Goal 10: Make peace with the past

For a long time I’ve outrun my demons and wondered how they could still catch up to me.

Writing this blog has been a great first step in making peace with my past. If that wasn’t enough, I started writing a book. I’ve found the process to be very therapeutic.

In a few months, I will start the process of public speaking about my experiences.

In doing all of this, I realized that I missed a very important step. I need to be open and honest with the people that care about me even if I get hurt. It’s not like I didn’t get hurt in the past and move on with my life.

I spent my whole life pretending to the outside world that everything was alright in my life. Life is good now. But I want to be able to tell people I am close to that things are not alright if they aren’t. I want to be able to ask for help instead of pushing everyone away and dealing with things myself.

Right now I’m trying to look back without having blinders on. Hindsight is not always 20/20. Sometimes I tend to wear sunglasses when I look at the darkest days. I make excuses and cannot face things as they truly were.

I tell myself that what happened in my life was completely normal. It wasn’t that bad.

Sometimes I think I will just be able to throw all of my painful memories into a book, then close the book and walk away. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to do that. But I do think that my story could help others and that I will be able to make peace with my past.

Geez, sometimes I wish my goal was to lose 10 lbs. Revamping myself on the outside sure seems a lot easier then stoking the demons within. But I feel like this is what I was meant to do.

I didn’t hit a deer, but…

Can you believe that I live in Wisconsin and never hit a deer?? I probably shouldn’t have said that, now I am doomed..I remember as a kid riding up north with Aunt Grace. She always said, “I wonder if we will see a deer?” It never failed that one would pop out of the woods after those words were spoken.

I didn’t hit a deer this past month, but I almost got hit by a car while out running. I was very angry and it prompted me to rant on Facebook about running etiquette for drivers. Seriously! After that post, the people that know me have given me a wider berth and do a lot of waving.

I also was the victim of road rage. There was a guy at the stop sign across from me. He was going straight and I was turning left. I waited for awhile and he didn’t make a move, so I started to head into the intersection. It was at that point that he floored it around me. I slammed on my brakes while he accelerated squealing tires, literally burning rubber, and spewing up rocks that scarred my car and scared me.

In both situations, I didn’t have time to respond. I didn’t honk my horn, give them the finger, or get a good description of the vehicle.

Then I hit a raccoon. This wasn’t just an ordinary raccoon either. It was the size of a small horse or large dog. It looked like it had been hitting up the Halloween candy big time, like REALLY BIG time. It left the front end of my car hanging on the ground and me having to come up with lies, more lies, something I am not good at doing.

Why would I lie? The dark evening that I hit the raccoon, I was picking up my daughter from a car pool. Angel had a day off of school and wanted to come home to surprise everyone. Paul was out of town for business and would come home to see our daughter unexpectedly there. I was the only one that knew of these plans. So I had no explanation for being out that night when I said I was going to be home all evening.

So here I was with a smashed front end that ended up costing over $1,000 in damages. That kind of excitement was hard to mask during a quiet uneventful evening spent at home.

My daughter received a ride home from the mother of a girl that she used to be friends with. This girl almost dropped out of college because she thought that the music program was too competitive and blamed it on my daughter. So the 4 hour ride included glares from the mom and awkward silence.

But apparently the long, uncomfortable ride home was worth it for Angel to surprise the family. It was pretty exciting to see everyone’s reaction. It was the first time she was home since she left for college.

Yesterday, I got my car fixed. I never would’ve guessed that a raccoon could do so much damage. Afterwards, I took a little detour and wandered through the garage to watch the mechanics work on vehicles. I knew I shouldn’t have been there. I felt like I was sneaking through the surgical department, but no one kicked me out. In situations like those, it is always smart to play the dumb blonde card.

My little adventure did cost me though. I ended up going out the wrong door and spent the next half hour wandering around the huge parking lot looking for my car. Embarrassingly enough, I had to ask for help finding my vehicle. I thought I would have to buy a new vehicle from the lot to get back home. Hey, it was starting to get cold out.

Being in the garage gave me a brief second of nostalgia for the old family auto business. I love the smell of garages, gasoline, and rubber tires (not burning ones though). It brought back childhood memories of my grandma ringing up the antique till, the rows of tires for sale, and Uncle Harold working on the cars. That is all gone now.. They are all gone now..

I am such a sentimental sap.. I picture them forever working there in my head..They are breathing, living on a faded out film that continuously loops through my head..they always look the same and wear the same clothes..

What can I say? It makes me happy, yet so sad.

Anyway, my car is up and running now. Let’s just hope I don’t hit a deer!

 

 

Until we meet again

Grandma, I know you said it was your time to leave. I want you to come back. I long to hear your voice. We should be sitting in a small town restaurant celebrating your birthday today.

Remember the time that Matt poked me in the eye? I cried and cried. You rocked me in your arms and sang to me. I wanted to hurt Matt back. You held Matt tight in your embrace. You comforted him. You taught me to love when I wanted to hate.

Remember the night that baby Luke was born? I was 4. You put the straight section of the circular green Davenport, as you called it, against the wall for me to sleep on. I told you that I was going to sleep with gum in my mouth. You told me it was a bad idea, but you didn’t stop me. I woke up with sticky gum all over my face and in my hair. You were right. Then you slept on the other part of the couch. The street light shining in on us through the window. Grandpa loudly snoring upstairs. 

Remember the doll house you made for me? You painted the walls, made curtains out of old lace that you thumb tacked to the walls, and used buttons as light fixtures. You squeezed your big fingers in the little material to make my doll clothes. Remember my doll stroller? Remember the doll that had buttons, zippers, and ties that would help me learn how to dress myself? Or giving me your hand towels for blankets when my dolls got cold? 

Remember cooking for me? You would send me off with a jar of cookies. You would prepare a feast when I visited. Remember me asking if my stomach would explode after eating too much of my favorite soup? Then when my kids were little, you gave them a tea party with juice in little tea cups. You had little plates of cheese and grapes for them. They were so excited.

Where would I be without you? You brought peace, comfort, and stability into my chaotic life. 

I will think of you today and remember all that you have done for me. I will celebrate your life! The candles are lit without a cake. I look at your picture as I smell the sweet fragrance of your favorite perfume. It is my ritual every year. For a brief second, I pretend that you are still here. I will never forget you.  

Happy birthday, Grandma! Until we meet again…

Depression, my old friend

In response to my neighbor’s suicide…

I understand your struggle…

When I grew up, my childhood was very difficult. It was so difficult that the big people in my life could barely cope with the circumstances that they had to deal with. In early childhood I developed two friendships to help me cope, depression and anxiety.

Depression was a close friend of the family. My dad made friends with depression too. Sometimes when the house was really quiet, I was afraid of what he might do. My brother Mark found friendship with depression too. When he was a teen, my mom found several nooses in the tree. I knew the temptation. I knew the struggle.

In late childhood, I tried to break my friendship with depression but she fell in love with me.

When I became an adult, I learned how to live with my friend. I kept myself very busy so I wouldn’t have time for my friend to visit. I worked harder and harder. When my friend noticed I was free, she would visit me.

Have you ever been suicidal before? Do you know what it is like to be that depressed? I do. It is very frightening. Thoughts and images popping into my head of my own demise over and over again. Me in the bathtub with slashed wrists. Driving very fast into a tree. A loaded gun. An empty bottle of pills. Horrible, intrusive thoughts that invade my mind unwanted. The more I try to push my friend away, the more she clings.

Over time I learned how to cope with having a difficult friend. I am a workaholic. Keeping busy keeps her away. I have a strong faith that exorcises my demons. I try to outrun my demons by running 100 miles a month. I take massive doses of vitamin D over the winter months. I try to have something to look forward to. I find the support of family and close friends who have survived difficult times.

What can others do to help that haven’t experienced it? Listen without condemnation. Allow venting, even if it means listening to things you don’t want to hear. Don’t tell them to get over it even if it has been several years since they experienced the initial pain. Sometimes being a good friend is encouraging others to seek professional help.

Does that mean that I no longer get depressed? No. Sometimes when I go through hard times, my friend comes back to help me. A few months ago when I was having difficulties with my son, she visited me for awhile. I spent a long time staring off into space. This is very hard to explain, but when I stared off into space I felt peaceful. When you sink down low enough, sometimes you feel so empty that even the pain is gone. It is a very alluring trap. I had to pull myself out of that dark void. I feel sorry for those that struggle to break free.

Over the years, I learned a few things about my friend. It is okay to feel sad. Sometimes the negative feelings in our life motivate change. During difficult times and emotions, I tell myself that the feelings will pass. I also tell myself over and over that I have felt this way before and survived it. I know how to cope, how to get through.

I am trying hard to face all of the feelings that were locked away for so many years. Writing has been very therapeutic. Maybe if I write honestly about my experiences and struggles, then others won’t feel so all alone. I am okay. You will be okay too. Find a way to cope. Be understanding toward others that struggle. Maybe it will prevent one more unnecessary death.

Childhood Christmases in a (chest)nut shell

Childhood Christmases in my mind were perfect. Except for that one Christmas that we aren’t going to talk about today. It was as if everyone knew how difficult the rest of the year was so they did everything possible to make two days of the year perfect for my brothers and I, our birthdays and Christmas.

My grandparents had a small Thomas Kincade like house. It was warm and cozy on the inside while cold winter storms raged outside. Icicles hung from the porch and garage roofs dripping droplets of shattered ice onto the walkways, one last obstacle against the warmth that beckoned from within. Upon entrance, steam whisked away into the frigid air from the kettle of boiling potatoes next to the open door. The aroma from the ham cooling on the stove top next to the potatoes was intoxicating. Grandma had a counter full of food, homemade pies and cookies too. Every year grandma had a chest cold. She coughed and coughed though she didn’t seem to mind. Soon Aunt Grace showed up with her brother Harold. Aunt Grace always brought cranberry sauce and the fruitcake that my brothers and I didn’t like to eat.

I was always first to ask if we could open our presents right away. Grandma always said “no”, but we could look inside our stockings that were hung over the fireplace. My brothers and I each had a stocking that contained our favorite candy. There was a tiny stocking for grandpa hanging in the corner that held one peanut. What drew our attention the most though were the boxes of wrapped gifts under the tree. We were always peeking in hopes of finding a big box with our name on it. My grandparents cut their own Christmas tree from their tree farm. It stood on top of a large round end table in front of a big picture window. The tree was always lopsided in some way or another, but we never noticed. Grandma always covered the trees with tinsel and old fashioned ornaments.

After lunch, we all sat in our places that we sat in every year to open gifts. Uncle Harold sat in the rocking chair near the fireplace. He always laughed a lot on Christmas day. We didn’t see him a lot the rest of the year because he was always working. I sat on the love seat near the tree. In my memory, there was always 3 feet of snow on the ground with an inch of playful snow that swirled around in the wind. After we were done opening gifts, we would have a fire in the fireplace. Christmas day was the only day of the year that my grandparents used the fireplace.

We always stayed at my grandparents until it got dark. We played with our new toys. The men slept in their chairs. Aunt Grace always made sure that the dishes were done. Grandma put away the extra food and took down the fancy table with the red tablecloth. It was Christmas perfection in a nutshell. Even if Matt had a meltdown on Christmas day, I never remembered that. I couldn’t remember that. To me it was always perfect and magical.

Demons past, present, and future

Every couple of months my mom and I take the day off of work to spend the day together. This usually involves going out to eat for lunch and getting a massage. Last week we had our mother-daughter day. This time it included a back burner task. I decided that we needed to take in all of our old family videos to be saved onto a hard drive. Silly me, I thought that we could drop off the old VHS tapes and be out of there in a half an hour. We ended up being in the store over an hour talking about not only converting our old family videos but also eventually taking the old family photos in to preserve them.  I know that I have at least 3 large bins full of pictures to scan. This is going to be a big project.

It was at that point when it really hit me that my parents are getting old. It seems like yesterday that I was going through all of the old pictures with my grandma and great aunt Grace trying to put names to faces. All of my grandparents are gone now. I have only one great aunt left. My mom is the oldest living sibling. My parents are close to 70. Now is the time to work on this huge project with my mom.

It is also the reason that I don’t want my mom reading my blog. She is getting old. I don’t want this to be a reminder of the most difficult times in her life. She finally has a sense of freedom that she never had before. She doesn’t need to be reminded of the hard times. I don’t need to remind her of the day that she was trying to stop Matt from hurting himself during a meltdown. That was the day that she ended up with a black eye and bloody lip. It would be very painful for her to have to remember those days. It is very painful for me. Her life has been very difficult, I want her last years to be happy.

Matt also went to my daughter’s choir concert this past weekend. At one point he became separated from our mother. He became very anxious and agitated pushing through the crowd to find her. I calmly reassured him that he was alright, that mom was close by. But what happens when she is no longer with us? How will I not only get myself through it but help my brother through when he cannot process change? Every time I spend time with my mom I reassure her that I will help take care of Matt when she is gone. It will be alright, I can do this.

I decided that I will write a book about the journey of life with an autistic sibling. It will be hard. It will be painful. Next year I will dig out the old box of journals written during the darkest years. I will share it with you. I will start the process. Maybe I will even find out why I can’t relax. Why I always have to stay busy. Relaxing makes me nervous. Why does my skin crawl listening to relaxing piano music? Why does quiet meditation fill my soul with terror? Time to face my demons. I can do this.

Why do I torment myself with this? Do you know how easy it would be to delete this blog and walk away like none of this ever happened? But I can’t seem to let it go.

Let’s go back to the future

Today is the future day that Marty McFly time traveled to in the 1985 movie Back to the Future. I wonder if his character would be pleased to see how the future really turned out if he traveled here from 1985 today. We do have some pretty cool inventions since then like the cell phone, ipads, kindles, the internet, etc. Technology few of us thought would be possible back then. I can liken it to what it would be like going back hundreds of years and telling people about electricity or indoor plumbing. It would be hard to imagine. We still don’t fly around in cars, but can see the possibility of self driving cars for the future. Will we be telling our great-grandchildren about how we had to get a driver’s license someday? Maybe it will provide a solution to the problem of drunk driving.

I don’t think that Marty would like our hair and clothing today. Clothing and makeup do not reflect a neon geometrical style anymore and our hair is ho hum boring. If you were a teen in the 80’s, you would know what I mean. Big hair was fun! While the movie was right on with a few predictions, quite a few were way off. Where were you in 1985? Could you have predicted the future of the world much less the future of your own life? Were you even born? In 1985, I was younger than my youngest child is right now. My future life was a mystery. Who would I marry? Would I have children? What kind of career would I have?

The last 30 years have been a winding road. Most of it reflecting consequences, either good or bad, of the life that I have chosen. I became set in my beliefs over this time. I got married, had children, went to college, found hobbies, made and lost friends. Some things happened that I did not choose, this was also within the framework of who I would become.

What will happen over the next 30 years? My husband wants us to start planning for retirement. The next 30 years scare me. There are too many unknowns. I don’t want to think about getting old and declining physically and/or intellectually. I think I will probably have grandchildren. I will most likely enter into retirement. I will possibly face the loss of my spouse and have to face the possibility that I may not be a part of this future in 30 years. Sometimes I want to focus on the past instead, it is certain and known. But focusing on the past also makes me unsettled. Sometimes the good old days were not always good.

I try to focus on the here and now. I want to make myself the best person that I can be in the present so I can be a gift to those around me today and tomorrow. I am thankful to have all of you in my life as I am living it.

Where were you in 1985?