Where The Rubber Hits The Road


Leave a comment

Will We Always Be Divided?

I have always been a firm believer in love. That it big, strong, and brilliant. That love can change things. But we’re living through some intense times. Anyone on social

united-states-2524774_960_720media can tell you. I’m on Facebook (yes, I know this ages me) and I see it every day. There is a lot of fear, and a lot of division. I’ve always had a bit of a Pollyanna view of the world. That good would conquer and love was enough and it was all about having a good heart. But now I’m really starting wonder, is love enough?

I think the answer is No. Many of us are afraid and angry. We are at great odds in our thinking with those around us. We’re seeing violence in our schools like never before. Things will never change without action. A handful of years ago I went to a 4-day conference called Breakthrough. I was in a room with people of different walks and ages, most that I had never met before, and we were drilled for 4 days by life coaches. It was kind of horrible. Because we were called on our b.s. for 4 days straight. We had walls put up? Why weren’t we willing to take them down. We didn’t follow through on our responsibilities? Didn’t we know our actions affected other people.  We were forced to face all the excuses we had made for not living life we wanted. I learned that my actions mattered. That there were no such thing as neutral interactions; but that all the thousands of interactions I had with people daily (even just at the grocery store) mattered because I was leaving something behind. I was taught that good intentions were just gestures and that what people really needed from me was action. That my good intentions weren’t helping anyone at all. My actions mattered. I can truly say that I’ve never been the same since that encounter. I was forced to take a hard look at the way I lived and realized I wanted to start living as if what I did mattered.

 

I know I am loved because people have driven miles to bring me dinner after the birth of a baby, taken care of my kids countless times, given me couches, collected money for my family one Christmas when I wasn’t receiving child support. I know that phand-3035665_960_720eople love me because they’ve put hands and feet to their love. They’ve shown me that love isn’t a feeling but an action Love without action is not enough.

In light of the recent, and ongoing school shootings; what does action look like? How does my love and concern turn into something meaningful and tangible? There is something powerful to grieving with those who grieve. With praying and sending good thoughts to victims. It means that we have empathy and recognize our connection to those around us. It is a first step. But grieving students and parents need much more than just to know that the larger community loves them right now. They need to see hands and feet put to that concern.

 

I’ve heard theories over why we’re seeing an increase in school shootings. Theories that family units aren’t strong, there’s not enough discipline, untreated mental health issues, taking God out of schools, too many guns, not enough guns. As spot on as any of those might be, to me, all they do is remove us from the equation. If I am not guilty of any of those things, then I can stand on the sidelines and cast judgement on those who didn’t. They are the problem. There’s nothing I can do. We want to point fingers because then we are not complicit.

I’m going to say something that you might not want to hear. We are all complicit. Let me say that again, we are all to blame. How can that be? I wasn’t involved in any way. Exactly. Our lack of involvement is what got us here. If you believe that the increase in school shootings is a mental health issue, do your actions show it? Are you fighting for health care coverage and funding for programs that provide mental health to those who need it? If you believe the problem lies in the crumbling family unit or lack of discipling, how do your actions show it? Are you doing everything in your power to support families around you? Are you standing by single parents, underprivileged families, families with children with special needs…families who might be doing a better job of being a unit if they had enough support? Raising kids is an endless and exhausting task. Imaging having a child with mental health issues. Or violent streaks. Or a kid who stays locked in their room and refuses to talk or let you in. Many families are at the end of their ropes. They can’t find the help they need. Imagine being that parent and knowing you are being judged because you can’t find the help you need?

 

If you think we are seeing more violence in schools because God has been removed from schools, is the God you believe in limited by human laws? Has he left the schools? And if God exists, even he requires people to be his hands and feet. Are you a presence in your children’s school, making sure kids and staff feel loved and supported?

 

 

 

Action can sometimes feel like the easy part. Especially when we’re spurred on by feelings of anger. But this is what I believe about action- We cannot accomplish any meaningful action without unity. It takes a village. Any great change that has occurred through history was brought about through people uniting for the cause. Ouch. This is a hard one. We are a polarized people. Our political beliefs seem to have drawn a line in hands-1939895_960_720the sand that we’re not willing to cross. How can we possibly ever have unity? I have a suggestion. Let go of always being right in favor of being connected.

I am forever hearing about our rights. Somehow in demanding our rights, we’ve lost basic decency and kindness. It’s true, you have every right to have an opinion. You have every right to have an opposing opinion than me. You even have the right to post your opinion on social media through scathing comics, cutting memes, comments like “Anyone who believes this is an idiot” … You have that right. But to what end?

It’s no coincidence that the people who follow you on Facebook are called “friends”. They’re supposed to be your friends. They’re the people you go to school or work with. They’re family, family friends, people you met on trips. People you tend to like and want to share your life with. They are people who brought you soup when you were sick and held your new baby so you could sleep and caught your tears and snot on their new sweater when you couldn’t stop crying. These are people who have different backgrounds, belief systems, upbringings than you. Their beliefs, like yours, have been hard won through life’s ups and downs. These are the people who are being affected by the divisive comments or inflammatory memes. Your friends.

 

How can we possibly ever unite to fight a cause if we are holding onto our right to say things that are divisive and offensive to our friends. Those people who have our backs. Those people who could unite with us to fight a cause if only we felt like we were on the same team. I am guilty of this. I’ve lashed out in frustration. And I am truly sorry. I have let my frustration show itself though snarky comments. I have no right. You are my friends. We can’t be both for each other and against each other. Don’t forget who (or what) the enemy is. Children are getting killed at school. I would sure like as many people on my team as possible in fighting this, despite your political association. If you believe that our children and staff should be safe at school, you and I are on the same team. Period. We might have different ways of approaching the issue, but we both want the same thing.

 

If you don’t want to talk gun control, that’s ok. Let’s find other common ground. Let’s talk about supporting our community. I’d love to see the schools where shootings have occurred receive hundreds of letters saying – we grieve with you, you matter, we promise to do our part to end violence in schools. I would love to see people show up onpaper-3097505_960_720 school campuses while kids arrive and hold signs that read  “You matter” “You are loved” “You deserve to feel safe” “We are on your side”. I work at a high school. It is intense work. Sometimes I feel like I’m in the trenches with these kids. It is hard and endless work. We need support. I need support.  No positive change has ever come about in my life because of a negative message. Someone making me feel small, stupid, ashamed or wrong never made me want to join their team. Don’t you feel the same? Can we find ways to accomplish something despite our differences? I believe we can.

 

How can we unite? Love. We’ve come full circle. Unity is impossible without love. We can have the passion and desire to see something happen. We can whip people up into a frenzy to follow our lead. But it’s not sustainable without love. We are in this for the long haul. Change takes time. It can be easy to become hopeless (especially with the political climate).  Love helps us remember that the people we’re fighting against are those we could be fighting alongside.

Find people you can join with to make meaningful change. Accept difference and try to remember what it is you’re fighting for. Let love be the fire that keeps you going.

 

 

And last of all….You Matter!

 Make it count

Love->Action->Unity->Love->Action->Unity->Love->Action->Unity->Love->Action->Unity


1 Comment

Being a teenager is hard

Recently I wrote about my teen daughter and how she thought life was hard now but would realize down the road that she didn’t have it so bad. I had to rethink that. After hearing a lot of  people talking about it, I finally watched the show 13 Reasons Why. I have to admit that I was expecting it to be an overdone teen drama with bad acting. But I still wanted to see what all the fuss was about. What I wasn’t prepared for was the way it broke my heart in two. Maybe being a teenager is harder than I thought.

Entering high school. I was a big dork. Look at those glasses!

Going into high school I was as dorky as they come. I had unkempt hair, didn’t care for makeup, and had the world’s worst glasses. They were very thick and a sort of blonde color that perfectly matched my hair. My best friend and I, who had grown up together since we were six, had wild imaginations. We loved to play in the fields surrounding my house, or in the decrepit barn on our property. We read Nancy Drew and sat in her front yard writing stories of our own. She introduced me to the wonders of Anne of Green Gables and black and white movies. We were young, carefree, typical youth who stayed up too late watching movies that scared the cheese out of us and talking about cute boys from church.

Prior to high school we were both home-schooled and in many ways pretty sheltered from the realities of the world. Our older sisters, who entered high school one year before us, decided to go to a private school in the next town. I don’t know exactly what drove the decision. But when given the opportunity to go to the local high school, or the private one, we chose to follow in our sister’s footsteps.

Imagine two girls with bad hair and glasses, no makeup and little sense of style. Did I mention that we also grew up poor? Dirt poor at times. We had both been working for years at that point and before entering high school had bought our own clothes, trying to keep up with the times as much as possible. We had the acid washed jeans and the jeans with a zipper on the back with a little bow on top. We had those awful matching long knit sweaters and skirts, and wore knock off Keds. Needless to say, we were just starting to have a sense of wanting to look cute and be liked.

We both fell in with a group of girls who were much like us. They never made fun of our fashion choices or bad glasses. I had my first high school crush and many to follow, much like my best friend. What I wasn’t prepared for was the bullying when it came. How does one really prepare for that.

I don’t remember all of the specifics, it doesn’t matter anyway. But I do remember the humiliation. The way boys in class made fun of my clothes or threw things at me when I walked by in the hallways. Once a boy threw something at my head and when I reached back to see what it was, found that I had gum stuck to my hair. My friend had to disentangle it in class. In front of everyone. And the teacher.

It was a small school, around 300 students for all 4 grades, so things spread fast. Somehow, someone would pick a “name” for me, and would spread it around campus. The only name I remember is “Gap”, chosen because of the wide space between my two front teeth (which, by the way, I was already painfully aware of and smiled with my mouth closed to cover it up. So thanks for pointing it out.) I would be walking around campus and somebody would call out, “Hey gap!” Mostly it was people I didn’t even know and often it was senior boys. It was humiliating. Kids would openly poke fun of me in class while the teacher’s would look on and say nothing. Not once.

I hadn’t done anything spectacularly embarrassing to bring on the teasing. I was just a great target. I was a dork, my clothes weren’t expensive and, more importantly, I  wasn’t a part of any special clique. It’s funny, I could have been a dork but run track and I might have been immune. The system is pretty messed up.

My mom was working extra hours to send me and my sister to a private school. It was not cheap. And it was a religious school that had Bible class and chapel once a week. We were taught about love and acceptance. But no one stepped in and made sure that I, as a part of that community, was actually feeling loved or accepted.

I realize now the ironic thing about teenagers. Teens push adults away. They make adults feel stupid and unnecessary. But deep inside they’re still looking for adults to be their heroes. To step in when they’re over their head and give them a way out, or to stop the cycle of bad things that are happening. They really do need us.

I entered high school innocent, believing the best in people, and just wanting to have a regular high school experience. After two years I was so broken down that I finally switched schools. (I can’t believe I stuck it out two years.) The tipping point was when my mom realized I was crying every day after school. She set up a meeting with the school principal and I went with her. I explained what was happening and she put in her two cents. He sat there listening and then this is what he said, “Parents pay a lot of money to have their kids come to this school so there’s really nothing I can do.” Nothing he could do??? I’m sorry but WTF?? This man was the head over the school. A man responsible for setting the tone of the school and caring for the souls who attended. It was the last straw.

Thankfully, I had an entirely different experience at the public school I attended next. Thankfully social media didn’t exist then, so my humiliation could only spread so far. Thankfully I had parents who were attentive and loving and didn’t make light of my suffering. But that’s not always the case.

13 Reasons Why is about a girl who commits suicide and leaves behind taped messages telling people why she did it and all the things that contributed to her decision. The show deals with bullying and sexual harassment, social media and a multitude of other things that teens have to face. I was crushed after watching it. I cried for all the high school students I see every day who may be experiencing soul crushing experiences daily. Who just want some adult to step in and be their savior. To put an end to whatever hard thing they’re facing.

I was lucky to be able to change schools and make good friends and move on. But I was left with scars. I know we are all affected by a multitude of things over a lifetime. I know that we can never blame just one incident for the way we turn out. But, I wonder if the messages I received during those years when I wanted to be seen and loved and accepted left an imprint that let me believe that I was stupid or ugly or unlovable. That my worth was based on surface things alone. I wonder if it affected the man I chose to marry or the way I let him treat me poorly for way too long. I don’t know.

The things we go through mold us and change us. If you’re in your teens, please know that this stage is not forever. Reach out to people who love you and be honest about what life is like for you. Life will get better but you have to be around to see it happen. You matter and your life affects more people than you can comprehend right now.

Last year of high school. Teeth fixed (thanks mom and dad!), contacts (goodbye blonde glasses) and feeling much better about life.

If you’re an adult reading this, take what teens experience seriously. You might be their last cry for help. Social media allows all sorts of cruelty to bombard kids all day long. It’s exhausting and can make anyone feel like the world is just too much. Step in when you see someone being a bully or inciting hatred towards someone else. Check in with your kids or the kids in your life frequently. Do some digging if you feel like something isn’t right. We’ve all needed someone to be a hero for us at some point. Maybe today you get to be the hero.


Leave a comment

Charity

There are some things that take a long time for me to talk about. Charity is one of them.

20170706_171646Charity and I were destined to be friends. I fought it, though. It’s a funny story. I don’t remember exactly how old I was when we met but I do remember the exact situation because of the sheer awkwardness of it.

 

 

My parents and Charity’s went back many years somehow to this commune type place we lived for a short time before it turned into an all out cult situation. A story for another time.

Her family had just moved to Reedley, which was practically just down the street from our sweet little town of Dinuba. (It’s sweet in my nostalgic mind anyway.) My parents were super excited for my sister, Sarah, and I to meet Charity and her sister. They were close to our ages which predisposed us to get along famously. Obviously.

Because my parents were so insistent that we would all get along, Sarah and I decided that we would not, under any circumstances, enjoy the company of these two miscreants. Just to spite my parents. What did they know anyway. And to add insult to injury (maybe a strong euphemism here) we were invited to their house for a frickin birthday party. A birthday party! So, not only were we about to meet some strange girls that we were being forced to like, but also a house full of more complete strangers. My angst was in high gear.

What I couldn’t have known til I stepped into that house was that there was no way to not to like Charity. She had this wild head of hair and an infectious laugh and was so damn funny. My resolve to dislike her melted like a snow cone in August.

20170706_171224

Such a great pose on my parents funny little wicker chair!

Charity was hilarious, generous, kind and adventurous. She had a way of talking me into things I would never have done, like hopping a fence to climb a water tower. Or going on bad blind dates. Ones that ended with both boys hitting on her. Charity also taught me the joy of do it yourself model shoots. We didn’t need no stinking “glamor shots” from the mall. Oh no. We just needed a few picturesque spots and a day that my sister was gone (so we could raid her closet.) Photo to the left.

We were constantly dying each others hair a new shade of red (hers was a nightmare, there was just so much of it!) We had all night movie marathons and ate ice cream out of the carton. I remember this one night we had eaten so much ice cream with toppings we were nearly sick then we got to the scene in The Piano when a little girl’s finger gets chopped off. (Remind me why this happens??) We just about lost it. We rolled around clutching our stomachs in fits of laughter and horror.

Charity loved to play guitar and we sat around with friends or just the two of us and sang for hours. It’s one of my favorite memories. She was this beautiful, free spirit and you couldn’t help feeling like everything was going to be ok when you were around her.

Charity was one of my biggest fans and she was always encouraging me when 20170706_171720-1I was sure I would never find “the one”. We both went on some bad dates, and some good ones too. We laughed and cried together. A lot. When my time finally came she was in my wedding and when I had my first baby, she was the first one in line to offer babysitting.  She was always there for me and always seemed to know when I needed an encouraging note or a hug.

I was so thrilled when Charity met the guy of her dreams. His proposal was so sweet and planning her wedding was like a dream. Charity’s mom was going to make her dress, but I insisted that we still go and try on dresses, since it had been such a fun experience for me.

She was on her way to my house when she was in an accident. I don’t remember exactly how I found out exactly. I just know I was trying to track her down because she was running late and I was told she had been in an accident and was headed to the hospital.

I waited with her family and friends at the hospital as we slowly got word on how she was doing. Finally we got news that she wasn’t in great shape but that it appeared she just needed her gallbladder out. It was such a relief and I remember joking with a friend that we would have to break the news to her that she wouldn’t be able to eat fried foods anymore. I even remember calling her boss to let him know show would be out of commission for a little while. I left the hospital planning to come see the next day. She was going to be ok. It was such a relief.

In the middle of the night I got the call. It was her finance. It was very brief, he just said that they hadn’t been able to get the swelling in her brain down and she hadn’t made it. Just like that she was gone.

I can’t properly express the shock I went through or the feelings that came after. I can’t fully express the thoughts that came…she was on her way to my house. To my house. Grief has many faces.

I will always grieve the fact that Charity never got to walk down the aisle, or be a wife or a mom. Or become the adult version of herself. She didn’t get to watch her siblings grow up. Or be there for her mom during rough times.

Charity was my constant cheerleader. She not only knew me but got me.  She would have been a brilliant wife and mother had she gotten the chance.

She was my brilliant friend.

 

Charity, I love you and will miss you forever. 20170706_180525

 


Leave a comment

I don’t speak internet dating

I’ve recently submersed myself in the world of internet dating. Or, internet stalking, depending on how you look at it. I’ve shied away from the whole internet thingman-949058_960_720 in the past because it seems so impersonal. Swipe right. Swipe left. But what I failed to realize until now is just how much there was to learn from the whole experience.

I joined one of the lesser “prestigious” dating sites. Meaning, I didn’t have to fill out a 34 page questionnaire, nor did I have to pay a bloody dime. Score. (“Free” online dating has gotten so expensive!)  I won’t tell you which site I joined, because, duh, how embarrassing if you tried to look me up (as opposed the one trillion strangers who are currently capable of looking at my profile).

I made as honest of a profile as I could highlighting my love of sunshine, books, and reading. I gave myself a cheesy, yet noteworthy username and put on a variety of pictures. For my main photo I chose a recent photo of me on a hike with little make up and my hair wind-blown. I cannot lie, it was a test. I wanted to see how I would fare among all the “boob shots” and Kardashian wannabe’s I was in competition with.

I chose “treehugger” as my personality and “dating, but nothing serious” as my intent. The messages flooded in immediately. I got a lot of “Hey beautiful”. I have to admit, I was surprised. Some messages were sweet and well thought out. Others were short and to the point, like the words “Let’s date” followed by a phone number. Yep, that happened. I shouldn’t have been surprised to see the only thing written on his profile page was “looking for women to make babies with”. Charmed, I’m sure.

One man seemed very intent on meeting me but explained that he was heading to a remote cabin on an island for two weeks and would I like to join him fish-33712_960_720there for dinner? I am not making this up. I wanted to ask if I should bring the duct tape or if he already had a large supply. My friend said to make sure I told her the location of the cabin so she could find the tiny pieces of me he had dumped in a well. Fish bait? No thanks!

The thing I wasn’t prepared for was how the whole thing would truly mess with my head. It was as if the logical part of my brain turned off and my Pavlovian programming kicked in. Every time I heard the little pinging notification I couldn’t get to my phone fast enough. I couldn’t wait to see what Hansmdud101 had to say. What if he was the one??  What if I didn’t respond fast enough and he found someone he thought was the one my mistake. Before I even opened his message I was picking out a wedding location and naming our St. Bernard.

The other thing I wasn’t prepared for was how people’s actions never seemed to meet with their words. I assumed that if people took the time to make a charming and creative profile, and took the time to peruse other’s profiles, that it was because they actually wanted to meet people. You know, in person. Like a date. I was totally mistaken. I spent entire days responding to questions about myself, where I liked to hang out, what my interests were, even made tentative plans.  Only to find the guy had all but disappeared by the next day, never to be heard from again.  It begs the question, wtf? Did they chicken out? Were they stringing me along for their amusement? Did their wife get home? Ugh. Not funny.

I started to realize that some guys were put off by the fact that I had put I was interested in “dating, but nothing serious” rather than “looking for the love of my life on this crummy site”.  Because apparently “nothing serious” actually means “DTF” (one night stand ready) and not “I’m not necessarily looking for my husband but am interested in meeting people who seem nice so we can meet in a public location and see if we have a friendship connection that may lead to something else”.  It became clear that I needed to adjust my “intent” one night when a guy messaged me suggesting I drive an hour away to meet him so I could buy him drinks. Seriously?  I wanted to say. “You must have missed the part of my profile that read – single mom of 3 and broke AF.” But, those are the things we’re told not to include on our profiles.

I decided there are only two kinds of people on this site. Those who want to procure a wife. And those who want to hook up. Oddly enough, none of them actually  want to meet in person (other than the odd cabin murderers). So, I changed my intent to “Want a relationship”, hoping it wboard-1820678_960_720ould attract some better guys than I had been attracting so far. Couldn’t hurt, right?  Guess how many messages I got after I changed it. None.

Clearly, I don’t speak internet dating. Please excuse me while I go delete my profile.


1 Comment

Life is made up of moments

My daughter has been doing a lot of sighing lately. And by a lot, I mean if she were wearing a tank of some kind I’d be worried that it was leaking. I want to pull her aside and tell her the cold hard truth – that it’s going to harder from here on out. That she hasn’t even begun to face all the hard things that are ahead. It’s not to belittle whatever stress she’s experiencing. Nor, is it to say that her life is going to be hard all the time. But, how many times, as we get older, do we look back and think “If I only would have known”? I have a feeling that someday down the road my daughter’s going to realize how simple her life was during her “sighing” period.

It’s like the time I got everything just perfect. Yes, just the once. Netflix was set to my favorite show. I had a nest of blankets waiting for me on the couch. And beside it, an icy, tall glass of milk. All that was left was the pièce de résistance, my hidden stash of Oreo’s. Yes, I have a hidden stash, don’t you?? The only problem was, when I unearthed them from their clever hiding spot, I knew immediately that I was no longer the only keeper of their secret location. The package felt very light and I knew as I heard the tiny crumbs make their way down the little ridges in the package and hit the bottom that the package was completely empty. Ugh! If only I would have known! I wouldn’t have been so excited for the perfect experience I thought I had created. I could have planned accordingly.

Life really has a funny way of not letting us in on its secrets. Sure we can laugh when we look back at that god awful haircut we had in 6th grade or the matching jazzercize suit we wore faithfully to aerobics class. But sometimes our inability to see into the future just seems cruel. Like when we realize, after so many years,  that we married the wrong person. It can feel so damn unfair. If I only would have known.

And here’s the thing – life will always be this way. We don’t get a magic mirror or a time machine. There’s no wild-haired mad scientist telling us we simply must go “back to the future.” Apparently only Michael J. Fox is so lucky. We just get this one choice, to either live regretting the past and fearing the future. Or choose to live in the moment. Which can be scary. It means embracing it all – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

This past summer my kids and I drove to California for a visit. It’s not the first time we’ve done it, but this trip was markedly different. I made a conscious effort to be in the moment as much as possible. If you know me, you know how hard this is for me. I’m a planner and a worrier. I want to anticipate everything that might happen.

Instead, I decided to just let the trip be in control. I decided to get out from behind a camera lens and just experience everything first hand. I took very few pictures, and tried to just capture everything internally. There was this one moment that was so poignant it still makes me tear up. We were driving this long stretch and suddenly Lake Shasta was right there. And it was so magnificent. It was so clear, and the sun was blazing down creating all this magic on the water. I turned around to make sure the kids were seeing it. And they were all asleep! So, I just had this private moment with the lake and the sun and all the beauty and tucked it into my heart. It was so beautiful. And I don’t have a single picture to prove it.

Cheryl Strayed tells of how her mother told her repeatedly as she grew up to “put herself in the way of beauty”. Life can be so hard. And it’s just made up of moments. We don’t know what the next moment is going to bring. I’m so glad I put myself in the way of beauty this summer. It was so worth it.

I lost a friend to cancer this summer too. There aren’t words. It was so hard, on so many different levels.Watching someone slowly waste away is horrible.  I was wracked with guilt. “If I only would have known” ran constantly through my head. If I knew she had such limited time,  I would gone to see her more. I should have cleaned her house more. I  should have brought her meals. If I only would have known.

I can choose to live there, or I can move forward. I can do my best to honor her memory by living as boldly as she did. I can remember how much we laughed, even when things were so hard for her. I can remember how much she embraced the moments she had.

We don’t get to see ahead in time. We never will. We just have right now. And we get to choose what to do with each moment. In the words of Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”


Leave a comment

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

I’ve lived in the Seattle area nearly eight years now and I still can’t get used to the weather. It will look gorgeous outside. I will don a light jacket and head out for a brisk walk. And all of a sudden I will realize that the cold, wet objects falling from the sky are in fact snow flakes. Snow flakes! Forrest Gump could have been talking about Se20160815_113650attle weather, you never know what you’re gonna get.

I’m a California girl. A sun worshiper. Don’t be fooled by my pale skin. I think I was a plant in a former life because whenever the sun is out I find myself leaning towards the nearest window. I grew up in temperatures where you broke a sweat just getting out of bed. Where you were sure you were surrounded by dementors when you stepped out of the house because you were definitely having the breath sucked out of you against your will. But the glorious thing was swimming pools. Floating in a pool with the sun beating down and the cool water beneath you was nothing short of a religious experience. It was like you were being infused with the will to live.

So you see, the long, cold, wet seasons here are going to be my undoing. It is no coincidence that the acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder is SAD. The name says it all. I went walking with a friend the other day. There was a bite to the air but the sun was out and it was quite beautiful. We got to laughing about how the long, cold, wet days start to mess with your head. How you’re sure that you must be coming down with something because you feel so sluggish and your bones hurt and you’re sure your heart is beating slower than it should. So you hit up WebMD and discover that you have a rare form of impetigo that attacks the heart and surely you have weeks to live. And on top of that you’re sure you also have lupus and possibly congenital heart disease and a side of bird flu. And then, the next day, the sun comes out and your symptoms mysteriously disappear and you’re quite sure you could walk on water if you really wanted to. The weather can seriously mess with your head. The struggle is real.

There are things I love about this area. I LOVE being so close to my family. I love how lush and green everything is year round and that there are so many waOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAterfalls you couldn’t possibly explore them all. I used to love how the squirrels run freely through my yard. Until they got into the trash I left out and ate my strawberries before I could. But for the most part, it really isn’t a bad place to live.

It’s just that it starts to get to me at times. Even though I know that the summer always comes and that I won’t be in the fetal position in front of my heater vent forever, sometimes it feels like things will never change. It struck me today that life is very much like the weather. (Thanks crappy weather for the epiphany).

Nothing ever stays the same forever. Not the weather, not circumstances, not feelings. Things shift and change. In the midst of really hard times, it can feel so permanent. Like a forever winter. I look at my almost 18-year-old daughter and realize I was sure she was going to be a kid forever. Now she’s this adult person about to move away and I wonder where in the world the time went.

We will all have days, or weeks, or months where we’re sure life will never look good again. Where we’re absolutely sure we have mad cow disease or are being poisoned slowly by tuna fish. Where we think we will never again feel joy, or love, or passion. I can assure you, it’s not true. Things always shift and change. And in the famous words of a little orphan girl – the sun will come out tomorrow.


2 Comments

Drowning In A Rough Patch

I love how people use funny little innocuous phrases like “going through a rough patch” to describe some horrendous experience they’re going through like the end of their grandparent’s 80 year marriage because grandma confused the antifreeze with lime Koolaid. Or when your friend’s only son comes out as a cannibal and she’s all like “I’m terrified to invite him over for dinner anymore because I hear they’re harder to feed than vegans!” Or when the entire left side of your body gets ripped from your body in an accident with a cotton gin (is that even possible?) and you’re like, “I’ll be fine…just going through a rough patch.” What is this all about? Why do we do this? Are we in a pissing contest with the universe when it comes to suffering?

I went through my own “rough patch” recently and I can tell you it involved a lot of crying and Ben & Jerry’s. Among other things. Gratefully no cotton gins.  It began with the decision to go back to school to finish my Bachelor’s degree. Which came from a long line of decisions like quitting school to get married, have kids, run a business, move to another state, get divorced, realize that life has gotten super expensive, attempt to find ways to make more money.

And so I applied to college, was accepted to college, and had the pleasure of talking to a counselor who thought I was not myself, but a robot version of myself powered by an Energizer battery that has no qualms about taking 15 credits at a time, working nearly full time, and raising three children. I’m sure she meant well. At least I’m fairly sure.

Needless to say, I started all three of my online classes feeling nothing but positivity. O.k, that’s not entirely true. There’s this other thing I failed to mention. Lets just say that I’m someone who suffers from occasional (daily), mild (crippling), bouts (ok, who am I kidding, bouts doesn’t quite give it justice) of anxiety. I hate change. I fear new things. I suffer from self doubt. I am an anxious person. I wasn’t like, oh hey, why don’t I go back to school, it totally makes sense. Going back was a last resort, a hail mary.  It came from this place in me that was so tired of never knowing if I was going to make it month to month even after picking up extra hours wherever possible.  The decision opened up all the anxiety soaked places I try to keep hidden. Would I be able to handle school after so many years? Would I be able to juggle work and kids and classes? Was I getting in way over my head?

There’s this myth that taking classes online is easier or that you can go at your own pace. I would love to find the person perpetuating this myth and write them a strongly worded letter. My classes were anything but easy or paceable. One class alone required 25 hours of work a week. I quickly realized I was so over my head. I tried to drop one of the three classes but had missed the deadline. And then I discovered that my financial aid, the only reason I could afford to take the classes in the first place, required me to take at least 12 credits. I was stuck. I worked my butt off. I ate Ben & Jerry’s for dinner many nights. I put off housework, paying bills, feeding my kids dinner. It was brutal. My brain was in a constant fog. I felt both sad and angry but was too tired to express either successfully.

I quickly realized there was no possible way I could keep this up. I had put all my eggs in one basket and then proceeded to fall face first on the basket. I had egg on my face.

You know how sometimes doing something isn’t really about doing that thing? Going back to school wasn’t just about going back to school for me. It represented my ability to provide for my kids.To give them a better life, to give them security. I had to make it work.

Some people know what they want to do with their life from the time they’re five. These people are terrible annoying. The rest of us are still reeling over the fact that we grew up despite the fact that we don’t know what we want to do yet when we grow up. So there was that aspect haunting me too. That feeling that I was all grown up and still didn’t have my crap together.

Having school unravel so quickly for me was the worst. I felt like I was failing everyone. Everyone who was so proud of me for going back. My kids who need me to support them. And myself for not being able to pull myself together yet again.

And it was right about this point I had an epiphany, and thank god for epiphanies, right? Because they tend to put an end to unhealthy downward spirals. For starters I realized I had been providing for my kids all along. Finishing my degree will be a great thing and will help me find a better paying job. But it won’t be the start of me providing for my kids, of being able to care for them. I’ve always provided for them. They’ve always been cared for. I’ve had help along the way. but’s that’s ok too. No man is an island. Accepting help when you need it is still a way of providing for those you love, isn’t it.

The other thing I realized was that I need to stop beating myself up for completely insane things. Like feeling like I’m drowning and I should be better at it. As if there’s a right way to drown, and I’ve somehow failed to figure it out. Which is insane, right? Being in distress, feeling overwhelmed, suffering in any way is the pits. It’s awful, plain and simple. There’s something wrong with anyone who says they’ve gotten good at suffering. We shouldn’t be good at suffering. It should feel miserable. Because we’re not meant to stay in those times. We are not meant to stay in prolonged periods of distress.

Sure, we endure. We push through hard times somehow and come out the other end. But good gravy, I’m done trying to get good at drowning. I’m done telling myself that I should be better at it. That’s hogwash.

I recently applied for a program where I can take classes part time and still get financial aid. It sounds way more doable than what I was doing. Fingers crossed. In the meantime, I have to believe that people are proud of me no matter where my efforts take me. I have to believe that my children will always feel provided for.  And I definitely have to stop trying to be good at suffering. There are so many other things I’d rather be good at.