so enriched by loving them, and getting to be part of it all. I mean, I feel so privileged.

Later today, when Aisley is complaining for the fifteenth time about how much she “just HATES people, I mean, they are EVERYWHERE!”, or Camryn asks me what she can eat for the seventh time in two hours, I will forget all of this. I will roll my eyes, I will sigh heavily, I will probably snap “You can’t possibly be hungry again already! You’re just bored! Go find something to do!” If I’m lucky, I’ll go to bed tonight feeling like I handled things okay, that I did an okay job. If I’m not, I’ll go to bed beating myself up and wishing I’d done better. In short, whichever way it goes, I’ll go to bed feeling the same feelings that mothers everywhere feel- the good days could have been a little better, the bad days are the end of the world. You can’t really win.

But at the heart of it all is this vast and unchangeable love. Perfect, but heavier than the world. It fulfills me in a way that I never expected, and that nothing else ever has. Yet it is also terrifying, the depths of it, the way it matters- I could survive many things, but I cannot contemplate a life without them. Anything but that. Given the choice to live my life over, I know I would painstakingly recreate every moment, every poor choice, every failure, just to wind up with these two girls. It’s not even a question. It’s just a given.

I am many things, but none of them matters more to me than being a mother to them. Nothing else even comes close. I wonder if they know?

Posted in adhd, Depression, faith, happiness, Life, Mental Health, Musings, People, women

Notes on Being Sad (for no Reason)

notes on sadness

September was a hard month. At least, it seems like it was. You know, when things get a little…off course for me, I tend to lose track of time. Everything seems long-interminable, really. The funny thing is, just before this little tussle I’ve been having with myself, I was doing so well! It seems like that is how it goes, though- one week, I’m on top of the world, the house is clean, I’m productive, happy, eating well, having fun, sure that this time I am finally where I’m supposed to be. Feeling so confident that I can’t even imagine how I ever could have felt sad or down before. I look back rather scornfully on my previous self, if I’m being honest- that girl. What was her problem, anyway?

And then that niggling sense of dissatisfaction creeps in- that’s how it always starts. Like I’m searching for something, I need something, but I can’t figure out what it is. I start finding fault with others, and fault with myself. Then comes the internal litany of bullshit- the negative self talk that wears me down, bit by bit. Eventually, I stop washing the dishes, stop making the bed, stop sweeping the floor. I can’t be bothered to wash my face at night. I won’t pick up the phone when it rings, and I cancel plans. Everything feels heavy and sad.

What a lot of people don’t know- I didn’t even know this until recently- is that moodiness and depression are a big part of ADHD. It’s literally part of the deal, part of the chemical function of our brains…or would it be dysfunction? I don’t know, whatever. It’s not imaginary, it’s not a “made-up” disorder. It’s a real, scientifically proven affliction, and they’ve got the brain scans to prove it. It’s a spectrum, as well, so it affects everyone differently. Learning to understand and accept this fact about myself has been far more difficult than I could have imagined.

I have learned there are people who get it and people who just do not. Reciting back to me a list of all the reasons I should be happy does not help. I understand that I have no reason to feel sad…but I feel sad anyway. These feelings cannot be reasoned with. As a matter of fact, telling me all the reasons I have to be happy makes it so much worse, because now I feel guilty about how shitty I feel.

Trust me when I tell you that I would prefer to be happy all the time. That I get no satisfaction from feeling myself sliding backwards into a slump. It’s not a lot of fun to be a person who cannot count on themselves to be steady, at least emotionally, for any length of time. When things are good, they are very good. When things are bad, they are awful.

So, I try. I try really, really hard to slap a smile on my face. To be nice when I want to bite someone’s head off, to temper my tone of voice when I want to snap. I keep showing up, even when I want to stay in my house with the blinds drawn. I try not to try to figure out why I feel the way I feel anymore- honestly, I don’t think there is an outside force at work. I think it’s inside of me, it’s chemical, hormonal maybe…that’s as far as I am willing to go. Trying to fix it seems to only make it worse.

I wait for it to pass. It always does. When it gets really bad, I just remind myself that, no matter what happens, I am safe. It sounds dumb, but remembering that I am “a spiritual being having a human experience”, that this is just school here on planet earth, that, even if I keel over dead tomorrow, I’m still going to be okay…at least, the way I think things are, that’s how it goes…well, that honestly helps a little bit.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no interest in keeling over dead. I’m not advocating for that in any way. I’m just saying, it helps to remember that what we humans prioritize, in order of importance, is pretty screwy sometimes…and that being sad, being down, being depressed…those are just feelings. As long as I know myself well enough to know where to draw the line, when I might need a little extra help, I’ll muddle through.

Yesterday, I followed my boss into the office kitchen, and told her I needed to talk to her. “I’m just really sad.” I told her, tears immediately popping into my eyes. “I knew you were, I could tell by how quiet you’ve been.” She said, “What can I do to help?” I shrugged and shook my head. “I just wish I could understand why I get like this.” I told her. “Yeah, but you know that isn’t how you operate, Courtney. For you, it just happens sometimes. Is there anything I can do? Do you need to see someone, or take time off?” She asked. “I don’t know…I just needed someone to know that I was struggling.” I told her.

And just that, just the simple act of telling someone- someone who doesn’t judge me, or try to reason with me, or try to fix it; someone who doesn’t give me a list of reasons why I should feel differently, but instead just hears me, knows me, and treats me with patience and kindness…it really matters. I don’t know how, but it helps.

I came home yesterday and found that whatever this thing was that had been gripping me so hard…it wasn’t gone, but I could breathe at least. There was space all of the sudden that hadn’t been there before. I could see a little further beyond myself, the way you see the forest around you when you turn your brights on in the car, driving down a country road at night. Last night, I made tater-tots and a grilled cheese for Cam- not much of a meal, but I made it happily- I cut it into fourths, and arranged it just so on the plate, piling the tater-tots in the middle, and filling a stolen ramekin with ketchup. I don’t do things like that when I’m terribly sad.

I unloaded the dishwasher and changed the five gallon water jug that has been empty for days. I made my bed and swept the floor. I helped with homework, and Cam and I read together. These sound like little things to anyone who doesn’t struggle with their moods, I’m certain. But those of us who know will get it.

You know, I find it a little embarrassing to tell the truth about this. I sometimes feel like I sound whiny, or I’m being dramatic- when there is so much turmoil in this world, who am I to think my bouts of sadness even matter? But trying to pretend all is well when it isn’t keeps me silent- it keeps me from writing, and it keeps it all inside. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels the way I do. Maybe you can identify with me, and maybe it’ll help you. Who knows?

Here’s to a better day- to people who can meet us where we’re at, bosses who listen, and to telling the truth, even when it isn’t easy. May we all feel just a little better today than we did yesterday…even if yesterday was awesome, but especially if it wasn’t.

 

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

Motherhood

Motherhood- “the state or experience of having or raising a child”. That’s it, that’s the definition. And by that definition, any woman-nay, any person, can be a mother. But for those of us who have experienced it, it is so very much more. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for myself…it has been life altering, to say the least.

I bring this up today because today marks the 22nd anniversary of my life as a mother. That’s right, my daughter turns 22 today.  And on this day, the moment she arrived, a new part of me was also born.

While my daughter was a robust, long (slender, though- a lot like she is now!) and healthy child, born a full five days past her due date, my motherhood was premature. Unprepared for the world I was barreling into, unaware of what I had actually undertaken. I was a mother because I had a baby, but in most other ways I was woefully behind. While some women take up the mantle of motherhood with some innate grace, some primal knowing…I wore it more like an ill- fitting Halloween costume, a child masquerading as a grown-up. A little girl trying to walk in her mother’s high heels.

I am a late bloomer. I know this about myself now, but I did not realize it then- I didn’t understand anything back then, to be completely honest. I thought, of course, that I knew everything. Which made me the most dangerous kind of person there is- a confident idiot cannot be swayed or reasoned with.

The moment that glorious little girl was held up before my eyes, a feeling swept over me that I struggle to describe, that I still cannot name to this day. Time stopped, and I felt an awe sweep through me, a stunning, heart-stopping, “WHOA!”. I remember praying “Please, please let me remember this forever.” and I have. Not as clearly as I’d like, but clear enough. I must have known, somehow, that that was truly a once-in-a-lifetime moment- that no matter how many children I went on to have, this was the only first time that would come my way. I held onto it, and I am so glad I did.

Right behind that feeling came a terror unlike any I had known before. It was suddenly very clear to me that I now loved someone more than I loved myself, and I sensed that this was a very dangerous thing. I didn’t even know this little furry, brown person. Yet…in an instant, my heart was changed.

I was not good at the job. I have tried to find all kinds of different ways to explain it, but it comes down to that. I didn’t know. I didn’t understand the enormity of the responsibility before me. I didn’t grasp how precious and deserving a child is just by virtue of their existence. I didn’t know how careful and tender and loving I needed to be. I just…simply didn’t get it.

I won’t subject you, or myself, to the well-worn list of “Things I Royally Fucked Up”- quite frankly, this is supposed to be a blog post, not a novel. Besides which, those things are long past, now, and there is nothing I can do to change a minute of it. Forgiving myself, though, well…I’ve come to the conclusion that might never happen, not completely. And that’s okay. Some things are worth being sad about indefinitely.

Instead, let me tell you some of the good things. There was a night, about four months after she was born, that I remember so clearly. I woke up to her, snuffling and wiggling the way newborns do, in the bed beside me. It was about four in the morning, and the rain was pouring down outside the window of the dark room. I picked her up and lay her on my chest, her little downy head warm against my chin, my hands resting on her tiny back as it rose and fell in slumber, and I remember thinking “This is what it means to be content.” To this day, I cannot recall a more perfect moment than that.

I remember so many sunny days, driving in my car with the windows down, singing Dixie Chicks at the top of our lungs.

I remember sliding down the snowy sidewalks of Sparks, Nevada, in our knock-off brand Ugg Boots, early on a winter morning, just laughing and sliding, then laughing some more- until we were doubled up and our sides ached.

I remember endless nights snuggled up in bed, watching Animal Planet or Sponge Bob. I remember innumerable hugs and kisses, and the way that little girl soaked up affection like a sponge. It was the one thing I always had enough of to give, and the one thing she always took willingly.

Today she is 22, the same age I was when she was born, and I am…it is hard for me. It is hard for me to describe for you the heaviness my heart feels when I think back over those years. Not for me- I don’t care about me. For her. The things I should have given her, the things she doesn’t even know she missed, the chaos, the dysfunction. The things I stole from her that I cannot give back-that I didn’t even know I was taking. It’s a hard truth to live with.

I am so incredibly lucky that we survived it all, somehow, pretty much intact. A part of my mind tells me that I have a tendency to recall, with freakish clarity, the bad things  while simultaneously forgetting the million good things that also happened. But when I am feeling this way, it’s hard for me to believe.

I am so blessed and lucky to have the relationship I have with her today. We are the closest of close, and there is nothing we cannot or do not discuss. She tells me often that I need to let it go, that it wasn’t that bad, that she loves me and forgives me, and that she is glad she had the childhood she had. It wasn’t boring, she says. It was always an adventure.

And I look at the way she lives- out in the country, with the same boyfriend she’s had since she was fifteen years old. She loves to cook, she bakes her own bread. She gardens as if it were what she was born to do, raising fruits and vegetables I’ve never even heard of before. She cares for her dog and her cat, and she just wants to be somewhere quiet, somewhere out in the woods, away from the noise and crowds and drama. I look at all of that, and I think…it could have been so much worse. If children want to be different than their parents, if this is how she rebels…thank GOD. Seriously, thank God.

I am still not the best mother. I probably never will be. I cuss too much, I yell too much, I tend to treat my children like miniature adults. But I am so much better at it. As a matter of fact, I can say with a straight face that I am proud of the mother I have become. Not just to my little child, but to Aisley, as well. She still needs me- maybe more than ever, actually. Navigating adulthood is no joke. As she has grown up, so have I. Yet another thing we share, another thing that bonds us. As long as I stay a few steps ahead of her, I think we’re doing okay.

So…happy birthday to my sweet little Aisley. And happy motherhood anniversary to me. It’s been a long road, but I think I’m finally headed in the right direction.