It’s Not About Me

I have been hiding.

I was on a good roll for a few weeks, posting almost daily, writing and typing to my heart’s content and then, last Friday, my brain ground to a halt.

wanted to write about stuff. I even created time and space to write about stuff.

But I didn’t.

I couldn’t.

I felt fake.

I felt on the surface of things. Unwilling to delve deeper into what I was feeling. And most writing – at least the kind that rings true – requires some type of emotional honesty.

How can I be honest to others when I am lying to myself?

Even now, I know I need to write this piece. For myself.

But I keep procrastinating. (Which, let’s be honest, is what I do anyway. But MORE SO.)

I do not want to face myself.

“It’s not about you,” Dr. T said. “It’s not about you at all.”

I squirmed.

“I know, I know,” I glibly reply. Not really knowing. “But it’s sooooo hard!!!”

“We can address your behaviors and try to fix them all you want, but at some point, we have to break down WHY you keep doing these things. What is the underlying belief that is behind it?”

“And you think it’s because I’m still mad at my dad?”

“Possibly. It’s not as simple as ‘Oh, I’m mad at my dad. Now I am taking it out on the kids.’ But it’s related.”

“Ok. I’ll think about it.”

We were interupted by Glow Worm needing to poop. Since there were only five minutes left to our session, we ended early.

Sometimes, hauling four kids to my therapy sessions really was inconvenient.

I went home and picked two all out screaming fights over really stupid things with Hapa Papa right before he left with the older three kids to LA for the long weekend.

He apologized, as usual. Ever the conscientious grown up.

I ignored him.

How long after a divorce is it reasonable to wish ill upon the offending party and their co-offenders?

I ask because sometimes, I forget why I have cut my father out of my life.

I think, if my parents are no longer married, why does it matter who he is with now? What their lives are like? Whether my nine year old half-brother is happy and healthy?

It feels like betraying my mother to think these thoughts.

My parents have been divorced over four years.

No, the math does not work out.

And then I remember.

My father is a consummate liar. A con. A cheat.

He is a man who faked being stooped, old, and frail for years when he was around us. Gingerly sitting down in a car, then painstakingly using both hands to lift his legs into the car one at a time. Talking constantly about his ailments, refusing certain types of foods because they made him ill.

Only to be found out when he and my mother were in China and she couldn’t understand how he was walking so quickly, standing up straight, acting as if he were a man decades younger in age.

What is the point of such a lengthy deception? And how much contempt did he have for us that he no longer cared to keep it up?

My father and his new wife (of more than four years – again, the math does not work out) have three homes in Texas.

I know because Google.

To me, the only silver lining to Hurricane Harvey was the possibility that they have lost some or all of their homes.

It seems fitting that such a shitty person would have a flood of actual shit in his homes.

I don’t want my half-brother and his half-sister to be hurt or injured or to suffer. (Well, no more suffering than the average human, anyway.) I don’t like children to suffer for the sins of their parents. They’re just living their lives. (I am reminded of Beatrice from Kill Bill killing Vivica Fox’s character in front of her daughter.)

And I don’t want my father and his second wife to die, exactly.

But I don’t NOT want them to suffer. I don’t NOT want them to experience hardship or crippling financial disaster. I don’t NOT want them to be unhappy.

My brother says the best revenge is for us to live well.

My brother is a good person.

I am not.

I am petty as fuck.

Here’s the thing. In previous posts, I have talked about how before I had kids, I could perhaps understand why my father was so selfish a human. Full of want and thwarted ambition. But that after getting married and having kids, your life is no longer all about you.

To quote myself, “Much of marriage and parenting is selflessness – a daily dying of your self to serve the other person.”

Ah, irony.

It is so much easier to be theoretically selfless. It is another to actually be it.

Here’s the thing.

My father was an abysmal parent. He was abusive. He was unstable. He was an asshole.

He would tell me he knew what I was thinking and that I wasn’t even allowed to think that.

Really? I wasn’t even allowed the privacy of my own thoughts?

What a fucking shithead.

He made me feel small and worthless.

I would never, in a million years, wish this feeling upon my children.

And, yet.

I always did what I was told.

I don’t recall being mouthy or disobedient. I ate all that was set before me. Cleaned. Did my homework. Was a good kid.

I did what he wanted when he wanted how he wanted.

And if I am honest to myself, though his methods were execrable, he got what he wanted.

Sometimes, I would like to get what I want from my children.

On my birthday this year, Gamera told Hapa Papa that she wanted to go to the wishing well by Whole Foods and make some wishes.

She wished she wasn’t stupid (because when I yell at her, she feels stupid). She wished she had a secret room to hide in when I yelled at her. She wished she didn’t talk so much (because I often shush her because FFS sometimes, she doesn’t stop talking at ALL). She wished she didn’t cry so much (because she really cries a lot and I tell her to stop crying all the time).

She is 5 years old.

I have done this to my beautiful little girl.

My sweet, sensitive, thoughtful, funny little girl.

I have broken her. I am breaking her.

It’s not that I treat Gamera any differently than I do Cookie Monster and Glow Worm. Ok, that’s not entirely true, but for the most part, it is. She just internalizes everything I say whereas Cookie Monster and Glow Worm do not. Or, at least, they do not thus far.

But it is true that she pushes my buttons the most.

I love her. I love my girl.

It’s just. She is hard for me.

And I don’t know if it’s internalized misogyny where I’m ok with my boys showing more of a full range of human emotions, but I want her to suck it up and get over things because FFS the world is hard and judges women so harshly so why does she have no sense of time or direction? Why does she seem to play into female stereotypes?

But it’s not fair. It’s not right.

Dismantling patriarchy means that BOTH my boys and girls deserve to live the full range of their emotions and be whatever they are – with or without a sense of direction.

It’s just – could it be possible for her to still be herself but possibly with less crying and with a little more speed?

I have made my bright, shining girl think she is stupid and hate who she is.

I remember wishing I weren’t so loud or chatty or whatever I was. I hated it. I felt miserable in my skin.

How can I be doing this to my precious baby girl?

I have spent so much of my life stuffing my emotions. Pretending how I feel isn’t how I am feeling. Denying who I am. Blunting everything except anger.

This is not a life I want for my Gamera.

Why am I doing this to her?

It is not about me. And yet, it very much is.

I don’t know how to end this piece today. There is no tidy resolution. I have not magically turned into a good mother to my daughter.

I do not have trite bullet points skimming over the hard work of denying the easy cycle of exploding at my children and then apologizing and then exploding again. (Or the occasional shame spiral and picking fights with Hapa Papa to avoid feeling the pain of being such a shoddy human.)

I cannot fast forward through the years of therapy wherein I am working on my relationship with Gamera and the other kids by working through my anger at my father – and to be honest, my very real anger at my mother.

I cannot conceive of a time when I am not a seething bundle of resentment desperate to escape my children on my bad days and then weeping at the inevitable silence when my kids head off to college and live lives of their own without me.

I have no idea. I can only hope.

Let us hope together.

Suck It Up, August

Ok. I know I just posted for June/July, but I’m finally back on schedule for my posting and I don’t want to get behind again just because I recently wrote about it already.

SO TOO BAD.

Anyhow, criminy, August is over.

And despite being home for almost a month now, I STILL FEEL AS IF I HAVE ACCOMPLISHED NOTHING.

Blargh. But here we go again. How did I do?

1) Take family and personal health seriously.

What does that look like? I want to:

a) Cook at least 5 meals a week.

Now that Hapa Papa started yet another new job this month, he has been bringing me home dinner every week night. It is AWESOME.

However. It does play havoc with my motivation to make dinner for the rest of the family – but I still managed. We did eat out more than I liked, but I made a few super yummy Instant Pot dishes and I am satisfied enough. I would like to get back into the habit of making the kids eat fruit every day though. I definitely want to improve on that.

b) Be active once a week.

Welp. Back to my inert self. Maybe I should just remove this section for the sake of my diminishing self-esteem.

c) Wash face and brush teeth twice daily.

You guys. I HAVE STARTED WASHING MY FACE TWICE DAILY. The teeth thing is better, but not amazing. BUT I HAVE STARTED WASHING MY FACE TWICE DAILY.

I HAVE ALSO STARTED USING THE SUNSCREEN.

THIS IS AMAZING.

Okokokok. I will stop with the ALLCAPS. BUT COME ON!!!

d) Take vitamins and supplements.

I have been at about 40%. Maybe 35%. It really makes a difference in my daily energy levels so I REALLY need to get my act together.

e) Go to sleep when the kids sleep 4x a week.

I am still doing a reasonably good job on this. Although since I have started to write more and carve out more time for this, I have gone to sleep a little later. But usually by midnight.

I am still always tired.

f) No texting while driving.

Ummm… I am better… but not good. Still way too mediocre and casual with my precious cargo. BOOOOO.

2) Take my responsibilities as a grown up seriously.

Yes! I have been much better at it this month. I have been making a concerted effort to do at least 10-15 minutes of shitty adult work (such as sorting clothes, finally re-arranging the nursery into an office, the old office into the kids’ room, and the old kids’ room into the guest room).

Look! PICS. (Don’t judge. I did not prettify these rooms. It would just make me sad later.)

3) Write.

YES, AGAIN!! I killed it in the last half of the month. I carved out time in my week to write and it made a BIG difference to my mental well-being. Unfortunately, it was to the immense sadness of Sasquatch because he was stuck with Not!Mama! aka Hapa Papa but OH WELL, BABY. GET USED TO IT.

And since it was my birthday month, my gift to myself was a fake writing retreat where my buddies, Lizz Porter of More Than Thursdays and Michelle of Life In Training, hung out and wrote all day and then ended on a yummy note of a dinner and foot massage (not at the same time).

Alrighty. I know these posts are boring for everyone else but me, but I think they are a huge reason I have been able to make headway on the things I want to do this year.

Accountability really is key.

How have you been doing? Are you still on track to accomplish your goals for the year?

 

Sometimes Self Care is Really Just Adulting

I used to think that my environment did not affect me. I thought I was easy-going; a roll with punches type of person. You know, “low-maintenance.”

By now, any person who knows me in real life is dying of laughter because it is so obvious to anyone who spends more than five minutes with me that I am not remotely any of these things.

Talk about a disconnect from reality.

In true fact, I am a very particular sort of person. Particular being a euphemism for anal retentive in the extreme. Also, I have very low noise and mess tolerances.

Of course, having four children and a husband (and being in relationship with people in general) makes it super impossible to have my life run exactly the way I would like it, when I would like it.

As a result, I want to bomb my entire house, scream at my children for not being obedient automatons, and war with my twin desires of FOMO Hoarder and Strict Minimalist Where Everything has Its Place.

Guess which side “wins”?

Then, because I am constantly behind on doing stuff (like purging, putting things away, finally USING things I’ve put away, or all the projects I have in my queue), I procrastinate because FFS there is no way I will ever get to anything or make a dent so I might as well read a romance novel or watch Project Runway or let’s be real, FRITTER AWAY MY LIMITED FREE TIME ON FACEBOOK.

This all builds up and annoys me and soon, I am swearing at my kids for being a smidge too loud or for doing whatever squirrelly thing they’re doing. And then I go on a brief and short-lived Angry Cleaning Purge and I am placated for about half a day before we rinse and repeat.

The thing is, sometimes, I think the only way I can get a bead on all this shit in my mental queue is to send my entire family away for at least a year so I can finally get something done.

Even then, I’m sure I’ll procrastinate and save it all for the last week before they’re due back.

I realize that this is the curse of human existence and being temporal beings. But this seems far more like a bug than a feature in my unasked for opinion.

Now, I know I have mentioned before that I am so mediocre that it took paying my therapist $150 (now $160) a week for her to tell me to just do 15 minutes of stuff a day and see how that helps.

It did.

I have improved drastically at paying medical bills on time (because those are the only bastards that are not on auto-pay). My kitchen table takes an extra week to look like an utter disaster area. And I am making more of an effort to do the shitty stuff first.

And STILL, it does not move. Or at best, it gets shifted from room to room.

For the longest time, my therapist, Dr. T, would ask me about self-care and I would be annoyed because I have lots of free time and Hapa Papa has no problem with me having weekly MNOs or going out for massages and pedicures and the like.

But those things always left me MORE stressed out because after doing these activities, I would come home to an even MESSIER house and even LESS time to do the things I needed to do.

Like seriously, when I see my entire house’s contents dumped onto the floor, the sink stacked with dishes, along with the normal REGULAR piles of shit all over my house, I go apoplectic. (And this is not to say that these are Hapa Papa’s fault. I just notice it more when I leave my house for a longer period of time and then return. Kinda like you don’t notice how your house smells until you leave for a few days.)

Anyhow, after years of debate with my therapist, we finally struck on something that has resonated with me. For me, self-care looks like adulting.

For me, self-care is removing the things that stress me out – and unfortunately, that requires me being a grown up and doing the grown up things that I should have been doing all along.

Now, this is not to deny that for many people, self-care is legitimately getting pampered, resting, or taking breaks from Facebook or the internet or whatever. That’s likely because these lovely people are actual productive members of society (unlike myself). And because they are actual productive members of society, they NEED these things because they adult all day and every day and what they need is a break.

Me, however. I have an easy life.

I’m serious.

This is not to discount the real difficulties of being a parent of four small children (as well as homeschooling them) or invalidating my role as a mother. Those are absolutely true and real.

But in general, I have a very privileged life.

We are financially secure, financially stable, healthy, highly educated, and short of us being not-white (and me being a woman), we have no other areas in which we are oppressed or othered.

Again, this is not to deny that my difficulties and struggles are worthless or whatever. After all, this is still the life I have and my difficulties are still mine to deal with. I just acknowledge and understand that other people may see self-care differently.

So, now that I have improved at the low-hanging fruits of self-care (eg: getting enough sleep, eating regular meals, paying bills, etc.), it’s time to step it up a bit.

Not sure how yet since I am now realizing that self-care requires a lot of mindfulness, too.

Can I just insert how much I hate that stupid word? But it’s all true. My life would be markedly improved if I were only more mindful of my mental and physical state.

SO. Because I’m an extrovert and assume everyone wants to know the nitty gritty of my life and thoughts, NO MATTER HOW BANAL, I will now list a bunch of things that would be self-care for me. (I mean, I think it might help some of you to have real life examples of someone like you.)

1) Take care of my physical health by:

a) Going to sleep with the kids.

b) Taking vitamins/supplements.

c) Eating nutritious and healthy food.

2) Write consistently.

3) Pay bills/sort mail/daily adulting tasks.

4) WEEKLY PURGING.

5) Do at least 15 minutes daily on my PROJECT QUEUE (eg: sorting clothes, rearranging rooms, finish photobooks, etc.).

I’m sure there is more – but the more I add, the more stressed I become. I mean really, self-care is just taking care of the shit on my SUPER LONG To-Do List.

Gah. Is self-care supposed to stress me out? I think that means I’m doing it wrong.

And really, a lot of the self-care items are from my Suck It Up 2017 resolutions for this year. (I have a feeling next year will also be the same theme. I need lots of help.)

So I am already doing most of this. I just want to add the purging and the project queuing. Sigh. I like how I have to give myself a pep talk before I have even started.

ADULTING IS HARD.

But I am really sick and tired of yelling at my kids and feeling like an abject failure every day. Who’s with me?