Gratitude week 44

  1. It’s been a stressful week. My daughter Arabella is currently in the hospital for depression. I’m grateful that as of right now, she is safe. I’m grateful that the doctor listened to the concerns I have and is willing to do extra testing.
  2. I’m grateful for a warm fire in the fireplace on a blustery November day. BTW, how did it get to be November already???
  3. I’m grateful that we have two more days left until election day. I am literally going insane with all the texts and phone calls from both parties. If anything, I am so annoyed I don’t even want to vote. I’m sick of the ads. I’m sick of fights and people unfriending other people because of politics. Enough already! I think most of us will be grateful when this is over.
  4. My daughter Angel’s boyfriend Dan is learning to be an electrician. I’m grateful that he was able to fix the doorbell that has been broken since we moved in a couple years back.
  5. I met with my therapist this week. She jokingly said on the way out that my life certainly wasn’t boring. I’m not sure if I should be grateful for that or not, but I am.
  6. I decided to start the 30 day detox diet today as planned. My wellness nurse wanted me to start it when I am not under a lot of stress. The way things are going that probably won’t happen until I’m 6 feet under. I’ve been waiting to start this diet since January. So far I’m grateful I feel just fine. The hardest part is drinking half my weight in ounces of water. If it weren’t for all the damn pills I take I’d be totally dehydrated as it is on a normal day. I also gave up coffee and switched to green tea. I hope I continue to feel good.
  7. I decided to stay home and have a pajama day today. The pastor is having a sermon series on a blessed family. It was painful for my husband and I to go to church last weekend. Our kids are grown up now and have no interest in going to church with us anymore. Plus with all the struggles we are having with Arabella I felt upset. We tried to do the right things yet why is this happening? Honestly, I also thought I’d be feeling worse with the diet than I actually do.
  8. I’m grateful we bought a self-cleaning vacuum for our pool for both the bottom and the sides. It will save us a lot of time and work. It’s kind of cool to watch like when they came out with washers and dryers you could see work.
  9. Last night Paul and I finally were able to get together with our friends for supper. They are kind of mentors to us. It’s hard to find healthy older couples out there. I’m grateful for them and the other people who stepped into our lives and in return others we have helped.
  10. Today I finally opened my own YouTube account. Yeah, I know, I’m old. I’m grateful that I found another avenue to explore.

The missing piece to missing peace

I met with my therapist this past week. At the end of our session she asked me what I needed. I told her that I wanted more enlightenment on my path towards healing and growth.

Be careful what you wish for.

The next day I had the first appointment with my daughter Arabella to see a psychiatrist. She has been struggling with depression and anxiety the past couple months.

Honestly, I didn’t really understand why she was struggling. We tried to give her a wonderfully normal childhood, something my husband and I never had.

The doctor started with me asking about my family history regarding mental health issues. I probably rattled off a dozen close relatives that struggled with anxiety and/or depression myself included. After awhile the doctor cut me off and didn’t even bother asking for my husband’s family history of mental health issues.

I’ve always struggled with anxiety and depression since I can remember. I always thought my struggles were caused from the childhood trauma I endured. I always had this fantasy that once I made peace with my past and healed from the trauma I experienced then I would finally be free from the chains of anxiety and depression. Poof! Gone! I would finally be the carefree person I always wanted to be and not the person I am and always was.

I also have the fantasy that if I had enough faith in God I would be free from this. But I kept giving it over yet God refused to take it away. I felt guilty because every time I tried to cast it off it came back. There was some shortcoming in me. I failed to have enough faith. But maybe some things cannot be changed. Maybe I just have blue eyes. Maybe I should not expect God to change them to brown.

I’ve seen all my children struggle with anxiety. We did everything we could possibly do to give them a normal life. I’ve watched my mom suffer from debilitating anxiety, panic, and insomnia. I’ve brushed it off saying she always had so much to worry about. I’ve watching some of her siblings struggle with anxiety. Anxiety almost seemed normal.

I’ve watched my dad struggle with depression. At times I have wondered if he was going to end his life. I saw his father and his father’s siblings struggle with anxiety and/or depression. His aunt on his mother’s side. I watched my own siblings struggle. This all seemed normal too.

Over time I learned how to outrun my demons. Being an extreme runner burned off the anxiety. Always keeping busy or immersing myself in work keeps my demons at bay. But that means I can never relax or they come back. Writing soothes my soul. But it never goes away.

Trauma and difficult live circumstances makes the anxiety and depression worse. But guess what? Even if I don’t have anything to worry about I create scenarios in my mind. I have to constantly fight this battle within myself.

This week I received a new piece of enlightenment. Even if I never experienced childhood trauma, I still might have struggled with anxiety and depression. In fact, if I didn’t experience trauma then maybe I would feel worse about myself because there wouldn’t be a logical reason for it.

We live in a world that constantly makes us try to feel worse about feeling sad. You shouldn’t feel depressed because you are rich, good looking, smart, popular, etc…… I’ve been guilty of doing this myself. Her life is perfect. What does she have to feel sad about?

What if it is simply and purely genetic like my blue eyes? What if it was a pattern of behavior passed down from my ancestors centuries ago? A genetic propensity paired with modeled behavior is hard to break. I could wear colored contacts but that wouldn’t really change the color of my eyes.

Even if I tried to give my kids a wonderful life, I still might have passed this on to them. I also have come to the realization that although I can manage it I will never be free from it. That’s the kicker. I thought if I healed I would be a different person. But the truth is, I am still going to be me.

Maybe growth and healing isn’t about changing into a different person. Maybe it is the freedom to accept myself and others the way they are. Maybe that is the missing piece to missing peace.

Reaching the end

I resigned from my census job today and turned in all my census equipment. I was expecting it to end, but I wasn’t expecting it to end quite as abruptly as it did.

In some ways I feel relieved, but mainly I feel sad. Strangely I feel stir crazy. I feel like I have cabin fever and man is it a long way from March. I have literally nothing on my calendar. If it was a normal year I’d almost have next summer planned already.

Work was the only place I went, the only thing I did. There are a handful of friends that I haven’t even seen since this whole pandemic began. When this whole thing is over will we start back up again where we left off? I miss being too busy, every weekend planned not a second left for spontaneity.

My daughter’s high school just went back to virtual learning. Apparently Wisconsin is a virtual COVID hotbed right now. Everywhere I go, everywhere I look people are fighting about the masks we are required to wear. I went to the store today and saw a guy wearing a Halloween mask. I’m just sick of it. I don’t even care anymore. I hate what we have become and there is no escape from it, from ourselves.

Once again everything is changing almost as fast as the changing of the seasons. I feel kind of blah about it. I don’t want to just accept it willingly. But the good news is that I should have time now to write about my adventures as a census worker and I plan on spending the next couple of weeks doing that. And I just sent out an email inquiring about another job.

The first few days at work

The morning started rough. I awoke bleary eyed. I haven’t been sleeping all that well since I started the census job. My body, always resistant of change.

I went to feed my pets which all mornings is rather uneventful, well except for today that is. I opened the lid of the cat’s food container reaching inside only to find a mouse feasting on the food inside. Freaked me right out. Not the kind of excitement I needed to start my day.

I feel tired but good. I have my drug back. Work. The days go by and I find I don’t think about anything except for what I am doing. I’m not overthinking. I’m not anxious. My mind almost completely void of troubling thoughts. Then after the day’s work is done, my thoughts turn to mush. No worries, no grand stories. Nothing much.

Not only do I have a greater appreciation of those who travel door to door, but I am now thankful of people who clearly mark their houses with their house number. You wouldn’t believe how many times I turn around just looking for the street address of one house even with the map app on.

For the most part, people have been nice. I appreciate that as well. I have been doing a lot of walking. It’s funny but the first couple of days my legs and feet have been sore and I am a runner. I have a new respect for people who are on their feet all day at work.

It’s nice to spend the day working outside on these warm summer days. I haven’t had to go house to house in a downpour yet. Then I might be telling you a different story.

Things at home have been piling up. The dishes have yet to be done and the laundry needs folding. But for a few minutes I thought I would slip away to let you know that as for today everything is okay.

Gratitude week 31

  1. I’m back after a short break! I’m grateful I didn’t fall off the side of the planet too. But isn’t the Earth round? Who knows anymore…
  2. Summer! I can’t get enough of it. Seriously, why do I still live in the frozen tundra??!?
  3. I’m grateful to have a wonderful spouse to enjoy 23 years of marriage with.
  4. I just started the census job yesterday. It feels good to be out working again. I’m trying to put in 40 hours a week. I’m hoping I can still find some extra time in the day to blog.
  5. I am grateful most of the people I’ve talked to have been nice for the census job. I have a new appreciation of people who go door to door unannounced, even more so now during the pandemic.
  6. I’m grateful that my husband and I were able to get away for a couple days of sailing for our anniversary.
  7. I’m grateful that my loved one ended up being released from the psych ward the end of last week. This person has some previously undiagnosed medical issues that may have been contributing to the depression they were experiencing. Not to mention this whole time period in general has been stressful. I am hopeful they are starting on their healing journey.
  8. It’s my moms birthday this week. I’m hoping I can talk her into a visit and maybe sailing.
  9. My daughter is visiting this weekend so I am looking forward to seeing her and can’t wait until she moves back home.
  10. It’s been over a year and a half since I worked so I am grateful to be contributing to the family income. Plus I have been feeling nervous/anxious/excited about working again even temporarily. A little excitement at my age never hurt anyone.

Gratitude week 30

  1. Summer! I’m soaking up the hot days as much as I can.
  2. I no longer have any drafts in my WP queue. I am happy to be done with the ultimatum series. I thought it would be healing to write about but instead I felt a tremendous amount of stress about it. I started it and then no longer wanted to do it, but I finished it anyway. I feel kind of burned out with writing in life in general right now. Maybe some time off would help.
  3. I took the little vacuum cleaner my daughter bought me for my birthday and thoroughly cleaned the inside of my car.
  4. I got a haircut this week. My hair is now 100% my natural color. I cut off the last remaining blonde ends. It feels strangely freeing to be myself.
  5. My loved one who is depressed ended up getting committed to the psych ward this past week. I have been overwhelmed with sadness about it. But I am grateful that for the moment this person is safe. I also feel like this person is finally asking for and getting the help they need.
  6. My husband and I are planning on getting away for a couple of days sailing for our anniversary. The weather looks perfect for it.
  7. I had my orientation for the census job this past Friday. Maybe I was too optimistic, but I was hoping to start the online portion of the training Friday afternoon and being done today. I didn’t even get the emailed link yet to begin the training process which has been incredibly frustrating because I’m afraid I might have to postpone some of the plans I made for our trip. But I am grateful to have a meaningful job, some extra income, and the opportunity to bury myself in work to get my mind off of things for awhile.
  8. Paul and I took care of the area coin shortage by taking in our jug of coins we have been saving for the past decade, $262.47.
  9. I was able to talk to Estelle via Facetime for the first time since she went back home. I’m grateful for the technology to be able to easily and affordably communicate with someone living in another country.
  10. I found a new author I really like. I’m reading Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell. It’s a psychological thriller with relatable characters. The best part is that she has written quite a few other books.

The ultimatum, part 9

I felt a lot of anxiety leading up to his birthday. He did it, Paul went without drinking for almost 2 months. He said it was a piece of cake.

He said he would try to quit drinking until his birthday.

But then it was his birthday. I was worried. Now what would happen?

That night we had a few friends over. They had pizza and he drank a bottle of wine. I felt a sense of loss. I didn’t belong. I felt like an outsider. I had been dairy free for over a month by that time. As they ate pizza and laughed, I brooded in the corner.

I felt triggered by Paul drinking again. I felt angry and hurt like I did on the night of our anniversary when he drank too much. Paul was in a jovial mood. He drank another bottle of wine out by the campfire while I sat inside.

He wanted me to sing while he played guitar. When he pushed close, I pulled away. He was gone and I felt like I couldn’t trust him anymore.

What was going to happen going forward?

Slowly and steadily he started drinking more but nowhere as close to as much as before.

We got hit pretty hard in the next couple months with bad news about my dad. It will be a long time before I am ready to talk about that. I can tell you this, my dad struggles with addiction. My mom ignored it. She buried her head in the sand. I have to wonder maybe things would’ve turned out differently if she gave him an ultimatum.

I think I did the right thing. I never wanted Paul to stop drinking. I just wanted him to be in control of it instead of it controlling him.

I found myself triggered by so many things, not just Paul drinking. What happened with my dad threw me into a deep depression. I wish I could say that trauma only happens from your parents in childhood. Sometimes it tends to be a lifelong roller coaster ride.

Paul thought he was going to lose me this time. He was so stressed out that he started to drink more which stressed me out more.

Because of the ultimatum, he knew it was a problem he needed to address. In January, he stopped drinking for a few weeks in a time of prayer and self-reflection. Then he came up with a new plan.

The ultimatum, part 7

Paul said he was willing to try to stop drinking until his birthday almost two months later. He wanted to see if he could even do it. It was a step in the right direction.

What did that mean though? Could I still have a few drinks with my friends around him? I was willing to give it up too. His close friends asked if he wanted them to stop drinking around him. Some friends just stopped drinking with him when he stopped. I think everyone was a bit uncomfortable doing this new dance at first.

Paul said he didn’t want everyone to change the way they lived their lives. But they did. I really didn’t realize how much we influence other people with how we live our lives. When he quit drinking quite a few of his friends cut back too.

It changed the dynamics of our relationship big time. I was angry and we argued a lot at first. But after the initial anger wore off, I noticed another change.

His drinking gave me a lot of power and control. I didn’t realize it until it was gone. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted him to stop or at the very least cut back. I nagged and nagged him to stop which didn’t work. It only made things worse.

Every time Paul and I got in an argument I would never look at my own negative behavior. I would throw back in his face that I would talk to him about my issues when he stopped drinking. I held the trump card of remember when you screwed up _____ with your drinking. It gave me a get out of jail free card that I used in almost every argument that wasn’t in my favor.

Now I could no longer avoid talking about some of my issues. Not only that but without drinking he now had the upper hand. He was working through his issues. That meant I had to work through some of mine too. I started seeing a therapist to work through my anxiety and depression.

In some ways I envied Paul. I wanted to leave my issues on a shelf, to not drink of that bottle and then they would be gone. But I’ve learned so much since then. Battling addiction is more than just leaving the bottle on the shelf. It’s the longing to reach for it like the embrace of an old friend in sadness and celebration.

I had to face the fact that my anxiety and depression also scared him. He’s had to reach into the darkness to pull me out many times. I can’t seem to escape the trauma I’ve experienced. At times it still threatens to drown me.

We both had to work on our issues. We were both broken people in need of a fix. It wasn’t just about him and his drinking. It was how we learned to cope with our trauma at our very core. It was exploring every crack and crevice that was tearing down our foundation.

We spent those two months rebuilding our relationship. We got along better than ever before. Then after that things went a little haywire.

The ultimatum, part 6

Honestly, I think he just wanted to fit in. He wanted to belong somewhere.

Sometimes he said he wished he would’ve been adopted. Maybe he would’ve reached his full potential for growth in an environment that promoted learning. Me, I’m just glad he wasn’t aborted.

His mother Martha dropped out of high school before she got pregnant with him as a teenager. Intellectually she was slow. She tried as an adult to get her GED but she couldn’t pass the test even with the help of tutors.

By some freak of nature, Paul is one of the smartest people I know. He has a brilliant gifted mind. I would guess his IQ was almost twice as high as his mother’s which caused a lot of frustration on the part of both parent and child.

One of the smartest things Martha did however was pack up her car and leave behind the inner city of Chicago with her mother and 9 year old Paul in tow. I know the story would’ve turned out differently if he would’ve stayed.

The family moved to northern small town Wisconsin. It was quite the culture shock. Imagine moving from one of the largest cities in America to a small town of residents whose families lived there for many generations and probably founded the town. Jobs were scarce and the town didn’t attract a lot of outsiders.

Paul struggled to fit in especially in that time period without having a father. One of his teachers made an example of him by spanking him in front of the class telling him he needed a good spanking because he didn’t have a father.

On parent day, Paul stood alone. He didn’t fit in with the smiling children of two parent families. He wore ill fitting clothing because they struggled financially. Martha worked long hours in a factory just to afford their modest home. She couldn’t afford to take off of work for every school event and his grandmother didn’t drive.

Paul struggled in school. He didn’t have a parent that could help him with his homework. His mom didn’t pressure him to study or do his homework anyway. He was never disciplined. Everyone knew his mother was slow and assumed he was too. The kids laughed at him and called him names. No one really even cared if he graduated.

He made it into college anyway. He created a new life for himself. He joined a fraternity and finally found a place he belonged. All he had to do to fit in was drink. A lot. Those were the years of hazing and dangerous drinking. It was nothing to wake up the next morning out on the lawn.

He got so involved with partying that he flunked out of college for a semester. He returned home and worked alongside his mother in the factory. After that experience, he decided to apply himself. He discovered he had a thirst for learning and figured out he wasn’t the idiot everyone defined him as. He was told he was stupid so much he thought he was.

I met Paul after he earned his Bachelor’s degree. By the time I met him, he was working on his Master’s degree. He fully accepted the fact that he is an intellectual. He tested me when we first met to see if I was smart too. I am an intellectual myself but nowhere as smart as he is. Sometimes I found this intimidating. But it was more threatening to Paul. It separated him from others.

He didn’t fit in with his family either. No matter what he did, he couldn’t bring them up to his level. But he could bring himself down. He found he could fit in when he was drinking. He could be social and fun. It helped him find the place where he could be like everyone else. It was a place he belonged.

The ultimatum, part 2

I think things got worse after his mother died from cancer.

Or maybe that’s when I noticed it more.

He was a happy drunk before. Or should I say it enhanced his good moods and his bad. It’s hard to be upset with someone who is spilling forth good things about you. You are so wonderful. You are so beautiful. I’m so happy I married you. Yeah, tell me that when you are sober I’d laugh.

After his mom died it wasn’t fun anymore.

He didn’t have any family left. That’s a hard pill to swallow. No one. He never had a dad or siblings. His step-dad Darryl started dating online a month after his mother died. Paul felt like he helped Darryl out more than Darryl helped him through the grieving process. The rest of the extended family were the wedding funeral types. Our teenage kids met most of them the first time at their grandma’s funeral.

He started drinking more than his usual routine. A typical summer Tuesday he went out with friends and had maybe half a dozen drinks. Wednesday and Thursday a bottle of wine. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday he drank two bottles of wine. Monday he took the night off to prove he didn’t need to drink every night.

He was drinking somewhere around 40 drinks a week. Special occasions, hanging out with friends, or really bad days warranted a couple more drinks. So he had anywhere between 30 to 50+ drinks a week.

The year his mother died was a really rough year. I don’t think he cared anymore. His only parent was gone. He slowly watched her die. He coped with the loss by drinking more.

He said he wasn’t going to stop drinking until the doctor told him to. That year his liver numbers were a little high. It was just a fluke thing he said because he was out drinking with his friends the night before.

He wasn’t worried but I was.