It Is What It Is

Today, I just feel a bit sad and lonely. Nothing significant is troubling, but I can’t help wondering how life can be so busy and boring all at the same time.

I feel like my days pass by at light speed, but all I have to remember them by is the sense of light speed itself. Sort of like the Doppler effect , but with light. I know things have been happening. I’ve been doing the things.. All that I see is blur, all that I hear is a whirr.

I want my life to be meaningful. Some people say this is a particularly millennial viewpoint and maybe they are right. Yet, I can’t help feeling that most people, millennial or not, want their life to be meaningful in some way.

It *should* be meaningful to raise my kids. It *should* be meaningful to sit and write, creating something. It *should*. It *should*. It *should*.

Today, and for many days prior, it hasn’t felt meaningful.

Perhaps its the *should* of the matter. Assigning meaning based on *should* is probably not a great idea.

The Bible says things like “Everything is meaningless.” or  “Eat, drink and be merry.”

Well, I just don’t like that.

I want there to be purpose. I want things to happen for a reason. Yet, the hard truth of life is that not everything has a purpose. Not everything has a reason or a meaning. Sometimes things just are, because that is the way life goes.

As for “eat, drink and be merry”? Well, I’m overweight and I’ve discussed how I feel about THAT quite a few times. It’s not merry at all.

Does the Bible have it wrong? Or is it just me?

I’ll always wonder.

Candidly,

Ash

 

Real Life

Phew. It’s anxiety today. Man, it’s anxiety a lot of days.

I’m tired of anxiety. I think I’m starting to have anxiety about whether my anxiety will ever pass.

Why does anxiety feel like running around in circles? It feels like I’m running around putting out fires constantly, except there are no actual fires. I’m putting out imaginary fires. THAT is frustrating.

And futile.

Lately, I’ve been longing to have a job besides mom. You know, something to consume my time. The idea of going somewhere, working and having my focus be work is really appealing. I think I’m desiring a way to take my mind off of my family things.

The family things are heavy.

I’m homeschooling our oldest. She had a terrible year of bullying and just needs some recovery time. But, god damn, its a lot of responsibility to parent someone AND make sure they learn algebra.

The toddler toddles and whines and is currently attempting to roll up the 8′ x 10′ rug onto himself. He’ll probably get stuck soon…

I get a call, text, email about Evan every day. It’s okay, nothing too catastrophic, but I feel like I’m the teacher’s personal OnStar representative. Like she can just hit the button and I’m there. I suppose I should implement boundaries. I tried that last year…that’s when he got suspended. Sigh…

I think this just might be life.

Yesterday, Tess asked me “Why can’t things be less stressful?” She was referring to her dance class where she is learning something new every single week. It’s stressful for her. In my sage wisdom,  I responded that she wouldn’t become a better dancer without the stress. Someday, once she knows this whole dance, it will go back to being just fun and free. Until then, its stressful.

Maybe life feels so stressful to me, because I’m learning something new. My new medicine has my mood swings controlled and so I’m finally feeling what I’m told is “normal”. Except it feels damn stressful, because I can feel all the things and numbing doesn’t work like it once did.

But maybe, if I take my own advice and learn to handle this anxiety and stress? Maybe then there will come a time when I can dance the routine of life with fun and freedom.

Until then, I’m just learning how to cope.

Candidly,

Ash

In the Doldrums of Toddler-dom

Today, I wish that I had some sage advice or interesting perspective on raising a toddler. Did you know that you can comfort these little creatures and they will still cry for what seems like an eternity?

I sad. I sad. No. I sad.

This is my morning dialogue with the two-year-old. Its set to the tune of scattered breathing, sniffles and full-on wailing.

What troubles the child?

I gave him fruit loops for breakfast. I have no idea why this is displeasing, but it seems to be the issue. He walks in front of the pantry, bangs on the door, then collapses onto the floor in a fit that rivals the appearance of exorcism.

Why does the answer have to be no? Why can’t I just go offering things up from the pantry like a bonafide waitress?

Some people say that you should always look for ways to say “Yes” to your children. You know, to say yes when you can, because these are small humans here. Their requests are usually simple and accommodate-able. Also, something about picking and choosing your battles.

Others say that children need to hear “No” frequently so they can become accustomed to it. In other words, so they don’t freak out when their parent says ‘No” in public.

Well, these are all really interesting theories of parenthood. This morning, I simply don’t feel that fruit loops should  be boycotted and I don’t want to make a different breakfast. This morning I’m a “get what you get, don’t throw a fit” sort-of parent.

I’m not always this way. Just when I feel depleted, which as of late is a thing. You see, I’m starting to feel a bit held captive here in this house with this small person. Frankly, that’s perfectly reasonable and normal for stay-at-home parents.

I’m sorry, future Rhese, that I wasn’t 100 percent all of the time. At least you learned the lesson of limitations early.

Candidly,

Ash

Learning is Enough

I don’t know what it is about a toddler that just sucks the life out of me. Actually, toddlers aren’t so bad as long as you stick to an exact routine, never leave the house and always give them what they want.

Let’s face it though – that’s not happening.

Today, I’m worn out from yesterday. We attended a four hour pool party with the toddler. Basically, that is my definition of hell. Maybe its my propensity for anxiety, but I’m terrified the child will drown. Add in that he seems to have no fear of anything and that alone could do me in. Added to all of this was the wonderful opportunity to meet new people. This was a kick-off party for the school year. You know, where everyone knows someone and they are reunited. Unless you are brand new, in which case, you get to meet everyone for the first time…in a swimsuit.

Because we all have so much confidence when wearing a swimsuit.

It was {not} great.

My nerves were on edge the whole time. I tried to stick to my health plan. I felt really proud at the beginning when I ate fruit, veggies and humus instead of fried chicken. Then, the bastards, I mean really awesome planner people that I love, brought out brownies and cookies. After consuming a brownie, I realized I had ventured into stress eating to cope with the environs. I pressed on for another hour, but eventually gave up and we went home early.

I’m not proud of how I handled my anxiety. It occurred to me on the way home that not once did I deep breathe or use any of the coping mechanisms I’ve learned. I knew the day would be stressful and not aligned with my health plan, but did I take any steps to prepare?

Nope, not one.

But I’m learning.

Sometimes, it has to be enough to just learn from an experience. I struggle to let it be, but I’m working on it this time around.

Next time?

I’ll set a timer on my phone to take a break in the bathroom every half hour to breathe. I’ll bring a treat that is on my health plan so that I’m not tempted by brownies and cookies. I might even see if someone else can take the tiger, I mean toddler, for the day.

Yes, sometimes learning has to be enough. After all, if I’m not learning, then how am I evolving and growing?

Good things to remember.

Candidly,

Ash

There is a Part of Me that Wants to Survive

We recently got a new car.

I should say a “new-to-us” car.

It’s a 1999 Honda CRV complete with peeling paint, slugglish A/C and in desperate need of rotors. It also intermittently doesn’t start.

But other than that…

We like it.

It’s been a long summer without a car. So even though its not my top choice of vehicles, its also not my last. I’m thankful. I mean, when you go without a car for seven months, then you sort of naturally become a recluse. It will be nice to, you know…. Go SOMEWHERE!

School starts Monday and with the end of the summer came a need for a babysitter. We really hired her because I thought I was losing my mind and felt I could NOT do one more day of summer.

My first act of freedom was to visit the dump (because this is what a person does as their first act of freedom?!?!). You see, our lovely acre of land is located so far from civilization that no trash pickup companies will service us. It’s {not} great. In my eagerness to be rid of the nastiness residing on our front porch, I forgot my cellphone.

Of course, I didn’t remember this until my car wouldn’t start at the dump.

Stranded. At the dump. Of all places.

It was smelly, hot and I didn’t have anything to do but wait the 1.5 hours it would take my husband to return his state vehicle and then drive to me.

So I waited and waited some more. And there was a great deal of time to think.

I remembered my therapist offering up the suggestion that when faced with bad circumstances, we can ask ourselves, “What can I learn from this?”

And so I closed my eyes in the sweltering heat and  prayed, “What can I learn from this, God?”

I’ll be honest. “Don’t buy sh*t cars!” was the first thing that came to mind.

I’m pretty sure that wasn’t God’s answer.

Opening my eyes again, I looked at the words scrawled on a bright red sign.

Take the time or pay the fine.

A cantankerous snort may have emerged from me at this point. I knew the sign was my answer, but I didn’t really like it.

You see, I didn’t take the time to grab my cellphone or leave the babysitter with Jesse’s number. I also didn’t take the time to fix a problem with the vehicle when I certainly should have.

Yes, I could go on and on about all of the procrastination that occurs in my daily life, but it felt like there was more to the message on the sign. Something deeper.

My car did eventually start – an hour later. As I drove, I was immeasurably thankful. I also felt, deep in my soul, that the car – faults and all – was the car we are meant to have right now. I felt peace.

And I felt something else that I ignored for the rest of the week.

Sad.

I had felt sad for a number of weeks – very, very bone wearily sad. The kind that comes from caring for a person that may never get better. The kind of sadness that comes from witnessing diminished capacity. The kind of sadness that mourns simultaneously for the life that a person could have and the life they actually have.

I barely made it to the end of the week and even once I did, the sadness was still there. Only it had now festered into anger turned inward.

I was crippled by what I thought was self-hatred today. Only to find myself digging underneath all of the anger to discover this deep, deep sadness –

A sadness I had not taken time to feel. Take the time or pay the fine.

And the fine?

Crippling self-hatred and thoughts of self-harm.

So I sat down today, knowing the page could be the canvas for my sadness and I started to write about my jank CRV and a bright red sign that I had thought I understood, but actually ignored.

And I’m here to tell you some things that aren’t pretty and are deeply discouraging. They suck the will from within me. These are those things:

I surpassed my ability to take care of Evan years ago. We are now living in a season of sacrifice. I’m so tired. My therapist says that my responses to Evan’s aggressive behaviors are similar to what can be seen in abusive relationships.

The problem is the abuser isn’t an abuser at all. He is a disabled child who is growing stronger in body and emotion. He has hurt me and meant it. He has hurt me and not been in control of himself. I love him. I can’t stop loving him. He is my child.

But when is enough going to happen that someone can save us from him? I’m not the only one bleeding out here. There are six people in this family. Five of them are held hostage to the whims and moods of another.

Each day, I must choose my response to those moods and whims. I’m very tired. I would rather just die than keep on like this.

But…

There is a part of me that wants to survive.

That part is the one here making confessional, feeling all of this pent up pain. She pays the fine when I don’t take the time to feel.

She hurts worse than words can express.

And I’d like to take this moment in time to honor her for her strength. I honor her for her honesty. I honor her for her sacrifice. And for what it’s worth….

I’m so, so sorry that it is this way.

Candidly,

Ash

 

Sadness Moves On

I’m not overly enthused about writing here today. I’d much prefer to sit at some fiction and dream. I also know that this type of writing – the kind that causes me to delve deeper, it is probably the most important writing I do. I grow from it. Sometimes things which make us grow are not fun or exciting, but rather fairly difficult.

In our house, the theme of late is that sadness moves on. From the toddler to the nearing-forty daddy, everyone in our little house has been dealing with sadness. And so, as we talk to each other, we remind one another that feelings pass and shift and move. The eclipsing pain is not going to stay for every moment of the rest of our lives. It is temporary.

For the toddler, this looks like us singing a Daniel Tiger song (Thank you, Mr. Rodgers!). “It’s okay to feel sad sometimes. Little by little you’ll feel better.” For a little while, he would get upset about anything and just haul off and hit one of us. First, we would move away from him and say no, but this didn’t seem to be working after several months. Instead, I got closer to him and patted his back while using words to describe that he was sad and why he was sad. This started working immediately and we’ve had much less hitting. Of course, then he might cry and cry and cry and cry. So we added the Daniel Tiger song in. I think he’s mostly distracted by us singing and that’s what helps, but I’m hoping someday that he’ll actually get the full message.

Then, there is the 8 year old. She likes to do this sort of the rage-screaming thing when something upsets her. Again, I’ve been using the tactic of drawing close and comforting, acknowledging the feeling. It’s amazing how much closer we are becoming, because of this.

Evan’s been having a hard time at school. He’s having hours long behavioral episodes in which he bites himself, hits his head and attacks others. He does NOT do this at home. So I’ve been coaching his teachers on acknowledging his emotions and comforting him. Frankly, I don’t think they believe me that this works! We are going to schedule a day where I could come in and demonstrate. Although, I’m fairly certain that he’ll be so happy I am there that I may not get the opportunity!

I just want to acknowledge that his teachers are awesome and caring, loving people. As a teacher, it is so hard to watch out for the interests of ALL children in your classroom. Additionally, an authoritative voice is recommended to them in training. **Side note: Authoritarian is the volatile, commanding voice. Authoritative is the respectful, no-nonsense voice.**

Evan doesn’t respond well to either Authoritarian or Authoritative communication. He is at a three year old developmental level. Three year olds need soothing, calming presences in their lives. People often describe the terrible twos and threes. What is really happening in those situations (in my opinion) is that these children aren’t able to communicate the things they think and feel. We must teach them to do this in a caring way by acknowledging their thoughts and feelings verbally. Often this requires removing our agenda and even calming our own emotions. For instance, with Rhese we sing “It’s okay to feel sad….” Whereas, the alternate model would be to say, “You are okay. Go pick up the blocks now.” Or even more horribly…”What is your problem? Go pick up those blocks NOW!”

I can’t tell you how much changing our approach to the feelings of small people has helped!

Alright, back to our family. I was on a tangent…

The oldest is doing a stellar job at the sadness thing. She can identify that she is sad and communicate it. Our new thing is teaching her to communicate what she needs and wants in those moments. She will say, “Mom, I feel sad about not having my old friends nearby.” Then, I will respond, “Okay, what can I do to help?” or “What do you need?” Just this weekend she walked up to me and said, “Mom, I’m sad. Can I have a hug?” Really, she’s magnificent. I’m not sure I’m even able to do that most of the time. (more on that in a bit)

Hubby is dealing with a job that is atrociously stressful and does not compensate for overtime or education and experience. In other words, his job stresses him out and lack of money stress him out. Not to mention, this has been par for the course going on ten years. There is an ongoing drudgery in his day-to-day.

I’ve been wanting to rescue him. Take a job and fix this financial situation. I’ve offered. We’ve even bought and then returned interview clothes for me. Yet, my truth is that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing – writing, teaching the kids how to deal with sadness and dealing with my own sadness. Its about all I can handle. I wouldn’t return to work for anything – except to alleviate my husband’s pain. It is so tempting to give up what I need to help others. I’ve done it in the past so, so, so many times.

The truth? It is his responsibility to create a life he doesn’t want to hide from. Just as it is my responsibility to create a life I don’t want to hide from. We have to do that individually before we can achieve a collective relationship or family we don’t want to hide from.

Life is hard. It’s hard to get what we need. It’s painful to not have what we need. It’s discouraging to not get what we want. Its difficult to communicate to others our sadness and pain. It’s even difficult to acknowledge sadness and pain to ourselves, let alone others.

I came here to write with not much to say. I thought I would describe how, lately, our family lesson is “Sadness moves on.” I didn’t want to write here. I didn’t want to say much about me. What is my sadness? Yes, I want to help my husband, but I can’t. That is sad, but its not the low-grade fever that is consuming me.

My low-grade fever pain is not being able to heal Evan, not being able to fix things for him. Though I will NEVER give up on Evan, sometimes it feels like I’m so close to it. This song speaks to my heart so deeply. I’m so in over my head with this little boy. Sometimes, I just wish God would just give him one sentence to tell us something, anything. My son is lost to me in ways that were never meant to be. I just wish he and I could…I wish we weren’t broken. I truly love him the way he is, just as he loves me the way I am. Yet for us, because of autism, something is missing.

And this life feels hollow.

Candidly,

Ash

Talking to Myself Makes Me Less Crazy

We like to ratchet up the stress here. You know, as soon as one problem is solved then another appears. I’m using a tongue and cheek tone, because I honestly don’t want to connect with the way I feel about our latest turn of events.  Alas, the cathartic writing forces me to the keyboard and screen to bleed. y

Today, Evan is home from school because he was suspended for biting the teacher’s assistant. So far he has pulled out three of the floor vents, destroyed 5-6 crayons, climbed on top of the entertainment center (yes, by the TV!), destroyed our soap wand for the kitchen sink by tearing off the sponge pad and then pouring all of the soap all over the counter and opened the oven numerous times to play with the glass on the inside. Yay, an oven obsession! Because that’s not dangerous or anything.

It’s 10:00 AM.

So far I have moved a load of laundry, cleaned our shower, signed up for a fitness challenge with friends and now I’m sitting down to write. The truth is that a day with him, though he is delightful, is exhausting. Add in that he is suspended and that after 10 suspensions he can be expelled? Well, I’m surprised I’ve managed to do much of anything.

Very rarely am I at a lose for words to type, but on this issue I have so much apathy. I’ve shutdown so magnificently. Sometimes, I think that is a good thing, because things still get done and I’m not overwhelmed by my emotions. And yet, I know there will be a fall out.

Repressed emotions = Negative Self-talk

I used to think my inner critic was evil, a virtual gestapo in my head. I mean, if she wanted, that critical voice could convince me I don’t know how to read. She’s that potent.

Then, my therapist suggested that the negative self-talk was really just a giant clue – a clue to what was bothering me. This morning I woke up and went about getting breakfast to the tune of “I hate myself.” Literally, the thought was on repeat. It’s not a new thought and one that I am (unfortunately) accustomed to.

I didn’t really acknowledge it and went about my business. Then, the task “write” popped up on my phone and suddenly I just feel a blank void. I didn’t  have anything to write about. How strange (I always have things to write about)!

What is going on with me?

Oh, that’s right! I hate myself has been the background music for this day. I sit with a  blank stare, looking at the shattered screen of my laptop. I know its time to delve. I begin asking myself a serious of questions.

“Why do I hate myself today?”

The reply comes.

“You are terrible at entertaining Evan and keeping him out of things. You suck as a mother.”

“Geez, don’t hold back or anything.” I say to the negative committee in my head.

“Well, you asked! I answered.” The mean voice in my head says, folding her arms across her chest.

“Great job, self! Way to inner dialogue.” I say sarcastically to her.

I pause. I’m supposed to consider what feelings those thoughts bring up instead of having a sarcasm war with myself. Let’s see…

“When the mean voice in my head says mean things about my mothering abilities, it hurts.” I say.

“Yeah, no shit! I’m trying to get you to do better. The kid can’t even talk, doesn’t know how to play, dress himself, read… Geez, we’re lucky he shits in the pot most of the time!” The angry voice says to me.

“It’s just that…even if I do better, work harder…he might not learn. He probably won’t learn. I’ve tried before. It didn’t work.” I say in defeat.

“Yeah, precisely. We need to get this show on the road, muscle up! Let’s go lazy ass!” Angry voice counters.

“No, I don’t think you are hearing me. Look at all I’ve done this morning, while also cleaning up all his messes and managing not to be angry or cruel to him.” I defend. “I can’t do better than this.”

“Really?” She says skeptically. “Because if you can’t do better, then this really sucks. It really sucks that THIS is life.”

“Yeah, I know. It sucks. This life sucks.” I say softly.

“I was just trying to get you motivated, to make it better for you.” The angry voice softens and turns into a good friend.

“I know.” I say.

“He’s really not going to get better, huh?” She says.

“No – I don’t know. Maybe.” I say resignedly. “At least, there is nothing I can do to make him better. We’ve tried all of the *things* that *they* suggest. Seven years of ABA therapy and he still can’t attend school without the threat of expulsion. He still can’t talk. He has no more skills today than he did at three years old, except the potty training, of course.” I shrug.

“Well, there’s that.” She says knowingly.

“Yeah, he shits in the pot. Go us!” I say half-heartedly.

“You know, I’m proud of you for trying to do stuff today – to be productive. For cleaning up the messes and not losing your shit with him.” My new friend says.

“Yeah? You don’t hate me.” I say to myself in surprise.

“No, I don’t hate you.” Former gestapo girl shakes her head. “I was just out-of-tune with . what was really going on. So we’re just going to be sad today?”

“Yeah,” I reply. “Sometimes it passes – the sadness.”

“You don’t say! Huh,” She shakes her head. “I thought it was forever.”

“I know. Me too.”

And so I go about my day, not thinking I hate myself anymore, but feeling really, really sad. Luckily, it passes when I accidently put the hot dogs in the filing cabinet while making lunch. Evan’s sensory toy ended up in the refrigerator.

Life as a mom – sad, happy, tiring and, as always, hilarious.

Candidly,

Ash