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.

Life at 50 below

The last few days the wind chills were 50 below. That is a whole whopping 80 degrees below freezing. Have you ever wondered what it is like to live in a cold climate? Maybe you already do and we can commiserate together.

It is not terribly unusual for us to face subzero temperatures in a normal Wisconsin January. We are so used to it that the schools only close if it is 35+ below zero and we get over 6 inches of snow.

This week was rather extreme though even for us.

On Monday, we received a foot of snow. On Tuesday, the wind chills were around 25 below. Paul was in a hurry to plow out the driveway before it got cold out. He had some problems with the plow on the 4 wheeler and was asked to plow out a friend that just had surgery and my parents. After Paul got the plow fixed, he was able to plow everyone else out before the wind chill warning.

The kids had off of school Monday, Wednesday, and today.

Tuesday night Arabella and I had play practice. I drove to practice on the highway through the blowing and drifting snow. The snowplows put salt on the roads but it was too cold to melt the ice properly. There were patches of black ice on the highway that took my car towards the ditch. The ditches were already littered with cars and I passed a truck that just went in. I knew this because his lights were still on. I heard that there was a tow ban.

We made it home safely. I wore my goose down jacket, hat, mittens, and two sweaters. My son had a few friends over and they came over without coats and in shorts. They are so cool!

I was planning on working out Wednesday morning, but stayed home to man the fires instead. We have a very large old house. We wanted to keep the house warm without spending a fortune.

Although I sometimes want to spend more time at home, there is nothing glamorous about being trapped in your house when you don’t want to be. I decided to clean my kitchen washing the refrigerator and microwave.

The kids complained about how bored they were and I threatened to tell them about winters in the 1980’s. I wondered how our ancestors made it through the winter without modern conveniences like electricity and heat.

I kept the fires going all afternoon, stoking them every 20 minutes. I curled up on the couch with my cat and wrote a couple more chapters in my book. I listened to the wind howl and whip around the fresh snow. The sunshine glared brightly making it seem warm outside, tempting me to be lured out in the cold.

I looked at pictures on Facebook of tropical places, like Texas. A friend from Texas showed pictures of herself running outside in the frigid temps of 40 degrees. Jealousy stabbed me. To be able to run outside again! I would’ve been happy to be able to make it to the gym. But our world was shut down, even the postal workers didn’t deliver mail yesterday.

I went to sleep late last night checking to make sure that the dog was safely inside in his bed. I worried about the farmers and their livestock. The schools were closed and multiple businesses too. I even heard on Facebook that in WI some of the bars were closed.

I awoke early to the smell of smoke. Was my house on fire? There was a purple haze lingering in the air and a strong smell of smoke. We turned on the industrial dehumidifier to suck out the smoke which caused the boiler that heats our pool to error out and shut down from the cold air pouring in on it. We turned on the fans to get the smoke out. One of the vents was frozen and Paul used a small heater to thaw it out. The vent for the dehumidifier froze open. Paul ran outside to shove some old towels in the vent to keep out the cold air which caused thawing water to drip on electrical cords and outlets.

My parents lost power in their house today. Their house cooled down quickly which is tough since our furnaces cannot keep up running constantly when the power is on. I can’t wait to get our gas bill for this polar vortex.

It was another cold day, but I had to venture out to the gym. Thankfully it was open, although they reduced their hours.

Is it almost spring yet??

Although I complain, there is something beautiful about winter. There is nothing like curling up by the fire on a very cold day snuggled in blankets. The snow on the trees is breathtaking. There aren’t any bugs.

This weekend we are going to have a heat wave. It will be a balmy 40 degrees. Time to finally dust off those cross country skis! The guys will be heading to the lake to ice fish.

We are hardy people, we will make it through..

 

 

 

Speaking instead of talking about it

Last week I had a meeting scheduled with someone from the local autism chapter. In a couple of months, I am scheduled to be on a panel as a sibling talking to parents about my story. What does this mean?

I am going to be given an hour to talk to parents of autistic children on how it feels to be a sibling. An hour! I will write my own presentation where I will speak in front of parents for 45 minutes and then have a 15 minute question and answer segment.

I did not know that I would be doing public speaking. Alone! In front of an audience. She also asked if I felt comfortable being recorded. Absolutely! I have no fear in doing any of this. In all honesty, I always saw myself doing this some day.

I also told her that I started writing a book about my experience as a sibling. She thought it was a great idea and also thought that there was a niche out there for a book like mine. No one else is doing this. She said she knew a publisher that would eat my book up if I decided that I wanted to publish my story. She said that she could also link my public speaking to this blog and would do what she could to promote my book.

She said that in previous videos, she received up to 7,000 views. People just love personal stories. This is where my fear started. I am not afraid to be a public speaker. I am not afraid to talk to strangers about my very personal experiences. I think it is powerful and moving. But, and here is the big but, I am afraid to tell my story to people I know.

I am afraid of getting more followers. I am afraid to put myself out there. I am rather paranoid about being found in all reality. That scares me. I’m not even sure why. Who cares, really? I won’t let anyone in. I have never told my friends my story, maybe just bits and pieces. My friends have asked to follow my blog and I told them that it is too personal.

I refuse to use my real name. But it is getting bigger. It is starting to snowball and I’m afraid I can’t stop it. But the question remains, why do I want to stop it? Isn’t it time to let people in?

This is my struggle, I want to tell my story but I don’t want anyone to know about it. I don’t know why this scares me more than public speaking. You would think I would want to talk about it with friends and family before speaking about it to strangers.

Has anyone else ever experienced this? How do I get over this fear?

Doubt

Would you be willing to hurt people you are closest to in order to help strangers?

Fear that is toxic. Anxiety whispers an endless echoing rhyme. Worry incessant. Doubt creeps in like a vine that entwines the wrestling demons running around in my mind.

I’m not sure I can do it. It’s too risky. Who do I think I am? Do I really think this will be a bestseller? Do I really think that my poison will be a tonic? Do I really think that my story is going to make a difference, change things?

Really, Alissa, you couldn’t even save your own family.

The thoughts painfully pierce my poorly healed wounds. The scabs tear away and bleed onto my parched paper skin. The memories scratch at the demons inside. They wreck havoc on my mind. Tears slip from my eyes.

Now I understand why there aren’t a lot of siblings telling their stories. I get it now. It is too painful. If the story is going to be effective, I have to be brutally honest. But that honesty is going to hurt, not just myself but other people.

Tomorrow I have a meeting with a lady from the local autism group. She wants me to be on a panel representing siblings of autistic children in front of a group of parents. There are not a lot of programs available for siblings because they are ‘normal’. I think that is very tragic if a child needs help and doesn’t receive it because they aren’t special enough.

My goal is to write a book about my story as a sibling. I want to advocate for siblings. My thought was to write a book and donate a certain amount of the proceeds to go towards helping siblings that are struggling through support groups and therapy, etc. Just how it is all going to come together is not totally known to me at this time. I would be willing to donate my time and money to help other’s struggling through what I’ve experienced.

Maybe tomorrow I will have some answers. But as for today, I never want to write again. I want to delete my blog. I want to throw the book that I started into the trash. I feel unsettled, almost angry and sad. Restless.

I am at a crossroad of sorts. Will it make a difference? Am I just picking at scabs and bleeding out into my words? Will it heal me? Or will it hurt me and those I love? Should I just let it go?

Will I be able to help others? Am I being delusional that I can make a difference? Would it be worth it if my story can help someone contemplating suicide if  my family turns away from me? Maybe my vision is too grandiose?

I am absolutely terrified, but I think it will be worth it.

What if I don’t help anyone and end up alienating myself from my family? Do I have the strength and courage to do what needs to be done?

I have my doubts.

Goal 6: Try new things/explore different interests/be fun/enjoy lifelong learning.

When I was younger I was afraid to try new things. Now that I am older, I long for something new.

When I was younger, I never thought I was good enough or smart enough. But being older, I don’t really care if I make a fool out of myself.

This morning I went to an exercise class for the first time. I was the only one in the front row, all the other spots were taken. Front and center for everyone to watch me make mistakes. But I don’t care anymore. Besides I am old enough to know that everyone else is really concerned about themselves and how they look. If they make fun of me, shame on them.

Everyone has been very welcoming though. I took a strength training class for the first time this week and everyone introduced themselves and helped me set up my equipment. Someone even cleaned and put away some of my stuff. They even gave me helpful suggestions and asked if I was coming back.

I have to admit, I’ve been rather shocked lately about the kindness of other people.

I’ve been trying new things, like exercise classes. I also bought an Indian cookbook. I  tried making a few recipes this week. They turned out okay, although it has been a real challenge to find the ingredients I need.

The most exciting new adventure for me this year has been to start writing a book. I am still terrified about this! I’m not sure how it will turn out, but I keep pecking away at it every day.

I don’t have to be perfect nor do I even need to be good to enjoy trying new things. It took me a long time in life just to learn that.

 

Goal 3: Start the process of writing a book

For a very long time, I was angry about the things that happened to me in my childhood. Why did my family struggle so much when other families had it all together? I think it was a miracle to survive with most of my sanity intact.

What is the purpose of struggle? What are we supposed to do with what we have been through?? Personally, I believe by successfully surviving my obligation is to reach out and help others going through similar circumstances. I have always felt this way but I was never sure how to do it.

Blogging has been a wonderful way to process my experiences in life honestly. But I found it to be lacking. I don’t feel like I have been able to reach my target audience so to say. They haven’t found me and I haven’t found them either. Maybe there are few that can relate to my life story. Where is everybody? Why aren’t you writing about it? Maybe it just takes a long time to process it like it did for me.

I told myself that once I retired I would write my story. I always put it off into some future place. Then I found myself without a job.

I’ve tried to find books even other blogs of people out their with similar stories and found nothing. How can there be a void? Nothing?? I decided that I am going to be the one to write the story. I don’t think that it will be easy, but I do think it will be worthwhile.

I am going to write the story of a sibling growing up in the 1980’s with a violent autistic brother. This was a time when autism wasn’t an epidemic. This was a time of very limited services. This was a time where my mother was blamed for his violent behavior. This was the time where I was expected to give up my childhood to be a caregiver. I also had two other younger siblings and an abusive father which will be woven into the story.

So I will be processing more journals from my childhood in the weeks to come and compiling everything together to start the process.

I also have some exciting news. My new friend Sue, who is a child psychologist that works with autistic children specifically, put me in touch with someone from her agency. I will be meeting with this person at the end of the month. I have been asked to be put on a panel as a sibling to work with parents. I don’t have all of the details yet, but I feel like this is a huge step forward in being able to help others who are going through what I have been through.

I am very excited about where this could lead even if I am only able to help one person through my experiences. Struggle does have a purpose, I just needed to find mine.

 

 

Goals for 2019

**I thought I published this post a couple of days ago, but it was still in my drafts.**

I have never been one for New Year’s resolutions. I think that we should all have goals where we strive to be better people year round. But January is a great time of year, as we put a new calendar on the wall, to reflect on what happened over the past year and to plan for growth in the new year.

As you can see by my post from yesterday, last year was a year of great change in my life. Going into this year, originally my goal was for stability and stagnation. I have a hard time adjusting to change. It is even bothering me that today on WP my publish button is a new color. Seriously! Why?

But I also realize that if I want to grow as a person, it is going to involve change. I don’t want to be the same person that I was 5, 10, or 20 years ago.

So I created a list of goals that I have for myself and I will expound on them over the next couple of days…

  1. Run a 50k/work out more.
  2. Spiritual growth.
  3. Start the process of writing a book.
  4. Worry less/let go/learn how to relax and handle stress better.
  5. Work on documenting the family history and preserving the family pictures with my mother.
  6. Try new things/explore different interests/be fun/lifelong learning.
  7. Finish strong with parenting and be the life partner that is enjoyable to be with.
  8. Try not to be too hard on myself.
  9. Work hard, but take time to rest.
  10. Make peace with the past.

A new journey has begun…

My last day of work

Friday was my last day of work. I thought that I would be feeling down like I did most days leading up to the last day. Instead I felt relief, and a lightness of spirit. I did end up inviting some close friends over that evening. Two out of three couples came out for my pity party. Two out of three ain’t bad for short notice over the holidays.

I invited out the brewer and his wife, the psychologist, whom I will call Rhett and Sue. Sue told me that she gave my name to her boss as someone who was interested in talking to the parents and siblings of autistic children. I still feel interested in helping people through similar experiences that I’ve had. I want to write a book. But first I want to go through all of my journals. It is going to be a slow and tedious process.

We also invited over Tim and Cara. Cara just wrote a book and now that I have more time, I offered to read it critically. She encouraged me to write my own book. Right now Cara’s job is also on the line. She would love to be a full time author. Paul and I thought of starting a sailing business with Tim and Cara. Paul is working on his captain’s license as we speak. It’s crazy, but we are thinking of starting another business together.

I’m not sure where the future leads right now, but I know that these other couples are involved in it in some way. We had a lot of fun Friday night and did a lot of laughing. I felt like whatever happens everything would be alright.

And so the journey starts…

New beginnings

Change is hard, but it is time for new beginnings.

With each and every day, it has become easier to adjust to losing my job. There are some positive things about it. I will have less stress from work. Plus I am planning on taking some time off to do all of the things I have been putting off since I didn’t have time because I was working over the past decade.

Just think of all the things I could do with an extra 130 hours a month!

I am planning on spending time with my parents putting together a genealogy record for my family. It seems like yesterday that I was walking around cemeteries and talking to family, since deceased, with my grandma. Next year grandma will be gone 10 years and now is the time to start the process with my parents. I also want to take all of the old family photos and put them into digital format which is a huge undertaking.

I want to write two books, one about growing up with a violent autistic sibling and the other about Paul’s journey from rags to riches. I don’t care if they are bestsellers, I just want the family history documented if only for future generations. Maybe I’ll take some writing classes. At the very least, I will have time to read a few books.

I want to double my time at the gym. I want to be ready to run a 50k.

I want to take a photography class and at the minimum take more photos.

I want to learn how to cook different ethnic dishes. I want to eat healthier. Maybe I will brew my own beer.

I want to spend more time with my children. Alex is doing so much better, but there still have been a few bumps in the road. Arabella wants me to audition for the next community theater show with her. I want to be a better singer and dancer.

I am starting to let things go. My staff and I had a combined 20 years of experience that we used as a team to handle operations. It is hard to hand over operations to a staff I deem as inexperienced. Although it is terribly frustrating, it is nice to hand over all of the resulting customer service issues to them. It’s not my problem anymore.

Today my daughter Angel’s beta fish that she got when she was in high school died. Now she is a junior in college. I flushed the last remaining shred of her childhood good-bye. But I will be able to spend more time with her when she is home and take more trips out to see her when she is gone.

Change is hard, but it is time for new beginnings.

 

 

Under construction

I just wanted to let everyone know that I am planning to take some time off to make some changes to my WP site. I am getting email! Now you can contact me and tell me how wonderful I am, or that I suck…Welcome to the 1990’s Alissa!

Anyway, my site will be under construction and quite frankly so will I.

This weekend hell week starts at the theater. So I will be busy every night at the theater getting ready for the big production. I won’t have a lot of time to write and reflect.

Plus, this is awful, but I really haven’t started Christmas shopping yet. Hello December!

So bear with me if dust collects on my site faster than the snow falls in WI. I will be back once some of this craziness ends with a new and improved site (and hopefully a new and improved me).