Mixed Bag

Everyone is a “mixed bag.”

That’s one of my mom’s sayings when we are discussing someone in our lives that we love but is also problematic at times. She says that that person is a mixed bag. I suppose, though, that everyone is a mixed bag, just that what they are mixed with, and how much there is of each bag ingredient, changes with each person. The more I think about it, really, that mixture can change in the same person hour to hour, minute to minute. I’m probably overthinking a very simplistic comment, but that’s what I do. Still, it’s a useful comment, when someone you love, or someone you live with (and yes, sometimes those are the same) repeatedly does something that makes you so crazypants that you want to scream and throw plates of food at the wall; it can always be explained away with the statement that he or she “is a mixed bag.”

This phrase seems to be most commonly used when referring to spouses. I suppose I should put a disclaimer like, “most often but not limited to” here. Or the qualifier, “In my limited experience…” But isn’t that what this whole blog is? My experience? It’s a given, so before you read anything write, put in, “In my limited experience” before everything you read so you don’t get all worked up about my not giving you any kind of statistically accurate data. Anyhoo (another of my mom’s phrases), (Insert “In my limited experience” here – see, the first one is a freebee I help you with) the whole “mixed bag” attribute usually is someone’s spouse. Okay, actually, husbands. Yes, in my family, most often, the mixed bags are our husbands. There, I said it. Additionally, there’s no need to go on about how wives are “mixed bags,” too, because that is certainly the case, except our bags are more color coordinated and, well, it’s my blog anyway.

Husbands become more of what they are as people when they turn into fathers. You see the parts of them that may have been there all along, but fatherhood is like a big lighted magnifying glass over every part of their personality that you were willing to overlook before. It might be, in part, because we become the Momma Bear and start growling, “Look mister, I might have been willing to let that crap go when it was just me, but don’t you dare pull that crap with the kid around!” Or maybe it’s just the lack of sleep on everyone’s part, who knows? It just seems that the things that might have been endearing in the early marriage years become maddeningly frustrating in the later parenting years. For example, absent-mindedness. Absent-mindedness might have been kinda cute, like the absent-minded professor, or explained away in light of some brilliance in other areas or even learning disabilities. In fact, helping to write sticky-note reminders or put extra things on the calendar, or even send reminder texts to your spouse wasn’t as big a deal when it was just the two of you. But the minute you bring in the care-taking of a fresh new little (yes, “little” is now a noun), then it’s not cute anymore. And the more littles you add, the less cute it becomes.

On my part, I readily admit that if I ask my hubby to do Thing A, and he does Things B, C, D, E, and F, and then I get mad he didn’t do Thing A, and he says, “Why can’t you be grateful for all the effort I did doing Things B, C, D, E, and F for YOU????” I really can’t because all I can think about is HE DIDN’T DO THE THING I ASKED HIM TO DO. In fact, Thing B could be repainting the house, Thing C could be buying me a new car, Thing D, could be reorganizing the pantry, Thing E could be paying a masseuse to come to the house each weekend for a month, and Thing F could be annual passes to Disneyland, and I am still going to be mad he didn’t call in the refill on medication that he agreed to do earlier that day. That’s me being a “mixed bag.” (See, I included myself, even though it is my blog)

Maybe if could adopt my mom’s attitude fully, I could appreciate the B through F things more. Maybe if I could, instead of getting so upset about Thing A not getting done, I could just say, “Well, he’s a mixed bag!” I suppose that would be called acceptance. If I could accept the mixed bagness of my hubby, of all people, of myself, then I would be less frustrated, less angry, and less wishing things were different.

I would be more at peace.

Peaceful…

Accepting…

Nah, I don’t think I can do that, to be honest.

I guess I’m just a mixed bag.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“I bet you were always told you were too sensitive growing up.”

I started private yoga lessons last week. Aside from being overweight and needing exercise, I found out recently I have a slipped disk and need to work with my body to decrease the amount of pain I am usually in. My general fear of taking classes with people along with my general fear of doing something wrong that will cause more pain and injury led me to go with private lessons. I’ve known my instructor, J, for many years in another capacity, so I wasn’t as terrified as I would have been with a complete stranger. J is very gentle and intuitive, much more forgiving of my imperfections than I would ever be of myself.

I’m not sure what I expected, other than moving my body in ways that I don’t normally move it. J teaches more than just how bodies should move. First of all, there’s a helluva lot of breathing! All different kinds of breathing (who knew??)! And there are chakras and energy and gratitude and more breathing…

J says I’m an empath. I said that was cool because Counselor Troi was my favorite Star Trek TNG character (and she got that, because she’s just as geeky as I am, which makes her even more awesome). Apparently empaths often go into the helping profession because they can sense/feel what someone is going through. They are also often very creative. So my first degree is in art and my second is in art therapy so this all fits. The problem comes when an empath can’t create an emotional protective barrier and just feels everything around her (yeah, it’s gender specific – I’m talking about myself so it’s okay). She had a much better way of explaining it, but at this point I really don’t remember all the fancy words she used. J asked if I have a hard time in malls and places crowded with lots of people (I do!). She also said, “I bet you were always told you were too sensitive growing up” (I was!). Hubby used to always tell me that I need to be less like velcro and more like teflon; everything sticks to me. But it’s not just that everything sticks to me, everything is absorbed by me.

Okay, here is someone who did a MUCH better job at describing this than I am:

“Being an empath is when you are affected by other people’s energies, and have an innate ability to intuitively feel and perceive others. Your life is unconsciously influenced by others’ desires, wishes, thoughts, and moods. Being an empath is much more than being highly sensitive and it’s not just limited to emotions. Empaths can perceive physical sensitivities and spiritual urges, as well as just knowing the motivations and intentions of other people. You either are an empath or you aren’t. It’s not a trait that is learned. You are always open, so to speak, to process other people’s feelings and energy, which means that you really feel, and in many cases take on the emotions of others. Many empaths experience things like chronic fatigue, environmental sensitivities, or unexplained aches and pains daily. These are all things that are more likely to be contributed to outside influences and not so much yourself at all. Essentially you are walking around in this world with all of the accumulated karma, emotions, and energy from others.” http://themindunleashed.org/2013/10/30-traits-of-empath.html

Now I want to go re-watch every episode of Star Trek TNG with this new insight and compare myself to Counselor Troi.

So I am a crier, and I feel everything very deeply, which is blessing and curse, depending on what moment I happen to be visiting in my life. My greatest challenge, in my opinion, has been being an empath and a parent. I have always felt what my kids are feeling; this is great when they are infants, not so great when they get older. I will write more about LARP Boy in later posts, but right now I am thinking of (from now on to be referred to as) Drama Girl.

Drama Girl is 17. For her entire 17 years on this earth I have referred to her as my “over-saturated child.” There is nothing muted or pastel about her; everything she does, everything she says, and everything she feels is as intense as one can be. When she hit high school this continued to be who she was, but along with it came the simultaneous pushing away and clinging that comes with adolescence. Others will say to me, “Why do you let her get to you?” I never really knew how to answer that succinctly until now. Now I can say, “Because I am an empath!” and everyone except my yoga teacher will look at me like I am crazy.

Armed with this new information, I tried an experiment the other morning. Most mornings and afternoons I drive Drama Girl to or from school. Between the two of us, that is a lot of energy to be confined to a car (side note – my whole life I have had trouble driving in cars with high energy people, and now I know why). When things go well, they go really well, and we laugh and sing and listen to soundtracks or Welcome To Nightvale or just talk about stuff. When things don’t go well, it’s so painful I have to work to concentrate on driving without crying. So, back to my experiment… we were in the car, and Drama Girl seemed upset, and she told me about something painful that was going on  between her and her best friend. She told me about it, then told me not to say anything, then said she didn’t want to discuss it anymore.

As I was driving, I wondered if I could focus my attention on her energy, and there it was! It was as if waves of intensity were coming off of her like radiation from the sun, and they were all coming my way. Maybe it was my imagination, maybe I was trying to make sense of what I was feeling, maybe I am overly influenced by this new knowledge given to me by J, but it sure seemed real.

In many ways Drama Girl is a typical teenager, but this “over-saturation” on her part, along with her instinct and ability to be an emotional support for her friends, makes me wonder if she is an empath, too.

Or, maybe she’s just a teenage girl.

Hmmmmm…

Either way, J’s suggestion that I work on creating a protective bubble of sorts around me so that I don’t absorb all the emotions of everyone around me, sounds like a really good idea, even if it simply makes my ability to survive Drama Girl’s teenage years increase in probability. My time spent with her is like walking through an emotional minefield without a hazmat suit (that may be totally the wrong kind of suit for walking through a minefield, really, I have no idea). I know the minefield metaphor has been used, as has “walking on eggshells,” so I’ve come up with my own.

“Emotional Whiplash.”

Things are fine one minute, then tragic the next. I’m the best-mom-ever, then I can’t say anything right. I am generous, and then I am not even a provider for her basic needs. It’s a good day, and then it’s ruined. And there I am, apparently not even wearing the right kind of seat belt, because I am injured every single time. I cannot deflect the emotional impact coming my way, those waves of intensity come at me and I absorb them all, feeling them break me down and leaving me, well, exhausted.

So this is my goal, build the bubble (not a wall!), and protect myself, I guess? Still figuring it out.

Going to go watch Star Trek now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I actually can’t math.

It appears the common usage of the English language allows for nouns to be used as verbs and adjectives. I think it’s part of the whole “Reduce-Reuse-Recycle” thing, a “green” method of wording (see what I did there?), and to conserve and reuse words rather than using new ones. Or, maybe it’s that people are lazy and used to Twitter. But anyway, as wordy as I am always being accused of being when I write, I actually like it. I use it often. For example, “I can’t adult today” or “I’m not up to adulting” seems to express so much in so few words. And my son, known from now on as LARP Boy (I don’t want to use his real name and he’s very much into LARPing right now), will shorten things even more. For example, when asking him why he is doing something, he will answer, “Because reasons,” and if he can’t quite get out what he’s trying to say, he will simply say, “Words.” These responses don’t give me the information I am looking for, but they do, quite literally, express an answer or an explanation.

Quick note: LARP is Live Action Role Play. It’s a 48 hour event that mixes Dungeons and Dragons and The Walking Dead, but more on that in a future post.

So, now that I’ve set all that up, what I really want to say is, I can’t math. Not “math is hard” or “I struggle with math concepts” or “I am not good at math,” I mean I actually can’t math. See how all encompassing that phrase is? It really works!

I actually looked it up about five years ago and I think I have Dyscalculia. Here’s the definition: A difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic, such as difficulty in understanding numbers, learning how to manipulate numbers, and learning facts in mathematics. It is generally seen as a specific developmental disorder. Now, looking back, my life would have turned out so differently if some teacher along the way had seen this and, instead of ridiculing me in front of the class, got me some help. Hindsight and all… I’d spend hours doing work that should not have taken me so long, I’d have to redo work because I spent so much time making all the numbers into drawings it became unreadable, but using art to cope was what I have always done. When I was in early elementary school, I had to write standards for something I did wrong. I don’t remember what it was, but I had to write something like, “I will not ______________ at school anymore” 1,000 times. I wrote it out 300 times at school, and then I wrote it out 500 times at home, and when I got back to school I threw out the pages with the 300 sentences. It seemed perfectly sound judgment to me – because 300 is less than 500, why wouldn’t I keep the one with more sentences. IT NEVER OCCURRED TO ME TO COMBINE THEM. It’s not that I didn’t understand how to combine them, but that concept just didn’t occur to me, UNTIL  someone pointed it out, and it was too late so I had to write them over again.

Here is what trying to math is like for me. Imagine someone is writing a word problem on a dry erase board, but it’s a magic board that automatically erases for you when you are done. Except the board isn’t working correctly, and it’s erasing words so quickly that only two words can be seen at a time. Imagine you also have very poor working memory, so you need to have everything written down to remember it. You are watching the person writing the word problem but words keep disappearing shortly after they’re written, and, at the end, the person says, “Okay, tell me what I just wrote.” And you can’t, it’s gone. Maybe this isn’t a good metaphor. My point is my brain is teflon with numbers. I have to read the same math problem over and over and over, and it just slides off my brain. I look at it, and then I look for it in my brain, and it never stuck so it’s gone, I can’t even think about it. I’m like that with just numbers, too; those people who remember how much something costs so they know if they are paying too much? I’m not those people. In fact, the minute after I’ve looked at how much something costs, I’ve already forgotten it. I can edit a report or an essay or an IEP  – writing is not a problem – but anything with numbers is a problem.

I have avoided going out to restaurants with friends because of my intense anxiety knowing there would be a time to figure out how to split the bill or figure out the tip. Now, of course, there are apps for that (OH THANK HEAVENS FOR THOSE), but I still experience some anxiety when I go out to eat. I feel better if LARP Boy is with me, since he’s a math wiz and actually ENJOYS figuring those things out. I’m pretty sure he’s my kid.

Not being able to math dictated what college I went to, because I could not do the math required to apply to certain colleges. It affects me every time my hubby asks me how many miles are on my car, or when I look at my paycheck, or I’m deciding which coupon to use at Joann’s or Macy’s (I just pile them in front of the cashier and ask them to pick). It’s also really embarrassing, to the point of humiliating, sometimes, when my inability to math (or just remember any numbers beyond a handful of ones that remain in my head from years of drilling) becomes apparent in front of others; others, who, obviously, have no problem figuring out how much a shirt costs when it’s 35% percent off and on the half off clearance rack, or others I work with who can quickly discern how many counseling minutes a student gets each week when the minutes are given in a monthly total.

I stopped fighting it a while ago, which might look to some like “giving up,” and perhaps it is. There comes a time you have to give up trying to fit that square peg in a round hole because it’s just never gonna happen. So I use the tools I have (calculator, tip calculator, LARP Boy), and sometimes I even use my self-diagnosed Dyscalculia to explain it, but generally I feel relief at not continuing to expect I can do something that my brain can’t do.

Also, I keep reminding myself, that even though I can’t math, I can words.

Today I’m Tired

Some days, I am tired.

I guess some days everyone is tired, and everyone gets tired some days. But right now, at this moment, I am really, really tired. Not the lack of sleep tired – I’ve experienced that, especially when my kids were little or during one of my bouts of insomnia. Those days upon days upon days catching fistfuls of sleep where I could. Not the illness tired – that’s something usually accompanied by aches and pains or a cough or painful blisters (okay, that was Shingles, and I was really tired during that one!). Not the “I just had two glasses of wine and now I need to lay my head on the table and sleep” tired, because that totally happens to me after two glasses. And it’s not even the Sleep Apnea, because I slept the right amount of hours with an alien-like face-hugging mask blowing on my face. Those are physical tireds, and it’s not that.

It’s a systemic tired. It’s TIRED in all caps. It’s like someone took a few spigots and attached one to my body, one to my mind, and one to my very soul, and drained a bunch of energy fluid out of it. I didn’t even do anything that other people would consider exhausting, like run a marathon (or, in my case, walk up two flights of stairs). I just did my job today. Well, in the morning I did my parent job, and then I did my job job, and I came home and now I’m supposed to do the parent job again, but I’m kinda low on, well, on everything.

I can only be “on” for so many hours of the day. I’m like the opposite of the Energizer Bunny (you know, the one who keeps going and going and going…). I’m more like those cheap rechargeable batteries, the ones you buy because you want to be eco-friendly and they seem like a really good idea at the time, but they lose their charge so quickly they spend half their lives on the charger plugged into the wall. So that’s me, right now, I used up all I had all day, but my day isn’t over, so now I am “plugged into the wall” (actually, laying on the bed napping on and off, but same idea). And Hubby is saying, “I’m sorry you’re so tired” in a way that sounds like, “What on earth is wrong with you and why can’t it be fixed?” Of course that’s my interpretation, or maybe that’s my own voice in my head.

My typical day, from the moment I wake up in the morning, involves taking care of people. Even at my job, where I supervise those who take care of people, I have found that those taking care of people are often the ones who need the most taking care of. Over the past 2-3 years, interns that I supervise have appeared to be needier and more self-centered than I have ever experienced in the past (including as an intern myself). They seem impossible to please, they are moody, they always want more than I can give, they blame everyone else for problems, except when they are blaming themselves to the point of falling apart and believing they are complete failures, they don’t meet deadlines, don’t hear things the first time I tell them, get caught up in interpersonal drama, they whine and complain and always seem “burdened,” and they are always on their phones. In short, all my interns have become teenage girls (I am qualified to say this, since I have been a teenage girl in the past, and I am now raising one myself). When I tell people I run the counseling department at a special education school for Emotionally Disturbed students, these people look at me as Mother Theresa working with lepers. Yes, the students are a challenge, and they take a lot of energy, but most of my work is with the therapists who work directly with the students, and they are exhausting.

Today there were a lot of problems to solve, a lot of personalities to manage, and a lot of emotions to contain. It’s not uncommon for the emotions and trauma of a client to trigger the emotions and trauma of the therapist, and, when that happens, it is my job to help them deal with it and to be the best clinician they can be. However, on a day like today, where every corner I turned I faced drama and feelings and crisis, it took all that I had out of me and, by the time I came home, I had nothing.

Here are the things I would be doing right now if I had the energy to do so:

  1. I would go into the other  room where my son is meeting with his Life Skills Coach and give some feedback on how things have been going (or not going) around here lately.
  2. Make dinner (there’s leftovers so I’m hoping to avoid that, or find some way to make scrambled eggs or cereal and milk sound like I’d been planning it all week).
  3. I would put some laundry away and put away a few other things around here before the housekeepers come tomorrow and do their job of hiding everything so they can clean around the clutter.
  4. Bathe or shower.
  5. Grocery shopping.
  6. Clean the bird cage.
  7. Call my mom, my dad, my in-laws, friends and family that think I have no interest in keeping in touch… (which isn’t true, I want to keep in touch, I just don’t want to talk to anyone, and the longer I wait, the less I want to hear how upset they are I haven’t called).
  8. Look at my to-do list for all the things I know I am forgetting.

But I am not doing any of those things. I am writing though. I seem to have just enough energy to type, and the part of my brain that thinks the kinds of thoughts I would write about never seems to need to be recharged. In fact, that’s the part of me that I wish would run out of energy, or shut off, or slow down, or take a break… Unfortunately it seems that at the rate my body and soul is running out of energy, my the thoughts in my mind are picking up speed. In fact, in a state of complete exhaustion where I am on my bed just a breath away from falling asleep, my mind will be on some kind of crazy supermarket race game, chasing as fast as it can up and down the aisles of my brain, picking up old (should be expired) cans of mistakes and failures, fresh bags of to-do lists, tall boxes of shame, anxiety and panic, and stacking them in the shopping cart like there’s no tomorrow (oh yeah, and maybe a bucket of intense fear that there is no tomorrow, too).  So while my entire being is empty and drained and laying on the bed, my mind, and sometimes my heart, are racing like (you guessed it!) the Energizer Bunny.

I have about half an hour until I have to go pick up my theater daughter from rehearsal at school. I sure hope she’s in the mood for cereal or eggs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We are here! We are here!”

“You should write a blog.”

I’m pretty sure I’m one in a million people who have heard this and have done nothing about it. This is my first attempt (and already I see this site provides some minor spell check so I think we will be good here). Best of luck to us both.

My biggest goal is to write. Let me flush that out… to write often. Well, to write often without too much editing (I like editing, it’s a real issue).

So, a little about me… I’m a mom. I have two kids, one is a 17 year old musical theater girl, the other is a 20 year old boy on the spectrum who wants to be a roboticist. I am the clinical director at a special ed school owned and operated by my family. I am introverted and have Social Anxiety Disorder, but I have to adult everyday, and deal with people, so it’s kind of draining.

But enough about me, for now…

This morning on the way to work I passed what looked like a homeless women walking down the street pushing a vertical shopping cart. She was colorful. She was colorful because she was wearing many layers of colorful clothing and had a lot of colorful things in her shopping cart. But, the thing that stood out to me, was the bullhorn. Wearing the strap crosswise against her body she carried a bullhorn on her back. In the few moments my car was passing by I couldn’t help but wonder why she had a bullhorn or what she planned to do with it.

Sometimes I wish I had a bullhorn (okay, I guess we are back to me now). I’ve often referred to myself as the littlest Who in Whoville, shouting to Horton’s non-believing forest-mates, “WE ARE HERE! WE ARE HERE!” I think a bullhorn would have been really useful in that story. I live between two worlds, one of wanting attention and one of not wanting to be noticed. Really I guess there’s no way to be happy, or, I’m always somewhat happy, because I’m always somewhere on the scale of being noticed and being ignored. It’s similar to having Social Anxiety Disorder – I don’t want to feel lonely and isolated, but being around people is scary and exhausting. I’d like to be able to disappear, on purpose, in those moments that I trip over something and everyone turns to stare, or I make a joke that unintentionally offends someone, or I look down at myself at work and see bird poop on my shirt (okay, that last one is not uncommon, since I own a bird). But I’d also like to be noticed, not for those things, but in those moments that I say something incredibly witty, or solve a problem that’s difficult to figure out, or totally rock shaping my eyebrows. So, yeah, I want both to be noticed and ignored.

I guess, ideally, I want an invisibility cloak AND a bullhorn. That would be awesome.