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I had been considering sharing Jim Wright’s original post earlier today but wanted to sit with it a little more. I’m sharing it now because the type of people who report posts like this make me furious. If you don’t agree, move on to someone you do agree with; I do this every time I’m on FB. (As an aside, I’m not rehashing the day’s events here in a play-by-play but am instead examining my thoughts and some realizations I had about the day.)

The reason I needed to sit with it was two-fold: one, it was very strongly worded and I could see how some might find it offensive & I wanted to be sure I was up for any dialogue that might ensue; two, I have A LOT of feelings about this day, and it tends to be rough for me on a personal level, so I sometimes get lost in the misery porn this day seems to breed. 
However, while talking about Jim’s post with Rin, I had a startling realization: I should view this day as my personal independence day because what happened on 9-11 served as the catalyst for getting the abusive man who was slowly leeching my life away from me *out* of my life. Yes, at the time I was pregnant – only a couple of weeks out from knowing that fact, but about 10 weeks along. I was a hot fucking mess even before I found out what was happening that morning, though in hindsight it makes a helluva lot more sense. I went off two anti-depressants cold turkey. My child was a product of rape and I knew that no one would have believed me, because he WAS good at conning and, well, we know how that goes. That man lived in my parents’ house despite my wishes, but his only reaction to my pregnancy was to whine “but what about me?” without ever moving from his initial self-centered reaction. I was certain that I *needed* that man out of my life despite what anyone else thought prior to or after that point, but after so little success at getting him to leave (or even just to leave me alone), I had no idea how to make that happen. There was a lot of other fucking bullshit that is even harder to sum up in a paragraph here, but in short–It was not a good time. (In hindsight, being such a mess over all of that makes, well, a lot more sense than it did at the time. Which Rin has pointed out and tries to remind me if I forget that in a fit of MommyGuilt.)
I glued myself to news stories and news feeds until I couldn’t see anything BUT the towers falling because I couldn’t *do* anything else. I suppose in the back of my head I felt that since I couldn’t do anything I could at least watch what those poor people went through. I did this until I made myself ill and my Mom finally convinced me that I needed to stop not just for my sake but for the baby’s. I spent the night sobbing, wondering why anyone would want to bring a child into this world where people so cruelly killed their fellow man and for what? My Mom wisely pointed out that the world needs the brightness and joy that children can being and it at least soothed a little of that fear. 
Every year after that, I’ve spent at least some time re-watching the coverage, looking at pictures and names and death tolls and the little bits of new information since because I felt some measure of duty to do so. This year, though, I *knew* I didn’t need to do that. I told Rin that I should probably stay off of social media today (though I’ve not kept to that super well, oops) because I didn’t want to get caught up in all of it. Why? Because reliving those awful moments aren’t what actually helps the world be better. Making myself sick with repeated images of both the national tragedy and my personal soap opera life at the time don’t help. I’m not suggesting we forget or pretend it never happened, but this year, I didn’t feel the need to self-flagellate in the name of history. 
I don’t have a good answer as to why right now. I suspect that it’s the work of Glennon, of Jenny, of Liz, of Brené – the work that says, “love wins” & “we belong to each other” & shame isn’t a thing to hold on to but is a construct that holds us back & that the world is dark & scary but your tribe is out there, bringing light & love & hope. It’s the work that’s taken hold in my heart and reminds me that fifteen years later, I’m in a better place, in better relationships, that my daughter is healthy & loved & wonderful. (Okay, except when she’s not wonderful, but we’re working on that.) It’s the work that reminds me that even though there are people in this country who’d have us believe that we should be always afraid (especially of *those* people who aren’t like us) that we have more to celebrate than to fear because we belong to each other and there are people working to prove that every single day by simply living their lives in truth and love and compassion. Fifteen years ago, I was *terrified* of what the future held; today, I’m still afraid sometimes, but I’m also aware that life is what it is. There are no guarantees and no easy buttons; no insurance policy is good enough to protect you from what happens even if you can afford it, so it’s better to acknowledge that and live with an open heart even though it can hurt. Fifteen years ago, despite being hundreds of miles away from New York, I felt I needed to be punished for living while so many others didn’t because I wasn’t worthy of living compared to some of the people who died that day. Today, I understand the absurdity of that idea because I know that no one is more or less worthy in that regard than anyone else.
Today, I’m worried about my country & the direction some people would have us go in. I’m worried about the messages of hate, intolerance, and injustice that seem to dominate the media. But instead of letting that worry consume me, I’m looking for the stories of love, hope, compassion, and respect; I’m looking for the voices seeking justice and understanding, the voices teaching tolerance and truth. I believe that we can do better because I see people who are doing better. I know we have a long way to go, but I think there are people who can help us on that path. So, today, while I grieve for the losses we felt that day 15 years ago, I am holding space for those people and their families instead of drowning in the images of that day. And I grieve for the lives lost since that day from our soldiers to the innocents who’ve died on the path of war and fear that we’ve traveled since that day. What I’m not doing is letting this day become a monument of unending sorrow, of self-flagellation, or of guilt. Love is the name of the day.
Now, I’m going to go spend more time not on the Internets because I need to do that, & I’m going to let the thought of this day being a sort of independence day sink in because it’s a realization that is a long time in coming and it’s incredibly important. I’ll never forget what happened that day, but I’m not going to let it eat me alive anymore, either. 
Post script: Okay, so I did put this down earlier, but before I got up to have dinner and family time I realized it was too long for pure stream of consciousness and all of its rambling run-ons, so I set it aside to come back to tonight for a bit of tidying up. But I realized that while I do think that the media circus and misery porn is unhealthy and too easily pushed into lines that work against love and compassion, I wanted to make it clear that I’m also NOT judging others for still having trouble with the anniversary, or certainly with broader elements of life since then. I don’t expect the world to turn up for a genuine round of Kumbaya and magically have it stick. (That takes work, people. The kind I referenced above.) However, I do hope that we can all move in and toward compassionate learning, which also includes (to and of?) oneself. So I decided to share some of my new realizations here today. Which I’m going to go ahead and post now before the idea becomes too unnerving to Keep Swimming on through. 
Also? Huge thanks to Rin who waded through my stream of consciousness earlier and helped turned this into something, well, readable.

Jim’s post can now be found on his blog, Stonekettle Station.

Fourteen

Hello, Fourteen. It’s nice to meet you, though I must say I’m still occasionally baffled that you’re here. It’s hard to believe that my little cabbage patch baby is Fourteen! But here we are.

Thirteen brought challenges of its own. I knew to expect some of them. Others we’re still working on trying to figure out. But that’s okay, because we’ll do it together, the three of us.

In some ways you’ve changed a lot this year, but in others, the changes are smaller, more subtle. You’re processing things on different levels (when you decide it’s worth the work), and it’s fascinating to hear how your brain works.

Thirteen saw you struggling a lot more with feelings that we all have from time to time, from feeling alone in the world or feeling like you don’t fit. It’s normal, as frustrating as that sentiment is, because I know it doesn’t really help address the issues you feel. Sometimes, though, the knowing that you’re *not* the only one who feels a certain way can be a stronger balm than actually figuring out how to change the feeling. I’d love to tell you that these awkward feelings are the realm of your teenage years, but the truth is that you’ll likely visit them many times in your life. It’s hard, but it’s okay, because there will always be people who can tell you that no matter how you feel, you’re amazing the way you are.

That’s what I want you to learn this year: that you’re amazing. Even if there are things you need to work on, you’re still amazing. Life is a journey of self-improvement; there will always be room for change, but that room for change doesn’t make you any less amazing. It really just doesn’t.

You’re becoming more of your own person which is an interesting journey. You’ve made some choices with that autonomy that I’d have preferred you hadn’t, but even so, it’s kind of interesting to see the person you’re trying to become. We’ll work on the rough edges, Fourteen, and we’ll explore your autonomy while reminding you that you still have plenty of time to be a kid. That’s okay, too.

You bring me a lot of joy. If there is one thing I could hammer into your head, it would be that. I know the last year that might have been harder to tell, but that’s not through any fault of you. Mommy’s had a rough year. (And you have no idea how happy it makes me that I’m still “Mommy”. No idea.) I’m afraid you’ll look back and see how often Mommy couldn’t leave the bedroom or couldn’t go to this thing or inadvertently made everyone miss that thing and you might be angry. I could understand that; truly, I could. My comfort, though, is knowing that your Mum, your Rin, has been there right beside you the whole way, picking up the pieces that I just wasn’t able to hold.

In a meeting with your therapist, he told me that part of the job of a good mom is making certain that her kid is well taken care, whether it means leaning on her partner for help, asking for help, or stuff like that. I argued with him for a good give minutes because everything I believed about parenting said that I should be able to do everything, no matter how hard it is, so it meant I was failing. Between Tom and Rin, they finally got me to stop and listen – really listen that is. It’s taken me a few months, but I think I finally *get* it.

The truth is that you *are* well taken care of. You are well loved. Rin does an amazing job with you, often better than I ever imagined I could and that makes me happy. I’d be lost without her. She’s helping to raise you into an awesome person, & that makes me so damn happy.

I have no idea what you’re going to bring to the party, Fourteen, but I know I’ll meet it with the same sense of wonder (and mild trepidation) that I’ve met each year, along with a slightly bittersweet sense of sadness that you’re growing up in front of my eyes. You’re a beautiful, intelligent, awesome person, Fourteen, and I’m going to spend the next year helping you learn that for yourself.

Three Things

Because it’s something light and fun, I decided to post this here as well as Facebook. I’m a dork like that.

Because other people did it:

Three names I go by:
1. Brekke
2. Auntie Brekke (perhaps my favorite)
3. JusticeBunny (in games, but the only person allowed to call me Bunny is my Dad, thank you very much.)

Three places I have lived:
1. South Bend, Indiana
2. Lilburn, Georgia
3. Cartersville, Georgia

Three places I have worked:
1. Cracker Barrel
2. Applebee’s
3. Cartersville City Schools (Substitute)

Three things I love to watch: (Only 3? Jeez.)
1. Arrow, Flash, Supergirl (I’m counting them as one. Deal.)
2. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Glitter Force, Family Ties (Because they are things K, R, and I watch as a family)
3. Cheesy rom-coms

Three places I have been:
1. Seattle, Washington (and all the places we went through to get there)
2. Fort Donelson, Dover, Tennessee
3. Chesterfield, Virginia

Three things I love to eat:
1. Chocolate
2. Ice cream
3. Rin’s (& Chris’s) cube steak and fried chicken

Three people I think will respond:
Any-freaking-body who wants to.
Three favorite drinks:
1. White Chocolate peppermint mocha
2. Butterbeer Frappuccino
3. Sprecher’s Grape Soda

Three things I am looking forward to:
1. The appointment with Kero’s new pediatric neurologist (stressing it, too, but yeah)
2. Hugs.
3. Actually leaving the house and making it down south and thwarting everything that 2015 has thrown at us ffs.

Happy, Messy Christmas

It’s Christmas Day, though I will confess to finding it hard to feel as in the Christmas spirit as I might like. Frustration has been the name of the last week, and we are still in Indiana. We have one more family thing in Georgia that we *might* be able to make, but it’s going to be a tight squeeze since there are still a few things to be done before we can leave. (Because there’s always one. more. thing.)

The day started early. We decided last night that we would at least go to brunch with the Adams-Curry clan since we were still in town because it felt mean to T to not go and we thought it might be a nice thing to do. Unfortunately, when this morning rolled around and there were a half dozen things that needed doing and less than two hours to do them in, tensions ran high.

Very high.

I’d love to say that I kept my cool, but the reality is that I completely didn’t. I tried. But I had been in the middle of crying my eyeballs out because, as I phrased it this morning, “I had all the feels and they tried to explode out of my face.” Unfortunately, Rin realized that we were running out of time and that there were a lot of things to do still and she started getting stressed out and… the yelling and the snarking started and it didn’t really stop until we’d actually been at brunch for a little bit.

A lot of it likely could have been avoided if the two of us had managed to inhale and find some balance at the same time. It also might have helped if we weren’t working at cross purposes. With the tornadoes that cropped up this week (a large part of why we’d not left in time for Christmas Eve with her Dad and extended family), Rin decided to adopt a “We’ll get there when we get there” mindset. It’s not my favorite, because it ends up stressing me out quite a bit, but I was *trying* really hard to do the same and was (shockingly) managing it better than I had previously.

What I didn’t realize is that she was going in a completely opposite direction this morning. She knows that being late to family things up here has been a major stressor for me, so she was trying to put all of her focus into getting us there a little early even. It…probably would have helped if she’d told me that instead of continuing to be super stressed and cranky that things weren’t working right.

There were added complications of “oh shit, we’re in town and all the gifts aren’t gathered together/made” which certainly took extra time where there really wasn’t any. It basically was a chaotic jumbled mess and tensions were running high.

Normally, I don’t write about stuff in detail like this, but I’m doing so to come  to a point, so I hope she’ll forgive me later. But, in all of the chaos and the arguing, I kept trying to wrap my brain around something I read from Brene Brown yesterday that says, “The magic is in the mess”. I kept trying to remind myself of that sentence over and over again.

Why?

Because this is not my favorite time of the year. Everyone is always more stressed and there are higher expectations for perfection, and when perfection isn’t achieved, it makes the “fall” that much harder. I saw it happen last year and that particular incident has changed entire relationships and I’m still not sure how to fix it or if it can even be fixed. So many people put so much energy into making things work out *just right* that they forget the reason that they are doing the things to begin with.

Rin tried to tell me that this morning and I missed it in the middle of my own brooding/angryness. She wanted to do *something* together as a family today. It was a small thing and it was a goal we both had, but we were attacking it from different angles. By the time we finally got back on the same page, we both got better. And once we got back in the car, we had to let Kero know that we had made up and that we had moved on. (Unfortunately, she kind of was stuck in the car with the two of us bickering the entire way.) We had similar ideas, but we didn’t take enough time to talk about it.

Yet, the magic is in the mess.

I often have trouble when we go to the Adams-Curry gatherings because I feel like an outsider. It’s something that I’m honestly not sure how to mend and there are a lot of factors at play that I don’t want to sidetrack into articulating. But, it happens. And it stresses me out because I feel awkward and ungainly and at best, like a three legged bull in a china shop. Today, there was some of that…

However, when it came time to open presents, one person reminded me that we’re a part of the family, too. She took the time to pick out things that she knew I would like. (Hello new craft storage bag with a bonus surprise!) T’s Mom also works hard to make sure I can eat things (and had to throw a couple of things together last minute since we initially weren’t supposed to be there), and she makes sure to spend some time chatting with Rin and I. (Perhaps it would be better to say that there are a few people I feel outside with.)

I needed the reminder this afternoon. I needed to know that I still had a place to belong there even when it didn’t feel like it. And when I couldn’t tell if the two people who received hand knit items liked them, Rin worked to ferret an answer from one of them. (The other, I am unshocked by not receiving an answer and I do not know why I bothered except I do because she is part of the family and while I have no idea why she doesn’t like me it doesn’t mean I’m going to leave her out but I digress.) But, no matter how you looked at it, I made things and they were lovely and I shared something I love with people I care about.

Was it a little messy and crazy and confusing? Sure it was. Do I have to IOUs outstanding now? You bet. But, it worked out because while some of the goal was to make things people liked, more of it was to share something I love with people I like. I achieved that goal and it’s an accomplishment to be proud of. It is also an accomplishment that I can *see* that given where my head is at this afternoon.

The magic is in the mess.

Our lives are messy. Sometimes, the chaos field is small. Other times? It’s so huge I don’t know how it hasn’t eaten us all alive. This year has been a rough year and we’ve missed a lot. I’m sure we’ve upset a lot of people and let a lot of people down. None of those people will ever know how many tears have been shed for the things and time that we’ve missed and I wouldn’t expect them to. Yet, there have been. A lot of tears. We *hate* disappointing people. We hate making people angry even more because then we feel like we’re in Trouble and that is one of the worst feelings.

Right now, our reality is messy. It comes completely with emotional roller coasters, missed deadlines, and a lot of anxiety. But if we wait until things are calmer, better, etc, we might be waiting an awful long time. But…if I shift the perspective and I stop looking at it from the “We’re fucking everything up” perspective and put on the “the magic is in the mess” perspectacles, it looks a little different.

Several people have done things in the last couple of weeks to let me know that people *do* want to see us. One person in particular (thank you, Chris) took the time to write out several things for me that I am still processing/haven’t had time to respond to because I’ve largely been sick in bed when I’ve not been helping pack that really helped me feel a little less…frantic about all of this travel stuff.

Will we make lunch tomorrow?

I have no clue.

What I do know is that we’ll make the effort doing the best that we can and we’ll find the magic in the mess, no matter where we end up. Because I’m tired of seeking what feels unattainable. I want to spend more time in 2016 living in the moments that *are* instead of the moments that *should be*.

Has today been a chaotic mess? Yep. But there have been good parts to…and hey, they day isn’t over yet.

Happy Christmas!

(Apologies in advance: while this is the “short” version, it’s still quite long. >_> But, anyway, this is the post I mentioned on FB a couple of weeks ago, so a little bit is out of date [like the fact that I’ve been sick as hell for three weeks & counting].)

In August, I had a mental breakdown. This sounds incredibly dramatic, and I have been struggling with how to talk about it. I’ve written pages and pages of explanation of how I Dropped My Basket (which is what I’ve been calling what happened in August), and it is always so very long. Sometime this week, I realized that I could tell the story in pieces, that it does not all have to appear in one post. With that concept in mind (something that would likely be obvious to most people but was a true light bulb moment for me because it hadn’t even occurred to me), I am going to endeavour to try again.

I am beginning with dropping my basket, because it was a catalystic event for several things and certainly shapes where I am now. While I have not written a lot about it, people who know my family know that we have had a rough couple of years. The last eighteen months in particular have been pretty hard. A lot of it has been me. I’ve battled anxiety and depression most of my life; the last three years has seen a resurgence in prevalence of anxiety and a case of depression that I’ve not had for years. There are a lot of events that led into causing this and counting them all would take way more effort and time than I want to put into it. Like anything that happens with mental illness, it’s rarely one thing; it’s a puzzle.

To try to help you understand how hard this year has been, here are some examples of things that I was either not able to do or that would cause panic attacks or that would take days (or longer) for me to do:
– deciding what to eat (this question could literally be one of two or three decisions I could make in a day)
– leaving the house (for ANYTHING, be it for fun, for medical appointments, for simple errands)
– making phone calls of any kind
– talking to people (online, in person, etc.) There were literally days where talking to the three people in my house were too much for me, so anyone outside of it was outside the realm of consideration.

These are just some examples. The emotional roller coaster that I was (and am), is hard to describe. Rin has been a champion through all of this, and I’m still not sure how she handled all of it. If it were simply a case of handling my anxiety issues, it likely would not have been so thoroughly overwhelming, but life kept throwing us curveballs. There are several things that I will (hopefully) be exploring in more detail in the future, but I’m going to sum up some of what the end of 2014 & most of 2015 has had to offer:
– Last fall, I had an EMG that confirmed nerve problems in both of my legs. The diagnosis that resulted from that is idiopathic peripheral polyneuropathy (though it wasn’t completely confirmed until March 2015.) 

– Last November, I fell and injured myself enough it required an ER trip; that ER trip proved to be frustrating and required a follow up to my PCP. She was concerned at potential complications that can occur with neuropathy and falls, so she prescribed a medication (Neurontin) for me to try to help avoid both that complication and possibly help with pain issues. I started taking it, and it seemed to be helping. Seemed to be is the operative phrase.

There were complications with our family travel in Georgia in December including some family drama and me becoming incredibly sick. It delayed our return until early January (which caused a small bit of trouble at home, too, since people had been expecting us at Christmas).
January and February are largely a blur to me. Since the medicine seemed to be helping, I talked to Doc about increasing the dose. I started having more anxiety problems and a few other issues including thoughts of self-harm that made no sense (as in I felt like a passenger in my brain watching myself think these things). Since partially controlled pain can cause symptoms to be exacerbated (and in some cases can make them worse than before), after lengthy discussion between Doc, Rin, and I, we increased the dose again. This was a huge mistake. The worsening symptoms increased DRAMATICALLY, so much that I started to step back down to the previous dose immediately.

March saw me at the first appointment with the neurologist She agreed that if it was causing that much trouble I should definitely stop taking it. The catch was that I had to continue to dial it down which meant almost a full month of taking something that I KNEW was harming me and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. This was not good on so many levels.

April is typically a rough month for me for a variety of reasons. It was complicated by some miscommunications with my therapist which just added to the stress. My baby girl turned thirteen which was less hard than twelve, but was a milestone for her.

May brought us news that Rin’s PawPaw was doing more poorly than he had been doing last we had heard. This brought some serious discussion between Rin and I about trying to travel down south to see him. We had aimed to leave in early June, but life intervened.

June had a check-in with Kero’s pediatric neurosurgeon at Riley. There was a small amount of growth in her cyst, but Dr. Smith was not overly concerned. She did however find some concern in the overall level of symptoms that Kero was showing, and she took our concerns about them seriously. We all agreed that it was time to start the testing process so that we could learn more. Sadly, the scheduling process became one of the stressors of the summer as there were miscommuncations between two offices, and a bunch of other issues. The first test wasn’t scheduled until October which was frustrating, but there wasn’t much to be done about it. June also had me seeing a new specialist, a urologist. This was incredibly stressful and led to my own tests being scheduled.

For the next two months, various crises kept popping into our lives. We kept trying to schedule a trip down south and kept having to reschedule it. Thankfully, we had agreed early on that we were only going to tell a couple of people to avoid any Issues. Of course, the downside of this was that no one realized that we were struggling with travel plans that much, but it would have been worse for all of us if everyone had been trying to make plans and kept having them rearranged. It was bad enough with Rin’s mom knowing (and she knew because we were staying there first.) Not Traveling has been an overall theme this year.

August was bad. The urologist testing was far worse than I had anticipated, and involved a lot of unpleasantness for both Rin and I. The first week after was largely me helping convince Rin that I wasn’t upset with her and helping her handle what had happened. (This was also me avoiding thinking about it and recovering because holy fuck that took all week.) Just over two weeks to the day, I Dropped My Basket. (I’ll come back to this in a bit.)

More travel plans failed. We missed DragonCon, we missed David and Catie’s wedding. (We’ve also now missed Samantha & Dustin’s wedding.) We missed several other things. In fact, off and on, we’ve been Trying to Leave for several months. A lot of it has just been small things piling up. A good chunk of it was anxiety on my part and Rin’s, and my breakdown certainly didn’t help THAT situation at all. So, now, we’re going to try again in a couple of weeks and hopefully make my cousin’s wedding. *fingers crossed*

*glances up the screen* That’s the short version. Really. I don’t think I could simplify it much more than that, but it’s necessary to give a picture of how I came to where I was in August.

We had been having a disagreement. I couldn’t tell you what it was about, and frankly, it doesn’t matter. In the middle of it, I quietly said, “I want to die.” This isn’t something that I would say lightly, and it almost started a fight on its own because she thought I wasn’t being serious. Then, when she did realize I was serious, there was a lot of hasty explaining to get to what I actually meant.

The truth was I didn’t want to die, I just wanted everything to stop. I wanted to not be overwhelmed all the time. I wanted to not be in so much pain all the time. I wanted to not be terrified of the entire world and everyone in it all the time. I wanted it all to stop, and in that moment, the only way I could think to make it stop was death. Exploring further led to a lot of sobbing (hours of sobbing) as I choked out everything that was blocked up in my head. By the time I was done, I felt emotionally wrung out and empty. I certainly had no idea what to do with myself, but there was a silver lining in all of this.

A lot of the things that I was sobbing about were things that I’ve been holding onto for years. They included coping mechanisms that were really not helpful or healthy. They included beliefs about who and what I am supposed to be according to pretty much everybody -but- me. By the time I finished dropping my mental basket and watching it shatter into pieces, I could see that a lot of what I had been holding onto with duct tape, fairy dust, and anything else that would hold it together was not the stuff I’d spent the previous eighteen months learning how to get better at. It was all the other stuff. So, by letting it all go, I was able to give myself a place to start again.

Unfortunately, that place was (and is) fragile as fuck. I am having to rebuild how I think about myself and how I look at the world. But, within a week of having my breakdown, I was able to look at my sometimes-therapist Tom and tell him that I felt BETTER than I had in ages. I was finding that I was able to process things a bit more clearly, I wasn’t cutting myself down all. the.fucking.time. which I pretty much had been prior to that point. Nothing was good enough. Nothing. Tom made me examine a few hard truths, and he told me something that I plan to explore in depth in its own post, but overall, I was able to see that hitting bottom was probably the best thing that could have happened to me, timing notwithstanding.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing since August: rebuilding. I have been taking the things that Kim taught me about mindfulness, and I have been taking the words of Jenny Lawson, Glennon Melton, Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, and other writers like them to feed my spirit and my soul. I was finding more solid ground than I’d had in months, but at the same time, I was still struggling quite a bit. Aside from anxiety being a thing I’ve had for years, it is also a symptom of some of my chronic health issues, so it’s a double whammy. I’ve also learned that ADD can play merry hell with anxiety, too, so…triple whammy. It left me in a completely vulnerable, messy place.

In that place, though, I was able to genuinely consider a subject that my psychiatrist had been mentioning as a possibility for about a year. While he was not thrilled to hear that I’d been in crisis, he was pleased that it was getting better. He was also able to extrapolate that it was the irritability and other mood swings that were a problem, so he mentioned a mood stabilizer again. I was at first hesitant as I have been every time it has come up. In the last three years, I’ve had some pretty shitty experiences with trying new medicines, and the one early this year was pretty damn awful. I was not eager to jump back into medicine roulette, no matter how good an idea it might be. I also knew that I couldn’t take the most common mood stabilizer for reasons that I explained to him. He thought about and did some looking and realized that one of the newer medications in that class might actually be a good fit, both because it has the potential for starting at a very low dose, and it is listed as weight neutral. (I’m not going to talk about which medication it is because I try to avoid talking about active medications for…well, a lot of reasons. If I know you and you’re curious, feel free to ask. I might not answer, but feel free to ask.) Rin and I discussed it for a minute and decided to let him write the script with the caveat that I would not start it until after Kero’s EEG at Riley was done. (That was coming up about 5 days from my appointment.) The prescription was written, my refills were sent to the pharmacy, and off I went.

The Riley experience is DEFINITELY it’s own post, because it’s going to be long as hell because three days in a pediatric hospital breeds adventure. Or something. 😀 I ended up starting the medicine about a week later than planned, but I could tell a difference within the first three days. I refused to let myself get overly hopeful though. I was still too nervous. However, within the first week, I was actually able to go on errands with Rin. I didn’t have a panic attack before leaving or while we were out. We were at Menard’s picking up a couple of things for the car and the house, and I realized that not only was I NOT freaking out about being in public, I was actually ENJOYING myself and I was singing. It was…incredibly nice. We actually went several places, and then I was able to go out again the next day AND the day after that. (Going out of the house three days in a row was something that really hadn’t happened in awhile the Riley trip being the exception.)

Things continued to improve. I also had  A LOT  of guilt, because the clarity I was gaining and the emotional control I was gaining had me looking at Rin and frequently saying, “How the hell were you dealing with me?!” Thankfully, she helped me work my way through that. Since I started the new medicine, I’ve been able to reach out to people more – in text, anyway. The phone is still panic inducing I’m sorry to say. >_> I’ve been able to actually look at things on Facebook AND set limits for myself when I am becoming overwhelmed. I’ve been actually commenting on other peoples’ posts which I hadn’t been doing for awhile.

The biggest stressors have been Trying to Travel and handling the Teenager Dramaz. I also found out that my Grandmother has a small aneurysm and her sister died. It was incredibly upsetting, and still is. I am worried for her. And yet, I’m also terrified. Every day, I try to summon the courage to call and see how she is doing and every day, I fail at it. The phone is just too daunting and I have no bloody idea what to say, because, “Hi, it’s your crazy granddaughter who had a nervous breakdown this year and who is terrified of the telephone but wants you to know that she loves you anyway” seems a little crazy even for my level of acceptable crazy. So…I struggle.

For all that the medicine helps, it isn’t a magic wand. It hasn’t made everything all better and it’s not going to no matter how much I wish it were different. I keep being worried when I have a bad emotional day that I’m breaking the new medicine and Rin has had to talk me down from that one a few times. The biggest difference with those bad days though is that a) I notice it more quickly and can tend to stop the crazy spirals from becoming completely off the rails, b) I am more able to say, “Rin, I need help” in some variation on the sentiment, c) I am able to have a few minutes or an hour of being an emotional hot mess and then I’m able to balance again (sometimes anyway), and d) they aren’t EVERYSINGLEMOTHERFUCKINGDAY like they were before. So, there’s improvement there. A lot of it.

I’ve also been making the effort to feed my spirit with things that are encouraging. I save pictures I see on FB that have inspirational quotes. One day, I was having a bad day and I asked my friends to either tell me something amazing or show me something beautiful. Many people posted pictures. Since my phone has an S-pen which lets me write on the screen, I saved every single picture that people posted, and I wrote a note about who shared it and anything else that was relevant. I made myself those notes for the Bad Days. I think I might try this more often. I even made an album in my phone’s gallery called, “I Am Loved” and that’s where I saved those images. I am working at creating better habits. I am working at not letting the self-defeating anxiety monsters win, and I am working on trying to create new mantras in my brain to replace the negative mantras that I’ve lived with for years.

The most important thing is this: I am trying.

I am trying desperately to regain ground I’ve lost. I am trying to relearn healthier habits and I am trying to find new ways to manage both the changing things my body is doing (thank you so much neuropathy for adding to the “what will my body be doing today” game *headdesk*) and my mental health issues. One of those methods is talking about it. It’s actually helping, but more importantly, I want to show people that they aren’t alone. That’s why I finally decided to break up the monster update post (not that this is -short- by any stretch); by breaking it up, I will “let” myself write current things as well as cover other things more in depth. (Yes, I know. That sounds silly, but for some reason, I felt that having an update of where I’ve come from on my blog was important before sharing any new things. I just try to roll with the quirks in my brain…) Also, we will (hopefullypleaseuniverse) be traveling in a couple of weeks, and we’re going to be seeing people, and I’m going to be testing a lot of this new stuff during the holiday season which is…my worst time of year for anxiety probems anyway. I want people who see me to know that I’m a hell of a lot more fragile than normal right now. I’m also being a lot more honest than I have been in the past. Instead of playing down the type of pain I’m in or the type of day I’m having, I’ve been telling people the truth. (Or most of it. No one needs EVERY detail.) Hiding things like that is something that I do to “protect other people”, but it doesn’t protect anyone, least of all me. So, you know, if I’m having an awful pain day, I’m not going to try to hide it in the name of not upsetting other people. My theory is that the people who love me would rather know the truth anyway. No. That’s not my theory. That’s my sincere hope, a prayer, and something I am hesitantly counting on.

I also want people to understand that Rin is still doing  A LOT of taking care of me. I’m getting better at being able to do more for myself, but I’m still needing a lot of help. Don’t be shocked if I defer to her for most things; there are reasons for it and I’m not explaining all of them. Also, there are days where I just really cannot handle people well. People are scary, even people I love. Try not to take it personally if I’m really quiet or if I spend a day hiding in bed. It’s not you; it’s me. But…I’m trying and things are definitely better than they were in August.

I’m doing the best that I can. Please be gentle with me.

I’m struggling a lot right now in a couple of these areas, the biggest being “admitting I have a problem to more than a select few people”, & some of her points here hit home on a variety of levels.

I started another new medicine last night. It is a class that I’ve not tried before, & I am trying to be cautiously optimistic, but at the same time, I’m bloody terrified. I have tried so many medications in the last couple of years that have caused such a variety of side effects and problems that ANY new medication has become suspect. Yet, I am trying to not let the negative voices win, because if this medicine works like it is supposed to, it would be a blessed relief.

Either way, the reality is that between my chronic physical health problems and my chronic mental health problems, I can’t remain in the corner with my thumbs in my ears pretending that everything is fine. In August, I had an honest to gods nervous breakdown, & I am doing much better now, but it is a huge process that is a struggle not just for me, but also for the people around me. I want to be fixed immediately because I know what happened and I know ways to do better and to keep it from happening again, but desire and reality don’t always go hand in hand.

Rin has been a fucking trooper through all of this, and I honestly don’t know how she continues to put up with me. Yet she does. And she gently points me in the direction of essays like this one to show me that even if I am as utterly fucking nuts as I believe I am some days, I am not alone, that there are other people like me out there. And she has been slowly inspiring me to write again, not just for myself, but maybe also for sharing again. I suppose this long winded comment is a step in that direction.

Hi, I’m me, and I have anxiety that can be so crippling that even the -idea- of talking to anyone else can send me into a panic. I have been struggling with this more in the last year than I ever have before. Some of it is a direct result of brain chemistry being altered by physical disabilities. Some of it stems from the place where I feel unworthy, where I feel that I am never enough, and that I might never be either of those things. This is a very real, very painful struggle; yet, I am doing my best to actually do the struggling part instead of letting the Anxiety Monsters win. Some days, I manage some of that on my own. Other days, I put my trust in Rin because she keeps telling me that the Anxiety Monsters are wrong, and in August, when I was completely broken in her arms, I started to -really- listen to what she was saying.

Last night, she had to hand me the first dose of the new medicine, & she held me as I took it. She’ll be my champion no matter the outcome, and that is part of how I am managing to say any of this right now. And maybe soon, she’ll be able to get me to the local UU church again even if we’re going to be late, because I did really like the people, and I do really want to go to services. So, maybe soon, I’ll manage to get out of my own way there, too, because I know she’ll be beside me. But for now, I’m going to bed because my new medicine currently makes me very sleepy and perhaps slightly non-sensical.

Foxglove & Firmitas

Alternative Title: I’m Gonna Keep Talking About This Until It’s a Generally Accepted Thing…

It happened again. Someone posted another article on mental illness being a sign of a healer being born on the Local Pagan Facebook Group with the general overarching but not direct message being that all native and ancient cultures saw it as this. Now I don’t deny that mental illness can be the birth of a healer. I’ve known too many people who have struggled with a history of it, myself included, that haven’t found themselves called to help others dealing with similar problems.

However, these articles tend to stress how society is actually the sick one, and how we need to stop shoving pills at people to fix all their problems.

Anyone who has ever been on psychiatric medication will probably tell you that pills don’t solve all the problems and most professionals are pretty…

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Thirteen

Hello, Thirteen. We finally meet.

I have worried about our meeting off & on over the years as today you officially become a teenager. It is often said that the teenagers are some of most intractable, as you search for independence, a sense of self, & a passel of other things depending upon who you ask. As a young mother, I feared those far off years wondering how I would ever survive them. (Of course, there were years I wondered how I’d survive the toddler years, the tween years, and honestly, the infant ones, too.)

As a thirteen year veteran mom, I know that trying to define which stage begins & ends is a fool’s errand best left to people writing books to terrify young parents. Reality says that there’s no clear line, & trying to define it is as aggravating as trying to navigate it. I know that I’ve seen flashes of diva attitude often attributed to “teen years” since you were Four, and I’ve seen glimpses of the woman you could become at every milestone stop along the way.

I also know that the fear I’ve felt for the teenage years – and Thirteen especially – was pretty much vanquished by Twelve & all of it’s ups, downs, zigzags, & curveballs. (Never fear: I’m not challenging the universe. I’m not saying anything crazy like, “how much worse could it get”, it’s just, Twelve pretty much set the bar for Hard Shit. I was talking to Mana in the wee hours of this morning, “She only has one cyst in her brain, so that surprise has already been sprung.”) After Twelve, it seems silly to worry about an arbitrary number that defines nothing about you beyond how many years you’ve been on this planet.

Trying to define you is almost impossible these days. At your surprise birthday tea today, you said something was probably obvious & I didn’t have the heart to tell you that “obvious” with you isn’t always “obvious”. There are a few constants: you’re a huge nerd & proud of it; if it’s My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, odds are fair that you’ll like it; you hate washing dishes (something we’re going to work on this year); you love pink (with a few rare exceptions); you’re an amazing kid that I love (even when you’re being a pain in the tush) more than I ever knew was possible.

I honestly don’t know what to expect from you, Thirteen. Twelve gave me a lot more silvery-golden hairs than I had before, made me face a situation that was similar to one of my worst nightmares, & in general, was downright terrifying (& not only because of the beginning of our journey to Seizureville). That fateful June day at the allergy doctor’s office changed all of our lives forever, though looking back I think it’s more accurate to say the life changing moment was when the ER doctor walked into the room & said, “It’s not nothing because it’s obviously something, but it’s nothing” just after he said they’d found a cyst on the CT.

My heart skipped a beat & I struggled with myself to remain brave for you even though inside my head, I was screaming a variety of things that could best be summed up as, “NOOOOOOO! NOT MY BABY!!!!” I listened to that ER doctor explain what they did know & also how much they didn’t. From that point, we began a journey that has changed all three of us in good & not so good ways. It’s still a journey as there are still so many unanswered questions, but the one thing that I know is we’ll make the journey together, your two moms & you.

Twelve also saw a spike in inattentive behavior, a tendency for slacking in your work that’s been downright maddening at times, & a few hints of attitude that I’d really like to not see repeat too much with Thirteen. While the seizures likely account for part of this, we’ve also confirmed that you likely do have ADHD though trying to sort those two things from, as your therapist put it, “a healthy case of being twelve”. All of this has made for rocky times, but I also know that it’s something you’re trying to work on, & I’m hopeful that between the strategies you’ve learned in the last few months & a genuine effort on your part to improve that Thirteen will find even more improvement. I hesitate right now to include this section & may yet delete it; however, it was definitely a recurring theme of Twelve, and I want you to be able to look at this in the future & say, “wow! Look how far I’ve come.”

Thirteen, I have no idea what to expect from you. Your therapist suggests that one thing to expect is a quest to define yourself as a separate entity from the you that we as your parents have helped shape. This both intrigues me & terrifies me; I’ve always been amazed by watching you grow & change before my eyes. It terrifies me, because I don’t know what to expect & that’s always a challenge for me.

In the last several months, you’ve been doing some work both with our help, with your therapist’s help, & on your own to learn to be able to communicate your thoughts & feelings more clearly & to find a better balance with your emotional self-care. At times, this has frustrated you beyond belief, made you in turns angry & sad, and has clearly been a challenge, yet you keep trying. I’m so proud of you for that; I know how difficult this type of sorting can be.

Thirteen, I know that no matter what happens, I’ll love you more than I have words to speak & I know the same can be said of your Mum, because no matter what, we’ll always love you. Always, baby girl. Always.

Ten Thousand Places

stronggirlI spent most of my life believing that if I said and did exactly the right thing no one would get mad at me, no one would misunderstand me and everything would work out. Every time anyone was mad at me, I took it as a personal failure, and tried to figure out what I’d done wrong and what I could do differently the next time. I mean, EVERY TIME. It was, and is, exhausting. Constantly replaying and rehashing each interaction, no matter how small, as if my brain were perpetually tuned to sports radio after a big game, analyzing the plays and the players, the coach’s decisions, the referee’s calls, the weather, the history, the fans.

I can’t remember exactly when it first occurred to me that there might not be the perfect thing to say, and that other people’s flaws and imperfections might be contributing to misunderstandings, too…

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I woke up in an…interesting…headspace this morning, and I’m finding myself easily angered or easily brought to tears. After spending almost forty-five minutes typing up my response to the last link I shared, I am realizing that I really need to not be on Facebook today. The comments I wrote were basically a culmination of three different articles, shared by different people, that hurt my heart. Rin put the Piano Guys on her laptop awhile ago in an effort to help me feel better and it is helping some, but I also have to take the next logical thought step and realize that it won’t continue to help if I keep tying myself up in knots.

One of the reasons of late that I have stopped reading all of the articles that people share and I have stopped responding to things that I find upsetting is because I feel too damn much and I see what I think should be obvious solutions and yet I watch people tear those solutions to pieces, either because they believe I am too liberal or too young or too female or too whatever, and I find that inordinately frustrating.

I have unspoken agreements with multiple people that we are to never discuss politics, because that way lies madness; in some cases, it has been that way for years. And yet, I have watched some of those people’s beliefs evolve far beyond what they used to be and I hear them agreeing with things that do not even make sense, or I see them believing something simply because a republican told it to them and it makes me crazy. I posted a link about Cobb County last night and how they had basically bamboozled bringing in the new Braves stadium and if I were of a mind to build my values and politics only on considering that all democrats are out to get people as so many of the people I mentioned above do, then I would have automatically assumed that the politicians involved in the shady deal were certainly democrats; however, the reality was that they were republicans and they knew exactly what they were doing even as they tried to stand by and say that they did everything “according to the rules”. I’d like to think that people in Cobb County would remember this come Election Day, but I sadly believe that the reality is that a) they won’t remember it and b) they are so anti-the other party that they will vote for the same politicians because it “still is better than the other side” once again voting against their own best interests. It. Is. Maddening.

I am not going to lie; I tend to largely vote democrat because of the two parties, they believe in more things that I believe in, and the current brand of republican wants to do too much to inhibit my life and my choices while trying to claim “religious freedom” and other bull shit arguments that have no place in politics, and that tends to make me angry. (Also, even when I was a devout, regular church going Christian, I STILL believed that church and state should be separated because I no more wanted politicians telling me what to pray and when to pray and what type of Christianity to believe then than I want them involved in politics now.) That said, I actually research both candidates and do occasionally pick a republican option because I feel that in that office they are the better choice, but the key there is that I do my research. I all too often hear the “liberals are all evil/stupid/what’s wrong with this country/socialists/comminists/nazis/ignorant/etc.” argument as though liberal has come to be a dirty word. (In fairness, I have seen liberal friends act the same way about the word conservative and have made comments similar to the ones I am making now.) This polarization is hurting us all and the current main steam media are doing everything that they can to fuel it while still trying to make people believe that they are unbiased, but frankly, if you believe that ANY news source is unbiased then you are showing an astounding amount of ignorance. As Dr. Yow, my American Studies professor (amongst other classes because she was amazing) said, “Everyone has an agenda. Everyone.” Some people’s agenda is to live their life in simplicity and kindness; other people’s agenda is to take over the world in whatever way that they can. It is so important to remember that and to keep it in mind with everything that you read or hear.

There is a huge part of me that wants to just start smacking people’s heads together to see if it would help. I see people that I know to be smart, to be kind, to care about others forget all of that to pursue their own agendas whether it be their own interpretation of Christianity, their political beliefs, or their hate for some “Other”, and it hurts my heart. I often wonder if they ever stop and realize the message they are sending to people. I wonder if some of the people that I am friends with – some family, others I went to school with or met through other ways – have made me incredibly strident in my opinion to not call myself a Christian ever again because I do not want to be counted amidst their number. I wonder if any if them would care or if they already count me as not worth their time because I am not like them anymore. To me, even as a young child, even when I was unsure about things I heard people at church say, I understood one thing: Jesus is love and he demands love in return, not just to him, but to everyone. I remember feeling conflicted in spirit when I would join in making fun of other youth groups or other denominations, or when I would join a group of people making fun of another kid because I wanted so badly to be “cool”. I remember as I got older feeling conflicted in spirit at some of the messages that people around me were saying, and I remember looking at two men who became my adopted big brothers, who had a stronger, healthier relationship than many Christian couples I knew, and wondered how I could believe that their love was wrong. I stayed conflicted on that point and a couple of others for so long that I actually found solace and peace in the pagan community because there was too much hate in the Christian one.

It also did not help that at the point that I left church for the last time, only one person really cared why and no one else asked. At the time, I was dealing with remembering things that had happened to me as a child and as a teen and let me tell you, rape and molestation flashbacks are not fun and they certainly do not leave you feeling social. To this day, I suspect that many of the people I called “friends” at that point thought I left because of a relationship, but the truth is that I left because the secrets I had kept hidden were eating me from the inside out and there was no solace for me at church because I felt no safety. I had overheard too many conversations, usually by adults, blaming victims and after my experiences in middle school with trying to talk to authority figures about things that were happening there, there was no way I was sharing what was making me feel so utterly fragile, not even with my “friends”. One person cared enough to ask after me and even that relationship faltered at the time for reasons on both of our parts but is actually better now which is a thousand kinds of awesome. So, forgive me if my impressions of church these days sound something like, “They will love you so long as you tow the party line and so long as you look happy” as opposed to how I used to find church which was as a place for peace and love, a place to go when you were broken inside and needed strength, a place to find a kinship with your Christian family and comfort at their tables.

That craving for peace and love is one of the reasons that I love Glennon at Momamstery so flipping much. I often read her writing and I feel like I am in church, wrapped in the peace of Creator and the Universe and there is peace -for me- there, no matter how broken, scared, or confused I am. I let G be a guide for Christians for me so that I do not let my heart become full of hate for the others I see who profess to be so very holy, because I do not want to become a person who is that cold and I do not want to be a person who lumps everyone in a group into one negative category. There are a few other people that I have let into that space with G, like Julie Hatcher and Rin’s Aunt Marijo, people who have pieces of the divine inside them, who share it with everyone and demand nothing in return. I know I will never be as selfless as those types of people, but I also strive to carry a piece of the divine inside myself, to shine a light of kindness back to people. I strive to remember that everyone is fighting a battle and to that person their battle can be all-consuming and there isn’t always room for kindness and love to others.

I try to speak to others with love in mind, even when I am angry or when I feel they are terrible people because I also know that they are still people, still humans fighting a battle. In doing so, I am learning that it is possible to love someone and also know that they are just not good people, to wish them peace but also to wish justice for their wrongs. I am also learning that I have to speak to myself with the same love and the same compassion and not just because my therapist tells me to, but because it is right and good and important. If all people are worthy of love and compassion and I am a person, then I, too, am worthy of those things. In opening myself up to loving no matter what (though do not equate love with being a doormat because it is definitely not that), I have also made myself more vulnerable and oh, that is so hard. My heart seems live somewhere between my sleeve and my throat, and I sometimes wonder if it is worth being so open to love and compassion because some days, ya’ll, that shit hurts. It means not reading articles about sad things or awful things and turning a jaded eye, because my heart tends to be right there and it sees the humanity and it hurts. (Coincidentally, this is also why I am learning to be more discerning of what I am reading and to give myself permission to not read every link shared and to set boundaries for myself when it comes to things I know will make me feel/angry/sad/etc.) It also means that I make myself see the humanity in everyone even when I disagree with them, because to refuse to do so makes them “other” and when we start to make people “others”, we stop seeing ourselves in them and it becomes easier to hate them, to dismiss them, to denigrate then, to disparage them, or even, for some, to kill them.

A couple of different interruptions have broken my train of thought, which is likely for the best given that I had aimed for this to be a short but pithy post on Facebook that I have had to shift to my blog for sheer space constraints. (Later, I will likely also shift my comments on the link mentioned above, but I cannot copy and paste from the FB iPad app and I am Definitely not doing it again right now.) I honestly am not certain how to wrap this up at this point, so I think I am just going to let it lie and move on to something else. Yesterday, Dr. Maya Angelou died and it saddened me for a lot of reasons, but one of the deepest was that her words have helped me shape who I am at different times in my life, but especially lately. One of her quotes that I saw shared multiple times yesterday was the directive to “be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud,” and it seems a good way to help some up the concept that “love wins”. If we each strive to be a rainbow in the darkness, then we will make the world a better place. It might be simplistic, but sometimes, simple is truly the best answer. I have several other quotes of hers jotted down in my current journal, but one that I think fits this post nicely, and which I will close with today is about life’s mission. I want to come back and talk about my feelings on Maya Angelou at a later point, but this quote seems a fitting end to this lengthy musing.

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive…with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.
~Dr. Maya Angelou

Love wins and we can do hard things.
Until next time,
~B

That tone of sheer frustration in your partner’s voice as she tells you that the child has left wet laundry for four days in the new washing machine…yeah, that sucks. The child is already in mega-trouble anyway, and this is just icing on the “Kero not taking personal responsibility” cake. I get that some of that is her age, and we do make allowances for some of it, but that certainly does not give her blanket permission to do nothing.

The current plan of action is a new one for us that hopefully will have results soon. While yesterday she did not do EVERYTHING that she was supposed to do (and she still refuses to come clean about what she was doing Friday while Rin and I had appointments that ended up including an unexpected trip to the hospital for more ankle x-rays which is irritating as all hell, because we’re pretty sure the answer is “fooling around with toys and pretty much anything but homework” as opposed to something egregious that might be considered “worth” lying about) she actually did do things she knows she is supposed to do every day without us coming behind her to remind her. This tells me that she is perfectly capable of doing so which means that the allowances we were making for her were largely unnecessary and have resulted in her being lazy because she can.

Hopefully, she will decide to be honest today (and perhaps try to have the conversation before bedtime unlike last night). I’d really like things to get back to normal and for her to not be in major trouble because it certainly does not make me happy, but I’m not holding out too much hope given how yesterday went in that regard. *sighs* Some days, I want to box her tween ears. The end goal of the current plan of action is Kero realizing that she needs to take responsibility for herself and her actions, including doing a GOOD job with her chores and her schoolwork, but getting to that goal might drive me nuts. I know we’ve made the right choice in what we are doing, but I’m just not happy about it because I HATE her being in trouble with a fiery passion. I know it is a part of mommyhood and I know it is best for her because obviously letting her get away with slacker work, lying, and no personal responsibility is good for no one, especially her, but I still hate, hate, hate it. It makes ME cranky and I feel like a big, mean jerk even when it is my job to be a big, mean jerk.

We remind her every time she is in trouble that we love her dearly and that is why we make the choices we make to correct her behavior. One time she said she felt like we didn’t care about her and I had to try not to laugh hysterically at her; I pointed out that if we didn’t care about her, we certainly wouldn’t be taking the time and the personal headache and stress of creating punishments that seek to correct behavior as opposed to being strictly punitive, and we wouldn’t give a crap if she had personal responsibility or took care of herself and we DEFINITELY wouldn’t be homeschooling her so that she can learn in a fashion that is better for her than being stuck in the standard cookie cutter mold of public ed. I went on to point out just how much I hate when she is in trouble and how even when she doesn’t necessarily see me being upset about her being in trouble doesn’t mean I’m not; in fact, the opposite is usually true. Thankfully, she actually understood the points that we made to her that day and hasn’t tried to make THAT argument again, and like I said, it is important to me to regularly remind her that even when we are very angry and very disappointed, we still love her. But damn if all of this isn’t frustrating as hell.

*sighs* She is largely a great kid and I know that, but because I know that she can be better than she’s been recently, I expect more of her. I know that she can successfully wash dishes without someone having to come behind her despite her not doing so since we were in Georgia. (And actually, this trip, she embarrassed the hell out of me because while previously she at least did a better job when helping with kitchen chores at someone else’s house than she did here at home, this time, she put a very obviously filthy pot into the dishwasher at Megan and Chad’s. Even worse was the fact that it was a pot with ramen noodles, so the entire load had to be rewashed before I could use anything out of it because she basically gluten contaminated the entire load. And frankly, the fact that she normally would do better at other folks’ houses is one of the reasons I know she should be capable of doing so at home.) I know she is better than the work that she has been doing; I totally understand that chores are boring and no one likes to do them, but they are also a necessary part of life. I also know that journal writing isn’t her favorite thing to do, but being able to write about events and her thoughts and feelings is something that she needs to be able to do. Plus, it is part of the homeschooling record that Rin and I keep, so it is necessary work in that regard as well.

What makes a lot of this even more frustrating is that since we’ve been home, we have been making a lot of allowances for her with some of her work. We have put most of her schoolwork on hold so she can finish her trip journal by 1 June, and we have even been letting her out of some of that work time so she has had time to go play with her friends outside, several days for 3+ hours. We basically have been trying to make her life easier and we have been repaid with sloppy work and lies which has gotten her super-duper grounded from pretty much everything. And since she has proven that at present she is no longer responsible enough to stay by herself for a few hours, something that she has been doing in increasing increments for five years now, she is going to have to haul her work with us to the MRI center on Tuesday and do her work in the waiting room while I’m having that done which will likely be super uncomfy for her given that she usually likes to sprawl herself and her work out at home. However, that is what happens when you can’t be trusted to work on your own. Of course, it also makes things more irritating for Rin and I because we now have to haul her everywhere with us again until she can regain some trust, but that is just how it is going to have to be. Obviously, there is also concern about the quality of her work but given what she did with the time she was here by herself Friday, I don’t see how it could get much worse. (Logically, I know it can, but it is going to take some effort on her part and that will come with its own extra consequences.)

If she doesn’t get herself straightened out soon, she is going to miss out on a lot of things and frankly, she is making us both wonder if she actually IS ready for an almost two week long camp. Some of the behaviors she has shown in the past two weeks are all on the “not ready for camp” list that Camp G. sent including not properly taking care of her hygiene. (I’m going to leave out the details both to avoid embarrassing her and to avoid grossing anyone out because that isn’t cool, but it was pretty epically not good and actually unusual for her.) I want her to be able to go to camp, but I don’t want to spend the money and then have to go pick her up because she isn’t doing what she is supposed to. They certainly aren’t going to come behind her and make sure she does every step of every activity she is supposed to, and they will send her home if she isn’t doing what is required of her. I just don’t want to waste the money if she isn’t going to take responsibility for herself. At present, she is still registered, but her actions in the next few weeks before we have to pay the rest of her camp fee will be the determining factor.

I wasn’t going to post about any of this because…well, a lot of reasons, but the washing machine frustration was a bit too much and was one point too many for me to not try to process some of it. I decided to share it because I know folks who have kids in similar age brackets, and I know that sometimes, when people only post about the good things that kids do, it can feel like you’re on an island when your kid is being a jerk. (And face it, all kids can be giant jerks from time to time.) So, if your tween is being a total pain in your bum know that you’re most definitely not alone. If you need to vent, feel free to do so in the comments. Also, if you have any tips on getting kids to tell the truth that don’t involve smacking their heads into a wall (obviously not a good plan) or washing their mouth out with soap (really, really, really bad for you with soap these days and also not very effective beyond being rage inducing), feel free to leave a note in the comments.

I know that in the long run, taking these steps to show her natural consequences of her behavior will pay off, but right now, when we’re in the middle of the battle, I can’t help but wonder just how far away “the long run” is.