F is for Frustrated

For all those Mothers, Grandmothers, and “acting-as-Mom”s out there in the U.S.:

ma day

 

You have the hardest, most important job in the world. Please know that you are appreciated.


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As you might have guessed from the title of this post, I’m frustrated. Mostly with myself. It’s common for me to be all mixed up during the last two weeks of April and the first week of May. Why? Let me list them (because it’s easier to deal with bullet points right now):

  • I was born in the first week of May. I’m not particularly fond of my birthday, you’ll find out why as you read further.
  • You know those little kid birthday parties that many parents throw? I’ve only ever had one of those in my life and sometime between the beginning of the party and the middle of it, the party became less about me and more about the other kids until eventually I was ignored.
  • Someone I love dearly attempted to kill themselves the day before my fourteenth birthday. They were not cryingsuccessful, have since recovered, and are living a happy life now. But I felt guilty at the time that I didn’t see the pain they were in.
  • My maternal grandfather died on my sixteenth birthday. I only saw him two or three times a year, but he was the only relative who I could point to and say that he loved me unconditionally.
  • In my twenties, my mother got sick and eventually died in the last weeks of April three states away. I’ve always felt guilty that I wasn’t there when she died and that my brother had to deal with all of that on his own.
  • We buried my mother on the day after my birthday.
  • In my thirties, my paternal grandmother died in the first week of May. I was her caretaker almost up to the very end and she was a huge part of my life.
  • Last year, I broke my wrist and shattered my elbow on the last day of April. I ended up spending my birthday in the hospital. Recovering from this injury was difficult and eventually lead to my spending time in the psych ward.

To be honest, I’m glad that nothing too awful happened during these weeks this year. Yes, my car got repo’d, which was upsetting. I loved that car and it was the last thing I had left of my life from when my grandmother was alive. Losing it meant that I could no longer pretend that I was the same person I was then. But it was only a car, an object, a thing, a symbol. I am grateful no one died, no one was hurt, no one was buried.

So why am I frustrated? Because I am still in the midst of a rather large transition and I can no longer see myself and my life clearly.

I spent last weekend at a friend’s house helping them with some projects and some church activities. It was an running grassexhausting time because I’m not used to spending so much time on my feet, not to mention running up and down stairs. My feet, knees, and back were in constant pain. Trust me, there’s nothing easy about being circus-lady-fat when it comes to physical activity.

Despite my pain, and the not inconsiderable social anxiety I was feeling, I made it through without an anxiety attack. Whoo hoo, right? Nope. I felt like a fraud. All these people (at my friend’s church) were thanking me for helping out, my friends were complimenting me (“you have such a pretty face”, “you can do anything you want, if you set your mind to it”), and all I could do was wonder how I was making it through. I should have been collapsed on the floor in the fetal position, but I wasn’t. I’d made it through the anxiety and pain and kept a smile on my face. How? Why? What was different?

Then I came home. And for a few days I was okay. I thought, maybe I’ve finally reached the point where I can take better care of myself. Get some exercise, lose some weight. Maybe the anxiety has retreated to a manageable point. Maybe the fact that I seem to be destined to live a minimum wage life won’t be so bad.

I rode that wave of false optimism until Tuesday night. For some reason, that night I started to feel a part of myself weaken. I don’t know if it was because I hadn’t had much “me” time for awhile, or if it was the fact that I binged, or if it was just time for me to cycle through a negative period again, but I slowly became more and more sensitive. On Wednesday, I had trouble getting out of bed and ended up rescheduling an appointment. On Thursday, I slept most of the day, almost missing a counseling appointment.

On the way home from that appointment, I was triggered. You see, I live in a college town. And, because I’m poor, I live in an area with a lot of college kids. And by college kids, I mean drunk and/or stupid people. The kind that yell stupid things out car windows or ogle you when you walk by. Directly across the street from where I live is a house with several of these drunk/stupid kids who like to hang out on their front porch. During the wintewooden spiralr, this wasn’t so bad cause it was too cold for them to be out there long. But now that it’s gotten warm, they spend a lot of time out there. They never say anything directly to me, but I can tell they are watching me when I walk in or out of my building or when I’m pulling the garbage cans to the front or back. I can’t tell if they are talking about me or not, but my skin crawls regardless. This, to me, is triggering.

When I got home Thursday night, they were hanging out on their porch, watching. I could feel their eyes on me as I pulled the garbage cans behind my building and walked inside. I could feel their eyes judging me, judging my fitness to be amongst them. Judging and finding me wanting.

I didn’t leave my apartment again until Sunday night when I knew they weren’t out there.

So who am I? The girl who fights through her social anxiety and helps out at church functions despite the pain in her joints? Or am I the gross, fat woman too afraid to leave her apartment because of the judgmental eyes of some college kids? Am I getting better and the past few days are just a set back? Or am I selfish failure who spends her days feeling sorry for herself because her birthday’s not so special?

Who am I really? Who am I becoming? And what will it be like when I get there? I want these answers now. As you can imagine, it’s frustrating that I can’t get them.

breaking thru clouds

Blessings to you all.

Be well.

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F is for My First Memory

abcalphabet_block_blue_fI’ve spent the last few days avoiding writing this blog post by searching for new graphics to use. Hours upon hours of looking at different versions of pencils, letters, and so forth just so I didn’t have to talk about this memory. The really stupid thing is that I’ve told people about this before since it’s a common “ice breaker” type of activity to ask people to describe their first memory. I’ve told this story to several different college classes, three or four different spiritual institutions and more counselors/therapists/shrinks than you can shake the proverbial stick at. That said, I’ve no idea why it took me so long to write this post.

Anyway, here’s my first memory:

I don’t remember why I woke up, I image I had a bad dream or heard something. I don’t know. All I know is that I was about 2 or 3 years old and I had woken up in the dark. I remember that I was scared and crying and that I pulled myself up in my crib by the slats until I could rest my chin on the top rail. I have an image of my darkened room with a small sliver of light illuminating the floor, but I’m not sure if that is real or if it’s something I’ve added over the years imaging the scene.

I know I cried for what seemed like forever. I don’t know if it was just a few minutes or a few hours. All I know is that eventually I stopped. Not because I stopped being terrified. Not because I was tired. Not even because I ran out of tears. I stopped because I knew, from the bottom of my pajama’d foot to the top of my towhead, that no one was coming. I was alone and I had to deal with whatever it was by myself. And that I’d have to do that for everything for the rest of my life.

So I sat myself down, crossed one leg over the over, hugged a pillow and rocked forward and backward until I fell asleep. I fell asleep that way until I was in my mid-teens.

No this isn't me.

No this isn’t me.

The thing is, there was probably someone home at the time. My brother, my parents, someone. But they didn’t come and likely wouldn’t have. Back then it was believed that if a child wasn’t hungry, sick or wet, you let them cry; it was thought that you were teaching them how to comfort themselves. Well, I guess in a way it did teach me to comfort myself. The problem was that my family’s particular dysfunction combined with my innate way of being ended up giving me problems similar to children brought up by neglectful parents. My parents weren’t neglectful, weren’t bad people; they were doing the best they could at the time. What they didn’t know is that some of the choices they made and some of the ways our family did things would end up giving me more problems than solutions.

As an adult, I logically know that I don’t have to deal with everything by myself. And for the most part, I don’t. If my car breaks down, I talk to a mechanic. If I can’t figure out how to do something on a computer, I ask someone. But if I need help with something I can’t touch, a decision, a feeling, a fear, I hesitate. Especially if it’s something I think is important, I keep whatever it is to myself until I get to some sort of impasse. It isn’t until I’ve chewed the problem to pieces inside my head that I take it to someone else.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: When I went back to college, I had to choose a foreign language. I took a look at how my schedule would be structured and realized I had about five or six choices, which I then narrowed down to two equally good choices. I then spent months, and I do mean months, trying to decide which one to take. This one was more practical, that one sounded like more fun. This one was harder to get into, that one was something I’d thought about taking since I was 12. And on and on. It wasn’t until I had to make a choice that I went to a friend and talked about it out loud. She took one look at me and said “you already know which one you’re going to take.” And she was right; I just didn’t realize that I’d even made the decision until I said it out loud.

Now I imagine a lot of people have similar ways of going over a problem. I just imagine that it doesn’t take them months to get to the point at which they talk to someone about it. Imagine if I had talked through the problem with my friend when I first became aware that I needed to make a decision. I could have saved myself months of dithering over the issue. And I could have used that time and energy thinking about something much more interesting during those months.

I do this with all kinds of problems, both important and trivial. Should I buy that DVD? Should I go to Grad School now or in a few years? What car should I buy? Should I have a brownie or ice cream with dinner? Should I kill myself with pills or by hanging? (Don’t worry, that’s not a current deliberation.)

I honestly think that my problem with asking for help, with trying to take care of everything by myself, can be traced back to that first memory.

And, what might be worse, I think that first memory is when I first started to distrust people. After all, if people aren’t there for a baby, a toddler, why would they be there for a kindergartner, a pre-teen, a teenager, an adult? If a baby can’t depend on anyone to be comforted, why on earth would anyone depend on someone else to comfort them for anything?

So I learned to keep people at a distance very early. I don’t trust people to comfort me. I don’t trust them to do much of anything. This early experience wasn’t the only time people let me down, but it was the first.

Coming up next post: more of my history that caused me to have some sort of issue. Anything in particular you’d like to hear about? Please comment below.