Stuck in Chicago

You would think that in our current pandemic reality I would have plenty of time to write. In truth, I do have more time; however, I am still “working” in my ghost town daycare that just won’t seem to shut down. I teach art at my son’s new daycare. I am used to 90 or more kiddos coming in and out of my studio all day long. Since Monday, I average 20 kids total. So, I do have more free time, although, it is not the same as many other people sheltering in place.

Where do I start with everything that has happened? I started school shortly after the holidays and applied for a job at a fancy daycare to supplement my income. For a while I was working full time, attending graduate school part time, and retained my old job part time. It was incredibly stressful. I eventually broke down. I stopped attending regular meetings and stopped calling my sponsor. I relapsed in a new and terrifying intensity. Everything got very bad very quickly, and I was ready to watch it all burn. I was done with life and didn’t see any coming back to it. I can still remember how I felt, and how much it hurt. I was exhausted and alone in my mind. As my new sponsor explained it, it was like having my soul sucked out of me. It was a profoundly painful experience. I was pushed further towards the edge in my insanity. The paradoxical nature of this was that it wasn’t such a scary place to be in the moment. Living is hard. Dying is easy, and I was tired of fighting.

What was I fighting? I suppose it was a false sense of control over my life and my disease. I was running myself ragged trying to do it all and ignoring the most important parts of my life. It makes me wonder if any of it is worth the trouble. Money comes and goes, and by the time I’m done with grad school I’ll be about $60,000 in student loan debt. I thought that finding a career path that would allow me to be of service to people would complement my spiritual program. Now I’m having doubts.

I don’t know if I would have made it out of this relapse alone. Thankfully, my partner called me on my bullshit and quickly got me to a meeting. I got a new sponsor right away, and my partner and I were able to go on our trip to Florida. Six days in Florida bliss felt like it lasted six seconds. We haven’t even been back for a full week yet, and it feels like it has been months. I hate living in Chicago. I am not built for the lack of sunshine, the oppressive overcast skies, air that hurts your face, and weather that confines me to my home. I can’t hack it anymore, and I’m just plain tired of living this way. In Florida I was filled with hope and inspired by the possibilities of the future. As I sit here in my empty studio, watching the rain on the sidewalk outside, I just want to cry. That feeling of wanting to get away from here creeps back in to my heart, and I wonder how long I will last this time.

 

Clarity in Shadows

I create my own dragons to slay out of small shadows I see in far away corners.

A moment of clarity, so late in this day. Keeps my eyes open, to ponder a new way.

I don’t know why clarity as to come this late, but I suppose it comes when it comes. Better late than never; they say. I have these precious moments, fleeting seconds when I realize that all my turmoil, mental anguish, emotional torture, everything; it’s all just me. I have spent countless hours scanning over my life trying to figure out how to situate things just right to make everything okay. I keep searching for that last puzzle piece to pull into place to make the picture complete. I search in vain in relationships, lifestyle changes, diet, nutrition, school, work, and other people. I berate myself for not being more healthy, for not being a better mother, daughter, and friend, for not being more open with my partner, and for not being where I should be in life; which is where again?

I know that I am capable of overcoming obstacles. I know that I can make better choices to eventually line up a future that I currently would find more acceptable. But what about now? I’m only in to month three of living in my new home with my partner, and son and I am scrambling to figure out where to live next. Nothing is wrong with where we live. It’s a nice home in a great location. It’s a bit of a financial burden for a full time-mother, part-time grad student, and part-time therapist/teacher. But there is nothing wrong with right now. Why can’t I just be happy in this moment?

This questions leads me down the rabbit hole. What is wrong with me? What can I do to make things better? Exercise, eat better, find a better job, buy a car, find better ways to spend time with my son and my partner. Maybe a picture or some home decor would make it feel more pleasant… Sure, none of those things would hurt, but I am still here, locked in this hellish nightmare of a mind. I am ultimately alone with my thoughts of self defeating contradictions. I should be more creative, but art supplies are expensive. I should spend more time with my son doing fun things, but I am about to start classes and will have even less time. We should make a date night, but it’s all but a miracle to get things lined up to just get to meetings. I should take a few minutes to meditate, but I’m already in bed and am physically tired. Every idea I come up with I immediately shoot down, and I hate it.

I hate how self-defeating I have become. I hate how closed off and completely torn up inside I feel. I have all these emotions and concerns and don’t voice any of them, because I have either labeled them not important enough to talk about or to much of a big deal that I don’t want to bother or upset anyone else with it. I’m not even giving myself a chance. Nothing changes if nothing changes, and I feel like I’m starting to live the same life over again. I do not want that life. I do not want that hell. I want out of my mind, right now.

I pray. I write. I read. I search for the thing that is going to give me what I need to live the way I want, and all I can reasonably conclude at this hour is that I am keeping myself down. Why?! Why for fucks-sake do I do this? Do I really hate myself that much? Do I really think so little of myself and my needs that I have to extinguish them the moment they crop up? Only I don’t really extinguish the flame, they all just simmer below the surface waiting for me to lose my sanity. Why do I put myself in this small, miserable, torturous little box? I think it’s because it is the only way I have learned how to survive.

I make it sound so dramatic, or perhaps that is just my inner bitch chiming in to diminish it. I have been in survival mode for so long, that even if there wasn’t a fight to be having, I was fighting none the less. I don’t know how to handle just being. I don’t know how to live a life based in today’s void of threat. I create my own dragons to slay out of small shadows I see in far away corners. All I know how to do is fight and hope that once the next monster is slain, the dust will settle to a happily every after. As illogical as I can see this for as I sit here describing it, I don’t know how to shake it. I don’t know how to relearn to live in a life of peace and possibility. I don’t know how to change.

 

A Loud Mind

Late night; In a fight. Thoughts holding tight; Don’t feel quite right.

This post will probably not be too cohesive. I can’t sleep and my mind is racing. On to of that, my stomach is under siege by something. So, here I sit with Morgan Freeman on in the background narrating some documentary on death, rituals and God.

Anxiety flourishes over New Year’s resolutions I haven’t started in time. It’s absurd, that I should even think there is a “time” in which to make changes. Yes, there is global momentum around this time of year, but change is always possible. Each day is a new opportunity. Exercise, eating healthy, meditation, mindfulness, and self care. They are always on my list, but never high enough to prioritize as I wish I did lying awake at night. I have been exercising more, and I do, in general, eat a mostly health diet. (Although, I certainly over indulge my Achilles heel; The Great Frozen Overlord; ice cream.)

I had some success with mindfulness and meditation yesterday. I set an intention for the day, via mantra, that I took a few minutes to visualize before crawling out of bed. The day seemed lighter, and my heart was happier. Today, I forgot and returned to the trudge of daily living. It is so hard to take the time, though it’s only a few minutes. Why is that? Perhaps it’s the same reason I’m lying awake right now. My mind chatters too much to focus. Contemplation swirls in mesmerizing patterns, and I lose time and desire to commit any more to quieting the madness. Still, I know I fare much better when I make the time. I need to take the action until it becomes second nature; habituated.

How do I slow this mind enough to turn off my autopilot? Writing is certainly one way I am able to at least slow the flow in my head. Thus, why I am writing right now. Exercise is another tool of the like, as I am focused on my body and usually the clock. Haha.

Meditation seems all but impossible right now. I like to think I am too busy and just have too much going on to slow down. But as I sit here reflecting on it, I am starting to realize that although I am very busy being a mom, student, therapist, partner, and soon teacher, a lot of the chatter is purely of my own making. I can’t count how many goals I set for myself each day, only to pick them off one by one to either completely dispose of or replace with a “better” one. It’s almost infuriating.

I should focus on this. No, maybe just focus on that. I’ve tried focusing on X and Y and Z before and it went nowhere. Focus efforts to A, B and C. But maybe refocus; again and again.  It’s exhausting and meanwhile I’m flying through my day, not present in the current moment, thinking about moments that haven’t or may never happen. Future tripping, someone once described it as. Mindfulness and meditation, I know, can help this. But I guess I just don’t know how to get started. I guess carving out a time and making a quiet space would be a good place to start. I am torn, as always, as to purchasing the Calm app to help guide mediation. I know it works well for me, but I always wind up not using it. I don’t prioritize it, and that needs to change.

All the while I am worried I am not a good enough mother or a good enough partner. I am job searching, getting ready to start grad school, anxious about purchasing a vehicle, wondering how I’ll pay rent in the next few months if I commit all my saving into a car. Pros and Cons, this or that, up or down or inside out? Who knows? Not I.

Worthless

I don’t even know where to begin. Everything has changed, and no, that is not an exaggeration. I have a new home, a new career, and am starting grad school in about a month. I no longer have a car, a mother, nor sufficient income. I am the old person at work. I am the single mother who barely sees her son. I am the partner left wanting. I am  a ball of stress, anxiety, and loneliness bound up tightly in a straight jacket with a bad buckle. I am scared. I am trying my best to make a life that I hope I won’t regret. I am nothing I used to be and everything I always hide.

New beginnings are enticing and exciting at first, however treading the path unknown is quite frankly terrifying. Less so when you have something to hold on to. Something steady to keep you anchored and sure footed. Without it, I feel like I could be swallowed into oblivion by a single wrong step. All the while I’m wondering, what have I done wrong already. Where have I faltered.  Have I been so neglectful in my tireless effort to forge a better life that I should no longer be a preference? Are my actions something so egregious that I am someone to be placed aside for more satisfying company?

I thought love persevered; strengthened through time and overcoming countless trials. I am yet again reminded I must know nothing of love. Perhaps this is all my fault. I am not so big headed to think I am infallible. I make mistakes as I am human. I am a human who feels old, worthless, and unimportant to the one most important to me. Though I am sure this is probably not entirely accurate in reality, it is how I feel, and it fucking sucks. It really fucking sucks.

The Speed of Life

I’m wondering if this is the pace at which my life with continue to be lived. EVERYTHING in my life has change over and over again in less than a year. My divorce was finalized in July, my condo was on the market for 72 hours and sold in August, I moved out of my condo and into my mother’s place after extensive renovations and a massive cleanup effort in September, I filed for bankruptcy, applied for FAFSA, and most recently moved out of my mother’s place this month; a new record for shortest stay with her at 45 days. Now I face a job change, loss of my primary mode of transportation, graduate school applications, and who knows what else!?

I don’t think I could have gotten this far without my partner; who is also riding this insane rollercoaster ride. I feel bad for my son being displaced so much, but I do not have any control over that right now. When given the choice to have to move again or stay in an unhealthy home environment, I don’t hesitate to jump. I have spent too much time in my life “trapped” in a bad situation. I will not make that mistake again. Head down, chin up, I will trudge the road and trust that I’m getting where I need to be.

Whenever I’m Disturbed…

I am in uncharted territory again. I feel excited at the possibility of returning to school and pursuing a degree in something that will enable me to affect positive change in our world. Yet, I am completely irritated, and I don’t really know why. I can only surmise that changing my routine, focus, and the way I think to be more productive and driven has left me intolerant to old habits and ways of thinking. It seems counter intuitive. The more self understanding and focus I have, I would assume would instill further compassion and understanding of others. Instead, all I see are unhealthy thought patterns, time sinks, and bad habits that need to be quashed.

When I first wrote this blog, and WordPress.com’s lovely block editor ruined everything by deleting two thirds of it, I spent a bit of time venting about my mother’s entitled, childish behavior. I am not, however, going to retype all that as it is a huge waste of time and energy. That is who she is an I can’t expect anything different. She is stuck in her ways, and the chance of that changing or her doing any real personal development is slim. It is still extremely frusterating, but I will try not to linger on it too long.

Why am I so irritated? I guess I just want better lives for everyone I love, but know I can’t force-feed anything to anyone. This will be problematic as a social worker, and I will have to figure out a way to deal with the frustration. It’s almost infuriating once you start applying yourself and learning how easy it is to turn your life in a different direction. Perhaps this is just my experience. It may completely inapplicable in other regions of the world, but for most in people in the USA, a little focus, drive, and no BS attitude with yourself and things get clear real quick.

This is not to say anyone can be an astronaut or fairy princess. If you really want to be rich, there is a way. If you want to be healthier, there is a way. If you want to have a better relationship with yourself or another person, there is a way. It just takes an open mind to change and a willingness to apply yourself and sacrifice what you have to for the things you really want. This does not require sitting, doing nothing, doing the same things over and over, or living in self pity and denial. It takes action, breaking old useless habits, self restraint and self discipline. It only sounds hard. It is not any harder than being miserable with your life. The more you change, the easier changing other things becomes. Life is always changing. Either change with it or face the notion you have, in essence, accepted you life for what it is whether you realize it or not.

Here in lies my frustration. After lifting a blindfold off my eyes, I’m stuck looking around at everyone else with blindfolds on, wishing desperately I could rip them off. It’s something only that person can do for themselves. I have to accept this. So, instead of getting annoyed at other people, I am going to go back to focusing on improving my own life and eventually find a way in which to help others in a different way.

Ego be gone!

 

 

Out of Sync, but Happy

Most days I am just trying to pass time at work to get through the day to crawl into bed. It’s a sad state of life that many people share. It is not a routine I plan to continue until I retire. I do plan to obtain my Masters Degree in Social Work to get headed down a more engaging career path. Today, however, I feel like I want to tackle every tiny problem or project I can think of.

This happens periodically when things start falling in place, in terms of my plans and responsibilities. It’s like a snowball effect. One thing gets done or goes right and then another and before I know it my fingers are tying to keep up with my brain as I type and I’m focused on things thirty steps ahead. This happens in stark contrast to my exhausted body. It’s very strange. On one hand, I could totally crawl into be and fall asleep immediately. On the other hand, I could just as easily clean the entire bathroom like I wish I could be doing right now. I am very out of sync.

So many things have been going right lately. We are finally getting settled in to my mother’s place. My partner and I (but mostly him) have been getting things sorted and put away slowly but surely. We have new furniture (which he also put together by himself), and a the mattress platform has worked miracles for getting a better night’s sleep. I have a plan for saving for college for my son after listening to a webinar hosted by the bank who handles my 401K. I gave myself a hair cut, not for the first time, but with better than expected results and new techniques. I officially have no use for a hair stylist ever again. I have started bringing my lunches to work and have backup breakfast items here for days I’m running late. I have killed my ice cream addiction. That’s not that I still don’t enjoy it, but I don’t HAVE to have it every single night. I’ve grown tired of my kombucha lust, again, and am drinking water at night instead of plowing through 3-4 cans of seltzer. All this means more money in the bank; more money to save and invest in the future. How exciting is that?

I can’t remember the last time I felt like I had control of my finances or financial future. Honestly, I don’t think I ever have. I have always been so stressed about money. Barely scraping by; buried under debt. I paid my own way through college, scrapped together a little bit for a wedding, bought a cheap condo with $1000 down, worked multiple jobs at multiple times just to get by, and became super-ultra-mega coupon lady to get groceries as cheap as possible when I had the time as a stay-at-home mom. Now, the condo is sold, my divorce lawyer is paid, and my bankruptcy lawyer is paid. Once the bankruptcy is over with, I will buy a used car at some point and spend the next year-and-a-half to two years saving, working, going to school, and getting ready to launch life the right way. Getting a second  chance with so many lessons learned is amazing, and sober no less! I am so very grateful for all of this.

I know I will hit bumps in the road. I am not invincible, nor am I doing this on my own. I have more help and support in my life now than I could have ever asked for. What I am driving at, is that the future looks bright. I am optimistic, happy, and hopeful. I don’t know what I did to deserve this chance to get it right. It was far from easy getting here, but for the first time in a long time, I feel like life isn’t too heavy to carry. I have a footing and believe in myself, my higher power and the support of others to keep moving forward toward an even better future.