The Evil Twins

Perfection is my monster. It always has been. And it’s only been since I became an adult that I’ve even thought about getting this monkey off my back. But it’s a tough, tenacious gremlin. It digs it’s claws into my psyche and alternately whispers, sneers, growls or shouts in my ear, “you must be perfect, you have to be perfect”. And when it thinks it hasn’t stressed me out enough or caused me enough anxiety, it invites its evil twin, full name – Fear of Failure! That’s Perfection’s road-dog, its ride-or-die. They are, in fact, two sides of the same old, dented, tarnished coin. They try to tag team me, switching off who sings lead in their insanity-provoking duet. Sometimes Perfection starts it off and FoF is the hype-man, going “yeah, that’s right!” and sometimes it’s reversed and Perfection is the peanut gallery, co-signing the nonsense.

These two have chased and haunted me all my life. I can’t think of the number of things these two hags have kept me from doing, the opportunities they’ve robbed me of or the experiences I denied myself, so I wouldn’t have to hear from them.

But, that was then, this is now. I’m no longer a shy, scared child with my head down in class, afraid to raise my hand, even though I’m 99% sure I have the right answer. I’ve grown up and although these voices are still in my head – same tune, different lyrics- I’m better at fighting and I don’t mind getting my hands dirty. I’ve come to realize that life is too short to be afraid of monsters that don’t have the common decency to stay in the closet or under the bed. And I’ve got some friends too. I’ve got friends that remind me “progress, not perfection”, friends who tell me I’m doing a good job at whatever it is and that’s all that matters. Friends who are my ride-or-dies.

So Perfection and Fear of Failure, I’m moving on from you. I won’t be held hostage by you any longer. Beat it! I don’t have time for your BS. I’ve got a life to live.

Peace!

COVID CRAZY

Yesterday was a sh**show! Let me say that again – yesterday was a sh**show! I mean a “Murphy’s-Law-If-it-ain’t-one-thing-it’s-another-the-devil-is-ALWAYS-busy-Mama-said-there’d-be-days-like-this” kind of day. Which led me to do something I promised myself I wouldn’t do – write about my experience with this pandemic. I know the situation the world is in right now makes for a lot a material for us creatives, regardless of your medium, but I decided early on that I wouldn’t be one of the people using COVID-19 in my writing; despite the fact that is partly responsible for me having more time and head space to write. I appreciate all the writers who are using the pandemic in their work. But I’ve always been a stick my head in the sand kinda girl. I have never been good at facing hard reality head-on. Ergo, no one had to tell me to limit my consumption of news and social media about what’s going on. No one had to tell me not to bathe and bask in it. I don’t want to see and hear about this all the time; really any of the time, but I know I have to stay informed for the well-being of myself and my family. So I take little nibbles of information, but I am basically flat out running from the reality of this really bad situation we are in right now.

But yesterday showed me I can run, but I can’t hide. And before I go any further, let me assure you, concerned reader, that none of what happened was life-threatening. It was a one thing after another kind of day, but in the midst of COVID-19, it became almost more than I could handle. And I think I’m pretty tough most of the time. Hell, I have to be – I’m a single mom. But more about that later.

So, I woke up in a fairly good mood and prayed, as I strive to do every day. I decided to take a nice hot shower before conference call church. I really enjoyed that shower, nice hot water on my aching back and other muscles (since I might have done a little too much physical activity the day before because I’m determined the “Quarantine 15” is not going to get me). Anyway, I go to turn the shower off and it won’t turn off. So, there I stand, twisting and turning the knob this way and that, to no avail. While I’m doing this, two things are occurring simultaneously – my frustration meter is rising and I’m thinking “how sad is it that I don’t even have to leave the house and I still can’t get to church on time?” Finally, it occurs to me to hit the little button (lever, knob? whatever) on top of the spigot to make the water stop coming out of the shower head (cause that’s just annoying now), then I keep twisting and turning and finally get it down from a full-force flood of water to a steady stream.

Great start to my day. I truly have no idea how I’m going to resolve this problem, so I close the door that connects the bathroom to my bedroom to see how annoying that sound is going to be when I’m trying to sleep. I breathe a sigh of relief when I decide that I can barely hear it. See, head in sand.

So, I carry on with my previously scheduled program. Church. Meals. I’ve ordered groceries from Shop-Rite from home and have to pick up at 5. That’s a little late for my liking, but thanks to COVID-19 time slots are few and far between and I had to take what I could get. Then I get a call about 1:30 telling me my order is done and I can pick it up early. Whoo Hoo! I take a nice walk in the park with my son and we head to our not so local Shop-Rite. Oh, and I talk to my landlady’s handy man who says he can come by today to look at the shower. Win!

Let me just pause here and be clear. I hate grocery shopping. I mean hate it with a passion. I always have. Which is why I started using the shopping service about 2 years ago. It really worked for me. But now, not so much. I can’t get a time slot in a reasonable amount of time, they don’t have half of what I need, they’re not doing substitutions and no returns. I don’t know about you, but I find shopping in this current situation soooooo stressful and nerve-wracking.

Anyway, we get to the store, glove-and mask-up and head in. When they called me, they told me what items on my list were not available, so we have our secondary list. Once my son became a teenager, we’d divide and conquer in the grocery store (cause my boy doesn’t like it any more than I do), but with this mess going on, I like to keep him close to me. But, having to pick up a few items is better than doing a whole shopping trip (did I mention I do my mom’s shopping too?). So we get those additional items and go to the pick up counter and check out. Not too bad. We load up the car, separating my mom’s groceries from ours for the drop off at her house.

We get to mom’s, I chat with the neighbors (social distancing, of course – have you noticed that now whenever we say we talked to someone is person, we assure the listener that we were “social distancing”? It’s like if we don’t we’re afraid we’ll become a social pariah). Anyway, I digress. We take mom’s groceries to the porch – that’s our system because she is a member of a high-risk group. We’re about to leave and it dawns on me we should have more bags for her and I get to thinking…where is her this or that? And by the way, where is my such and such??? Hmmm. So, I begin to peruse the print-out they gave me of what I ordered and what I got and lo and behold, there are several items I’m listed as having, but I don’t recall seeing. I get out of the car to madly paw through the groceries looking for frozen broccoli and spinach and pizza. Not there. Now I grab my receipt and I’m thinking dammit, did I pay for stuff I didn’t get? And of course that’s exactly what happened. Meanwhile, my poor mom is standing at her door asking if I’m OK and all I can do is growl “NO!” When she asks what’s wrong, I just keep yelling “I can’t talk!” Because I really couldn’t. I didn’t have any words that were fit to utter. I’m slamming doors, cussing and trying valiantly not to just scream at the tops of my lungs because that’s what I so desperately wanted to do. And my sweet son is half in the car, half out, looking like Linda Blair just jumped in the driver’s seat.

So, then, I frantically start calling the store while heading for home because I’ve still got perishables to put away. They’re not answering the damn phone and it’s all I can do not to hurl mine through the windshield. I’m thinking I probably should not have been driving in this state.

Finally, I get someone on the phone and I’m primed for a fight – my word against theirs about these groceries, I’ve already envisioned it. But no, after I give my name, the young lady says “Yes, we have two bags here in the freezer for you.” I heave a big sigh and tell her I’ll be back to get them.

But, in the house I find that it’s hard for me to come “down the ladder”. I can’t seem to get myself together. I’m still on the verge of throwing things, I’ve got to call the handyman and tell him he can’t come today, I’ve got to drive another 40 minutes round trip to get food I should have gotten when I was there, it’s already after 6 and there is no dinner in sight for my child. I’m standing in the kitchen with all this swirling in a nasty brew in my head and suddenly I’m exhausted. I’m just done. The next thing I know I’m nearly in tears about how my job should have given us our Spring Break off, because don’t they know this “shit will make you lose your mind!” Yup, that’s what I said. And my baby, son of a social worker, is talking me through deep breathing and rubbing my back, like I do to him when his emotions get the best of him and telling me one of the frozen foods I’m going back to get will do him fine for dinner. And my old friend, single mom guilt, rides in to mock me. So, now I feel like the worst mom ever. My child should not be comforting me. So now I’m apologizing to him, telling him I should be modeling for him how to handle the stress of this situation (because everything I read about how parents can help their children through this says so). He gives me a hug and tells me it’s OK and I think, not for the first time and surely not the last, that I am so blessed that God gifted me with this child.

As I sat at my desk at almost midnight writing this, single mom guilt had slunk away to prey on some other overwhelmed, tired, anxious mother, the handy man had come after I got back from the store the second time and at least turned the water off, my child was asleep and I was tired deep in my bones. I can’t say I wouldn’t have had the same reactions to the day’s events if we weren’t living through this pandemic, but I do believe that my emotions were heightened by this situation. But…I came down the ladder and was so thankful that I prayed in the morning and I serve a mighty God.

And this probably won’t be my last COVID-19 blog post. So much for my resolution that this pandemic won’t dictate what I write about.

I’m not feeling your feels today

Here’s something that really kinda bugs me…. when other people are feeling some type of way and they’re sooooo obvious about it. What kind of way? Sad, depressed, in despair. Aggravated. Angry. Frustrated. Salty.

I can see their feelings floating around in the air, heavy and wispy at the same time. Blue and gray and orange. I know that’s a weird color scheme and I’m thinking maybe the orange is my color of resistance. I don’t know, but I can feel these tendrils of dis-ease floating, taking up all the space in the room, trying to siphon out the oxygen and I wonder if I walk through them will they cling to me? A damp, cold, sticky spider web. And I want to escape.

And the other person sits there, silently demanding that I feel their emotions. So passive-aggressive. No. Just no!

Hell, half the time I don’t want to feel my own damn emotions. And I try not to subject others to them. When I don’t have the energy to put on my mask, I distance, dissociate and demure. I really don’t want anyone else all up in my feelings with me. I am not of the misery loves company camp. I want to be left alone to work through it however I have to in that moment. But I digress.

Back to the feelings of others. One reason I don’t want to feel someone else’s negative emotions is because it comes with a level of expectation. If I acknowledge you feel bad then I’m going to have to try to do something about it. My unwillingness to do that calls into question all the things I am: mother, Christian, social worker and all the adjectives that go along with those things: caring, nurturing, compassionate, empathetic. How can I successfully be those things if I don’t want to sit with you in your stuff?

I know right now I probably sound self-centered as hell. So let me throw in a couple of disclaimers. One: this rant is directed solely at my personal life, not my professional one. As a social worker, I’m prepared to sit with people in their stuff, to even help them figure out what that stuff is.

Second: my level of wanting to feel someone else’s feelings is in direct proportion to how passive-aggressive they are about their feelings. What gets to me is their silent communication. I hate when they give off that “you know you know how I’m feeling right now, so do something about it.” Again, no.

If you want to talk about it, tell me, reach out to me. Freakin’ use your words! Even – no especially- if your feelings are a result of something I said or did or didn’t say or do. Nobody wants to play mind reader or guessing games

However, if you don’t want to talk about it, then put your mask on, and suck those feelings in like some women suck in their gut to get in tight jeans.

And let’s just carry on.

I’m going a little dark

YOU’RE ANGRY NOW?

YOU’RE OFFENDED?
YOUR FEELINGS ARE HURT?

FEEL BLINDSIDED, DO YOU?

WHY?

FRIENDS AREN’T SUPPOSED TO TREAT EACH OTHER LIKE THAT?

THAT’S WHAT YOU THINK?

WHO TOLD YOU THAT, I WONDER.

DID YOU READ IT IN A BEDTIME STORY?

CAUSE IT SOUNDS LIKE A FAIRY TALE TO ME.

WHY CAN’T YOU SEE?

YOU.

DID THIS TO YOURSELF.

YOU STILL BELIEVE IN THE INNATE GOODNESS OF PEOPLE.

YOU THINK EVERYONE OPERATES UNDER THE SAME CODE AS YOU.

SO YOU PUT YOUR SHIT OUT THERE.

FOR THEIR CONSUMPTION.

THEY’RE NOT EVEN HUNGRY FOR IT, BUT THEY TEAR INTO IT…. AND MAUL IT. AND BINGE ON IT.

ANYWAY,

IT’S THERE SO…

THEY CHEW IT UP AND SPIT IT OUT WITHOUT DIGESTING.

THEY DON’T EVEN PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT THEY’RE EATING.

AND THEN THEY’RE SURPRISED WHEN YOU’RE

HURT.

AND BITTER.

AND ANGRY.

AND HOLLOW.

AND EMPTY.

sls

Where did YOU come from?

So, there’s a teenager living in my house.

I don’t know where he came from or why he’s there. He just showed up one day a few months ago.

And I think he’s here to stay.

Don’t get me wrong. He’s a nice kid. Respectful. Helpful. Kind. A good worker. And he’s good looking too.

But I didn’t send for him and I’m not sure I want him here. But what am I going to do? I can’t just put him out in the street. He’s only 13. The authorities kind of frown on people just abandoning their kids like that.

Yes, my baby is officially a teenager. He turned 13 a few months ago and I’m losing my mind a little bit. He’s taller than me. He’s got all this bass in his voice.

I just keep wondering where did the time go. When he was little people would say ‘enjoy the time because it goes by so fast’. And with every passing year I realized how true it is. And now I find myself telling new moms the same thing.

The week of my boy’s birthday, my cousin, his godmother, said to me ‘pretty soon he’ll be off to college’. I wanted to jab her in her throat! I’m having a hard enough time dealing with him going to 8th grade and she’s talking about college.

I keep having flashbacks of moments in his life and I get teary-eyed every freaking time. I miss every moment that has gone by… All the ones I can’t get back. I like to believe I didn’t waste any time with him, but I do have regrets about the things we didn’t do. My friend, single mom guilt shows up and I have to beat it back with a stick. General mom guilt is bad enough, but when you add single to the mix, some days it’s enough to bring me to my knees. I’m sure other single moms have these same thoughts: am I doing enough? Am I giving him enough? Am I really able to prepare him to be a man? The list goes on and on and changes day by day. But then I remember or I have really good friends to remind me that I’m doing a pretty good job – he’s kind, he’s smart, he’s compassionate, he’s grounded, he’s confident, he’s responsible. I remind myself that we have made some lasting memories, established solid traditions and it’s not always about the big things.

Anyway, to be honest, this transition to near-adulthood isn’t easy for my boy either. In the interest of not stymying his growth and maturity and to fight off my own natural tendency to keep him my baby forever, I say things like: “Now that you’re a teenager….” or “You’re being such a teenager” or “You know other kids your age do or don’t do this or that”, like snuggle with his mom. And he’s quick to say he doesn’t care what other kids his age are doing or he doesn’t care what society says should be going on at this point in our relationship (and why do I even say crap like that to him anyway – society says blah, blah, blah?) But I’ve always been worried about what other people think – but that’s a blog for another day).

In fact, he’s a little resistant to the whole idea of growing up. Not that he has a Peter Pan syndrome; it’s not about not wanting to be responsible. I think it’s more about his connection to me and what growing up will mean for that. I remind him all the time that we’ll always have the love, no matter where either of us are. But I think he still nervous about the natural separation that has to occur.

As a school social worker, I tell kids, and some adults, fairly frequently, that adolescence is the most difficult of the developmental stages and as I’m writing this, I find I have to remind myself that yes, this applies to my child as well. I’m just now putting that knowledge in perspective in our lives and realizing that I need to govern myself accordingly.

So back to the teenager in my house. Yes, he’s still my baby and my lovie and my budding young man and the light of my life. And he’ll always be all those things and as hard as it to watch him grow up, (but not away) it’s also interesting and amazing and the way it should be.

“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always As long as I’m living My baby you’ll be” -excerpted from the book “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch

Yup…..that sums it up just fine.

The start of something….Normal

I started writing this post on Jan. 4th. Yes, it’s now the middle of February, but I’m posting it anyway because I’m trying to write and post more this year and finish what I start, so here it is.

On January 1st, the word of the day on dictionary. com was instauration: renewal; restoration; renovation; repair. (I saw what they did there☺). The first day of the new year is usually seen as a time to start anew; to do something differently. The beginning of the new year is a time when people make resolutions and new commitments or promises to do things they may not have done in the previous year. Doing all of that can be exciting, fun, exhilarating even.

On Jan. 3rd I went back to work after being off for the school holiday. It was, to me, bitterly cold. I. Hate. The. Cold. Anyway, I’m on my way to work but have to stop at Target to buy a planner. I literally can’t go to work until I get one. I can’t function professionally without a really good planner. So there I am at Target. But it’s not open yet (and why doesn’t it open before 8? IJS). So I’m sitting in the parking lot, just observing. As a writer, observing and people watching is important and useful….and interesting….and fun.

Sidebar: I’m not a morning person. I don’t like to get up early, usually, but the weird thing is when I’m up and out early, I enjoy it. I like to watch the things that go on. I like that there are few cars on the road. I like to watch people going about their routines.

So that’s what I was doing that day at Target. I watched people go into work and I wondered what their stories were. Because everyone has a story.

I noticed they seemed to park wherever they wanted in the lot and wondered if that was ok. Back when I was a kid, my aunt worked at a grocery store and I remember the employees had to park a certain distance from the store to leave the closer spots for the customers.

I watched them go to the employees entrance and knock on the door. Why don’t they have badges to let them in so they don’t have to wait for someone to open thrt door?

I watched one young guy come up in a cab and get out, but not go in. He went to have a smoke first, which kinda blew my mind, cause like I said, it was freezing.

Some had lunch bags and some didn’t. Was that dictated by how long their shift was?

One woman got dropped off, by who I assumed was her husband, but I could have been wrong.

Finally I saw the store manager open the doors. What time did he have to come in, I wondered.

The truth of the matter was I could have sat there for hours, wondering about the lives of the people I saw, making up lives for them. But I had to get to work and I was late again. That’s my story, but for another post.

As I got out of the car to brave the cold my final thought on my observations was yes, for some people, the start of a new year could be the start of something new, but for these folks going about their day it’s just seemed like business as usual…. just the beginning of another regular day.

The start of something normal…. And that’s ok too.

if i had the time

if I had the time,

I’d read a good book

if I had the time,

I’d sit on my porch and

watch the kids playing,

the trees blossoming into spring.

if I had the time,

I’d listen to my voicemail or call a friend

if I had the time, I’d meditate

or read the bible or pray

if I had the  time

I’d exercise,

I’d even, maybe, fall in love,

but –

LIFE

keeps getting in the way.

this going to work,

this doing the laundry and

don’t forget the dishes

this taking care of the kids

this doing the grocery shopping

all these things get in my way.

but they have to be done.

there’s no one else to do it.

just me. only me.

and nobody wants to hear

I’m tired.

I just want a few  minutes to myself….sometimes…

sometimes, it’s not fair.

if I had the time,

I’d complain about it,

if I had the time,

I’d write a poem about it -that would sound really selfish,

it would sound like me bitching and complaining

moaning and whining about how I don’t have any time

to LIVE.

oh, but wait – I think that’s what I just did.

but really, I don’t have the time.

sls

The best at what you do

“If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well.”

This quote from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  came to mind last week when I was at the movie theater with my child. It’s funny how the most profound thoughts can spring from the most mundane moments.

Continue reading “The best at what you do”

We Go Together

Warning: the words in this post may be too intense for some readers.

I recently took my son to see an exhibition of Titanic artifacts. While I enjoy a good educational outing for the offspring, I usually have no interest in historical stuff, so this was at his request.

I have to tell you, I don’t think I’ll ever be the same. Continue reading “We Go Together”

Am I Your Friend?

A response to today’s prompt.

I’m not your friend.

I’ve said this to my pre-pre-teen. More than once.

It’s a phrase I know well. I’ve heard variations of it from friends, on television programs, in school meetings. I never heard it from my own mother because it went without saying.

This phrase represents a certain set of beliefs. The belief that there needs to be a line of demarcation between a parent and their child; that there must be some hierarchy in one’s household. The belief that to deviate from this standard will lead to routine insubordination on the part of the child, which in turn will lead to said child not growing up to be a successful, contributing member of society.

The phrase often follows some transgression by the child, some word or deed that implies the child has forgotten exactly what the relationship between him/herself and the parent is. Continue reading “Am I Your Friend?”