Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Two Moments in the Life of a Little Girl Growing up in the World Right Now



I don’t know wtf is going on with media messaging in the world where my third grade daughter is worried that she’s fat.

I’ve tried responses that concentrate on what our bodies can do (can I run? Can I swim? Can i climb the monkey bars? Can i play tennis with my friends? And karate too? Yay! I’m healthy!) and how our doctor says she is perfectly healthy every year at her physical. That honestly our DOCTOR is the person who can tell us if there’s an issue about weight, and no one else. She’ll agree for a few days but then it’s like she doesn’t hear it at all, she comes home saying my belly is fat or my belly is big. That this girl or that girl at school says her belly is fat (as in talking about herself, not my daughter’s; it’s the self loathing talk that’s bumming me out—and i know these girls they are little growing toothpicks).

I’ve tried to normalize that bellies are just bellies and bending over makes our bellies look different, to no avail. I’ve monitored the way I speak about my body around her to make sure I’m not passing along negative body imaging to her. I say I exercise so I can be healthy and live a long life (not that I’m trying to lose weight or trying to be skinny, and that’s fine if those are personal goals out there in the world, just not trying to put those world’s expectations on her). Urggggg.

So in the moment, I resorted to: I can’t stop you from saying negative things about yourself DD2, even though I know the words aren’t true. I need you to say some different words for yourself though. So from now on, any time you say something negative, like my belly is fat, I want you to say something positive, too. Like, I can read chapter books. I can swim all afternoon. She half heartedly repeated these words. And was like
awwww, do I have to?

And I was like: if I catch you saying negative things about yourself without saying something positive, no playing games on the IPAD.

Her (eyes as big at saucers): For how long?

Me: FOREVER.

Her: OKAY MOMMY.
...

FFS

I recalled going through this a little bit with DD1, but not to the constant repeat loop that seems to be with DD2.  And, she still bounces around and plays with her friends, like today she swam for two hours straight in the pool, just venting about the negative body talk that she’s taken on. Is it parroting? Does she really think this? Probably a bit of both.  And IPAD threatening was not my best moment, but I fail all the time so just add it to the tally of shit I do wrong.  Tomorrow is another damn day.

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Day 2: So after a somewhat good night's sleep, I felt a little better about this being a marathon type of conversation/issue and not a here's a few steps to solve the challenge type of situation.  So okay, life, I'll take this challenge, dang it.  One of the silver linings out of the conversations of late is this:  she actually talks to me about it.  she feels safe enough with me to tell me her worries and fears, so I need to be less judgmental about her worries and fears and more supportive of how to be a positive force in her life.  I'll keep up with positive talk and will lesson the IPAD threats, and understand that if we still struggle with messaging as a 20, 30, 40  year olds (my goal is that by 50 i just wont gaf, i'm pretty close to IDGAF, but i've been conditioned by the same media messaging), then of course this is going to seep into an 8 year old's realm, whether i like it or not.  p.s. she brought it up again this morning when i was braiding her hair.  she was hesitant to say the word 'fat,' i think in part because she didn't want me to harsh on feminist theory at 6am?  LOL.  so i said, honey, i realize you have your thoughts and feelings about this, and the world is going to say one thing, and we have to say other things back.  so what would you like to say back?  i can swim?  she said yes.  i can read all the books?  she said yes.  and i said, anything else?  and she said: i can run. 

And…my heart melted.

Lastly, an extra:
Gillette embraced the Be the Best a Man can Be to mean more than brawny, uninformed masculinity, and I actually teared up.  Of course there’s backlash from the trolls and threats to boycott, which means it struck a nerve.  You can see it here.

I know, I know, I teared up at a SHAVING commercial.  But I teared up because this mainstream, commercial (usually money-grubbing and not giving a f!@$) world has embraced the idea of a BETTER way to be.  I imagined how different my experiences would have been if I had grown up in this one, and maybe that’s why I teared up.  A hope that it the world can be better.

Because world, I **need** you to be a better place for my two little girls who are growing up fast.


Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas Eve! (and a Christmas Wish)



What a week end before Christmas!  We are so excited to celebrate the holidays—with our pals and our annual Christmas cookie baking—recipe passed down from my mom and her mom, along with their home made icing recipe.  The Christmas cookies aren’t just any type of Christmas cookies—they have a touch of vanilla and lemon which sets them apart.  We also bake what we call “margerites”—which I pre make before the girls arrive; one of big sis’ BFF looks forward to eating them every year--they’re these bite-sized oatmeal, brown sugar min-muffin goodnesses with chopped pecans.  I have vivid memories of eating them every Christmas with my mom, polishing off almost a complete batch; and now big sis’ BFF does the same.

After we exhaust ourselves rolling out the dough, cutting out the cookies, baking, then icing and sprinkling, I order pizza in and then we all settle down for our annual Christmas movie watching with the lights down and using an LCD projector that spreads the picture on the wall.  Our faves:

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the 1966 cartoon version)
Mickey’s Christmas Carol (also animated, 1983 version)
And the feature pick this year—Home Alone

(I realized that I hadn’t seen Home Alone from start to finish and thought it was pretty funny!  The annual feature rotates—last year it was the Polar Express which was a little weird, and honestly can’t remember the feature picks from years before, lol!)

At any rate, as the girls get older, I’m seeing different age related changes, i.e. big sis and friends politely asked me to put on K-pop instead of playing Christmas carols (ahhh! Tweendom is here!)!  I relented, but only after we compromised that while little sis and her friend were in the room we’d play holiday music, so I could (in their words) imprint Christmas music onto their souls.  Big sis and friends hardly need any supervision—I can just give them some dough and a rolling pin and they’re off and running; I can focus on the littles, helping them roll and cut out and carefully transferring cut outs to the pan without beheading angels or mangling up stars (which I don’t actually mind, but they insisted on “not killing” the angels).

The following morning, we made pretzels dipped in white chocolate and sprinkles galore (so to use the leftover cookie sprinkles)…and oh how many sprinkles were all over the house!  I then put on a Netflix movie so they could chill out before being picked up, and found a silly holiday gem of a movie called The Christmas Chronicles.  Kurt Russel as St. Nick and a surprise appearance of Goldie Hawn as Mrs. Claus at the end!  This may be our feature pick for next year.

One advantage of big sister and her pals getting older is that they can help with all the cleaning, big sis even vacuumed!

After everyone left, the girls and I took a power nap, because we had plans to go see Mary Poppins Returns with our pals we’ve known since the girls were literally in the belly.  (One of my BFFs and I met at pregnant lady yoga in what seems like a million years ago.)  Big sis declared that while this was a good movie, the ORIGINAL was STILL the best.  (I liked Mary Poppins Returns—it made me nostalgic for the original Mary Poppins in the very BEST way). 

On the way home, the Christmas music loud and proud in the car, the holiday neighborhood lights blinking and glowing all around us, I realized that the girls were singing along to every song that came on.  I think my heart grew so much it was about to burst.  Bing Crosby's The Little Drummer Boy.  Bruce Springsteen's Santa Claus is coming to town (belting it out like we were at a rock concert).  Holly Jolly Christmas.  Do you Hear what I Hear.  Do They Know it's Christmas.  Just to name a few. Please let them remember and hold in their hearts these small happy moments in time.

A friend of mind posted that if she could have but one Christmas wish, it would be to wake up on Christmas morning to see her mother and father standing by the tree (they passed on years ago).  I realized I could have the very same wish.  I would be torn though, and I think my mom would understand, if I spent my one precious Christmas wish on my daughters—that they will always feel my love for them, no matter where they are, no matter when, no matter what. 

Wouldn’t it be lovely if could have more than one Christmas wish?  Let’s make our wishes come true, somehow, at least the ones that are created from love.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Tis the Season...For all the Feels



The holiday joy and love and laughter are filling up our house at Chez Survive, Live, Thrive.  DD2 has written THREE letters to Santa, the Christmas tree is up and decorated, lights decorating our carport outside to add to the holiday cheer.  The girls’ santa cookie baking sleepover date has been confirmed with all four friends (yes, that means six giggling girls in my household the week end before Christmas, lol!!), and we just finished baking mini pound cakes for our schoolteachers and neighbors.  DD1 politely informed me that she could bake a batch of cakes all on her own, thank you very much.  And DD2 was so sweet, intently helping with sifting the ingredients before hand and after they had cooled, carefully wrapping each cake with care, lol!

As bright as the holiday cheer is shining all around us, equally as bright are my heartache and pain.  In the words of a good friend—the holidays uproot happiness and hurt all at the same time.  The older I get, the more this seems to be.

I’ve been trying to focus on the spirit of giving and making fun memories for my girls—and also breathing in and letting go of expectations and judgments on what the holidays are “supposed” to be.  I hurt in my heart and mind, missing my mom and my dad and all of the people I’ve loved and lost along the way, even the ones I can’t remember.  I hurt for the ones who might wonder where I am, and I hurt for thinking they might not care. Or maybe they do.  I hurt for the mistakes I’ve made and the pain I’ve caused, and I hurt from the scars that were given to me from other people.

In the morning, just before opening my eyes, I can feel the anxiety squeezing my heart and the worries ever present, prickling my skin just in case I’ve forgotten that I worry if I’m doing the right thing, or if I’m smart enough, or if I’m good enough, or if I’m worthy enough.

In an effort not to give into the hurt I see in the world and inside myself, I reflect what I do want to see, the love I want to see in the world.  It’s an impasse, sometimes, the hold of the worry and pain, and the desire to be the light.  I’m the knot stuck in the middle.

My mom taught me this saying that my grandma taught her:  use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.  It’s her no nonsense, no frills, bare bones way of getting through life.  It’s simple.  It’s strength.

I don’t have that kind of strength, but I admire hers.  My version would be:  cherish what you have and use what you have wisely, while also sharing your life and love with others.  And if something doesn’t work for you, let it go.  (I’m too wordy.)

My problem is in execution, I get lost in the hurting and anxiety, which I know is part of the healing marathon.  I wish I could be strong like her.  I miss her confidence in knowing what to do all the time.

And again with the words!  This post is a dedication to embracing the love and hope of the holidays as well as accepting and acknowledging the pain.  And how sometimes, it’s okay not to have advice on what to do with the complicated feelings that this means.  Accepting that I have both love and pain in life is not the same phrase as “love equals pain.”  That’s progress!

Sometimes, I wonder if we’re all just bouncing around in various states of healing.  In my youth, I think I was definitely causing pain because of my pain, and for that I’m deeply mortified and sorry.  Now that I’m older, I’m trying to be that change I want to see in the world, I want to be the light and be the love. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Thankful

After a whirlwind of Halloween festivities, we are now ramping up into the holiday season, woo hoo!

Just a friendly check in at Chez Survive, Live, Thrive to share some random positive happenings and why we are feeling thankful:

  • Big sister made it onto her tennis team at her new school and won her very first “official” match for her team.  Yay!
  • Little sis has proudly shared with me that she has another “wiggly” tooth.
  • An impromptu bbq for a friend who returned home after a two year sojourn overseas, including home-made delicious food, wine, children friendly snacks and games, children running all over the house laughing, complete with our host performing magic card tricks and a spontaneous karaoke party! 
  • A giant double rainbow appearing over the sky when we came home from work/school the other day.
  • The mid-term election brought in a wave of change for the United States, and to those who say there was no blue hurricane, I say, it’s evolution not revolution, and we are at least heading into the right direction.  Keep up the faith!
  • I went surfing for the first time since being hit by a Ford Explorer!  And while I still have pain, catching those waves was an amazing, healing balm to the soul, and I can’t wait to get back into the water!
  • I’m finally fully staffed at work, with our newest hire starting nearly two weeks ago, and things are looking great.
  • Hubby’s family is flying into town on Friday, and I’ll be hosting our Thanksgiving feast next week and couldn’t be happier to celebrate by cooking my mom’s and grandmother’s recipes!  Can’t wait for the step-cousins to have cousin time!
  • Hubby has been texting me mushy love texts all day, lol, so I am thankful for being loved!
  • Over this past holiday week end, little sis has been waking up and jumping in my bed for what we used to call “cuddles,” which we now renamed “wiggles,” because she wiggles around so much and we just end up laughing—sometimes, you just need to lie around and wiggle and giggle and be lazy in the morning.
  • Feeling strong and confident in that my love for my girls will protect them.
  • Knowing that the holidays can be both celebratory and at the same time, difficult and challenging for many (including myself).  I’m thankful for having the ability to accept both of these sides and also that I can offer a safe place through friendship, support, and love.
  • Lately, I’ve been reconnecting with friends and loved ones that I haven’t seen for a while, and it’s like we just pick up where we left off—either trick-or-treating together, or hanging out with the kids playing while we’re talking story, or just “being” together.  The world can sometimes be our playground. And I’m so thankful for that.



What are the things that you are thankful for?  Or what are things that can be challenging?  I would love to hear and share!

p.s. we are thankful for the ocean

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Words to Live By: Tips for coping with grief, anxiety and depression (magic wand included)




Over the past year, I’ve been tumbling up and down the rollercoaster of grief, anxiety, and depression as a reaction to various life events—death, getting hit by a Ford Explorer and living to tell the tale, a second car collision, etc.  They’ve compounded with my traumas and triggers of communicating with my abusive ex, work responsibilities, parenting responsibilities.  Sometimes, I feel like a fishing bobber wildly flailing about at the whims of the deep blue tides.

To be truthful, I’m desperate for a magic wand.  But like I tell my daughters, we can’t rely on a prince (or princess or queen or king) to save us.  We have to save ourselves.

So to the lady who needs a magic wand (me), I’m offering some magic hopes for when you’re at the bottom of the barrel (also me, sitting at the bottom of the barrel):

  1. This too shall pass.  It might not feel like it, when the tidal wave presses in all around you, but I promise that emotion you’re feeling will not last forever.  It’s the law of physics, the law of emotions.  It will blink, simply by virtue of time, because no one emotion can sustain itself indefinitely.  (Thank goodness.)  You will be able to come up for air at some point, and that point is crucial, because...
  2. That breath you take?  Stay with it.  Follow it as it goes into your nose, down into your lungs, and hold it.  Count to 10.  Then gently lead it back out of your body, focusing your exhale in one, slow, long breath out.  Feel it leave your lips.  Repeat.  Repeat it five times.  Each time, staying with the experience of breathing and only your breathing.  This is the beginning of mindfulness.
  3. Which leads to the fact that you’ve been so focused on breathing, the initial tidal wave of emotional complications has receded just a bit.  Your magic wand is your breath.  And your magic spells—are your own words.
  4. Words are power—as simple as it sounds.  We can use magic to change them—by inserting the opposite of the negative ones.  Instead of: I can’t get through another terrible moment of feeling like this—it can become: I can.  Or I will.  Even if you don’t feel like you can, just changing the word has power to it.  I will never be enough to protect my girls.  Strike never.  I WILL be enough to protect my girls, even if I don’t feel like it right now.  I WILL get through this next moment of pain, even if it feels impossible.  It’s possible.
  5. Take those words and make them move—which may also feel counterintuitive, but sometimes when I’m locked into the paralysis of anxiety and depression, I forget that I have a body that’s capable of movement.  And not just exercise (which does help, although lately I’ve been limited in physical activity), but further, in taking action to help others.  The act of giving can take away some of the burden of your pain—through the balm of helping people who need it and the positive feelings from being kind.  It also subtracts the actual time submerged in sadness/pain as you’re filling up your time with the action it takes to do the giving (rounding up donations for the local shelter, cleaning up a church hall, helping kids in the classroom/girl scouts, etc). 
  6. Another magic wand move:  transform your feelings into a different medium altogether—pick up a pencil and write them down—sometimes having them spilling out of you can help.  Or draw them into a color, a design, or a picture.  (I can’t draw figures at all, but I can mix colors).  Or if you have the gift of singing, sing.  (Or if you don’t, still sing.  Sometimes when I’m super frustrated, singing opera into a pillow is kind of cathartic).  Or play music, I don’t have musical talents, but I can pluck an ukulele. 
  7. Lean into your support network—one thing about overwhelming grief, anxiety, and depression, is that it’s isolating.  We feel like we are the only ones trapped in the wave or in the hole of our feelings.  If you have access to a therapist, yes!  Or your loved ones—someone you trust—even the smallest of hugs can help.  Or if you’re not into hugs, a phone call.  Or if you’re not into talking, a text.  An emoji.  A giphy.  Just one small reach out can help you feel less alone.
  8. Be gentle with you.  The tidal wave will come and go.  The big secret is that as much as we have the capacity to feel pain and anxiety and grief, we also have the matching capacity to love, be kind, and to heal. 
  9. It takes time.  This is just some magic to get you through the day to day and from moment to moment.  I believe in you.  You can be the light and love you want to see in the world.



p.s. Happy early Birthday to you!  Every day is a new day.  Keep waking up, because the world is better with you in it.  Hopefully this new year will bring more love than pain.  That is my wish for you.  More love, please.

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Dark and Light Side of the Moon (A long one)




My problem with posting lately—I’m struggling with grief.  It clings like an unruly shadow that pesters me as soon as I open my eyes when the alarm clock goes off.  It takes the cloudy shape of anxiety and second-guessing, then morphs into a depressive weight settling onto my chest, daring me to get out of bed.

Well, “daring” is too active in its description.  More like a quiet smother, wondering if I’ll just give in and stay in bed and turn my back onto the world.  (Which is tempting.  Especially on mornings when the children have slept over at their dad’s, and there are two less faces and hearts in the house needing care.)

It’s been gaining momentum, in direct proportion to my physical healing.  The stronger I get physically, the less attention I need to pay to my fractured wrist, concussed brain, scar tissue shoulders, whiplashed back and neck.  So, the grief and anxiety and depression have entered in full steam ahead:  a ha!  Now you can pay attention to me, mere mortal. 

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I’ve also realized my grief plugs in directly to the traumas (and healing journeys) of the past, reverberating somewhere in my rib cage and echoing down through to my feet, dreamlike sequences that flit in and out of my heart and mind—

The black hole, primal fear from my baby self, all alone, ‘left in the parking lot’ on a cold winter night and ‘found by a passerby’ outside of a University hospital in the distant country of my birth in Asia. Or maybe I was walked inside of that hospital and relinquished.  Or perhaps I’d been born within its safe, medically clean walls, and my birth mom left me there.  Or died.  Or perhaps I was stolen from one side of the family who didn’t want me, without the knowledge of the other side…the possibilities, as we’ve learned from transracial adoptee stories of my age group from this particular country, are varied and also murky. (It hasn’t ever made me stop looking for her.)

The trauma of growing up and wondering if I would ever be “sent back.”  And while my adoptive family was supportive as they emotionally were able to be, living in my transracial household and small town brought about isolation, self-doubt, and racial white-washing.  A home-life sprinkled with divorce, and the deaths of my father and his partner (who weren’t even recognized as being in a civil union, let alone a gay marriage back then), the constant escalating conflict between my brother and my stepdad (my mom’s second husband) that resulted in my brother leaving the house never to return.  My half hearted suicide attempt with an asperin overdose in high school.

The trauma of my second “real” suicide attempt the summer between freshman and sophomore year of college, and feeling strangely calm about the fact that I learned the difference between wanting to die vs not wanting to live.  It was the latter for me, like Miracle Max from the Princess Bride—there is a difference between all dead and mostly dead.  My healing journey around trauma began there, thankfully.  (Little did I know how it would be a marathon that continues to this day.)  

The death of my mom’s second husband soon after this, and nary a word from my brother in all this time when he passed.  Being tasked by my grief stricken mom to locate his ashes at the University hospital and wandering around the labyrinthine tiled corridors in an emotional fog, finally finding a small cardboard box with his name on it on a random shelf in a random room, and hours later delivering said box to her after driving 80 mph through backroads because my dilapidated car blew tires every now and again and I didn’t want to get run over on the highway changing it.

The trauma of enacting and re-enacting relationships with men whose love I accepted as what I deserved, because it was filled with pain. 

The trauma of an excruciating divorce where I was accused of being a liar and a mentally unstable parent.  And because of my struggles, almost believing him, when I knew the opposite was true.  And having to report and relive how he had delivered death threats in quiet detail, had choked the family dog and threw him across the room in angry outbursts, terrorizing the girls and me, so I hurriedly found a new home for him and ‘pretend’ it was because our doggie just couldn’t handle living in the new house we had moved into, how he had kicked my daughters, had broken dishes and household items in anger, had screamed and swore at us, to the point where his brother intervened at his mom’s house.  And despite “standing in the truth” not quite getting the outcome that would fully protect my daughters from his anger issues, and so living with a half-protection decree and making it be the best that I can for them.

The constant triggers of dealing with him, although with therapy and time, I’ve figured out how to communicate in a way that doesn’t allow him so far into my headspace.  And the worry about an unhealthy dynamic at my ex’s house, how he’s alienating the girls from his mom and they hardly see her these days, how he’s alienated the girls from his brother for seven years.  Worried he’s losing his temper with them and how they may be affected by it, and understanding too that no matter what, he is their dad and they will love him with all their heart and trying to help them manage the conflicts that come with living in a world of balancing on eggshells when they do share their ambivalence.  Worrying constantly if they will be okay? 

It plugs directly into my fear that after everything we’ve been through, how many hours of therapy and healing and reaching out and creating a different world, still struggling with the entrenched idea that all good things must come to an end.  That no matter what I do, it won't be enough to protect them.  Or if it’s calm and good and healthy, there’s something wrong underneath it all, and I feel myself unraveling.  It’s easier to believe that the bad will come.  It’s easier to believe the doubts and the insecurities that you are never enough.  That’s what the cloud tells me before I get out of bed.

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And as the undertow drags me down, and I feel it sinking through my bones…the smallest of voices will whisper quietly:  get your ass out from under the covers.  Or maybe it’s just body habit that heaves my legs out into the air so the rest of me follows, and somehow I've made it to standing in the pre-dawn light, and this is the flip side—

The overachiever who graduated top ten in her high school.  Who applied and was awarded an international scholarship to live in Europe as an exchange student one summer.  Who began working at age 12 as a babysitter to earn cash, and then carried on with part time jobs all through high school.  Who earned a varsity letter and a place on the honor roll every single year, participated in drama club, and community and high school performances galore, and fiercely loved my friends every step of the way.  Whose mom was a girl scout leader and maybe that’s where I get some of my be-a-sister-to-every-girl and be-kind-and-leave-the-world-a-better-place perspective.  When my dad passed when I was 16, I wore that grief and carried it like a blanket, and despite that suicide attempt between freshman and sophomore year, graduated with dual degrees from the university, all the while working three jobs and partying like it was 1999 (it was, almost, lol). 

In the time before the internet, it was by fax machine that I found a job in my birth country, where I lived for a year and earned my living as an English teacher, then afterwards hitchhiked through Australia spending my earnings and throwing laughter and sprinkling hopes around the sky, the ocean, the beaches with my then fiancé.  I'd return to the states without the fiance (an amicable parting), and made a concerted effort to return to Asia, but instead settled into a new life on American soil in a place that was the closest mix of my two identities and where my not belonging to either country seems to fit the best.  My mom by then had met her third hubby who would later adopt me as an adult soon after my first child was born, but he would sicken (and miss my wedding to the ex hubby), and then die not too long after.

At that time, I had been the main financial breadwinner in my family, I think following my mom’s work ethic, who traveled to every inhabited country in her line of work.  I didn’t care, and I was “in love” and “love” was all one needed in this world.  There were warning signs about his anger, but I missed them, truly believing that love would win in the end (f!@# you, Disney childhood—or maybe it was just my way of clinging to a child’s dream and wish that love had to win in the end, to shine a light and drive out the lasting shadows of those terrible, dark thoughts 1) they didn’t want you in the first place, or 2) they can send you back.)

Side note:  I stress with my daughters that love is important and awesome and good.  And at the same time, for tales such a Beauty and the Beast, it was not Belle’s job to “change” the beast, it’s the Beast’s job to change himself.  Too many people think it’s Belle’s job, but in the end, the only person who can change themselves is that person.  (to which they roll their eyes and say, I KNOW MOM).

I’m a bit of an overachiever at work in some ways, as well.  The financial breadwinning mentored from my mom—who was leading by example in teaching me financial independence, has led me from one career leap to another, always making financial gains to support myself and my family.  But in doing so, also looking for ways to help, to make the world a better place, as cheesy as that sounds.  Adding love and peace and kindness is my aim; if it can’t be the whole world, then at least my coworkers and people who I see on a daily basis.  I think I get upset at myself for not always living up to certain “expected” adult standards (based on society? Other people?), especially when I’m thrown into a mix with higher-powered colleagues with higher-powered degrees (and higher powered political agendas, barf).  If I step back a bit, I’m usually able to realize that I’m capable and separate my strengths from unreasonable expectations… to be able to serve in my capacity and carry out my job responsibilities, and at the same time help people feel better about themselves.  Most importantly, be kind.

I’m working to make a better life for my daughters.  That filling up their world with love and kindness and experiences through girl scouts or extracurricular activities, or just hanging out cuddling, or just BEING WITH them when they say, mom!  Look at this!  And not burying my head in my phone/device.  The hugs and the laughter and the baking cookies for santa or the last minute taco bell run we have to do together because it’s a school/work week night and we’re in a rush.  Telling them I’m proud of them one moment, and then sucking in my breath and doing my best not to react when the tween gets mouthy and instead insist that it’s OKAY TO HAVE YOUR FEELINGS BUT IT’S NOT OKAY TO BE MEAN for like the 100,000 time. 

The shared experiences with my friends and my friends who are now family to me—making space for their wishes and dreams and secrets and laughter and sharing and listening and accepting.  The many adventures through high school and college and adulthood-land, sharing road trips and weddings and random visits when the cards were aligned, where we could reunite and stay up all night laughing. Remembering they were with me at the hospital when I tried to leave this earth and they were with me when my dads passed away and I was with them through heartache and when their babies were born and now those babies are halfway to almost grown up.  The days are long but the years are short and it’s hard to believe I blinked and we are all scattered across the land, with full lives and shared love.  I know I could be a better friend and keep in touch more regularly and anxiety comes into play there, but one thing I know for certain is that I love them and they love me, too, despite my faults.


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My mom was alive for all of this.  She tried to intervene with my ex husband.  She met my now hubby and loved him like a son before she passed, and for that I am grateful.  Her death is a marker of a passing of all of these parts—the good and the bad, the trauma and pain and the heartache.  The successes and the failures and the challenges and the traumas, some summarized here, other details at the edges that I’m not ready to write about quite yet.  She loved me and at the same time didn’t speak the kind of language I could recognize, causing tears and heartaches and misunderstandings that are part of our story.  Over the years I’ve understood that in all her best ways, she loved me with all her heart. 

She pushed me out of the nest when I went to college to become a self sustaining, independent person.  She cheered on my adventure to my birth country, arranging through her work to have two rendezvous visits with me overseas.  One year, while I was still in college, she organized a mother daughter trip to the Caribbean, it was after her second hubby died and before her third one was really on the scene, and I’m so glad I have these aquamarine memories of snorkeling in the pristine, technicolor coral vistas together, two adult women, one quite young, the other still in her professional prime.  I wasn’t that little kid wondering if she would send me back, any longer.

When she passed, the one connection through the thread of my many layered adventures disappeared and left me untethered.  At times I’m floating along the air currents like an errant helium balloon, at the same time, my daughters hands grab hold of the ends and keep me rooted on this earth. 

They say there are five stages of grief, but the original wordsmith of those concepts, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, was annoyed at the misinterpretation that these “stages” are procedural and go from one to the next in some kind of order.  Instead, they can be cyclical or repeat or become a mishmash, a haphazard spiral of grief, not necessarily a step by step sequence.

Grief is.  Like breathing.

Love is.  Like breathing.

There is no way around, above, or below.  It just is.  And maybe going through out-of-step spirals is just one way I have to cope.



Tuesday, October 2, 2018

A New Day



Well it’s a new day and Jane Thrive is still alive.  Lol.  It’s kind of amazing how fast life can change, one minute you’re jogging across the crosswalk, the next, you’re flying through the air and knocked out cold.  Apparently the Ford Explorer was going 35-40 mph according to the firemen…they don’t know for sure.  The driver says he had the green light, but I know I had the light crossing the highway.  (I’m letting the insurance company deal with all this, because I have to concentrate on healing and being a mom and working and all of that!)  I’m just lucky to be alive.  So much has happened since the summer, so I’ll try and do a quick catch up!

My mom’s memorial was beautiful and compelling and just everything I was hoping for—about 80 people came from five different states to remember my mom.  The girls recited Psalm 23 together which pretty much made my heart burst, and prior to the ceremony, with the help of one of my mom’s BFFs, big sister helped decorate a posterboard with pictures of mom in all her walks of life.  It was just so sweet having everyone be there together and I was able to share my speech about mom’s life—people were very kind and hugged me afterwards and some of my mom’s later in life friends said they were so glad they got to know more about mom’s early days.  Which also made my heart burst.  My BFF also rendezvous-ed with us, and I got to spend time with her babies and the kids could hang together for the week end; my nephews had a sleepover with us at the hotel—it was just a week end of smooshy family love!  After the memorial we spent some much needed relaxation time with the hubby’s family, which was so important to me, as I don’t have much family left now that mom is gone. 

And then we came back home and I attempted to come back to work in mid-August.  On the morning of 9/11, driving to my orthopedist to deal with my wrist fracture, I had another run in at an intersection—car collision, and my airbags went off and I about cried myself silly with the PTSD of the first accident.  Oh my goodness, what in the world is going on?  The good news about this accident is that while I have whiplash, the other driver was unhurt, I was able to get a referral to a concussion specialist.  After returning to work in August, I’ve been experiencing daily headaches, and up until the car collision, I wasn’t able to get a referral to a neurologist.  No one wanted to take me because the origin of the medical issue was related to a car (welcome to health insurance nightmare 101, and I feel fortunate to have insurance in the first place, but the 6 specialists I reached out to wouldn’t take it, because no, it’s car-related!).  At any rate, thank goodness for the second ER visit, because the trauma team recommended a concussion specialist—who did a battery of vision/vestibular (fancy word for balance system) tests on me and my headaches are just part of a normal post-concussion condition.  Which is fixable and treatable, hurray!

So now I’m in PT for my wrist/shoulder (pedestrian hit), back/neck (car collision), and brain (post concussion from the pedestrian hit).  Suffice it to say—I’m a mess!  LOL.  But a positive mess—in that I’m so grateful and thankful that all of the symptoms I’m currently experiencing, while a huge PITA, are considered ‘normal’—I’m on the healing path—and at least there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.   For those who want to believe—believe it when I tell you I think my mom had everything to do with my being still on this earth.  A Ford freaking Explorer had barreled down the highway, and just 114 lbs me —and I walked away from it with a banged head and fractured wrist…?  I get kinda teary eyed thinking about it.

As for the co-parenting?  The pedestrian hit actually gave me a really amazing, embrace-the-world hit of adrenaline, and I was determined to turn over a new leaf and extend love to the whole world—even to the father of my children, lol.  I say lol and this is why—after greeting him when he was dropping the kids off after the accident and he refused to acknowledge or even meet my eyes, I realized oh right, he never did ask if I was okay or offer to help in any way...topped off with slightly nasty texts he accidentally sent to me later that afternoon, but were meant to his girlfriend (! I didn’t know whether to laugh or be angry!) I had a different sort of epiphany…in my time together with him, there was always someone…his mom, his brother, a coworker who once was his BFF, someone who always WRONGED him.  And as his partner back then who went along with him, I remember thinking, oh right, that’s so uncool and unfair of x or y or z.  The epiphany I had was:  oh yes, now I’M the x or y or z.  And likely will be unless there’s a miracle of changing his ways.  So why am I wasting my time thinking he will suddenly be cordial and kind and cooperative?  Yes, I will be civil, especially in front of the kids, so they can see their mom being kind to their dad.  Yes, I do have love in my heart for the father of my children because he is the father of my children.  But no, I will no longer expect kind or cooperative in return, and that’s just how it is.  I don’t know why it took getting hit by a car to get me to this place.

Also, Houston we have news!  There is a girlfriend—and from what the girls say, she is nice and they like her, and she’s really kind to them!  And while the place I have in my heart for women-kind worries about any woman who may become involved with him, I’m relieved to learn that she has a great career (good role modeling for the girls) and is kind to the girls.  Apparently it is a long-distance relationship, so she will only see the good side of him—we know he can hold it together well.  The absolute best case scenario is that he will get his !@#$ together and be a good person, heal and move forward from the anger issues, and maybe this relationship will help him see the light for that.  However judging from past behavior and even his behavior towards me…the odds are not leaning that way and it’s not my responsibility, nor hers, to ‘fix’ him…we shall see what happens.

The other news that I’ve learned is that he didn’t move out to his own place at his own behest.  Apparently, his mom asked him to leave.  From what I understand, she did this because it was too much stress with him and his brother and his mom in the same house and in a weird way, I feel both relieved (relieved for her, and as for me…validated...in that i'm not the only who had to make a change for my personal health) and also much sympathy and empathy for my ex mom-in-law.  From the violence of my ex’s dad, to my ex inheriting the anger issues, to my ex’s brother and the conflict of having him testify about my ex’s anger issues…it hasn’t been an easy life for her, and for her take a stand and make sure her house is one that can be more peaceful—it must have taken a great deal of strength to get to that conclusion and further, to see it through.

So lots of information bombs and healing and working through thoughts and emotion happening over at chez Survive, Live, Thrive.  I am so thankful my girls are doing well and growing up and big sister is embarking on her middle school years in a new school and thriving and doing well so far.  Little sister is now out from under her sister’s shadow at her elementary school, so I’m just wishing and loving and praying we are on good footing for a great school year.  I had some challenges with my mouthy tween being really rude and unkind with her words to me last week end, the result of which she is not allowed to have electronic time this week at mom’s house.  I thought she’d throw a hissy fit, but she is taking it in stride and talking with me with more civility.  I simply told her that girls who are mean to moms (while it’s okay to be angry and irritated and upset, it’s not okay to be mean and nasty), do not have privileges like electronics, and I know she could do better as I know she can behave.  So let’s see how this week pans out.

Also, big sister has been watching the Kavanaugh hearings.  Having been a huge fan of Justice Ginsberg and writing a report about all that she’s done last year for her class project, I thought this was a good opportunity to understand the craziness of our current judicial selection process—but also a good segue in talking about consent.  Over the years, I’ve been candid with both sisters about the changes our bodies go through when growing up—I figure having the words takes away some of the fear of our changing moods, hormones, periods, body parts, etc.  So lately I’ve been meandering our conversation more and more into the realm of how our bodies are our own, that no one is allowed to touch them unless we give our consent.  How the unfairness of the world when Justice Ginsberg was growing up, that once upon a time it was very rare and frankly discouraged for women to even attend or exceed in higher education, that the march of time leads directly to today where women are less likely to be believed than men, period.  And while that is unfair, unfortunately that’s the world we live in.  That unlike Judge Kavanaugh, Dr. Ford and her family had to go into hiding from the people in the world who do not believe her and are harassing her for sharing her truth to the point of death threats.  And that no matter what, if big sister is ever confused about anything that has to do with her body or someone touching her, to please always come to me.  (In her very tween way, she was like I KNOW MOM, and I loved that she was irritated with me to the point of not believing that something like that is a danger for her, that her world is not yet marred by this !@#$).  She actually told me that she would tell her friends or SOMEONE (specifically not me in that moment), and I said, okay honey, be sure to tell me, especially if that someone reacts in any way that is upsetting, because not everyone has the ability to react in a way that’s helpful.  And she grudgingly agreed.  (Dear world, if you are the person my daughter turns to, please be a good, just, trustworthy person).

In fact that leads me to my prayer of the day:

Dear World,
Please let us make this world a better, more just, civil, kinder world than the one I grew up in (as a child of the 80s).  Please let it be better for my daughters than the one where my mom had to struggle to make it into the workplace, where my grandmother had few opportunities for education and/or financial independence.  Please let us be better.  Please let us be the love we want to see the world.

Love,
Jane

p.s. so this pretty much sums up the summer and into the Fall at Chez Survive.Live.Thrive.  Healing, more healing, and healing some more.