The Father Wound

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So many posts I want to write! So many…posts about hope, change, fear, moving forward; coping, anxiety, depression; stress, food, exercise; and on and on…

But right now, while it’s fresh, I want to talk about something I’ve never delved very far into: “The Father Wound.” The unhealthy patterns created in one’s life by a dysfunctional (or downright damaging) relationship with one’s father.

I’ve talked before about the money issue I have because my dad plays with finances. He’s a risk-taker. A businessman. A Gemini. He’s lost entire fortunes several times over. Being raised as a child with unlimited funds – and the expectation of that safety net in perpetuity – only to discover those things don’t exist anymore right as one reaches adulthood…it’s messy. I have a craptastic relationship with money – especially relying on it and creating a livelihood (and life) for myself. It’s a monster-sized block to my self-reliance and sense of safety.

That’s always as far as I thought it went. I mean, my dad wasn’t very present in my childhood. He was a success small business owner (successful enough he retired at 39, when I was 16). But success like that requires a lot of commitment, effort, and time. We had weekends…sort of. He introduced me to video games, fantasy novels, prehistory, and Star Trek, which are still some of my favorite things. Family road trips in our motorhome are some of my best memories. Dad at the helm, me as “Tea Girl,” who kept his cup filled so he could keep on driving. But time? One-on-one Daddy-daughter time? …I don’t remember actually ever having that.

I never thought that was a big deal. Don’t all dads work a lot? Don’t they all only show up on weekends? Doesn’t everybody take month-long vacations in the summer without him?

I was listening to a webinar from Shade Asani on the subject. She starts by saying that if you don’t have a serious issue with your father, it wasn’t the webinar for you. But I still listened. Because they say that a woman’s patterns with men begin with her father, and my first significant relationship was with a man who was older than my dad. So…maybe there’s something in me I hadn’t ever noticed?

I love my father. He’s a good man. An amazing provider. He always made sure we had what we needed. That’s what I thought going in, and suddenly I realized — those are my mother’s words. She would complain to me, confide in me, divulge way more about their relationship to me as a kid (and still) than I ever should have been privy to. And then she would follow it up with those words. “Your father is a good man. He provides everything we need, and then some. We should respect him and love him. (Even if he spent more time in the arcade with his buddy than he did at home with you two when you were little.)”

So, no, I thought. I don’t have an issue with my father. Exactly as I always assumed. I’ve just been too exposed to my mother’s issues with my father. She talked to me about things she should have been working out with him, because he wouldn’t listen. I have one enormous Mother Wound, and that’s something I’ve always known.

And then a little thought popped into my head.

“I filled in for my father. He should have been taking care of my mom’s emotional needs, her issues. I took up the slack in their relationship.”

Okay, yeah. I did. Just like I picked up the slack in my mother’s mothering. There were five of us, and she’s been clinically depressed my whole life. Somebody had to play with the kids. Somebody had to babysit so she could run errands. Somebody had to be there for them when she was too existentially tired to show up emotionally.

That should have been my dad.

Okay. So there’s that. He wasn’t emotionally present for her, or for us when she couldn’t be, so I had to be more mature. But that’s, like, a subnote in the general pattern with my mom, so that can’t be that big of a deal for my patterns. I just need to shift a little explanation to him instead of heaping it on my mom. Okie dokie.

Plus, that totally explains why I’m drawn to projects. Why I like men who need to be saved from their own ineptitude in relationships. I can teach them how to be better partners, how to become the men they need to be to have the relationships they want. To save them from the pain of waking up one day from a regular life to a wife who hates everything. Because it’s in the little things. And yeah, I tried to do that with my dad, and he never listened. So…okay. Need to work on that. Good to have an explanation.

And then Shade said something that made me blink. It went something like, “Women who feel worthless get that feeling from their fathers.”

Oh…

I mean, that is the relationship pattern I repeat with men. I do feel worthless. Devalued. Like I have to earn their love. But that’s just the example I was set by my mom, right? That’s exactly what she does, too. AND she picks projects, though she wants to save them right down to the soul, and I just want to turn them into the best version of themselves, like a life coach. That’s all it is, right?

“Yeah…” said the voice. “But no. Try again.”

And then I realized – this story I have told myself about my life, my pattern with men; the one that starts with my “boyfriend” in second grade and continues straight through to my marriage; what if it started with my dad?

What if my entire sense of self exists as it does because I needed to become someone my dad would pay attention to?

Because that is my dysfunction. The one that makes me miserable in every relationship with every guy. They don’t pay attention to me, so I freak out. I make myself more “worthy” in order to prove I’m worth their time and interest. And then I go way overboard, make sweeping emotional declarations, and scare them away. Because most men have no idea how to handle that, they disappear…thus fulfilling my fear that all men ditch me.

But my dad didn’t ditch me, my stubborn conscious brain argued.

Except…he did. Emotionally. Because I wasn’t a boy.

The men in my family had a yearly tradition – they went hunting. Men being men, in the mountains, camping, hiking, shooting stuff and bringing it home to gut and eat. I wanted to go so badly. I was an outdoorsy girl. I loved the mountains more than anything. I wanted to learn how to camp. But mostly, I wanted to be included. To have something special, too. My dad promised me that he’d take me one year. He never did.

Because I was a girl.

He invested time and energy in my brother, who wasn’t “boy” enough (he’s a nerdy, science-y guy). I’m sure my grandparents pressured him into making my brother the sort of boy who would grow into a proper man. Certainly, my mom impressed upon me the need to let my brother have time with his dad. All I knew was that I wasn’t allowed to be part of the special tradition because I was female.

Was I a tomboy to try to prove to my dad that even if my brother wasn’t, I was boy enough? Did I play soccer, run fast, shoot hoops, ski, dream of being a veterinarian, and on and on…all because I wanted to prove to him that I was strong and rugged enough to pay attention to?

Did I reject my femaleness not, as I always thought, because I was surrounded by boys, but because I wanted to prove my worth to my dad? Did recognizing the glass ceiling at the age of 8 crush me because it categorically meant I could never be “good enough”? Is that why puberty hit me so hard? Not only because I lost all my male friends and was thereafter alone, but because deep down, I was never, ever, ever going to be worth his time?

Yes. Abso-freaking-lutely, yes.

I never wanted to be a boy. I liked being a girl. I liked dresses. I love to dance and sing. I used to love performing, and being the center of attention. I am, with pride, a mother at heart.

But I also hate being female. I hate what being female means. I hate the way we’re treated, and sizzle with rage when the lack of gender equality arises in conversation.

I’m female, and that means I will never be good enough to earn my dad’s attention.

That isn’t true today. Not in reality. I know this. He loves me as he loves all of us, with deep emotions he hides well. He’s told me he’s proud of me, of my books. He bonded with my son instantly.

He bonded with my son instantly… And that is something I just listed as proof of my worth to him. Because I made him a grandpa.

Shit.

So now I have to figure out how to heal that. It’s good, knowing. It really is.

But…damn.

I destroyed a core part of myself – my femininity, and the strength, acceptance, and camaraderie I should have found with it – in order to be of value to my father…

And I destroyed most of the rest of what made me me in order to be good enough for my husband.

Really, it doesn’t change much by way of the work I have to do. I already knew that was the pattern in my relationships – that I get desperate to earn men’s interest by any means necessary, and never feel safe in their affection or accepted for who I am. I already knew that I have issues with my femininity that I needed to work on.

Honestly, this makes it easier to deal with. Root problems are good to dig up, and I’ve struggled with figuring this one out for two decades.

But I feel bereft. I’ve been living a half life, trying to be something I’m not for someone who wouldn’t have noticed even if I’d managed it. I will never earn my dad’s attention the way I want it – he’s just not that kind of guy.

And what do I do with my current relationships? My male friends, with whom I play this pattern with? Can I salvage them? Should I not try, because they are people I’ve chosen thanks to the familiarity of being ignored?

I should probably not worry about it until I’ve done the work on me, which is pretty much where all my worries end up right now. But I also hate that answer.

I guess I focus on continuing to re-integrate my feminine side with love. On doing those things that make me feel self-value. On learning to trust and believe in myself, my abilities, and my future. (Because that’s something I get from my dad, too – his great expectation of me was to marry someone with enough money he wouldn’t have to worry about me anymore…and I failed even in that.)

Bah. This Whole-Being thing can be a real pain in the neck, you know that?

But forward I go, with gratitude for the realizations and further self-understanding. And a little excitement, actually. What will I be able to do with my life if I don’t have to hold back on being the whole me?

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Back on the Roller Coaster

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There have been several points in my life where everything feels like it’s crashing around bends and zipping down dips and racing up inclines of its own accord. Where I feel like all I can do is hang on for dear life and hope I have a little dollop of sanity left on the other side.

I’m in one of those now.

It’s been two months since my husband and I separated, which feels impossible. How have two months gone by already? I always assumed they would draaaaaaag in a fugue of depression. Instead, one of my cousins died four days after my son and I arrived at my mom’s, I came down with a nasty cough and cold that lasted and lasted and LASTED, and I was just pulling myself back to the land of normalcy (for what it is) when my husband came to visit for Father’s Day, after which I went through a massive emotional upheaval (that had nothing to do with him, strangely). It’s been four months since I applied to the job that could pave the way to a life I actually want and am happy to live in and two months since they officially posted the opening for it (a company I’ve worked with before, so I heard about it early). (And yes, it went up within 24 hours of my cousin passing.)

Terrible, awful, heart-wrenching things have happened. Surprising, amazing, beautiful things have also happened. Right now, I’m trying to figure out how to be okay with “just” taking care of the two of us. Because I’ve had stomach problems and breathing problems and panic attacks. I’ve had a lot of days where getting out of bed was something I just didn’t feel like doing. I was stubbornly refusing to take my antihistamines because I didn’t want to deal with the side effects (namely the water retention that makes me feel ugly and exhausted, and which makes sitting for longer than 20 minutes at a time difficult). I was downing a ton (for me – like 2 cans of Cherry Coke a day) of caffeine to compensate for being so tired from all the upheaval and 4-5 hours of sleep a night. I stuffed myself with candy and cookies and ice cream and pop tarts for about six weeks (thankfully, I only gained a pound…probably because I lost muscle mass, too).

I want to talk more about specifics, but I also don’t. I don’t want to harp on things that have passed. I don’t want to delve into things that I’m struggling to process. Yet I also want to let things go, too, and blogging about them helps with that. It’s the way I “give stuff to the Universe to get rid of.”

I will say one thing, though, that I noticed today.

I spent three days sobbing over the last guy from my past I thought I might have a chance with in future. It wasn’t just about the dating side of things; it was mostly about the dream of what could be. The capacity to go out, have fun, try new things I don’t feel strong enough to do on my own. It was about righting a choice I made a long time ago because I was too scared of rejection to try. And I discovered that not only do I not have a shot with him, but I never did. I spent three years imagining, and in one off-hand sentence (while I was upset about something else, no less), it all broke. And that’s good, really. It was something I knew I needed to sort out because the fantasy side was going to meet the reality side, and I always knew that they wouldn’t match. (It was just something I needed to get me through hard things, you know? But it was an incredibly important something.)

I am, at this point, free of my past. Free of what-ifs and wishful thinking. Free of the life unlived. And that, however much it hurts, is going to be immensely good for me as I move forward.

How do I know for certain?

Because for weeks and weeks – ever since arriving, really – I’ve been weighed down by my mother’s perspective. She has this insane body image dysmorphia that infects me whenever I’m around her. I intend to do a post on that in future, because I think it’s RIDICIOUSLY important. For now, it’s enough to say I’ve felt horrendously fat and ugly – largely because she keeps making offhand comments about my size. I despaired at ever being thin enough to be worthwhile enough and attractive enough to be of interest to anyone, and I worried constantly about when I might be able to say something to the guy from my past–when would we be far enough out from separating and when would I “look good enough” that I could improve my chances of a positive outcome?

And this morning, after coming to terms with where he and I stand and the…not exactly a betrayal, but the…misunderstanding of what we are to each other, I looked in the mirror and I liked me again. I didn’t look as fat and dowdy. When I put clothes on, I didn’t feel as tight and gross. Part of this is because of hormones, it’s true. But not all of it. Maybe not most of it.

Because I feel lighter. I feel happier with myself. I’m no longer worried about a man’s opinion of me (or my mom’s, which is essentially how she thinks I would look to a man), and I can just be me. As I am. Imperfect, 100+ pounds overweight, but capable of liking myself. Capable of seeing my own beauty (even if I still see cellulite where I never saw it before).

So even though part of me feels like hope disappeared with my lifeline to the future, I’ve got different hope growing in its place. Hope that maybe I can actually do this myself. Hope that my life will have joy and peace and value, no matter what other people think.

I would very much like to reach the other side of the roller coaster soon, though, so I can figure out how to walk straight again, feet on the ground, head on straight. It’s coming. I have faith. I’m just an impatient creature, and tired of emotional upheaval… ❤

Deep Breath…

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I did it. I told him. The man who’s made me ditzy and nervous and stupid and delighted and joyful and ridiculous my entire adult life? I told him. Well, I wrote a letter to him, and I really hope he read it… He is at least in possession of it, and that’s pretty much as good as reading it, as far as my insides are concerned.

All day, I’ve felt giddy. I expected to feel abjectly pukey, but instead I couldn’t stop smiling. The relief! The weight of keeping it hidden inside was bigger than I realized, and I knew it was pretty darn big. There are moments I want to cry, because the letter was kind of like breaking up with a guy I never actually dated. It was a, “Hey, I fell in love with you when I wasn’t supposed to, and now I have to let you go (even though we’ve never really even been close as friends),” kind of letter. And it sucks, having to let go. The dream that maybe someday, maybe maybe maybe… That dream got me through SO MUCH BS. So many terrible, awful, ridiculously hard things. Maybe my life was full of darkness, but there was a bright spot out there, somewhere, a tiny, hoped-for possibility to keep my focus until the darkness grew less oppressive. Which is kind of funny…’cause the first year we met, I wrote him a poem. The only line I remember is, You are my guiding star. That was in 2000. 17 years later, and it’s more true now than it was then.

Letting go of that is crushing. And scary. What star do I align to now?

But it was also necessary. I come from a family of elephants–never forget, and never forgive. My mom still resents me for things that happened when I was 4. Her life is one big slide show of all the wrongs done to her, all the injustices she never fought. I refuse to live that way. After two years of agonizing emotional work, I’m finally ready to leave it all behind. Now that it’s a new year, and now that I’ve sent the letter, I can actually do that.

Besides, it’s better this way. Holding on to people never works. It prevents growth, both of the people involved and of the relationship. But more than that, it was keeping me from making big changes in my life. After all, if I’m waiting for that maybe someday, can I make a big change without drawing myself away from it? Nope. Waiting and doing are separate things. Though sometimes they can happen simultaneously…well, it can’t the way I was doing it. I want to find out what I want out of life. To build a career and a home and a future that looks and exists the way *I* want it to. But with that dreamy star as a focal point, I stopped being able to see myself.

And so I let it go. I let him go. And I want to laugh and to cry and to sigh and to climb a mountain.

Instead, I’m spending these first hours of the new year making plans for what comes next. Because I want that career, and that home. I want that life that fills me with passion and joy and, above all, a sense of security. I want it, and I’m going to build it.

Will he ever talk to me again? I have no idea. But I’m done waiting to find out. I have books to write and a path to dance!

Back to Me

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In what I hope is my last visit to the ER for many, many moons, I finally had a doctor who really paid attention. This time, I was there because my doctor suggested it. I was feeling weak, dizzy, fatigued – too much so to give the blood necessary to test all my levels. So she sent me to the ER where the results would be faster and they would be prepared in case I passed out.

The ER doc ran the blood tests. Everything, as usual, came back “normal.”

So he sat down with me. “As doctors,” he said, “we often get so focused on treating the problems, we forget to treat the whole person.”

“When a person goes through so many tests and sees so many doctors in a short period of time, sometimes it does more harm than good.”

“I’m not saying I’m absolutely right on this, but sometimes when I see patients, I get this feeling. Everything looks normal, but you clearly don’t *feel* normal. And it has to be really hard to live feeling like shit all the time.”

“I’m not telling you this is all in your head, because it’s obviously not. What I’m saying is that your body and your brain are creating a feedback loop. I think what’s going on is that you’ve been through a lot of stressful stuff lately. That stress flooded your system with cortisol and other stress hormones, which are good when they’re short-lived and reacting to a dangerous situation. But chronically, they cause the body to overreact to little things. The more your system is flooded, the more you’re aware of these tiny changes in your body and the worse you feel. It’s chemical. It’s real. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do for it here in the ER, or any medication I can give you.”

He suggested seeing a therapist. (I tried to do this in March, but my insurance contractor only does group therapy. Which, for a social anxiety sufferer, is pretty much a no-go.)

“Even if you can manage to see someone once or twice, it could make all the difference. They can give you tools to cope with everything.”

I wish he could be my regular doctor. He was exactly everything I look for in a doctor and have never been able to find. As sad as I am that he can’t be, I am so immensely grateful for him.

Validating a person’s experience is tremendously important to health and healing.

I went home (after 6 hours in the hospital – they were PACKED). Ate something. Took a shower.

And sobbed.

And sobbed.

And sobbed.

The kind of cathartic, body-racking sobfest that leaves a person feeling emptied out at the end.

Teenage Me sobbed in despair and pain over the realization that’s plagued me since October.

Twenty-Something Me sobbed in grief over the loss of her grandparents, of the stability and safety and strength they represented that hasn’t resurfaced in my life since they died.

Today Me sobbed out fear: fear of the future; fear of the unknown; fear of failure; fear of leaving the house; fear of passing out; fear of never again being well.

And in the middle of it, something beautiful happened. It was like my grandparents were there with me, holding me, telling me I still have their strength and stability and support. (And, despite being naked in the shower, it wasn’t weird at all. Which I thought about at the time, because my analytical brain never shuts up.) Like they were holding me while I cried, like I’m sure they did innumerable times when I was a child. Like they were angry for me. Proud of me. And that my brokenness was just a cause to hold me tighter.

When I was done sobbing, done being overwhelmed by grief and despair, I was overcome with the need for a quick meditation. So I sat in the tub, rested my poor, hugely congested head in the warm shower spray, and meditated.

“It’s time to rest,” she told me. “You’ve done some hard, grueling work, and now it’s time to come back to yourself. To sit and watch the snow fall and the flowers bloom. Time to just Be with your Self.”

“I know that’s hard for you. It’s a skill, like anything else. So just come rest here, in this space, for a couple minutes at a time. Build up your sense of You. Do it out there, and rebuild your calm. Your peace.”

She gave me two symbols to hold close and remember while I do it. Two things that spoke to the heart of little girl me so deeply, they defined a lot of who I was. And a third symbol for me to meditate on, learn about, and come to know.

It’s time to find myself again. To return to who I wanted to be. To grow into the person I’m meant to become.

It’s going to be work, and it’s going to make me uncomfortable. And probably really bored and fidgety, as I have a serious impatience problem. But it’s a new phase, and it’s necessary. It may be the most necessary thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve been moving toward it for ten years. Ten years, and it’s finally here.

That’s a big part of why I’m so scared…

But I will sit with my Self. And I will be patient. And I will learn again to watch the snow fall and the flowers bloom.

Because for the first time in ages of dark confusion, I feel my path again. And I have a gorgeous sense that I will know it better this time than ever before.

All because of an ER doctor who took the time to really See me.

❤ ❤ ❤

Patience Through the Storm

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So far, this year has sucked eggs.

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been to the ER. I’ve added three drugs to my list of allergies, been bombarded by enough radiation from scans that I’m starting to get concerned about the cumulative effect, been scoped from both ends, and gotten a low-level diagnosis for some of my long-term troubles. I’m currently wearing a holter monitor to get a 24-hour snapshot of my heart activity and I’m starting a new round of antibiotics (the fourth in two months) for ordinary, everyday sort of stuff. I have to decide between thyroid meds, thyroid removal, and insulin meds. I’ve had a headache for two weeks, abdominal pain for over two months, and my anxiety is on a roller coaster. My neck is jacked up from hitting my head a year ago, and my shoulders aren’t much better off.

And that’s just the physical stuff. My husband lost his job in February and couldn’t get a new one because of all my health issues. Because of a new tax rule, our taxes got audited (I filed early and we’re poor – thanks so much for making life harder, government!). We won’t receive our refund (which we need to survive) until June at the earliest. So I’m sick and we can’t even afford to pay the $700 a month we have in bills, which we are borrowing from my in-laws so we don’t lose everything we own which is in storage in another state.

I haven’t been able to write much of anything. First because sitting put too much pressure on whatever was going on in my belly, and now because my neck gets too stressed out. I’ve spent most of two months in bed. I’m afraid of eating too much sugar, too much fat, of having caffeine, of going outside thanks to the worst pollen year I’ve had in a decade. I’m afraid of exercising. Of leaving the house without my husband. Every time I think I’m doing okay and start inching back out of my limited routine, something else pops up or goes wrong. And now it’s 105 degrees outside and I’m acclimated to the 70 of my bedroom.

Everything I do seems to make me dizzy, light-headed, or feel like I’m going to pass out. (Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but that’s how it feels most of the time.)

Life needs to change, but I have no idea how that’s going to happen. Even my husband is now so anxious because of everything that’s happened, he won’t leave me alone for more than two hours at a time. He wants to change things, too, but he’s too scared of putting himself out there to try.

I haven’t been this depressed since I had postpartum depression. I’ve been churning through tons of negative feelings, mostly about myself and my life choices, and I had a mini-breakdown the other day where I admitted to my husband that I honestly don’t believe I will ever be good enough for anyone. Not ever. He yelled at me because he thought I was wallowing (something he does frequently), but it’s true. So many of my choices and my directions are made out of fear that I won’t ever be good enough. As a person. As an adult. As a daughter. As a wife. As a woman. Never good enough.

I hate admitting that. I hate how weak that makes me, how much it undercuts my perceived strength in the face of suckitude. So much of what I do in life is for other people’s acceptance. Their validation. And inevitably they give me the opposite.

I try too hard. I’m needy, desperate, clingy.

Except I’m not, and I don’t.

I don’t personally believe we can ever try too hard, especially when it comes to people. Sure, we may try the wrong things and expect too much in return, but I don’t believe we can ever do too much for those we care about.

I yearn for closeness, which makes me human.
I haven’t really had close friends since my early twenties, and no close female friends I didn’t make in high school. That makes me yearn harder, yes, but it also makes me more willing to show up.
I do a lot for others that isn’t ever returned. It bothers the hell out of my husband. But I also know people who never do anything without being guaranteed an equal return on the investment. I would rather be like me.
I need to learn better boundaries. Except I’ve been doing that. I’m not super awesome at them yet, but I know how to enforce them and I’m not afraid to do it.

I kick ass at putting myself out there. Personally, professionally – I’ve got trying new things and taking uncomfortable yet potentially rewarding ‘risks’ DOWN.

I’ve had the pleasure of getting in on the ground floor of a new writer’s journey of discovery. She’s older than I am, with a long career in a good field behind her. But she’s new to risking self in the public eye. New to accepting who she is and what she’s driven to do. I don’t know her and she wouldn’t know me from Eve, but every time she posts anything, I feel a surge of pride. She’s finding her way. A way that’s equal parts exciting and terrifying. And I know how hard it is, because I traveled it more than a decade ago.

I’m not a neophyte anymore. Not professionally and not personally.
I may have lost (sacrificed, really) aspects of myself that I really want back, but if I pursue them I know I’ll resurrect them. Because I know the journey. The steps. The experience.

I got really mad at an old friend a few months back when he suggested I needed to be grateful for the spouse who “supported me so I could pursue my dream.” Ignoring the minefield that is the relationship involved therein, the dream part really jabbed at me.

A dream is a thing we want for ourselves, but don’t really believe it’s attainable. We envision this thing for ourselves – whether it’s travel or career or family – because we want it so badly. But there’s always a ‘but’ involved. “I want to write, but it doesn’t pay the bills.” “I want to travel but I don’t have time right now.” “I want a family but I’m really focused on my career right now.” A dream is the carrot we hold out for ourselves so that we can do the things we need to do that don’t fulfill us.

Writing is not my dream. Writing is my path. My experience. I have never once questioned that I would write (at least, not for longer than a week or so of soul searching every few years). My husband didn’t “support my dream;” he agreed to marry a writer, with all the empty bank accounts that went with the territory.

My life has been long years of hard, often soul-squishing work. It’s been lonely. But my problem isn’t that I cling to people. It isn’t that I need too much from them, or give them too much or expect too much. I don’t let them choose my paths (usually…).

My problem is absolutely all about timing. Timing kicks my ass. I’m impatient, raised by parents who are impatient in totally different ways. I was taught to get things done, to ‘strike while the iron is hot.’ Except if you’re not in the business world, that doesn’t work so well.

When you’re invested in the journey, in self-improvement, in life, impatience is counter-productive. I believe in making things happen for ourselves, but I also believe that sometimes we need to learn to read the currents. The saying isn’t, after all, “Fold ’em or hold ’em, just DO something!” There’s wisdom in patience, and patience allows wisdom.

So even in the midst of this terrifically sucktastic time, I’m working really hard on my patience. Reminding myself that even though it sucks, it’s clearing the way. Cleaning up years of personal messes, of health unknowns, of fear, to give me a starting point free from the ghosts of past mistakes. And that is messy work. It’s grueling. It’s like clearing out a forest after a fire – it’s sweaty, dirty, hard labor that makes everything black with soot.

Even though everything that’s going on threatens to make me literally crazy, I am reminding myself that it’s important work. That new books require old books to have satisfying endings. I have to create closure before I can create a new story.

The blank page that comes after is scaring the hell out of me, too (I haven’t had a blank page in life with no idea what I want to fill it with in seventeen years). But I keep reminding myself that I haven’t gotten to that page yet. I have to focus here, on all these little threads that need to be wrapped up first. I need to make sure I at least touch on them all, acknowledge them all, satisfy them all before I move on.

I’m not good at this yet. Ending things, letting go, moving on – I come from a family where that’s categorically bad. But I don’t want to follow those shoe prints any more. I want to walk my own path, free of resentment, bad feelings, and if-onlys. So I’m learning.

It’s exhausting, all the way down to the fiber of my soul, but I’m learning.

And in the middle of this awful, awful storm, learning is enough.

Crisis of Surroundings

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I’m having a tremendously difficult time dealing with life right now. Not only have I been processing a lot of deep internal stuff (re: learning of the death of a childhood friend; discovering that I’ve been in denial regarding the exploitative nature of my first emotional relationship; figuring out how to parse that exploitation and the damage it did; etc.), but there was the election. My goodness. I still am at a loss to understand and accept the way I saw friends treat friends and family. And now I feel trapped. Living in dangerous territory where hyenas are free to eat me alive to the cheers of their compatriots, who are supposed to care about me…at least nominally.

We’re on the back end of our second year living with my in-laws. For the most part, that time has been workable. There were some big dust-ups, points at which I realized just how little worth I have to these people. They sucked. But I was always able to pull up my tolerance pants and fight rudeness and selfishness with kindness. Last week, I discovered that the high ground has become my weapon of choice. Not because I want to be “better than” their behavior (well, most of the time…), but because I refuse to allow pettiness and bitterness to rule my days. I see what that gets a person on a daily basis, and I do not, under any circumstances, want to become that.

But it’s getting harder to keep talking. To answer with more than single-syllable sentences. To be in the same room. To care. That last one bothers me. I don’t want to give up caring…but my mother-in-law seems bent on alienating everyone in her life. I try to maintain compassion – she’s immobile at this point, recovering from surgery on her leg. I’m sure she’s in pain. But it’s getting harder to find.

Her mother doesn’t help. I say, “Let’s not run the dishwasher because it makes it too loud in here, and that makes nobody happy. We’ll run it when everyone goes to bed.” And the dishwasher is run. I close the curtains on my side of the living room because I don’t like the night wide open to me and vice versa. And when I get back from putting the kiddo in bed, they’re open, because, “We like them this way.” My exercise mat found its way to my bedroom today, even though it’s lived in the corner where nobody can see it within easy reach of my exercise space for a year and a half. So did my father-in-law’s shoes, because she didn’t bother asking, apparently. My bedroom is so full of stuff, there is no more room. I can’t write in it. Hell, it’s so cluttered I can barely sleep comfortably in it. The only trace you will find of us outside our single bedroom (that three of us are using) and bathroom are the kiddo’s play kitchen (only out there because it’s too big to go elsewhere), and our game systems. Oh, and the stack of the kiddo’s homework that keeps migrating without me, resulting in two weeks of missing it entirely. A year and a half, and you can’t even tell we live here. (Hell, over the summer, my mother-in-law suggested that if I was too hot in the rest of the house, I should just never come out of our room. Which works so very well as a parent…)

They forget me when they’re making decisions. They make sweeping decisions about what my husband is going to do with his time, my time, our time (never mind that right now, we see each other three hours a day, one of which is spent putting the kiddo in bed). They feed my kid without asking me. They walk all over my rules.

And you know what? None of that would be so bad. But now they spend half the day watching cheesy Christmas movies and the other half watching Fox News. I HATE Fox News. Fox News is literally designed to make people angry. And it works. My mother-in-law is angry and bitter and nasty all. day. long. And when she isn’t, I distrust her motives. She asks questions every time I leave and return to the house, and there in the background is Fox News. I sleep all morning so I don’t have to share the house with just the two of them all day, and I get up to hear them gossiping in an ugly way about people I don’t know, or people I do know, and there’s f-ing Fox News.

In the end, it won’t be the terrible treatment that makes me leave, it will be the morass of vile, twisting, negative energy they’ve surrounded themselves with.

But there’s the problem. I’m having a crisis because I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to stay, but I can’t leave. I’ve applied to jobs, but haven’t gotten interviews. I’ve taken to driving the car three minutes up the road to sit at the park and listen to books on my tablet just for some peace. But it’s not going to be enough. My hip hurts too much to spend more than thirty minutes at the gym, or out walking. I’m too upset to write. I’m stuck. Trapped. With no way out. Because even if I cut and ran to my mom’s, I’d have to take my son out of his amazing autism classroom to do it. I’ve already decided that if nothing else changes this spring, I’m moving in with her next summer. I really want him to finish out the year here. It’s so good for him. But now my mood is affecting him, making him refuse to follow directions both at home and at school. And actually, it’s kind of a moot point, because I don’t have a vehicle to get me there or the money to rent one.

Trapped. Surrounded by hyenas who call themselves “believers” and pray before every meal, but have no problem calling everyone around them idiots and treating them accordingly. Who preach about softening one’s heart in the heat of the moment but have no problem blaming everyone else for everything under the sun.

My December is going to be about surviving, and that, more than anything, is what makes me angry.

December ’16

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Earth: Hit the gym when it feels right, for 30-minute circuit, massage chairs, and weight machines. Gentle cardio. Eat right.
Air: Keep researching programs. Look forward to spring class. Study for the GRE.
Water: Breathe. Practice quiet. Let it all just flow as it will, without judgement.
Fire: Sing. Read. Qigong.

Moon: Meditate for quiet most days. Add a visualization journey once or twice a week.
Sun: Watch movies/shows. Play games. Visit the zoo/park. Ditch the guilt.

Take care of myself! Just BE this month, and let it feel nice without fighting it.