Notes to Self

July 16, 2013

Obligation

I haven’t spoken to my family for four or so months now.

Within weeks I noticed how much happier of a person I was. I am still finding ways where I am “healing” and am becoming a different person. For example, whenever my husband was in a bad mood I always assumed it was my fault and that he was resenting me and would eventually leave me. I would then try to make him feel better, which ultimately angered him (like everyone, he just wanted to be left alone!). But the other day, when he was tired and cranky, I didn’t blame myself. I didn’t try to fix it and I didn’t think he was going to leave me. I just recognized that he was in a bad mood and that was that. When I realized this change I was floored…first, I never realized that I was doing this and, second, never imagined the link between how my family treated me, how I interpreted their treatment of me and how I applied the effects to every little aspect of my life.

I have received a few emails (“thinking about you…”) and calls (they never leave messages) but I don’t respond. I have nothing to say.

However an email I received (well, was copied on) the other day threw me for a short loop. Evidently my mother required surgery and, based on the little bit of information I received, I can only surmise that she has some form of cancer (pre or very early stage). I had to stop and really think about how I was going to respond. How does illness and death change a relationship, and should it?

I’ve always been there for my family. Done everything I could (above what was needed). I can’t think of anything that needs to be said or done or what would be worth reopening communication. I feel settled in my relationship with all of them, to the extent that until they change, I have nothing to say. I don’t have regret. Death is only a problem for the living. I don’t have to resolve anything with her from my perspective. I think people go to ill and dying relatives with which they severed ties because they need closure or resoluation for something. I don’t.

But the legacy obligation (haven’t you heard that blood is thicker than water and family is all you’ll ever really have?) made me initially take pause and wonder if I should change my approach. But as I worked it all out, I realized that the culture with which I grew up…do it because it’s family and that’s all you’ll ever have…I’m done with that. How I respond to them and how I treat myself as a consequence of the interactions are two very different things. Until I can stop beating myself up for every little thing, I don’t think I can be with them. They destroy me.

All of this change I am encountering – it is powerful stuff. As powerful as all the damage that was done. I am proud of myself for finally being true to me; standing up for myself and my well-being. These are enormous, positive changes that are making me a better person and better wife and mother.

August 8, 2012

If you eat shit, then that’s all you’ll spit out

My husband said that to me last week. Not sure what that statement means to anyone else, but it resonated with me (and he said it with understanding and concern for me – it wasn’t a shot).

We were “fighting” for a while. Well, I guess I was fighting him.

With all of the debates on whether or not love at first sight exists, or is valid, I can tell you that when my husband and I met we knew we would be together for the rest of our lives. It was clear to everyone around us as well. We clicked and we have so much in common. Our differences are what makes our relationship stronger and the similarities in our personalities often make us at odds. Seems a little backwards right? But we work. We work really well.

“Having a child changes everything” is an understatement. “Nothing can prepare you for the changes that will occur” is not.

I recently found myself struggling to find footing. I guess that I was finally getting used to not nursing and not waking every 2-3 hours but had not yet found a new rhythm. I felt like I came up for a breath and didn’t recognize the world around me. And for a bit of a control freak, that wasn’t cool (note that I most likely am not admitting to how much of a control freak I am – I like to think I am more reasonable than I must actually be). So I freaked out. And when my husband said something that hit a very large button I freaked out more. I shut down and pushed him away. I was so defensive that I actually didn’t even feel sad. I didn’t feel anything, just numb. And this scared me because I had been clinically depressed for years and this feeling was too familiar. So I forced myself to think and write about it and finally broke down in tears.

We talked. We “argued”. We came to a…calm.

I have written about the negative thoughts that are all too routine. My husband had no idea of just how routine they were. I mentioned our relationship because he is the one person in my life (ever) that I trust (as much as I can trust, which now that I think about it may negate the prior clause). For all of the games we have to play in our lives – at work, with family members, etc – I always felt safe with him. I never worried about what I said or really how I said it. I figured he did the same. I figured he knew nothing I ever said was to be mean or hurtful, spiteful or malicious. I have issues with memory and for years have been forgetting words and losing my train of thought. I will start to say something and completely forget what I was saying. I forget simple words like spoon. And when this happens I just stare blankly trying desperately to recall what I was saying and thinking. He finds this very frustrating. I don’t know what to do about it.

I never realized just how difficult I can be. I never realized that much of what I thought wasn’t an issue for him really is an issue.  Apparently how I say things is much different than how I think I say things. I get it and I need to change.

So when I described some of the things I say to myself, about myself, my husband was shocked. And with all of his wisdom he said to me that in order to fix things between the two of us I had to fix things within me.

If you eat shit, then that’s all you will spit out.

I realize that while I am no longer fighting him, we are not resolved in this communication issue. I am still a bit defensive and that’s something I need to work on – trusting that he loves me.

I never saw so clearly how my thoughts and feelings about myself can affect others and my relationship with them. I am grateful that he painted such a clear picture. I am thankful that I saw it.

July 11, 2012

Something to ponder

This morning a coworker shared the following quote with me (source may be Francois de La Rochefoucauld):

One forgives to the degree one loves

At first it seems like a nice, sweet statement. You can hear yourself saying “awww, that’s nice”.

But then you think about someone you haven’t forgiven or something you haven’t forgiven someone for. And it is no longer sweet. It is a painful and sad statement.

And if you then think of someone you have forgiven, and you realize how much you love them compared to the person you haven’t forgiven it gets even sadder.

After thinking about this a little bit more I thought that maybe the use of the word “love” was too general.

Isn’t trust a factor? Or is trust just part of Love?

What about intent (or perceived intent)? Or is that part of trust?

Maybe the person intentionally hurt you or they weren’t sorry, never would be and would most likely do it again? Maybe this was a repeat offense, and prior attempts to resolve the issue were ignored…

I talk a lot about my parents or rather my relationship with them, and, for a 36 year old, I realize this may be odd to most readers. I can imagine folk saying Grow up already! Cut the cord! Get over it!

But my siblings and I still live a few miles from them and we all still get together frequently. Which means that I still deal not only with the surface bullshit (which gets very overwhelming) but also the long-standing wounds that I have yet to resolve for myself. And because these issues still affect my daily life it is hard to simply move on (thus my re-entry into Therapy).

I never forgave my parents, I just moved on. I ignore a lot and when I can’t ignore I scream to my husband about it/them. I vow never to be like them. I pray that I am not already.

So I stopped this morning and thought about this – that maybe I don’t really love them. Maybe they don’t really love me. Maybe it is a matter of fact relationship; parent and child. We are just fulfilling an obligation.

I call my parents a few times a week, which I now do out of a sense of obligation. I don’t enjoy talking with them (other than the opportunity to go on and on about my daughter – although I usually then get a mix of lectures and judgments and silent guilt that they don’t see her often enough…). I usually hang up and am completely frustrated and irritated. Sometimes angry and sometimes very sad.

So why do I do it? Based on the quote at the beginning of this post it isn’t because I love them.

It is so interesting how we hang on to things – to people even – and never really think about it.

June 29, 2012

I am what I am (and it’s not in a dress)

My daughter loves water. She loves to play in it, splash in it and, I guess drink it (she is still a baby and gets mostly milk!).

She will splash in puddles, loves to have the indoor and outdoor faucet’s turned on (she gets completely soaked when outside!), she loves her baby pool and bath time and if you have a bucket or glass of water, she will stick her hand or arm into it!

I am pleased with her love for water, and for her lack of fear of the water!

I used to swim competitively. I used to puddle jump and walk in the rain for hours. I still love sitting on the porch when it’s raining. I rarely carry an umbrella.

Last night it rained.

This morning my daughter wanted to go outside (as we usually do before leaving for work/daycare). I couldn’t say no because she put on her jacket and then brought me MY shoes and then brought me HER shoes, and then sat down so I could put her shoes on her feet! There was no saying no to this 15 month old!

So we played and thankfully only her jacket got wet (daddy saved her from sitting in a puddle!). There was still some time before we could leave (waiting for daycare to open) so I decided to show her what happens when you shake the branches on a tree after it has rained.

We stood underneath the tree – her in my arms and I shook. The water rained down and she smiled. I shook again. She giggled. This is living.

“Again” she signed to me. So I shook again.

“Again” she signed to me. So I shook again.

“Again” she signed to me. So I shook again.

“Again” she signed to me. So I shook again.

“Again” she signed to me. So I shook again.

She squealed in delight, she closed her eyes and put her face to the sky, she opened her mouth to catch the rain.

Needless to say we were pretty wet. I wasn’t wearing a jacket (she was but her hair was wet).

I arrived at daycare with a wet shirt (like I had been caught in the rain). I explained myself to a few people and they all thought it was great.

I walked to the car smiling – I had given my daughter a wonderful moment that I will always cherish.

I realized that I am, always have been and always will be, a gal in jeans and not a dress.

Makeup runs in the rain and high heels get stuck in grass. They just don’t fit into my life.

I would rather sleep or cuddle with my husband, daughter or cat than spend that time doing my hair or makeup. I’m a wash-and-go type gal and I should just embrace it!

More importantly, this doesn’t make me less feminine or inferior to other women who do chose to (or need to based on career/office dress policy) spend more time on their appearance.

Maybe, if they had the choice (or more courage?) they would also shake the branches of a wet tree upon the heads of their children.

So keep your pantyhose and your foundation. I’ve made my life without them (and one could argue that I’ve directed my life so I could live without them!?).

I am what I am and I think I am beginning to like me.

Loss worth losing

As our children grow and mature, with every step taken, we lose a little.

Mothers no longer needed for nourishment: loss.

Babies no longer wanting to constantly be held: loss.

Toddlers walking without holding parents’ hands: loss.

Toddlers no longer needing to run to mommy’s arms when novelty appears: loss.

When children sleep through the night in their own bed, peel and hold the banana all by themselves and successfully use a fork or spoon for an entire meal: loss, loss and loss.

Ever since she stopped nursing my daughter has been sleeping better – rarely wakes up (vs waking every 2-3 hours), and sleeps in her crib (vs in the bed with us). We have begun trying to get her to fall asleep in her crib without us holding her.

However last night my daughter fell asleep in my arms. I thought: this may be the last time she cuddles me like this. I grew sad (and am tearing up now) and felt such a sense of loss.

But I know that it is loss worth losing. I know it means we have done a good job as parents – we have provided this little baby with what she needed and she is growing up well.

That is the fundamental purpose of parenting. To give and let them grow.

“With all of its glories and all of its faults, life is but a bittersweet waltz”

June 27, 2012

Therapy – Week 5

This post has taken me several days to write. It is hard to be so honest and also put words to the feelings and figure out what I am thinking. I cannot bring closure to this post now – I don’t know how to end it. So here is the first part.

My therapist asks me if I know whether or not I believe the negative thoughts I have. There is a difference between believing in and merely thinking something (ha! merely, as if thoughts are that innocuous!).

Apparently if you dissect a thought well enough, and examine the data, one might find many reasons to refute the routine/ubiquitousness of said thoughts.

So let’s give it a go.

Negative thought regarding the other mom’s/families at the daycare which my daughter attends. In the mornings I see BMW’s, Mercedes’, Volvo’s and the like lined up outside of the daycare. Parents in their fancy clothes unload their children in their own fancy clothes. Women have nicely done hair and makeup. They go to their (assumed) glamorous jobs in the city and hoboken (via train, which I know because I overhear them talking about it) and many of the parents in my daughter’s class appear to know each other from playdates, etc. Meanwhile, I drive my dirty Honda (inside and out because I can’t be bothered to clean it) and wear jeans and sneakers. My hair isn’t primped. I don’t wear makeup. I have had no playdates with these girls and their mom’s. They have not emailed me despite my attempts to connect.

I feel that I am inferior to these women (and to the imagined wives of the well-dressed men driving the luxury cars) because I am not as “put together” as they are.I am not as feminine. I am fat, they are not. I don’t have as nice clothes nor the self-esteem to wear them. I don’t have (assumed) as much money or income. I live next to multi-family houses, an apartment complex and near (this is relative because really so do they) a not-so-nice neighborhood. Our public school isn’t great. Theirs town’s is I feel that I am inferior because they aren’t emailing me to get together. I am somehow not worthy of their friendship (and thus my daughter is not of their children’s).

The reality is that I know very, very little about these women and their families. I don’t know a single truth about their lives, relationships and financial states. All I know is appearance. I don’t know what kind of mother’s they are (which is very important to me). I don’t know if they are happy or just pretending to be. I don’t know a thing about these “glamorous” jobs. I would hate to take the train and would hate even more to work in the city!

The clothes I wear are really the best I can do (or are willing to do because if I go out of my comfort zone I feel too uncomfortable) and I don’t have time to iron and dry cleaning is too expensive (and when would I find time to drop off and pick up!). I work in an office of 3 and everyone dresses down. We are banished to the most remote corner of the campus and I sit in front of a computer all day. There is no need to get “dressed up”, except of course for my own benefit.

I cut my hair after my daughter was born and it is growing out. I haven’t been able to get a haircut in several months. I hate the bangs in my face. So after I shower I throw it up haphazardly into a barrette and spray it with hairspray to seal the deal. I don’t blow dry it. I don’t curl it. I hardly brush it more than once a day (it gets very straight and flat if I do). I was wearing makeup before I got pregnant, and even then was often wearing eyeliner. Then I stopped and haven’t gone back. Time, desire…why bother?

On the other hand, there are women I see and I say to myself that I am better than they are (no worries- the double standard and potential hypocrisy isn’t lost on me). For some reason I feel compelled to judge myself and others so definitively.

Last weekend my husband, daughter and I attended a fair. There was a band. Standing near the band was a woman and her daughter (about my daughter’s age) – her husband was standing a bit behind with the stroller. I decided to take my daughter to stand next to the other little girl in hopes that they might dance together. The woman was thin, nice hair, sunglasses, pretty dress. Her daughter was in a pretty dress as well. My child was wearing jean shorts and a cute tank top. She had on a hat (that didn’t really match) and keen sandals. She was sucking on a pacifier because I was trying to get her to nap (pacifier is a relatively new addition since we stopped nursing a few weeks ago).  The little girl leaned in to see the pacifier and the mother commented something about how she doesn’t know what that is. Meanwhile the little girl is sucking on her thumb. Neither the mom or child were dancing. I started dancing with my daughter (even got down on a knee to be at her level) and not only was my daughter dancing, but the other little girl began dancing as well! And giggling!

At that moment I questioned the idea of me being inferior to this woman.

I realized I didn’t understand my logic and reasons for comparing myself in this regard. Maybe my premise is flawed.

What is my premise?

June 22, 2012

Eyes, Fragile

May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Beauty.

I can’t remember where I found this statement, but it gave me goose bumps and a chill up my spine.

In high school I seemed to attract older, skeevy men. The guy from the recycling plant (which I walked past every morning on the way to school) who ended up following me and my friends around for several years. The weird freaks walking around in the middle of the day that insisted on walking me home… And my father commented to me about this ‘attraction’ I possess as if it were my fault. And I believed him that it was. Something inherent that was wrong with me.

In later years I noticed that I could be one of eight people in an elevator and the weird person would talk to ME. And it’s not like I solicited the conversation. I figured maybe I had a kind face/eyes that made people comfortable around me.

I now think otherwise.

This makes me sad. Sad about all that has happened to me in my life. How little I loved (love) and respected (respect) myself and how little I felt (feel) loved and respected by my parents.

As a mother, I worry about my daughter and all the creepy men out there. Of course I think she is an incredibly beautiful little girl and is sure to be a drop dead gorgeous young woman.

However, the above statement gives my fear pause as I realize that if I can keep her from being damaged, then maybe I can keep her from being a victim.

My gut feeling is that Self-esteem is fragile. But that, I believe, is because I always had so little of it and whenever I would venture out of my comfort zone (and inevitability felt shot down or like I didn’t belong) I felt that I ended up lower than when I began.

But maybe self-esteem is not so fragile if it is developed early enough and has a strong enough foundation.

Maybe little girls can grow up to doubt themselves only rarely and believe in themselves unconditionally.

Maybe mirrors are not enemies and buying a new pair of jeans is not a journey into all that is wrong with me and my life.

Maybe those of us without the well-established self-respect can still impart this in our children.

Maybe we can learn from our children and use our most primitive desire for their well-being as a stepping stone for healing ourselves.

Maybe we can become un-Damaged.

June 20, 2012

You can’t always get what you want….

Filed under: Breastfeeding, Then again.... — Tags: , , — me2self @ 2:30 pm

Last night I think my daughter wanted to nurse.

I should note that she hasn’t nursed since this past Friday evening. I am so glad to be done with it although I am nervous that maybe she wasn’t 100% ready and somehow is feeling that something is missing from her life and it is causing her unrest. I simply gave her a pacifier before we went up for her nap and she didn’t need to nurse to fall asleep. I did the same for the evening and she even cuddled up to read a few books (which she has never done so I figured we were done with the nursing).

But last night she was not her normal self – well, she was her normal “I now want to nurse” self. But I didn’t let her. I sat there thinking it through and thought it would be a slippery slope and she just needs to get through this phase. But then I wondered if I was denying her and wouldn’t she just give it up again easily enough so what’s the harm….but what if she didn’t? I didn’t want to return to nursing regularly. I am done with it. Oh the torment I put myself through over this. I kept cycle through what if, shouldn’t I just, and but then again. I got so frustrated and irritated.

And then I started in on what a terrible mother I am and why don’t I know what to do and how I am already screwing up my kid.

She cried – didn’t want to go to sleep, wanted to play. I had to enforce a bed time (8 PM is late enough kid!) so I had to let her cry. It wasn’t a terrible cry but it wasn’t fun. I remembered that setting rules and boundaries is just as important as making sure they get plenty of hugs, kisses and giggles. Eventually she just settled down and fell asleep and that was that. Let’s see how tonight goes.

This morning I was thinking about last night and I thought that if I could just learn to relax and not worry so much maybe I could have a lighter attitude and maybe that would make her less stressed/upset/unhappy (as I perceive her to be)? Maybe I need to adjust my “aura” to prevent such situations.

But then again, you can’t always get what you want and we all have to deal with it – whether we are 14 months or 36 years old. Still, I feel as though I have failed her. Good thing I go to therapy today!

June 19, 2012

The Top Down Approach

This morning I was able to get up before my daughter did.

I went downstairs and as I entered the kitchen my eyes were drawn to the muffin pan and cooling rack that still were still unwashed and cluttering up the counter.

It occurred to me that I should actually see this as a good thing, because even though, in my perfect world, they would have been washed by now, the fact that I have dirty muffin pans means I am “doing”.

If I didn’t make her homemade breads with flax meal, whole wheat flour and black strap molasses (to boast her iron intake), then I wouldn’t have pans to wash.

If I didn’t make min-quiche’s for her (so she gets egg and vege’s in the am and I may not have to scramble an egg every morning) then I  wouldn’t have pans to wash.

If I didn’t make her risotto with ground chicken thigh or turkey or chick peas and a variety of vege’s and brown, wild and arborio rice, then I  wouldn’t have pans to wash.

So instead of seeing my dirty dishes as a shortcoming and failure, I should see them as a victory and be proud that I am doing.

Mind your mind

Filed under: Irrelevant until it isn't, On Purpose, Then again...., Therapy — Tags: — me2self @ 12:56 pm

Mindfulness.

The answer to my problems.

In high school I found the book Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn but I never finished it. I thought that if I got the end of book and hadn’t applied any of the lessons to my life then I would have failed (again). So I didn’t finish the book (and I started it like 5 times). But it all made sense to me.

 

My therapist has me learning mindfulness. The idea is to be able to look at a thought and decide that I don’t want to own it.

Initially I am to pay attention to all my senses during routine tasks, such as brushing my teeth. I have done this to the best of my ability for almost a week now. Unfortunately my mind starts to wander to things I need to do during the day and next thing I know I have finished with my shower (yes, I brush my teeth in the shower).

But it occurred to me the other morning that the concept is very simply, albeit hard to employ. Basically, if you are focusing on your surroundings and the information coming in to your senses, then you simply cannot expend any mental energy on self-bashing or judging. Feel the water running down your body as you smell the soap – no room for “I am so fat and disgusting”.

 

Enjoy the moment for what it is, and not for what you think is isn’t or should be or why it isn’t better.

My daughter is smiling and cuddling me. Feel her weight on your lap and her fingers around yours. Smell her and kiss her and hear her lovely voice.

Here I am and now is what matters.

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