Category Archives: Daily Thoughts

One Year Chip

An alternate title: today I called a total stranger a bitch.

For several months now, I have been trying to motivate myself to come back to my blog and write something, anything.  My last post described how alcoholism had torn my family apart after decades of substance abuse, denial and enabling behavior.  When my family disintegrated, it kind of killed me inside.  I lost the desire to write, and instead spent my time seeking security and continuity in my life. My efforts to be a happier, healthier, just plain better person have not always led to success, which brings me to this morning, and this blog post.

This morning.

I managed to stand, not merely step, but stand, totally oblivious, for entire minutes in a puddle of gasoline while fueling my car.  My shoes reeked when I arrived at the veterinary clinic to have my dog checked for a post operative infection.  I was distressed by his frantic attempts to scratch his oozing sutures, and when the veterinary technician reached out his left hand to take the leash, I misunderstood his intent and grasped his left hand with my right in an incredibly awkward handshake, which just set a really weird tone for the rest of the appointment.

After leaving the clinic, I noticed a missed call from an unfamiliar number, and there was a voice message.  Returning the call was certainly not my first mistake today, but it proved to be my worst!  I ended up locking horns with a perverse collections agent who clearly takes pleasure in antagonizing innocent citizens. She wanted me to give her information so she could contact my father. Of course, she refused to divulge any herself, but I had researched the number prior to calling back, and once I had identified that she was from a collections agency, it wasn’t a huge leap to figure out why she was calling.   Her understated Gestapo tactics indicated that she meant to intimidate me, but I have dealt with villainous types before.

We were more or less at a stalemate when she stepped waaaaay over the line by making weirdly menacing comments about other members of my family.  Doesn’t matter the situation, don’t use my family as leverage to intimidate me. I informed her that she was a bitch and hung up, then plotted my revenge while driving home.  I considered calling her back incessantly and hanging up for the rest of the day, or playing the ever lovely skull searing fax tone full volume every time she answered her phone…Not my finest hour.  I’ve never actually called anyone a bitch or plotted revenge.  But she did make vague threats, and she named names…

The upsets of this morning continued to linger after I returned home, removed my reeking shoes, and gave the dog a sedative.  The incidents at the gas station and clinic were just comical, but the phone call in particular shook me more than I had anticipated.  It was just another reminder that things are so not cool with my family.  I am getting into fights with creepy collections agents on behalf of my family, so no…things are not cool.  A flood of embarrassment and humiliation had washed over me during that phone call.  My family drama suddenly brought to the attention of a total stranger, my measly explanations about being more or less estranged from my parents, and the interrogation slicing open a wound that I thought had been adequately soothed with months of affirmations, quiet reflection, and pretending that my life is super awesome.  I vented my outrage into a Word document.  How dare some smug anonymous witch make me scrutinize my feelings when I had better things to do!

After considering whether or not the unfortunate incident was worth pursuing, I decided that although this individual was totally being a bitch, she was just doing her job, and a miserable job at that.  I can’t really hold a grudge. Intimidating people over the phone is, aside from obviously being a source of enjoyment for her, likely a useful tactic when dealing with people who actually have information but are hesitant to be forthcoming. I decided that this was not a battle worth fighting today (after all, there is also a rat caught in my egress window and at some point I will have to fight that battle), then put the document into the trash, walked away from the computer, poured myself a fresh cup of coffee, and threw a load of laundry in the washing machine.  For some reason I thought about the One Year Chip in my antique dish cupboard.  Even though I started this day horribly, thinking about the chip sitting there reminded me that there is time to make the day better.

The beginning of this summer.

I hadn’t seen my father in over a year.  My last good memory of him was two years ago, when we spent a whole day in the Black Hills.  It remains one of my favorite memories.  We packed sandwiches and cans of Coke, took the four wheeler out to the mineral claims, and updated boundary signs.  I took a thousand pictures and inhaled as much of the pine scented air as possible before my journey back to Missouri.  If I was forced to forget all memories of my father except one, this memory I would keep.  Everything since has been tinged with grief.  So when I saw him again, a few months ago, I was actually quite numb.  I had put my emotions on ice for so long, and there was a distance. It was nice to see him, and it would have been nice to catch up, but the connection was lost.  It was like trying to continue a phone conversation over heavy static.

We came back to see Dad because it was necessary that we retrieve furniture and personal items from the school where my parents had lived.  Time was of the essence because the building was rapidly falling into disrepair and Dad had been ordered to sell to liquidate assets and pay debts.  There was also some danger of the family heirlooms being damaged or looted. I was extremely anxious about the whole retrieval process, at the same time wanting to save anything with family history attached, but also feeling dread at the prospect.  I hadn’t been in the building in nearly two years, and seeing the decay was shocking.  I wandered around in disbelief, staring at crumbling walls, water stains eating through the wood floors, and garbage rotting in corners.  The building smelled like a dying creature and many of the items we brought back emitted the same fetid odor.  I threw away old papers and fabrics that simply would not air out, unable to hold onto anything that smelled like the school, not after seeing it in such disgrace.

Not everything rescued from the building was damaged, however.  Most of the furniture and family heirlooms were successfully recovered, save for a few things that we could not find; these probably made their way to a pawn shop or some crackhead’s trash can fire.  I felt bitter that some things were missing, grateful that most items were not, and guilty for being so attached to things in the first place.  The heirlooms would never be a replacement for the relationships that I wanted from my parents, but if relationships were impossible, the heirlooms would at least buoy me to my own history and identity.

One particular item was especially important, and I agonized over whether it would still be in the school when we arrived.  It was a very old dish cupboard that had belonged to my great grandmother and then my grandmother.  As a child I included the dish cupboard in many of my daily adventures while visiting my grandparents.  My grandmother kept it in a huge family room built over the garage.  I spent hours in that room, parading my horse figurines and Barbies across the carpet, staging exciting chases across the land forms which I made from old furniture.  Tables made wonderful mesas, and chairs were perfect for hair raising cliff top rescues.  The dish cupboard sometimes became involved, because I could open one of the bottom cabinet doors to let my ponies “hide” in the cave-like interior.  When tired of playing, I simply gazed through the glass of the top doors at the little collections of tea sets and souvenir plates that Grandma brought home from her many road trips and exciting vacations.

When the dish cupboard made its way to my parents’ school, I still enjoyed looking in through the glass at the arrangement of special dishes, though over the years it held fewer items until by the time Mom was ready to leave, the cupboard was nearly bare.  It had been neglected for so long that when we moved it into our home in Colorado, I discovered that the wood had shrunk considerably and pulled away from its once perfect seams, and great cracks had begun to travel along its length.  I saturated it with oil to protect it from the extreme dryness of the Colorado air, one coat, then another, and finally a third for luck.

After the outside was oiled to my satisfaction, I began to clean and oil the interior.  That is when I found the One Year Chip from Alcoholics Anonymous.  It had been my father’s, something he must have earned and carried around at one time.  It must have been dropped into the cupboard, perhaps as an afterthought.  Or maybe it was deliberately placed there.  It’s hard to say.  It had adhered to the back of the cupboard where a sticky stain kept it from shifting during the journey down several flights of stairs, onto a U-Haul truck, across a handful of states, and then into my home.  Holding it in my hand, I read both sides.  The message seemed to be meant just for me, for that moment.  I considered the infinite varieties of circumstances that would have brought this coin into my possession and determined that it should be a reminder to me when life was giving me a rough turn.

“God grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, courage to change things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

Today.

I was mean to a total stranger on the phone.  Granted, she was asking for trouble and pushing my buttons on purpose.  But I don’t like the way the whole situation developed, as though the scene were everything, and I was merely playing a minor part in an undesirable melodrama. I knew when I dialed the number that there was only one way the scene could end, and I played my part, on cue as always, falling into the role of the ever reliable character, buffering my parents from the realities that they had created. The morning’s incident left me feeling disgust at being duped once again into playing a character I no longer want to be.  It’s time to start living by the Serenity Prayer on the One Year Chip.  I must sort out the things which cannot be changed from the things that I can change, and focus my energy on what is actually my responsibility.

At one time my father earned his One Year Chip from Alcoholics Anonymous.  He must have spent an entire year attending meetings, gaining perspective and motivation from peers like himself, and refraining from using a dangerous substance.  Perhaps that year was glorious, or perhaps it was a living nightmare.  I will never know.  What I do know, when I look at the chip, is that for me it represents my goal to learn which battles are mine to fight.  Someday I will look back on this morning as a stronger, healthier person. Perhaps the next year will be glorious for me, or perhaps it will be a living nightmare. But I will never know until I break from the prepossession that I am obligated to live out someone else’s drama.  It is time to be the author of my own story.

 

~G

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It’s a New Year. Time to Get My House in Order.

2014-12-24 18.12.51I sort of mean this literally, and if you could see my house right now you’d think: yes! Please get your living conditions under control, woman! But I mostly mean it figuratively. For me, getting my house in order this year means getting a handle on some things that I struggled with in 2014.  Many of my friends have posted inspiring resolutions on their Facebook pages about how 2015 is going to be their year.  This is the year to travel the world, start that dream business, get back into phenomenal shape, rebuild important relationships, get the most out of life!

Unlike my publicly ambitious friends, I didn’t post anything definitive about my goals, but that’s because I’m kind of superstitious.  It seems like as soon as I put my plans on paper or make a verbal admission of intent, something goes terribly wrong.  It’s better if I let the wind carry me along and present spontaneous opportunities.  It probably makes me seem a little shifty and unreliable, but it’s a system that works for me.  So this year, I decided to be stealthy in my resolutions, take the time to reflect carefully on exactly what I want to improve before going crazy with promises of self refinement.  But here’s the thing — whether or not we like to admit it, whether we like to make resolutions or keep things loose, we all start a new year with expectations of what the future holds and what we might be capable of with our many talents and shortcomings.

"Let's spend Christmas and New Year's thi...

A Navy quarantine poster from World War II  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being a partial Type A person, I of course had expectations for Christmas and New Year’s, and as usual, my expectations failed miserably in the face of what I felt was God’s rather morbid sense of humor. The plan was that after Christmas we would pack the car and drive out to Kansas City to stay with my sister and brother-in-law for a few days.  The guys would spend some time hunting in South Dakota and be back for the New Year’s Eve party that my sister was preparing.  We would also squeeze in a belated birthday party for my husband, complete with homemade cake and splendid gifts.

I imagined days filled with craft projects, refreshing walks in the country, shopping trips in the Kansas City suburbs, and cooking adventures with my daughters and sister while the menfolk were away.  We would stay up late watching movies, cuddling on the over-sized couches in our cozy pajamas, eating big bowls of popcorn.   It would be so wonderful, and such a special way for our whole family to recharge before diving back into the chaotic routine that would come with a new year!  Best of all, my husband would  search through the house for me at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve to give me a romantic kiss and set the tone for our new year together!  Well, nothing happened as planned.  My husband and I did manage a New Year’s kiss, but how romantic can a kiss be when you are planting a smacker on your husband while holding an ice cream bucket for a puking child who has caught the stomach flu just in time for the disco ball drop?

We spent a hellish week between Christmas and New Year’s fighting off a horrible intestine churning virus.  It was like a horror movie; every night at bedtime we huddled under the covers wondering who would be next.  When we heard footsteps rushing down the hall and the bathroom door slamming shut in the middle of the night, we knew.  We knew.  The virus picked us off one by one — first my brother-in-law, then my husband, then me, and finally my daughters on New Year’s Eve.  My husband and I, still recovering from the virus ourselves, were up all night, each nursing a very sick, miserable child.  So instead of imbibing on delicious food and drink and squeezing in last minute celebrations with loved ones, I spent my final week of 2014 obsessively swabbing down the communal bathroom with Clorox wipes, running to the grocery store for Saltines and Pedialyte, sanitizing record breaking amounts of barfy laundry, and keeping a careful tally of the dwindling toilet paper supply.  By New Year’s Day, I was a sobbing mess.  Thus my plans for a glittering entrance into 2015 were ruined.  I didn’t triumphantly stride so much as limp pathetically into the new year — battered and exhausted.

My wiped out family needed a vacation from our Christmas Vacation after what we had been through!  The whole experience left me muttering to myself, “Man, I just can’t catch a break!”  But, after putting my hurt feelings aside for the moment, I managed to focus on the real issue.  My house has been out of order for some time, and I want to straighten it out.  I’d like to improve certain aspects of my life in the coming year.  And now, with nothing but my priorities laid out in front of me, I have a simple question to ask: what do I really want to accomplish?  Getting my house in order involves more than just having every thing organized neat and tidy, put away where it belongs.  It means changing my attitude, gaining a more positive outlook, building relationships, and developing better habits that will ultimately lead to the goals I want to achieve.  Sure, things like mini-epidemic viruses will change my short-term plans and temporarily slow me down, but if I allow such obstacles to prevent me from living a happy life, then there is no one to blame but myself.

So, I have now made my relatively simple, but very important resolutions for 2015 and kept them close to my heart.  It could take longer than expected to get my house in order, but I will follow the wind and learn as I go.

Happy New Year!

~G

What I’ve Learned After Ten Years of Marriage…

…Or my tips for success.

Aren't we adorable?

Aren’t we adorable?

This week Van and I celebrated ten years of marriage, the accomplishment being even more sweet because the week was an absolutely insane carnival of mishaps, chaos, and confusion, and the fact that we both survived was an unprecedented miracle. We’ve all had weeks like this: a kind of demented Butterfly Effect where one fucked up event creates opportunity for another, until you find yourself hitting new lows.  “Inconspicuously” changing your clothes in your car because you no longer have time to practice appropriate hygiene in between all the obligations you’ve signed on for.  Being mean to the children of people who you barely know (in my defense, the little bastard was trying to take my last potato chip).  Questioning the inner workings of the universe while cleaning elephantine piles of dog shit off the living room carpet.  This was my week.

On Monday evening after a lovely turkey dinner, Van had some kind of mysterious reaction to something.  I suspected the eggnog immediately because eggnog is a disgusting mixture of two things that I cannot digest properly: milk and raw eggs.  Even though he was clearly having a reaction to something, he continued to drink the eggnog until the rash that started on his face had spread to his chest, arms, and back.  At that point he wanted to go to the hospital.  My next door neighbor, an absolute angel, told me to leave the kids with her overnight.  We laughed a little on the drive to the Emergency Room “Ha ha!  What a funny way to spend our tenth anniversary!”  We weren’t terribly concerned about the reaction, and our anniversary wasn’t actually until the Tuesday, so there would be plenty of time to get the rash cleared up and be on our way for some merrymaking.

Once he got checked into the ER, the full effects of Van’s decision to seek medical attention set in.  He started complaining that he didn’t want to be there because it might take several hours.   “Well what did you expect?”  I asked.  “If it’s an allergic reaction, we need to get it treated.”  When the triage nurse saw us, Van went all out, claiming that I had sexually assaulted him on multiple occasions, and when he was asked about mental problems he stated, “You should probably ask my wife; she will give you a better answer.”  She looked at me with something like sympathy and I said “Just check the mental problems box, but NOT the sexual assault box.”  I kind of wanted to slap him but reminded myself why we were there.  We were ushered back to the waiting room, where one T.V. was blaring Fox News and the other was blaring Disney Junior.  Oh good, the inner circle of hell.  Luckily,  I had brought along my copy of Les Miserables so at least I had something to do.  Van had nothing to keep himself occupied, so he wandered around talking to the young mothers with tiny babies.  I’m sure the last thing they wanted was a bright red lobster man looming over their babies, asking questions about eating habits.

Before long, we were taken to an exam room.  I wondered if it had something to do with my husband complaining a swelling feeling his throat, but I didn’t know if he was just saying that to get through the exam and treatment process faster, or if he really was having trouble breathing.  Either way, we were in and there was no backing out. The room was small, and I had nowhere to sit except for an uncomfortable molded plastic chair shoved up against a scary garbage can used by everyone who came into the room.  The entire process took around five hours, with various medical staff coming in to perform diagnostics. Van remained in character, harassing everyone within ten feet of his bed.  He wasn’t going down without a fight, anyhow.  The doctor determined that he absolutely needed an Epi Pen injection with a steroid chaser, and some monitoring afterward.  I was tempted to ask if I could do the honors and re-enact the Pulp Fiction scene where Uma gets the adrenaline shot in the heart, but held my tongue because Van was being obnoxious enough for the two of us and I didn’t need to start doing or saying anything to keep us there longer.

The shot went, disappointingly, into his arm, and within a few minutes, his face looked clearer and he was actually dozing off.  Go figure!  While I sat in the uncomfortable chair, my legs and ass going numb, Van snored very loudly for about two hours.  Towards the end I passed out across the garbage can (gross) which is probably why I am sick with a mystery virus now.  When the doctor came back to check his vitals, Van said that he could breathe much better, which convinced us both that coming to the ER was the right decision.  We were told to never second guess an allergic reaction, since it’s difficult to know if and when it could cause the throat or tongue to swell.

So you are probably wondering what any of this has to do with marriage, right?  Van and I both woke up right after midnight on Tuesday.  I smiled at him across the room and said “Hey, it’s our anniversary!  We made it!”  Van smiled and asked, “Do you want your present?”  I looked at him, a bit bewildered, and said, “Well I kind of feel like I deserve one after what you just put me through.”  Van said, I’ve got your present right here; do you want it or not?”  So I said okay, yeah, I wanted it.  And do you know what he did?  He stuck his tongue out at me!  So I flipped him off.  But then he pulled a little ring box out of his pocket, and popped it open to reveal a gorgeous Black Hills Gold ring.  I was more than just a little surprised.  Van had that ring in his pocket, and at some point during the jackassery he thought to himself “Hey, I can give Georgeann a ring right here in the Emergency Room!”

This summer at Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose, South Dakota.

This summer at Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose, South Dakota.

So, this event set the stage for one of the weirdest weeks I can remember.  Van is okay.  We never found out what he is actually allergic to (which makes life even more mysterious and exciting).  Despite the strange week and all the challenges, we have been very close as a couple, which has led me to want to share my advice to couples who don’t yet know what ten years of marriage looks like, as well as to those lucky ones who do.

1.  First of all, it takes work.  Van and I didn’t get to this point without romantically pursuing each other constantly, appreciating each other’s qualities, and maintaining a special friendship.  Anyone who says marriage is easy is full of shit.

2.  Next, be patient with your partner.  So many times at the ER, I had to draw on my reserves of patience, and I am glad I did (I got a ring out of it!).  I didn’t feel great that night, and had been looking forward to a bubble bath and an early bed time.  No such luck, but that is part of a relationship.  We often have to put our needs on hold and be patient because our partner might need our understanding, and that becomes the priority at the moment.  It all evens out, so don’t keep score.

3. Don’t be afraid to have fun.  Van and I had to take a hard look at our resources, goals, and limitations this week, and reframe the definition of “fun” because it turns out that the fancy anniversary dinner we had planned for this weekend isn’t quite so practical for us right now.  We are still exhausted from Monday’s trip to the ER.  And cleaning up dog poop off the carpet on Tuesday.  And decorating for an office Christmas party on Wednesday.  And attending said Christmas party on Thursday…and, well, you get the picture.  What is more practical and within our capabilities right now is a pizza and movie night at the house. One of the best gifts I could give my husband this year was this statement: “I don’t need to have fancy steak dinners or big gifts as proof that we love each other.  I just want more time with you, and I will never outgrow that selfish desire.”  This was actually before he gave me the ring, so try not to find hypocrisy in this.  A solid relationship requires an investment of time, not money, and fun doesn’t have to be expensive!

4.  Say please, thank you, and I love you.  A lot!  Couples forget to say these phrases.  I feel spoiled because I have a husband who says these things many times a day, and on top of this, he does little helpful things for me, which makes me even more eager to reciprocate.  Let me tell you, nothing made me feel better than waking up this morning to a clean kitchen with loaded dishwasher full of clean and dry dishes, and neatly lined up CLEAN pots and pans, ready for cooking!  It allowed me to sit and write this post.  So when he wakes up, I will be in such a good mood and feel like helping him with a project.  Provided the dog doesn’t poop on the floor or the kids don’t flood the downstairs bathroom…

5.  Learn how to communicate.  This really ties into to my first piece of advice.  Van and I went through a long spell where we really weren’t communicating but we didn’t realize it.   I tend to use a passive aggressive tone, and he got to the point where it was just easier to tune me out.  So it took a lot of courage for us both to decide to develop better communication skills.  It has worked wonders for our relationship in just a few months.

6. Spend time together, but be individuals.  Van and I like to do things together.  We hunt, work in our garden together and sometimes we cook together.  We also have individual hobbies that allow us to have circles of friends who offer us support and advice to bring back to the relationship.

7. Last, because I like the number 7, but also because this is a very important tip, take care of yourself.  If you don’t practice good self maintenance, how are you going to take care of your partner and family?  This includes being your own best friend, caring for your needs and learning how to make yourself a consistent priority so that you feel taken care of.  Even if it means locking yourself in your bathroom so you can take a bubble bath without being interrupted by the entire neighborhood (which is my problem when I want to use the bathroom), it’s worth the effort to find time for yourself each day.  Doing so will create more energy for you to be open and loving toward your partner.

The Red Hammer sign next to a sculpture at Porter Sculpture Park reminds me of our marriage.

The Red Hammer sign next to a sculpture at Porter Sculpture Park reminds me of our marriage.

Last night we had a little dinner and some friends came over.  We cracked open a bottle of wine that was part of a case given to us ten years ago when we got married.  The first bottles were consumed years ago, with the last one drunk at our five year anniversary — and it was still good then.  We were not sure how the wine would taste last night, and when we took a sip we discovered that another five years of Army moves, bad storage choices, and general abuse had turned it into weird funky grape juice.  We laughed about it.  After our guests left Van hugged me and said “We outlasted the wine!  Should we keep the bottle as a souvenir?”  I said “Yes, let’s.”  Van gave me a kiss and said “You know, we still have one bottle of that stuff left.  We need to keep it and open it in ten more years.”  I giggled “It’s a date!”

~ G

Be Here!

I admit it, I have really let my blogging sit on the back burner.  I have been letting my laptop gather dust, losing my Blog Ideas! notebook under the bed, in the desk, in the car, etc. and generally not caring about my readership stats.  No, I am not severely depressed or on drugs (or both).  I am just really busy genuinely enjoying life, and apparently that does not involve blogging.

Kawthar

The thought occurred to me a couple of days ago that with Veteran’s Day approaching I really should have a thoughtful piece typed up.  You know the piece — something that would induce tears, smiles, or philosophical introspection.  But there will probably be so many of those posted and published on much larger formats, and I am quite an underdog.  And besides, I have way too much going on that I am genuinely enjoying right now.  I can always work on my introspective pieces later…

Three BuddiesSo what do I want to write about for Veteran’s Day; what do I really want to say?  What important message do I want to convey to others?  Simply this: live.  Live today, don’t wast time.  Yesterday is over, tomorrow might not come.  Be in the moment, be a friend.  Reach out to those who are hurting, who need a caring ear that will listen, a shoulder to cry on.  We outgrow so many things in a lifetime, but let’s never outgrow kindness.

The two Iraqi friends pictured in this post were killed in 2005 by a terrorist RPG shot into the car they were riding in while they were on their way to work with Coalition Forces.  I miss them, but I am thankful to have had time with them.  The most important lesson they taught me, that I can pass on to you, is to really live every day.  They lived in a world that was literally falling to pieces around them, and do you know what they did each day?  They laughed, told stories, shared food, played pranks, and they squeezed the life out of each moment and formed meaningful relationships because they hadn’t outgrown basic human kindness.  They were truly alive every single day, and for me, they always will be whenever I see flowers blooming in Spring and leaves changing color in Autumn.   Do not let today pass by without being present and accounted for!

Happy and Blessed Veterans Day

~G

So…Turns Out My Spirit Animal is a Witch

Lately my priorities have involved self reflection and goal setting.  And just in time for Halloween, I discovered that the path to my good mental health meant allowing my inner bitch to have some breathing room.  She is part of me after all!

Are you sure my spirit animal is a witch?

Are you absolutely sure my spirit animal is a witch?

I’m just a Wicked Witch trying to get by as a Dorothy in this Land of Oz.  Of course I want to be nice, and people are always telling me that I’m too nice — ugh, typical Dorothy behavior.  But it’s not healthy to suppress my inner bitch when she’s trying to look out for my best interests.  The truth is, I have a terrible time saying no.  It isn’t that I can’t ever say no; after I do manage to say no once in a while, I make a concerted effort to feel guilty for as long as possible.  I have also spent much of my adult life making important decisions based on the input of others who feel compelled to tell me what I should do (like they know anything).  I tell you, that makes it quite difficult for a gal’s agenda to progress, whether it’s raising a family or training an army of vicious flying monkeys (practically the same thing, by the way).

I have lost the ability over time to listen to my own voice and make decisions with a clear conscience.  Guilty feelings about saying no to people who have certain expectations only feeds anxiety and self doubt.  In order to get true respect from the world, I must first respect and love myself, delightful flaws and all.  This is where being a bit of a witch really pays off!  I decided that the best way to amend my problems is to reconnect with my inner bitch and allow her some breathing room.   Since she is part of who I am, perhaps she could teach me how to reclaim my true identity and learn to listen to that identity with a clear mind.  I did have to be careful when unleashing this powerful force.  Honestly identifying my feelings and personal goals rather than fixating on distractions made me feel courageous and motivated.   There is a difference between expressing oneself with emotion and just fighting dirty.  For me, progress isn’t about executing a vengeful agenda to get a higher foothold on the ladder of life.  The inner bitch is simply there to remind me of who I am and who I can be, if I focus on what is really important.

It wasn’t long before my confidence was put to the test.  While attending a harvest festival at the local dairy farm, I ran into a friend from the school where I used to work.  She asked if I would be coming back.  “No,” I said simply, and smiled.  “But we really miss you there!”  The guilt started to creep in, and part of me wanted to make promises to appease her expectations, but I stood my ground.  “I don’t know what to say, other than I’m not planning to come back.”   No longer a Dorothy, I was free of the guilt and broke the cycle of letting other people make my decisions for me – finally.   I would run into more friends and former co-workers from the school throughout the month of October.  It was very nice to see them again, but they did not change my decisions.

For Halloween I followed my daughters’ advice and dressed as a witch.  After my adventure of self discovery, why not?  I was originally going to be Dr. Who (the Matt Smith version) but the girls convinced me to throw on a black dress with some witch-y looking black boots, and my husband helped me find an amazing red hat with feathers and black veil.  I painted my lips ruby red, practiced my witch cackle, then sat on the front steps in the freezing cold for two hours welcoming a steady parade of children dressed in an array of colorful costumes.  The highlight of the evening was a visit from an eight year old Dr. Who (Matt Smith version), and his costume was much better than mine would have been.

I am glad that I finally identified with my inner bitch and understood how she fits into my personality.  I can pretend I am a Dorothy all day, but I AM a Wicked.  Instead of skipping down the yellow brick road with random maniacs who pop out of the hedges, I would rather shutter the windows, light some candles, shove gingerbread men into the oven, and watch extra dark episodes of ‘The X Files’.  And I will continue to consult my inner bitch for purposes of self empowerment, if not for evil (although that can be tempting!).  Without her, I wouldn’t be me.

~G

 

Taking The Journey Home

Me a long time ago, before being an adult really got to me!

A long time ago, before being an adult really got to me!

This post marks one year of blogging, and this is my one hundredth post!  The last twelve months have been turbulent, so I am grateful to still be here, writing. Life is a journey, but until recently, I didn’t realize that so often the journey is about renewal and rediscovery.  Yesterday was my birthday, a significant milestone in life, and I feel as though I am once again ready to begin a new chapter.  Last October, when I began blogging, I believed that I had it all figured out.  Feeling fine, I had my life organized, with everything in its place, and a nifty master plan for the future.  I was beginning to think I had discovered the secret to that elusive Wonder Woman Syndrome.

This spring, a bizarre illness knocked me down, hard.  The illness seemed to come out of nowhere, and didn’t make any sense, and to make matters worse, I had a very difficult time getting the medical care that I needed for swift recovery.  Without an official diagnoses or even satisfactory answers, I did what any tenacious and frustrated housewife would do: I tried a vigorous detox cleanse and blogged about my symptoms.  All summer I attempted to purge my body of toxins and negativity, but by autumn, I just felt angry, vulnerable, and exhausted.  I was grieving over something that had been lost, and though I didn’t know what it was, I really wanted it back.

When my children went back to school, I did not miss returning as an employee, nor did I regret my decision to stay home and focus on my health.  I did, however, feel a little stab of guilt for failing to hack it in the “real” world.  I worried about being seen as unreliable, and I was reluctant to make plans lest I’d have to cancel due to illness.  This continued to feed the guilt cycle.  After my husband and I quarreled about how difficult it was for us to attend social gatherings, I began to see how my illness affected him.  He was tired, he wanted things to be better, just like me.  So now a great question loomed in my mind.  Would I spend the rest of my life in a cage , or finally break free?

Three weeks before my birthday, I visited with a medical professional about my concerns.  All my recent test results were normal.  On paper, I’mm a perfectly healthy person.   In her opinion, my symptoms are in my head; I simply have anxiety.  “You bitch,” I wanted to snarl at her, but instead I agreed to explore her theory.   After all, I was the one who had requested a referral to a counselor at the beginning of the appointment.   I did make one statement in my defense.  ” I got sick this spring but couldn’t get the care I needed, so of course I feel anxious! No one ran any tests on me seven months ago, when I asked for help.  I don’t want actual physical symptoms overlooked just because I have anxiety!”  We agreed to meet each other halfway; she promised to check into my symptoms  for legitimacy, and I took the first step in reclaiming what I had lost.

The first step in my journey began with kickboxing.  A friend talked me into it.  “I’m probably not in adequate shape to even try this,” I balked, but she insisted.  “You’ll be fine.  The class isn’t that tough, and it’s fun!”  I puked and nearly passed out halfway through my first class.  But my friend was right.  It was fun, and I made an extremely important decision that day.  I must take better care of myself, because I am worth it.  Kickboxing is more than just an incredibly addictive treat — it has reminded me that I deserve to grow and develop.  I have spent most of my life encouraging others, and now it is time to encourage myself.  I deserve to invest in myself as much as I have invested in the lives of those around me.

Me now.  Still adorable!

Me now. Still adorable!

We stay at home parents often discount our capabilities , perhaps believing that since we are not breadwinners, we have less intrinsic worth to offer our families through support and service.  When we minimize ourselves and put our needs on the back burner, we suffer, and then the family suffers.   I have been a wife and mother for one decade.   I got married at the age of 23, just months after returning from a long deployment to the Middle East.  Barely an adult myself, I hardly knew what I wanted out of life when I married a career soldier and became a young Army spouse.  I threw myself completely into my family, doing and being everything for them.  I was trying to be Wonder Woman, never quite living up to the standards I set for myself.  That my friends, is the recipe for perpetual frustration.

Once I started to treat myself with the kindness that I deserve, I began to also give myself room to grow.  I also began to forgive myself of my faults and understand that I am not the sum of my thoughts or limitations.  It is no coincidence to me that this transformation has happened around the time of my birthday.  Every new chapter of life is traveled on a new trail.  While reflecting upon renewed life on the day of my birth, I had to ask myself what is really important.  I may never know why or how I got sick, or the real source of my illness.  I may even continue to battle illness for my entire life.  Perhaps that is but a small detail of my bigger journey.  Why waste any more time on fear and anxiety when life is out there to be lived?  The only thing that matters is today, and what I want to do about making myself better — more kind, compassionate, loving, and adventurous — than the person I was yesterday.

After spending my entire life putting the needs of others ahead of mine, I essentially have no idea who I am.  I have been angry because I miss being who I once was.  Although I really can’t go back in time, I’ve been mourning the loss of a person who hasn’t existed in years.  It is time to break out of the brittle old cage and make the journey home, to reclaim my identity and rediscover who I am by simply living my life.  Yesterday I went to the school to pick up my daughters, and one of my favorite students recognized me.  I hadn’t seen her since spring.  She has a disability that makes her speech difficult to understand, but when she stepped forward, she spoke very clearly, asking where I had been, what was going on with my hair, when would she see me again?  And she hugged me tight, three times.  I could see that I was not the only one who had given myself room to grow, and it felt very satisfying.

~G

 

 

Summer Highlights

For our anniversary, my husband gave me a very nice digital camera.  I put it to good use this summer during my travels.  It is so enjoyable to look back through photos and remember special moments.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Taking photos at Saddle Pass in the South Dakota Badlands.

Photographing scenery at Saddle Pass in the South Dakota Badlands.

A gorgeous metal sculpture at the Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD.

A gorgeous metal sculpture  of a pierced hand with butterfly resting on the finger; Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD.

 

Goldfish lined up along the road at the Sculpture Park.

Goldfish lined up along the road at the Sculpture Park.

 

My son enjoying a moment on a pile of stones left over from mining attempts.

My son enjoying a snack on a pile of stones at a family gold claim.

 

The Al's Oasis sign at Oacoma, with the legendary buffalo mascot.

The famous Al’s Oasis sign at Oacoma, South Dakota.

 

Becoming acquainted with The Ballerina at Porter Sculpture Park.

Becoming acquainted with The Ballerina at Porter Sculpture Park.

 

Choosing the perfect steed for a carousel ride.

Choosing the perfect steed for a carousel ride is very important.

 

Our first apple tree, which gave us five incredible apples this summer!

Our first apple tree gave us five incredible tasting apples this summer!

 

My daughter watching festivities on the Fourth of July.

Watching festivities at the Junction City Fourth of July carnival.

 

Fishing with Daddy in Texas.

Fishing with Daddy for perch on Horseshoe Bay in Marble Falls, Texas.

 

Getting friendly with a skeleton at Porter Sculpture Park.

My sister getting friendly with a skeleton at Porter Sculpture Park.

 

At the Chipmunk Village.

Relaxing at the Chipmunk Village on the family gold claim.

 

My son, feeling on top of the world.

My son, feeling on top of the world.

 

My mother smiling and enjoying an afternoon on the gold claim.

My mother smiling and enjoying an afternoon on the gold claim.

The breathtaking view at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The breathtaking view at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

 

A photo of Ross the Dog, taken by my daughter on her digital camera.

A fantastic photo of Ross the Dog, taken by my daughter on her digital camera.

 

A raggedy sunflower in my backyard, turned toward the morning sunlight.

A raggedy sunflower in my backyard, turned toward the morning sunlight.

I hope that you all had a memorable summer, and that your autumn is crisp and refreshing!

~G