I was supposed to spend half of this holiday weekend at the Jersey shore soaking up sun and catching up with a dear, dear, old, old (okay, not so old really – just long-term) friend. Alas, I am not at the beach and my white (oh-so-not-pretty-white) skin retains the ability to reflect objects at twenty feet.
Even though it would have given me great joy to spend quality time with my friend, my body is so immobilized by grief, pain, exhaustion, guilt, frustration, resentment, depression, anger, etc. that I do not even have the strength to transport it to a place where I know my spirit would be renewed. I am so sorry Steph!
Today is Independence Day and I don’t feel free at all. For the fourth day in a row I am battling a pretty unpleasant headache. The only thing I want to do is write, because deep in my soul I believe that will free me. It has freed me in the past.
But some of you will read this and be shocked and disappointed that I have so willingly word-vomited my darkest failures upon this page. SO…. if there is a single judgmental bone in your body STOP READING, or, read on and smile to yourself and say “I’m so glad I’m not like her!” Your call. But I must write this for myself and it really won’t matter if you read it or not. It is not the result, but “the process” that frees…
Here it is in a nutshell. Once upon a time I liked Kristin. I liked her a lot actually. She was flawed of course, but she was authentic and meant well. She found beauty in the ashes and tried to encourage others in everything she did. She wasn’t beautiful, but her radiant spirit could almost convince you that she just might be if you were lucky enough to catch the light on her face in a moment of unabashed joy. She was smart and funny and compassionate to a fault. She was a people-person, a loving mama-bear, a good wife, physically healthy, non-judgmental, enthusiastic and optimistic. And she could find the humor in anything. Anything at all.
But I am not that Kristin anymore. I am broken in all my best places and only God can heal those places now.
The older I get the more I forget. But I do remember, with striking clarity, a time when I thought I was “all that.” I am embarrassed to admit this, but I was pretty impressed with myself! I was healthy, thin (although I didn’t believe it at the time), curvaceous, vivacious, finishing my Master’s Degree at 22, happily planning my wedding, and had TWO married men each confess (to my astonishment) that they were “in love” with me. I was oh-so-naive at that time, honestly believing that I was engaged in mere friendships. I was not aware of having done anything to imply any other kind of relationship. I withdrew immediately, but all of this made me feel, for a brief moment in time, that I must be something special.
I don’t feel so special anymore. For one thing, I am fat. Not just ten pounds overweight, but more like just-this-side-of-gastric-bypass fat! The double chin on a grandchild is adorable, the double chin on MumMum? Not so much. Maybe they should start referring to me as YumYum rather than MumMum. In my defense, I don’t drink alcohol or smoke (cigarettes or weed), or gamble or shop or watch porn. Everyone gets to have at least one vice, right? No…. not when it affects your health in a negative way.
I need to exercise. As a child I was an athlete. I co-captained our high school gymnastics team and was extremely active with biking, swimming, diving, etc. I became ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in my early thirties and have never been fully well since. It has morphed into Fibromyalgia over the years (Fiberglass Algae, as my son Jesse likes to call it). Just to fill the crock-pot, I have added atrial-fibrillation, four umbilical hernia repairs (plus a new one the size of a golf ball), and an almost-killed-me staph infection on my spinal cord. Every morning when I wake up I truly wish that I was waking up in Heaven. I firmly believe in Heaven, so why on earth would I want to stay here in this aching body? I guess it is because God isn’t finished with me yet.
I have Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and am pretty much allergic to everything, which makes me feel unbelievably sad if I allow it to. Spring and summer literally hurt because I am allergic to grass, weeds, pollen, trees, and flowers (all of them). I love cats (and was raised with seven of them) but have become allergic to everything with fur. I can’t use any product with fragrance and suffer more than anyone knows when I am exposed to people wearing perfume or fragrant personal hygiene products. I am allergic to dust, mold, household chemicals, fresh paint, etc.
But the cruelest cut of all? I am allergic to most fruits. Apples, watermelon and cantaloupe have been spared, but my beloved strawberries, blueberries, oranges, pineapple and bananas all cause my tongue to tingle and my head to hurt.
What I really hate is when people tell me I can’t possibly be allergic to something – like my grand-doggy Buttercup. My kids have insisted that I can’t be allergic to her because she is a hypoallergenic Teacup Yorkie. Fine. I guess the bones in my face are hurting because I thought a negative thought and NOT because there is a freaking dog in my house!
My job is a huge source of frustration, exhaustion and resentment, although I do love the actual work (and many of the people). I work my tail off and give 110% as Controller and HR Manager for the North American division of a global, recently merged company. We have 11 US locations and 2 Canadian locations. But my twenty-four-year-old son earns nearly as much as I do, and this is after fighting for a raise for two years!
Is this because I am female? Or do I just suck? And if I suck, why to they let me manage and move hundreds of thousands of dollars on any given day (with no one’s authorization but my own), help write policy, train and manage my staff, do all the underlying tax work papers for three separate and distinct companies, etc.? Was I asleep during the face-painting session at the carnival when they drew a huge “L” on my forehead?
Any Pollyanna naiveté I had left has been erased by working at my current job. It has been my experience in this company that bad behavior is rewarded and good behavior is at best ignored, and at worst, punished. I do not know how much longer I can survive this inequity. I do not believe that women are taken seriously and yes, I am looking for another job. God has not shown me an alternative yet, so I put one foot in front of the other and keep marching forward, still giving 110%. Because it is the right thing to do.
This former “good wife” is avoiding her beloved husband because I know that all too soon I will be without my best friend, and I can’t bear to think about that. Attila, my sweetest, most fragile baklava bear suffers from chronic renal failure. We all know this and we all like to pretend it isn’t true. He sleeps about eighteen hours per day. It is difficult for him to walk, as his ankle has never fully recovered from the fall two years ago that broke 17 bones and changed his life forever. His hearing continues to deteriorate. He can only hear when someone is speaking loudly and is one-on-one with him. Large gatherings are an exercise in frustration because he can’t pull apart and process the words when there are multiple conversations going on in the same room.
On Friday, when I was supposed to be heading to the beach, I broke down and confessed all. I told Attila that I feel that I am avoiding him to some degree, out of my own fear and selfishness. I admitted that it was ridiculous and would stop immediately. He told me that he didn’t feel neglected since I am off to work from 8am until 7pm most weekdays anyway (including the commute and extra hours) and we are both very independent people. But it doesn’t change the truth. And unlike “A Few Good Men” I CAN handle the truth. I have no choice.
To the outside world, this former “loving mama-bear” is probably looking more like an evil stepmother these days. Our almost nineteen-year-old daughter Ashley has Borderline Personality disorder. Her skewed thinking can only manage black and white. All the “grays” of life elude her. Sadly, her frustrations are manifested in violent rage, which in the past has been mostly focused on me. She spent a year at Devereux and about 8 months in a therapeutic foster home, before coming home to our house for her senior year of high school, and graduating last month.
Unfortunately, on May 12th Ashley decided to steal Attila’s disability check and open her own bank account. We changed the locks and she hasn’t lived with us since then. She was accepted into Job Corps where she would have 100% paid room and board and complete training to be a nurse’s aide. She has expressed a desire to work with the elderly so we all felt this was an incredibly perfect opportunity for Ashley to gain the skills to be independent.
But Ashley has decided that she does not want to go to Job Corps. Instead, she is living with a friend and the friend’s mother (who is being treated for cancer). Ashley’s friendships tend to have a short life-span so when the friend’s mom is tired of paying Ashley’s expenses and kicks her out, Ashley will call us and want to come home and we will have to say no. Why? Because when Ashley lived with us Attila was telling everyone in the family that he was ready to die and asking why God didn’t just let him go home. Now that Ashley is not living under our roof, Attila no longer feels that way. Sad. So horribly, achingly, I-can’t-fix-this sad.
And then there is our never-became-legal fifteen-year-old daughter Leigha. At the urging of our family, last March (2010) we made the excruciating decision to not adopt Leigha. We found ourselves unable to keep her safe. She would leave our home at 11pm at night when I was asleep on the third floor and Attila was watching TV in his man-cave on the second floor (or snoozing). Attila would get in the car and go looking for her, mad as a hen. Leigha would visit her birth mom and two birth brothers, who had moved only blocks away from us. She was not supposed to have contact of any kind with them.
Leigha has been in a residential treatment facility since then. We talk on the phone and I write to her weekly. We visit about once every six weeks. She still calls us Mommy and Daddy and we are the only people who have permission to have contact with her. While part of me knows that we did the right thing for Leigha, it still feels wrong that she is not with us. She is our daughter after all – if only in our hearts. We are the people who take in kids – not the people who shut them out!
This former “non-judgmental” person has become judgmental of late. I won’t tolerate it! I will do whatever it takes to eradicate it. I know that it is born of pain and feelings of being misunderstood. I judge lest I be judged? But of course, I am judged. I simply used to have the internal strength to handle it without caring what people thought and without being judgmental in return. Now I am a bunch of open nerve-endings anticipating imminent pain. It makes me ugly and mean – and judgmental.
My inherent quirkiness and natural joy in the small things, is now muffled and constrained by the weight of work stress and life stress. My natural optimism is at war with my natural depression, and the depression is winning at the moment. There has been too much loss. And I haven’t even mentioned my son-in-love’s affair (and joyful redemption of that marriage – please read about it on Lyryn’s blog at http://lyryn.com), or my daughter Johnna’s gifting of her son for adoption, or my Mom’s near-death experience last summer.
As a child I was considered the drama queen. At the ripe old age of 53, life has essentially beaten that out of me. I have now accumulated so many this-is-the-end-of-the-world experiences that nothing has the power to actually induce the end of my world, only create the beginning of a “new normal.”
Tomorrow I will stop by LA Fitness on the way home from work and check out the pool schedule so I can start exercising again. I will come home and sit with Attila and swap stories about our day. I will not put anything in my mouth that does not belong there (including my thumb). I will remember that God is in control and I do trust Him above all else. I will whisper “this too shall pass” and I will choose to believe it. And perhaps, I will begin to like Kristin again.