It’s not Love, Actually

It’s not Love, Actually

“To Me, You Are Perfect.” [Andrew Lincoln’s sign for Keira Knightley in the film Love Actually]

Sigh. If only something like this would happen to me at some point. In fact, I would just love to live in the world of Love Actually. The characters are impossibly charming, have great British accents, work at hip jobs that apparently pay a lot because they all live in horridly expensive London, and, best of all – they all get their happy ending.

This movie delves into the love between man and woman, man and unrequited crush, parent and child, sister and brother, husband and wife, sex fiend and Americans, boss and underling – but the one love I wish it resolved was that between best friends. Because then I could find the answer to my real-life problem in my favorite movie.

It’s funny, because my best friend introduced me to this movie and it’s one way we bonded. All I have to say is, “Hi!” and she’d dissolve in giggles, picturing the exact scene in the movie that kills us both. We have whole sets of dialogue memorized and can watch it over and over. Well, we used to anyway – when we were speaking to each other.

She and I had been friends for almost 15 years. We met while working at a coffee shop and bonded over our mutual disdain for our overly demanding boss (seriously, who hides gum behind the toilet to make sure we’re cleaning back there every. single. day). Later, I went to work for her at a different coffee shop and then moved in when I needed a place to live and she needed a new roommate. She introduced me to her circle of friends and I let her use my employee discount at the clothing store I worked. When I moved four hours away, we kept the friendship up and actually became closer.

She was two years older than me and a wonderful big sister to this only child. She did my hair and makeup before we went out. She was generous with her clothes and accessories. She scolded me when I acted inappropriately and dried my tears when I was hurt. She gave me tough love when I needed it and always encouraged me to accept God’s grace. She was my maid of honor and the first person I called after having my baby. It’s hard to imagine a life without her in it.

So, what killed this friendship? Time, distance, change, lack of care. I moved to England and for 3.5 years our communication was spotty. We’d talk on the phone every few months and each time swear we’d keep in better contact. Facebook kept us updated on the day to day, but not stay connected. The cracks started to appear when I missed her wedding. I was willing to fly back to the United States just for that weekend and would have – if only her wedding wasn’t the same weekend my husband was due home from a 5-month deployment. I had to put my husband first in this situation, and it really hurt her. I was upset that she didn’t understand – I wanted to so badly to be there, but couldn’t (and didn’t want to) miss his homecoming. I tried to make it up to her by surprising her with a live Skype toast at the reception and recording a message just in case the Internet connection failed. We eventually moved on from it, but it shook us.

The year following her wedding was extremely eventful for me. I made a lot of bad decisions and my husband I almost divorced several times. I hit rock bottom, contemplated suicide and found myself in positions I never thought I’d be in. I couldn’t tell anyone back home what was going on. It was nothing I wanted to share over Skype or telephone. So, I retreated into myself and my family. I gave vague details to my inner circle, but focused more on the work I was doing to heal. And I did start to heal.

My method of healing came at a price, though. When I moved back to the United States, I was so excited to see my best friend. I hadn’t seen her in almost 3 years and she had never met my son. She came up to visit and we finally got to have a long overdue heart-to-heart. I believe it was that heart-to-heart that killed the friendship. I didn’t know it, but she was extremely anxious about seeing me that weekend. Had I known that, I might not have dropped the ton of bricks on her that I did. I don’t think she was prepared to hear all of the things I told her.

After I dropped all my bombshells, things were awkward. I didn’t know what she was thinking and tried to give her space to process. However, it was eating at me. Finally I laid out my concerns to her in an email and waited to hear back. Again I tried to give her space, but must have pushed too much. We argued and shot angry texts back and forth, and a few weeks later I got the answer to my email. It was clear we were on completely different plains. She didn’t understand me, and I didn’t understand her.

I could fight for the friendship, but to be honest, I’m not sure I want to. Just writing that hurts and I feel like a jerk. What is wrong with me? Why wouldn’t I want to do my best to patch things up? A part of me thinks I should, just because of the history we share. But it’s not my job to patch things up – it’s our job. I can’t control what she thinks/feels/does; I can only control me. Right now, I don’t want anyone in my inner circle who doesn’t “get” me. I don’t feel like she “gets” me anymore, so I think it’s best if I back off for now. A good friend reminded me that sometimes there isn’t a wrong or right in a situation; it just is. I think that’s where we’re at.

What I feel now is sadness. I’m sad that I didn’t give her a chance to get to know the “new” me. I’m sad she won’t be a part of my day-to-day life. I’m sad that the memories of our good times now come with a twinge of pain in my chest. Time will tell if this is a break or a break-up; I’m ready to let time do its job. But I’m still sad.

strangers with memories

And I’ll always hold this movie dear to my heart, because it’s something I shared with her.

Today I’m linking up with the amazing ladies at

Cheaper than therapy

Cheaper than therapy

I have issues. I mean, who doesn’t, but some people are better at dealing with their issues than others. Like Super Why. That kid has his shit together. He always has a super big problem, but never fails to find the answer within 30 minutes, just by reading a fairy tale with his friends. No BS there, just straight problem-solvin’.

Pictured: Rebel with issues
Pictured: Rebel with issues

But I digress (often). I have issues. And I like to write. And they always say you should write about what you know. And what I know best is my overstuffed cargo hold of baggage. And I also know that many English teachers would faint at so many sentences started with ‘and,’ but what can I say – I’m a rebel like that.

Blogging, for me, is a form of therapy. It’s not healthy for me to keep feelings, thoughts and ideas all bottled up inside. Eventually, I get shaken up so much that I explode (not pretty). To avoid eruptions, I let it out in small doses in the form of blog posts. Sometimes I get feedback, which is awesome, and sometimes I don’t, which is fine too. Writing helps me work through difficult emotions and situations, so even if nobody reads it I still benefit. It’s bonus points if someone else benefits from my writing.

I write about my adventures as a mommy, but I also write about my past and how it has shaped my present. These often overlap, as my childhood issues pop up in my mothering. There’s always a lesson to be learned, it seems.

I also blog because it’s fun. I’ve recently joined a blogger group and have been meeting the most awesome ladies. For someone who is a little clumsy at making friends in real life, the blogosphere is a gold mine.

Today, I’m linking up with the kick-ass peeps for Finish the Sentence Friday. It’s hosted by Janine at Confessions of a Mommyaholic, Dawn at Dawn’s Disasters, Kate at Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine and Stephanie at Mommy, For Real. Check them out!

Finish the Sentence Friday

Seeing the good in the bad

Seeing the good in the bad

Yesterday was not a good day. All of my character defects came out to play and they meant business.

Starting our adventure off the right way.
Starting our adventure off right!

I know something is up with me. All my telltale signs of a depression flare are there: heavy ache in chest, extreme irritability, zero patience, short temper. Since it isn’t hormones and I’ve been keeping up with my medication, it probably means I have some work to do. But since one of my character defects is procrastination, I’ve been trying to find other ways to fix these feelings. I tried exercise – worked temporarily. I tried vegging out – no help. Yesterday, I tried extreme distraction. Colt woke me up way too early (0500 is not my friend) and I knew bad feelings + overtired mama = no bueno. I decided a day out of the room was what we needed, so I packed us up and headed off to Boonshoft Museum of Discovery. Colt could run around and have fun and I could just follow him around – double win for letting off toddler energy and reducing mama stress.

Boonshoft is one of those museums where kids can run around and touch, play, experiment, explore – perfect for my little scientist.

Already trying to ditch me
Already trying to ditch me

The morning went pretty well – he had fun and I started to feel my symptoms fade away. I love watching him interact with the world, and letting him do something fun makes me happy. He was way into one of those swirly coin things:

Not seen: the dinosaur toy he later used to attack the rolling coins
Not seen: the dinosaur toy he later used to attack the rolling coins

Of course, a big hit was the water table. This boy loves playing with water, but isn’t too stoked when it gets on him. As my husband says, he’s more of a hindsight kind of guy.

Pictured: toddler angst at getting wet after playing with water toy
Pictured: toddler angst at getting wet after playing with water toy

My budding paleontologist put his considerable Dinosaur Train experience to work in the excavation pit.

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Things started to fall apart at lunch time. He threw a giant fit when I had to go to the bathroom (“You not wanna go to the baffroom Mama!” Uh, yes I do kid because thanks to you, Mama doesn’t have a very strong pelvic floor!). We had to physically leave the museum to go get lunch and the world about ended (one thing he inherited from me is that his coping skills are directly proportionate to his blood sugar levels). This is when I realized the good feelings from before were a sham – I still had no patience and the heavy chest ache came racing back. Still, the thought of being trapped in a hotel room with a cranky toddler made me shudder, so I determined to soldier on.

We made it to lunch, he ate a little and I let him play in the toddler funhouse. I felt a little calmer with food and water in my tummy…then he threw the requisite fit when it was time to change his diaper and go. Ok, I thought. Maybe he’ll fall asleep on the way back to the museum. He did, so I sat in the parking lot while he napped. It only lasted about 25 minutes, but a power nap is better than nothing. Back to the fun.

We tried to spot birds in the treehouse:

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We spent way. too. long. in the recycling room. He loved that “garbage truck” because he got to drive it, put things in the slots, make them fall out the back and make a ton of noise. I had to almost pry him off of it!

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He pretended to be an astronaut, climbing in and out of the rocket and tinkering with the controls (which I was NOT allowed to touch):

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I ended the day with a movie in the planetarium-type theater. It was a Big Bird movie about space – perfect. He was into it for about 15 minutes, then kept demanding to go. When we got outside and he realized that go meant actually go home, he was pissed. So, our day at the museum ended with him conking me on the head with his dinosaur toy, losing said dinosaur toy and crying all the way out to the car. Pretty fitting.

This day could have been considered a disaster. In some ways, it was. I took my problems out on my toddler in that I didn’t give him the patience he deserved. So many times I was short with him and yelled (which isn’t something I want to do as a parent). I broke down and sobbed to my husband that night because I started to feel like a total failure. I couldn’t get a handle on my depression, which scared and frustrated me. I HATED being a jerk to my son, because he shouldn’t bear the brunt of my issues. This could have easily started a stew spiral.

Instead, after my tears subsided, I saw the good in the day. Even though his partner wasn’t in top form, Colt had fun at the museum. Although I am avoiding dealing with the underlying issues causing the depression, I’m using healthy distractions rather than the self-destructive habits I used to have. Baby steps. I asked my husband for help, I wrote my sponsor, I “attended” my online 12 Step meeting. Progress, not perfection. Colt cuddled up to me on the couch after bath and snuggled with me before bed as he always does. Love. I’ll work on what’s causing this pain, but for now I’m going to just bask in the love of my family.

 

 

Finish The Sentence Friday

I love having some outside inspiration for writing. It makes me get outside my comfort zone and write about something that I might not have thought about. I also love link-ups because I meet so many great people!

I’m trying out a new Friday link up: Finish the Sentence Friday. The hostesses are Stephanie from Mommy, for Real, Janine from Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyaholic, Kate from Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine? and Dawn from Dawn’s Disaster. This week’s topic is “When I was younger…”

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Circa 1999

When I was younger, I lacked self esteem. I remember a nervous girl, wanting so badly to fit in and be one of the “cool kids” but feeling like I’d never be good enough. In high school, I floated between different groups, hoping to find my niche. I was in the advanced placement classes, but felt inadequate because I wasn’t the smartest. I played varsity volleyball, but felt ineffective because I wasn’t one of the stars. I had plenty of boyfriends, but felt ugly because certain boys weren’t interested in me. Drinking alcohol helped me break out of my shell, because when you’re buzzed and blacked out, you don’t care what other people are thinking. Alcohol really was liquid courage for me, but it ended up being my worst enemy (2 sexual assaults while blacked out before graduating high school is not a proud achievement). I didn’t know who I was, so I tried on many identities in my search for the “right one.” None of them fit and I ended up with what felt like a split personality: the smart, hardworking, good girl who turned into the loud, smoking, crazy party girl when the alcohol hit her lips.

Senior picture
Senior picture

I made so many bad decisions when I was younger because I was afraid. Afraid of ridicule, afraid of being disliked, afraid of being alone. This is one thing that terrifies me as a mother: that my child might grow up to make decisions based on fear. My parents did the best they could for me; I don’t blame them for my problems. I know that there are marked differences between my childhood and my son’s childhood so far, but still I worry that I won’t do the “right things” to help nurture a strong sense of self in him. I want him to know who he is and not be afraid to make decisions that honor that – even if those decisions don’t go with the popular opinion.

There are so many things I wish I could tell that girl. If I could sit down with my younger self, I’d tell her:

  • Don’t straighten your hair. Your curls are gorgeous if you just leave them alone. YOU are beautiful without changing what you look like.
  • Don’t sleep with that guy. He doesn’t love you and you will not love yourself for doing it. You will not find your self worth in the arms of random men. Respect your body and don’t be afraid to say no. If he does leave you because you said no, he didn’t deserve you in the first place.
  • Don’t strive for perfection. It’s not possible. Be happy with where you are and what you have accomplished. You don’t have to be perfect to be loved.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Being strong doesn’t mean suffering silently. Tell someone how much it hurts before it’s too late.
  • Don’t stop writing. It saved your life once and will keep wounds from festering. Writing is your voice in this world; don’t let your pain silence you.

My character defects

The overwhelming support for my previous post on alcoholism inspired me to write more about my recovery journey. I am in the middle of working the Steps and let me tell you – it is hard work. The payoff is so worth it, though. In case any of you are not familiar with the 12 Steps, here they are (along with my progress):

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable. Done
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. Done
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. Done
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Done – NOT FUN
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. Done
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. Done
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. Done
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

    Serenity Prayer
    Serenity Prayer: a great companion to the Steps

While the organizer in me gleefully puts done next to the steps I’ve completed, the realistic part of me knows that all of these steps are completed on a daily basis. Complacency is my enemy – may I never get so comfortable in my abstinence that I forget I have a problem.

All the steps are important, and doing them in order is even more important. First of all, if you can’t identify there is a problem, you can’t be helped. Next, you have to believe that you are worthy of forgiveness by your Higher Power (HP). That step was hard for me – I couldn’t imagine forgiving myself, so why should anyone else (including an HP)? I had to let go of that control and realize that it was out of my hands. Once I did that, things started getting better. Then you turn your life over to your HP before moving on to the down & dirty work of Step 4.

Step 4 is the moral inventory, where you list all your resentments, what part you are responsible for and how you can do better. You do not want to tackle your moral inventory without having your Higher Power on your side – trust me on that. It can easily turn into a self-bashing, I-hate-myself mess. Then you discuss your wrongs with your HP and sponsor (Step 5). For me, this was very healing as I could finally talk about this stuff with someone who related because she had been there. No judgment, no shaming – just acceptance. Beautiful. I used my moral inventory to compile my list of character defects for Step 6, and after discussing them with my sponsor I asked my HP to remove my shortcomings. That is Step 7 and where I’ve been living for a few weeks now.

I'm so glad I got to fully experience this joy
I’m so glad I got to fully experience this joy

I’ve chosen to highlight my Step 6 because it seems like motherhood both mutes and amplifies my character defects. I didn’t know what intense emotions felt like until I became a mother, and then I REALLY didn’t know what intense emotions felt like until I became a mother free of compulsive thinking! Compulsive thinking allows one to act without thinking – it numbs you and prevents you from feeling the full effects of your actions. When I started working the Steps, I remember feeling so overwhelmed by everyday emotions because I was feeling them like a “normal person” for the first time. The feelings are still intense, but it’s no longer overwhelming because I’ve grown accustomed to it. It’s a beautiful thing.

This is my Step 6, as shared with my HP and my sponsor. The character defect is in bold and the “payoff” of that character defect is underneath it. The “payoff” is what I’m giving up by asking my HP to entirely remove it. I have also added how each character defect shows up in my mothering.

Step 6: “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

Victim
Don’t have to take responsibility for my actions
This one didn’t show up in mothering per se (even I couldn’t blame the baby for something I did) but did show up in my co-parenting. I could very easily get angry at Bryce for something that I also contributed to (baby not getting a nap because we were out) but conveniently forget my part in it. I would also get resentful that he didn’t help out more, even though I hadn’t asked for help and I made it seem like I wanted to do it all. The control freak in me wanted to control all aspects of parenting, but the victim side in me wanted to blame him for allowing me to do it all. WTF, self? Now I’m more honest in what I need from him as a co-parent and if I start to feel resentful about something, I first search to see if I can share some of the blame.

Stealing Mom's coffee may elicit strong reaction...
Stealing Mom’s coffee may elicit a strong reaction…

Reactive
Respond to situation without thinking; don’t worry about who I hurt
This is a biggie and one I work on many, many times a day. Colt is a very spirited and independent child who has inherited much of his mother’s stubbornness. When he does something that I’d prefer he didn’t do, it’s so easy for me to fly off the handle and freak out. Prior to working the steps, I was more likely to yell and be unreasonably angry. This would, of course, scare him – which then would make me feel guilty. Nowadays, I try to take a deep breath first, and then respond rather than react to the situation. I keep my voice level and explain why I’m upset, rather than yell. I know that he is not yet capable of modulating his emotions, so as the adult it’s up to me to keep mine in check when possible. And when I do lose my cool, I make sure to apologize and explain that, while Colt shouldn’t have thrown the car at the wall, Mommy shouldn’t have yelled like that. Note: I am perfectly ok with yelling and scaring him if he’s doing something dangerous like running towards a parking lot. No apologies if I scare him then.

Insecure
Build walls, keep people away, push loved ones away before they see I’m not good enough
Insecurity is the hallmark of a mother, and I’m no different. For much of Colt’s life, I’ve doubted myself as a mother. A few decisions didn’t cause me any insecurity (breastfeeding). Others had me going back and forth on whether I was a decent mother or a terrible mother (diapering, sleep, baby wearing, foods, working…it goes on). I almost cut myself off from the Internet because every time I read something that was different than what I was doing, I felt like I was doing it wrong and felt like a failure. As I’ve gotten more experience in this mothering thing, I’m growing in confidence as well.

I'm ok with being a workaholic in THIS job :)
I’m ok with being a workaholic in THIS job

Workaholic
I’m a good person because I work so hard
I’m so eternally thankful that I realized this was a character defect so early in Colt’s life. I could have missed out on so much. Important: do not confuse ambition with workaholic. Me as a workaholic would put more energy into my job and coworkers than my family. I was willing to go the extra mile for my patients, but not my family. I would tell my son to wait while I answered one more breastfeeding question in the online group I helped moderate. I would go in on weekends, without asking how that made my husband feel. Work was another drug for me – something I could lose myself in and use as a buffer against the pain of reality. Now I see that being a sober mother is the most important job I could have.

Envy (insecure)
The right thing/attribute will make me happy/make me a good person
Envy goes hand in hand with insecurity. It’s SO EASY to see other moms and be envious of how they seem to have it “all together.” But, I know from experience that I looked like one of those moms from the outside, when inside I was a hot mess who was barely keeping it together. It’s also easy to be envious of things – if only I could afford that big fancy stroller/toy/vacation, my child/family would be happy too. NOT TRUE.

Perfectionism (insecure)
Being the best is what’s most important. If you don’t do it perfectly, it’s not worth doing. Trying to be perfect makes me a better person
Another facet of insecurity. There is no such thing as a perfect mother and it would be an exercise in futility to try to be one. I had to learn that one really quickly or go insane. But, I still managed to beat myself up for not being perfect at this motherhood thing. Today, I’m much gentler with me.

Procrastination
I can avoid doing things that are uncomfortable or that I don’t want to do
This one hasn’t shown up as much as the others. It’s hard to avoid changing a poo diaper when the toddler is crop-dusting the living room. Babies have a way of making their needs known, and they usually need them NOW. They’re pretty persuasive about being on their timeline, not yours.

Gossip (insecure)
Put others down to make myself feel better, prove my superiority
Yet another piece of insecurity and huge in the mother world. This comes both as gossiping about a specific person and gossiping about (judging) a whole group of mothers. I see this so much in my breastfeeding work. Infant feeding choice is one of the most emotionally charged topics out there. But, having strong emotions about a subject is no excuse for putting down another mother for making the opposite decision. We moms are our own worst enemy, when we should be champions for each other.

These are moms who are true champions of other moms! Meals on Heels Board, August 2012
These moms are true champions of other moms!
Meals on Heels Board, August 2012

That was my Step 6…for this round. I’ll be revisiting this Step for the rest of my life – in fact, Step 10 is reworking Step 6 whenever needed. I’m not perfect, but I am perfect in my imperfection and willing to work toward the perfect ideals that the Steps state. I think that’s also a way to describe my outlook on mothering: I’m not perfect at it, and I’m ok with that, but I’ll always work toward that perfect ideal because I love my baby.

Happy Mother’s Day

Just a quick shout out to all the good mamas out there: Enjoy your day!

If you’re wondering if you are a good mama, take this short quiz:

1. Do you love your child/children?
2. Do you try to do your best as a mother?

If you answered yes to the questions above, Congratulations! You are a good mama. 🙂

I’ll be spending my day with this awesome guy:

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5 Minute Friday: Comfort

The 5 Minute Friday prompt over at Lisa Jo Baker is Comfort. Well, here goes 5 minutes of unedited writing on comfort!

Comfort

Of all the mama super powers, I think the power of comfort is my favorite. When my son is hurting and comes running to me, I feel so blessed that I’m able to give him comfort. My kisses make owies go away, my hugs quiet sobs, my fingers make tears disappear. To be someone’s main source of comfort is an amazing feeling. He doesn’t know it, but he is my biggest source of comfort. When I’m sad or upset, I can bury my  nose in his hair and breathe in his wonderful, toddler smell and feel my heart lighten. His soft little arms around my neck and his little kisses on my face make me realize the world isn’t such a bad place. When he calls out, Mama!, it’s the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard. I’m his favorite lovie (insists on snuggling mama at bedtime) and he is my favorite cuddle-buddy.

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Best hug in the world

Stop.