Anxious Breaking down So much to push through and fight
Fearful Poor health Self-care to care for others
Hopeful Fingers crossed Aspirations may soon be met
Loved Generations together Smiles and laughter ‘midst the angst
I decided not to use a prompt today. I just ended my work week after about two weeks off. Weekend graveyards is a tough schedule and I seldom get 3-4 hours of sleep between shifts. So, my brain couldn’t process the complexity of the prompt.
My laptop gave up the ghost and won’t turn on. So, my writing will now be done using the phone app. *sigh*
Confession, I had no idea what liminal meant. When I looked it up I learned that it’s about the ambiguity of being in a transitional state. Neither here, nor there, but somehow occupying the borders of both spaces. Now that I know what it means, I can honestly say that it’s the story of my life.
From childhood forward My mind active and yearning Voracious, needy
Guidance lost too soon Bottled grief. I was unmoored ‘Tween loss and anger
A runaway teen Trauma and disappointment New life comes forth
On the road again No peace, no rest, nowhere home Life saved from cruel death
Back where I started Family ties bind and gag Beginning again
In my element Learning and aching to grow Success! Feeling hope
Upward and onward Fast forward to my limit Falling and spinning
A life not taken Ungrounded, always a risk Begets a new life
I spent decades lost Throwing away loved ones Relationships burned
Scrabbling from the pit Trapped in a cocoon of mind My health overwhelmed
Hard recovery Love’s faith in community Investing in me
Beginning again Not alone but supported Still renovating
Parenting is hard. Parenting a child with special needs is hard. Parenting a girl in active adolescence is hard. Parenting from a place of trauma is hard. Parenting an adolescent girl with special needs when all aspects are points of trauma in your history, is beyond hard.
I feel like I’m constantly falling down, constantly lacking, and constantly failing . . . even though I know I’m doing my best. I know I’m a better parent now than I was seven years ago. I’m a better parent now than when my oldest daughter was the age my youngest daughter is now, 12. I’m a better parent than my mother was able to be when I was 12. But, I still don’t feel like I’m a good parent or the parent my child needs and deserves.
The reality is that I am really struggling. I love my child but I don’t like her. I love her so much and want so much good for her, but I find myself resenting her for things she has no control over. I’m so proud of her and amazed by the things she does and how strong and determined to be herself she is. At the same time, I am so incredibly ANGRY at how her strength and determination flatten and steamroll the people around her . . . like me and her nieces and nephew. I love her but I hate being her mother.
That’s awful. I know it is. But, it’s also my truth. It’s a convoluted truth rooted in the trauma, rejection, and abandonment issues between my mother and myself when I was 12 years old. Issues that I will never be able to work with her on because she died . . . committed suicide . . . when I was 12.
My little girl isn’t so little anymore. She turned 12 at the beginning of December. She’s taller than me . . . mostly because, like many children on the Autism Spectrum, she’s a “toe walker.” She travels on her tiptoes. Walking with her feet flat from heel to toe is like an impossibility for her. There was no physical reason for it and we put her through physical and occupational therapy to try to prevent any negative effects from the toe walking. To no avail. Now it’s reaching the point of discomfort and pain for her to not walk on her toes.
I wish I could let her be herself, with her idiosyncracies and quirks, without feeling so beyond frustrated and annoyed. She absolutely refuses to do anything or engage with anyone other than her preferred activities and people who she wants to be around. I feel powerless, especially in light of the societal expectations, rules, and norms regarding parenting and education, especially with children who have special needs. The thing is she doesn’t appear or seem to be autistic to most people. Even her medical evaluation team had difficulty coming to agreement regarding her autism. She’s lived in emotionally traumatic circumstances since conception. So, there are behaviors and reactions that stem from the autism and there are behaviors and reactions that are rooted in her trauma exposure history. Stir in pubescent hormones, in the middle of a pandemic that has everyone acting off and dealing with various types and degrees of trauma, and I have my very own Katie Kaboom.
If the truth be told, I’m probably as much of a Katie Kaboom as my daughter is . . . or at least I feel like I’m on the verge of exploding with her a lot of the time. There’s this surreal sense of loss of control and imminent danger creating a sense of fear of myself and what I’m capable of.
The last memory I have of an interaction between me and my mother lingers on the edges of my consiousness most of thetime when I’m around her.
I had recently turned 12. It was late June or early July, I think. We were living in an old adobe group of single story apartment buildings that had been built to use as military barracks in the 1940’s. Adobe buildings surrounded by asphalt. No trees. No grass. No shade. It was unrelenteningly sunny. The air was still and stuffy. My mom was working as a night janitor with her brother and his wife, who lived in the building catty-corner from ours. While cleaning may have been her job, it wasn’t something that was a priority in our apartment. We were a couple of clutterbugs. So my mom was embarrased for people to see the condition of our apartment. All the doors were shut tight and windows shuttered and covered so no one could see in.
I was hot. The heat was draining and I had no energy to do anything. I just wanted to breathe and I felt like I was suffocating in the stuffy heat of the closed apartment. I didn’t want to go out in the shadeless parking lot/driveway that surrounded the apartments. We had only lived here for three or four, maybe five months. I didn’t have any friends and didn’t have anywhere I could go. I was restless and listless at the same time. I decided to stand in the doorway, with my face pressed against the doorframe on the right, the door pressed against my left cheek, my stocky body filling the area between the door and it’s frame. Nothing visible from the outside.
She was embarrased, exhausted, and overwhelmed . . . I know and recognize this now, but at that time I only thought she was being controlling and unreasonable. It felt like what I needed and wanted didn’t matter to her, even a little bit. She was yelling at me, trying to get me to close the door. I was yelling back, telling her how no one could see inside. I don’t know how long it went on. Not long, I’m sure, but, it felt like it stretched on for a long time, each of us getting angrier and louder. I can’t remember specific words. But, it wouldn’t surprise me if I had called her names or cussed at her.
Suddenly my head was jerked back by my hair and the next thing I remember is that I’m laid out across the sofa and she was sitting on my legs, preventing me from moving. I was yelling at her and trying to kick her off of my legs. Finally, I was able to sit up, bend forward, and I bit her on her thigh as hard as I could until she got up.
I don’t really know what happened after she got up. I know my uncle burst through the door a short while later to check on me. He had seen me standing at the door, then disappear suddenly before the door closed. He was condemning and critical of her. She was crying. Sometime after that, she signed guardianship of me over to him and moved back down to Texas. A few weeks later we got the news that she had committed suicide.
When I’m dealing with my daughter and she’s refusing to do things like, take a shower, let me brush her hair, login to classes, do homework, or anything that isn’t playing Minecraft or drawing on her iPad I feel a rush of overwhelming feelings swirling around: anger, resentment, frustration, shame, sadness, hopelessness, helplessness. Then she starts laying on the insults and declarations of how horrible of a parent I am and how she loves her dad more than he loves me. If I attempt to remove her iPad, she lashes out at me physically – hitting, kicking, scratching, biting.
The roles appear to be switched with me as the mother. But, on a visceral level I don’t feel any more in control or that I matter than I did as a kid going through what I went through with my mom.
Maybe there’s a clue in that. Maybe it’s a hint that she wasn’t feeling in control or that she mattered. We don’t feel in control or that we matter so we do things that are about taking control and power from someone else, not because we want to feel powerful, but because we want to matter and if we don’t feel like we matter, we don’t feel safe. If I don’t matter to those who matter to me, then I don’t feel that my needs can get met. I’m supposed to meet her needs. It’s not her job to meet my needs. It’s not right or fair of me to resent her for this.
Is the resentment about her or is it about resenting that the person whose job it was to meed my needs and who I was supposed to matter too, oppressed and suppressed me instead of take care of me?
I know now that my mother experienced undiagnosed and untreated mental illness – likely Bipolar I with schizopherenic tendencies. She couldn’t help it and it wasn’t her fault. This knowledge and understanding gives framework and context, but, it doesn’t change the feelings and the child who needed protection and nurture still didn’t get protection and nurture. I struggle to protect and nurture myself and I struggle to provide that for my child.
‘Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.’ 1 Corinthians 15:58
I don’t know about you, but, I suspect that, like me and many others I know, you might be tired. I mean mentally, emotionally, and physically fatigued. With everything going on in the world around us, that alone is enough to bring on the fatigue.
Just when things were on the verge of or starting to open up from the restrictions of the pandemic, there’s a spike cases and hospitalizations. Now things are tightening down again, as Oregon enters it’s 14th week of sheltering in and wearing masks. As a result of these pandemic related things, the national and local economies have been increasingly depressed with businesses closing (small business the most) and people losing their jobs, and the national unemployment at the highest it’s been since 1940. The protests for Black Lives Matter are entering their fourth week, having just passed Juneteenth, the celebration of the Emancipation of the slaves. Not to mention the victories and losses for our LGBTQ friends, family, and neighbors. Plus, the Presidential election cycle and the polarized politicization of both the pandemic and the BLM movement.
It’s overwhelming and absolutely exhausting. Then you add in whatever is happening for you and your loved ones, as well as how these national events are affecting you on an individual level.
So, there’s a lot of confusion. There’s a ton of conflicting information and even more conflicting opinions. The focus of the news and the media is sensationalized and focused on the painful and negative. There’s very little constructive dialogue and there seems to be a constant, false dichotomy of “us vs. them” everywhere you turn.What do we do with all of this? How do we get some relief, some clarity? How do we get some rest, other than avoiding the media and becoming turtles withdrawing into our shells? How do we decide where to place our focus?
The passage that the verse above comes from is Paul speaking about Jesus and all that he did for us to have life and to look forward to. He’s offering us a foundational reason to keep moving forward and to keep doing good in this world, even when what is good seems to have gone on vacation. Even though the issues and things around us may seem too big and too much for each of us as individuals to make a difference in, anything we do to bring the light of Jesus and God’s love into the lives of the people around us is not in vain.
‘Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith. ‘ Galatians 6:10
But, before we can do any of that, before we have anything to give, we have to allow ourselves a chance to rest, recharge, and fill up on that light and love ourselves.
‘“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”’ Matthew 11:28-30
Now is the time for rest, recharge, and renewal, so that we can reenter the world’s arena and face the things around us with hope and love to share.
‘Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.’ Philippians 4:8-9
It is imperative that we look for the good in the midst of the bad. It’s there. Look for the stories of those who are giving of themselves, the stories of the peacemakers, the stories of those who are offering comfort, and even those who are offering happy and joyful things in the midst of the sorrow and the tragedy. Many may argue that now is not the time for levity and laughter. I would argue that now, more than ever, is the time for us to take a break and seek these things out.
‘A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones. ‘ Proverbs 17:22
If we don’t take a break from the darkness around us and seek the light, our soul dies bit by bit and our spirits become broken. That’s no way for anyone to live. That’s not the legacy that Jesus left us. He left us God’s Spirit to live in us, so that our spirits can live and thrive, and that so we can share that life with those around us.Take a break. Get some rest. Find a reason to smile and laugh. Then, take that out with you and reenter the fray so you can help others to have a break, take a rest, and have cause to laugh and smile.
‘Speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed. Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy. ‘ ~ Proverbs 31:8-9 HCSB
There is no way to avoid the fact that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are dispossessed, oppressed, and in need of justice, along with economic and social equity. We also know (or are coming to realize) the realities of white privilege, which is, ultimately, at the root of systemic and institutionalized racism in our nation.
The verse quoted above is the advice of a mother to her son, the king, the ruler of the people and the highest authority in the land.
‘It is not for kings, Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine or for rulers to desire beer. Otherwise, they will drink, forget what is decreed, and pervert justice for all the oppressed. ‘ Proverbs 31:4-5 HCSB
We have been witness to, perhaps even complicit in, the perverted justice of the oppressed by the way we have supported or allowed the “rulers,” the people in power in our country – whether they be police or politicians corporate heads – the billionaires and millionaires, to manipulate, dictate, and enforce the laws and the tenets of Constitutional rights. Over the past week, especially the past few days, we have seen the evidence of this perversion of justice by the man who would be king, if he could.
‘“But woe to you Pharisees! You give a tenth of mint, rue, and every kind of herb, and you bypass justice and love for God. These things you should have done without neglecting the others.’ Luke 11:42 HCSB
As Jesus followers we have to be careful to ensure we are not placing things above people. Yes, we are to take care of things and steward them responsibly. That’s just what we’re supposed to be doing in the course of daily living. However, we are called to go above and beyond that and make justice for people, a form of loving God, a priority.
So, how do we do that?
Some of us have little to give in terms of material wealth and possessions. Some of us have compromised physical and/or mental health to be able to engage in “active” ways. Some of us are overwhelmed with the daily responsibilities and obligations we experience. Some of us are fighting for our own survival in ways we may not have shared with others.
In these instances, it may feel like we have little to nothing to offer. The truth is, we each have something to offer and something we can do.
First, we can educate ourselves. Research BIPOC writers and authors, filmmakers and educators. Find their books, blogs, movies, and classes.
Second, we can speak out and up on whatever platform we have, whether it’s on social media or in conversations with others.
Third, we can shop and eat at BIPOC owned businesses in support of their communities.
Fourth, volunteer. Whether it’s to make phone calls, write letters, sign petitions, or even provide office support, even if it’s only for an hour a week, it matters.
As always, we can pray. Pray for justice, equity, and protection of our BIPOC brothers and sisters. Pray for justice. Pray for the community, governmental, and corporate leaders to make the changes in themselves and in their areas of influence.
You may or may not have noticed that I’ve missed posting the previous two days. It probably means I won’t fully meet this month’s challenge of 30 posts in 30 days. But, I’m not mad about it. Why?
My oldest daughter went into labor on the morning of Thursday, April 16th…one day after baby’s due date. She labored all day, until 8:28 p.m. A 9 lb 9 oz baby girl was born! 14-inch head, 21 inches long, with a full head of black hair. baby Ember went from the water in her mother’s womb into the specially prepared birthing water, where she was caught by her daddy.
I got to see her later that night. She had a strong little cry, signaling her displeasure at being away from the warmth of her mama long enough to be measured and changed. However, I didn’t officially meet and hold her until the next morning. Oh, how…I don’t have any words other than Deja vu. You see, mama dear was born, a couple of months later, at 8:20 p.m., 9 lb 8 oz, with a 14 in head and 21 in long, complete with a full head of black hair. At that very moment, she was her mama’s nearly identical “mini-me.”
I found out that night that my daughter had lost a lot of blood during her completely natural delivery. No epidural or any other pain blocker. What I didn’t know, what she didn’t know, until yesterday, was that she had lost well over 1000 cc of blood. Basically, she was hemorrhaging and the midwives saved her life. I owe them a debt of gratitude I can never fully express.
I have tears in my eyes just thinking about it.
It seems silly to have this kind of reaction, finding out about it well after the fact. But, I’m scared terrified and relieved profoundly grateful despite the fact that all danger was past and my awareness of that danger was a day later. But, here I am…emotionally exhausted.
Here’s the thing, new life seldom comes without the pain, struggle, or even the death of what came before. In this case, death didn’t happen, thank God. However, the pain and struggle certainly did. No matter how painful the struggle, the new life is nearly always worth the struggle and sorrow which precedes it. This almost always is accompanied by grief. Grief from the loss or end of what was before. Yet, there is celebration and excitement too. New life, a new path to follow, brings the hope of future possibilities.
Grief and celebration can co-exist. Sometimes the grief comes to the forefront for a while. Other times the hope and celebration rise to the surface. Neither is wrong or disrespectful of the other. Grief doesn’t negate hope. Excitement doesn’t mean grieving is being ignored.
We are certainly in a period of grief and fear. However, it’s also a season which brings new life…at least where I live. It’s spring. The days are getting longer. The sun is shining more often and more brightly. Flora is budding, fauna is birthing. While we know all the reasons to grieve, we must also seek the reasons to hope and celebrate.
Many people are experiencing various waves of emotions about what’s going on in the world today: panic, fear, anger, sadness, etc.. These are all normal responses to the global threat and common traumatic experience. However, if those feelings get too intense and pervasive, it can become debilitating and make it difficult to function. Then, there’s also dissociation – that feeling of being disconnected from emotions surrounding these events…kind of like compartmentalizing thoughts and action separate from emotional response. In my personal experience, that kind of thing I’ve learned as an automatic coping mechanism, which is an automatic response to trauma, a symptom of my PTSD. For me, dissociating has enabled me to get through periods of life when I was experiencing things which would have triggered overwhelmingly immobilizing emotions.
The thing is, we get really good at what we practice, right? In my life, I’ve bounced from trauma to trauma to trauma and dissociating, disconnecting from my emotions to the point where it became my way of life. I got so good at it, that, not only did I not consciously experience the “negative” emotions, I was also disconnected from the “positive” ones. It’s important to realize that emotions are neither negative or positive. Emotions are instinctive tools which tell us something about ourselves and the world around us. If we don’t learn how to read and understand our emotions in any given situation, then, whatever action we take as a result of the emotions we experience can have negative consequences.
Another word for practice is “exercise.” The more we exercise dissociation, the stronger our ability to ignore, push down, and function in spite of our emotions becomes. Suffice it to say, I have very strong dissociation muscles. They developed into a form of brute strength. But, brute strength only gets you so far. In order for it to be useful and constructive, that brute strength must be shaped, sculpted, and toned. In other words, training is needed.
I had a lifetime of developing the brute strength of dissociation to contain and manage my emotions until they started leaking around the edges and creating some truly negative and destructive consequences. I’ve now spent over six years training to hone and reshape how I handle my emotions. Dissociation is still my automatic “go to” response to intense emotion. However, it’s now mitigated by things I’ve been learning. Specifically, DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) has been very instrumental in teaching me how to harness and use the strength of dissociation in constructive ways. All while I continue to train and learn new methods and ways to mitigate it.
Which brings me to the present time of stress and trauma we are all going through as individuals, families, communities, a nation, and the global collective.
In the past month, I have experienced the feelings and had the thoughts of many, if not most, people in the world around me. I have seen two distinctive responses to those thoughts and feelings: acknowledgment and acceptance of the world as it is now, or fear or denial about how bad things are or will get. The first response gets things done and keeps one moving forward, facing and learning to overcome these new challenges. The second response results in stagnation and, possibly, regression.
I believe my well-developed “trauma muscles” and the training they’ve been getting from therapy, DBT, and spiritual growth is what has enabled me to address the issue and effectively deal with issue of being unemployed. It is also the thing which has helped me to continue my healing and growth process in my mental health.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that trauma is the best training tool for learning how to deal with and manage emotions. It isn’t. Trauma changes us and derails our path to who we had the potential to be. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe it’s not. It impacts our relationships and our ability effectively and constructively function in the world. But, with training and healing work, I believe that the strength we gain from surviving trauma, can become powerful and impact our lives and the lives of others in amazing ways.
I have a counseling appointment today, via computer. I really like this therapist. I met her fact-to-face just once after social distancing became a recommendation, before it became a government mandate… so, that would have been three weeks ago. I feel like she’s going to be good for me. I also think she’s going to be somewhat hard-nosed and won’t let me get away with not doing my “homework.” So, here I am, cramming homework I had all week to do, into a few hours before it’s supposed to get turned in. Just like in high school or college.
Turns out that this is exactly part of the homework I was supposed to be working on. Avoidance.
What am I avoiding, exactly?
Well, the questions she asked me to consider at our last session were about me identifying my space in the world and in my life. Not where I feel I belong, but the space that belongs to me, specifically in my own home. What do I need to work on taking back so that I can feel safe and secure? Why is there such a strong sense of avoidance? What does avoiding look like? What am I avoiding?
Believe it or not, I think tackling the questions on avoidance will be easier than the other questions. Of course, that’s also a way of avoiding examining the other questions. Right?
Aaaaand avoiding dealing with the avoiding. It’s been about an hour, maybe more, since I finished that last sentence. So, back to the question: Why such a strong sense of avoidance? I think this is the point where my “stream of consciousness” writing style may come in handy.
Fear. Fear is at the heart of avoiding. At least, I think that’s what it is. If that’s true, then, I need to figure out what it is I fear. In the context of the initial questions about space and figuring out how to take back what is mine and what I need to do to work on to taking it back, what is it my fear?
It may be two things. The first is realizing that I’ve seldom, if ever, completely had my own space, or my own place in the world. I don’t think I even understand what that looks and feels like.
I remember being a young child where a couch was my bed and the living room was my bedroom. After that, when I had my own room, it became to catch-all. Whenever my mother expected people to come into our home, all the accumulated clutter from the public spaces was moved into my room and seldom, if ever moved back out. I recall one Christmas I had been given a peppermint candy cane log – it was HUGE. If memory serves, I had carved out space for it on my dresser and I was looking at it from an angle that meant I was on the floor. I have a sense that was because the floor was the only available space and it was also where I slept. After that life fell through and we moved again, I may have had my own room for a few months before my mom and I moved to live with my grandmother. It was a small, one bedroom apartment. More moving. Then mom died, leaving me in my uncle’s custody. Another one bedroom apartment for my uncle, his wife, and me. I was 12.
Eventually, I had a room to myself, but, it never felt like it was mine or my space because I never really felt like I belonged, that I was part of his family unit. Three more moves over the next four years. Some of the time I lived with my uncle, some of the time I lived with my grandmother. Sometimes I had my own room, but, mostly not. Then, at 16, I ran away. When you’re a runaway, you really don’t get your own room. I lived out of cars and hitchhiked across the country with my son’s father, until he almost killed me in front of our two year old son. At 19, I was a single mom, with no employment history or proven work skills. So, there was no way to afford my own space. When I did afford my own space it was either studio apartments or one bedrooms that I shared with my son. Sometimes there were roommates.
During the times when I might have had my own space, I wound up helping other people out and giving them a place to stay…often for extended periods of time. Including now, when my adult daughter’s family became houseless right after Thanksgiving. Her family of five plus one on the way moved into my tiny two bedroom, one bath apartment. Even before they moved in, though, my space wasn’t my own because her younger sister, who I was partially co-parenting, but mostly single parenting, is autistic and at 10 years of age refused to sleep by herself.
So, yeah, I have no clue how to own and occupy space that’s just mine.
The second fear is that, if I push the issue and push my daughter’s family out, I’ll be abandoning them, abandoning her, the way I was. Well, maybe not the way. After all, my mother’s undiagnosed, untreated mental health issues are what caused her suicide. But, she left me alone and, even as a 50 year old woman, there are times when I wish I had a mother to turn to. I don’t want her to ever feel that I won’t be available when she needs me and, right now, she needs me.
Finally, the third fear is intertwined with the second fear. I’m afraid of losing relationship with her and my grandchildren. Six years ago, my relationship was so broken with her that I had to find out from an old family friend that she had gone into premature labor and was in the hospital. She didn’t want me there. Now she’s about to give birth to baby #4. I don’t ever want to be in a position where I am not wanted or allowed to be in my daughter’s or grandchildren’s lives again.
Well, that’s enough processing for now. I know this was long. Thank you for sticking with me until the end.