For all those Mothers, Grandmothers, and “acting-as-Mom”s out there in the U.S.:
You have the hardest, most important job in the world. Please know that you are appreciated.
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 successful, 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 exhausting 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 winter, 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.
Blessings to you all.