my quote of the moment: "if you can attain repose and calm, believe that you have seized happiness." ~julie-jeanne-eleonore de lespinasse

August 27, 2015

sackcloth and ashes

so all my kids are in school full time. and i am happy. my house is quiet, it gives me time to think. i know i have my mornings to finish all the things i didn't get done the night before, which has helped to ease the bedtime routine. i have flipped chores around, instead of washing the dinner dishes, i leave them to soak in the sink for the morning, which leaves me more time to focus on the kids and making sure is done and books are read and showers are taken and hair is brushed. there is enough to do at night without worrying about getting my house to tip top shape.

and i am developing a morning routine that i like and works for me. we get up and get breakfast. while they eat i make fish's lunch (the boys pack for themselves), and then it's getting dressed and ready and getting out the door on time. i walk my dear fish, which i totally count as my daily exercise, and then i come home and clean the house. it still leaves me with most of the day to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet.

the problem is that i am getting many comments about how people think i must feel, which is making me wonder if how i really feel is wrong. everyone i've talked to was surprised that i wasn't in tears on the first day all the kids were in school. that i don't miss them terribly and am all sorts of upset and wonder what to do with myself all day.

does not being upset make me a bad mother? does it mean that i love them less then those that are inconsolable? is there a standard level of grief that i am not reaching, a socially acceptable amount of tears that i should have shed by now?

because i like to think that i do love my kids, in my own quiet way. i provide for them and encourage them and help ready them for the outside world. i feel like going to school is just the next logical step on their journey to independence. if this is the normal and expected direction they are to be going in and growing in, why should i be upset? i feel like i should count the lack of tears on all our faces as a victory in preparing them to face the challenges of the world at large.

and yet some of what i have read on facebook during this back to school time has made me feel like less of a mother, like i didn't reach some predetermined standard of grief. because i didn't hit that level of sadness, my love for my children must not be as real or as true or as much.

i am me, and when it comes to feelings about things outside myself, i know that for me, the highs are never as high and the lows are never as low as i have seen expressed by others. but that doesn't mean that i don't feel anything at all, it just means that i don't express it. i had to learn not to show emotions, unless i wanted those emotions used against me. i am careful, i am cautious, but i also know that my children know how much and how deeply i love them. i am tired of the social media competitions, i refuse to wear sackcloth and ashes. it's not my style, but that's ok. those who matter know the truth.

August 26, 2015

three good things

i am a sucker for book stores. i can browse for hours, looking at spines, flipping through pages, a flood of "must read" lists all coming back to me. and yet i know that my pile of to-read at home is big enough that i don't buy anything new. usually don't. unless it's a really good sale, because then it would be almost a crime not to.

one thing i do end up with more often then not, though, is a new journal. for a long while i was writing in them in my scribbly cursive, jotting down fragments of sentences and thoughts and half formed ideas, almost a scratch pad for this mass of words that is my blog. i know i could do that all digitally, but like i prefer holding physical pages to holding an e-reader, i prefer writing with a pen to typing things like this. the only reason i have an online presence is because it's really hard to share words on paper across the miles, unless you're willing to pay for postage.

so over the years i've grown a lovely collection of blank journals. but i stopped writing for a long time, and even those empty pages started stacking up. i felt like i needed to do something with all of them, lest i waste their endless possibilities. and so i started a daily journal of sorts.

somewhere along the line, someone told me (or i read it or just made it up, even though it sounds like it might be true) that to change your outlook on things, you need to focus on the positives in life and not the negatives. the negatives in my life have built up over the years, drowning out the positives. and being who i am and what i am, i would focus on them. obsessively. i would ponder on past mistakes, years old, wondering if any still thought i was a terrible person for all the things i did half a life ago. or i thought about all the things that i would have done differently, all the things that i did wrong, all the things i didn't do and then inaction turned out to be the wrong course. the random thoughts that would keep me up at night for hours, that i couldn't shut out of my brain.

so i've decided to focus on the positives. again, not sure where i came up with the idea exactly, i decided that no matter how crappy the day there were at least three good things that happened. then i would write those three good things down. so instead of my journals chronicling my angst and worry and fears, i would write down the good that happened in hopes that those things would be all i would remember.

i started on new years day, and am now more than halfway through the year. being me, i didn't keep it up everyday. there have been many times where i would sit down and try to remember my past week, thinking on all i did on those days, trying to come up with the good things to write and remember. and there have been a few occasions where i couldn't come up with three things, a few days only have two. i'm really not sure this little project has helped me much, but i do know that down the line, when the years wash some memories away, i will be able to pick up this particular journal and have good memories come back. so it's hard to remember, and some days are a struggle to come up with items to write, but i know my future self will thank me, somewhere down the line.

August 19, 2015

something like normal

my social anxiety makes me worry. such is the nature of anxiety. but specifically, i worry about what other people think. i worry about being normal, i worry about whether people will see me as weird or different or strange. i worry that my reactions to events won't be quite right, so i hold myself back and don't react. and then i worry that not reacting isn't quite right and that people are judging me any way. and so sometimes i take cues from my peers and mirror their reactions, even if it goes in the opposite direction to my own.

and then, of course, i worry that people can see through me. can see that i am just acting, just pretending to be like they are, that they know that i am not. that all of this is a facade and that i am not like them. and so i worry that they are judging me, that every one is talking about me behind my back, laughing and pointing and saying terrible things.

so i avoid as much social interaction as possible, because all of that worry is stressful. all of that pretending and then second guessing every action taken leaches all the fun out of any and every activity. i can't relax when i am out, because if i let myself relax then i worry that i will let my crazy show. of course then i worry that by not participating in activities and putting myself out there socially, people are still talking and judging and laughing.

so yes, most days and places, no matter what i do or say or how i act, i feel not quite right, not in line with the expectations of others. and even though a much more rational part of my brain tells me that i shouldn't care about the opinions of others, that i should live for myself, that i should do what makes me happy, i can't. i just want to be normal.

all of this probably stems from me living in my own head way too much, and that most of those that i interact with don't notice me at all, let alone think of me much, that i really am mostly invisible and unimportant to others. still, i worry that people will see me as a fraud. that they will know i have no idea what i'm doing and am secretly panicking constantly. and that, because i am a ball of stress wound too tight, i would much rather go home.

August 18, 2015

on edge

i am trying to keep everything straight this week. school starts, and football is in full swing. this weekend there is a big party we are not only attending, but i agreed to help set up and make food for. plus i have house guests to deal with. one has been here for a week and will be here for another week or so, and two more come this weekend for the aforementioned party.

needless to say, i am a bit stressed. i am afraid i am going to miss something. i am afraid something is going to remain undone and i will let people down. there are so many moving parts and pieces this week, and it falls to me to get everyone in place backstage so when the curtain goes up, we are all ready.

the other side of this, the more crazy less rational side (and isn't there always?) is that i think i am not as stressed and upset about certain things as i should be. i like my home a certain way, i have routines and schedules in place, but i also try to be an accommodating hostess. and so, with house guests, i have deferred to their preferences and let some things go so i know they are comfortable. which has left me uncomfortable and stressed out and unable to fall back on my routines to get me through. so i am personally upset. but on friday, my dear fish goes to kindergarten all day, and i am ready to push her out the door. and i am more than ready for the boys to go back.

and so it stands as this: friends and beloved family come for a visit and stay causes me panic, but a milestone that proves all of my children are growing up and will soon leave me makes me feel next to nothing. and because i think that this is not how things should be, i feel the need to pretend that i welcome all my guests with open arms while acting visibly upset at my children heading off to school.

i know i am me, that nobody else is me, and that if this is how i react to my life, i shouldn't feel bad about it. but this is just another one of those times where i feel less than normal, and that my reaction to things isn't quite right, and over so many years i have been trained to feel bad about my choices and my feelings, especially when they don't fall in line with those of my peers. part of me knows that i shouldn't feel bad about how i feel, but i also know that i'm not there yet. society's pressures are still too strong, and i am not like the brave women i've seen who don't care what others think. because honestly, i do care. i want so much to be liked and accepted that there are times i am willing to go against who i am if it gets me closer to who i think people want me to be. maybe one day i will be strong and brave and will find my tribe who will support me no matter what i do or say. right now, though, i still feel like i need to hide all this crazy.

August 12, 2015

summer's almost over

this summer has seemed to fly by. and there are so many regrets, so many things that i wanted to do and see while i had the chance. and now, with the kids soon going back to school, i really feel like i have missed my opportunity for those experiences.

the crazy thing is that their going back to school doesn't mean an end of fun for me. in fact, some would argue that my fun time can actually begin, seeing that fish is going to start kindergarten next week. with her in school all day, i will have hours to myself to do whatever i want. so i can watch the list of movies that i wasn't able to get through, read all the books that have been piling up for months, and create all the things that i have been putting off attempting while i was surrounded by little fingers that "just want to help."

my husband thinks that i will be bored, that i won't know what to do with myself or how to fill all the empty hours. and i suppose he might be right, but i think i'll be ok. i think i know myself well enough to know that, if i get really desperate for activities, i can always get to all the cleaning and organization projects that i've been putting off, like scrubbing the carpets on the steps and cleaning out all the kitchen cupboards.

really i doubt that it will come to that. i was always able to entertain myself when the kids were away visiting family over the summer. and if worse comes to worse, i could always get a job.

August 5, 2015

the weird family

as summer winds down, i have been taking an inventory of things i have learned over the summer. some of the basics aren't really new, such as sometimes my boys are super amazing together and sometimes they're like rabid dogs at each others' throats. i have seen how fish can play well with other kids, but only on her terms; when she is done playing and wants to be left alone, she is loud enough and big enough that she can get her way.

other things, though, are truths i suppose i should have realized long ago but have been blind to. this summer, and all of the activities we've participated in, have reinforced those truths. or truth, because there is one that is all encompassing and umbrellas all small nuggets of wisdom. it is that my family is strange.

now yes, i know, in this day it is kind of hip to say that everyone should be their own unique person and kids should be themselves and be proud when they are. still, there are social acceptable norms that a family shouldn't stray too far from, kind of like it's ok to be weird, just not too weird. my family blast through those lines without looking back.

like when we all go to play at the playground for some outside family fun, and it is my kids that are yelling and screaming and carrying on too loudly. and bumble is playing with the very little kids because he doesn't get along well with those of his size. and fish is jumping off of things and crying that she hurt herself, and when i call her over to see if she's ok the first thing out of her mouth is she wants to know if she's in trouble. and lumpy making everything into a gun or weapon or some war game, making very specific references to violent video games he probably shouldn't know. and all the while i am getting judgy side-eye from all the other parents for ruining their peaceful day out.

it's also fun to get confirmation your kids are the weird ones when they go to scout camp by themselves. and one doesn't play so well with others because they are a very strict rule follower, and they get into fights with other kids who want to play and maybe don't follow the rules to the letter, and that's not ok by them. and then the other one, who has known social issues, has so much trouble interacting with the other boys that the leaders have to sit everyone down and explain that bullying is not ok.

i already have issues going out and interacting with others in public, i would be very happy never to have to leave the house. the fact that my kids are the weird kids does not make going out any easier. i don't really help myself though, because i am always overly prepared, with a giant purse filled with just in case supplies, and i am terrible at small talk so i don't try to make any, and when i do end up talking i trail off mid-sentence or talk too fast and too loud.

so yeah, all the interactions we've had this summer has just confirmed what i always feared, that my family is the weird family. and so much these days says to revel in your strangeness and embrace your differences, but it's hard when you live in a conservative area and being different isn't always celebrated. at least i know it'll never be boring around here.