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Prepping for more than survival

3 Nov

Last winter sucked ass. There’s just no polite way of stating that.

Okay, yes, we’re in Seattle, and the PNW is not know for being the sunniest of places. We know that. But last winter broke records and nearly broke the entire region. There were 9 days of recorded sun from October 1st to March 28th.

9 days of sun. Only three of those were full sunny days. The rest were cloudy, and we had record amounts of rain.

 

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Basically, we were all the 10th Doctor [Gif of David Tennant standing in the rain looking sad]

That alone will make someone a bit twitchy, punchy, and unwilling to leave their couch fort. Add my life’s worth of stress and anxiety and history of depression and I flat out ghosted life at one point. There was a week where I just stayed in bed during the school hours binge watching Netflix because I just couldn’t do anything else.

 

I have since gotten a therapist and a light therapy lamp.

But this past month, even with its gloriously sunny autumn days full of color, I’ve been living with a shadow looming over my shoulder. I realized I was dreading the winter months. Flat out dread people. Not that I was afraid of the gloom, but afraid I wasn’t up for the gloom. I don’t want to ghost out on life again, spend time in bed, waste entire days doing nothing because doing anything is an effort.

It doesn’t help that my life here is a bit lonely. I didn’t realize it, but my therapist pointed it out after I mentioned how I spend my days alone. My friends all work. I spend my daytime hours alone. I can spent five hours of my awake time having only the dogs as company, and then spend my evenings with only Maura for company. And Maura isn’t a conversationalist.

My natural tendency is to cave a little. Built a couch fort and hide. Add record breaking gloom and rain and a crappy social life and there suddenly isn’t enough Vitamin D in the world to break that spiral.

So this year, I’m trying to be proactive. Find reasons to get up, get out the door, things to do when I am home.

Step One was making my space happier and less stressful. The clutter and chaos wasn’t working for me. I’d see the mess and decide I couldn’t do something more “fun” – like write – because I should be cleaning up. But then I would be overwhelmed by the cleaning, or just not wanting to clean, so I’d just waste time online or on Netflix, not doing anything.

So while it was sunny, I tore my house apart, decluttered everything, shifted things that needed shifting, donating things that I didn’t need, crying because OMG, I just made my house worse, wtf have I done? – and then get back to dealing with shit.

And now it’s dealt with. Well, except for the laundry room. But I can shut the door on that.

 

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Took a few months, but this space is back to fabulous [photo of a living room with a blue rug,  green couch, bright green and blue sequin pillows, rocking chair with a polka dot throw, built in shelves full of books and knick knacks, and a fireplace whose mantle is decorated with a large print, deer antlers,  little houses, fish bottles and two green glass lamps]

 

Step Two – I got out my light therapy lamp while it was still sunny. I have it here, just to the left of me at my desk, shining next to my face as I type. And I got a big bottle of gummy Vitamin D. Because Vitamin D deficiency is just a way of life in the PNW.

Step Three – I’m reconsidering my mellow/angsty playlists on Spotify. Not that I don’t love my mellow/angsty playlists. But on a gloomy day, I need something to combat things, and that’s not going to be Adele. Oh, I still can’t go full Justin Timberlake, but maybe some Script and Train.

Step Four – I’m banning myself from crawling back into bed. Step One has made this more possible. There is a difference between watching a couple shows from the sofa and laying in bed.

Step Five – find reasons to leave the house. This is the hardest step because there aren’t a lot of options outside of shopping during the day. But leaving the house is necessary. Getting outside is necessary. Having a reason to dress like a normalish human is necessary.

Step Six – and really, I should list this one higher, is writing. Not just writing, but finishing the edits of the book I’ve been writing. I need to get that done and send it out into the world, because I need to have that accomplishment. Because having been a stay at home mom for 21 years, I have this feeling of being useless. Let’s be frank – stay at home moms are treated like idiots who can only talk about diapers and car pool lines. We have no value outside of our house. And once our kids are grown enough, we’re expected to go back to work. I didn’t do that. I thought about it a couple years ago, finding a part time job, but the reality is that it’d be hard to find a job that fits around Maura’s schedule. And not to brag, but we don’t need the piddly income I’d make (because high paying jobs for women who’ve stayed at home for 21 years are surprisingly few).

I’ve spent my entire adult life talking about getting published. Right now, it seems like it’s been nothing but talk. I’ve not been disciplined enough to get anything done up to now, and quite frankly, life kept throwing shit at me like it was a monkey at the zoo. But now, now I’m close enough I can see it as a reality. I just need to finish.

So yeah, that’s my plan for this winter. Last winter, I spent it just trying to survive. This winter, I’d like to do a little more than that.

And with that sad, I woke up to fecking snow falling.

<headdesk>

 

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[photo of a dark morning, snow falling and sticking onto a patio table with an aqua blue umbrella, on the deck, on the grill…] Ugh. 

 

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The scars life leaves…

27 Oct

 

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Seventh grade me, posing by the front door, ready for my confirmation (hence the stole)

 

 

I think it was November. I remember it was some time in the middle of the week. A Wednesday or Thursday perhaps, but one of those days where there’d been a day or two of normalcy, and then a day or two of the new reality.

It was seventh grade in the Catholic school I’d gone to for all but kindergarten. It was my hothouse of growth, the second-biggest part of my life outside of home. It was where I spent half my day at, with people I’d spent seven years of my life with.

I thought I was liked. I thought I had friends. Looking back, I can see the great divide between school and home life. We were at the edges of the school boundary line, so I didn’t really have school friends in my neighborhood. I had my friend Laura*, who lived on the same block as me – but Laura went to the public school. My school friends stayed at school, except for the occasional birthday party or sleepover.

By seventh grade, my world had already been shaken. My dad had left when I was in fifth grade, something we didn’t make public knowledge for the first year because there was I guess hopes of reconciliation. By seventh grade, it was generally acknowledged that he was gone.  We were adjusting to the new normal of a one-parent household and Sunday visitations and Dad having an apartment in the city.

And so one day, I sat with my friends at lunch, and everything seemed normal to me. The next day, I walked up to the table and before I could sit down, one girl looked up at me and told me I couldn’t sit there, they didn’t like me anymore. “Go sit at the loser table.”

Because of course there was a loser table, even at my nice Catholic school, with sixty-odd kids in the seventh grade class, all of whom had known each other for years.

I remember some of the other girls didn’t look at me. I remember the spokesgirl smirking. I remember going over to said loser table and asking if I could sit with the two girls there. I don’t know if they asked what had happened, but it didn’t matter, because I had no answer for them.

Adults at the time gave me theories. It was because I was too popular and as the one popular girl moved away, the position of queen bee was open, and the other girl really wanted to be queen bee. It was because my parents had split up and that was “catching”, so I was ostracized for that.

But as an adult myself, I think it was more basic than that. I was an awkward girl with a speech problem, a skin condition, and a bad haircut. I was a dork. I was the opposite of cool. It was seventh grade, and let’s be honest, 12 year old girls are kinda scary and mean. In a way, I was ousted for totally normal reasons.

My status as a social pariah became well-established overnight.

Not only did just about every girl in the seventh grade class stop speaking to me, but the boys did as well. Well, except when those boys were teasing me. And by teasing, I mean taunting my height or my speech problem – which had become my normal and I had been told to just ignore. No teacher seemed to notice my sudden change in status, or the cold shoulders I was given by my peers. There was too much going on in the school administration to notice one girl.

It wasn’t all horrible because I became friends with the other two girls at the outcast table. We hung out after school hours. I introduced them to my friend Laura, and we all became a group of friends.

It wasn’t all horrible. Until it was.

For some reason, the two girls who had befriended me in my time of need decided to also cast me off, taking Laura with them.

And there I was, in late spring of 1985, completely friendless.

I begged my mom to let me change schools, to go from the Catholic school to the public junior high. I couldn’t bear the idea of spending one more year in an environment where I was friendless and ignored. Catholic school was getting too costly for my mom anyway, in her new single-mom status, so she allowed it. I went to a new school the following fall, which was a new school for everyone in the district. I made some friends, my friend Laura and I patched things up, and I moved on.

Sort of.

Because come high school, many of my Catholic schoolmates were once again my classmates. A couple of them and I became friends again. Some just pretended they never knew me – including the head mean girl who told me I no one liked me anymore. We had a couple of classes together where we just kept our distance from one another. And then, after four years, I left the state to go to college and never quite looked back.

And yet…

What happened to me in seventh grade had such an influence on the person I became. It is something that entwined itself into my psyche probably because it came at a time of great upheaval in my home life. Imagine having a year where no matter where you went, you were being rejected and everything you knew changed. Friends turned their backs on you, parents left, taking financial stability with them. Things you enjoyed doing had to be given up. In the space of two years, everything changed – including me.

I was taught, in hard harsh lessons, that I couldn’t trust people, that people would walk away from me, that people would stab me in the back and then ask for the knife back as if I stole it from them. I’d make friends and then wait for the moment they realized they didn’t want to be friends with me anymore, certain that at some point, they’d realize I was a loser and leave.

It is something I’ve had to continually overcome all of my life. Which all sounds a bit ridiculous and overdramatic. But if it’d been a physical injury, it would be one that healed, but left scar tissue and a limited range of mobility. And considering it that way doesn’t seem overdramatic at all.

The amazing part to me is that those girls involved in the great unfriending of seventh grade probably have never thought of that Wednesday or Thursday in November. It wasn’t a pivotal moment in their life. It changed my world, not theirs.

Why does this matter now?

Because October is Bullying Prevention Month, or so social media keeps reminding me. And looking back, so much of my formative years were doused in some form of bullying, and it affected me. It affected how I developed and how I viewed relationships with people. It wasn’t something to just get over, because it wasn’t one thing, or one time. I didn’t have a bad day, I had a bad year. I had two bad years. Honestly, I had a few bad years.

Somehow, I came out of it all with only some baggage. Other teens don’t come out of it at all.

In a way, I’m a survivor. Feck that – I *am* a survivor. I’m scrappy as hell, and manage to overcome a lot despite what people have done to me. And I’m here to say to teens, if you’re going through the crappiest year of your life – it gets better. I promise you, it gets better. You will leave all that teen shit behind and step out into the bigger world and it will be better. I would never ever not for a million dollars relive high school. I made lifelong friends in college. I met a guy who likes me for the weirdo I am. Oddly enough, I’ve friended some of my old classmates on Facebook and like them for the adults they became.

And I’ve gone on to live a great life – something oddly enough, may not have happened if I had stayed in my comfortable little bubble of a world. My desire to get the hell out of town put me on a path to my current life, where I’ve done far more than I ever dreamed.

Will you get over what’s been done to you? I don’t know. I do know that wounds will heal and time will give you perspective. It may change you, but you can work with those changes and keep them from becoming negatives. The pain will lessen, and it will stop hounding your waking moments. You can learn how to thrive, and make your own path, find your own way. You can tattoo over that scar and make it something beautiful.

I promise – it can get better.

 

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Adult me, with my mermaid hair, sitting in a bar in Dublin, Ireland having a fabulous time (friend not seen because she was photographing me) 

 

*names changed for privacy  

We had a power outage last night and Maura handled it as expected

19 Oct

The Puget Sound region has entered True Fall – where it suddenly goes grey and rainy, with a few good blustery storms thrown in. Leaves don’t fall gently to the ground here, they’re ripped off in 50 mph wind gusts one night.

It wasn’t too bad actually yesterday. A bit rainy, a bit blustery, actually a bit warmish out.

And then, five minutes after I started stew in the Instant Pot…

<whoomph>

Darkness.

We blinked at each other. The lights blinked back on, only to blink back off. We blinked at each other again.

The lights stayed off.

It wasn’t quite dark out yet, so at first, we couldn’t tell if it was us or the neighborhood. The husband checked the fuse box. Nope, not us. I had, ironically, organized the candle cabinet (what, you don’t have a cabinet full of things to light up?) so grabbed a few. And Maura started mourning the loss of wifi on her tablet.

“OH NOOOOO!!!!”

Oh yes.

Josh called the electric company to report the outage.

I tried to explain electricity and how it works to Maura. I also explained why she couldn’t have  a real candle, found her battery-operated lantern, distracted her for three minutes with the light up ghost, and went back to explaining how wifi works on electricity, and we had no power.

“No power????”

The teenage girl came home, her phone on 4% battery.

It was like the 1800’s in here folks.

 

 

 

I distracted people with ice cream cake leftovers – because, well, one should eat the ice cream first as it’ll melt in a power outage.

Maura dropped her slice on the new area rug.

“MOOOOM!”

I cleaned ice cream out of the new area rug by the flicker of battery powered candlelight.

The eldest, Collin, came home from work. We discussed flashlights and such. He went out back to his space.

“No power.” Mourned Maura.

“Nope, they’re working to fix it though.” I said.

“Maura, why don’t you play with your dolls?” Miriam the sister suggested.

“No.”

“How about you read your books?” I suggested.

“No. Collin! Where Collin?”

“Collin’s out back in his room.”

“COLLIN!” Maura pulled out her cell phone. Punched in numbers. “Collin? No power.”

And I realized what she was doing – she was calling her brother to fix the power. Because he can fix the tv, and fix the internet, surely he can get it all working again. But since her cell phone is an old powerless one form 2009, the call didn’t go through.

Maura hurmphed. She sat on the sofa. She picked up the remote. The lights of the remote lit up as she pressed the buttons, trying to get stuff to turn on.

“The power isn’t working honey, you just have to wait.”

Waiting is not one of Maura’s skills. Instead, she pulled a coat out of the closet, and grabbed an umbrella, muttering something about Collin as she headed to the back door. A girl doesn’t have to be verbal to make her intentions known.

“Maura! No! You can’t go out in the rain to go get Collin. Collin can’t fix the power.” I said before telling her to hang the coat back up. This lead to her knocking three games out of the closet shelf, giving Miriam something to do while Maura mourned verbally the loss of power.

Finally Josh said “Maura, get your coat, let’s go out.”

Maura was happy to wave us goodbye and leave this powerless place of ours. Only to spend the outing asking Dad “Where Mom?”

You just can’t win sometimes.

I texted Josh to let him know when the power finally came back on (three hours after it went out) and Maura cheered when she saw the lights were back on. “LIGHTS! POWER! WOOHOOOOO! MOM! LOOK! POWER!”

And she went happily to bed. Because thank God, it was bedtime. I was exhausted from all the power outage

 

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