It’s Fall Y’all!

I feel like autumn is already almost over. I thought I’d take a post to relish in everything I love about this season, quick as it may (seemingly) come and go.

As my personality developed, I aligned myself with fall in that it is a time of change, of reflection, of the end of the old, and beginning of the new. I remember the many days walking home after school dragging my feet through leaves and feeling so at peace (I love how Mother Nature takes the reigns and we as visitors just sort of have to go with it). I remember the warmth of wearing a hoodie in the fall chill (I love fall-favored clothes). But probably my favorite past time is sitting around a fire with good people as the sun falls and the temperatures drop.

I love the colors of fall. Don’t get me wrong, I totally love the green and mossy hues of spring but there’s something so sacred about fall. It’s our last ditch attempt at taking advantage of the outdoors for the year. I always feel bad about not doing enough over the summer but I up the ante in fall and make up for it.

 
I think back over the years and some of my most vivid memories from growing up are from fall. I remember being a witch for Halloween (for too many years) with my brother. I remember going to the annual Halloween dance, sponsored by a local non-profit for persons with intellectual disabilities, with my family every year growing up. I remember having an absolute blast to be a part of something like that. I remember my dad carving our pumpkins. I remember my mom trying to bake pumpkin seeds (because my friends had shared theirs with me at school) and stinking up the whole house for a couple of weeks. I remember Thanksgiving as a child at my Aunt and Uncle’s farm. I remember spending most of my time in the barn with my cousins and the farm cats before supper was ready. I remember the pumpkin pie. I remember the good feels I got from being around family.

 

Fall into winter is a really family-intense time period! But I didn’t mind, I loved, and still love, the warmth, the tradition, and the memories (even if they stress me out).

 
Going forward, I’ve already started some fall traditions of my own. For one, I’ve prided myself in crocheting part of Sylvia’s costume every year. Someday, I won’t have the time, or daughter-approval, to make her costumes, so I relish in doing what I can now. Watching “Hocus Pocus” every year has also become tradition—for obvious reasons. I’ve fallen in love with the smell of pumpkin spice and autumn leaves scentsy waxes—I cannot imagine another fall without the manufactured smell of fall lingering in my house. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed decorating the front of our house for Halloween and fall (more than I can say for Christmas). I am very much looking forward to forming more family traditions and embracing the festive housewife I seem to be developing into.

 
There’s some positivity for ya!

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The nice thing is that she’s content to be outside, even if we are busy raking leaves
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A-ha, I’m an Introvert

It’s actually impressive that the concept of introversion was mostly unbeknownst to me until the past couple of years. Not one time in my whole childhood, teenhood, or early adulthood did anyone suggest that my shyness, anxiety, or aversion to social situations (without alcohol in the equation) might be due—at least partly—to my being an introvert. I am happy and relieved to have an explanation for my faults now. I embrace being an introvert now. I feed my hunger for alone time and I reset a couple times a day. And I can now say that I’ve been able to all but solve my panic attack problem in doing so. But growing up, it was hard.

I grew up forced into a lot of social situations that made me really anxious. But I didn’t have an explanation and for over a decade, I struggled in school and all other social settings. Presently, I’ve been reading “Quiet” the past month or so and I have honestly never had so many “A-ha!” moments! After learning about the need for introverts to have opportunities to “re-charge” between social activities, I am saddened when I think back and realize that that never happened for me until I started cutting class in middle school. By then my anxiety had gotten so bad that bathroom breaks didn’t ease my mind anymore. Until then, I only came by some peace and quiet using the bathroom and the short 3 or so hours at home before I went to bed. It sucks to realize even more now that I am mother.

But, I don’t think parents, teachers, daycare teachers—anyone really gave any thought to the symptoms of introversion back then and making accommodations for a child. It wasn’t considered “normal” behavior. So kids were (and majority are still) forced to be social and do sports and they will eventually burn out. I know I did. It took awhile, but it happened and by then I had a whole lot more on my plate than just managing my introvert tendencies. I’m sure that’s all well-established at this point if you keep up with my blog. But I mention it so often because it has really shaped who I am. And the way I view the world. And parenting. Everything.

What was once really difficult (finding time to re-charge throughout the day) has evolved to be plentiful. But I still struggle when the holidays come around, or when I work too much. So I take caution to take care of myself more. I learn to be selfish and not overbook myself. I turn down open shifts even if I know I could wing it. I decline plans if I haven’t had a quiet night at home in a couple of days. I’ve seen the darkness of not taking care of myself and I want to do all that I can to not let myself revert back to that.

 
What I do find difficult is being able to balance being a mother, friend, wife, and worker while taking care of myself and not feeling like I’m being avoidant of my friends. I realize that I don’t spend nearly the time with them that I did a year ago and I often wonder if I’m being a piss-poor friend by keeping my down time dear to me. I know my husband struggles to understand anxiety and introversion but I do hope that he can notice the correlations between having downtime and less stress. I think it’s hard to understand for a lot of people. And probably appears like excuse behavior. But I guess fuck those people.

Labor Day Vay-Cay

I never thought I’d say this, but I think I actually LOVE taking trips with my little one (and husband). OK, maybe not the packing and unpacking part—that’s just awful and always will be. But, the introducing Sylvia to the world (while I’m discovering it for myself) part is just a very cool experience. And I’m actually starting to really like when Hubs takes initiative without asking my opinion. Because if he’d asked me and kept me super in the loop with planning this whole thing 6 months ago, I probably would’ve told him that our Labor Day vacation was a bad idea. Because I have realized that the older I have gotten–the more anxious and stressed I get about big plans.

Have I mentioned that I called off our original wedding plans.. Fancy(ish) venue, theme, large(ish) guest list.. EVERYTHING!? And instead, opted for a small, informal union while camping? I do feel like I have said something about it here before so I’ll let it go. Lest I am losing my mind some more. That’s entirely possible.

Any way, I’ve digressed.

Hubs has probably brought up the “House on the Rock” museum every time Frank Lloyd Wright comes up (which is actually quite a bit since he is like the only architect I know or who’s life work I have knowingly and intently toured). I am actually able to connect his style to almost every eccentric house I see. I’m not the only person fond of the guy, hence the House on the Rock—which is NOT a Frank Lloyd Wright house but a sort of shrine house built by a man fascinated by Frank Lloyd Wright. This guy, Alex was his name, liked his style so much he built a house comparable to Wright’s tastes. And while I am still uneasy about his house being so closely tied to the actually works of Wright, it is still a really cool destination. Any house with shag carpet floors and walls is a house I love!

**My own disclaimer to anyone interested in visiting is that if you are little off-put by darkness and high heights, that’s pretty much the entire theme of the place. Dark crannies, dark overhead, high heights, and bright, creepy music machines! But the music machines are the best part, by far; creepy or no.

I think my favorite activity, out of the whole trip, was WizardQuest. Which was actually our first adventure at the Dells. I was super skeptical going into it and didn’t know what to expect. I had no idea how they planned to incorporate a video game-like feel without VR or something like that. But it was super fun! It brought back all the things I miss about video gaming—goblins, spells, elves, etc. etc. Shout out to the Hubby for crawling into all of the little crawly places and finding our clues. We couldn’t have completed the quests without his supple frame. I know he felt it the next day.

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Here’s one little cranny of the Earth level at WizardQuest

Sylvia was a dream throughout our trip. Although the first night was off to a rough start, once she settled down and gave into sleeping in her pack ‘n play in a foreign place, she bounced back the next day after a restful night of sleep. We were go-go-go for the first whole day of our trip, topping the day off right at the Cave of the Mounds. Sylvia was pretty happy to be there in her carrier snuggled up in my chest (caves are cold, mind you). There was another little boy there about a year older than Sylvia who was NOT happy to be there, however. He gave me a little glimpse into the life as a mom with a mobile youngin’. And now I somewhat dread, more than before, the terrible two’s and mobility. I really felt for the parents of that kiddo. Though, if I were in their shoes, I would’ve thrown the towel in early and hauled Sylvia to the car if that were her. That’s mostly because I am super sensitive to human emotion and listening to her cry is super exhausting and gets me irritable real quick! But I totally admire parents who don’t let their children’s antics shake up their plans. I think it shows the kid that no amount of fussing will get things to go the way they want. Power to those parents!
Thoughts in hindsight post-Labor Day vacation:

Don’t pack the jogger on any future trips unless we plan on visiting a human beehive (like the Iowa State Fair). Huge waste of trunk space and we never needed it 

Stop monopolizing all the vacation plans going forward

Give hubs more credit for his ability of planning things (because I forgot to pack him underwear and suck at planning in other ways)

Hubs’ got mad photography skills

There are so many other places within reasonable driving distance to discover

Memories>money

 

Some more photos from the trip:

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Cave of the Mounds.
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Huge whale. Maybe a bit larger than scale.
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Gardens outside of the House on the Rock
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Wow, this looks a lot dirtier with the flash on. But cool nonetheless!
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Almost walking

Stories of my Father

My dad lived a pretty colorful life prior to settling down to have a family. It’s a life I have had a great desire to map out and understand after his passing. My dad was a very sociable man, yet, as his daughter, I didn’t get to connect with him on the level that many others were able to. In fact, very little I know about my father is firsthand knowledge. I don’t know if either he thought I was too young, my mom would disprove of it, or he thought I didn’t care. No matter the reason, his passing has left a long perceptual list of questions—all unanswered. It is only posthumously that I have come to learn more about my father.


**Note that I am only recollecting these stories as I remember them. I’ve done my best to accurately embody the storytelling approach of each person.

My dad and his family lived in Riverside, CA, through the 1960’s. My dad was drummer during the time that surf-rock was the popular sound. I don’t think that my dad was a “hippie”per say, but I think he aligned himself with ideologies of experimenting with drugs and music all the same.


Before my Grandpa passed, my favorite thing to do was sit at the floor below this awesome (literally awe-some) man snoozing on and off all day in his mighty throne of a “lazy boy” recliner. I’d bide my time with my mom or photo albums until he would stir. When he was awake, I was showered with stories of my family. These cozy days with the man I deeply appreciated for giving me, and most of the people I loved, life are some of my fondest memories. My Grandpa was one of the best storytellers I’ve ever met. He had this way about him that would make anybody quiet down and turn to listen.

“I remember, one evening, hadn’t seen Dave for a week or so, and here is he walking up to the house with Dick Dale. If he didn’t have someone with him, I’d have laid into him. His mother was worried sick. We all knew about Dick because ‘Miserlou’ was on the radio a lot. He introduced us and I could see Dave’s eyes were bloodshot. But I didn’t do anything about it. We said grace, ate and Dave talked about how they’d been at the beach all day. I never saw him happier than he was hanging with those big name guys.”

I can’t remember where I had first heard of it, but it came to my attention that my dad had had a stay at the San Bernadino State Hospital and was treated with electroshock therapy. I asked my Grandpa about this and I remember him sighing and thinking of how to talk about it before speaking.

“Dave was playing those shows all night long and was taking classes all day. If he slept, I never saw it. I don’t know what he took to stay awake–I think it was those uppers. I’d try and tell him, ‘Take er easy, Dave—That music stuff isn’t worth your grades slipping.’ But he wouldn’t hear it. Your dad loved drumming. He loved it so much it made him crazy.”
“His mom was having a time with Colin and his accident, we couldn’t handle Dave and what he had goin’ on. He’d come home strung out talking about God-knows-what. He needed help, and not the kind he got from those friends of his.”

My Great-Aunt (my Grandpa’s sister) lived down the street from my Grandpa and she would pop over or babysit from time to time, so she had a good understanding of what was going on at the house. I asked her about my dad when they were living in California.

“Dave would come to the house for meals, but I don’t think he was living there. I was over one day and he came home with a few of his friends with him. He wasn’t looking too hot. While he was smoking a cigarette, he took his lighter, lit it, and held the flame under his hand. That’d make anyone scream, but not Dave. He just stood there, staring at his hand and letting it burn. He said it didn’t hurt, that he couldn’t feel anything.”

“One night I heard him outside howling at the moon in the pitch black.”

Not long after these occurrences, it sounds like my Grandparents decided to admit him to a hospital to get treatment. My Grandpa said it was one of the hardest things he had to do.

“These doctors seemed to think he was bad. They said he had a 50/50 chance of living or dying. He wasn’t eating, sleeping; he couldn’t even play drums. Sounded like the drugs were frying up his brain, that happened a lot with kids at that time. Someone turned him onto that stuff and walked away.”

Thankfully, the treatment worked and my dad (after I don’t know how long) was discharged, deemed fit for society again. But I don’t think he was ever as passionate about drumming again. He drummed small gigs, most recently in a polka band at the time that he met my mom, but nothing like he was doing at the peak of his drumming career. My dad used to sometimes share with me these little stories about his time as a drummer before the drugs really took hold of him.

I remember telling him about the new Johnny Cash movie that was coming out called “Walk the Line”. He said he’d have to check it out. He didn’t seem too taken with the movie; his review was pretty memorable though.

“I didn’t care for that movie—it’s not how it all happened. They really romanticized him. He left his wife and left his kids, to be with June. They were all over the magazines, no one cared that he did that. It wasn’t pretty. They didn’t touch on his drinking and drugging nearly as much as they should have. That’s the only way he could play—loaded. I played with him on American Bandstand and he was late. When we were standing there waiting for him and going over the set, he laid down his guitar case, popped it open, and he had two bottles of vodka in it. He opened one of ’em and drank almost the whole bottle before we went on.”
“That part about him being so loaded that he jumped on the TV trolley was true. I saw him do it. He was absolutely an alcoholic.”

My dad had apparently played drums for a lot of famous musicians. It’s my understanding that he was essentially a “drummer for hire”, one of the ones that do a one-time gig for a show when they don’t have anyone else to do it. He told me about the first time he met Cher—he didn’t like her very much.

“I went to their house to meet them and set up some time to practice. Sonny answered the door and shook my hand. He was real nice—I always liked him. But Cher was a real bitch. She was there in the room and turned and ran up the stairs the second I stepped in, ‘no pictures without my make-up!’ Like I was some papanazzi. What a bitch. But I always liked Sonny. He was too good for her and she ruined him.”

I can’t remember if it was American Bandstand or what that he played with them. I probably asked but have forgotten. He said he also played for Chuck Berry, too, but again, no idea where or when. I really wish I did. I’d assume that, especially with being on American Bandstand, that there would be a recording of it somewhere. Nothing would make me happier than seeing him doing what he loved best.

My dad’s first wife, and the mother of my half-brothers, wasn’t well liked by our family. But my dad was pretty smitten with her and they got married in the early ‘70’s. My Grandpa had his reservations about it, but not much he could do. After my brothers were born, things went south pretty quickly. She moved with them to Arkansas, and my dad followed, trying his best to keep his family together. But it didn’t work out. He gave up and moved up to Iowa with his sister while he got back on his feet. He did, however, have to go back down a couple of times to get his things and visit the boys. My Grandpa remembered one of these times pretty vividly.

“I went with Dave down there. I didn’t trust them to do the right thing and let him get his stuff. It had been three months and they’d already sold most of it. He had a few sets of drums but he only made it out with one of ‘em. She was living with his parents with the boys at the time so that’s where we went. We get there and Dave goes up and out comes her dad with a shotgun to his chest, pushing him back. He’s threatening him while I’m standing there. He doesn’t care. Dave clears his throat and says, ‘If you think shooting me is going to solve your problems, you’re wrong.’ After some talking, we got his things and had to leave. She wouldn’t let him see those boys and he blamed himself.”

The next time my dad went down there to get a few other things, my Aunt had him take her son, my cousin. I was surprised learning that since his ex-wife’s family was so nuts. But she seemed pretty sure they wouldn’t have the audacity to do anything to my dad if a kid was involved.  And she was right, it didn’t sound to be nearly as eventful.

I struggle finding out anymore about my dad. It’s been almost ten years since he died. Many people that would know a lot about his early life have since passed or aren’t able to accurately recollect what I’m asking. I blame myself for not inquiring about it more when he was alive. I feel like everyone else is tired of me asking about him. Or they just want to let it be. My inquisitiveness eats at me, though. I try not live my life in the past, but with my father, it’s all I can do.

The “Troubled Teen Industry”

I read this article I found on the Huffington Post the other day and it’s been on my mind NON-STOP since. I urge you to give it a read. I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on this topic. I sometimes feel I have too great a bias to actually form opinions on this specific topic objectively.

I’ve suppressed a lot of memories from my time being handed over to the state and passed around to different facilities in what I assume was an attempt to “fix” something that was “broken” about me. Making sense of it all is still very troubling for me. But reading things in the media, such as the article aforementioned, reminds me of the promise I made upon returning home; to share my story when I can (and not be embarrassed by it), to denounce “treatment facilities” when I can, and see to it that parents and other stakeholders understand the repercussions of “treatment” for their loved ones.

When I worked as a drug addiction specialist (direct care worker in a teenage residential treatment facility), I was sure to be transparent in my life experiences with the teenagers I worked with. Even if that meant it could be manipulated by a client and used against me later (which happened maybe once the whole time I worked there, might I add). I knew it was taboo to talk about my experiences with using recreational drugs and the subsequent admittances to residential treatment. I knew that while my employer couldn’t tell me not to talk openly about it, they definitely preferred that I didn’t. I knew it was in the best interest of the employer to have employees that wouldn’t empathize with its clients (because it makes business difficult to have an insider also working as an advocate for the consumers). I didn’t care. Despite what society’s views are about kids that end up in these facilities, they are over-stereotyped. They are, in many ways, failed by the system that’s been designed to help them. Much like I was.

I had a social worker at 14 years old. I was depressed, anxious, suicidal, skipping school, and was experimenting with drugs. My parents didn’t understand this uptick in behaviors and were growing increasingly frustrated by it. So, they sought help through DHS (Department of Human Services). I was assigned a social worker whose job was to provide my parents and I with the resources necessary to get me back on track. When the outpatient stuff (teen support groups, therapy, psychotropic drugs) didn’t work to correct my continued avoidance of school and family, my parents looked into other options—the inpatient ones.

You see, growing up, I never had outlined consequences for certain behaviors. My consequences evolved only as seen fit. Depending on how hot off the handle or stressed out my mom was, I was subjected to a number of new or inconsistent methods of discipline. And because my dad was a permissive parent, I really only had one person working on my behalf. And that person was totally insecure in her role of parenting a troubled teenager. I think that proved to be the most fateful thing, as I got older. It was the underlying theme to every situation I found myself. It was the perfect storm.

At 14, I felt that my friends were more important to me than my family. When my mom would prevent me from seeing my friends, I rebelled. One such rebellion (walking out of the house late one night) turned into the police being called. When I was finally located, at school the next day, I was pulled from class and taken to the local shelter. After a couple of months in shelter, I was sent back home. I was placed in another outpatient program designed for foster kids, much younger than myself, who faced family dysfunction by way of attachment issues. I ended up walking out of that program on the third day (much to the disillusion of my mom) because it was laughably unparalleled to my needs.

I continued to smoke pot throughout this time, generally felt misunderstood and was still missing a lot of school; so those were the issues at hand. I was also increasingly frustrated by the power that my mom and social worker were wielding over me at this time—I was angry with my mom all the time. I felt knit-picked over everything—I would get spiels every time I said “shit”(which was also laughable considering that I inherited my colorful vocabulary from my Dad). The school had caught wind, by this point, that my behavior at school was “need-to-know” information for my parents and social worker. So, from that point on, it was hard to ever find any positivity in my demeanor. I was being watched at school and home; I had no privacy, no trust, and no benefit of doubt.

Have you ever snooped on someone that you loved? You know what comes of it, don’t you? Nothing good. If you are looking for some dirt, you will always find some, no matter what it is exactly that you find.

It was decided that I would need a different kind of inpatient treatment to deter me from further self-destruction. But my parents had to relinquish their rights as my guardian before the state would take on my case of placing me. So, in the spring of 2005, I was CINA’d (or placed as a Child In Need of Assistance). For some reason, the first place they thought to try out on me was a strict, structured, “positive peer culture”, detention-like facility. The facility was an old de-commissioned lunatic asylum from the late 1800’s. The place itself looked scary enough without knowing the program it now houses.

This facility is the one that is so strikingly similar to the ones I read about in the article. They are quick to use restraint, they use peers against each other, and they employ “hall shut-downs” (when we have to sit in a chair in the hallway and face the back of the head of the person in front of you, working on quiet things like homework or reading all day, no talking, nothing). During my short time there, it felt like all eternity. I was dropped off by my dad, hours from home, admitted, strip-searched, doused with lice treatment and rinsed in the shower with cold water. I was given, what I came to call, “Bob Barker sandals” (the same ones they use in jails and prisons). I then sat with my things in the hall and watched as staff went through every single thing I had and made a pile of stuff I could keep and stuff that would be sent to storage. I couldn’t have any pictures of my parents, friends, or pets. I didn’t get to keep a stuffed animal I brought (that’s a privilege). The pile of my stuff to be sent to storage far exceeded the things that I could keep. I lost my sense of identity without any of my stuff. It was horrible.

I had a roommate who told me that she was placed there for trying to kill her stepfather with a hammer. Not sure that she could be believed but that’s what she told me. I remember having my once-a-week phone call with my mom my first week and telling her about what that roommate told me. The staff overheard me talking about it (because they listen to the phone calls in their office), intervened me by taking the phone away, asserted that I was lying and that if I were to be talking to my mom about things going on within the facility, that I wouldn’t get anymore phone calls. So, I was never allowed to tell my mom how bad things were while I was there. The next time I talked to her, all I could do was cry and ask to come home. At which point I was put in a “group confrontation”—generally told to stop my pity-party or it would escalate up to restraint and a night in the time-out room. I couldn’t tell you how many times I saw other girls get slammed—yes literally slammed—backwards in “restraint” for things as minor as popping their knuckles or crossing their arms across their chest. I learned pretty quickly not to draw attention to myself; to keep my head down and my mouth shut. But I was definitely flagged by all the crying I did. I went to court after 30 days there to find out the findings of my evaluation. Come to find out, I was a perfect candidate for their program! Imagine that! Luckily, my social worker thought I was scared enough to stay out of trouble if I got to go home.

And I am forever grateful that that decision was made on my behalf. I thought about suicide every night I went to bed when I was there for those 30 days–with a court date. I have no doubts that if my placement there were indefinitely dependent on my success with the program that I would have attempted suicide any opportunity I had.

Things were pretty good for a while after coming home from that place but I would go on to find myself in this vicious cycle of circumstances until I was an adult. It’s the way the system works. It works much the same as the justice system works; it’s easy to get in, so hard to get out. Also, much like the criminal justice system, there is little differentiation between criminality and mental illness. So there are many options out there including rehabilitative and punitive and I think it is easy to assume, as a parent or social worker needing to help their child, that any program is better than none.

And that could not be farther from the truth.

What I’ve gained from losing Facebook

I have a love/hate relationship with social media. The first form I had was a Xanga blog when I was 13 or 14 years old. At that time in my life, I was depressed, anxious (and not medicated yet), angsty, rebellious,… well an all-around pubescent teenage girl, I suppose—but the extreme case scenario. I used my Xanga, aptly called “broken dreams”, as an outlet to complain about my life. I don’t remember anything specific but I’d be embarrassed to read it now. It’s tempting. (Unfortunately, I’ve looked into it, and either it’s been deleted or archived–which I could access for a fee. Maybe someday when I have realistic goals of penning a memoir I will fork over the money to access it. Otherwise, it’s been lost in Internet oblivion).

From the Xanga, I went on to MySpace (with a year or two gap between the two). My MySpace profile had been up and accessible up until about 3 years ago. It was an interesting profile, to say the least. During the duration of that account, I entered my first serious relationship, left town, was shipped around a lot, was treated like complete garbage during said relationship (High School romance FTW), was coping with the death of my dad, and coming back home at 17 years old to so many changes. It was a very vulnerable and volatile time in my life and thanks to MySpace, every Tom, Dick, and Harry could watch it happen. Something just didn’t sit well with me as I was looking back on all my posts. Most of them documented these very personal epiphanies I’d had about myself and changes I wanted to make to become a better person. Maybe I had felt that by putting it out there publicly, someone (particularly my friends), would see it and want to talk about it.

And that’s where I hate social media. It allows people in without asking anything in return of them. It’s a public show and everyone who’s invited gets to just sit back and watch without having to put in any effort. Social media is everything I hate about human interaction. I hate the small talk. I hate the fake friends. I hate the posts that people make to rouse envy and form life comparisons.

Having already somewhat figured this out after my MySpace account, I still went and signed up with Facebook. It was the cool thing to do, OK? I had to try it out. Facebook is “meh.” I mostly used it to try and be humorous or rant about things. But it became a problem of routine for me. Much like people watch the news or read the newspaper, I was scrolling through my feed trying to keep up with things and people I hardly see. I had the app on my phone so would get “binged” anytime someone commented on anything I liked and blah, blah, blah. I’d end up scrolling through my feed any downtime I got. It was.. emotionally draining for me. I felt reliant on it to feel relevant.

So, around 2012 or so, I started dabbling with the idea of living my life without social media. I finally had reached my unwritten bullshit limit. I deleted my account and after a couple days of withdraw (where I’d get on my phone to look at something out of habit), I was freeing up a lot of time to do things like read or crochet. After a couple of months, I’d convinced myself I wouldn’t let “things get bad” again and that I was in a better place emotionally and could handle all the virtual baggage from social media again. I’d reactivate my account and try and catch up on all that’d happened over the past months. And then a pattern appeared where I’d be on and off—loving and hating my time on Facebook. I was off for almost the entirety of 2014 (while Joey was deployed and didn’t need to be on the computer anymore than I was for Skype dates and college coursework). I was off for the later part of my pregnancy in 2015, got back on a month or two after Sylvia was born, and ended up breaking it off again by November of 2015. And I haven’t looked back since.

Can’t say that I am really missing out on much because, as the old adage goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.” I know that I don’t get invited to nearly as many birthday parties because I’m missing out on mass invites (bummer, I really loved the personal touch). I don’t have people acknowledge my birthday as often because they aren’t reminded by Facebook to do so. I don’t go to businesses that only have a Facebook page because I can’t see their store hours (not because I am anti-anyone who has Facebook). I look at the losses and realize they are reasonable. And I’m all for simplifying my life since I’ve had struggles with depression and anxiety for most of my life. I’ve discovered (after many years of thinking I just need to be drunk to be social) that I am an introvert. I like being alone and putting all of my energy into things that I place high value on—like my hobbies, my daughter, my family, my home.

So, what might the advantages be? They are limitless, really. I spend more of my time being on social media in a more therapeutic way (like this blog, for instance). I spend more time getting my news from NPR and not what’s trending on Facebook. I’m outdoors more. I am more productive (I will show you sometime in a future blog just how productive I’ve been!). I am actually present when I’m with Sylvia (instead of sitting around with my nose in my phone). I, in a roundabout way, weeded out the friends that I don’t associate a lot with. I spend my time having more meaningful, direct conversations with my friends because they don’t assume they are up to speed by reading my Facebook profile. My co-workers can’t spy on me and make any assumptions about who I am based on my Facebook profile before they’ve met me. (This was seriously a thing at my last job, and they hated that they couldn’t see what I looked like or form any opinions beforehand! Apparently that’s a common thing? That’s really shitty! I mean I’ve looked people up to put a face to the name, but nothing like trying to dig up dirt. Be sure you moderate your stuff or set it to private!) I don’t sit around and pity myself for all the fun I don’t have (because let’s be honest, the pictures and the show people post are not reality).

And I sure as hell am feeling a lot better about myself. My self-esteem is going strong, and I just feel happier living this “simple, sheltered” life I have now.

Momnesia

Not sure if there is a term yet for foggy mom brain or not so I made one. I know I’ve touched on it before but I have always been skeptical of mothers and their inability to remember ANYTHING. I always felt a bit burned by it—the forgetting of birthdays, plans, etc. But now that my tables are turned the same way, I totally get it. And I totally get how for a mom it’s just easier to let people be pissed about what we forget (and how much we suck) than to apologize over and over again. Because, let’s be honest, it doesn’t get any better by rain-checking. It’s not like we can make new plans with anything other than the intention of following through with them to heal the wound; chances are high that those plans could crash and burn too.

I am not making this shit up. I am not looking for an excuse to end all my friendships. This is really happening to me. In my findings, it’s got a 100% going rate with the other moms I know. And I know this, because despite our crazy schedules, we talk or text when we can! I can’t count how many times I run into someone at the store that I’ve met before but can’t remember his or her name so I just stare at them while I’m deep in thought trying to ransack my brain. It’s no use, though; the connections are lost somewhere among my laundry list of things I’ve got to get done. Once they notice this (if they notice because if they don’t, I’m happy to walk away and sulk about how I can’t remember shit), I approach them (to make this incident as well-intentioned as possible) and basically say, “You look super familiar, how are you?” So many times the response is, “I hear that a lot, can’t say that I know you.” Then I really feel like an idiot.

I should mention, I’m an unrelenting creature of habit. Even though my success rate is low, I still put myself out there. I love catching up with people I haven’t seen in a long time—even when it’s at an awkward time (like buying a bunch of nursing pads at Target). It’s this nagging thing in my head that tells me, “You know them, make up for your angsty teen years and resting bitch face and go be nice!” And you know what, as awkward as these interactions are, I’m glad I have them.

For example, one time, I saw a high school classmate shopping when I was something like 6 months pregnant (and in the awkward growth stage of where people can’t distinguish pregnancy from weight gain very well). So, I always would see the inadvertent glances to my belly and back up again when I’d chat with people. Anyway, I ran into him in the women’s underwear section of Wal-Mart (of all places) and remembered his name right away. I was looking for some tights and he was apparently trying to find some leg hose for his mom. Awkward for us both, probably. But we still chatted; a bit about his return to town, mostly about how ridiculous the selection of panty hose was. He said he was working on opening a skate shop like the one he had in High School. I ended our conversation with the typical “Well, it was good seeing you again!” and walked away spending the rest of my shopping trip wondering why I had just embarrassed the hell out of myself. I ponder, “Do I have to approach everyone assuming that they even want to talk to me?” I’m glad I make a point (most of the time) to approach people I know in public. In this previous instance, he died a few months after this awkward conversation. For those that don’t know me personally or pick-up on the crescendo of this story.. His name was Georgie.

But an area where momnesia is absolutely failing me is when it comes to packing up and leaving places. When we went up to Minnesota for the 4th of July, I’m pretty certain I left a couple shapes from Sylvia’s ball of shape-holes at the cabin. This toy is vintage! It was mine before it was Sylvia’s and I’m kicking my own ass for losing them. I’ve left another shape at a birthday party and I’m certain I’ll never see that one again, either.  Worse than losing toys, though, is driving away with things on the roof of the car. The only reason I think I struggle with this now (because I don’t think I have ever done this before) is because I have to take a break from packing up to buckle in a baby and then after that, I feel like I’m good to go. I have driven off with my cell phone on top of the car, my water bottle, the diaper bag, my wallet, and a sippy cup. All separate occasions. Ugh.

I think the worst though still is forgetting how I know people and their names. I have felt crushed before when someone got my name wrong so I know the feeling and I hate that I probably make people feel that way too. I’d be curious to read up on the science behind momnesia. I’d like to know if there are any brain exercises I could do to help with the loss of connectors (errr—synapses?). Or how long I can expect for this to go on for before it gets better? Or maybe just how to cope with feeling like a loser friend?

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And of course I choose my daughter’s first birthday (of all days) to blog about momnesia. How very fitting.