Fool Me Once…

Rehab stays, divorce, infidelity, cops breaking up fights between suburban mothers, and inflammatory gossip running through it all. “This is why people don’t speak with their neighbors anymore,” I’ve thought on more than one occasion, or “This crap would make a reality tv show look tame…”

Hearing neighborhood gossip, the words said behind my back pierce right through every one of my insecurities. It’s happened more than once. As a military spouse, sadly, it’s sort of expected to have those socially awkward moments, but I find that living off base this time around has brought far more immature behavior than I’ve ever had the misfortune to experience.

I may not always share the quality openly in real life, but I am an extremely sensitive person. In my working life, there were many times spent in tears and crushed after job performance reviews. “Needs improvement” in black and white for all the world to see felt like a hot poker searing right through my gut. It’s uncomfortable at best, and more often than not even constructive criticism sends me wanting to curl up in the fetal position sucking my thumb. I get that it’s irrational, extreme even. But the initial sting of these situations is a gut level response, involuntary. Highly sensitive people are “the ones whose feelings are so easily bruised that they’re constantly being told to ‘toughen up'”, according to Psychology today.

Being an overly sensitive person in this toxic frenemy environment is soul-sucking agony. Think J.K. Rowling’s dementors sucking the life out of Harry Potter.

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Mean people just suck ….the life right out of you. Why do we tolerate and participate in this demeaning behavior? Is loneliness too high a price that we will settle for people we’d probably not choose otherwise? I’ve wrote about real friendships many times. I still feel the same about being real and showing up authentically, but I have to say adult friendships with kids can be a real pain in the ass challenge.

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“Why would they be so mean, Mom?” she asked, tear-stained cheeks turned up to look at me. “Not every family works the same way,” I tell her feebly. “It’s life. Not everyone is nice.” What goes unsaid is just how angry I am. I want to tell her that for some reason, two can get along just fine but when three are involved, there is usually one left out. It broke my heart to watch them break hers. What I pray she takes away from these encounters is to remember what it feels like. Remember what it’s like to be mocked, ridiculed, and excluded. Remember. Then have compassion and empathy enough to never participate in making someone else feel that way.

What I feel most sad about is the fact that it took me this long to figure it out. What should have been glaringly obvious took me a while.

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It may have taken me a detour or two to get here, but I’m here now – wiser, and with eyes wide open.

via Daily Prompt: Glaring

The First Time

The first time I had a drink, I was 4 or maybe 5 years old. My older step-sisters, in high school at the time, were having a party. I don't remember much about that night, other than I felt amazing being with all those big people. I was making them laugh! They let me play their ping pong ball game with them, and even let me cheat and win! I don't remember having an opinion about what I was drinking, or even what it tasted like. I drank it though. I liked the attention. I have a vague recollection of not feeling good, but specifics are not clear. I do recall dark brown fuzzy carpet.

Dragging me by my arm, I was told to go to bed and pretend to be asleep, as people rushed around shushing each other and scrambling to pick up. Hindsight and retelling of family stories years later filled in the gaps that were confusing for me as a child. They were home, and evidently earlier than anticipated.

To this day I do not know where my parents were that night. Or the time I woke up one early morning to a sea of sleeping bags and blankets, covering so many bodies splayed out all over our rec room floor. It was a different time, the eighties. The thought process was "at least they are partying at home instead of out driving around. They are doing it safely".

I will be 40 in 10 days. I have drank alcohol up until 65 days ago. I didn't drink in my early teens, but by 18 had a boyfriend with legal friends. For over 20 years I have ….

been an alcoholic? An on and off binge drinker? Both? Does it really matter?

When I look back at my history, on paper yes. If I was reading this about someone else, it would leave no doubt. Of course she's an alcoholic. But because it's me, it's somehow normal….

It's not that bad…I didn't wake up and have a bottle of vodka for breakfast. (Although I've had Kahlua in my morning coffee on a couple of occasions with friends.) I didn't hide bottles. I never drank before work. I did strategize calorie consumption with alcohol, as in skipping meals to get tipsy quicker, skip meals to compensate for anticipated alcohol consumption. Switched from sugar- and calorie-dense cocktails to straight liquor over the years. Granted, the worst of the bottom occurred in my twenties.  I didn't drink while pregnant. After the kids were born, I drank, but responsibly. I didn't drink alone.

Until I did.

I've had horrendous hangovers, but never withdrawal symptoms.

I think that's the thing. That alcoholic term is so loaded. (Pun not really intended, but I'm leaving it there.) Alcoholics are physically addicted, right?

I don't think it matters.

I don't care what the definition is. Alcohol does not work for me. It doesn't make me feel good, it doesn't improve my life. It never feels as good as that elusive just-tipsy-but-not-drunk feeling does for that brief moment. Chasing that ever-closing window of buzzed perfection always led way past excess. When having 1 leads to 10, it's not good regardless of whatever the definition says. I love the way Jim states it at Fit Recovery, "I didn't want to drink, I wanted drunk."

Exactly.

I am done wrestling with am I or not. Doesn't really matter in the end, does it?

I Was Wrong

I remember writing about solo parenting many times throughout the last deployment. Reading many parenting blogs, military support websites and feeling overwhelmed by it all, but still armed with strategies and support to muscle our way through.

As we prepared for this round, I kept thinking how much easier it was going to be. The kids are older now. They can talk and express themselves! They can bathe and dress themselves, even brush their own teeth. They help out with household chores (albeit reluctantly at times). There are no diapers. They are in school, so there will be breaks that we will all get from each other. This will be a piece. of. cake.

Hindsight is not only 20/20, it wears big-ass rose-colored glasses.

Yes, physically, this deployment will likely be easier. Yes, they will have school, that's true. What I wasn't prepared for was the depth of emotions coming from the kids.

Duh.

I know. I know this stuff. Nightly Hannah expresses frustration about missing daddy, sometimes crying, but not all the time. They will ask questions, randomly, catching me off guard. Everyone processes this stuff differently. I was not a military kid, so I don't have that experience. The spouse experience is just different. Both of them go from zero to meltdown far more quickly, which was to be expected. Logically, I get it. I've known the kids would have a hard time, that it would no question be an emotional upheaval. I guess what is surprising is that I wasn't as prepared for it as I thought I was.

I was wrong. Deployments and separations are NEVER easy.

Ever.

They don't get easier, you don't get used to them, and every one of them are different. They are their own unique snapshot of time. They all have their own challenges and victories. And don't get me started on the "Well, you knew what you were getting into when you married a man in the military. What did you expect?"

Bullshit.

For the love of all that is good and holy, stop saying that crap to military spouses! Comprehending it and walking it are VERY different.

The kids will survive, thrive, even though they miss their dad. We'll be fine. We will get through it, like every other time. It may not be perfect harmony, but We can do hard things, like Glennon Doyle Melton says.

We can do hard things.

Day 55

I have not had a drink in nearly 2 months. In 5 days I will have earned my 2 month chip. In that time I have also switched to a plant-based diet.

I would like to say that these 2 decisions are miraculously making me into the fabulous version of myself that I always knew I could be, much like an after picture where life is now wonderful and amazing and the problems of daily life do not exist.

Truth?

What I'm noticing is an awareness of the pervasiveness of drinking culture. Mommy play groups, social media, cute videos depicting funny women discussing parenting over glasses of wine, college life, radio ads, military groups, music, books, etc. It's everywhere. It seems normal. But is it?

I notice personally, that my skin is clear-ish. My clothes are loose. Life is going by, just as it always has. My head is clearer. I feel better. Burying feelings under a heavy blanket of alcohol is no longer an option. I'm reading more and am noticing more, but it's still me. I think that's the thing is that you still have to deal with yourself. I am not reaching and pining for something to drink, as I imagined I would. I don't wake up tired and cranky most of the time. I go to bed without regret, usually just tired and ready for the day to be over.

The 'one day at a time' mantra is ringing true just as much for sobriety as it is for deployment. Play a game with the kids, be present. Prepare a meal. Read. Write. Be with the dogs. Clean the house.

Just do life.

Without the numb.

Mock Food

I have come to the realization that I am not a fan of fake foods, or mock foods; things that are pretending to be something they are not. For example, turkey bacon. It’s not bacon. Bacon is bacon.

The same is true in the land of fruit and veg. These so-called transition dishes are just weird, some are not even edible. I get that the point is to transition away from a meat-based diet by having similarly flavored meals, but produce on it’s own, without trying to morph it into something else, is actually SO good.

Here are my latest adventures in mock food.

Carrot dogs!

These are the most vile things I’ve ever eaten. Partially cooked, then soaked in a “brine” of soy, liquid smoke, garlic, etc. it seemed like they might be okay….but they are gross. I can live my life without hotdogs. And carrots are sweet, crunchy deliciousness just as they are.

What will be the last time I venture into mock food promised to be a creamy alfredo to serve over pasta. Made with cauliflower (because what isn’t made with cauliflower lately?!) and nutritional yeast – I found it HORRIBLE. Wretched. Awful. Stop trying to make cheese out of yeast flakes. Its disgusting. Seriously.

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While I’m on the subject, the Braggs’ Nutritional Yeast seasoning is the stinkiest thing. I will gladly take my B vitamins in the form of capsules, thankyouverymuch.

Here’s to buddha bowls, salads, pastas, rice, beans, tacos, fruit, veggies and all the yummies just as they are!

The Life Raft of Gratitude

Navigating this deployment with kids old enough to comprehend time and distance more than they did the last time around, I’m finding that it’s teaching me how to teach them how to navigate tough emotions. One has to have a good cry, the other wants to not talk about it, for now. “Later, mom. We’ll talk later.”

The urge to fix it is there. It’s like this gene that makes us desire to make everything all better is implanted the minute we hold our children for the first time. I resist this “fix-it gene” because in the long run, masking over feelings is not healthy. I want them to sit in the middle of the mess and know it’s going to be okay. Cry, rage, be mad, exhaust all of it. Feeling all the feelings is healthy and normal. Stuffing, ignoring, masking, and distracting pain will only prolong the inevitable. You cannot go around, over, under pain; at some point you have to go through it. It takes guts. When I don’t know what else to do, I grasp for the things that ease pain. Exercise and physical exertion are often-utilized tools in my belt. I don’t always have that in me, though. That which eases without fail: gratitude. Gratitude is the raft for traveling through the gut-wrenching sludge of pain. It’s a survival vehicle that my kiddos will know well.

For today, I’m focused on the little things; a freshly mowed lawn, dogs that seem to sense a shift and are snuggling in close as if they know we need a little more love today, the dishes that were done last night so I could just sit and be today, teaching my daughter the exquisite release that comes from laughing through tears, the automatic coffee maker for preparing a warm pot before I even slipped a foot out from under the covers, and the quiet calm of knowing that the worst part for me is over, so I can focus on what the kids will need in the coming weeks.

Figuring out one thing – even a tiny thing – that I am grateful for can create a 180-degree shift in my mood and attitude. It creates calm in the midst of chaos, fear, and uncertainty.

I used to love browsing shops and looking for sales before kids. Getting lost in a store or the shelves of a Barnes and Noble was a way to pass deployment time. I still enjoy it a little from time to time when I am afforded the opportunity to escape alone. I really don’t like shopping with other people. While I would gladly stop a bullet and step in front of a train for my kids, I loathe dragging them to the store. LOATHE.

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As a person who gets distracted easily, the concentration of remembering what I need from the list I left in the car (but am too lazy to go back and get), mentally canvassing the cupboards and refrigerator from memory, checking ingredients and prices, all while attempting to keep the kids in line, not grabbing stuff, and preventing bodily injury to themselves and unsuspecting passersby with the cart – I come home exhausted and cranky.

The big thing I’m thankful for this deployment? Amazon Prime and our local HEB Curb-to-You online service.

Seriously. LIFE. CHANGING. I know I’m late to the party, but whoa! School supply shopping? DONE. Birthday shopping for August? DONE. The next upcoming birthday and Christmas will be done and done online. I will never have to leave my house if I don’t want to! No crowds, no hassle, no problem! I got this!

Table for 3 please. We’ll take gratitude for things large and small, with a big ol’ side of humor.

 

 

Paradox

You know what I love about life? I love the part where the lessons have been gleaned, and the lightbulb moments have happened. I love the victory, the happy ending. I suppose it’s human nature. We love the finish line celebration, but cringe thinking of the work of the actual race. Slogging through the rough parts to get to the good stuff – and it’s what’s necessary for the good stuff to actually BE good stuff. 

It’s ironic really, how time works.

I want him to leave. I want the uncomfortable and the ugly-cry and the yuckiness of farewell to just be OVER. I want the heart-hurt for my kids to be eased. I hate this part. I’m not a fan of transitions, never have been. Messy equals uncomfortable and learning and growing. I am looking forward to being through the yuck to get through to the good stuff of self-reliance, pride, and looking forward to homecoming. And yet, I am hating the constant ticking by of the clock reminding us that our time together is limited. I think that’s what sucks about crap week in general – it’s the constant push-pull of wanting them to stay and needing them to leave – to get over the bridge of yuck into the land of hopeful anticipation.

If this process has taught me anything, it’s that there is no escape from the yuck. It just has to be sat in and gone through. Any attempt to numb, ignore, push down or stuff will only lead to more pain. Just gotta ride the crap wave; cringing, clawing, and refusing to let go of the flaming surfboard as it returns to shore. That’s essentially what deployments feel like, in a nutshell. Adulting and managing life while everything is on fire.

Here I shall sit, in the crap. Thank you God for coffee, and dogs, and amazing kids.

 

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Cringe