Hazy Reflections on a Long-Ass Year

Hazy, because, let's face it--it was a long-ass year. And we forget a lot of shit so we can keep getting up each morning like it's a good idea to keep going, keep trying. And it is a good idea. It beats the alternative, that's for damn sure.

There are two days left in a year that had some really spectacular experiences coupled with some really shitty ones, with a whole lot of hazy, routine ones in between.

I went about seven whole days this year without collapsing into bed and sleep in the middle of the day because I was too worn out to go another step. That's an improvement over 2012, so yay me.

I think, with the lovely rewriting of hindsight, that I can say the bad days of depression were about evened out with the good days of depression. I'm pretty sure most of it was through the prism of a heaviness that defied my ability to be sufficiently snarky so that it could be thrown off.

In fact, if I were to hazard a guess as to why there were so many heavy, sad days (let's not call them bad days, after all-they were instructive days, more so than the good ones), it would be in part that I recognized that snarkiness hurts people and had to let that go. I connected through the disability community with so many wonderful families who traveled so many difficult roads, through the loss of their precious children to serious setbacks and disease, that having come to "know them" through the miracle of the internet, I wished I could reach through the computer and hug them and take away their pain, change their loss.

It hurts to realize that sometimes the only role you can play is witness. It's sobering to realize that sometimes bearing witness is enough, is all you're really being asked to do--to bear witness without being an insensitive douche about it. In fact, our motto shifted from the golden rule (because really, if you're into S&M and the other person isn't, the whole do unto others thing doesn't work too well--I'm not into S&M, people...for fuck's sake--it's an example...). Anyway, the motto is now "Don't be a douche." I think that covers all the important territory in one concise and pithy saying. And everyone understands it, even if the literal explanation confuses the hell out of my kids and has me explaining how it's really not  a good thing to take one's personal microbial bioworld and put it out of whack with Summer's Eve and how that's an apt metaphor for the real world.

Look, you ask me a question, you ought to be ready for whatever way I explain the answer. It takes my new students about a month to truly believe I will say whatever is in my head...so don't ask if you don't want to know.

Some of my more stressful experiences this year dealt with engaging that filter thingymabob people are supposed to come with in order to function in polite company. I'm working on that. The problem is that unless someone solicits your opinion, it's douchey to offer it.

Loss...both of people and critters and other kinds of loss--that was hard this year to say goodbye to friends who suddenly found their do not pass go line with me on the other end. I hate losing friendships, and the losses pile up on each other, triggering the pain of previous losses. If you ever doubt you're walking around with all your baggage, just give it a minute because you'll find yourself getting a full-body crash with that baggage to remind you, especially the older you get.

Letting go is freaking hard. Not getting to be right, not being in control suck. I don't mind so much about the not being right--everyone's got their own right they don't want to be parted with--I do mind relinquishing the illusion of control. But in order to keep on keeping on it's one of them stupid necessities.

There was a lot of letting go this year, both of people, of control (the illusion of), and of dreams and hopes and wants.

There were more adjustments than I liked, more change than I cared for.

Ain't that a bitch, and ain't it the truth for all of us?

There was good, though, and plenty of it, if I looked around and held onto it. Friends who buoyed me, new friends made, wonderful connections made with new students. A lot good, more good than bad.

I know that. Objectively, when I tally it up, there was so much to be grateful for.

As we enter the last two days of this year, this long-ass year that passed in the blink of an eye, I'm going to count my blessings, along with squeezing the ones who are right here at home. And I'm gonna keep my fingers crossed that 2014 is just as long and just as mixed, because that's what real living is: a mixed bag at best. At its best.


Not the Droids You are Looking For

When the semester was ending, the break ahead of me stretched out--it felt like a luxurious amount of time off, time I needed desperately off. Here we are with one week left of the break, and it feels like such a blip.

The first week off, Rick had off, as well, and we spent it cleaning, sorting, purging, from one end of the house to the other. Of course, we still have an excess of stuff, but at least it's neatly organized and displayed. We keep displacing books for our toy collection, though, having made some delightful acquisitions in the TMNT, Star Wars, Star Trek and Batman worlds.
The kids had some fun with mashups.
The cats got some much needed climbing perches, to all of our delight.
I had fun arranging stuff.
The girls worked on their art.
When we weren't working on projects, we went shopping, doing Christmas our way which means that everyone picks out what they want over several days and we enjoy it all as we get it, going about Christmas day the way the kids prefer, as if it were another day--an opportunity to play, watch movies, and enjoy ourselves.
We spent time watching the Star Wars movies, turtles cartoons, reading manga, especially Sailor Moon.
I spent this past week sick and slept a lot, but when I wasn't resting I joined in on the movie and tv watching and manga reading.
I also worked on some of the books I wanted to read, all dealing with viruses and plagues, throwing in some fiction to break the heaviness of hemorrhagic fevers. I've been working through Preston and Child, both their fiction together and separate.
I've got one week left before returning to work. More naps planned. More reading. More turtle watching and manga reading.
I think it's safe to say that the kids are enjoying their time with me home, and I'm feeling mostly blessed to witness how they are growing and blossoming into adolescents and are navigating spending all their time with each other.
They bicker a lot, but without a lot of heat. Part sibling behavior, part autism and the certainty of their positions. They don't tend to back down.
But that's a skill I'm still learning, too.
We test each other on quotes from our shows and movies, and watching the vocabulary and scripting develop with each other so that we have a code is deeply gratifying. A shared vernacular makes you part of the joke, an insider, someone with a place to belong.

Happy kids, which is what matters most.



Yesterday morning, had I written a blog post, it would have been about the feeling of potential, how vast it was, how deep it was, how much of it was mine to keep--okay, that's stealing from Vonnegut, but that's what my brain did--a little inside joke, and I decided to run with it.  Because why the hell not.

Yesterday morning. It's surprising what a change 24 hours can make. Yesterday morning, for me, I felt good. Energetic. Capable. GOOD, mentally and physically. I felt the potential. And then I think I ran with it, and over did it, and then dealt with some issue-related stuff, and then decided to handle that issue related stuff with a lovely warm brandy that my GERD did not embrace, so last night was a night in the recliner reflecting on why brandy is probably gonna have to be a noon time drink. Oh, but it was a lovely brandy, smooth and loosening...carrying troubles away with the flames it lit.

So today, this morning...even though the energy wasn't there, the need to clean was and I remembered why I no longer use a vacuum...and I don't feel the potential right now. I feel the pain. But it's my 25th wedding anniversary and this year we're actually doing something special about it. And I was excited yesterday and hurting and tired today.

Life is complicated and it's entirely possible that by mid-afternoon the feeling of potential could return. And by mid-evening be gone again. So, I hang on to this rollercoaster ride, relieved that it will indeed go around again and again.

So Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and may you feel the potential (and when that feeling leaves, may it return again quickly.).


Serendipitous Synchronicity

Serendipity means a "happy accident" or "pleasant surprise"; a fortunate mistake. Specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically searching for it.

Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events as meaningfully related, whereas they are unlikely to be causally related. The subject sees it as a meaningful coincidence, although the events need not be exactly simultaneous in time. The concept of synchronicity was first described by Carl Gustav Jung, a Swiss psychologist, in the 1920s.[1]

The concept does not question, or compete with, the notion of causality. Instead, it maintains that just as events may be connected by a causal line, they may also be connected by meaning. A grouping of events by meaning need not have an explanation in terms of cause and effect. --Wikipedia

The universe, I'd like to think, conspires to instruct, to reveal itself, to heal. But, of course, I'm a human being, and I'm actively, if subconsciously, looking for meaning, for revelations. Much like my children, who are on the autism spectrum, and people in general, I like structure and predictability. I like to feel I've got a handle on things and am the master of my own destiny, if not always the master of my bladder (Sheldon reference and middle-aged woman reference--serendipitous, no?).

This year, as have most years, has not surprisingly continued to challenge that assumption of me in control of my destiny. Even if I shut myself off, loved no one, cared for no one, I would still not be in control, as events would still happen that were beyond my ability to predict or control. So, truthfully, the last two goals of psychology, prediction and control, are a pipe dream, a fantasy. At least, in terms of the big picture.

But, in trying to remain open, in trying to adopt a successful Nataraja (Indian god of the dance)response to the world, I occasionally feel the universe sending me messages to remind me that the path isn't supposed to be clear, that the end of the journey isn't supposed to be set, that the future is in the future for a reason, and that it is the learning to live in the moment and see what is in the world to be appreciated, recognized, and rejoined that is where my focus, if indeed I have focus, should be.

The year, although mentally mine runs concurrent to the school year, is drawing to a close, and like most people, I'm taking stock, attempting to make my story blend, have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and a nice little moral tale to go with it.

Recently several things have resonated with me.

Thanks to Rose, this video about the black dog of depression, kicked me in the seat of my pants as I recognized myself once again. But it also reminded me that I am not alone in the battle to find an equilibrium that lets me honor myself and my reality while also honoring others. We have to find a way to speak our truths to the people who matter the most to us. A book I had picked up off the dollar rack, Difficult Conversations, was a kind of synchronicity with this video, and well worth the time and dollar, even if an initial reaction of mine was snarky--but as Kathleen pointed out in a round-about way, maybe that was because it hit too close to my reality.

Another blog post "The Bully Too Close to Home" provided two powerful tips to negative thinking: saying "Stop" and "Only Love today."  Stop--such a simple command--when we find ourselves being negative to ourselves and others, and the reminder that love is a much better, kinder action. A life-changing action.

All of the things that have coalesced these last few days (and weeks and months as friends and loved ones have lifted me up) have been beating in conjunction with my heart, working on me.

I don't come out of this with any clear answers, with a set path, with some greater wisdom, or even out of the tunnel I'm currently working my way through. I'm not rendered healed, better, or suddenly over the detritus of my life. I'm still Princess Leia in the trash compactor on the death star, yelling bitchily at Han and Luke (which did you know can totally buy as a toy? Ummm, mine, both the Chewie one and the other!).

What I do feel, though, is a sense of gratitude for those who SEE me and love who I am.

What I do feel is a sense of hope and optimism that this current cycle will pass, even if it repeats.

What I do feel is that everything is a learning and growth opportunity and that growth is often painful.

What I do feel is alive, no longer numb. And while that is painful, it beats numbness.

I said I hadn't really learned any clear answers or greater wisdom, and maybe that's not accurate. Or maybe it is. It doesn't matter, either way. I did learn little lessons, guideposts.

Although it can be scary, it's important to speak up when you are uncomfortable with something.
Don't let it fester or eat at you.

If you can't do something with grace and freely, but only grudgingly, recognize that you shouldn't do it at all.

Not everyone needs to know everything about you and what's made you you, but sometimes you've got to break some eggs. Sometimes you're going to have to tell people some uncomfortable truths, although if they love you and SEE you, you shouldn't have to explain why you're saying no to something. It should be enough that it makes you uncomfortable.

It's okay if the person doesn't get it and still pushes. You can still keep saying no. If you are remembering the stop and only love today, then that's all you have to do: stop trying to convince them, love yourself and stick to your no.

Live in the uncertainty. Accept it, embrace it, and recognize. And be okay with the fact that it's not your favorite state of being. But remember it's where serendipity and synchronicity work.



Looking back: 2003 to 2013

A decade ago, we had a fourteen year old, a two year old and a newborn. Rick was still at the State School as direct care staff and I was a stay at home mom. I homeschooled Bobby, who still couldn't read. This would change drastically over the next year, something I never could have predicted. I gardened extensively, spending much of my spare time out in the garden. 

Looking back:
October 2003

The next year, 2004, things continued on the same trajectory. In the fall that year, I graded composition papers for a Cisco teacher, and it was the beginning of my working at the college.

2005 saw big changes. Rick moved over to the Sheriff's Office, working at the jail, and I began to adjunct at the college in developmental reading and writing. We had a challenge adjusting to being a family with two working parents with three children still home all day.

2006 brought even bigger changes. Rick started the peace officer course and I started my graduate degree in psychology. Bobby was devouring books and had read all of the Harry Potters, Lemony Snicketts and more. It was miraculous. We also knew by this time that the girls were probably on the spectrum. I was providing enrichment at home, working with them to help them understand questions and how to answer and comply with demands.

2007 saw Lily start kindergarten, Rosie undergo assessment for autism, Lily then follow suit with a private assessment. Despite big changes, we were still a happy bunch. Rick was a deputy, I was still adjuncting and working on my master's.

 2008 and the kids were growing like weeds and soaking up information. Rosie was less than thrilled with pre-k but was coming around. Lily was in 1st grade and joined Friendship Club to gain social skills. I graduated in August, writing my thesis on chronic pain, and how attributional style, personality traits and religious and spiritual beliefs impacted quality of life. I was able to add composition courses and psychology courses to what I could teach.

2009 saw me enter ACU to work on a BSN. That year I struggled with part time classes, teaching three classes, managing three children, and learning how to let go of the garden.


If you'd told me I'd be one week into the fall semester in 2010 and be offered a full time instructor position, I'd have scoffed in disbelief. I jumped at the chance, dropped out of nursing school and settled into sharing an office with my father. The girls were in the same school building in 2010, which made school much easier on Rosie.

2011 I moved into my own office. Bobby had started volunteering at the local animal shelter and started at Meals on Wheels. I became a Hospice volunteer, and Rick had moved to a regular 8 to 5 at the court house.

2012 continued the hectic schedule we were all involved in. I wasn't entirely thrilled with how busy we were, and we were managing issues at the school that left the girls worn out and on sensory overload when they got home from school. We made changes to their homework on their IEP and that helped, but we were all worn out and limping along. My diabetes was out of control, and I spent months trying to get meds for that. I also admitted I needed some additional assistance and sought out therapy and medication to handle my anxiety and depression.

2013 has been a full year and it would be dishonest if I didn't admit it was also a personally difficult year. My health issues continued to cause me fatigue, my depression was sucking the joy out of everything. The girls were more often miserable in school than not, and we made the decision in March 2013 to homeschool them once the school year ended in May. We started the very next day after it let out and they are beyond happy.

Seeing them thrive with their brother at their side over the summer and fall of this year has removed a huge weight from my shoulders. I know we made the right decision for them. We've had struggles with trying to figure out how to best help all of them, but that's ordinary parenting issues--we all struggle with how to best assist our children.

I decided I had to reach out online and share how I was struggling, and I have been honored by the support system my online and real world friends have been for me. It's made things so much easier to face, knowing I have people who love me and support me.

I was promoted to a tenure track position at the college, and it's been a highlight for me. I adore my job. There isn't anything else in the world that's more right for me than this. I've spent this year learning to let go of some of the commitments for volunteering that were burning me out. I let go of hospice in August. I loved doing it, but we've had our share of losses in the last few years and depression and hospice work together don't work for my mental health.

Rick is happy doing exactly what he wants: a little bit of everything at the SO. Between the two of us, we know quite a lot of people in our community and it makes us feel as if we are home and belong. It is comforting, because that means our three also have an extended community and belong.

We've lost several animals over the last few years, and said goodbye in January to Aphrodite, our garden cat. We ended up getting our first dog in a decade--a little yorkie puppy who has been a delight, and later a white dog, Val, who won our hearts with her picture at the city shelter's website. A month ago we added a sweet white and ginger kitty, and now the animals clearly outnumber us, but we also have plenty of cuddles.

I'm ending this year much better off mentally than I began it, thanks to my support system. Yes, there are hassles and hurdles and issues to be dealt with. But I feel buoyed, lifted up, and confident that with my friends and my family, I can get through it. I can smile on the good days, and lean on my support system on the bad ones. And maybe even screw with people in between. 

And that's good enough.
My kids are happy and doing well.
My husband continues to amaze me.
My friends kick me in the ass when I need it.
And I'm embracing the philosophy of the bear hunt (some alteration):

Goin' on a bear hunt (repeat)

I'm not afraid (repeat)

Got a real good friend 
(children hug each other during this part...repeat)

By my side (repeat)

Oh, Oh (repeat)

What do I see? (repeat)

Oh look! It's some deep shit! (repeat)

Can't go over it (repeat)

Can't go under it (repeat)

Can't go around it (repeat)

Got to go through it