Recovery

False Positives

There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven:  a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot;  a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build; a time to weep and a time to laugh;  a time to mourn and a time to dance;  a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;  a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing;  a time to search and a time to count as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to be silent and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 HCSB 

As a nation, we are in uncertain, uncomfortable, painful, scary, and confusing times. Many of us are experiencing the same kinds of times in our personal lives. We don’t like the anxiety, anger, and sorrow they are generating within us.  Maybe we’re feeling out of control and overwhelmed by it all. Perhaps we’re starting to feel a slide down the slippery slope into depression. 

Underneath all of this, we may be feeling unjustified guilt for feeling these things. We may feel like we need to find ways to be cheery and hopeful when what we’re really feeling is grief and sorrow for the things and people that are changing or that we’re losing. 

While it’s true that we need to mitigate symptoms of anxiety and depression lest they get us so far down the rabbit hole we see no way of getting ourselves out, the truth is, it’s okay to feel the dark feels. They’re valid and minimizing or denying them will only cause us more problems in the long run. 

We are in a time of weeping and mourning. We are seeing things that need to be torn down and uprooted being called out and demanded with some good results and some terrifying repercussions. We are in a period where hate feels like it’s overshadowing love and where we feel on the brink of war.  

All the feelings running throughout our bodies and brains, our minds and spirits are completely understandable, justifiable, and valid. It’s important that we honor, accept, and respect these things which lie within ourselves and not minimize or deny by forcing ourselves to be positive when it’s not true. 

We are in the time we’re in and it’s hard. However, a time is coming when things will be better. If we don’t allow ourselves to experience the darkly challenging and difficult feelings which arise during this period, we won’t be able to authentically and genuinely celebrate the good times when they arrive. 

From Darkness to Light

‘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.

What to do with the grief of others

Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. ~ Romans 12:15 HCSB

How can we show up in the midst of pain and grief for our marginalized siblings in the world around us, when we have no idea what to do or say to them and what we CAN do feels futile in the face of the vitriol and intentional ignorance? How do we not wind up making our sense of ineffectiveness and futility more important than their experiences of violence and suffering?

The answer is to BE with them in their grief. Acknowledge and validate their anger. Learn why they fear the things we don’t. Share and celebrate the things and people they celebrate. Be willing to set aside your “stuff” to show them they and their “stuff” matters. In other words, treat them the way you want to be treated.

It may be challenging to look away from our own issues, circumstances, and experiences in order to look and see those of others, much less step into their world and be with them. But, it’s very much worth the effort to do so. We also have guidance on how to do this.

‘He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. ‘ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 HCSB

How do we receive comfort from God? Sometimes it’s an internal sense of peace or a lifting of the spirit, maybe a lessening of the pressure on our chest or the lessening of the restriction of our throat. Maybe it’s through a song, a poem, a meaningful writing, or piece of scripture. Perhaps a video or show. However, there are times when it is another person and their words, actions, or just them being present with us which contributes to the feeling of being comforted. Those are the things we can do and share, if they are something the person grieving is in a place to receive.

‘The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord ’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair. And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the Lord to glorify Him. ‘ Isaiah 61:1-3 HCSB

Jesus came to do these things, show us how to do these things, and teach us to do these things so we can share and demonstrate the love he shared and demonstrated to us. This is how we can learn and know how to show up in the midst of the pain and grief, anger and fear, our marginalized and brutalized brothers and sisters experience.

Fight for the Oppressed

‘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.

Here are some places to start:

 

Book Reading list

Netflix Anti-racism Movie Calendar

Netflix movies for anitracism

Legacy

‘Round and ‘round she goes
Freewheeling and spinning
Bouncing from thought to thought
From one thing to another

Up is down, down is up
Good is bad, bad is good
Riding the exhilarating waves
Crawling through the dark valleys

Always looking to be “fixed”
Always wanting a “fixer”
Needing control
Living in chaos
Dying in love

Her life is mine, as well
My children can attest
I fought like mad
Lashing out, relentlessly

Life on the edge
The art of the con
The good apprentice
Crumpled and abandoned

Obsessive plans
Frenzied achievement
Burned out
Crashed hard

Time and again
Rinse and repeat
Cycles within cycles
Antagonist and victim

The mind forgets
The body remembers
In the midst of anger
In the midst of turmoil
Conflicted life

Lost momentum
Lost joy
Lost hope
Lost self
Unmoored

Immovable mountains
Crashing and clashing
Awakened in conflict
Change begun

Spiritual awakening
Fortuitous convergence
Extraordinary and mundane
Unforeseen support
Asked, offered, given

Long and winding
Road of an epic journey
My strength is my weakness
Renewed and redeemed
Bridging the past and the present

From mother to daughter
Connecting the generations
A new future written
Shaped by what was
Walking into what will be

UBC 4/20 Day 19: “When is ‘I love me’ enough?”

I don’t know that it is possible for the average person to have never heard of Demi Lovato. However, just in case you’re an extraordinary person who never saw Disney’s “Camp Rock” movies or missed her performance of “Anyone” at the 2020 Grammys, she is a pop star, song-writer, and an addict who keeps working toward recovery, despite relapses.

Despite the fact that she’s nearly half my age (I’m 50 and she’s 27) her music is hitting me to my core. Her song, “I Love Me,” is very powerful, in how it so accurately describes my relationship with myself…especially the first few lines. She’s describing the struggle between body-image, identity, and mental/emotional health. The video does a very good job of illustrating the inner struggle that I, and probably many others, experience on a regular basis.

I’m in that kind of struggle right now. There’s the “enlightened me, who has been through six years of therapy and a lifetime of various forms of counseling, in addition to concurrent spiritual growth. This “me” says that my worth and value have nothing to do with my physical appearance, my weight, or my body size. This “me” tells me that I have much to be proud of: the hard work I’ve invested in myself, my mental health recovery, and the repair of relationships I wrecked prior to my diagnoses and treatment. She reminds me that I have gifts and qualities that matter in the world: intelligence, my writing ability, my EQ, my compassion, and my empathy for others.

Then, there’s the insecure, uncomfortable in her own skin, self-hating, self-saboteur and her minions: depression, anxiety, self-doubt, and exhaustion. When they get going, it’s like listening to a discordant dirge. They characterize me as lazy, weak, powerless, and unsubstantial.

The first is the intellectual me and the second is the mental me. You’d think both would get through to the emotional me. However, that’s not true for me. My intellect dissociated from emotions in order to survive and move through the various traumas I have experienced. The mental me is the one that was changed by the traumas and has genetic differences which activated into depression and bipolar disorder. Mental me seems to be in charge of the emotional me, who often totally ignores intellectual me.

Why am I breaking this all down?

Because I have spent the past three weeks on a “self-improvement” spending spree, which began slowly with a nail polish or two here and there. It was put on the fast track with the stimulus payment, a couple of smaller payments received, and getting hired for the new job. I bought clothes, shoes, makeup, more nail polish & accessories, and special personal hygiene supplies. I also paid a couple of bills, helped buy groceries, purchased a few small gifts for family members, and take out food. Finally, I purchased auto insurance for the car some friends are giving me. Basically, I’ve spent close to $1,400 in less than a month.

Maybe that doesn’t seem like a lot of money to some people. Many people I know pay that for rent. However, I’m pretty sure that all together, the money I’ve received in the past six years is less than that. But, I digress

Initially, the nail polish was something to do to pass the time, teaching myself a new skill, and celebrating the fact that I have miraculously stopped chewing my nails. Then, I needed clothes for my new job. Lastly, I bought makeup. I’ve basically gone 14 or 15 years without wearing makeup. Why the hell do I feel the need to buy it now? Especially during social distancing. I mean who will see it?

I felt good about the nail polish. However, once I got to the clothes, that good feeling went away once I tried them on. The last time I bought clothes, I had gotten down to a 2x, occasionally a 1x, from a 3x. Now, a 4x is tight in some places and a 5x is a bit loose…and the scale announced that I am almost 300 lbs. I think that’s when I decided to get the makeup. It may be a type of armor. I really don’t want to be seen right now. Maybe makeup will distract people from my size if I do it right. Finally came the membership to another weight loss program, online this time.

I want to leave diet culture behind. The last two times I managed to lose 20-30 lbs I ate healthy, followed a loose meal plan, and exercised. The last time, in 2018, I attended Weight Watchers for about six months. I treated it a bit like a 12 Step program – I did 90 meetings in 90 days. It wasn’t a nonsensicle, unrealistic eating plan. The app was amazing. The people were real and honest. The curriculum was really based in psychology and used what I call DBT-lite strategies to adjust thinking and responsive behaviors that drive overeating and weight gain. Yet, I couldn’t sustain the changes. Turns out that it takes more than 60-90 days to create a habit or replace an old one, for me.

michelin manI want to be body positive and accept all of me…love all of me. But, I’m not and I don’t.

I’m bothered by the “curves” in all the wrong spots that make me look like the Michelin Man. I’m bothered by cottage cheese like bumps on my stomach that push against any fabric, large or small, that lays across it. I’m bothered by the carry on size overlap. I’m really bothered by the verticle ceasarian scar that bifurcates my lower stomach and makes it look like I have a butt on the front. It’s also very frustrating to know that the natural side boob is made larger than what’s on the front.

So, long and flowing tunics and leggings to hide my body and makeup to hide my face – body armor and a face mask. I’m camoflaging my inner emotions and thoughts about myself behind the superficialities. I’m ready to go to battle.

“I Love Me” by Demi Lovato
Flipping through all of these magazines
Telling me who I’m supposed to be
Way too good at camouflage
Can’t see what I am
I just see what I’m not
I’m guilty ’bout everything that I eat
(Every single thing)
Feeling myself is a felony
Jedi level sabotage
Voices in my head make up my entourage

‘Cause I’m a black belt when I’m beating up on myself
But I’m an expert at giving love to somebody else
I, me and myself and
I , don’t see eye to
Eye, me and myself and I

Oh, why do I compare myself to everyone?
And I always got my finger on the self destruct
I wonder when I love me is enough (Yeah, yeah, yeah)
I wonder when I love me is enough (Yeah, yeah, yeah)

Why am I always looking for a ride or die?
‘Cause mine’s the only heart I’m gonna have for life
After all the times I went and fucked it up
(All the times I went and fucked it up)
I wonder when I love me is enough (Yeah, yeah, yeah)

I wonder when I love me is enough
I wonder when I love me is enough

Haters that live on the internet
Live in my head, should be paying rent
I’m way to good at listening
All these comments fucking up my energy

‘Cause I’m a black belt when I’m beating up on myself
But I’m an expert at giving love to somebody else
I, me and myself and
I, don’t see eye to
Eye, me and myself and I

Oh, why do I compare myself to everyone?
And I always got my finger on the self destruct
I wonder when I love me is enough (Yeah, yeah, yeah)
I wonder when I love me is enough (Yeah, yeah, yeah)

Why am I always looking for a ride or die?
‘Cause mine’s the only heart I’m gonna have for life
After all the times I went and fucked it up
(All the times I went and fucked it up)
I wonder when I love me is enough (Is enough)

I wonder when I love me is enough
I wonder when I love me is enough

I’m my own worst critic
Talk a whole lot of shit
But I’m a ten out of ten
Even when I forget
I-I-I-I
(I’m a ten out of ten, don’t you ever forget it)

I’m my own worst critic
Talk a whole lot of shit
But I’m a ten out of ten
Even when I forget

UBC 4/20 Days 16-18: New Life

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.

 

UBC 4/20 Day 15: Trauma Muscles

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.

UBC4/20 Day 14: Parenting from afar

At the beginning of this month’s challenge, I mentioned my youngest daughter, but, I haven’t said much about her. Since I’m having some big feels regarding her and my relationship with her, I figured I’d talk through it here. If nothing else, I’ll get some more Emotion Color Wheel practice in. I’m feeling sadness and love. Sadness about her not being with me and love simply because she’s my daughter.

Digging deeper, I realize my sadness a lot of things: distressed, melancholic, shameful, and hopeless. Exploring that more reveals that I feel agonized and hurt, depressed and sorrowful, regretful and guilty, anguished and powerless. That’s a lot of sadness that’s heavy on my heart. I’ll get to the whys in a little bit. But first, I want to explore the love more. There’s tenderness and longing. Those expand out to compassionate and caring, affectionate and sentimental. That love is all twisted and intertwined in the sadness.

The love is actually buried under the sadness in a lot of ways and I think that’s all tied to my childhood trauma and the mother wounds I carry. I know I have attachment issues. It’s very, very difficult for me to be physically affectionate. I don’t enjoy snuggling, hugging, and close physical contact with anyone. I never have. Please don’t hold my hand for more than a few seconds. I can give hugs, but, please don’t hug me. Don’t get me wrong. I love being with people and interacting with them, but, not in a physically close way. This social distancing thing and communicating via Zoom, Messenger, FB Groups, and texts are all fine for me. Much easier for me than being in a roomful of people.

But, I digress.

I’ve known about my attachment issues for a very long time. I’ve been acutely aware of it since my youngest daughter was born, a little over 11 years ago.
I decided to breastfeed. Great for her health and good for us financially. Except, that’s the only thing she would do if she wasn’t screaming or crying. She howled for 45 minutes after she was born and didn’t really stop for the next five months. She was constantly on a breast. Clinging to me. Burrowed against me. I wore her in a wrap around me because it was the only way I could get anything done. It was like being pregnant, only carrying the child on the outside of my body. My life was centered around her need to feed and have that comfort.

I hated it, but forced myself to do it because I wanted to give her that opportunity for attachment to me in ways I hadn’t been given with my mother and had been unable to give with my older children. So, I also decided to let her self-wean. Only, she didn’t really. She nursed until she was almost three. By then I had to cut her off. It took her a couple of years to stop asking for it. Part of the reason I let her nurse so long was because her dad, who she was very attached to, was a truck driver and took a long-haul over the road job and was gone weeks at a time. Then, after an incident between him and my teenage daughter, I moved out and got my own place for a couple of years, thereby limiting their ability to be with each other. So, nursing was the primary touch point for comfort and a sense of safety and stability I could give her…even though I hated it.

Her dad and I stayed separated for a couple of years, but, were still enmeshed with each other and I wound up letting him move in with me. By the time a year had gone by, I was either in an emotionally hyper-reactive state or in a near catatonic dissociated state in order to manage the depression without knowing I was also trying to manage PTSD and Bipolar Disorder (II) and not receiving treatment for it. Things came to a head on her fifth birthday and I took her and left three days later. I have not gotten back together with him, but, because of her and her issues, he’s still too much a part of my life and I continued to be psychologically and financially enmeshed with him.
It turned out that our little girl is on the autism spectrum. It’s hard to tell because she’s what’s considered high-functioning. That label implies that she’s less impacted by the spectrum issues because she’s highly verbal and more social than children on the spectrum are often characterized as being. I don’t think she’s less impacted. I think she’s impacted differently and I’ve had to fight tooth and nail to get her the identifications, diagnoses, services, and supports she needs.

Over the past six years, her dad and I have “co-parented.” In our case that means he got to have her with him on weekends, school breaks, and holidays, while paying for her needs and wants, providing my phone, and paying for electricity & internet. So, functionally, I was operating as single parent. I was the one to deal with all of the agencies, organizations, medical facilities, and educational systems. I was also the one who bore the brunt of her emotional/behavioral issues.

She got increasingly violent with me, both verbally and physically. I have been shoved, slapped, hit, kicked, scratched, and bitten. I have been called a bitch, told I am hated and that she wished I had never been born or that I would die like my mother and go to heaven. I was the one who dealt with the school when she would get suspended for tearing the classroom apart or physically attack staff and students. I couldn’t let her be around my grandchildren because she was very mean to them.

She wasn’t always like this. She never acted like this when she was with her dad.

Last Thanksgiving some serious things happened and my adult daughter’s family became homeless. At that time, my grandchildren were five, four, and two. I couldn’t see them living on the street or in a shelter. So, they all crowded into my apartment. My little girl’s behavior escalated again, until it reached the point where she attacked me and punched me in the spine. I couldn’t take anymore and I had her move to her dad’s.

That was just before we went to social distancing, then shelter-in orders. I’ve only seen her a couple of times since then and done video messaging a few times. I don’t know what to do or say that is meaningful for her. I miss her, or the idea of her and having a good relationship with her. At the same time, I’m relieved I don’t have to be in her presence 24/7. So, lots of sadness with bits of love sprinkled throughout.

We’re supposed to spend some time together on Friday. We’ll see how it goes.

UBC 4/20 Day 13: Not a Fish

Just like many Americans, as well as others around the world, I’m consuming an inordinate amount of television these days. Between Netflix and cable, I’m watching a lot of shows that have been in syndication and are the perpetual rerun cornerstone of channels like WE. Some of the shows, Law and Order or Criminal Minds,  I end up watching start off as mere background noise for one of the women I’ve been staying with for nearly a month now. Other shows are binge-worthy shows that have been picked up by Netflix, like The Magicians. The other woman whose home I’m staying in likes to binge-watch shows with me. We’ve decided our next binge will be Orphan Black. A couple of shows I’ve been watching are Locke & Key and Legacies.  I watch when neither woman is with me. Finally, there are their accumulated shows on their DVR…like The Closer and network staples like Grey’s Anatomy (which I never got into).

Why am I telling you about my tv watching habits? Glad you asked. Because sometimes there’s actually something useful to be learned or some bit of interesting trivia that you didn’t know. Such a thing happened to me, yesterday.

Earlier in the day, my friend was watching Grey’s Anatomy on her DVR. She offered to change what she was watching to something we had been watching together. I told her to continue watching her shows and free up some DVR space. After all, I’m a long-term guest whose presence had been invited over for a short period of, not to be a roommate. Apparently, there’s a character on there who was also an unexpected long-term guest at one of his friend’s.  He was packing up his things when the person who lived there questioned what he was doing and why. His response, “Houseguests are like fish. Both go bad after three days.” Later, we were watching a rerun of The Closer and Brenda Leigh’s mom had come for an unplanned visit and announced, out of the blue, that she was taking a flight back home the next day. Her reasoning? Houseguests are like fish, after three days they go bad.

My friend said, “You’re not a fish.”

It felt good to know that my presence hasn’t become a burden to them. I’ve basically been getting free room and board…and I feel very appreciative and blessed by them. However, I don’t want to take advantage of their hospitality. But, the longer this shelter-in order continues, the more concerned I get about whether I’m wearing out my welcome. So, I do my best to leave as little “footprint” in their home as possible.

I pick up after myself and sometimes pick up after them, too. Nothing major, just putting empty bottles in the Bottle Drop bag or gathering accumulated debris off the coffee table. I try to help with the dishes. I could do more there, so I’m going to make more of an effort…especially on the nights when the first woman cooks. (She’s an AMAZING Southern cook.)  IMG_20200412_153355Easter dinner consisted of glazed spiral ham, green bean almandine, and fried corn. Nom nom. I also go to the store with her to help her shop, so she doesn’t have to walk around too much. Her knees are bone on bone and she’s always in pain. However, she works herself like a workhorse. So, I try to help her in ways that don’t infringe on her pride and autonomy. I’m also planning on giving them some money when I start getting paid.

So, if you’re a houseguest who doesn’t want to start going bad like a three-day-old fish keep in mind the following:

  • The people you’re aren’t your maids. Pick up after yourself and see where you can pitch in with the cleaning.
  • They aren’t your cruise director. Don’t expect them to entertain you or take over their entertainment. Be willing to do what they normally do when you’re not there.
  • They’re your hosts, not your parents. Pay your way, when you can, and help out however you can that works for them.

If you’ve ever hosted someone in your home, what are some ways they can be helpful on their own, without your prompting?

If you’ve been a long-term guest, what did you do to not wear out your welcome?

What’s on your binge watch list?