Ever since I can remember, I’ve been a fan of Thanksgiving. There’s a classic picture of a three month old me grabbing a turkey leg from my shocked Mama’s hand. She had merely been posing the leg in my hand for pictures, and I decided I wanted it. I think there are more photos of me, on Thanksgiving, than any other holiday. It was such a vivid part of my life, as a child: cooking with my parents.
Since my Mama died, Thanksgiving has changed drastically for me. At first, it was this weird holiday that was wrapped up in the whirlwind of the despair of my mother’s illness and then death. For years, it was painful to endure. Then, I started to find comfort in it again. As I started to find gratitude for all things–good and bad–the joy of living and the pain of crazy grief…it became easier to be part of it again.
Life, this year, has been absolutely insane. Finishing a Master’s program and writing a thesis in 8 weeks is not a fun time. There have been so many moments of panic–so many moments when I literally questioned why I’m doing this…why now? I’ve had little time for anything, really, between healing myself and working and the day to day living that must be done.
The crazy is ongoing. I have two more weeks. I’m freaking out even in writing that.
But I promised myself that–this year–I will take some time to pause and have a good meal. To remember this life and what I love about it. To reach out to people I’ve missed. And just be here.
Tonight, I’m grateful for…
The other day, I was watching something or other–while waiting on something or other–and happened across an interview Evangeline Lilly (from Lost) gave. She was promoting her new children’s book, and she made the assertion that children’s books should be scary.
It immediately took me back to a class I took in undergrad. I think it was one of the seminars we had to take each year–junior, maybe, with the psychologist professor. I wasn’t a big fan of that class, but the project she assigned stuck with me.
We had to create a children’s book for a group project. I think (memory sometimes fails) we had to include some sort of diversity element in it. Being the good students we were, we did some research. We quickly realized that the world had changed–drastically–since we were children. A quick review revealed that most of the then-modern writers were tackling some pretty awful subjects. Death, rape–all kinds of way-too-adult topics were fodder for these kids. It made us all a bit sad, and we decided to write something that hearkened back to more innocent times. Of course, we somehow forgot what Bambi was about.
I had that same feeling when I heard Evangeline Lilly say that about kids–that kids love to be scared. And I couldn’t disagree. When I was 10, my favorite author was Stephen King.
That feeling came from an exposure to a loss of innocence. Sure–Bambi had death–but it wasn’t really the focus. It was pretty subtle, even, to my childhood brain. I remember, as a child, my parents went out of their way to shelter me from outside influences. Books were my refuge–the only place where the fairy tale existed for me. In the land of books, I could be anything. I was safe. I didn’t see many movies or listen to much music. I read books. And I’m SO grateful for that.
But the darkness still got through, and luckily, those parents taught me to handle life. I’d been living a pretty dark existence most of my childhood, so it’s no wonder I connected so strongly to stories of death and destruction. I was living that life, for as long as I can remember.
We all want to remember the past as a more innocent time. And, in some ways, I’m sure it was. But there was cruelty and darkness then. People died then, too. In some ways, it was worse because people were even less inclined to discuss taboos. My family was never like that–at least not my parents. I always knew about everything. Every dark landscape and crevice that existed was part of my playground. I grew up way too young, and I mourn the childhood I never got to have. Part of me wishes I had been protected more, and part of me is so grateful I wasn’t. Still, I can’t help but be overwhelmingly sad when I realize most kids these days have seen even more than I did–even if they haven’t lost people directly.
We can’t protect them from all these things–as sad as that is.
I don’t know that I agree with Evangeline Lilly. The indignant child in me wants to rant about protecting the kids of this world and giving them as much innocence as you can–for as long as you can. But the survivor in me rants back that kids need to know about the darkness in life so they can handle it later. I don’t know who’s right.
It just feels sad to me that too many kids grow up too soon. But I want them to have a vocabulary for living in the world that exists–and not the one I wish was here.
But I guess–I’m really just grieving for myself and the innocence I never had.
It’s been a bit stressful around here, lately. Work has been a major cause of it. I’m less than a month away from finishing my second Master’s degree–knee deep in thesis Hell. I’m trying to heal a whole bunch of the past in my life, and I’m dealing with buried emotions from years ago. All during grief season. With special holiday bonuses.
The grief, itself, has been better this year. Though the holidays feel too close and not nearly far enough away. I don’t want to think about them. Oddly, the grief I feel for them–this year–doesn’t come from the burden of feeling I need to celebrate them…though I don’t want to…as is usually the case. This year, the grief is about my wanting to celebrate and “be normal.” I was looking forward to decorating and doing things. But things are stopping me from doing just that. Real things that have little to do with the typical things and more to do with the changes I’m trying to implement.
It’s a lot. I’ve been having a lot of tearful moments…feeling a lot of panic and anxiety. It feels like everyone wants a piece of me, and I’m picked to the bones.
Work, this past summer and fall, has been emotionally and physically draining. It has eaten up all my energy and time. I’ve been angry and resentful. Conflict does that to me, and so does the burden of speaking up about my own needs. I still have problems saying no–and that part of me continually throws me under the bus–so there’s nothing left for anything else. Only everything else needs me to be here and happy. Most days, I intend to do so much and end up numbing out instead–because my brain hurts, and it never stops. And all of it builds up into more pressure, rage, and resentment.
I’ve had to learn to be less aggressive with self-care. Cutting myself some slack about it–because I am a perfectionist even there. Knowing when I’m irrational is different from being able to stop myself from being irrational and going down that road.
And of course, it all manifests into being tired and sick. Which makes me more tired and sick and mad. Which makes everything else feel more impossible. This vicious cycle of pointless pressure and anger.
By December 6th, I have to basically validate my entire career and all the choices I made–for myself–without my mother’s input. I have to climb that very first big rung on the ladder to My Purpose. The one I chose. The one she knows nothing about. People are counting on me. People expect things. I expect things. THIS is what I DO. All day, every day. And though I’ve often told myself it means nothing and is not worthy of me and my talents, the truth is–it’s what I’ve done and it means too much, sometimes.
I CARE about it. Not like my other Master’s that I don’t use. This one, I will use. This one, I have used. This one means I have something to do. Things I want to do. This one means I might just get what I want–all those rungs later. It means I have to keep going when I’m tired and fed up. It means I have to find a way to pay for it and find the energy to do it. And believe in myself. More than anything. More than everyone else. It means I get to be the person I was meant to be–to be the person they all knew I could be. It means I can’t make excuses. It means I can’t fail because everything I do from now on is mine.
It means I have faced the gremlin in my head who asks me, “Who the Hell do you think you are?”
It means I will actually have something to show for all of it–that I’m actually proud of.
That maybe I do know something, after all. That maybe I really AM as powerful as I’ve always thought.
What a scary thought that is.
For years, I’ve carried around this heavy train of bullshit that I’ve inherited from other people. As I deal more with it, the more it seems to manifest in my life as clutter and constant busy. The more it gets in the way of clarity and peace. The more tired and sick of it I am.
And yet, I continue to let it exist. I even hold on to it–to distract myself from my real work–to confirm what the gremlin keeps telling me:
You can’t do this. People like you never get what they want. You will never be happy. You will never have peace. You are not normal. You are guilty and wrong. Who do you think you are? Your mother won’t recognize you. You don’t recognize you. You’re too big for your britches.
I don’t know how–but somehow–I’m going to be okay with all of that. Someday soon.
It’s been a bit of an odd weekend.
For some reason, I’ve been having a hard time keeping track of when my last MNM class started. I thought it started a couple of weeks ago, initially, and found out when I tried to log in that–nope–I was jumping the gun. Then, as the days went by, I thought it was next Friday. Only it was this Friday, and on Friday, I just happened to doublecheck. I think my intuition saved me this time.
I wasn’t prepared, though. Going back to school, after a few weeks off, requires preparation. I’ve been mostly in work mode lately, with much needed self-care thrown in. But this week, I felt particularly depleted. So I was frustrated, to say the least, that I didn’t plan better. And I was getting a cold. Or something. In any case, by Saturday, I was pretty tired.
My roommate has been going back and forth to Boulder this week/weekend for a Buddhist Geek conference, so that also brought with it some chaos and new routines–and having more household responsibilities and more time alone (well, in theory). In truth, I ended up working a lot more without him here because I tend to forget what time it is when I’m quietly puttering away.
I had planned on doing some self-work this weekend. I’ve been obsessively acquiring e-books recently. I miss reading for myself, and I realized that I often have ten minutes here and there where I could read instead of tweeting or checking FB. My big plan for the weekend was to come up with a game plan for changing my life. I was feeling stronger after this last week’s therapy session. Last weekend, I had a revelation of sorts…that, basically, every internal battle I have involves two versions of myself: six year old me and 26 year old me. Six year old me wants to take care of everyone, to her own detriment. She is a perfectionist and control freak. But–really–she just wants to be loved. She wants to be worthy. Twenty six year old me is all about self-care, but in a self-punishing way. She’s really pissed off. They’re both part of me–different aspects of me–but they are as distinct as separate people. I realized, this weekend, that I check out a lot when things get hard. If I feel overwhelmed by anything, my healthy, rational, functioning self shuts down. And these two take over. When they run the show, I pretty much live within my shadows. I’m not being the me I want to be, and self-care–true self-care–goes out the window.
I’ve glimpsed myself doing the shut-down thing a few times in therapy. But last weekend, I figured out the cues that indicate it’s happening. It was a big breakthrough for me because I was able to stop it from happening. Instead–sorta like that witnessing thing I felt during my cleanse–I was able to let the feeling of shutting down pass. I was able to come back quickly and process it. What brought it on? I was feeling uncomfortable–because…feelings. To me, feeling things I can’t control feels a lot like dying. When I don’t know what to do, I shut down and the parts of me that allowed me to survive swoop in to save me. Only they don’t. Mostly, they numb me to the feelings. They use food or people or anger or exercise or television–whatever–good, bad, indifferent–to stop the pain. Pain I actually WANT to feel.
So, in therapy, I had some conversations with those parts of myself. Basically, I told them I was in control now. That I was going to take care of me–and them. That this ends. I think I must’ve disassociated a bit during therapy because it didn’t feel as healing as it normally does. But I did feel stronger and lighter afterwards. But since then, I’ve felt a little lost. I found myself absentmindedly missing meals and not doing things I normally need to do. I wouldn’t eat until I got hungry–not based on a time on the clock. So, one day, I didn’t eat till 8 pm. I slept when I was tired. So, some days, I didn’t get to bed till 4 am. It was almost as if, without these two telling me what to do, I had no sense of self motivation or discipline. It was hard to organize myself and to stick to plans. I was much more easily angered and more emotional. And other strange things happened that I won’t get into–because yea—I dunno.
Yesterday was kind of a cluster. I didn’t get anything done. I slept far too long. I felt like crap from the cold I’ve been fighting. I felt unlike myself, and I kept allowing myself to get riled up about things that really don’t matter. I kept choosing to do things I didn’t want to do because I felt like I had to. Each time I did that, I didn’t choose to do what I wanted. So, by the end of the day, I gave up and numbed out in front of the TV.
When my roommate got home, we talked some about his conference. We were talking about enlightenment and the various things that have happened in our lives.
Backstory…I was raised Lutheran/Christian. I never felt comfortable in the church. But I was always searching and found myself at a Jesuit college–which opened up some stuff for me. I’ve been mostly free of religious labels for most of my life. I always felt an affinity for Buddhism, but I didn’t know much about it. But, the weird thing? At some point, a lot of people started asking me if I was Buddhist because of things I wrote about my life. They assumed I’d read something or other–and I hadn’t. Then, I’d read whatever it was and understood why. While I’d never studied it, the explanations I had for my life and how I handled it were very Buddhist. So, I decided to read what I could. I still feel like an idiot, but Buddhism has become more important to me, and I self-identify as a Beginner Buddhist. I have the training wheels and everything. :)
In any case, I feel like I’ve been on the road to enlightenment for a long time. I think it started when my father died. I feel like each step has involved me shedding things or discovering new tools that prepared me to experience the next step. Right now, I feel like I’m shedding self-abuse and loathing. And while I’ve already shed tremendous amounts of sadness, fear, and rage, this step might be the hardest one yet. But I do feel like–as lost as I feel right now–there is a center inside myself–that witness that is sure-footed and wise. That the confusion and frustration is temporary, and that something really beautiful is on its way. I’m also starting to recognize how I’m resisting. For me, the biggest resistance is choosing others–and that shows I’m still very attached to six year old me…that maybe what I most need to get through this step is support and love. Because that’s all she’s ever wanted. And I can’t get that from anyone but me. So, I’m trying to be compassionate and give myself a break/space to figure it out. At the same time, I’m learning how to work with my own self-sabotage–figuring out what helps and what hurts. I’m seeing that–before I ever even know it–my brain is preparing me to do what I need by making choices I wouldn’t have connected to this before.
It’s seems weird, but just giving myself permission to mess up and giving myself options is helping me do better. It’s also helping the emotions that are locked inside all of it come out. Instead of planning out everything and trying to be perfect–only to postpone or give up when something doesn’t go according to plan–I’m choosing simple things that I know work for me. I’m setting a no-judgment or shame intention with ridiculously easy goals to keep me going. I actually have faith that I can do all of this and maybe, for once, I’ll be who I want to be.
I love autumn. No secret there.
Apparently, though, as a grad student, I’ve gotten this reputation for being a reader. And I AM, but grad school isn’t really helpful for reading things I enjoy. I try–I really do–but the energy it takes to read is way more than the energy it takes to spud out under the blankies with Netflix and Hulu.
One of the things I most look forward to is the fall premieres of old favorites and the new shows that come up. I try to watch all the new shows (unless they look ridiculously bad). This season isn’t any exception. So, I thought I’d chime in with my thoughts about the ones I’ve caught.
Spoilers ahead, yo.
Mulaney – I really miss great comedies. I watch a lot of British comedies (obscure ones, at that), but American comedy is usually boring and just not funny. I had high hopes for Mulaney, but it was immediately apparent this was a Seinfeld rip-off. Really, Jerry should sue. It’s that blatant. And it’s TERRIBLE. Like I didn’t even laugh once. I wanted to gouge out my eyes. I hope it dies a swift (though, undoubtedly, painful) death. Just UGH.
Madam Secretary – I love Tim Daly and Tea Leoni. This show reminds me a lot of The West Wing–which is high praise considering how much I loved that show. I dig it. The one thing that I don’t love is how much they focus on Leoni’s domestic situation. I don’t feel like a male character would be portrayed this way, and while it does make for a more layered character, it annoys me. But, for the most part, it’s well-written with great acting. Good stuff.
Awkward. – Yes. I know. I was as surprised as anyone to discover I loved this show when it first premiered a while back. And it’s been a rough ride. Last season sucked so hard. But this season is a bit less annoying. Jenna still grates on my nerves, but there’s less gimmicky crap to contend with and more character-driven plots to feel good about. It’s not classic tv, folks, but it is a good time that’s worth watching in your PJs with some popcorn.
Faking It – I’m trying to stick with this show, mostly because I didn’t hate last season (didn’t love it either). But I’m starting to get bored and exasperated by the idiocy of these characters and plots.
Black-ish – I want to like this show. I do. I like the actors, and the idea is a good one. But it’s just not funny, most of the time.
Scandal – I’m a huge fan of this show (#teamjake), but I don’t feel as good about it this season. While I get that last season did a bunch of damage, I really don’t want to watch the angst and infighting between gladiators. I want to get on with it. I want Olivia to come barreling through, uniting everyone to take down Command and build a better world. Call me an optimist. I want some romance and heroism–not the yawn fest of senators manipulating whatever the hell they want. I want broken ugly wailing. I do love Bellamy Young this season (which is rare because I usually find her a bit grating). I feel like something’s missing this season. What this show does best is illuminate how there is not good or evil…how the lines overlap and how life isn’t simple. We haven’t seen much of that this season, so far.
Selfie – I had such high hopes for this show. I LOVE the leads and I love the idea…a play on My Fair Lady. But it’s just not good. Not charming. Meh.
Manhattan Love Story – I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while. I adore Analeigh–ever since her appearance on Next Top Model–and even followed her on Twitter for a bit. She was quirky and interesting. I was hoping her real personality would carry through. I’m a sucker for a romantic comedy, so this was an easy sell for me. Alas–I hate the male characters. I hate the sister. I hate all of it–especially the sharing of thoughts. No chemistry here. Not believable. Abort. SIGH.
A to Z – I’m not sure about this one. I enjoy the characters. A lot. But it seems like it’s running out of steam.
Bad Judge – I only watched this because I love the lead actress. But she’s been stumbling into terrible roles for a while now. I found some redeeming qualities here, but mostly, I fell asleep.
This is Life with Lisa Ling – Basically, this show is the same as Our America–the show Lisa just wrapped on OWN. Not sure why they renamed it, but I’m betting it’s a CNN thing–sorta like when Bourdain moved his show. It’s a good show, and Ling is a great journalist. But I feel like she covers the same stuff over and over again.
Homeland – Probably my most anticipated show…and my favorite show in recent years. It’s not as good as it was. I miss Brody. Like literally–I’ll say to myself–“Brody would make this situation awesome.” Carrie continues to be a bit batshit. I’m annoyed that Saul is such a minor character right now, since he’s my favorite. For me, Quinn is pretty much the best thing about this show right now. I adore him so much.
Cristela – I was expecting pretty much nothing. But this was good. Like actually good. Cristela manages to do the impossible–be actually funny while saying really subversive things about White America. I don’t think many people caught the pretty edgy joke in the premiere, but I actually gasped and cheered after I caught my breath. How the Hell did that get through the censors? While there are plenty of stereotypes in this show, they are necessary and ultimately make the show even better. It crosses boundaries and shows a part of America that television networks usually ignore.
The Flash – Loved it. Adored it. More, please.
The Walking Dead – 1. Carol is a badass. 2. I’m so happy Judith didn’t die. 3. Zombies can be helpful, sometimes. 4. I’m with Conan. Die, cannibal asshole, die.
(Please bring back our resident badasses: Darryl, Michonne, and Glenn. Their performances were lackluster in the premiere. And, while I enjoy He-Man Rick, I need more Darryl in my life).
Peace & Love,