Solid Ground

Hello.

I’m still here.  And, believe it or not, I’ve been thinking about y’all a lot although I haven’t written.

I haven’t written here that is.  I’ve composed many a blog in my head, but honestly haven’t been able to summon the energy to reach out into the world and share – thoughts, feelings or stories.

I’ve identified a new truth about myself and have been spending some time in reflection as a result. After a period of challenges and stress, I have a need to pull in my borders and become a bit of a recluse.  In the past, I believe that I’ve resisted the tendency to do so because it was a sign of weakness.  I don’t believe that to be the case anymore.

August and September were really hard.  I’ve probably mentioned that more than once…

My sister was seriously ill…it is only just the last week or so that the full effects of her illness are being identified.   A lot of the issues are resolving. Some will not.  We are finding a new normal.

My daughter started private school which was a big transition from a relatively unschooling lifestyle.  Time was in short supply and she didn’t get all the attention and support she deserved.  She coped beautifully.  I am so impressed with her.  We struggled to cope with assignments and deadlines and hoped it would all become a comfortable routine – in other words, normal.

Our precarious financial situation deteriorated under the demands of everything that was going on.  Tempers grew short as we all became overwhelmed.  We were all stretched to the limit. We all longed for our old problems, our old life…what had been normal.

It is all too evident that once life has stretched beyond tolerable limits, it doesn’t rebound back into it’s normal proportions.

Things have changed and we can’t go back.

We can; however, seek solid ground and get our feet back underneath us.  And that is what we have done.

I’ve allowed myself to pull back from outside commitments and concentrated on family and myself.  The news has been switched off and I trust that the world will keep on spinning.  There is only so much that I can do and to attempt to do more only results in anxiety, anger, frustration and hopelessness.

Our daughter is back home and we are instigating  a learning plan that fits our needs.  We learned a lot about what works for us, and what doesn’t as far as education goes.  This week has been very good indeed.

The budget is back on the drawing board as we  reassess our goals and the reality of what we can and can’t do to improve our financial situation.

The dreams and plans that we were so excited about at the beginning of the new year last January have been brought back out into the forefront.  We’re evaluating and making adjustments in light of all that has transpired.

And, most importantly, we are resting and actively seeking joy.  There was very little fun and laughter in the last two months.  That must change.

I am exited about having identified my need to stop and rest and recover from hard times…to heal from the damaging results of stress.  Forcing myself to continue on when I’m exhausted and anxious isn’t being brave and strong.  It’s a huge mistake.  It makes me miserable and when I’m miserable…the whole family is miserable.

It’s important to learn from the past, let go of regrets and move on into the future.

So, for now it’s rest and laughter and family as we become comfortable in our new normal.

 

Seeking Normal

Once upon a time there was a woman on a journey.  She started this journey many, many years ago although she didn’t realize it’s importance at the time.  Maybe she realized that it mattered, but she didn’t really define it or name it or make plans for it until fairly recently.

Initially, when she was a child, she just wanted to find normal and be normal and fit in.  That was the extent of her life plan. She didn’t think much beyond doing the next “normal” thing.

As a young child she just wanted to stay in one place longer than a year.  She didn’t want to move every June and be the new kid in school every September.  She wanted to have a birthday party and invite other kids that she actually knew and hadn’t just met.

As a teenager she just wanted a pair of blue jeans.  It was the seventies.  Every teenager wore blue jeans.  Even the really poor kids who were on free lunch and had to ride the bus to the elementary school to eat.  She was a junior when she finally got a pair of jeans – plain pockets from J.C. Penney’s.

She went to college like she was supposed to.  She majored in English because she promised her Dad she would get a teaching certificate so she would always have a job to fall back on.  She had no intention of teaching and snuck in an extra major in Art because that’s what she really loved.

Somewhere along the line she quit making art because it was time to be a grown up.  In her “normal” world, normal people didn’t make art.

Normal people got married, bought a house and had kids – in that order.  They also had credit cards and two cars.  This means that they had debt.  They had jobs – both Mom and Dad – so that they could buy all of the stuff that they needed.  Each kid had their own room and lots of toys and a big yard to play in.

So, she got married.  This was most definitely not a mistake.  He turned out to be a really great guy who loved her and stuck with her through times that any sane man would have run away from.

She had four kids.  Also, not a mistake.  They are beautiful human beings that amaze her with their talent, self-confidence and abilities – despite the fact that she raised them and was pretty clueless most of the time.

The house was really a good idea also.  She worked to make it a home – the home that she had longed for all of her life.  A place she didn’t have to leave against her will. She had vowed that her family would stay in one place and they pretty much did.  They did move, but never left the same general area.  She provided her family with the stability that she never had.

Then one day the kids started growing up.  She had time.  She started making art again.  And she started thinking – about herself and her life.

She thought about the choices she had made and the ones she hadn’t made.  The path she had travelled looking for “normal”.  She thought about the time she had spent on “auto-pilot” because there just wasn’t the time or energy to be introspective and thoughtful.

She started looking around and realized that “normal” didn’t really exist.  At least not the way she had thought.  Everybody had their own idea of normal.

The first really big eye-opener came when her children started living their own lives and made choices different than the ones she had made.  Honestly, some of their choices seemed a bit scary to her.  She worried about them.  She kept her mouth shut (most of the time).  She watched and marveled and learned.

She pondered her choices and decided that there wasn’t a whole lot she regretted.  Each choice had contributed to the person that she had become and she liked herself well enough.  But, she decided that there were things that she would like to change and she resolved to do so.

…To hell with seeking normal.  She decided it wasn’t too late to find her own way and to stop trying to conform to an ideal that had never existed in the first place.  She realized that this was a hard thing to do.  It’s difficult to deviate from a path that you have travelled for so long.

Then, one day she met a young man – a pretty cool guy.  Smart, educated, thoughtful and caring, he had a wide variety of interests and was brave…so very brave. His “normal” was very different from hers.  He carried a magic backpack that was much like Mary Poppin’s bag.  From it he pulled everything he needed.  He needed very little.  He travelled light and was confident that he could meet his needs and wants without owning a lot of stuff.  She was very glad to have met him.

She was coming to the realization that her journey on the well-worn path meant that she often didn’t really look at the world around her with open and inquisitive eyes.  What had she missed?  What had she categorized as normal and not normal?  What limits had she put on herself and those around her?

She found joy in her realization that she was leaving the path she was on and was making a conscious decision to wander.

 Not the End.

Well, hello there…

I think I’m coming back to the land of “normal”.  I also believe it and I am quite certain that thinking and believing are two different things.  So, I’m going to conclude that there is a definite improvement in my “being-ness” since both thought processes are in play.

We had a fun Fourth of July celebration at the home of old friends.  They are friends that we have known for a long time and are not necessarily old although not as young as they used to be.  It was going to be a smallish celebration, but as most good parties do, it grew and grew…  There was laughter, food, beer, tension, fireworks (mostly the actual physical kind, not the human interaction kind) and more food.

I was stressed going into it all, but by the end of the night was doing pretty well.  Time spent with folks you know and who know you can be healing.  And I did not kill any small child who threw loud noisy things to the ground behind me.  I don’t know what those explosive devices are called AND the small children will never throw them near me again, but I didn’t permanently harm any of them…I promise.

Today saw us dropping my oldest daughter off at her summer job.  She is working a Renaissance style childrens’ summer camp.  She’s the daughter with culinary school and an in-process degree in Food Service Management.  She’ll be working in an unairconditioned kitchen in July in Central Texas.  Fun times…

Did I mention we helped her convert our old trailer into a Vardo type habitat for her stay.  She decided that a tent might be too rustic for her for a month (Gee, you think?).  IMAG0865IMAG0868IMAG0875IMAG0871

She did almost all of the work herself with some manual labor assistance.  She got an air-conditioner and everything….pretty sweet.  I totally forgot to get a photo of the finished dwelling…a description will have to suffice.  Corrugated metal on the ceiling, a sari-fabric hanging light, a full mattress covered in pillows, fabric lining the walls, a desk/table with storage underneath, and a chair.  Very snug, cozy and climate controlled.  I’m almost jealous…except for the whole kitchen job thing…been there, done that.

I followed up our morning excursion with a three hour nap.  I definitely feel better.  I woke up to a quiet and empty house.  I took a moment to wander through and assess the level of untidiness.  On a scale of one to ten with ten being complete chaos, I think we’re hovering around a 13.

It’s pretty “lived-in”.  That’s okay.  We’ve done a lot of living so far this summer. I love a challenge.  I will start out tomorrow with my list in hand and start to tame the beast.

For now, I’m going to be happy to be me.

It’s Complicated

I follow a lot of blogs about clutter, de-cluttering, simplicity, simple living, minimalism, etc…

This post was inspired by one I read today entitled “21 Surprising Statistics That Reveal How Much Stuff We Actually Own” that can be found here:  http://www.becomingminimalist.com/

I moved almost every year while growing up and therefore, have a weird relationship with stuff.

Inevitably, in April or June, my Dad would announce that we were moving at the beginning of the summer.

Thanks Dad…I don’t actually have any real friends since we’ve been here less than a year, but I would love to spend the whole summer somewhere new where I know absolutely nobody.  Sarcasm intended, in case you missed it.

During the month of May, I would often get home from school and find that my Mom had been packing up my room.  It wasn’t until we got to the new place and I unpacked, that I found out stuff was gone.  Really gone…in another city or state gone.

Eventually, I got old enough to rebel and pack my own stuff.  Problem somewhat solved.  Stuff still had to go, but I got to make the decisions.

But the damage had already been done.  I “needed” my stuff in order to feel at home, comfortable, safe wherever I was going to end up.

So the decisions were really hard to make – and they still are.

This is all compounded by the fact that my parents were older and lived through the “Great Depression” so they both tended to save stuff.  In case we needed it some day.

Talk about mixed messages.

I bounce back and forth between wanting to get rid of it all and hoarding.

I don’t know what normal is.  A normal amount of stuff.  A normal mess.  I worry about whether I have too much or not enough.

What if a disaster happens?  Should I stockpile food and supplies.  Some folks do.

The faith I grew up in tells me that “God will provide” and “not to stockpile treasures on earth”.

I worry about whether I spend too much time worrying about possessions.

Thoughts:

  • I don’t like to clean house.
  • I like a clean house.
  • I can’t imagine renting a space in a storage facility.
  • Certain things in my house make me happy.
  • I am obsessive about the inside of my closets and cabinets being tidy and organized.  (OCD anyone?)
  • Worrying about worrying is not productive.
  • Cluttered table, counter and floor surfaces make me anxious.
  • I don’t like unfinished projects or issues.
  • I am skilled at avoiding completing things I don’t want to deal with.
  • I would not be comfortable living a minimalist lifestyle.

Conclusions:

  • This issue will never be fully resolved in my life.
  • I’ll keep bringing stuff in to make a home.
  • I’ll keep de-cluttering to make a home.
  • It’s complicated.

Now, I’m going to go compare my stuff to the stuff in the blog post and see how I’m doing.

Because it does matter, DAMN IT!

Excuse the capitalization, I’m not really yelling at you.  I’m making a point to myself – or trying to.

As far as I can remember, my first serious bout with depression occurred my junior year of high school.  I remember walking down the hall with my arms wrapped around my books and my hair covering my face – feeling totally and utterly alone.  I recall going to my mom and telling her that I needed help, that something was wrong.  She told me that things would look better tomorrow.  A good night’s sleep would help.

I don’t blame her for that response.  I now recognize that she suffered seriously from depression herself.  And times have changed for the better as far as “mental illness” goes.  It’s at least recognizable as a treatable illness and not just a character flaw.

I wasn’t officially diagnosed until after the birth of my second child.  Meds were prescribed and when I couldn’t be sure as to whether I was “happy” enough or not, electroshock therapy was mentioned.  Believe me, I decided I was happy enough then.

What is happy?  What is normal?  Who the hell knows.  Certainly not someone who has been struggling for almost 20 years.

I’ve had therapy, I’ve tried drugs, I’ve tried no drugs, I’ve tried believing enough in God…what’s really helped?  I don’t know for sure.  Right now, I’m on a low dose anti-anxiety to help counteract the damaging effects of years of adrenalin overloads.  The current thinking is that I function in a constant state of fight or flight mode.

Whatever…

The fact remains that I am who I am and that I have a life to live and what I battle the most is “it doesn’t matter”.

  • Why do the dishes…they’ll just get dirty again.
  • Why pull the weeds…they are just going to grow back and bring their friends.
  • Why make art that’s not that great and isn’t ever going to get sold, or hang in a museum, or be important in any way
  • Why do random acts of kindness that aren’t enough to really make things better
  • Why write a blog…what do I have to say that’s important

It seems that I battle this question all the time…perhaps all with depression deal with this.  What difference does my life make? Does it matter that I’m even here?  Who cares?

I have to care.

I can’t compare my life to others and determine my value based on their actions and achievements.

I have to know.

  • know that I matter to my family even when they don’t thank me for doing the dishes
  • know that 50 people have chose to follow my blog to hear what I have to say and every single one of them matters
  • know that my art is important to me and that’s enough because I matter
  • know that random acts of kindness do make a difference even if I don’t see the outcome

Some days the “knowing” is hard…difficult…impossible even.

Those are the bad days and they happen…to all of us.  Especially those with depression.  Those are the days when we look in the mirror and think “what if?”.  What if I wasn’t here any more? Who would care?  What difference would it make?  I’m so tired.

Magic answers?  I don’t have any.  I have words like belief and hope.  I have a “voice” inside of me that says “do the dishes, make art, write a blog, be kind”.  And I choose to listen to that voice.

And I keep trying to live my life as best I can and not compare myself to others.  The others that have better houses, or art in galleries, or are skinny, young and gorgeous beyond words, or give millions away to charities that save lives.

I choose to live my little life and trust that I make a difference…somehow.

I know that I matter because I believe that you matter.

And that’s enough.