Calming Fears

When my children were wee, they had a typical fear of the Boogey Man.  He could be anywhere, under the bed, in the closet, and would only come out in the dark, especially when I was not in the room.  To combat this nightly attack, I did what any parent would do; I installed an Invisible Boogey Man Forcefield.  Every night in order to set the Boogey Man alarm, the kids and I would go through a series of system checks; their army of stuffed animals would sweep under the bed and check in the closet and drawers before I would go to the invisible command unit and set the Forcefield to stun (we didn’t want anyone getting hurt, even the Boogey Man).

As the kids grew older the fears took on different forms, for my son the biggest fear was spiders.  Our nightly checks became more concrete; the walls, under the bed, around the stuffed animal army were all places for tiny eight legged creatures to hide.  And if, God forbid, I missed one, there would be absolutely no sleep that night.  His terror was so great that he would force himself to stay awake in my arms just to make sure no other spiders would sneak by me. 

After a number of all-nighters and a small fortune spent on Raid, I devised a new plan.  I would meet this fear head on; it became our mission to research spiders (in a completely spider free area, of course.)  The benefits were slow but promising; instead of immediately screeching “Kill it!  Kill it!”, we graduated to “What kind is it? Does it have any markings? Where is its web? Kill it! Kill it!” 

Soon thereafter I was given a wonderful opportunity to adopt a beautiful Rose-Haired Tarantula, Ophelia.  Sure she was the size of my hand and you could see her fangs, but she was afraid of crickets for crying out loud!  (Yes, the very crickets we had to feed her, so it made for an interesting game of cat and mouse.)  My son took to her surprisingly fast, after I proved to him that there was simply no way Ophelia could bite her way through her plastic cage.  Our nightly ritual now included saying goodnight to our tarantula; laughing at how quickly she would dash into her cave at the sight of us – imagine a great big spider afraid of us! 

Unfortunately Ophelia was unable to calm my son’s fears of tiny spiders.  And living in the northeastern US, coming across a wild spider Ophelia’s size was unheard of.  But, she helped us talk about the fear and even though it was still there it wasn’t as crushing as it had been. 

Our lovely Ophelia went to that great big web in the sky a few years ago, and since then the fears have changed.  Now the kids spend their time worrying about fitting in, the fear of rejection is so strong.  I curl my arms around them and explain that the greatest thing they can do is just be themselves.  But just as my son kept one eye open to catch any spiders I may have missed, they shrug and say “You’re supposed to say that, you’re my mom.”  The hug helps, but the fear is still alive and well.  Books have been written, movies have been made, but it doesn’t seem to help when trying to pick out the perfect outfit for school.

I have slowly learned over my 37 years to strive to be myself, and if I’m being honest, I still struggle.  At the core we all want to be accepted and loved for who we already are, but the courage it takes to be true to your self is hard to muster. It has taken quite a while to realize that people can disagree with you, yet still love and accept you.  Being able to have a relationship that sustains that balance is rare; being able to recognize it is rarer still. 

Whether they understand it or not, even with one eye open, I love my kids for who they are right now; I simply can’t imagine anything different.  I know this won’t help decide which jeans to wear today, but hopefully, like Ophelia I can give them a way to talk about the fear.  And, as they laugh at whatever I’m wearing, maybe the fear won’t be as crushing as before.

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Its official, I’m cute…no really it’s in my file!

Transitioning into my house after moving back from Australia, although exciting, has certainly had its challenges.  Attempting to stay with my teenage daughter at my never-quite-empty-nest parents’ house was the start.  As generous as my parents were with their home, their beloved cat was equally as generous with her attention and fur.  Unfortunately I am quite allergic (to both the fur and attention).  We tried to come to some reasonable understanding, the cat and I.  She could fondle and claw my luggage, but not me; I would gladly play hide & seek with the covers, but smothering by fur was clearly out of the question.  Alas, the lines quickly blurred and with tears in my eyes (from sadness or allergies who can say for sure) I was forced to make a new plan.

My friend still renting my house, immediately cleared out space for two.  Cat free dorm room fun ensued until allergies struck again.  This time it hit me where it hurt, right in my Fluffernutter.  My roomies little one is fatally allergic to several things including peanut butter.  Having lived with this for 8 years the dynamic peanut avoiding duo took my sandwich needs in stride, simply asking me to thoroughly sterilize anything that may come in contact with the peanut butter, including me.  Having never been a fan of keeping guns, swords, or other weapons I decided to forgo peanuts in any form.

When the day came for the official move it was bittersweet.  Getting complete control of my house (and more importantly fridge) was exciting, but having the lights go out on our single mom frat house was sad; particularly, when the lights actually did go out.  Apparently the line between occupier and owner cannot be mixed online.  And so, in 2012, I actually had to speak with a human.  Not that I’m opposed to this, in fact I was giddy with excitement (although that could have something to do with the sudden unexpected and complete lack of all other stimulus). 

I leapt through the various prompts to get to my very own Electric Company Human, Joe.  He heard my story and calmly explained that I would be without power for at least a day.  Now it may have been the electronic withdrawal setting in or my complete and udder lack of a filter, but my immediate reaction was “Are you sure the tech won’t come back?  Can you tell him I’m cute?”  At this point, Joe could have done any number of things; graciously he asked how I could be most easily be reached.  I gave him my cell number since I would be going out to buy candles.  I could tell Joe was loosening up, so I quickly added that I may even find a battery operated radio (so exotic!).  And then it happened, that moment that I will always treasure, validation.  Joe chuckled and said “I’ve just finished placing the work order and I did mention that you are cute.”  I couldn’t believe my luck, first speaking to a human and now this.  I hardly choked out “So, how soon will the power be turned on?”  Without missing a beat Joe said “In about 24 hours and it states in your file that you are cute.” So as I sit here in the dark conserving my batteries, I am warmed by the fact that its official, I’m cute…it’s in my file.

You are taller in the morning than you are at night…

In real life, there is a significant difference in height from when you first get out of bed to when you lay your head on the pillow at the end of the day.  I certainly never felt shorter at the end of the day, just tired.  Apparently having gravity pull down on you all day has a very tangible effect, depending on your height; there can be a difference of an inch!  I think the same can be said about draining relationships.

I absolutely love and adore my two kids, but, especially when they were infants, I was completely exhausted by the end of the day – physically and emotionally!  Don’t get me wrong, I would happily walk around as the world’s shortest person rather than trade a minute of time with them but it does take its toll.  Feel free to count the wrinkles and gray hair if you don’t believe me.

But having the gravity of an arduous relationship pushing down on you every day is much more devious.  You have no idea how much you’ve shrunk until you get the chance to lay down.  You have no idea just how eroded your self esteem, self worth, and soul are until you wake up. 

I may still be dreaming, but I feel taller already.

Broken Instinct

In the positive world of self-discovery, I have come across some rather disturbing facts; namely my so called instinctual fight or flight response is broken.  I should have realized this ages ago but I was apparently too busy not fighting or fleeing to notice.

It was brought to my attention recently while I again sat frozen, staring at the radio willing it to stop playing that song that breaks my heart into tinier pieces each time I hear it.  Did I fight?  I hardly think a loud “Ugh!” counts in that regard.  Did I flee? I didn’t even change the channel.

After the song was over and I berated myself for doing nothing, similar instances came flooding back.  Standing motionless as a ‘loved one’ screams obscenities so close to my face I can feel their breath; staring at the unknown dog barking and running in my general direction; laying stock still after saying “no” for the hundredth time; completely spacing out while getting yelled at for missing curfew, again.

Clearly this has been going on for quite some time, so any hope of it being under warranty is gone.  That being said how do you fix a broken instinct?

Depression is Like Doodle Jump

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My Dad is fond of saying “Just play the game.” Mostly in relation to going along with whatever my mother is saying, in order to then go and peacefully do whatever you had planned on doing in the first place. For example, why argue with Mom’s wisdom of you wearing a sweater because she is cold. Simply put on the sweater in front of Mom & promptly take it off as soon as you are out of view.

If I had learned that lesson, I would have saved countless hours of needless debate which clearly could have been spent without wearing a sweater, studying for an illustrious career.  Yet, here I sit indignant, unemployed, and to be honest, with a slight chill.

Imagine my excitement when I had the epiphany, getting out of my depression was feeling just like playing Doodle Jump.  I was playing the game – hopping up towards happiness, shooting down the negative aliens in my life, using the jetpack of medication.  So, just a question, is there a finish line in Doodle Jump?  I’m still dealing with depression and I seem to have developed a fear of U.F.O.s