Fight Despair Together: Healing Through Self-Compassion

What is stopping you from working through your problems and becoming who you want to be?

Redhead With Pistol

I’m not defensive! Just stay away from me!

Depression and anxiety are both subsumed anger over how we have been treated. 

Over and over, researchers have shown that those who suffer from such things are overwhelmingly victims of abuse as children. 

Of course you would be angry if those who were supposed to care for you instead treated you like crap. Or otherwise made you feel lesser. And there’s a good chance you don’t even realize it. Or the depths to which it shapes your experiences to this day.

The most important thing is to have compassion for yourself. This sounds a little weird but we all know what compassion looks like. We just usually reserve it for other people. 

Our expectations of ourselves run unreasonably high and we chastise ourselves for small mistakes. Dammit, that was stupid.  If you wouldn’t say it to someone else, don’t say it to yourself. 

This is something I’m struggling with right now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not presenting myself as some kind of self-healing guru. I’m just determined to figure this out and share my discoveries with you.

You are human, with flaws, like everyone. A lot of attention is given to forgiving others but forgiving yourself can be more difficult. Admitting someone else made a mistake is easy! But it’s absolutely vital, because turning compassion on yourself has been shown to soothe the Fight/Flight/Freeze mechanism.

Often referred to as Fight or Flight, this is an ancient brain system that is triggered by stressful situations. But when you are a child, and you can’t fight or flee, this stress response can go unresolved. If this happens many times over a period of years, years when your brain is growing, the overload of stress gets baked in and becomes part of the system. This is why, sometimes, you feel like crap for no reason.

Sad On The Porch

I’m just not feeling these shoes!

Plenty of people are dipshits to their kids. I suspect some common parenting practices are worse for little ones than most of us know. Chances are, the things or situations that throw you off-balance are related to bad experiences in your formative years.

Maybe you rare painfully aware of this but aren’t sure what to do about it. Traditional therapy can feel like endlessly rehashing trauma. Happily, the best treatment for these things is something anyone can do at home for free.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works by helping change the way you think about things. Unlike most forms of therapy, there’s quite a bit of evidence that CBT actually works.

According to the American Psychological Association“CBT is based on several core principles, including:

Psychological problems are based, in part, on faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking.

Psychological problems are based, in part, on learned patterns of unhelpful behavior.”

CBT is all about learning to see things differently. 

First, you have to admit, really understand, that you are not infallible. What you experience is not reality. You see your mind’s representation of reality. It’s impossible to get away from because you can’t get out of your mind.

But you can change it. The brain is flexible and always thirsty for new knowledge, until the day we die. 

The APA continues, “CBT treatment usually involves efforts to change thinking patterns. These strategies might include:

Learning to recognize one’s distortions in thinking that are creating problems, and then to reevaluate them in the light of reality.”

Peak Behind The Lace

I see plenty! And those kids over there are up to something!

Experience can condition us to anticipate certain behavior from those around us. We may even misinterpret what they say and do, following our customary script.

That’s right, I’m suggesting you could be wrong.

Maybe you are just totally jangly, too jumpy to think straight. Admit that the issue lies with you, rather than the world being unfair or unwelcoming. The world at large isn’t watching you. The world at large doesn’t care.

This may sound harsh but, when you realize the pressure is off, you can start living your life however you want …. Whatever that means.

In the words of the National Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapists“If we are upset about our problems, we have two problems – The problem and our upset about it.”

The power lies in putting some breathing room between yourself and the issue.

feel angry

instead of

am angry

Then we can see more clearly, “Often, we upset ourselves about things when, in fact, the situation isn’t like we think it is. If we knew that, we would not waste time upsetting ourselves.”

CBT calls this the Inductive Method. It’s the simple act of checking yourself before you wreck yourself.

Indtruder

You’re not sneaking up on me!

“The Inductive Method encourages us to look at our thoughts as being hypotheses or guesses that can be questioned and tested. If we find that our hypotheses are incorrect (because we have new information) then we can change our thinking to be in line with how the situation really is.”

Mental flexibility is the key to what we’re doing – Facing our fears and putting them to rest.

Top of the APA’s list of unhealthy behaviors CBT addresses is denial. They stress, “Facing one’s fears instead of avoiding them.”  This is the #1 most important thing!

You must be willing to do this or you are wasting your time.

By the time you get to be in your 30s, you will have noticed that certain scenarios – or situations that feel similar – keep cropping up. You don’t need to be a mystic to see that if you learn to handle these things better, you can stop going in circles. 

You can guarantee that your emotions are messing you up, keeping you from putting your best foot forward. This is why we often struggle with things related to our history. It’s not anything supernatural, and it’s within our power to make changes.

Take a moment, either during the situation or after, and ask yourself why it brings out the feelings in you that it does. How are you approaching or conceptualizing things in ways that come from thoughts that cause you pain? From ideas you know are probably unhealthy?

It’s not complicated stuff, but it does involve dealing directly and honestly with things that make you uncomfortable. With things you’ve taken for granted. It’s easy to get defensive.

Television

We all got way too much of this!

Watch out for anger directed at people or things who don’t really deserve it or are not worth your time. That’s your defense mechanism kicking in to deflect attention from a sore spot.

Time after time, take that pause to step back. Understand that your feelings are like a flowing river – You may be soaking wet, but you are not the water. 

By applying Self-Compassion and Check Before You Wreck, over time you will begin to see patterns in your thoughts and behavior. Understanding will enable you to act more with purpose, instead of just reacting to the world as it comes at you.

You can’t go back in time and undo trauma, but you can fix the damage it caused. It takes time. If you get frustrated trying to understand yourself, imagine the most sympathetic character you can think of – A small child, a puppy, an old lady – and imagine they are having your difficulty. Take how you would feel for them and apply it to yourself. 

Yes, it takes that much patience.

Coming soon: Part 2 – What Does Life on Your Terms Mean, Anyway?

Summer Series: Fight Despair Together

Summer Series 2019 is all about finally moving forward.

Tea By The Tub

I could use some self-care!

Last year I did my Tripping the Fright Craptastic series, where I told you all about my struggle dealing with my parents. I was attempting to show some of the crap that comes with being in the middle of life while supporting either end.

This year’s Summer Series is about all of us.

The Middle Class Never Existed

Reality is sinking in for the 90s kids. The reality that we may never own a house. That the endless ascension toward a blissful, shining future full of robots is not going according to plan.

We hear a lot about the Middle Class – That fabled land of mowed lawns and street lights. Most of us probably know someone we would consider Middle Class. But the Middle Class doesn’t exist.

It never did! In a strange twist, our parents and grandparents just happened to live in an historical vortex. A unique combination of events conspired to create a freakish period of prosperity.

Writing for Medium, Jonathan Peter Schwartz quotes economist Robert J Gordon on the different phases of the Industrial Revolution (IR):

“In particular, the period following IR#2 (1920 – 1970) saw incredible annual productivity growth (1.89%). Gordon argues that…. IR#2 impacted ‘virtually the entire span of human wants and needs. 

“‘Given how impoverished the human condition had been, and the vast array of technologies that intervened, it should come as no surprise that productivity skyrocketed and tremendous amounts of wealth, economic growth and improvements in living standards were observed during this period.'”

Haircut

So, I’m gonna be cutting my own hair for a while?

The Nothing is Spreading

Those of us who grew up listening to the stories about this great party are having to accept that we will never attend.

And on top of that, they trashed the place.

We are left with the same old story, a chosen few living high on the efforts of everyone else. The Middle Class was a technology-induced fever dream.

Fight Despair Together

As we slip into middle age it gets harder to talk about someday. That better job might not be coming. Prices just keep going up. All the rules have changed and many of us are floundering. Most of us know someone who OD’ed.

I covered the spreading despair in my last post. We are a big group and we are very diverse, but we can’t let stress cause us to focus on divisions.

We need one another. The antidote to despair is fellowship. Camaraderie. Talking about what’s going on is the first step to fixing it.

But First….

Each of us has to be in the right frame of mind to ensure our focus stays on unity. In order to listen, we have to calm the panicked voice telling us we’re drowning.

Before we can clean up the world, we have to clean house.

Originally, this was going to be a single post but I decided it needs more space than that.

This year’s Summer Series is about soothing the anger and beginning to heal from the journey so far. By Fall we will be centered and equipped with new tools to build a better future.

Part 1 coming soon: Self-Compassion Promotes Healing

Feminism In Action: Dr. Sam Collins Builds Women’s Leadership

Every once in a while I will get hopeful and apply for a few remote jobs, writing jobs, things that would just be interesting to do.

On Indeed, of all places, I found an ad wanting someone to write a woman-centered blog.Dr Collins 2

That’s me! I tightened up my resume and composed a real zinger of a cover letter after doing some research. The company and its founder amaze me, she is someone we should all know about.

Originally from England and based in Los Angeles, Dr. Sam Collins has been out there fighting the good fight for a long time. For 17 years she has been working to boost representation of women in business and government.

The organization she runs for this purpose is called Aspire. According to its website, Aspire was “founded in 2001 by Sam when she was just 30 years old and [is] now a globally sought-after organization that enables women leaders and men who are advocates for women to thrive through leadership development, coaching and events.”

The nonprofit arm of Aspire does pro-bono mentoring work in 80 countries and “has made a positive difference to the lives of over 15 million women and girls across the world” since 2010.Radio Heaven

Dr. Collins has written the story of how she came to this path in her book Radio Heaven. I haven’t had a chance to read it, I’ve added it to the ever-growing list. Amazon describes it as “about the power of doing business for social good and designing your own destiny rather than waiting for your parents, bosses, partners, or society to determine it for you.”

Dr. Collins was 21 when her mother died. Her grief threw her life into chaos. She was fired from her dream job. She was mistaken for a homeless person after passing out in a train station. After spiraling she pulled herself right and used her tenacity to build a business, win awards, and help women all over the world. 

This lady is definitely someone I should know about.

I was nervous about reaching out but compelled myself with the thought that she is acting out a logical, practical vision of many of the values I have been writing about. We’re working toward the same goal, although she has a much more impressive resume. It seemed natural that we should be aware of each other.Dr Collins 3

For a few days, I checked my email every couple hours hoping to hear back. I allowed myself to imagine what it might be like to have a conversation with her, weighed which questions I would ask.

I think it was the third day I heard back. I was at work when the notification came in and I left it until I got a break.

Until I looked at it, anything was still possible.

Dr. Collins said she didn’t think I was the “right fit” and she was “sorry for the disappointing news.” So polite, it’s hard to be mad. I had thought she might be too classy to be overly interested in what I do. I heaved a big sigh and checked the substitute teacher board again.

Most of the time, the results of our explorations are not what we hope they will be. The trick is to keep an open mind and make the most of reality as it presents itself. Not getting caught up in wishes or regrets and missing opportunities to learn.

I’m still glad I stumbled upon that ad. I got to learn about another inspiring woman showing the way for those of us at the beginning of our journey. We’re connected on LinkedIn, maybe one day we’ll meet at a conference and have a laugh.

Mainly it’s just nice to know there are people like her in the world.

Relationships Hurt, And That’s Okay

Cold snaps hit the South extra hard, because we are not expecting them. Our bodies react like a corrected teenager.

Our bedroom is behind the kitchen, across from the back door. So when my husband started to come in, then decided to let the dog in from the yard, he opened a wind tunnel directly onto our bed.

Big Blue Teddy Bear And A Gun

I’m not trying to attack you, I swear!

Instead of indulging the flash of anger I felt, or squelching it and adding it to the pile, I chose a middle ground of saying something I thought was non-confrontational.

I got zero response.

I tried again, but I could see the steel door behind his eyes had closed.

Most of the time, my man is good at communication. When he becomes stoic it’s because he’s tired, or upset, or feels attacked. Specifically by me. He has this infuriating habit of seeing the best in people who don’t deserve it, then playing dumb when I’m upset about something.

The first few times scared me silly. My passionate, articulate husband turns on a dime and becomes the embodiment of his shadow self. He is abruptly distant and unresponsive. My normally attentive and caring friend has sat staring blankly at me while I cried.

I felt like I was taking crazy pills.

I have a low tolerance for crazy-making malarkey because I have dealt with it for far too long in the past. I specifically chose this man because everything about his life told me that he was as fed up with that crap as I was.

Turns out, maybe even more so.

After the first few times seeing this transformation I couldn’t reconcile how at odds these spells seemed with who I know him to be, with how he wants to be. How later on he would say things like, “I understood what you were saying and I wanted to talk to you, I just couldn’t.”

And in a flash I saw it was a defense mechanism. All his life he’s had someone close to him jerking him around mercilessly. Authority figures, girlfriends, an ex-wife who saw arguing as a sign of affection. That steel door slams down as protection from a world that has been almost unbearably cruel to one who feels it all so deeply.

Sidehug

It’s okay, your distracted half-hug makes it all better!

I know not everyone subscribes to personality classifications, but reading about my Meyers-Briggs type has brought me a lot of solace. To think that the way my mind works is a recognized method, rather than something I need to struggle against.

That my habit of trying other people’s perspectives on for size doesn’t necessarily indicate a weakness in my own. That maybe being tuned into other people is a feature, not a bug.

This is helpful to remember when I feel compelled to address something with someone and they agree but don’t do anything about it. Or attack me for poking a soft spot. Or when I’m having a moment of my own and there’s no one to walk me through it.

Or when I do my best to be cool and he shuts down anyway.

I spent years tiptoeing around another man’s feelings, a man who I’m pretty sure had undiagnosed mental health issues and whose mood I could not help. By comparison, my husband appreciates me almost more than I can take.

But in those few moments when he’s flawed and hurt in his own right, his icy moodiness rubs me just exactly the wrong way.

So my immediate reaction is righteous indignation. Followed quickly by epic despair as my parental-induced terror of emotional abandonment kicks in. At this point, it’s just embarrassing how quickly I spin out. I run and hide if I can. Usually, there’s not much to do but ride it out.

And sometimes, a flash of inspiration sparks between the clouds.

“I don’t want to be hurt like this. Isn’t there a way to avoid this?” I had to admit that only if he did some serious work, and I can’t make him do that.

Ship Gun

I saw something in the water, really!

“So should I keep my distance?” The idea of pushing him away is very painful. And anyway, aren’t I supposed to accept him for who he is? Isn’t that how this is supposed to work?

“So, I just have to accept that this is going to happen sometimes??” Well yeah, relationships hurt sometimes. Welcome to the world.

Oh shit, I am wallowing in nothing.

I’m pretty convinced this man honestly loves me. That’s impressive because I don’t really believe most people even genuinely like me. Sometimes I get some weird mixed signals from him but, when I can glimpse beyond my own insecurities, I’m noticing a pattern. He has some indirect communication habits that sometimes border on misdirection.

Habits developed from decades of dealing with, living with and relying on people who were just as likely to screw him over.

I’m not the only bright spot, but we are outnumbered by the shitheads. The best thing for me to do is to use my insight to control what I can (myself) and maintain my balance better in these moments.

But sometimes it’s extremely hard. My mother isn’t talking to me at all anymore. I’m pushing against a boulder of rage and regret that’s going to take a while to break down. Hubs is having a hard time lately too, but it’s sinking in just how unfair it might be for me to expect others to think like I do.

And sometimes even good people are hurt and lash out. Or shut down. People are mercurial and it’s not my fault. Sometimes, relationships hurt. And that’s okay.

Adulting: Fighting The Don’t Wanna

They say having kids around keeps you young. Conversely, I actually find that having kids makes me feel older, but usually in a good way.

Growing Up Is Hard To Do

Ribbon Stillettos

Forget dress codes, I can’t face the world without my ribbon stilettos!

Into my 20s I was still waiting for the day I would grow into my life like a new pair of shoes. Extended adolescence is a thing, and everyone I knew seemed afflicted. My generation was going in many directions and none of them were toward stability.

Then I unexpectedly became a parent. Conscience demanded that I drag my hungover ass to the park every day, make real dinner and read baby books over and over. Sometimes Fake It Till You Make It is your only option.

Before I knew it the sense of responsibility began to bud into little sprouts of authority. Shared looks with other parents in the store. I found myself telling my own mother what to do, my child’s routine and preferences.

My life has been full of dead ends where I found myself backtracking. Development of myself as an authority has been fitful. I spent my 20s either in school or living with family while I raised my son. The world outside can get to looking very big and complicated.

Then, once again, conscience demanded action. I found myself with two young teen girls who desperately needed a mother. Of course, they didn’t want me. As a child of divorce, I understood. I dug my heels in and worked hard to establish myself in the situation.

Parenting Teenagers: OMG We’re Surrounded!

It’s not something you can tell them, plans and promises are empty for children of liars. It’s something that you have to just do, again and again. You have to play the long game. You have to say no, and you better have good reasons because they can smell inconsistency like blood in the water.

They’re used to loose boundaries full of loopholes. They threatened mutiny when I instituted a bedtime on weekends. They bend and slant situations for their own benefit. Explanations for their mistakes always begin with someone else’s name.

George Elgar Hicks The Happy Mother 1886 E1545071745935

Building neurons of positivity!

And sometimes it’s overwhelming. Sometimes you have to hide in your room and cry, you feel so small and lame. How are you ever going to make a difference for them if you can’t even keep yourself together?

Then you remind yourself of the time scale. You remind yourself that you’re what they’ve got. They’re counting on you whether they know it or not. You wipe your face, crack a bottle of wine and dive in again.

And slowly they begin to relax. Standing firm against their pushback gives them something to lean on. They call you during their little emergencies, yell at you when you don’t give them what they want, tell you they love you and hang up.

Later she apologized on her own. “And you were right, of course.”

Wait, When Did I Become The Adult?

At some point I got to be in my mid-30s. I wear a lot of below-the-knee skirts and flats. My eyes are tired and my hair is lightening around the edges. Perfume bottles stand like party guests on top of my dresser. I’m that lady.

Hilda Nostalgia

We grow up so fast!

I roll my eyes at a lot because I remember it from 20 years ago.

I’m not afraid of 40. I don’t feel insecure that I don’t get K-Pop or how exactly “joggers” are not sweat pants. Because I have more important things to worry about.

When my first son was little, wrenching myself out of bed every day was something I did because I knew it was the right thing. I wish every situation in life was so clear-cut! I did it because I wanted him to have memories of his mom playing with him, not avoiding him.

My own parents played this fun game where they managed to avoid you without actually going anywhere.

I figured at least I could give the kid the impression someone cared.

Because I always did. But now with my second son it’s different. I rise with the question, “What are we doing today?” Every day is another refinement of a system that constantly evolves.

Some time in the last decade I became an Adult. I have begun to encounter the amazing effect of assumed authority. When I walk into a school, I let my attire and body language do a lot of the talking. I don’t have to justify my presence to anyone which is a weird, new thing for me.

The Don’t Wanna!

And at the age of 35 I think I’ve finally gotten over the hump of the Don’t Wanna!

Kids especially beat their heads against the wall of Fate, cursing existence for putting them in a position to do something against their will. The toddler screaming because he doesn’t want to sleep is like the teenager who won’t wear a coat. The sense of personal impulse is most important.

Phone In Bed 1

She threw up? Okay, I’ll bring clothes. See you in a few!

I think a lot of people never really get past this. Paying your bills is hard if you have to convince yourself that you want to every month. Dishes pile up fast and tend to stay there when energy is spent struggling with the Don’t Wanna instead of just getting things done.

Because they need doing. So we can have clean dishes. It’s amazing how well you end up thinking things through when the kid won’t stop asking questions.

Because not every situation gets a grand explanation. Because a lot of life is tedious. It can’t all be important. And all those high-minded notions are probably just a work-around for the Don’t Wanna.

As I get older, my sense of identity is less dependent on the moment. I can change my presentation entirely for a new job in an unfamiliar environment and not hear the little voice say, “Is this what I am now?”

And when I do express myself it’s easy because I have carefully curated my collection of stuff. Trial and error have taught me what works, what I like. The Self can’t be found, it must be created.

Basically, so much thought that becomes second nature around puberty is melting off like baby fat off a relay runner.

Situations that would have freaked me out in the past are handled with customary frenetic focus. Only later do I sometimes look back in amazement at how I have become.

Seems like being a step-mom is finally grinding down the last of my Don’t Wanna, and I’m happy to see it go. The constant questioning of youth is answered by the honed execution of middle age. I’m existing in the brief moment when I have learned enough to get by and still have the energy to do something with it.

“You don’t know how badly I want to skip school tomorrow.”

As I watch my kids step through the stages unaware they aren’t the first, I enjoy the space between us. My extra perspective is a steadying force, insulating me from the crashing waves of sensation that can be so all-consuming.

Life is sometimes boring and disgusting. If you want one, you have to accept this.

Mad Woman

For reasons lost to the meanderings of my mind, it recently dawned on me that my anxiety isn’t really anxiety at all.

I am filled with submerged rage. I didn’t ask to be born to a bunch of emotional idiots. I struggle daily with the effects of their bullshit. To some degree, I’m still angry for every pointlessly mean thing, for every clueless utterance.

Hammer

The difference between a tool and weapon is how you use it!

Because I never found a way to express my anger. I have been afraid of it, afraid of losing control of it. I don’t want to hurt myself or anyone else.

So I tamp it down. I keep it contained as best I can but it rattles its cage and howls at night. It vibrates my nerves and keeps me agitated.

When you can’t fight and you can’t flee, and the danger is also what you rely on, emotional static builds up and sparks fly.

My anger is so big I can’t even really see it, it’s impossible to consider it all at once. Most of my negative experiences have become lessons or just forgotten. But my family dysfunction is so stupid and pernicious, my thoughts unconsciously shaped by it, and all because a couple of jerks couldn’t hold a relationship together.

I’m angry over the wasted potential – to be told I was “gifted” at eight, then moved around every year for six years and allowed to totally fall through the cracks. I literally was never taught to multiply. I was expected to understand long division without ever seeing a times table.

So now I have a shitty education and a shitty job, I’m just trying not to pass the shitty behavior on to my own children.

I have been using the manifest anxiety as a sort of buffer for the world. It’s a goddam defense mechanism just like so many others in my gene pool. Fortunately, I seem to be pretty smart. It’s basically fake, and now I’m furious with myself for perpetrating such cowardly garbage.

For a moment. Then my vision comes into focus and I raise my head with a steady gaze. I mostly even had myself convinced and, as horrible as it is to see this, I know shining a light on it is the only way to eradicate it. It’s a habit of thought, and I have to remind myself over and over but it’s kind of amazing. If you can’t be honest with yourself, what do you have?

Bus Stop

Eventually, the pebble in your shoe becomes a boulder!

I am angry and I have reason to be. I’m done abdicating my feelings and driving myself half crazy. I’m ready to take ownership of my energy.

Not meaning that I want to, that I’m trying to turn over a new leaf. It’s something that I can’t unsee. And as I let myself feel my anger, accept that the anxiety is a dodge, the relief is intense.

I am a whole person, free from searching for validation. My mind buzzes with ideas but I feel less distracted.

Sometimes anger is exactly the right way to feel.

But I am afraid. What I’m afraid of is myself. 

When a feeling is so intense that it forces its way to the surface no matter what you do, there is a sense you don’t have control over yourself. If your emotions rule you, you lose your free will. But in avoiding dealing with it, that is exactly what has happened. It manifests as freak-outs and crying jags.

When I’m angry I don’t know how to express it so I just become upset. (Perversely, when I’m sad I will become angry as a defense mechanism. But that’s a different post. Emotional growth, yay!)

Lately I have started isolating myself and letting myself be angry. It works! I recover faster and figure out what is really going on and what to do about it. A lot of times, there’s nothing to do. But it feels amazing to step outside the loop I have been stuck in for 30 years. 

And I look forward to bringing it to bear on bigger things. Anger is a powerful motivator and there are many corners of the world that could benefit from the intervention of a mad woman.

Thanksgiving in Hot Water

Today our water heater died.

The day before Thanksgiving. The day before you’re supposed to scrub up and cook. Wash potatoes for mashing and celery for stuffing.

Wringer1

I do know what I’m doing, I promise!

The day family you haven’t seen in a year comes to visit, and maybe you want a shower first.

Today was an excellent example of why, sometimes, I don’t get anything done.

This house has many issues, most of which don’t impede the average day’s living. Old linoleum is still good for walking on. The broken lid of the washing machine still latches. The toilet only leaks sometimes. But lacking hot water crosses into the realm of real poverty.

I was tweaking my resume to apply for a really cool position when Hubs turned off the power (and thus, the WiFi. The kids freaked out!) to examine the heating elements.

After some research, the only scenario that fit our situation was described as the death phase. The inner tank had rusted through and repair was not an option.

I have $1.57 in the bank, and that’s after canceling some things and getting overdrafts refunded. Your average water heater is about $400.

So I went to the cell network and applied for an emergency grant. We are struggling but it’s not because we don’t know how to work. We are trying to give our kids some kind of normal life while we dig ourselves out from under a decade of poor choices that seemed like good ideas at the time.

We are exactly the kind of people charity is meant for. Right?

Riffing on my idea, Hubs texted the pastor of our church asking if he knew of any charities we might talk to.

“Yes. I can give you what you need from the parish discretionary fund.”

Chocolates

How did you know?

We were blown away. We have only been attending this church since May. This man whose conviction I respect but whose faith I don’t share was willing to step up and give us our sense of normalcy back.

I guess I’ll definitely be going on Sunday.

Our friend Caleb and Hubs emptied and detached the broken unit. The church financial officer met them at Lowe’s and paid for a 50 gallon tank to replace our 40 gallon one.

While at the store, they ran into an old coworker of mine who now heads a department there. He said I should call, and I did. We talked about me getting in an application (again) and he would put in a good word for me. Even if it comes to nothing, it’s really nice to be remembered. To be considered someone worth sparing a thought for.

I was making dinner, the only adult left not fighting with plumbing. Two men and the homeowner, I was just extra hands. While the chicken and potatoes baked I started a new Lowe’s application.

The guys had to go back to the store once for a different size connector. From two and a half years working at Lowe’s’ only major competitor, I know they actually did pretty well. I was interrupted again when they got back. Then I served dinner. Then I tried to get the toddler to eat. I tangled with the 7th grader over helping finish clean up before relatives arrived. She didn’t want to do it.

“Yeah, well I don’t really want to cook but people gotta eat.”

She was not impressed.

High Puppy

You are so weird, but adorable!

Around 8:00 when my sister in law arrived with her two kids, the men were still in the cellar. I was tasked with watching the bathroom faucet until the water ran normally. This I did while using the toilet and keeping the toddler out of the trash can.

By this time he was very cranky. He got to stay up an hour past his bedtime.

Sis in law Misty is a hardworking nurse and took her mother and me to the store for holiday goodies. Somehow we were out until just after 10, and Caleb had gone home by the time we got back.

We unpacked the popcorn and paper plates, beer and wine. Hubs asked if “anyone would mind” if he took a shower.

You sweet thing. “You spent all day in the basement. I’d be surprised if you didn’t.”

“Yeah,” Misty agreed. “I’d be upset too!”

That man spent all day working on the hot water problem. I would say he earned the first hot shower.

It’s funny how they seem to feel entitled to so much – leisure time, women’s bodies – but sometimes don’t see the sensible reward of their work. My man is a fascinating amalgam of contradictions that I will probably spend the rest of my life marveling at and shaking my head.

We poured some drinks and sat down to watch a movie, like this was just another day. Hubs was obviously exhausted but insisted he wanted to stay up after the movie to listen to the conversation. 

Now he’s snoring in our bed. Mother in law is sleeping on the couch while Misty and her twins use her bed. Just one more example of generosity that goes above and beyond. The kind that I long assumed existed only in stories. My mother is hard-pressed to share her orange juice.

Ironing

Will you love me if I iron out all these kinks?

I awoke this morning after Hubs got up to use the bathroom. Waking up to an empty bed always makes me sad. It taps some deep sense of loneliness that is buried when I am fully awake.

And lately I just feel like such a fuck-up. This Summer I came face to face with the gritty reality that neither of my parents cares much about me. No one in my family has made an effort to get to know my life as it is now. To keep up with where I’m at.

I feel like an emotional orphan, and sometimes I can’t fight off the sense that no one cares. I remember how many times I have seen people rationalize themselves out of perfectly good relationships because they aren’t getting what they want at the moment. If a situation isn’t fulfilling you, move on. Follow your bliss.

But real life isn’t always blissful. It can’t be. The most we can realistically hope for is a life where we sometimes get to relax. Where those close to us assume we are doing our best instead of nitpicking our mistakes.

Monday Hubs went to get toilet paper and came home with $40 of groceries and no toilet paper. I guess the rational response would have been frustration but my first thought was, That’s my man! “We really are soulmates, huh?”

Yesterday I called the temp agency again. The girl told me they are looking for clerical workers with recent experience, and my last office job was in 2005. Or they have 12-hour industrial shifts available.

I have resorted to applying for fast food crews. I need something for a few months until I actually make some money substitute teaching. Even if I can get all the available hours in December, I won’t see that money till January 20th.

I started out the day sad, dragged back to the feeling that everyone is temporary. No one really cares. The bitter frustration fell in uncontrollable tears and Hubs wrapped his arms around me.

“I have been where you are. I understand. It’s gonna be okay.”Lovers

It’s embarrassing that I still struggle sometimes to believe him when he says nice things. Not because I think he’s lying or doesn’t have the best intentions.

Because I watched my mother promise to stand by someone forever and then abandon them when things got hard. Three times. Because my father chews through people like gnawing on a turkey leg. Because I have had two long relationships of my own that began with someone telling me they loved me and ended with me crying alone in the dark.

And yet I still put myself out there. What choice is there? The only alternative is to give up and accept that a real sense of connection, of loyalty, is a fairy tale. But I flatter myself that I feel love in my heart, a sense of connection that doesn’t taper off because someone isn’t exactly what they seemed. That’s like putting a dog down because it barks after you take it home.

I can’t be the only one who cares.

000telephone

Hello, faith in Humanity?

Today I was shown generosity by four people who had no obligation to do so. Today I saw generosity that had nothing to do with me but that I have to admire.

Sometimes I don’t feel like I have a lot to be grateful for. The curse of emotional abuse is it wires your brain for a sad world. You simply don’t see the love you need so desperately. It just doesn’t compute.

But I am grateful to have been adopted by these people who drive 9 hours to spend 3 days together. Who give their child their bed. Who can listen to the paranoid ravings of a sad fuck-up and accept it when she admits he did nothing wrong but she can’t quite shake the fear. The fear that takes little things and condenses them into damnation like a rookie prosecutor.

Xmas music has been playing in the stores since Halloween. Thanksgiving has essentially become Xmas: The Dress Rehearsal. But tomorrow, when we are gathered around the feast we have cobbled together, I will push the pain of the last eight months out of my mind.

I am happy that at least I am celebrating with different people. Hopeful that maybe I have found some others who really care.

And when the time comes to clean up, I will be grateful for the hot water and the friends without whom it would not be.