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.

New Year's Resolution

I was back to see Patsy today (for the new people hiding in the back, Patsy is my awesome therapist). She was either booked solid, or away the whole month of December so I had A LOT to talk to her about. There was the pretty low spot I found myself in right after Thanksgiving. There was a whole month of guilt trips from family about coming home for Christmas, there was even the “Toaster” story that I had been saving up for her because I knew how she would react (jaw drop, head shake, a “What the actual hell?”) Oh man, it was good. But before I went back for my hour of emotional torment, I noticed an interesting thing in the waiting room. Lots of people I don’t normally see on my biweekly Tuesday or Thursday morning vists. Like, mainly mature, white men. I was sort of surprised. The five or so minutes I waited I also heard the office staff book three or four evaluations, which made me very happy because mental health is very important and I get the sense, over the last few years, more and more people have realized that.

I know what you are thinking. It’s probably the same thing I thought as I sat there watching people uncomfortably fill out paperwork in the first week of January, maybe they made this a New Year’s resolution? Maybe so. Hopefully. But who cares?! Listen, I know the general feeling nowadays, particularly from my generation, toward setting a New Year’s Resolution. Let’s call it, umm, jaded. And I gotta be honest, I just don’t get it.

What is so wrong with taking a clean, fresh start on a day that literally gives us a clean, fresh start? Maybe I don’t get it because I am a grade A, low-life, procrastinator who has said, “Oh, I’ll just do it on Monday” before. Because Monday is a clean, fresh day. Monday hasn’t been tampered with like Saturday has. Monday has so much potential. Monday will be better.

This got me thinking about the day I was baptized. I was baptized as an adult. I was 30 years old in fact, and it was after a particularly difficult point in my life and I needed direction. And faith. And cleansed. Looking back I should have made a therapist appointment instead of a sitting in a pool of my own filth in a white gown, but you live, you learn. The point is, I felt cleansed. I felt fresh. I felt like I could start over. So I did.

That’s what the new year does for some people. It allows them to shake off the negative shit they endured the year before. It allows them to start over. No one is trying to reinvent themselves from December 31st to January 1st, but they are trying to change their mindset. And what is so wrong with that? Why the jokes about gyms getting hit hard this time of year? Why belittle people for taking a difficult step? Maybe it makes you feel better, and if so may I recommend you get yourself a Patsy?

Because you posting on Facebook how you aren’t “dumb enough to make a resolution” isn’t helping your third cousin, once removed who is battling mental illness make that eval call. It isn’t helping your aunt who has decided 2020 is a year of change and she’s going to join Silver Sneakers. Your jaded opinions on New Year’s Resolutions aren’t helping anyone, unless to serve a few laughs, or help you commiserate with all the other haters. And again, I can give you Patsy’s number. You’ll love her, she’s great.

Here’s all I’m asking, and I’m asking it nicely the first time around: Can you spare a little more kindness? Can you think for an extra second before you share a meme about how the gym is crowded, or the health food store is crowded, or the therapist office is crowded this time of year? Because there are some of us out there who just need a definitive line. A point of no return. A cleanse, before we can take a leap. And yeah, maybe it won’t stick. Maybe by the first week of February my therapist’s office will be empty again, but maybe it won’t. There’s always that.

I didn’t set a resolution this year because I didn’t have a clear one to set, but maybe next Monday I will have one. Until then, I’m hopeful for all of you who did! This is your year!

M.

Coffee and Wine

Twice in the last month someone has told me that they have a hard time appreciating certain traits about me. In the first instance, someone told me that my kindness makes them feel awkward. In the second, someone told me that my openness, my honesty, makes them uncomfortable. As soon as I was told these things, both times, I did the very Missy thing of telling myself that I was dumb. That I am just too much for people, and that I need to reel it back in. I convinced myself that these people did not like me. Even so, I decided to stop doing what made them uncomfortable. I would not be generous with my time and resources, I would not be open and honest anymore. Fine, Universe, I get it! That lasted about two days.

Look it. I spent three years of my adult life, like recently y’all, in the past five years, trying to “fit in,” to belong, to a group of people. I went so far as to get manicures and pedicures once a month, highlight my hair, host party after party at my house, pretend to like shit that, hand to whateverGod, I just don’t like. All because I thought if I act this way, if I shield myself from my truths, if I pretend to like these things, then maybe I will have friends. And maybe I will belong to something bigger than myself. It’s like I have never even read a damn Brene Brown book, y’all. I lost all sense of myself in a sad, half-assed attempt to be accepted. That backfired, as it should have, but here I am, a couple years later trying to piece myself back together with whatever I have lying around while you guys watch. It’s mainly wine. The stuff I have lying around. It’s wine.

Here it is: I am open and honest. I hate small talk, which means when we sit down for coffee I want to know what is bothering you. What is making you happy right now. I want to know if you sex like is good, if your children are giving you shit, if your mother is as crazy as mine. I don’t care how you feel about the change in seasons, or whether the Christmas parade had too much fake snow. I want to know about you. About your past, present, and future. What are you goals? Where did you grow up? Do you go back and visit, does that place define you, do you want some wine? These are the things I am curious about, and I will tell you all of this about me, no need to ask.

I go out of my way to make others have a better day. Strangers even! Smiling and compliments go a long way. I want to do it. It makes me happy to make other people happy. To smile. To laugh. To help them sort out something that needs sorting out. Emotions. Heartaches. Trauma. That tub of old Christmas decorations, I don’t care. I will help you if you need it. It’s a part of who I am. But people are suspicious. Y’all are so damn suspicious. But I get it. It’s harder and harder to find people in this world who will drop everything they are doing to come help you paint that room you need painted, in exchange for adult conversation. But I’m here! Right here! Just give me a ring. And, you guessed it, some coffee or wine.

I really, really, really feel like that is something we are missing today. I really feel like we are missing real connections. And I think more people are open to this realness than we give them, or ourselves, credit for. Maybe I’m being optimistic, but I think we crave this connection. It’s just that we are so damn scared to take the leap because we don’t want to look cookoo-bananas in front of people we barely know, or people who love us, or admire us. Our friends, our neighbors, our family. We want to be that person we always are. That solid, strong, stable person. It just isn’t feasible. And honestly, I won’t stand for it anymore.

Those two people who told me that I make them uncomfortable, they don’t hate me. In fact, I think they like me. I think they like me as I am, and I think they just felt called to be open and honest with me because I put out that vibe. Maybe that person who told me that my openness was making them uncomfortable didn’t realize it, but by telling me how they felt at that moment, they were being open. And I do put out the vibe of wanting the realness. But honestly, when someone gives it to me I freak out. Ha. Yeah, that seems about right. But I will work on not freaking the fuck out anymore when you bring the realness, if you promise to bring the damn realness. And no, I don’t mind listening to you talk about the weather for a few minutes as part of a warm-up. I might even nod my head and say, “Sure, sure, all this rain,” but just know that I’m searching your eyes for the first opportunity to dig in, and I’ve already got the coffee brewing and the wine uncorked.

Let’s try to be more real with each other, y’all. More open. More honest. Kind. Generous. And if that isn’t your thing, then I understand. We just aren’t meant to be, and that’s okay too. There are a lot of people out there who want to talk about the weather, it just isn’t me. ❤

M.

I Would Drive 15,000 Miles…

And I would drive 15,000 more, because I have driven 15,000 miles this year and this isn’t how the song goes. But you did try to sing it to the Proclaimers for a minute, right?! Sure you did. And also, this is no joke. My husband, son, and I have driven 15,000 miles this year, and as you know, the year is not yet over. Look it, we are Midwesterners, so if I’m being honest 15,000 isn’t that much for us. You learn young in the Midwest, that if you want to see the “cool” shit, visit the “neat” places, you have to travel. And no one has money to be hopping on airplanes all the damn time, so you drive. Wanna go to a beach, one on an ocean? You be driving. Wanna go to a cool theme park? That’s a drive. Wanna see some historical shit? Some real, salt-of-the-Earth, Mother Nature, God’s Country type shit? You be driving. Want some culture? Driving. Damn, you just want to see a mountain and maybe snap a pic of an elk or something cool like that? That’s at minimum eight hours in the car. So, yeah, 15,000 miles ain’t no thing, but we aren’t stopping there. Jerimiah just booked our hotels for our New Years Eve vacay, which we will be adding another, ohhh, roughly 3,000 more miles to our total for the year. Don’t worry, I’m SURE I will have stuff to tell y’all about when I get back from Canada, Upstate New York, and New England in the dead of winter… (Note: All the red below are links to what I wrote while I was on these many trips, or just something that happened in that place, if you want to go back and reminisce with me!)

So where have we been this year to be racking up those kinda miles? Well, we started off the year with a road trip to Washington, DC where we participated in the Women’s March with friends. That was some wonderful, scary, sad, frustrating, empowering stuff. It was the week of the government shutdown, so there wasn’t much to do around town, but we did make it to the Holocaust Museum with the kids. Then there were two trips “home” and home here means the Midwest. We went to Kansas in May and then back to Missouri and Oklahoma in June. Then there were the four or five trips we made to Atlanta from Charlotte to find a house, enroll Jackson in school, etc. Then there was the actual move from Charlotte to Atlanta. And there were the subsequent trips back this year to see friends in Charlotte.

Then there was the trip to Texas.

Then there were all the trips back and forth to and from Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Coastal Louisiana all summer long. AHHHHH!

These miles do not count all the miles that we flew, and there were several thousands of those too. Mainly Jerimiah and his crazy work schedule this year, but also a trip I took out to Arizona to see one of my best friends.

At one point, six months into living in our new house in DeKalb County, Georgia (pronounced Dee Cab, not Dee Cobb for you Midwesterners) we counted up the actual number of nights that the three of us had been home together and the findings were not good. Not good at all. Meanwhile, we have earned so many airline and hotel points that our next vacation to anywhere, is actually free. That’s a lot of miles and points, y’all. Too many, really.

We aren’t normally this busy. In fact, we are homebodies, I know that is hard to believe, but we prefer to be at home. We prefer our own beds. Jesus, it took me months to pick out my bed and I LOVE it. And I like my own bathroom and well, just my own shit, you know? But, if you always stay where you are, you will never get anywhere. So we go. We travel, we move when we need to in order to better ourselves. We linger in new places for a few days, we see new sights, meet new people. We are travelers. Lucky to be able to do it, excited about what is around the next corner. But coming home is always nice too.

So there you have it, 15,000 miles worth of traveling so far this year, hoping to make it to 18,000, and hoping to add to our experiences, our fun, our love for our country, our friends, our family, and the world. Thanks for sharing in our adventures!

M.

Here Comes the Sun

My Mental health NP tells me that I need sunlight. She wants me to get a UV lamp for my desk. She says about 10,000 Lux will work. Referencing a study done by the Mayo Clinic, she informs me of the benefits of Light Therapy—in connection with Seasonal Affected Disorder—of which she piles on top of my other diagnoses. She tells me how Light Therapy can help, how the side effects are low. How it’s about intensity, duration, and timing. I smile politely and assure her that I am getting enough sunlight. She asks how I can be sure of that this time of year? I interject, “My soul is filled with light, Suzan.” She writes me a script for more Klonopin.

Hang in there, y’all. The sun will be back shortly.

M.

Did You Take Your Pills?

Back in October my mom came to stay with us for a month. One afternoon, early on in her visit, we went to a food festival and it wasn’t super fun. I was stressed out by the crowds and the fact that no one, not my mom, my son, nor my husband knew what they wanted to eat, or didn’t want to eat. For the first half hour they just followed me around in a line, in the middle of this crowded place, and relied on me to pick food for them, to find somewhere for them to eat, to get the tickets, to choose the vendors. And finally I fucking snapped, as one does from time to time. I sat my mom and son down with a hot dog and a soda, and I grabbed my husband’s arm, took him away for a minute and said, “WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK, DUDE?!” He realized then that he needed to step up and help a little, but he was overwhelmed too. Why we thought that was a good idea, I’ll still never know, but we learned a valuable lesson that day. We just can’t bite off more than we can chew.

That night I was feeling better. We had come home and relaxed, planned some activities for later in the week. I was treading lightly because my mother often tells me that I treat her like a child, say for instance when I grab her arm when she steps off of a curb. I do this because she suffers from neuropathy, and well, that’s never going to get better. She needs a cane, but she refuses. So instead she hopes she steps correctly when she steps off curbs and such. If my sister grabs her arm, my sister is helping her. If I do it, I’m treating her like a child. Then again, if I don’t grab her arm, then sometimes I am “being mean” to her. It’s a lose/lose situation with my mother. It always has been. I’m used to it.

So there I was, throwing ideas out about things we could do, but I was being mindful of a few facts. Like for instance, my mom can’t sit still for too long because she says it hurts her back and joints. She also can’t walk for too long because of the same reasons. So I am careful when planning things, not too much walking, or at least places to rest. Not too much sitting, long plays are out. As I was offering things, she was not giving me much to work with. I kept asking, “Does that sound like fun?” and she kept saying, “Whatever you guys want to do.” So finally I told her that, no, it wasn’t whatever we wanted to do, we have to account for a lot of things and I want to make sure it is something she can handle doing. That’s when she looked at me, dead in the eye and asked, “Did you take your pills today?”

I was taken aback, quite frankly. Because when someone asks, “Did you take your pills today?” what they are really saying is, “I think you are being crazy, and maybe if you took your pills you would feel better.” So I asked my mother what was bothering her. I asked her this because I have had enough therapy to know that she was projecting. See, my mother has pills she is supposed to take every day. Anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds, but she won’t take them. She thinks it’s the kind of thing you can skip doing for weeks at a time, which means they will never help her, because no, that isn’t how those pills work. And even if I had missed a dose of my pill that’s okay, because the pills I take stay in my system, they build up every day. That’s how those kinds of pills work. I know this. She knows this. It’s all common knowledge.

So my mother did a very my mother thing and went into a tirade about how I am mean to her. About how my sisters don’t treat her this way. About how she just can’t handle me and my “ways.” I suspect my “ways” are honest, adult, conversation. I ignored that, because it is the best thing to do, and I went on to explain that asking someone if they “took their pills” is incredibly rude and she needs to stop saying it. She went downstairs in tears and probably called my sister to tell her I was being mean. I’m beyond moved by any of that at this point.

But this is maybe something you all need to know. Some of you anyway. Well, two things really: 1. It’s not okay to ask someone on medication for mental illness if they in fact took their pills, unless, they are so low down, that you are honestly afraid that they haven’t been taking their pills and that they are to the point where you should be seeking medical attention for them. And even then, it should only be to someone who you know, and love, and that you are in this fight for, or with, every day. Like my husband could ask me that. He could ask me that and really mean, “Have you given up on yourself, because I haven’t.” But when my mother says it, she’s just being mean.

And 2. It is completely okay and necessary to tell people this. To set boundaries with your family members and friends. If someone is routinely asking you this, in the manner that is mean or uncaring, just to prove a point, rather than to the guts to say, “You know what, you’re being a little wonky right now, let’s talk” then you need to tell them that it is mean and that they need to stop. This is not the only time when this is okay to say to someone. Boundaries are very important and you should not feel uncomfortable about setting them.

A couple of days later my mom said she asks my sister this a lot when she is “being crazy.” I asked her if my sister got upset when she said it and she said no. I assured her that yes, she probably did, but that she won’t tell her. My other sister, I told her, probably would get mad. That’s when she told me she likes to say things to that sister to make her mad sometimes, she finds it funny. So yeah, that’s the kinda mom I’m dealing with. I know I usually only share cool, funny stories about my mom, but trust, it’s not all cool and funny. And I’m sure your relationships with your parents or family members aren’t all cool and funny too. And when it’s not, then try to help them, and if they don’t want the help, then leave. You don’t need that shit. And they will learn. Or they won’t. And either way, at least you can say that you tried.

Go forth and set boundaries today, y’all. It will help, I promise.

M.

Merry and Bright

Saw this cartoon today at the New Yorker and I felt it. Felt it with all my being. I’m sure some of you are feeling this too. I’ve had four days with my husband in two weeks, and it’s bothering me. It’s bothering us both. One whole day was spent at Jackson’s Robotics competition and one whole day was spent with me in deep sadness. Sleep until noon, sulking, sadness. Dejected. Apathetic. It’s Christmastime. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, damn it, why do I not feel wonderful?!

I go back and forth with depression. One minute I think it’s the most selfish thing in the world. The way I am, the way I treat my family, the space, and time, and energy I need to feel better. Then I’m reminded that this isn’t a choice. I’m not waking up everyday saying, “Let’s make today shitty, Missy!” On the contrary. I will myself to be positive. To stay upbeat. I drink a bunch of coffee to try to stave it off. I make a to-do list. I plan a walk or a coffee with a new friend. Then something trips me up. This month it’s been my husband’s damn work schedule. It’s been having him gone in the busiest two weeks of December. It’s been him missing activities he wouldn’t normally miss. It’s been watching my son’s heart be broken when daddy has to get on a plane again. And I know, I know, this is temporary. Shit, I know. It’s a mantra I created my damn self, in a hospital bed giving birth to a dead baby. It’s temporary. This is all temporary. But Jesus it doesn’t feel like it sometimes.

December is a tough month for a lot of people. Dare I say most people? How it got this whole “Most wonderful time of the year” tag has to be some good Hallmark marketing. I mean shit. Come on you guys. We do this to ourselves. The pressure of this month is something we created. And how on Earth can you feel wonderful when there are kids without shoes walking around? And how can we feel wonderful when there are mommies and babies without food in their bellies? How can we feel wonderful when Santa doesn’t make it to whole neighborhoods? Whole schools? Whole communities? The most wonderful time of the year. Hmpf.

As you can see I’m still in the pits. The storm is still raging. I’m trying to write my way through this one, so I won’t be offended if you haven’t stuck around. I get it. Believe me. You’re looking for funny, slice-of-life shit and I’m all, “Feline AIDS is the number one killer of cats…” womp, womp, womp. Believe me, I’m looking for joy too.

Cause that’s really how we combat this time of year. The grief that sets in. The crowded stores. The parties you don’t want to attend. The people you only see once a year, for a very distinct reason. We combat it by finding, and often times manufacturing, our own joy. Maybe that’s what’s so wonderful about this time of year? Maybe it’s that all this horrendous shit is still happening, but we can somehow hit pause for one day, maybe two if we’re lucky, and pretend it isn’t happening. Maybe it’s the feeling of standing on a mountain, right when the second big snow is coming, and no one is around, and the world is completely still, and the only thing you can hear is the tap of the snow falling on the frozen ground. Maybe it’s the peace you get from that. The calm from that. From something. Maybe.

Those of us with kids, kids who still have that Christmas magic in their heart, are the luckiest ones. We are still shaken awake at six a.m. on Christmas morning with anticipating faces. We still have to run down the stairs on very little sleep, stand in awe of what Santa has brought. We still unwrap gifts in a hurry, pounce around the living room in our pajamas, make wrapping paper forts and crawl under them. Laugh. Eat chocolate for breakfast. We find our merry and bright, even just for a few hours.

Those of us fortunate enough to not work for whole weeks at a time. Those of us who can sit with our families and put big, complicated puzzles together by the fireplace, or drink wine leisurely at five p.m. on the 23rd. Those of us packing up after Christmas and hitting the road. Vacationing to see friends or family. We are the ones who can hit pause. We are the ones who understand “happiest time of the year,” and sometimes when we are down in the pits, like I am now, with no real reason except that this happens sometimes, what is coming ahead is all we have to look forward to.

A friend said to me the other day that my feelings, my emotions, and my sadness right now are all valid. She said this after I was comparing my life to people who have it much worse off. We do that, don’t we? We go, “Well, it could be worse.” Sure it could. It could also be a lot better. And it will be one day soon. And on that day we will remember this one, and we will try not to take too much for granted. Until then, let others be merry and bright, our day is coming soon.

Take care of yourself, it’s only a little longer now.

M.

We're All Mad Here

One of my favorite subscriptions, Creative Nonfiction, is having a huge sale. They are unexpectedly moving from the location they have been for many years, and are selling off their inventory and back issues at LOW, LOW prices. Naturally I perused their “Clearance” section for good deals. Y’all know I love a good deal, and the good deals were bountiful. Many books from Lee Gutkind, many back issues of their magazine, and even some anthologies, all for an average price of about five buckaroos. As I started to look deeper into the back issues, I noticed that most of the ones I wanted were already sold out. I was all, what gives? So I started looking for patterns and lo and behold they came, as they usually do. The sold out copies were centered around two themes: Finding joy in dark times and mental illness. So, there you have it. We’re all fucked up.

I know you know this already. But damn it’s hard to see sometimes. Especially when you’re down there, in the thick of it. And I also know that my little, let’s call it a gathering of intel (as it wasn’t really research) about what people are buying in a very specific holiday sale, at a very specific, pretty unknown publication, isn’t a tell-all about the state of the world, but… but… is it though?

On of my favorite stories is Alice in Wonderland. I love it so much, that I can overlook Carroll’s opium use (just adds to this particular story), his penchant for young girls (let’s call it pedophilia), and the hookah-smoking caterpillar. And yes, a deep dive into that bitch can elicit a million different readings. It’s about growing up, obviously, it’s about puberty quite specifically, it’s about social climbing, sure. It’s about desire, idyllic beauty, innocence. Then all the really DARK stuff too. But, one of my favorite parts is when Alice is talking to Cheshire Cat and she’s all whiny and bitchy (hormones) and she says, “Buuuuut I don’t want to go among mad peopllllllle.” And Cheshire Cat is all, “Bitch. We all mad here.” I’m paraphrasing. Alice goes on in her bitchy way to be all, “How u know I’m mad, asshole?” And he’s all, “U here ain’t u?” End scene.

In the Disney version Cheshire Cat says something quite different when Alice says she doesn’t want to go among mad people. He says, “Ohh, you can’t help that. Most everyone is mad here.” Then he laughs his weirdo laugh. See the difference? In the real, shroom-enlightened brain of Lewis Carroll, we’re all mad. In Disney’s version just some of us are. Which can really fuck with you, because Disney’s dead wrong. We’re ALL mad here.

I don’t know a single person in my life that isn’t a little cuckoo-bananas. Sure, they might be cool as a cucumber most of the time, but every, single person I know has a thing. Maybe just one. Maybe several. Usually several, but they have at least one thing that makes others go, “Hmmm…” And that’s normal, y’all. It’s okay. In fact, it’s preferred. Because what would this here world be like if we all were great and wonderful all the time? If none of us were looking for joy in dark times? If there were no dark times? If none of us were struggling daily with mental illness, or trauma, or just trying to make the ends meet? It would be a shitty, shitty world I’ll tell you that.

Of course Disney is linking to something deeper here. Now mind you, I’m talking about the original Alice in Wonderland from Disney in 1951. So I’m talking about a time in American History where shit was real bad. Not for everyone, pause, not for all white people, but for most white people. Black people and other minorities, well they weren’t even “people,” so there’s that. I’m also talking about a time when your run-of-the-mill mental illness could get you locked away for all eternity. Like, for real. This was pre-prozac. This was when mental illness was not considered a thing. Maybe you were sad sometimes. That’s okay. Pull up those bootstraps and go on. The sad, sad reality is, there are still a lot of people who think this way. Now, most of them are dying out, but still we have them in our lives. We see them everyday. They are running our country. These people who don’t think mental illness is real. These people who believe they are not afflicted by it. These people who hand-to-whateverGod think this is just all made up, fanciful, Lewis Carroll shit. Hmpf.

Imma stop. Y’all know me. I can get going down a rabbit hole, way bigger than Alice’s, about mental illness. About trying to find joy among the wreckage. And for the most part, you know what I’m gonna say. Keep on keeping. Keep up the good work. Go to therapy. Get your meds right. Talk to people. Check on your people. YES! Even your people who make mad fun of you for going to therapy or taking meds. Because the chances are good that they are in the same boat as you, but with no raft to throw on shore, y’all. Their ego, their pride, their family members or friends, their own mental illness is making it hard for them to talk openly about their own mental illness. I know this sounds crazy, but it’s true. It’s so very true. And sure, Alice in Wonderland isn’t real. There are no Queen Cards coming to life, there are no rabbits who are late, late, for a very important date. But mental illness is real. And trying to find and create joy in this shitbag, upside-down world is real (and here is a link to the Creative Nonficiton sale to prove it: Holiday Sale at Creative Nonfiction). And pedophilia is real (watch yo kids!) and opioid addiction is real. But you know what else is real? Help is real. Talking about mental illness helps. That is real. I’m living proof. And also I’m here. If you need me.

M.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…

Seasonal depression! Sing it with me! Everywhere you go! You know what it is, it’s the lack of the GD sunshine. It’s the lack of the GD sunshine, and the lack of other people’s common sense. It’s a lack of boundaries from family members. It’s a lack of confidence. That feeling of not being able to keep up with the people around you. That feeling that no, I won’t spend $500 on my child for Christmas because spending $500 on a child for Christmas is nuts, but if I don’t spend $500 on my child for Christmas will other mommies judge me? Maybe. Probably. But you know what I like to wish I could say, “Fuck them!”

This is a stressful time of year, regardless of how you slice it. Slice it six ways, slice it eight, it all slices down to stress, anxiety, lack of boundaries and control, crappy weather, and usually feeling some sort of weight pressing down on you. Maybe it’s mounting credit card debt. Maybe it’s disappointing your family because you’re not coming home for the holidays, maybe it’s disappointing your children because they want more than you can give. But it’s always there, pressing down, down, down, until you feel like you can’t breathe.

Normally I’m already crazy by December 1st, but I gotta be honest, I’m not this year. I think there are two things at work here: 1. My new medication is AMAZING! I highly recommend it if you can swing it. It’s called Trintellix and it’s done a number on my reactionary nature. And 2. I’m easing into this mindset of gratitude. I’ve realized I have sort of always lived this way, the way of the grateful, mainly because I’m a big, empathic, nerd. And usually speaking, not always, but usually, being an empath brings with it gratitude. Because we see and feel the pain of others, and sometimes we clearly see that we are not in those shoes, even though sometimes we feel like we are. Here’s an example.

Last weekend Jackson and I ran to Kroger to pick up a couple of things. When we walked inside there was a man asking for money near the entrance. He had a sad story, sure, they usually do. And Jackson usually falls for it, hook, line, and sinker. He’s eleven. This man needed money to get home for the holidays. That was his story, and maybe it was true, but most likely it was not. Jackson was very upset when I told the man sorry, but I didn’t have cash. That part was true, but Jackson asked why I couldn’t get cash when I checked out. Oh this child of mine!

So I said maybe I’d get an extra $5 out for the guy. But Jackson said $5 wasn’t enough to get the man where he needed to go. I said I knew that, but I wasn’t going to pay for a airline ticket for this guy. Jackson thought on this as we strolled through the store. Later at checkout I got the $5 out and we walked outside to find him, but he was gone. Jackson suggested we keep the $5 in the glove box in case we run into him again, or someone else who might need the $5. Later that night Jackson ran down stairs upset about that man, but also very grateful. He recognized that we were also far away from what we consider to be “home” and that if we want to go “home” for the holidays we can. Sometimes we just choose not to. Because honestly #MyOwnBed, #StabilizingMyMentalHealth, and what not. See that empathetic nature giving way into gratitude.

So yeah, it’s a thing around here. The other thing that is helping me stave off seasonal depression is regular therapy. Which by the way Patsy says I need to give myself some credit. That’s it’s not just therapy and medication, but I’m working hard too. But I’m not ready to credit myself for anything. It’s a slow process.

So what am I saying here, y’all? Christ Missy, what are you ever saying besides a bunch of nonsensical nonsense like you live in damn Whoville! I mean, isn’t the Grinch just plagued by SAD? I know. I know. I think what I’m saying is maybe this holiday season you should say, “Fuck it!” I dunno, it sometimes works. If that’s not your thing then maybe try gratitude? Nah, can’t do it? I get it, how about this. How about you ship your family members to Alberta, and you take your happy-ass down to Aruba? That’s always been a dream of mine, a tropical christmas. I mean, the sunshine might just do you good!

Whatever you do, wherever you are, just remember that you’re not alone. There are people out there struggling like you are. Most people in fact. We all might struggle in different ways, but this season brings struggles. So don’t feel all alone. And be kind to everyone you meet.

M.

On Being Extra

I struggle with my weight. I always have. The first time I can remember thinking that I was fat was when I was nearly four years old. I was at K-Mart with my mom and she was thumbing though the sales rack of the children’s section, and I was hiding in between the circular display. I did this a lot as a kid. In fact, most of the memories I have of shopping with my mother involve her frantically looking for me, after I had wedged myself inside a self-made shelter of some kind. Clothing display racks, toilet paper piles, I even once hid for an entire shopping trip in the bottom of the cart under an empty box. I’m sure my therapist has some stuff to say about that, but let’s save that for another day.

So there I was, inside the actual rack of clothes, standing completely still, watching my mother’s feet go around and around the rack, when I heard a familiar voice approach. It was a woman who my mother knew. Not so much a friend, more like a friend of a friend. I knew her enough to recognize her voice, but still couldn’t remember her name. They exchanged pleasantries, then my mom remarked that she was looking for some new summer clothes for me. The woman offered to help and started thumbing through the rack too. A couple moments passed and she held up an outfit. This was the 80s, mind you, and outfits at K-Mart in the 80s came in two pieces. Shirts with matching shorts. How about this one, the woman asked my mother. My mother told the woman that it was too small. She went on to tell the woman that I was a size 6X. This was the first time that I heard a letter associated with a size of clothing. The woman gasped. She’s not even in preschool yet, right? The woman wondered aloud. Right, my mom said. She’s four this September. Then my mother politely excused herself and called for me. I emerged from my cocoon of clothes and the woman looked very surprised, but she smiled and waved us goodbye. That night I asked my much older, much cooler sister what the X meant in 6X. She said it meant “extra large,” and thus began my journey into being extra.

The thing is, I wasn’t always an extra large, but even when I wasn’t I still felt like it. In elementary school, for example, fifth grade, I was well into adult sizes, but not anywhere near extra large. Middle school, I was still clocking in at a medium or large. But compared to the other girls I was always Extra. Always. Even in high school, on the track team, working out five to seven days a week, limiting my calories, I was still an extra large compared to the other girls. Everything about me was just bigger. Except of course, my confidence.

By college, however, I was definitely into extra. A few years later, double extra. And now, here at this moment, the absolute most extra I have ever been, having just come off whacked-out hormones from a hysterectomy, pills that made me pack on the pounds, and a killer case of the blues. Extra, extra, extra.

I’m fat. I don’t try to hide it, how can I? It’s not like a mental illness that you can cover up with alcohol or self-sabotage. It’s a physical condition. I don’t need to tell people I’m fat, they meet me and can see it for themselves. What really chaps my ass though, is when people assume I like being fat, or that I am not actively trying. I’m trying. I’m always trying. And please don’t mistake me for one of those fat girls who feels good in her skin, because I am not. I LOVE Lizzo, I think she’s incredible and beautiful, but I don’t have her confidence. I don’t have her ability to feel comfortable at the weight I am at. I don’t have other talents that take the pressure off my appearence. I’m just a normal girl, in a normal fat-shaming world, trying to get by. (But I’m super grateful for the big girls out there shaping the way we talk about ourselves and see ourselves as women, because some days I really need it!) It’s just that I have always been extra large, and well, you do get used to it.

This isn’t a diatribe. This isn’t a “feel sorry for me post,” I don’t write those. Nor is this a “light a fire under my ass and start eating healthy” post. I eat healthy. That’s the thing. I have a kid, a kid who is genetically predisposed to being extra, so I work really hard to make sure he is not, and that includes leading by example. But something isn’t right in my body, it hasn’t been for many moons now, particularly after pregnancy, and trauma, and I’m working to get that worked out. It’s just a process, a really long, daunting process.

And the thing is, this isn’t a “fewer calories in, more calories out” fix. Believe me, I’ve tried that. This is deeper than “Keto” or a “30-day cleanse”, as it is for most of us who were always extra. It’s a process. You don’t got from the little girl who hides in clothing racks because she is afraid of people, to suddenly grown up one day and not having any issues. That’s not a thing. My mental health affects my physical health. That is true for all of us. And it can take decades to rectify.

I’m just here to say, don’t quit trying. That’s all. I see you. You are not lazy. You are educated on what you are putting into your body. You are trying to get your mental health under control. You are trying to figure out what makes you tic. How your hormones work. What insulin resistance looks like. How past trauma is holding you back. I see you, and I think you are doing a great job.

As for the little three year old who wore a 6X, she’s okay. She will be okay. One foot in front of the other.

❤️

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.

It’s Not Friday

Me: (Standing at the glass window waiting for a fax from Volkswagen to arrive at the MVD, while Jerimiah stands ten feet away on the phone with the person supposedly sending the fax) It’s always busy here, huh?

MVD Clerk: Actually, it’s slow today. For a Friday.

Me: It’s Thursday.

MVD Clerk: (Cocks her head to the side, eyes to the ceiling, counting days in her head) Ohhhhh, giiiiiirrrrrllllllll. You’re right. It’s Thursday. (Inhales a very long breath) Mmmmmmmmmmm, Lord Jesus. I thought it was Friday.

Me: Hehehe, yep… (backing up a bit from the glass)

MVD Clerk: Mmmmmhmmmmm. (Leaning forward onto her desk, with a crazy smile on her face.) It sure is Thursday. Mmmmmnmmmmmm.

Me: (Trying to make eye contact with Jerimiah to see if he sees what I am seeing.) Hehehe…

MVD Clerk: (Tapping her nails on the counter.) I just WOKE UP thinking it was FRidAy! You know what I mean? (Voice is changing levels.) You ever do that? You do that, right?

Me: Uh huh! Yes, yeah, yeah, yeah, all the time. Haha, I think it’s Friday all the time. Hehehe… (motioning with head for him to come toward me.) I guess you have one more day, huh?

MVD Clerk: (Legs are jumping up and down now.) OOOOOOHHHHHHH, Lord! Yes! One MoRe DAAAYY! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Me: (Clutching at Jerimiah as he walks toward us.)

(MVD Supervisor walks over with a piece of paper and slides it onto the clerks desk.)

MVD Clerk: Okay! Whew! We bout to get you guys outa here. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

God bless the MVD Clerks.

I got Georgia tags.

It’s not Friday.

M.

Traveling Sisterhood

Yesterday I spent the day in Arizona wine country with friends. Turns out that yes, things can grow in the desert. Not just prickly things and snakes. But lovely things, like grapes, and long-distance friendships, and beautiful, blue-eyed baby girls.

Yesterday was one of those days with the ability to save those who need a bit of saving. You know the kinda days I’m talking about: when the stars align, the sisterhood converges, and the desert abides. When the chaos of life slinks off your shoulders. When you find yourself in an unexpected place, with perfectly, imperfect people.

Today I’m thankful for the yesterdays in my life. To the planes that arrived on time. To the cramped cars, and the funny Border Patrol men. To the cough drop talks, and the woman with the sangria from California. For the girl gangs I’m apart of. And the ones I don’t yet know.

Thanks, Universe.

Thanks, friends.

M.





Therapatsy

My therapists name is Patsy. I’ve written about her before, but I used a fake name to hide her identify because she probably doesn’t want her name associated in any way shape or form with this here blog ‘o’ mine, but today I decided that’s too damn bad because well, first of all there are a lot of Patsys in this world, and probably some of them are therapists, and also I really like Patsy and want to tell you guys about her. So, let me start over and say that my therapists name is Patsy and she’s pretty cool.

Last week she told me that she feels like she always tells me to “lie” to my family, but in a way she does, and in a way I need her to tell me to do that. Take for instance when I have to get some alone time because my mom has been at my house visiting for two weeks, and we all took an eight-hour road trip together over a long weekend and I have been feeling like I always have to talk to someone every second of every day because someone is always talking to me every second of every day. Patsy said, “Tell them you don’t feel well, and go hide in your room.” Ah, see that? Patsy just gets me.

She apologized right after, but really, I’m sorta out of options here. I told her not to worry because I already do this. I’ve been doing this for literal years. To my mom, my husband, my son, my friends. I will be all, “Oh, I have to poop. Sorry, it’s gonna be a while. You know ‘ol Missy and her gastrointestinal problems…” then I hide in the bathroom for half an hour so I don’t have to talk to anyone, or make any decisions for anyone, or pretend to be engrossed in a story about that one time my friend’s cat got out of the house and showed back up three months later with three kittens and a penchant for blood. I mean, it’s a good story, but one can only hear it so many times, so I lie and I sit in the bathroom and I listen to nothing but fucking silence. I love silence. LOVE IT.

Before my regular visits with Patsy, I would get therapy anyway I could, while telling people that therapy just wasn’t for me. I would watch Brene Brown or Oprah on repeat and hope that I learned something. I would sit on park benches and listen to other people talk, hoping they would say something inspirational. I would write. I would listen to music, I would binge watch shows about women in prison to make myself feel better about my life. Patsy sorta ended all that for me. Patsy has a calming presence. Which is way good for me. She isn’t afraid of silence, which sometimes I just need in my bi-weekly hour session. But she also can tell when we just need to jump in and get started.

Last week I was fifteen minutes late to my appointment. I HATE being late, but I had the time wrong in my calendar, and well, I just messed up. Plain and simple. Not to mention the fact that I was in the line at Starbucks when I realized I had messed up. Jerimiah was with me and he was all, “Tell her it was my fault!” (He always makes this offer to me, about anything. If I do something wrong, or say something wrong, or hurtful, he will say, “Just blame it on me!” I usually don’t, because I’m too damn honest. But the offer is nice.) When I relayed the story to Patsy, because of course I told her the truth, because I can’t lie to her—which is coincidently one of the ways I know I can really trust someone. Always has been. If I can’t lie to them, I know they are nice, and good, and my kinda people—so I didn’t lie to Patsy and she was all, “Where is the damn Starbucks? Did you leave it in the car cause you didn’t want me to see?” And I was all, “Duh.” And she was all, “Dude, don’t do that! Always bring the Starbucks in with you.” Ahhh, Patsy.

Why am I telling you about Patsy? I dunno. Because I am currently “not feeling well” and I am in my room, alone, with the door closed, while my husband and mom and kid watch a movie downstairs, and I just realized how there’s no getting around that I NEED to do this sometimes. And I shouldn’t feel bad about it. Patsy said that. And she’s a professional. So I should listen to her. I also, probably, want to take this time to tell you all to get yourself a Patsy. Or a Susan. Or an Angela. Or a Bill or a Mark. Some therapist, with some therapist-sounding name. And check in with them every once in a while. It’s helpful. And nice. Even if you just sit in silence for an hour. It’s so totally worth it.

Take care of yourself.

M.

Dangers in the MVD

A few weeks ago Jerimiah and I went to switch our tags from North Carolina to Georgia. It’s a lengthy process that involves lots of paperwork, phone calls for titles, insurance, and inspections, and a shit ton of money. This was our second time attempting this, and we were pretty sure we had all our ducks in a row that day. We didn’t, and were there for over an hour, but people were all very nice. That wasn’t the thing that stuck with me from that day. What stuck with me was what happened while I was in line to get into the Motor Vehicle Office.

Jerimiah and I had walked in together, then as soon as he was about to go through the security checkpoint my phone rang, so I stepped back outside to answer it. It was the dog groomer and we had just dropped Duke off for a trim, so I knew it was a question. I was only outside for about five minutes, but by the time I got back inside the door, Jerimiah had a number and was seated inside, and a long line had formed at the checkpoint. So I shrugged my shoulders and prepared to wait. I knew our number wouldn’t be called anytime soon, so it was no big deal.

As I was waiting in line I noticed that in front of me were three young women. They were not together, and they were all carrying folders with paperwork, their car keys, and their cell phones, with crossbody bags slung across their shoulders. At first I didn’t pay much more mind to them. I just noticed, as I do, their presence, as well as an older couple in front of them, and a few single men and women starting to line up behind me.

It wasn’t until the first of the young women walked up to the checkpoint that I made a realization. She gave her purse to the officer to look through, she put her keys and phone in the bowl, and she walked through the metal detector. She reached back for her purse, keys, and phone and the officer said, “You can’t take your mace inside. You want to just leave your keys with me?” She hesitated for a minute, then said, “Sure,” and walked up to the number queue. That’s when I noticed the girl behind her fumble with her keys. She walked up next. Same thing. Keys, purse, phone, metal detector, did she want to just leave her keys? Sure. Third woman, the exact same. So by the time I got to the checkpoint with only my phone, I put it in the bowl, walked through the detector, eyed the three sets of keys sitting with the Sheriff Deputy, and walked to find Jerimiah.

When I sat down next to him, he saw in my face something was up, so he asked. I explained that three young women in front of me all had pepper spray on their key chains and had to leave them with the officer. He shrugged his shoulders and said something like, “Oh sure.” Then I got really mad at him, even though it wasn’t his fault. I got made cause he’s a guy, and for him sure, yeah, that makes sense. You can’t carry pepper spray into the MVD, but that wasn’t what was bothering me. I had already jumped three steps ahead of him. He must have seen the anger flash in my eyes because he said, “But I mean, it’s sad that they have to carry it at all.” Good save, husband.

Because yeah, it is sad, and it’s also total fucking bullshit. It’s total fucking bullshit that as women we know we have to always be on the lookout for someone, ahem a man, to hurt us physically. Or want to. We can never rest. We can never not think about walking to our cars in an empty lot late at night. My husband doesn’t think twice about it, meanwhile I’ve been told countless times, since I can remember, to kick at the groins. To stick my fingers in eye sockets. To hell, “Fire!” To kick headlights out. To never let them take you to a second location. I’ve been those young women. My mom bought me my first can of mace when I was 16, and got my first job. I’ve been scared in a hotel hallway alone with a man I didn’t know walking my direction. I’ve nestled my keys in between my fingers to use as a possible shiv in a moment of panic. We all have. It’s what we’ve been conditioned to do. And it’s such fucking bullshit.

I don’t have an answer here, y’all. Never usually do. But I do want to say that rape culture is real. And we need to start believing victims. We need to start teaching our boys about consent. We need to start teaching our boys that just because a girl wears a short skirt, doesn’t mean anything to you. We need to start having these real, tough conversations. And we need to get people like Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh out of our high offices. Because it starts from the top. I know there is a lot to be mad about right now, but there is nothing more important than helping people feel and be safe. Especially women and children. Especially women of color. Especially transgender women. Especially those who can’t defend themselves. Especially. Especially. Especially.

Take care of yourselves ladies. I wish you didn’t have to carry that pepper spray, but please keep doing it, cause change takes time. Remember to be vigilant. To watch out for yourselves, and for others.

❤️

M.