slipping

I’m slipping. Someone show me how to stay upright. I feel grumpy and frumpy and fat and full of debt and grudges. I had gotten to a place where I felt real good on the good days and basically OK on the bad ones. And now I’ve gone to OK on the good days and bad on the bad days. I have grievances:

  1. Apartment. I hate the apartment. I hate neighbors above our heads and people who pull all nighters outside in the hot tub. I hate that my girls are basically living in student housing without other kids with a whole bunch of other grownups who don’t care when you yell out your window THAT YOU HAVE BABIES TRYING TO SLEEP OVER THEIR PARTYING DAMMIT. I know better than to say “I’ll be happy when…” but the day our contract is up here is a bright shiny star loaded with hope and all good things, and I’m looking forward to touching it.
  2. Weight. We are both too fat and too short, so since we can’t do anything about the short thing, we’ve got to really buckle down on the fat thing. I know all bodies are different (“and so are all brains”–Big Words–one of my favorite kids’ books–uh…tangent), and we should just be happy in the skin we’re in, but I’m not happy with my body (or my skin for that matter). For some reason it was so easy to eat clean when we did that. We felt so much better and I was super self-righteous and judgmental about other people’s eating habits. I had a lot of issues, but food issues and weight issues weren’t a thing then. I’d like those things to not be things now.
  3. People. I look back on the past and realize that I had a lot more friends back then (back when? back whenever–any other time), and I’m wondering what I can do differently. I’m not sure why the loss. I’m not sure why I can’t hang on, or why people can’t hang on. I don’t know which it is. I just feel like I need some friends, but I’m too late. People in their 30s don’t make friends, do they? What do they do? Complain about things? Stare at each other while their unruly kids run around and hit each other and fight? I don’t know what friendship looks like anymore, I guess. I’m not a good friend, maybe.
  4. Debt. Yeah, so we have some debt. We have a ton of debt. Probably not as much as some people and lots more than others, but we have it and I hate it. We have jobs and we are paying it off, but it’s there and it’s always dangling there, showing me things that other people have, making me mad with all the things people have and things that they are doing that I might never do or see because of this creature that has its teeth lodged firmly in my backside, chewing away at night, keeping me up, obsessing over a spreadsheet budget–my precious–but never offering relief.

And somehow, weirdly, I feel books are the solution to these things. Audiobooks while I run, books to fill the empty spaces in my life that would typically be filled by eating. Books to give me something to occupy my time and help me feel more productive. Books even help me look at people better. I’ve read a lot more but after a couple books in as many weeks, it was hard to keep up that pace for too long. But books are the answer, I can feel it.

Send me something to read. Come read with me. Let’s get rid of grudges. Let’s help each other stay upright.

This new shiny life.

My sister-in-law just wrote this, and I love it so much. This reflects almost exactly what I’ve been feeling the past few weeks. I’m not even sure when the shift took place or even if there is one moment where everything changed.

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I do know that in January, we took family photos. I made a big huge canvas of it, and hung it up, and something about it bugged me. The person in that photo didn’t look like me. Well obviously, it was me, but I looked wooden. I was smiling, a falsehood in print. It’s been sitting in our garage for months, and I can’t hang it. I see that photo and I see this old me that clung too tightly to things she didn’t care about. I was clinging to marriage, to friendships that I couldn’t let go of, to a house that was too big and too filled with things, and to a church that I couldn’t embrace completely.

Now I know what I care about, and I can tell you what those things are.

  • I care about my daughters. I want them to have nice things, to enjoy life, and I care very much that they know I care about them. I have dispensed more random “I love you’s” and more out-of-nowhere compliments to these two sassy little girls. I embrace one’s exuberance about life and embrace the other’s generally sad disposition. And I just love the heck out of them.
  • I care about my husband. I have struggled with this, and I feel bad for struggling with this. But I care deeply about this person who has stuck with me, knowing that there is something good under anxiety, that someday I would peel back my depression and start to really care again. I don’t know if he actually knew that, but he stuck around until it happened, and I like that a lot.
  • I care about my job. I had a come to Jesus moment where, in the face of financial crisis and feeling like I couldn’t carry another load of crap I cared so little for, I had to find something that worked better, something that I could own and hold in my hands and love. And I decided of all things to work in a hotel. So now, for 20-25 hours a week, I work at the front desk of a hotel, checking people in, selling them overpriced, cardiac arrest-inducing snacks, bringing people extra pillows and blankets, and caring about this job and caring about other people. Life is tired and depression is king when you’re in a job where the only positive thing about it is getting paid. Goodbye, old life.

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So that’s where I’m at. I miss old friends and I miss seeing my therapist, and I suppose one day I’ll see those old friends and wonder what happened. I suppose one day I’ll have a breakdown and sit crying in my therapist’s office, begging him to tell me what to do. That kind of thing is inevitable. But for now, I don’t need it, because for right now, I feel capable of caring about things and people. Life is bright and shiny and new.

 

bored. depressed. don’t care.

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Daphne is better at expressing her non-emotion than I am at faking mine. 🙂

When people ask me how I’m doing, I know I should say, “Fine.” And I usually do. I think there has only been one person who asked me that and I told her I was bored or depressed or something, but that I didn’t care enough to actually figure it out. To that person, I probably should have just said “Fine.” I guess I really just wanted to add “awkward” to my feelings repertoire.

Mostly I think I’m bored. I’ve been wanting to write something about this but it just seems like it doesn’t bother me that much to not feel anything about anything, until I sit down and start a blog post about it. And then I start to feel things. Specifically, I start to feel things about my lack of feelings. It feels bad. It feels like I’m very sad. Not with my life, but my memories of feelings make me feel sad. I start by having memories of feeling sad when I fought with my husband, or feeling really happy when one of my kids did something super amazing. I feel sad now because I miss those feelings.

So you can probably imagine that this apathy I have towards everything has extended into a lot of areas of my life. I’m tired. I’m barely Mormon right now. I still go to church (sacrament meeting) and the other two meetings I stay for about as long as I can stave off my inevitable anxiety attack. I don’t even know what the trigger is. I’m bored, but also there are people in there, lots of people, lots of people talking about feeling the spirit, about feeling charitable and kind and loving, and about caring about other people, about people we don’t know. I don’t understand and I don’t like it and it doesn’t feel right. I’ve walked out of many meetings crying because it was uncomfortable unbearable. Mothers Day 2016, they said, “Talk to your neighbor about your feelings” about a passage of scripture, and I stood up, burst into tears, and walked home, barefoot, in pouring rain.

So I stick around, close(ish) to the church, trying out coffee, trying out tea, because these things seem to help a lot of my kind of people, people I look up to, unwind and destress and have easier times navigating life. I stopped debating for hours and hours before going to R rated movies. I guess I just feel like I might just be bored and in that case, I might come back. And it’s not that I want an excuse to sin. That’s always a really popular thing to say to people who are transitioning out of the church, and I’ve heard it a lot and haven’t even told many people about my near-exit. Coffee and tea are still gross and now I don’t worry so much about dying and going to hell on the way home from the movies, but it’s not about me feeling like I’ve been missing out on things. I feel like I might come back (if the church ever lightens up on gays and stops inadvertently squashing everyone with a vag), so I’m not out of it completely. I feel bored and I feel like boredom and basically not caring is not a good reason to quit things you’ve done for 30 years. Because maybe I won’t always be bored, and maybe the church won’t always be a jerk.

There is a lot of talk of eternal life, eternal families, living forever. And so much back and forth and discord about what that actually means and what’s required. I don’t know what goes on after this life, but eternal life sounds awful. It’s comforting to people, I guess. But it makes more sense to me that we live this life and then settle down in the ground and then we are done. There is something really spectacular about that, about knowing that this is it, that this is what we get, and make the most of it. But I could just be bored.

Post-edit: Wow, that kind of came out of nowhere, and might have sounded angrier than it was supposed to. Don’t read into it.

Other than breaking up with the church (we’re actually just on a break, I think maybe), I have no motivation to do anything. Diet and exercise sounds like something extra I need to do, and so does work. I don’t avoid it because I’m not a hard worker. I wouldn’t actually say I avoid it. I just don’t know where to find the motivation for it. In the past I’ve been a very hard worker (and a lot thinner). I was always able to find a job. I have been to what seems like 5,000 interviews in the past month and a half because I feel like I should get a job. I feel like I should have something else to care about that I likely won’t care about. And the last person who interviewed me and then “went another direction” told me that I just didn’t seem to care that much about whether I got the job or not. Shock. Awe. Et cetera.

There have been a lot of really horrendous things happening in the world. I recognize that. But even these horrible things, I just can’t get myself to put together the right words. I can’t formulate anything comforting or wise. I’d like to feel awful. I wish I was tormented at night because of these things, some extra really close to home things. But I literally cannot dig anything up out of my heart to feel the right things or even fake the right things to say. Someone tell me what to say. I’d like to be that person who gives hugs at the right times and says things at the right time. The last time I saw my therapist, he said I needed a friend. I’m not sure who wants to be friends with someone who doesn’t actually value relationships, but I guess if anyone wants in, I’m here. Let me know. I’m not doing anything. Let’s talk for a minute and then ignore each other.

Peace.

And breathe. And post this.

therapy x 2

Am I the only one who gets weepy about therapy?

Dang thing changed me. And not changed me. Changed me back. There, that’s how I want to say it. I was me, then I tried on someone else for a while, and now I’m me again.

I saw a therapist after my divorce, and I felt slighted after I left Brian’s office for the last time, because he asked me why I liked going. He said he thought that I liked therapy because of attention. I should have said no. I should have said I liked having my feelings validated. I might have said, if I had been able to heal a bit from the trauma that had happened to me just weeks before, that I was afraid I was going to have bad feelings lurking around in my brain for the next 7 years. And I did. Guys, I had bad feelings for 7 years until my second therapist cleared me for takeoff. But really I cleared myself. Because this time I left the office for the last time in a place where I felt like me.

I don’t know why I never healed from my divorce before therapy v2.0, but I didn’t. I have hated my ex and his whole family for 7 years. I hated my new husband, and I hated my family, and I hated a lot of people who didn’t know I hated them, and I hated me, and I didn’t really know I hated me either.

And then we went to therapy, and I didn’t know how to ask for help to not hate everything because I didn’t know that was the problem. I wanted therapy to fix my husband. I wanted it to make him do the dishes more, to yell at the kids less, to be this guy I didn’t hate so much. It was two or three sessions in and I saw the error. I had broken. I had broken into 2 pieces and the one hateful piece was bigger and hated the smaller piece, the missing piece, away.

I started going in by myself. Some weeks, the conversation was significant and felt like therapy. Other times, I talked about how I wanted to go to grad school. I talked about how I hated praying, that God’s a jerk, and I wanted to move. I talked a lot about how I hated my husband and wanted to leave him. And then the next week, I was living in a good marriage in a good house and God was a little more real that week.

And therapy helped me recognize something I had never thought of before. Two things I had never thought of before:

#1. Life doesn’t have to be exciting to be good. I don’t have to move, or pray, or believe, or have dishes and laundry done every night for life to be fine. Flip flopping is my fantasy and sometimes I dive in and I plan trips and I look at real estate, sometimes with room for my husband to live with us. And then other times I sit in my basement office that my husband (who I usually don’t hate anymore) is building for me and I write things down and I think about things.

But I don’t worry about how I feel about God or not-God, and I don’t want to move. I think about the garden boxes I had put in, and whether my neighbors will hire a hitman for the chickens I will have (yes he definitely will), who will be loud and will stink. I let go of the fantasy until the next time I pick it back up and I spend a few minutes thinking about the weather in San Francisco in the winter. I flipped and then I flopped and that’s me. I know I’m doing it and I know why I’m doing it and it’s fine.

#2. My other realization is my favorite: I see people differently. I look at their behaviors and things that they tell me, and I no longer assume it’s a lie. My neighbor told me he plowed all the snow from the neighborhood and plopped it in front of our mailbox because he was trying to be nice. I chose to believe that.

I got into a spat with a friend and I took note of her concerns and then I didn’t talk to her for 3 weeks and I didn’t think of her even for one second because the things that motivated her to say and do things had nothing to do with me. I chose to believe that. People generally do what they do because they’re having a bad day or a good day or their dog died or they got sex or had pie for breakfast.

And trying to convince someone in an argument to not be mad at you is senseless, because they probably don’t care that much. They probably care that their dog died or they had sex or they ate pie for breakfast, but not about you. That’s not intended to sound cynical or jerky or anything. I mean that in the best way. People care about what’s going on in their lives, and sometimes other people come in while they are processing things and screw everything up. It’s not personal. People do what they can do with what they have and I have to believe it’s not personal. Unless someone tells you they hate you. (That feels kind of personal.) (I’m sure it’s not.) (I haven’t figured that one out yet.)

So I feel more like me, and here is why: Because I don’t worry about putting on a front. I was feeling bad on a day that my brother was taking the whole family out to dinner. I was very appreciative, but I still felt sad. No reason why. I told my husband. I didn’t put on a front. I smiled through dinner and I got home and I cried a little bit and I didn’t hide. Hiding is the worst.

My sisters got together, my invite got lost in technology, and my dad came over and was sad. Or mad. Or something. He called my sister and made her apologize. But I told him I didn’t care, and I told her she didn’t have to apologize, because I didn’t care, and I didn’t. I’ve never lied about a feeling since I sat on my therapist’s IKEA sofa hugging that dang IKEA pillow, and changed the way I thought of people. To me, that’s a lot of liberty to feel all at once. Right?

I started going to therapy and I started living more honestly and authentically. I stopped apologizing for the messy house, and I stopped stressing out if I didn’t write that day. I said yes more to my kids and I told my husband that kissing with tongue is gross. And I just wrote that on my blog, and people will read it and that’s fine. Because it is gross and I never would have said that in a million years before therapy. I never did. I’ve just always kissed and had people’s tongues in my mouth and it makes me ill.

I like kissing a lot more now.

And as it turns out, I like therapy a lot more now too.

What’s most important is that I like me, and I know who that is now too.

I’m the most honest person I know.

I read a book! : Maybe in Another Life

Like most of civilization, I make resolutions on the new year. Like most of civilization, I forget all about them by Groundhog Day. I have two resolutions this year that I plan to keep up at least until January 31st:

  • Say “yes” to my kids more.
  • Read a book for 30 minutes every night from 10:30 to 11:00 regardless of any work I have to do. If I have work to do, then it better be done by 10:30 or it’s not happening. (My typical night involves me working/Facebooking/Netflix binging/combination of these until 2 am, and getting nothing done.)

Three days in and I’m doing pretty well with both of these. I used to like reading. I remember reading lots and lots when I was younger. I remember reading all the Harry Potters in about a week (a book a day). I even read, to my everlasting shame, all the Twilight books in about 2 days (with the exception of the fourth one, which took a while since I only got through it by promising myself a new pair of heels I had been eyeing, only after I had read every agonizingly painful page). What can I say? For what I was going through at the time, it was a good story and escape. I’m not proud.

Anyway.

Whatever.

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So I haven’t read a complete book cover to cover in a while. But on New Years Eve, I sat in bed at 10:30 and started this book, Maybe in Another Life, which Marci recommended to me. And then the next day, I went into work and read half of it, and then this morning, I opened it back up, left the girls and Steve to their own devices, and polished it off.

I don’t dig happy endings. I like books to leave me with some kind of conflicted feeling. It leaves me feeling motivated to read another book to fill the void. So the main thing that bugged me about this was that it ended so happy with no loose ends. No conflict. No screaming “WHAT THE HECK YOU CAN’T JUST END IT THERE!” after checking to make sure the thing wasn’t missing a page at the end.

But it was still good. The writing wasn’t anything special. I felt most like, “Okay, I could have written this.” It felt pretty whatever. But it was an interesting concept, the concept of multiverses (which they didn’t mention until the last couple pages). I liked the alternating chapters and that the format was actually pretty easy to follow, even though there were essentially two stories going on.

In my writing courses in college, I remember my fiction professor, who was crazier than a can of silly string, say that the worst thing an author can do is create a protagonist that readers don’t like or care about. So it pains me to say that the protagonist of the story, Hannah, made me an insane person. From the get-go, her character development involved basically a laundry list of reasons why she’s the worst.

Mistress. Chronically late. Freeloader. The high bun. A cinnamon roll fixation. (We get it. She likes cinnamon rolls. Cinnamon rolls played too big a role in this book.) Why do we want good things to happen to her again? I started liking her more when she adopted the dog, but unfortunately, the book was 75% done at that point.

But don’t get me wrong. I did like it. I liked it enough to finish it in 2.5 days. I liked the format and the concept, and I liked trying to figure out how her two parallel universes were similar. And I liked reading something just a little fluffy. It would make a cute movie. But that’s how it would be described. Cute. It wouldn’t get an Oscar, but it would be a fun flick for a girls’ night out, or to see by yourself at the dollar theater.

So would I recommend it? For a quick read, yes. A book club discussion? No. Something to read on the beach or on the plane? Sure. But you probably won’t gain any insight into human behavior from reading it. It’s a love story told from narrators in parallel universes, and that’s pretty interesting, so go ahead and read it. You’ll probably like it. I mostly did.

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As a bonus, this book will most assuredly make you crave cinnamon rolls like nobody’s business. These were pretty necessary. 

A lecture on parties

On parties and dancing dates:

You can be with me all day except when you go on dates with Dad, then you go on dates with Dad and you look at him with your eyes. Now with your eyes, look at your dancing. If you are spinning and get dizzy, then you sit down. Also, if it’s a fancy party, you look fancy. If it’s not a fancy party, you don’t look fancy. If it’s a pretty party, you look pretty, but if it’s not a pretty party, you don’t look pretty. If it’s a medium party, you look medium. But if it’s not a medium party, well, you don’t look medium. So just wondering what you do. Raise your hand if you need something to tell me.

On ramen noodles after Christ’s crucifixion:

O: Mom, Mayka taught me how to eat meat noodles. You spin it on a fork, blow on it, and then when it’s too warm, you take a bite. See?

Me: I know how to do that.

O: Who taught you?

Me: Heavenly Father before we lived here.

O: And who taught Effly Fodder?

Me: He invented ramen noodles.

O: Oh and when Jesus Christ died then He went to Effly Fodder and Effly Fodder taught him and then he came back in 3 days and taught the world.

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Ophelia wanted to be swaddled like her baby sister, who is also too old for swaddling. 🙂

Family Trees

The Deep Dark Woods by Jeff Rose
The Deep Dark Woods by Jeff Rose

“Are these the deep dark woods?” she asks. It’s Ophelia’s question, the one she asks all the time.

With only four years of human experience, Ophelia doesn’t know yet the value of longing for relationships that are all wrong, the proverbial bad boy, the feeling that comes from sitting across the table from a lover with whom you share nothing in common, and the comfort that comes from nowhere and nothing.

Daphne’s a baby and doesn’t yet know that the best way to deal with being a target of someone’s intense feelings of passion and love is to turn into something–anything–else. She doesn’t know and may not ever know the isolation and peace borne from shying away from sincerity and kindness: things an imbalanced mind equates with misery.

On Day 1, the Alpine Loop is deep and dark, but I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t talk about the comfort of a million trees that are actually all connected. In response to Ophelia’s question, I give a science lesson on the aspen–its root system that can’t help but be more trees. It grows connections on accident, whether it wants to or not. I grasp for connections, reach out to other trees, and long for someone to reach out. But for what? To have something to hide from. To turn into a laurel. Whatever it takes.

On Day 2, my therapist asks me a question. He wants to know when I felt happy. I think of two years between marriages, spend days writing about relationships with people who were nothing. We were nothing for each other. My long list of Hamlets. Other relationships with men who in hot pursuit were left frustrated, staring at a laurel tree. A list of Apollos.

On Day 3, I walk through halls lined with art, and I see my connections. An exhibit by an artist, a fellow tree maybe but I doubt it. The artist has pulled trash from the landfill and from construction sites and arranged it on clean white walls and glossy gray floors. Opposites: obsidian and mattress foam, one on top of the other, weighing it down, illustrating perhaps the connection between hard and soft, a relationship that defies physics and yet exists, perfect and awkward, on the floor of a gallery.

Yet this is where I am home, among these relationships that make no sense but that are there. I walk back and forth with my Ophelia, her crazed eyes taking it all in. We look at the angles and shadows created by a row of water-filled jars. I show her the shifting shadows as we walk back and forth from one end to the other. Home. The jars of water collected from locations across the U.S., other jars full of nothing but air from significant places in the life of the artist. My brothers and sisters. Finally a connection: person and art.

I know what that is. Filling jars with air and water and displaying them as if they mean something. They mean something. These elements that feel like my siblings. I’d lost that part of me, and I saw not empty jars but connections. I had long ago forgotten that connections with air from places you’ve never been could be made, could be stronger in a moment than the connection between husband and wife.

On Day 4, it’s Sunday and we drive to Grandma’s for dinner. We drive through a canyon with autumn leaves draped on either side, and Ophelia’s question rises up from behind me. “Is this the deep dark woods?” I reply, “It is. What do you think? Is it pretty?” She says it is and I agree.

I leave a house full of siblings to walk through the woods, walking past people who have made connections with other people, relationships that are smiled upon by an extrovert God who smiles on His extrovert children. This God discourages my comfort, encourages connections with people, demands that I reach outside. I’m not sure who that God is and not sure I’m the type. I’m the type to wander through hallways connecting to transparent jars of other people’s memories, the type that creates ties with aspens and pines on a walk through the canyon.

In the deep dark woods, surrounded by my blood, feeling cool and comfortable at last in skin that finally feels rough and cracked, the way it should, I embrace the disconnect and think my happy thoughts: rows of jars of someone else’s memories, of water collected from unfamiliar cities I know nothing about. And I step even deeper into the Deep Dark Woods to be with family.

References
LIZZE MÄÄTTÄLÄ: UPHILL/BOTH WAYS
GRANDMA’S CUPBOARD: KATE ERICSON & MEL ZIEGLER, AND MEL ZIEGLER

I've been through the desert on a blog with no name.