They're Not All Great

Last month I decided to start writing every, single day on this blog to see what would happen. Guess what happened? People read my blog, every, single day. Amazing! In fact, I broke the 1000 visitors mark in January, which has totally fucked with my head, and now I am incapable of writing anything because I am too afraid people are actually reading what I am writing and what if these strangers (mostly) hate me? AHHHH, are we here again? Never left. This low confidence, this negative self-image, this inability to take myself seriously as a writer is starting to gnaw at me again and it’s causing problems with my real writing too. My “real writing” is what I call the stuff I don’t post here. The short stories, the poems, the flash fiction, the lyric essays, the creative nonfiction, the stuff I submit to literary magazines, mostly. My real writing is suffering because I’m in a bad place mentally and emotionally and I can’t seem to climb out. But my blog is singing! Just got 40 new followers!

Thanks, y’all! Seriously, thank you to all of you who come here daily, or weekly, or monthly, and read the stuff that comes out of my mess of a brain. Thanks for tackling tough topics with me like mental illness, abortion, grief, bullying, my sister’s hair in the 1980s. I really appreciate it. I wish I could meet each of you and buy you a cup of coffee, or maybe a nice Chai Tea Latte? Yeah, sound nice? Let me know if you’re ever in the ATL, I’m around. And I love you.

But what to do about this other nonsense? Well, as you know I have limited my social media time, which has helped quite a bit, actually. But it seems like the less I have to worry about in the “now” the more stuff I just dig up from the past. Who does that?! Like, I don’t have the stress of trying to keep up with the Joneses on Facebook anymore, so I’m worrying instead about how my childhood made me desire to eat carbs when I watch crime documentaries. I dunno, bizarre you guys.

Is this why you come? Do you come to my blog to make yourself feel better about your own life? Cause if you do that is amazing and exactly what this blog should be used for. I can make your life look like a walk in the damn park. And no, not a walk in Central Park in the middle of the night. More like a walk in a nice, new, properly-lit, suburban park outside Fargo, North Dakota.

I don’t know why I tell my therapist that I can’t write stream of conscious stuff, cause this is coming out just fine.

I’m gonna stop. Eat some carbs. Think about life a little. Take a shower. Maybe.

Thank you all for being here.

And I hope this helped you feel more successful today.

This is not a great blog post. You deserve a gift:

That’s me. Sick with the flu. Eating a clam at a place called “The Shanty” in Rhode Island. No carbs! Thanks for the beautiful pic, Beth.

M.

Sketching

Gratitude journaling came up in therapy the other day. I brought it up. I sort of hedged my bets that she might suggest something like that for me, considering I write. I said something like, “I need a way to work on the anxiety and stress of the day-to-day stuff,” and before I could even stop myself I said the word “gratitude,” then I winced. Patsy didn’t skip a beat, “Journaling, gratitude journaling, isn’t for everyone.” My problem, I explained, is that I am horrible at stream of conscious stuff because I am constantly editing. Not for grammar (as you can see) rather I’m always looking for how I fucked up the writing in some way (again, not grammar) therefore I can never let myself relax enough to just say whatever is top of mind, and then hope I make my way toward the gratitude. Then this here blog came up.

Just last week I explained to a friend that my blog isn’t my “real” writing. My “real” writing is much worse. So count yourselves lucky! My real writing takes AGES to actually accomplish, and puts me in such a tizzy most of the time that I can’t actually sit down to get the words out. This here blog, I explained to my friend and later to my therapist, is like if I were an artist (I wish) and this was my sketchbook.

You know how you always see really cool, artsy people walking around with little sketchpads? In my mind I’m that person. Except it’s my laptop, or my iPhone (yes, I blog from my phone), and whenever something strikes my fancy I jot it down here. That’s why this blog is a hot mess. That’s why the only things you can clearly gleam from my blog are my dislike of our president and the fact that there are no low-carb Cheeto options. Le sigh.

Why am I telling you this? Why do I tell you half the shit I do? To get it off my chest. To put it out there in this private/public sphere and hope that one of you will be all, “Oh yeah, that makes sense, Missy. I like you. You’re alright.” Also to say that maybe what you need to help you relieve stress or anxiety is something you do every day too? Because when I really think about it, this blog helps me with both my stress and my anxiety. It helps me get out what I need to get out, without the feeling that I will be judged or ridiculed for it. I mean this is my blog after all, and it houses my most ridiculous sketches.

So try it out today. Try out gratitude journaling if you haven’t. There is a lot out there about it, and how to get started. Or try knitting. Or try writing. Start a blog! It’s fun. Or make silly YouTube videos, or cook something amazing, use what you know and love to make yourself feel better. I’ll be over here in my corner dreaming about watercolors and oil on canvas. Sketching my day, my fears, and most likely naked, French women. Hey, we all have our thing…

M.

Making Friends

Over the weekend we went to the Ponce City Market in Midtown. Ponce City Market is a really cool building reuse. It used to be THE Sears and Roebuck in Atlanta, and now it’s this hip shopping center, with restaurants, offices, lofts, and a mini-amusement park on the 10th floor roof. It’s connected to The Beltway, it has awesome artwork, and Santa and the Grinch were not here there to visit with. Honestly, this trip deserves its own blog post, and I will get around to it, but today I wanted to share a story from that night.

On the rooftop at “Skyline Park” Jackson met a kid about his age on the “Tower” ride, which is essentially just one of those rides where you get buckled into a seat with a partner, then use the rope to hoist yourselves up even further into the sky. It was a big hit. After riding the tower about ten times, they switched to the three-story slide. All the rides and games are unlimited for a $15 bracelet, and we spent a total of about five hours there. When you factor in a meeting with Mr. Claus, ice skating, and checking out all the cool artifacts in the old building, Jackson was beat by the time we left.

But, right before we headed for the old service elevator to take the slow ride back down, Jackson got this look of panic in his eyes. He sort of froze where he was and looked nervously at us. I thought for a moment that he’d lost his prizes that he’d worked so hard to win at the “Break A Plate” game, so I quickly checked my purse to see if they were still there. They were. We asked him what was up.

He was running his palms together as he said, “I dunno. I just… Umm… I feel like I want to give my new friend my phone number, just in case, I don’t know, he’s ever what’s to meet up here again.” Jerimiah and I looked at each other for a split second of indecision and then said yes! Go give him your number.

Jackson has his own phone. I know, I know. He’s 11 and that’s too young and your kids won’t have a phone until they are 18 and okay, yeah right, good luck with that. But seriously, he has it because my anxiety, as we all know, is through the roof at times and when he wants to stay at home alone while I run to the grocery store, or when he goes to a friend’s house to play, or even when he just walks a couple aisles over at Target, I need to know I can call him. (Or at least track his phone.) So yeah. We do let him give his number out to kids, mainly friends at school who also have phones, but this was the first time we allowed him to give his number out to a new friend, and honestly it was a bit scary, but the lesson was worth it.

Listen, it’s hard as hell to make friends. No one can tell you that more than me, an introverted, awkward, 30-something who hates small talk, but loves a good “My hamster died when I was 10…” story. And I’m nervous, always have been and always will be, to give my number out to new people. I’ve felt what Jackson was feeling a gazillion times, even just exchanging numbers with the other room parents. It’s scary for some of us, y’all. And he was nervous, but Dad and I said to go for it.

So he nervously walked back outside to the games to find his friend. He asked me to come with, so I did. We wrote his number on a receipt paper, and Jackson approached the boy. He nervously tapped him on the shoulder and the boy turned around and smiled. I was out of earshot, but I could see what happened. The boy took the paper, smiled, and waved as Jackson ran back to me, then the boy stood up and stuck the paper into his back pocket, as Jackson turned around to give one last wave.

On the way down on the elevator Jackson was still nervous. You could tell he went way out of his comfort zone, and he was replaying what happened. We let him have a few moments, then he smiled and said, “He took my number.”

“Maybe he will call,” I said. “Or maybe not, but you were brave dude.”

“Thanks,” he said, and he rode the elevator down in anxious smiles.

Listen, making friends isn’t too hard when you’re a kid, but as you age it gets so much harder. And most of the time it’s because we are so worried that someone will reject us, that we just don’t try. We gotta stop doing that, y’all. Relationships are worth the try. And maybe Jackson’s new friend will never call. But he did something brave. Something that scared him. And he came out the other side. And that’s a win in our book.

To something brave, y’all.

❤️

M.

Writing Through It

I’ve been attempting to write my way through this bout of the blues. I’m feeling a teensy bit better today, but I think it’s because my husband has been home for three days. He leaves again tomorrow, and today is usually the worst day. The day before he travels. Because the day before he travels I try to smush in as much as I can. And that’s difficult on everyone. It’s difficult because we all know what I’m doing. And we all know why I’m doing it. And it makes it stressful. And to top it off my own anxiety is off the charts right now. Because depression doesn’t come without its host of friends.

The stress comes first. Always. The stacking up of things that I have to do. The mounting list of activities, parties, meetings, events. This month it’s Christmas cards, and gifts to those far away, the logistics of travel, the breaking it to the family that we won’t be there again, but hey, guess what, we’re traveling to see friends for New Years! People we want to see, are not compelled to see. That’s sits well, I’m sure. The dreams come fast and furious in those moments. The stress dreams. My mother yells at me in those dreams. My husband’s plane goes down in those dreams. Sometimes, in those dreams, I am a server and I am double, sometimes triple sat. And I’ve just been told we are out of hamburgers, or french fries, or beer. I have no pens in my apron. My hair is a mess. I burned my hand on a plate. The other servers call in. Yeah, I still have server dreams, 12 years after I served my last plate. Jesus, that’s when I know things are bad.

The stress leads to anxiety. Those plane crash dreams become part of my waking life. I check his arrival and departures times. I start to Google the plane he will be on. When was it last inspected by the FAA? How many passengers does it hold? I track his flights the whole time he’s in the air. I start to think that my actions are affecting his fate. If I flip out on someone driving down the highway today, then maybe that will upset the universe. Knock her off her tilt. Worse yet, what if all my anxiety and worry, my Googling of the plane, wills the crash to happen. What if I am responsible for my husband’s own plane crash? Yeah. This is real life, y’all. My real life.

I get crazy. And then the crazy turns to sadness because I am just so fucking tired of being crazy. I cry in the shower because why does this have to happen to me? I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do. I go to the therapist. I get my vitamins and my l-Methly Folate. I’m taking my meds the right way. But it doesn’t help. My brain is still off kilter. My brain still works in a different way than other people’s and it’s not fair. But Jesus I can’t go down that “It’s not fair” route, because if I do I won’t get out of bed today. So I press on. I just do so with my mind in a million different pieces, which makes it hard to fully invest in anything. That’s when I start knocking things off my list.

That friend that wants to meet for coffee. I text her and tell her I can’t. I don’t explain because she’s a new friend, and she can’t know yet what I’m like. If she knows, she will run. I postpone that meeting about that party I am planning. I tell a friend who wants to FaceTime that I have an event so I can get out of it. If I FaceTime this friend it might help me feel better, but at this point I don’t want to feel better. I don’t deserve to feel better. I have to ride this downward spiral down, all the way down now. I am committed.

Because at some point I go on auto-pilot. I’ve been in this spot a thousand times before. I watch sad documentaries and listen to Adele. I turn my phone off so I can say, “I didn’t see your email,” and really mean it. After I pick Jackson up from school, I tell him that I have a headache, and I lay on the couch with a blanket, and I let him play video games for three hours straight. At some point I realize I’m being pathetic, and I make it up to him by playing video games with him, or at least making him a grilled cheese sandwich. Then the next day it starts over again.

It’s tougher than I thought, trying to explain what happens in your head. Tougher because I don’t have the words to explain it better, and tougher because when I see it written out like this it does, actually sound crazy. I’m ashamed of what happens. How the wiring in my brain works. How one thing leads to another, even worse thing. But it’s my truth. Something I live with, and yes sometimes I get so upset by my life being this way. By the way my brain works, but I also know that I am not the only one with messed up wiring, and I know that many of us have lived in the shadows for too long. Assuming that we are too messed up to have a meaningful life. To be loved. To love others. So I’ll keep writing, if you’ll keep going. And together we will wait for the good days. The good weeks. The good months and years. And trust, there will be some.

Be kind to yourself today.

M.

The Funny Thing is…

Everyone liked Duke’s Christmas List post yesterday. And people loved my Thoughts in the Carline schtick from the other day and the Florida stuff. In fact, people still, to this day stop me and tell me how funny they think my Random Thoughts are, and we both laugh about how dumb I am. But what some of them don’t get is that when I’m at my funniest, when I’m full of that light-hearted banter, when I’m witty, or quick with a comeback, I’m at my darkest inside. And that’s why I’m writing funny right now, light and fluffy right now, because I’m in a serious case of the blues. And when shit gets serious, I hide behind humor. A lot of people do. Have you ever met a genuinely funny person who isn’t battling something? I haven’t. The absolute funniest people I have ever met, are all desperately trying to hide from something, and humor is their coping mechanism, and often times their shield.

The funny thing is, it didn’t occur to me that the blues was even here until I spent two mornings in a row writing silly stuff. Some of it I published on my blog, some I saved for a rainy day. Never mind that I’d been crying on the phone with my husband the night before. Never mind that my anxiety had me frozen with fear and I couldn’t sleep. Never mind the mood swings, the needing to be left alone, the Netflix binge of sad documentaries. Never mind, never mind, never mind. It was when I could only write stupid, light-hearted stuff, that I knew I was knee deep in a shit storm.

I texted a friend who happens to be in her own storm right now, and whom I desperately wish I could reach out and grab for just a minute, hold her close to me while our storms rage around us. I told her that I was writing funny stuff, and she asked what was wrong, and I vomitted all the things. Then I felt shitty for doing that to her when she’s going through what she’s going through. Jesus, why does this all have to be so hard all the time? Why can’t we go forward, forward, forward, instead of forward, forward, backward?

I can’t write serious stuff right now, unless it’s seriously about how I’m trying to combat this shit storm. I guess I’m writing my way through this because I honestly can’t write about other things I want to, need to be writing about. I can’t write about my childhood, because there’s something there, waiting to be discovered. I can’t write about the grief that kicks up ever time this year from the loss of a loved one. I can’t even write about the world right now, or finish that story about that place I lived, and how my mom had been there years before as a teenage girl. I can’t tell you about my sister sneaking me into a Bon Jovi concert. I can’t submit anything new for publication, because I can’t sit down long enough to write anything worth publishing, because if I do then I fall. Down, down, down, into a rabbit hole of darkness. Because it’s there, just sitting there. Waiting for me to write something, to say something, to trigger it in some way, and I’m trying desperately to hide from it. My shield is up. Way up. And I’m down.

I wish I was making you smile right now with some anecdote. I have them, I do. They’re laying dormant right now. I have so much to tell you really. But I think maybe today I’ve used up all my smiling potion, all my story-telling magic. I think I’m back to the sitting on the couch watching television until I forget what day it is. But tomorrow is a new day. And maybe it will be better. Surely it will be better. But if it’s not, that’s okay too. I’ll wake up from the fog one day soon. And you will too.

Take care of yourself, however that looks today.

M.

Every Day, On Occasion

I was religious once. More of a question than an answer. More of a desperate attempt, than a genuine plan. That’s how it is sometimes though. When you’re not sure if you will ever see someone you love again, you tend to become religious. It isn’t the only time, but it’s a time. Every day I wonder if I messed up. If I made the wrong decision. To believe. Not to believe.

Every day I make a conscious decision to stay awake. Every afternoon I start to slip a little. I get drowsy, usually from lack of sleep the night before, and I have to decide if I should just curl up on the couch with a book, or I push through. Plan dinner, do some laundry, make a to-do list for when I will feel like doing more. I usually push through.

I feel guilt over something every day. Some situation, some action or reaction I had. It’s part of the cycle of shame. Of not being in control. I read it in a book. A book about adults who grew up with parents with addictive behaviors. We seek control, and when we don’t have it we blame ourselves. We blame ourselves a lot, for situations out of our power. It’s a cycle.

On occasion I wonder if my husband loves me like he said he does. I wonder it even as he is saying he loves me, or showing me in some way. He has never given me a reason to think any different. Never hurt me in a profound way. I just wonder if he loves me like he says he does. Because on occasion I wonder if I love people the way I think I do, because on occasion I wonder if what I feel is love. Or something else altogether.

On occasion I look into a mirror and feel a strange sense of detachment from my body and my emotions. My therapist says it happens. She says it’s a symptom of trauma. Depersonalization. Profound detachment. It goes by several names. It’s an odd feeling. The feeling of not belonging in your own skin. The feeling of watching your body continue to buzz, but your brain turn off. On occasion I avoid mirrors all together.

I worry about my child. Every day. Every day at some point I stop and wonder what he is doing at school at that moment. If he ate all his lunch. If someone was mean to him. If he was mean to himself. Every day I worry that he got enough sleep the night before. I listen to his breathing while we sit on the couch together. I ensure that he isn’t coming down with anything. I worry that I am messing him up. That he doesn’t have the life I planned for him. That I am disappointing him in some way, some irreversible way.

On occasion I wonder when the other shoe will drop. When this life I am living will end. When the rug will be pulled out from under me. I envision a fiery crash. A break-in. A gunshot. I assume I’ll be taken down in a blaze of some kind, an accident maybe, but a tragedy no less. I think I’ll be blindsides at two am with bad news. I sleep with my ringer on, on occasion.

Every day I work to make my life better. I go to regular therapy. I evolve, try to become more self-aware. I read books that tell me explicitly how to live a whole-hearted life. I practice mindful breathing. I take a pill, every single day.

On occasion all of this works and I have a good day. No self-deprecating devil on my shoulder. No little inner critic. On occasion someone tells me I helped them in some way, and I believe them. My son hugs me tight and tells me he has a great life, and I give myself credit for creating it for him. On occasion a friend texts to tell me that I make her smile, and I smile, because I want to do better. I deserve to do better. To be better. But not every day.

I hope today is a good day for you.

M.

ATL>LAX>TUS>ORD>ATL

Wednesday I am flying out to visit my friends in Arizona! I am so excited about this trip. First of all, I am traveling alone. Which means I have no one to worry about, but myself. Now you know I LOVE my family. And if I’m being super honest, I am very bummed that Jerimiah and Jackson are not coming with me because I love to travel with them and I am meeting a new baby that I want them to meet too! But the timing did not work with their schedules, so I am going alone. It has been a long time since I have travelled alone, and I am sorta excited about not having to pack three people. Kennel a dog. Fight with my 11-year-old about Arizona-appropriate clothing, etc. You know, the mommy logistics of travel. Instead, I can just pack myself, walk from the car to the security desk at the airport, show my own ticket, not worry about where everyone’s shoes ended up, grab myself whatever I want to eat for breakfast, and get on my damn plane. Wow. Amazing.

But the nervous part? Well, for all the shit I give the Atlanta airport (and I give it a lot of shit, because it is the busiest airport, uhhh, ever) I have never navigated my way through it. I have never flown in or out of the ATL. I’ve never taken the SkyTrain, or snaked my way through that security nightmare. I have only ever heard about it from my husband and friends. I have also never been through LAX, and because I used miles for this flight, thanks #AmericanAirlines, and I only paid $12, I have layovers. One on the way there, and one on the way back. I detest layovers, but I’m not gonna complain, because #TwelveDollars. So I go from Atlanta to LA, then from LA to Tucson. Then on the way back I go from Tucson to Chicago O’Hare (which I have been through, and it’s not too bad), then back to Atlanta. Whew.

I keep having all these thoughts about the first time I ever flew alone. I was 18 and on a flight from Kansas City (MCI) to Boston’s Logan (BOS). This was pre-9/11, which of course meant I just kind of walked onto the plane. I might have had to show a ticket, I’m sure I did, but it was Kansas City and it was 2000, and I was young and stupid and remember very little. I think people still smoked in the airport back then. Maybe.

Anyway, I had a six a.m. flight, and I had to go through Detroit. I was on a Northwest flight, remember them? And Detroit was their “hub” and if you have never been to the DTW, well, just consider this a blessing and move on about your life. Right before take-off I had a panic attack. Like, a real one, y’all. An honest to God, could not breathe, thought I was going to pass out, was willing to open an “Exit” door, panic attack. I didn’t know what to do. The sun was just coming up over Kansas City, and I just kept telling myself to watch the sun. Watch the sun, watch the sun, watch the sun. I repeated over and over again to myself. And before I knew it I had a glass of OJ in front of me and a bagel with cream cheese (they still served food on flights back then) and I had managed to slow my breathing, and recline my seat, and just watch the sun.

My palms get a little sweaty when I think back to that day. And I’m pretty sure I never told anyone about that panic attack. I was embarrassed to say the least. But it was real. And sometimes when we are taxing to take-off I remember that day. Then I find the sun, and close my eyes. Usually I reach for my husband’s hand, or give my son’s leg a reassuring pat. I can never be stressed when he is watching, because I don’t want him to be stressed. But this time… hmmm.

I will be fine. I am pretty sure. Yes, I will. But I guess keep your eyes on the sky on Wednesday. And if you see a news report about a woman pulling an emergency exit in an American Airlines flight en route to LAX, well, I guess maybe just send up some good thoughts!

But for real, I will let you guys know when I land safely in Tucson. 🙂 And of course, I will share pics of the new baby!

M.