Fortune cookie wisdom #2

Blessed is he who makes his companions laugh.

I absolutely love this fortune cookie.

Growing up there wasn’t a lot of room in our house for happiness or laughter.

I was so serious, I rarely cracked a smile or a joke.

My youngest brother Luke was the household comedian. He would do outrageous things to try to make us laugh.

Then over time, Luke changed and so did I. Luke is now the serious one and I am the comedian. I don’t know when we exchanged the baton. I can’t explain it. How do roles change? Can the childhood caretaker become the adult mascot??

Did we just fill the roles that we needed to to survive? To function in dysfunction?

Now can we be who we really are? Who are we really? Are we who we were then or who we are now? Or is it a mixture of both?

Now when I get together with friends and family, I play the part of comedian. I love making people laugh. Life is too short to be serious all of the time.

I try to mix some of my serious blog posts with a pinch of laughter. There is nothing like adding a dose of humor to topics relating to death, despair, and disaster. It makes for some interesting post tags. Hmmm…death and humor?? Really now?

What is wrong with Alissa? I think she has a warped mind. I can hear your voices in my head already.

I don’t even know what genre I’m blogging in. Personal?? And everything else outside and in between. Real life? Your guess is as good as mine. You never know what you’re going to find.

I love following blogs that are able to mix seriousness with humor. It’s really difficult to master and even more difficult to consistently find in writings. They don’t seem to naturally mesh.

Why does it have to be one or the other?? Life is a mixed bag of sunshine, rain (blizzards), laughter, and tears. Most of the time the opposing spectrum cannot cross the center line. Tears from laughter. Sunshine and rain. Both are rare to find combined. Maybe that’s what makes a rainbow so beautifully profound yet elusive to capture. It is mysteriously bent outside of its natural boundaries like the top and bottom ends of the bell curve.

All of these deep thoughts over a fortune cookie about laughter…Geez…It’s not even funny..

 

Personality strengths

A couple of months back, my daughter Angel was reading a book about personality strengths. I hinted that the book would make a wonderful Christmas gift idea for you know who. I was happy when I saw the CliftonStrengths book wrapped up under the tree for me.

My daughter has some amazing strengths…Woo, Communication, and Positivity to name a few of her top strengths..Compared to her, my top strengths probably make me seem like I am serial killer material.

I took the test online. It asked questions like..Do you focus more on your strengths or your weaknesses? Do you calm or excite people? Hmmm, interesting. It took a lot of thought, but you weren’t given a lot of time to answer the questions.

Here are my top 5 strengths:

  1. Restorative
  2. Achiever
  3. Deliberative
  4. Analytical
  5. Intellection

Restorative is the desire to take things apart, find the problems, and fix them. Problem solving…I am a fixer. I love giving advice. It drives my family insane. I am not a big listener. If someone comes up to me with a problem, I immediately start to work on solving it for them. Sometimes I help people, sometimes I annoy them.

I am very deliberative. It usually takes a long time to make a decision. I look at everything from all angles and can see forward into the if and then of the decision making process. I am very analytical in recognizing when patterns change or are off in any way. I can see all of the minute little details.

When I was younger, I wanted to be a counselor. It was big on my heart to fix broken people. I learned over time that I couldn’t fix people. The problems with people were glaring to me. I felt critical…if only you would change your path…if only you would stop hurting yourself. I just wanted to fix all of the broken people and take away their problems. It is probably a good thing that I didn’t end up being a counselor.

I am a big time achiever. I have to feel like I accomplished something every single day. I am not calm. I cannot relax. I cannot sleep in. I can’t take a day off to do nothing. I want to be a calm person. I fantasize about living a carefree life. But the drum of the taskmaster beats steadily in my head and I live with it. I get shit done. I am happy that way.

I am an intellectual. This strength for me also includes a lot of time spent in introspection. I think, think, think all of the time. The gears in my head always keep grinding.

I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve. People don’t flock to me like I am the next best thing to whatever their best thing is. I am okay with that. I don’t need to be liked or even to feel popular for my well being. I don’t give a hoot about what people think of me. I would rather have deep conversations than talk to you about superficial fluff any day.

Let’s be honest…I am happy to be me.

Autism heard

Matt was a normal baby, very bright actually. He knew the alphabet and was saying simple words at age 2. But that all went away.

Even his birth was not a normal event. After crushing back labor, he entered the world with broken bones.

One day the words went away. He stopped talking. He started having nightmares. He screamed instead of sleeping. But I was too young to remember that.

How could such a brilliant mind be stunted? As an adult he can neither read nor write. He cannot solve simple math problems.

For a long time, Matt did not even talk. But the strangest thing happened. He started talking again. But not in the same way that you or I do. He got his pronouns all mixed up. Matt eat..he never referred to himself as I. He also has a speech impediment that makes him difficult to understand by those who did not know him well. This seemed to frustrate him in his younger years and he hit his head with his fist.

The things he said didn’t always make sense to us.

For awhile he repeated the same song in a monotone voice…hands on the table won’t come off, now the hands are stuck on the beard. He would scream if he saw a man with a beard.

But a man with a beard never hurt him.

He was also terrified of tires. He would kick the tires and throw stones at them if people showed up in their cars.

He also heard sticky noises. He would smack his lips to mock the sounds he was hearing. It was a disconcerting sound like chewing with your mouth open times ten.

He also heard the sound of girls laughing at him. Back in the day, he was sent out to recess with the rest of the kids. The older girls teased and mocked his bizarre behaviors. I was there and saw it but was helpless to do anything about it. I didn’t fit in with the other kids because they made fun of my brother. He was an easy target. It made me angry all of the time. But I wasn’t allowed to feel anger. Anger was wrong and it upset Matt. Angry emotions set Matt off and he would hurt himself, my mother, or me. So I withdrew to survive.

Recently Matt was taken off of his anti-psychotic medication due to liver strain. He started to hear voices again. This time the voices were telling him to hurt my niece. But not just hurt her, to kill her.

Fifteen years ago, Matt hurt my daughter. The voices told him to do it. He started to obsess about her, so we limited their contact at the time. It was on her 4th birthday. We didn’t think it would happen…

Afterwards, he muttered to the voices for hours and couldn’t be brought out of it. He didn’t respond when spoken to.

For many years after that my brother was not allowed around my children or any children. He became home bound and isolated from the general population. If it happened again, he was going to be locked up with the violently mentally ill. He started a new medication and silently gently the violent whispers faded away.

My mother asked lately if he was misdiagnosed. Is he schizophrenic too? Or is this some unusual symptom of autism? The doctor said that at this point it really doesn’t matter since it will be treated the same way.

Matt was violent before he hurt my daughter. If we were vigilant enough, we could see it coming on. His jaw would clench, his face contorted, his pupils constricted, and his ears turned bright red.

Sometimes after he hurt someone he seemed very upset about what he had done. Other times he would laugh. It was such an evil laugh that a few asked and we wondered if it was possible that he was demon possessed.

He struggled to differentiate between reality and what the voices were telling him. The voices are very frightening to him.

I think he always had auditory hallucinations, but couldn’t verbalize it to us.

It made me wonder…what if other violent autistic nonverbal people also hear the same voices but can’t tell anyone? How terrifying that would be. What if they think they are being hurt or are hearing a voice that tells them to hurt someone or themselves?

If I would go back to school to get a Master’s degree or PhD in Psychology, I think I would devote time researching this. I couldn’t find a lot of information online. But what is there to find if those who suffer cannot communicate?

This has been incredibly hard for my mom. She can’t mention my niece’s name around Matt. He obsesses about her. He is angry if he thinks that she likes the same things he does and talks about hurting her.

It is hard for us all. I love my brother and don’t want to see him suffer. I love my niece and I don’t want her to be hurt.

How long will it take for the medicine to work?

 

Life on the high C’s

I spent the last couple of days in supervisor training for work. For the class, we took the DISC personality assessment.

If you are not familiar with it, it goes a little like this. The D’s are the dominant type, that is why the D is the first letter on the assessment. The I’s are second because they sold the idea that they should be. They are the chatty, loud, and persuasive type. The S’s are the agreeable people, they are happy being wherever you put them because they are chill. Then the best is saved for last, the C’s (you know where I rank). The C’s are the type that follows rules and makes sure things are done right.

I am pretty sure that I was raised by two high S’s. You would think that it was an incredibly peaceful environment almost zen like. Sometimes I wonder what my parents were like before I was born. Did they sit around meditating for hours in perfect harmony? I’s sure that all fell apart after I was born. Then within the next 5 years my three younger brothers were born. The second born child, Matt, is severely autistic and was violent at times.

What happened to the strong S’s then? What happened to the peaceful people that went wherever the wind would blow them?

My dad shut down completely. He became depressed and silent. When the silence became too loud for him, he would roar. Then he would retreat into silence once more.

My mother turned her gentle supportive good-natured self into a D. It was unnatural. She hated it. She had to become forceful and direct. She confronted people. She became the ferocious mother bear with an injured cub. I feel like through this she really lost who she was because her hand in life forced her to be someone she was not.

Maybe it is no surprise that I am a high CD…if I were to break it down I am probably 80% C and 20% D.

To tell you the truth, sometimes I try to disguise myself as a S. Growing up in a house of S’s sure makes it easy to do. I know the language even though it is not my own. I even own a wide variety of bohemian clothing. Sometimes I pretend to be someone I am not so I don’t scare people off right away.

Seriously, who likes a high C or a CD mix? Who likes the rule follower?? Who? Oh, and I don’t follow just any rules. I certainly don’t set my cruise control at 55 mph in a 55 zone. Seriously, I don’t want to be controlled by cruise control! The D in me always urges me to drive faster. I don’t have time to drive slow!

I follow my own rules. It is very important to me that everyone in the house turns off the lights if they leave the room. Did you turn off the lights? Sinner! You are wasting electricity. My husband says, “Alissa, how much electricity do you think your hot tub uses?”

How many people like the blunt, direct truth delivered sometimes without tact? Who likes a stubborn rigid all or nothing thinker?

How many people like it when I clean up after them when they are not done eating or using an item?? Oh, I won’t accept any help either because I am the only one that does things right. Then I get mad that no one helps me.

How does it feel to walk with mud on your shoes in a cleaning freak’s house? How does it feel to watch your neighbor run 20 miles around the neighborhood on a Saturday morning while you watch TV in your pj’s? Does it make you feel just a little bad about yourself?

I continuously have a harsh task master in my head chanting the mantra ‘Get it done! Get it done! Get it done!’ at all times. I can’t sit still without thinking about the things that I need to do.

I never miss a workout when I just don’t feel like it. My calendar is booked through October.

Sometimes I am as jealous of your ability to relax as you are of my drive to accomplish challenging tasks.

My intensity, my discipline, my drive sometimes repels more people than it attracts.

Good thing for my sense of humor!

That’s my real life navigating as a high C.

I absolutely love being me!

 

 

 

 

 

Another nightmare…

Last night I had another nightmare…

I dreamed that I was pregnant.

As a woman in my 40’s (AND the mother of 3 teenagers!!!!!!!), that is my worst nightmare.

My 13 year old daughter is currently going through a rebellious stage. She currently hates me. Yesterday she mentioned that she likes her brother more than me. Trust me, that is bad! Seriously, what did I do?? That’s right! I breathe. I’m annoying. I wouldn’t understand.

She told me this past weekend that she is a psychopath because of something she read on the internet. Of course, from a very reliable source.  Oh, and a few of her friends are psychopaths too. WTH??

Her worry over it tells me that there is zero possibility. That and my psychology degree. That, my psychology degree, and that she couldn’t hurt a flea. Trust me, I know THIS..

I only know one psychopath, my best friend Cindy’s ex-husband. He started another family while he was married to her. His oldest son was born a few months before their first son was born. He did crazy things like drive into a tree so he had an excuse not to visit his girlfriend after his wife gave birth.

Thankfully, I only had the pleasure of meeting her ex once!

Maybe she should start a blog.

Cindy is happy now. She married a wonderful man named Ted. They had teenagers in the house when she got pregnant in her 40’s. My nightmare is her dream come true.

I have to remember that this will pass..

Maybe someday I will even laugh about it.

Yes, I’m certain that I will….when my kids call me someday with teenager issues…while I am out traveling the world..

 

24. Family dynamics

Day 24: Describe your family dynamic of your childhood vs. your family dynamic now.

Then:

My parents were married back then and still are now, however there was always a lot of conflict between them. My mom was the breadwinner and the one who did a great majority of the household chores.

I was the firstborn. I was overly responsible, a caregiver, a confidante of my mother, and a problem solver. I felt as if I was always an adult and never a child. I was very serious, mature, moody, and intense. I strongly sided with my mother and found myself playing the part of judge picking sides with either of my youngest two brothers.

The world revolved around my autistic brother Matt. The family centered around his care, wants, and needs. If he wanted to go somewhere, we went. If he decided to stay home, we would stay. Everything was about him, the rest of us took the back burner.

Mark was the invisible child. He didn’t rock the boat. He was quiet, serious, honest, stoic, and hard working. He received attention for his work ethic, otherwise he was totally forgotten. He didn’t seem to have feelings, except the anger and depression that manifested in his teen years. He strongly sided with my dad and it was his job to convince my mom to stay when she wanted to leave.

Luke was the clown and instigator. He demanded attention and refused to let Matt have it all. He did wild and crazy things without consequence because my parents were too worn out to handle it. He rocked the boat every opportunity that he could. He strongly sided with my mother and against Mark and my dad.

The family dynamic was very dysfunctional. We did not work together as a team. The environment was constantly stressful.

Now:

Fast forward things a couple of years….and ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’ falls in love with ‘Good Will Hunting’. Or if you aren’t familiar with those old movies…the little girl who thought that dysfunction was normal met the little boy without a daddy. We fell in love and got married.. We had no idea what normal or healthy was, but decided to work towards it anyway.

Not long after…we had 3 children..

Our firstborn Angel is our beauty both inside and out. She is overly responsible, honest, and extremely optimistic with a winning personality too. She is a big time people person and would make a great supervisor.

Our middle child, Alex, is the one that rocks the boat. He is honest to a fault. He is smart with a high emotional intelligence. He is not a people person, but can read people well. Sometimes he likes to cut corners, but is willing to work hard if he needs to.

Our youngest, Arabella, is an intellectual. She is very book smart, but can’t seem to read people. She likes people, but also likes to argue. Other than that, she is very easy going.

As a family, I think our dynamics are very healthy. Sure, sometimes there is squabbling. But compared to how Paul and I grew up, our kids have it made.

I guess we are pretty normal…Whatever that is..

 

My soles are worn thin

It seems I haven’t gotten too far on my travel series yet. Maybe tomorrow..

This past weekend I shared with you a dream that I had about having to run a marathon I am not ready for. I think the marathon symbolizes the second half of my life. I looked down to see that my soles on my shoes were totally worn out. The reality is that the first half of my life is over. Then I noticed that at the beginning of this marathon I was wearing shoes that fit but they were on the wrong foot. I don’t want to start the second half of my life on the wrong foot. I request a new pair of shoes, this time they fit but they are uneven. I won’t be able to run the race very long wearing these shoes. I think this is symbolic of parenting. My children will start leaving the house in a few months, things won’t be the same (uneven), and soon I will be actively taking these shoes off. The last shoe brought out is the most comfortable but it doesn’t fit yet. Ah, retirement and living without the stress of working and actively parenting. But it is going to be a long time before this shoe fits me.

I took comfort early on in the dream marathon that Gu and broccoli were at the beginning of the race. I chose to go down the path of exercise and healthy living. Not only does being an exercise fanatic ward off my depression, anxiety, and stress. It makes me think that I will live longer and healthier. Because if I really think about it, which is something that I try to avoid doing, I am terrified of death. We are not going to exist forever like we do now. Even though I have a firm faith in God, I am still absolutely terrified of my own demise. What if I am wrong? What if there is nothing out there? Forget the physical pain of taking your last breathe. What if there is only an empty void? A void like the one before our existence. I just can’t bear the emptiness of that. I want to think that I am going to see my loved ones again, even if I am wrong.

When I started this dream marathon, I saw people wander off the path before it began. I went to sleep that night worried that my neighbor in her mid 40’s was not going to make it. She did pass away during the night. She was one of the people that left the race early before it really even began for her. Another thing that I noticed was that the path looked straight and the weather was fine. I seemed to have the tools I needed to run the race but I couldn’t see very far ahead of me. I needed to figure out what shoes to wear, what my role is going to be in the second half of my life. I wanted to wait to start the marathon before I figured that out, but I ran out of time.

I suppose at this point it is pretty obvious that I was a psychology major in college. LOL