Posted in about me, hope, know better do better, mental health, parenting, vulnerability

“Michael would be proud.”

That’s what I wrote on Facebook eight years ago.

I had traveled to NJ to present at a conference. (I love doing that!! Public speaking is fun scary.)

I had spent several sessions with Michael, my therapist, working on a scripted conversation with my mom. (This is several years after starting with him.) To put it mildly, she and I had never had a good relationship (“You’ve been a problem since you were in kindergarten!”), and this conversation was intended to try to set boundaries — both for her (“I feel disrespected”) and for myself (not accepting the invitation to the argument—keeping myself within my boundaries and not blowing up).

I told him the conversation was unlikely to last as long as two minutes.

I was right.

But I maintained my boundaries, stayed calm, didn’t accept the invitation to the argument.

It ended with her stomping up the stairs and slamming her bedroom door.

We’ve had very few conversations since then. None in the last several years.

I can’t explain to you how much it hurts to be rejected by your mom, to be told explicitly that you are decidedly not OK as you are, especially repeatedly, especially as a child. (Tears welled just seeing the post pop up in my “memories.” I remember that small chunk of that evening well. Because even though I knew how it was going to go, there’s always that little bit of hope…)

I can’t quantify all the little places that this comes out sideways.

I can’t fully explain the combination of shame and defensiveness that washes over me when someone says that hurts done to us when we’re children have no effect (or should not be blamed) for how we act as adults.

Are we responsible for our actions? Yes.

Are we unaffected by everything that has happened to us? Absolutely not.

I’m better than I was when I wrote that post eight years ago. I’m better than I was when I started this blog six-ish months ago.

Why?

Therapy. Lots of it. Intentionally ripping open old wounds and helping them to heal properly. Like breaking a bone so it mends itself the way it should.

Intentionality. Being aware of how I’m reacting, why I’m reacting, and working my ass off to fix it. Finding home in “it’s not me, it’s you” in situations where 1-that’s true and 2-I can’t get out of it.

Patience and love from close friends who maybe understand that when interpersonal relationships go wrong, it affects me in a way that seems to be abnormally intense.

(Or maybe they just chalk it up to “That’s Heat.” Either way, patience and love.)

Patience and love from close friends who maybe understand that friendships are more important to me than they seem to be to those with a solid root system.

It’s one of my top life priorities to be a good mom, to do better for The Kid than my mom did for me. For him to know that no matter how many times he leaves his Legos and backpack and socks laying around or how well he runs his races or what grades he gets on his report card or what activities he wants to participate in or how much I like or don’t like his dating partners, he is loved and I am a safe place for him to be.

I am especially mindful to tell him that I love him, that I’m lucky to be his mama when I’m angry. Or when he’s sad. (Or both.) We snuggle and talk when he’s upset. You are loved, just as you are. Even when you don’t feel lovable. Especially when you don’t feel lovable.

I might not like your actions, and we might need to work on changing them, but I love you regardless.

Working through all of my baggage is a lifelong journey (I assume, at this point). I am constantly handed new situations in which I can learn to make myself better, healthier.

Honestly, I’m tired of them. (“Builds character.” I have enough character, thanks.)

Honestly, I get angry sometimes that more people don’t do the same. (If nothing else, I wouldn’t have to work so hard if other people would pick up their share of the work.)

My request to you, if you have children: be a safe place for them to be. Own your baggage. Don’t take it out on them. It’s hard to own some of the stuff that’s in us, some of the ways we’ve acted as a result. It’s easy to blame the kid. But ignoring or deferring just perpetuates it.

And your friends who had traumatic childhoods? Give them some extra love. They might still be running a deficit.

Posted in ebb & flow, hope

Everyone is tired

The political climate is sucking the life energy out of us.

There is too much to fight to be able to do it all.

There is too much going on even to stay on top of it all.

There are too many giant steps backwards, undoing decades of work.

There are too many people whose humanity we’ve forgotten or have further degraded.

But on a personal level, as a person who is not immediately impacted by any of it (see: privilege), it’s impacting: people are tired.

Not tired from being too busy—that’s always been a variable.

Tired from all the stuff.

Tired in that “I need an evening to myself” kind of way, but it’s now a relentless fatigue, even with quiet time or fun time or whatever time built in.

People are in touch less. Harder to talk with, even just about day-to-day stuff. Harder to get together with.

I don’t have an actionable solution.

I don’t know how to shift energy expenditure.

I don’t know how to spend the day at work and have energy when I get home, how to give to work what I end up giving to family.

(I’m saying “I” but it’s not just me—I’ve had this conversation with at least half a dozen people—initiated by them—in the last two months.)

I don’t know how to be aware of what’s going on in my country, my state, my town, my school district, my and my son’s schools without it draining energy at every level.

I want to talk to people about health, about diet and exercise and nasty chemicals in common household items, about raising kids to be mentally healthy (to the extent that we guide that), about cooking and playing and painting and writing and on and on and on…

…but who has energy left to examine their habits, much less change them, when it takes all the energy just to make it through the day?

How do we fix this, friends? How do we reclaim our energy and connect with the people around us?

Posted in hope, motivation, tips

Resolutions?

Please, if you are going to make the effort to make a New Year’s resolution, please take some steps to make it more likely to be successful.

(If you have no intention of keeping it, don’t bother making it.)

Some steps:

Make it something in your control: “The garage will get cleaned out,” when what you mean is, “My spouse will clean out the garage.” Make it something you are going to do.

Make it one thing. You can’t focus on three or four or five things at a time.

Make it realistic. If you’re not already in pretty good shape, you’re not going to run a marathon every month.

Make it concrete. “I want to be healthier” is vague and can mean a lot of things. Weight? Sleep? Stress? Food? Drink? Interpersonal interaction? Mental health? Exercise?

Make it actionable. “I am going to cut dessert down to once a month and go to the gym three times each week” is more useful than “I’m going to lose weight.”

Put it on paper. Make a chart or use a notebook (or the electronic versions thereof). Write it down. Put it where you will see it every day.

And if you start to avoid the paper… figure out why. What guilt or shame is stopping you from actually doing this thing? It is something that someone else wanted for you? Is it tied to so much emotional baggage that changing this thing unleashes a cascade of other issues? (For example… I heard a bit on a podcast a few weeks ago where women in one particular study lost a substantial amount of weight and gained it back because they were getting male attention that they didn’t want; they liked the invisibility of being heavy.)

 

Posted in about me, hope, mindset, parenting, storytelling

Finding magic through The Kid

The Kid suggested yesterday that we leave out cookies and milk for Santa.

We have always told him that Santa is a story, but he loves pretending. (This morning: “I heard Santa on the roof last night!”)

By bedtime, he had forgotten about the milk and cookies, but we left out a plate with crumbs and a glass with milk residue and a note that Santa left, complete with a hoof print from Rudolph.

He was delighted this morning.

As I’ve mentioned, Christmas has never been amazing.

Somehow, I have a kid who loves everything Christmas. He wants all the decorations, sings all the songs, loves all the stuff.

And so, our house has lights outside and lights inside. And a 4-foot tree. And a Charlie Brown tree. And a little tree in his bedroom. (The glittery wreath is at his other house…)

He wanted inflatables, but The Climbing Daddy and I agree: inflatables are No Good.

We hung stockings with little ornaments with our initials that he picked out.

And somewhere, I saw an idea to put packages in white paper and stack and decorate them to look like snowmen. And it stuck, and I had to do it.

Last night, after The Kid went to sleep in a sleeping bag on the living room floor, The Climbing Daddy and I filled stockings.

We piled white box on white box. Drew faces and buttons. Balanced hats and wrapped scarves.

Left out a plate and glass and note.

And when it was done and it was time for us to join him for sleep in the living room … I was happy.

And when he woke up (after the sun came up—hooray night owl kid!), he was excited about everything.

And I was happy.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate.

And to those who don’t, or those who wish they didn’t … there’s magic out there if you can let yourself see it, and if not … it’s almost over…

Posted in differences, gifts, hope, thoughtfulness

A different kind of Christmas

While many of us have families that are less than ideal to spend time with, a couple of things have shown up lately that put some perspective on that.

First, in my On This Day on Facebook, my post about Santa coming to school has shown up multiple times. (Different days for different years.)

I used to work at a school in a very low-income neighborhood.

Our kids were the recipients of toys from a toy drive. Each December, Santa came to our school and gave a bag of gifts to every homeroom teacher (to distribute at the end of the day, and to be opened at home). One gift for every student in the school.

Kids, as you can imagine, were excited.

For some of them, that was it. Their Christmas present.

On behalf of those kids and kids everywhere like them, thank you for your toy donation. Thank you for not grumbling that it has to be new.

Some of them had parents that fit the low-income stereotype. But most of those kids had parents who loved them dearly, who worked two or three or four jobs to try to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. (Where are the kids who eat free breakfast and lunch at school eating this week? Or over spring break? Or over the summer?) What a gift for them to receive something nice. I have always hoped they got something they wanted.

Also on Facebook the other day, the following story was shared by a woman who had been a tutor for Child Protective Services.

“I had a child once ask me if Santa was real. After much inner debate I told him the truth. He breathed a huge sigh of relief. Why? Because, as he said, ‘That’s why Santa never came to my house!’ He knew his mother was abusive and neglectful, but the thought of Santa neglecting him meant that he really was unlovable. Santa is great for healthy homes but we need to be very mindful of the homes that aren’t.”

And we can rant and rage and wave our tiny fists at the parents all we want. At the end of the day, we want physically and emotionally healthy kids, and we need to be more of a village to help that to happen.