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.

What’s the point?

Sometimes I feel as though the only way I am able to get things out of my head are to speak them to no one in particular. I spend so much time analyzing, dissecting, and discounting different feelings, that most get tossed away or shoved in a bottle labeled “To Be Dealt with Later.” In any given week, I can go through days of depression, anxiety, gratitude, irritation, annoyance, exhaustion, and just plain uncertainty. Each emotion, among a variety of others, are valid in their own way while also completely insignificant. It always changes. I always change, my feelings change, and life changes. Everything passes; so why hold on to and obsess over one state or another? At least this is my overarching attitude toward any discontent and life’s many dissatisfactions.

I know that not dealing with emotions can be dangerous, and it is a “skill” I am particularly good at. However, I am not sure how to go about retraining myself. Before I open my mouth I am analyzing every word. Am I being to selfish? Am I being too selfless? Is this a legitimate concern or am I overreacting? Am I projecting? Is it really that important? Most of the time I am thinking default to “this too shall pass,” or “I am going to not focus on this and try to focus on being of service to others.” The selfless serving nature of my default is mostly helpful, except in those cases where the feelings keep cropping up. I can only push my feelings aside so many times until I start getting quiet, bitter, and resentful.

What do I do then? I consider letting them out. I should talk about what’s bothering me. But again my inner voice chimes in; “your problems aren’t that bad,” or “you’ve already brought this up and wasted enough time, effort, and energy on it.” Still, I’m grappling with deep seeded emotions on a daily basis. What, then do I do? Inevitably I am forced here, writing my thoughts out for a faceless audience to whom I feel less threatened and judged by than any real person in my life.

So here goes. Lately, I have been feeling all the discomfort and violation I have accrued from all the relationships with men in my past: prompted from watching documentaries, to crappy rom-com shows, to real life objectification. Most recently, being brought back to the one traumatic moment with my partner, opened the bottle on all my other baggage in that category of my life. And there is a lot of it.

Uncomfortably objectified by my un-medicated bipolar, alcoholic father; I sought approval and validation from a very sick individual, in multiple ways, while building this wonderful emotion barrier I have today. The very first boy I ever kissed in any real sense of hormonal awkwardness, was a summer thing. We saw one movie and met for one lunch and that was it. He went on to proclaim that we had had sex, and that I was slut to the entire high school I had just started attending. I was shocked and angry, but as it wasn’t true and he was very insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I let it go. I was pressured into my first “relationship” as a tech intern in high school. The hyper sexual narcissist played to my naïve insecurities, pushing me to do things I was very clear I had no interest in doing. Finally, I put my foot down and told him to back off. This lead to a hostile work environment and me quitting that job and my interest in IT for good. I was raped of my virginity at 16 by a self-sworn good guy. He was only a monster in a mask. After that, I dove into the arms of a 21 year old, metrosexual man-child. He was also hypersexual in every sense of the word and loved to comment on my weight and brand/style of clothing. I didn’t care too much at the time as I had started drinking and he could buy me all the booze I wanted. By the time that was over, I left him for suspecting he was cheating. I’m sure he was, but had no hard proof. I learned to leave before I got too hurt.

Throughout high school I hung out with a group of guys I called my brothers. I never saw them as anything more than that; though each of them, at different times expressed their interest in me as more than a friend. One of them I would be engaged to. One of them I would marry and divorce. The one I was engaged to brought me into a world of drugs and alcohol on an entirely new level. I loved keeping pace with him. I loved getting lost, doing crazy shit, and not thinking about my problems. His lifestyle made that easy, but I was also trying to go to school and start a life for myself. So, eventually, I gave him an ultimatum to either quit the drugs, or I was gone. He quit the hard drugs, and I all but browbeat him into proposing to me. Still I wasn’t happy. I was drinking more than ever and blamed him for all the problems he had gotten me into. After graduating college by the skin of my teeth, I broke it off with him. I wasted no time trying to building a life with my now ex-husband, starting with earing my title as barfly when we were dating. I would get drunk and call my ex-fiancé. On a handful of occasions he picked me up and I would go out drinking and/or drugging with him. Once he had tried to make a move on me as I was passing out, and I asked him to take me home. Then next time was much worse in scale of the fight with my ex-husband. I drank more, drugged more, and woke up out of a blackout sore and without underwear on. I was too ashamed of my drunken behavior and my bad decisions. I never said anything about it. I had, after all, put myself in this situation. But I’ve come to learn that still doesn’t make it okay.

My ex-husband cheated on me. He pressured me into having sex before I was ready after our son was born, and complained to me for not paying enough attention to him. He blamed my inattention for his cheating and constantly asked who I was out screwing if he couldn’t get ahold of me immediately.

Stepping back a moment, my first job after my tech-intern position was at BestBuy, where my asshole of a boss hit on me relentlessly. Eventually I quit. After college I worked at Omega as a second job, where my 60 something Greek manager asked if he could kiss me. The other managers, all related, shrugged it off as him being an old man. So I quit. After being a stay at home mom for two years, I went to work as a hostess/bartender at Carlucci’s. I knew I was going to get drunk idiots flirting with me. I didn’t know two of four managers would be pursuing me like a dog with a bone. One particular bus “boy” liked to kid around that my son was his. He’d ask “How’s my boy doing?” in between invites to hang out, or lunch, or just go out back. His eyes devoured any decency. He was a salivating hyena.

So, no, I have not had a lot of positive experiences with male friends, with male colleges, or with men I placed my trust in. That’s why my most recent trauma from my current relationship was so bitter for me. It was just a drunken mistake. I am not blowing in out of proportion, and how could I given my track record, but it was the fact I and once again, thought I had found something different, something real that was once again shattered in that moment. I’ve recovered from that, but it’s there in the ever growing gallery of unpleasant life experiences with men.

It’s not surprising anymore. I try not to think about these things, because they just steal my peace and serenity. Yet try as I may, I can never really get rid of the trauma. It sickens me to the core, and yet it’s so fucking common-place. Oh well.

See, I feel like I have wasted my time an energy just saying all that. What’s the point anyways?

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.

Don’t Look Down

I cannot say I understand why a person would choose to run with the bulls. I suppose it is a cultural value difference. I feel like I am running “with” the bulls every day. Among the galley of major life changes currently on display, I have been displaced from a home multiple times, recently worked with three different lawyers regarding three different legal matters, received a crash course in finance and real estate, and, most recently, am starting a new career while simultaneously going back to school, losing my car, and trying to find a more permanent living arrangement. Problems and issues and changes; oh my!

If you are out of breath just reading that sentence, my point is made. It is exacerbating living this way. I am in a constant state of sleep deprivation and stress. I do utilize various support systems to help keep me going, none of which include relying on blood “family,” and somehow I just keep on plowing through it all. Helmet on, head down, one arm out in front and the other clutching everything I hold dear in life; I run, jump, and spin through the day searching for that place I can collapse to the ground in victory. I can’t see it, but it’s out there ahead of me somewhere.

When I start running out of steam, after it all starts to weigh down a little heavier than it should; I try to steal a glance at the hoard chasing close behind me. I loose focus and momentum. Often I trip, struggling to maintain forward motion, and sometimes I’m tackled to a bone grinding halt by my own terrifying emotions. Gasping for air with tears streaming down my face; I can either get back up or dare to lie a few more moments before I’m crushed by the weight of my heart into oblivion.

I don’t even like to take the time to describe these moments of break down. They don’t last long anymore; mostly because they annoy me so badly. Also, I know I am flirting with death if I wallow in self pity and anger for too long. It’s a waste of energy anyways. But if I don’t at least acknowledge these moments, I’m setting myself up for a catastrophic meltdown. So here I am, processing, evaluating, and moving on. I’ll keep running past the edge of the cliff with the drive of the road runner and the warning of that coyote to not look down… Just don’t look down.

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.