Friday, September 30, 2016

Back to School Night


  Image credit here
 
Well, we did it!  DD2’s back to school night was this past week, and I was gearing up to go it alone, be the perfect professional divorced mom and put up a brave, positive, upbeat front.  I did do all of that, but hubby ended up coming in support of DD2 and for me as well.

Hubby and the ex shook hands, we ended up sitting all together, the girls were happy, DD2 spent time in dad’s lap and in mom’s lap and even cuddled with hubby for a bit, and I enjoyed that everyone was on their best behavior for the girls.  Two steps forward.  Yes!

So three things that I observed:

1) When DD2 asked who was going to Back-to-School night, and when I said we all were, she immediately whispered in my ear that she was worried she was going to get in trouble, “because daddy says he’s her only real daddy.”  And I whispered back, yes that’s true, daddy is her real daddy, but she won’t get in trouble, because back to school night is for everyone in the family.  And p.s. A is her step-daddy, so that makes him a parent, too.  She nodded thoughtfully.  And based on the evening, and her gleeful running around proudly showing us her classroom, her friends, and her artwork—hopefully she feels okay and hopefully she *won’t* get in trouble.

2) Hubby was gracious, was the first to shake Exie’s hand (so he couldn’t really refuse), hubby participated in conversations with the teachers but made it a point not to leave Exie out, was inclusive, and also maintained appropriate boundaries i.e. when DD2 decided she was tired of sitting around listening and wanted to climb and play, hubby told her no, you have to sit with daddy or mommy.  (Awww…swoon.  Seriously, swoon.)

3) Before bed that night, maybe it had to do with the three of us being out together, maybe the contrast of our house vs dad’s house, who knows, really—DD1 had another moment where she said she didn’t want to grow up, because she didn’t want to be like Uncle F.  (Uncle F is my ex’s brother, the one person in that family who stuck up for the girls in the face of my ex’s anger outbursts, who also tried to come between my ex and their mother when ex would take out his aggression on their mom, too.  The one person who went on record that my ex has an anger problem and that he feared for the kids’ safety.  They all live in the same house now, and when the kids go to visit, DD1 has told me on numerous occasions that they’re not allowed to talk to Uncle F.)

And when I asked what do you mean you don’t want to be like Uncle F? DD1 responded that she wasn’t allowed to talk to him, because remember he fought with daddy about her and DD2 when they were little, and I responded—you know…adults make their own decisions, and the one thing you need to know is that their fighting is not your fault.  And…it’s hard to understand why adults make their decisions, but one day, when you’re a grown up, maybe you can talk to Uncle F, then.  And she just cuddled up to me some more.

***

Last thought of the day—I know I can be perfect professional divorced mom for my girls’ sake when we have to do public events like this, or whenever the topic of dad comes up at our house.  I’ve been doing it for five years.  Some days way better than others, but I’ll give myself a B+ for the early years, and an A- for the last year or so.  I’ve made it my mission to be neutral and upbeat and positive for the girls about their dad and fiercely protect the lines of communication—so they can express their feelings without feeling judged.  I hope I’m doing that, I hope my fear from the past doesn’t color my interactions with them or if so, in the most undetectable ways possible.

Because, there’s still that part of me that freezes up, the PTSD part of me that is triggered, just knowing I have to see him.  It’s what’s taking the healing process so long; I constantly have to deal with communicating/addressing issues/cranky emails that border on obsessively critical, or let’s just say it—accusatory nasty words.  In observations of when the girls struggle with something he says or does.  UGH.  It triggers all of the pain and fear, even though in my HEAD I know he can’t hurt me anymore.  Even though I’m doing my best to support my girls to honor and trust their own feelings and voices.

Sometimes this comes up with a specific event, i.e. back to school night, or now, Parent-Teacher conference time, which I dread a little bit every year, because I have to ask for a separate conference.  And I worry what the teachers will think of me when I ask, or am terrified they’ll refuse.  One year, I had to send in a copy of the TRO and then they were super understanding, but not until I had to go into specifics.

So it was comforting to have Hubby with us—not only for the girls’ sake to see all the adults in their lives behaving and getting along, but also a soothe to my soul, too, that I wouldn’t have to do this alone.  Does that make me weak?  I don’t know, maybe it does, but I like to think of it as giving me a break from the pressure of being the granite rock of a highroad tightrope walker.  That’s what it feels like when managing my EXIETY—for lack of a better word, lol—walking a tightrope but feeling like I have granite for legs.

I know I can do it alone, I have done it before, public spaces are okay.  It’s the small, private spaces that are scarier for me.  The truth of the matter is—I’m not comfortable being in a small space with my ex.  The thought makes my stomach freeze up.

I’m so happy to report that DD2’s teacher did say I could have a separate PTC this year, and so did DD1’s, both of their PTC times will be coming up in November.

So…all is well on that end, and I think that little kernel of anxiety that’s still beating in my rib cage will be put to rest once my conference times are confirmed.

Arggh, lol.  Where’s my anti_Exiety medication again?  I guess writing it down is a form of medication, and looking forward to a fun week end with the girls is also an antidote.  Happy Friday!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Happy List

Image credit (here)

Awk!  Where has the time gone, I didn’t realize I hadn’t posted last week!

I’m happy to report that all is well on the Exie front.  I cringe a little bit when I write that, because I worry I’m inviting drama by acknowledging that there currently isn’t any—that’s my superstitious nature or my anxiety, arggh!

And while I know I can’t control my feelings, I can control my behavior.  So while I sit here and manage the anxiety, I’m also going to focus and write about happy things going on these days.  Change the scenery, so to speak.

1)     Squirrel is doing well at school.
2)     Ladybug is doing well at school, settling into her new routine.
3)     Hubby is embracing working out and being on a diet—his goal is to lose 30 lbs, and I’m so impressed at his dedication!  I’ve been worried about his health over the last two years, and I’m so happy he’s taking it seriously.
4)     My anxiety is only waking me up once in the night (instead of multiple times).
5)     I celebrated a dear friend’s 40th birthday, by surfing, drinking prosecco by the hotel swimming pool, and then swimming in said hotel pool. I mean really, what can be better than that?
6)     I’ve made some new acquaintances; we meet weekly to work on yarn/sewing projects over the lunch hour.
7)     I finished knitting a pair of socks for my mom, putting in the mail today!
8)     Embarking on new work projects that I think will help the community—this one is a bit amorphous and anxiety inducing, but oh well, keep on keeping on.
9)     Will be traveling to a dear friend’s wedding in November, and having a reunion with her and two sweetheart college friends for a girls week end!
10)  Exie agreed to keep the girls for the one extra night due to this traveling, and bonus, offered a swap since he will also be traveling, and I’ll have an extra holiday day with the girls. Yay!!
11)  I’ve been able to have some lunches with girlfriends that I don’t get to see very often these days—it’s really special to be able to catch up and spend some time together.

You know what, I think I’ll stop while I’m ahead on the happy list.

But I’ll end this post with one more thought, a light, I hope to help shine out some of my darker thoughts, inspired by the great Lisa Thomson’s post our lives as books—when I was little, I loved to read, and I loved the magical adventure novels like The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, or A Wrinkle in Time, etc.  And I thought maybe I’d grow up and have an adventure, maybe overcome some evil, maybe save the world!

And now?  Instead of that lofty goal of overcoming evil, lol, I hope that somehow, I’m able to help the people around me, my family, my friends, the people I work with.  I hope that I can teach my daughters how to be kind, how to be loving, how to be forgiving, how to be strong.  I hope that I can be kind and loving in all that I do, which is a tall order considering the $!@#$ that exists in the world.  But given that !@#$, I don’t want to sink into cynicism, I don’t want anxiety to rule my behavior and choices.  I hope I can be a light—for myself and my kids.



Thursday, September 8, 2016

An adventure to see lava




Last week end, we had the opportunity to whisk the girls away for an adventure to see live lava flowing into the ocean.

Per usual, my antiExiety kicked in—after notifying the ex about our trip, he told me I was endangering the children by traveling during storm watches and questioning my judgment.  I decided to take the high road and thanked him for his concerns, and responded that we were monitoring the weather closely and that I would update him on any changes to the itinerary.  (p.s. the travel arrangements had been made well ahead of any prediction of storms coming into the area…)

However, we completely lucked out on the weather!  Our flight out to the Big Island took off in the late afternoon, after the first hurricane Madeline had cleared the islands, and we were expecting the second storm, Lester, to pass over while we were there.  But then Lester decided to take a turn for the north, and all watches and warnings were cancelled, hurray!

Which led to fun hikes across lava rocks, a helicopter ride to see the lava flowing into the ocean, and lots of pool time, where the girls and I floated, holding hands like otters.  Heart full!


There is part of me that feels guilty, that I don’t feel I deserve all this goodness of late.  I think it’s my amped up anxiety and PTSD, which has for some reason informed my life that every time something good happens, then something negative or terrible has to follow.  I’m working on that—a continual healing work in progress.

That said, I was so happy I was able to table a lot of my anxiety and just be in the moment—holding hands with my daughters, relaxing by the pool or chasing them down waterslides, marveling at the night sky on the drive back after seeing the lava, showing them the milky way and shooting stars and constellations that shone brighter than they’ve ever seen, because we were in the middle of an island with no light pollution.

And even when the girls got grumpy due to over-excitement and staying up late, I still managed to comfort them with hugs and love and laughter.

Blended families are so complicated, sometimes—how I wish it could be easier.  At the moment, I think I’ll just relax into the vision of DD1 making eggs for the hubs, and DD2 snuggling up next to me in the wee morning hours, so excited to be on vacation that she was the first to wake up.

It’s hard to believe that just a week ago we were getting ready to get on a plane, and now we’re back again.  I hope these memories will stick with the girls, their games when they were playing in the pool, DD1 patiently giving horsey rides to DD2 when she couldn’t touch, both giggling and laughing and splashing and jumping in and out of the water.  Oohing and aahing at the fingers of lava falling into the ocean, DD2 telling me that the trees looked like broccoli as we flow over the forests.  Or DD1 and DD2 getting thrown into splashing fits of laughter by the hubs as we swam.


Please god, let me be at peace.  Please god, let my girls also be at peace, too.  Help us learn to accept good things in our lives without worry and stress.  I am thankful.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Anti-EXiety

I wish I could create a special pill that would treat anxiety related to communicating with a nitpicking, control freak, looking for-anything-to-complain-about ex. I'd call it "antiEXiety" medication. It would soothe short-term stress, allow the user to remain calm, logical, and civil in the face of the nastiness (instead of gritting your teeth and faking it until you make it), and ensuring blood pressure remains at healthy levels. Dare to dream! :)

Friday, August 26, 2016

Holiday and healing

Image credit (here)

Last week end was a week end that soothed the soul, plus it was a holiday so we had extra time together.  Hubby was off work for all three days, too, so we played tourist and took the girls snorkeling, and DD2 saw her very first fish underwater!  She was so excited!  We also toured a ranch where we got to feed horses and a donkey and even a giant tortoise, and then we made it home for a home cooked grilled meal, courtesy of the Hubby grill master. 

While the girls had their usual activities on Saturday, we divided and conquered so that each sister could do what needed to be done, then met back up for a yummy lunch at Chuck E Cheese, since why not, the girls begged us to take them and we caved!  Ha ha ha.  Then Sunday morning I woke up, threw a pot roast into the crock pot and then we went to Sunday school and church, and I took the girls for a girls lunch and then we met up again with the Hubs to see a matinee…it was seriously like a vacation where when I finally got to Monday morning, I was thinking how now I need a vacation from our vacation, lol.

In the midst of all the activity, I remembered to hold onto the moments, the giggles coming from the girls in the backseat, the oohing and aahing at the fishies in the sea, DD1 leaning on me on the couch when we caught up on some Olympics, DD2 snuggling up to our doggie G, slurping down a special ice cream frosty treat in the late afternoon sunshine, helping DD2 count her tickets at the machine in Chuck E Cheese, just silly, fun, normal little things.

The girls are going to their dad’s today for the week end, and that’s okay.  They are doing fine.  They’re both back in school, they know their family loves them.  And the Exie has been pretty quiet of late, so for that I’m thankful.

Last night, though, DD1 was teary eyed at bed time—suddenly, she was worried about being late to school the next day.  She’s never worried about things like that, so in my spidey sense, I asked her if it was hard going back and forth between two houses and she nodded her head and leaned on my shoulder.  I told her I was really sorry about the two houses situation, and one day, when she was older, she might understand better.  That even though there are two houses, I love dad and his family, too, because our hearts are big enough for everyone in our family, and that the most important part to know is that SHE is loved by everyone.  She snuggled in closer and seemed to be comforted. 

I honestly don’t know why I said that.  I’ve been thinking about that for a while; there’s so much acrimony between their father and me, and there’s a reason for it, he terrified us, and to do this day, has never taken responsibility for his actions, and continues to manipulate and be a general control freak.  The divorce has curtailed a lot of his behavior, but not all, although I see it as a downgrade from being a terror to an annoying pain in the rear.

I know that I did once love him, enough to hold onto our family at all costs, no matter what, but in the end, that love wasn’t enough.  The pain and anger and terror were too much.  But I remember the love, and I remember that is what I wanted for my daughters—unconditional love.  So maybe that’s why I said that.  If she know that I was able to have love for her father and his family, maybe that would help heal her, and help her not feel so divided.


What I love the most now—is providing a caring, loving household with my daughters and my hubby.  Hopefully showing my daughters what it means to be respected and loved without a cost and a price.  Hopefully showing them that it’s okay if things don’t work out the way you envisioned them to be, that there is a life worth living and building and loving and hoping for.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Shark Cage Dive soothes anxiety, ha!


While I've been struggling with anxiety and worry lately, I'm also happy to report that I spent some time "outside of the anxiety spiral" this week end.  Hubby and I went to the north shore and did a spontaneous cage-shark dive!  It was exciting to say the least.  I actually got a little queasy from the ocean waves (not pictured here, this is the calm bay around the corner from the harbor).  Once the boat got a mile out, it was pretty rough.  

Interesting story:  so the ocean drops off to 400 miles deep a few miles from here; and over the last century, the crab fishermen have left traps along the way.  They collect the traps and only keep the legal sized ones, and throw the rest back to the sea.  Well...the sharks have figured out that the noise of the boats means that people are sprinkling goodies back into the ocean, so now when they hear motors, they come circling.  Which means, while we aren't crab fisherman, the boat attracts the galapagos sharks and they swim and circle the boat while we're in the cage.  It was really cool! 

Although I almost barfed on the way back to shore, and then I fell asleep on the way home, ha ha ha.  Suffice it to say that it was good to get back to land.

I'm still tugging of warring with my anxiety, but I'm trying to hang on and enjoy the ride.  The girls were with their dad this week end, and I can't wait to see them today! This week end is a holiday week end, and hubby is off all three days, so we're looking forward to spending some QT together, yay!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Reflecting on Anxiety








Image credit (here)


Today at Survive, Live, Thrive, I’m in “survive” mode.

The anxiety and stress of dealing with the Ex has come back, delivered with five lovely emails to my inbox on Friday afternoon, a great way to start my week end with the girls.  I actually tabled them for now, because I didn’t want the nitpicking to ruin my quality time with them.

And I’m angry at myself that given that effort, I let his thoughts and opinions run as a constant background buzz from Friday to Monday—worrying how to respond, corresponding with the coparenting counselor by email on general advice on how to handle it, just generally, a PITA frustration.

At the same time, I enjoyed DD1’s end of summer tennis blitz—she was in the lead of one of her singles matches, ended up in a tie.  Overall their team lost, but they were all just so happy to be playing, and everyone enjoyed a potluck afterwards despite the sweltering sun and misty rain, it was fun being part of the event.  I even texted a team group picture to the Ex, rising above the crap. 

DD1 and DD2 and I enjoyed a girls day yesterday—filled with Sunday school, church, a girls lunch, a library outing, and then I cooked a yummy dinner and we all sat down to watch some of the Olympics before bed.  Lots of cuddles and hug time with the girls.  (Hubby was working on the week end, unfortunately)

So why can’t I shake the depression?  Part of it was that hubby and I got in an argument last week—he has a tendency to lash out verbally, and he knows it, takes the words back and improves his behavior, but when we’re “in the moment,” it takes its toll, on top of the other usual stressors of work, parenting, deadlines, schedules.  Having conflict with hubby triggers my anxiety, too, because I feel like I’m burning at both ends of the wick.  The good thing about hubby though, is that over the years we’ve gotten stronger and a better handle on how to deal with arguing, and he reaches out and “comes to his senses” in measurable, action-oriented ways.  I know I sound like Ms. Logic when describing this, but I’ve approached my relationship with Hubby much differently in relationships past, to be sure I can keep on the straight and narrow path.  And that can be tiring, as well as comforting, too.

The anxiety is seeping into other areas of my life, worrying what people think about me at work, overthinking, over-worrying about friends’ and colleagues’ opinions.  I never used to worry about this too much; especially with therapy.  Underneath I used to have this unwavering belief that as long as I was putting out “good” into the world, good would come back, or…if it didn’t, then it was okay, my job was to brush it off and keep marching along.  A blend of Buddhist/zen thinking coupled with my Christian upbringing of forgiveness and the golden rule of do unto others. 

Yet here I am, worrying about if I’m even supposed to be living in our beautiful city, in our beautiful state.  Maybe all the weird conflict swirling around lately is “a sign” somehow that I should be somewhere else, doing something else.  Worrying that maybe, just maybe, I don’t belong anywhere, anyway.  It’s like an out-of-body experience, I think we called it disassociating when I first encountered this in my teen years.  I feel like a disembodied entity, floating along sometimes, meeting all the deadlines and requirements of what a human being needs to do – work for a living, caring for my children, providing the survival minimum, but barely hanging on. 

Why do I feel like I’m grieving?

I miss and love my family who we visited, and at the same time am relieved that I’m thousands of miles away from the drama.  This doesn’t come without complications-- my mom has a medical condition that has evolved over the years, and now she’s in a wheelchair 24/7.  She does the best that she can and is in a “good” place considering—she has numerous friends and attends church and reads and puzzles, but it’s not the same as how she used to live.

My brother is someone who plays the distance card physically and emotionally, and I understand he likely needs it this way, perhaps for his own survival, i.e. not even showing up to say goodbye at our lunch that we had with our mom, his wife, and his two sons—my loving, hilarious nephews growing up so fast!  I know how that train rolls, so shouldn’t have been surprised, but it stings all the same.  Luckily, my two girls were so distracted by hanging with their grandma, aunty and cousins that I don’t think it registered.  And at least we had dinner all together the night before, and at least the girls were able to ride the horses with their aunty that morning before we left…but my mom noticed his absence on that day, and while she’s also used to it, I could tell she was hurting.

My father died when I was 16—my parents had divorced when I was 3, but his younger brother, my uncle, was always kind to me and my brother.  When the girls and I trek to visit, he and my aunt make a point to see us, and since my mom threw a birthday party for DD1, they made the hour and a half drive to attend.  It was so nice seeing them, and yet with all the people there, I didn’t have much time to socialize with them, but I did get a chance to talk at least to my Uncle a little bit, and we took a cute picture with the girls.  They didn’t want me to mention my cousin’s wedding in front of my mom, so I didn’t, but now that I think about it, it’s just a remnant of more family complications. 

After DD1’s party ended, the girls and I went back to the hotel pool and went for a swim with my college roommate’s parents and later had dinner with them (my mom was pooped and sat dinner out, which she was totally fine with).  I love M and B, they are like my own family!  I’ve known them for over 20 years, and they embrace my girls like we’re part of their family, too.  And…I wondered, M and B drove 10 hours to see us; is there something so wrong with us, that my own brother who lives 20 minutes away from my mom didn’t attend DD1’s little bday bash?  That my uncle and aunty couldn’t wait to get out of there to drive back home?  Or was it something I said that made them want to leave so quickly?  This does not take away the fact that my roommate’s parents are sweethearts who I adore, and our time together was full of laughter and hugs and love and splashes galore. And I know I should be thankful that the people who showed up, showed up.  I am, most definitely.  My mom’s friends are a hoot and so loving and kind.

And I love hubby’s family, they have been nothing but open armed and welcoming to me and DD1 and DD2, but they are hubby’s family, and while I shouldn’t be so negative, I know if something blew up in our lives, they wouldn’t be my family any longer, either.

Erg.  I need to figure out how to crawl out of this depressive hole.  Writing it down helps.  All families have complications. 

Somewhere, deep down inside me, there’s a hole in my heart that struggles so much with just saying goodbye.  To be close to people and then leave again.  I’ve connected with others who have been adopted, that it’s linked to the original loss, being left in the parking lot to be found in a foreign country as an infant, not understanding the separation from my birth mom.  A terror and fear and sadness and grief, from a time when I have no memory or language.

I think maybe, all these family complications swirl together and the coparenting stress is another prong to the grieving/depression wheel.  And then saying goodbye or when I’m part of a loss (temporary or permanent) nowadays, it amplifies the grief from so long ago.  I understand it a little better, but it still makes me sad.

So this is where I’m at these days, managing my anxiety linked to grief, and trying to figure out how to make the best of things.

I wonder if there are others out there who deal with this, too.  And if you are, my heart goes out to you, and my wish for all of us is that we can find a measure of peace and comfort in our hearts, somehow.