Monthly Archives: July 2018

Birthday List

My birthday is coming up, which has me thinking existentially, as one does.

Lo, a few birthday thoughts:

1. Entering my forties last year taught me that it’s a truly underrated decade that humankind should be praising all the time. Let me repeat for the people in the back: “Being in one’s forties is THE ABSOLUTE BEST.” Allow me to cite my reasons:

  • No more pregnancy for meeeeee! On a related note, without the burdens of pregnancy and recovery + nursing and caring for young children, I’m kinda in shape now huzzah.
  • My kids sleep through the night and are independent in the bathroom (it took years of zombie living–in Pootown for Pete’s sake–to achieve this miracle, and I cannot emphasize enough how grateful I am to be here).
  • I’m not physically falling apart yet and we are less broke than in days of yore, yippee!
  • I know what I like, who I am, what I’m not, what I’m capable of, and what’s really important (whoa! wow!) But It’s true. This is something you can’t catch hold of as a twenty-year-old. It is the reward of agedness and living through difficulty.

2. It seems that my forties are proving to be a sort of lovely transitional time from the exhaustion of raising tiny neurotic children and the mental fatigue of stay-at-home disabilities parenting, into a new world where things are possible. So many things. So much possibility. The universe is my oyster.

3. Being a legit stodgy old grown-up has revealed to me that life doesn’t stay the same. For the hundred thousand years of my early special-needs-momhood, I felt nothing was ever going to change. It just seemed eternal, and blistering, and heavy, and relentless. But time has shown me that despite the trauma and endlessness of certain periods of my life, things inevitably do change–sometimes in painful ways, sometimes in lovely ways, sometimes in (ultimately perfect) ways which are a combination of both painful and lovely.

4. I have a different relationship with physical appearance. I’m less critical of my outward quirks. I’m more accepting of my physical self, and man it feels good. I’ve also learned the incalculable value of taking care of myself physically and emotionally. Drinking water and moving and consuming fresh produce is pretty flipping fantastic for one’s sense of personhood, as well as ye olde mental health. So are anti-anxiety/anti-depressant meds #betterlivingthroughchemistry and counseling. I let myself take naps when I’m tired. I let myself feel sad when I’m sad. And I’m going to be bold here and say that my annual shopping excursion to the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale (always the week of my birthday, because I’m the luckiest person alive) may be considered a most excellent emotional gift to myself. I’m a wee bit high on life because I just shopped for my own birthday presents. Is this self care? I daresay it is.

5. I’ve been around the parenting block enough times to know that most things are just phases, that kids can and will pass through phases where they are complete jerks, and that they will thankfully outgrow these phases. I can better see the big-picture process of growing up. It’s an evolution. Understanding this is crucial to a parent’s sanity while buried in the thick of it.

6. Shakespeare was smart (duh) to write a play about midsummer because it’s beautiful and a little big magical. I secretly love that my birthday marks the middle of the summer months. It makes me feel like summertime and I have a mutually adoring relationship.

A Quiet Evening at Home

Once many years ago, I watched on TV as a woman accepted an Oscar for a documentary about Jews in Nazi Germany. In her speech, she talked about how her life has been shaped by the fact that she survived the war, when so many of her family members and compatriots perished.

She referenced all the television viewers at home and said (I’m paraphrasing because it was a super long time ago) that of all the joys the world has to offer, we really ought to value that of, “A quiet evening at home. It is a luxury and a gift that so many never lived beyond the horror of the Second World War to see. Enjoy and appreciate the beauty of your quiet evening at home.”

I’ve never been subjected to imprisonment in a concentration camp. I cannot even pretend to know that degree of suffering. But I’m realizing that the trauma I experienced raising Jack, at first with zero help and in later (more violent) years with increasing levels of outside support, was actual trauma.

It negatively affected my physical health. It subjected my mental health to a fiery furnace. Emotionally, I have grown stronger, not weaker from these experiences. I think I have an inkling of what PTSD feels like. But that’s not what this post is about.

I’ve been turning the phrase “a quiet evening at home” over and over in my mind. It is beautiful and the concept is startling and refreshing in its simplicity. Perhaps I see it this way because when Jacky lived here, there just were no quiet evenings at home.

It wasn’t Jack’s fault. It was simply the nature of his disability, that he was mostly agitated by the activity/noise/chaos/unpredictability of his family. Even when our activities revolved around Jack’s needs, our very presence, combined with our inability to provide 24/7 completely predictable, calming, and unvaryingly structured routines stressed Jack and increased his problem behaviors.

Jack still has the occasional outburst at his group home. But overall, he is calmer, less agitated, and more relaxed in his current placement than I have seen him in many years. Jack has peaceful evenings at home. It’s simply a different home.

I, meanwhile, am savoring the new-to-me phenomenon of a quiet evening at home.

For so long, home wasn’t restful. I did not experience a sense of “it’s good to be home,” when returning from being away. Home was a minefield, my own personal tornado alley, the wilderness of my afflictions where, it turned out, I literally lived. My respite happened when I left home to see a movie, shop alone, or eat out. All of these activities, I found, featured me walking around with a giant case of Imposter Syndrome. “I don’t really live a normal life,” I felt I should admit to random strangers, who saw me without my child-rearing circus in tow. “My life is actually quite unusual. Bizarre, even. Have a nice day. Cheers.”

Now here I am, enjoying the quietest evening at home that ever was. And this isn’t rare for us anymore. It’s the norm. It’s the delicious, miraculous every day (and night) for me and mine.

I will never not be astonished at the beauty God has wrought in my life, in both the travail, and now the quiet.

 

Irritable Tiny Letters

Dear People of the Earth,

I am irritable regarding many things. Please give me a wide margin, or better yet, just leave me alone for the time being. It’s not you, it’s me.

Withdrawing to my hermitage now, k bye.

 

Dear Children,

When did our house become the Hotel California? (Answer: this and every summer)

Does no one ever leave???

Please retreat to your corners of the house and we will reconvene when everyone can be a little more chill.

 

Dear My Back,

You know you’re not helping things when you spaz out like this, right? When you flare up with the perma-pain at night, I lose sleep and get even grumpier. Boo and also hiss, my back. I shake my fist at you.

 

Dear Fourth of July,

What with the grilled tri-tip and the salads for days and the oh-so-refreshing homemade lemon ice cream, you were really something else. Perfect food plus a swimming pool plus an evening in the canyon equalled just what I needed.

Happy birthday, imperfect America, whom I still love and for whom I still have (some) hope.

 

Dear Social Media,

You are being jettisoned, in all your various platforms (except maybe Twitter, because I think Twitter humor may manage to see me through this fugue state) until my mood improves, and maybe even then some as you seem to contribute to my overall ennui.

 

Dear Me,

I’m lowering the expectations for our own good, alright sis? Watch them sink down and even farther down. Deep breath in. Exhale. See, that’s not so bad. Sit with it. Keep breathing. That’s right, we’re doing great.

 

Dear Engineer Husband,

Is there a way to disconnect the doorbell, all cell phones, my brain, and the garage door button, while simultaneously installing an invisible electrified wall around our property, just you know until I feel moderately sane again? Thanks babe. You always have my back.

 

Dear This Blog,

It’s a funny thing that I’m withdrawing from the world for a time to rest and slowly shed my angsty state (or not) and yet I am also literally putting this on the Internet. But does anything really make sense anymore?

Cheers, readers.

The Land of Not Enough

I am, apparently, someone who tends to inhabit two opposing lands.

One of these spots is the place I’m in when I pray and ask, “Tell me what you want me to do today and help me be brave enough to do it,” because I want to listen and be inspired and be brave. And then I try to do those pretty specific (usually not very fancy) things that He points me toward. And I’m enthused. And ready. Go me.

The other place is a place of meh. It’s the Land of Not Enough–not enough success, not enough energy, not enough productivity, not enough of all the things I feel I ought to be doing and that I would like to be doing. It’s a place of weariness, which disappoints me. It’s a sucking swamp place that holds onto me, once I’m there.

This weird fugue has descended on me in the last few months. It’s like I’m straddling the space between “listening and being open” and “feeling like a weakling.”

How does one live in two places? Seriously though, how?

Maybe they aren’t two mutually exclusive places as much as they are states of being that can coexist peacefully. But don’t ask me how to reconcile two opposites at this moment in time. I’m currently in the sucking swampland of no energy.

I realize that I’m speaking in generalities and this possibly all feels very abstract and conceptual to someone reading it. It’s the sort of thing my students sometimes do that I loathe. I know, I know! But I don’t wish to share all my deepest insecurities so you’re stuck with this bizarro, decidedly not specific little post. Perhaps I’ll crack open another la Croix and mull it over some more.