Tuesday, November 30, 2010

You're Much Happier in Person

Recently, as part of an improve-your-writing challenge, I asked for feedback on my writing.  A few brave souls trusted that I meant it (I did) and offered some.  Kudos to you for your bravery.  And thank you.

To me, feedback is like telling someone they have spinach in their teeth.  It might be awkward, but it helps them avoid future embarrassment.  I believe you should ask a person if they want feedback before offering it (unless they ask you for it).  And I believe feedback and criticism are two very different things.  It's not feedback if you are telling them about something you don't like that they have no way to fix.  It's not feedback if it's meant to hurt or tease or make you look better than them.

One thing that a couple of people told me was that I seem much happier in person than I come across in my writing.  That my writing seems darker than I really am.

Being the introspective person that I am, I thought about this.  Is it true?  Am I misrepresenting myself in my writing?  Am I misrepresenting myself in person?  Why don't these two personas align?

Like most things in life, it's complicated.

While I would like to be incredibly genuine at all times, sometimes I still put on a happy face when I'm out.  Not as much as I used to.  Not to people I trust.  Usually just in passing or with people I don't really know.  Or if I'm not up to talking about what's bothering me. 

And then there's the fact that if I'm outside of my house, I'm probably feeling better.  If I feel better then I'm happier.  It's that simple.

Plus, being with people, especially certain people, makes me happier, too.

I can also be more intimate in my writing than I can in everyday situations.  There just aren't that many opportunities to sit and chat for hours with a friend.  Privately so I can get it all out without worrying about being judged or others overhearing.  Writing serves that purpose for me.  Writing is very intimate.  I can say what I feel without anyone else's emotions coloring it.  And things come out in my writing that I might not have known about myself, that I might not have even known I was feeling.

When I don't feel well I stay home.  I stay in my room.  Just me and my computer.  That leaves more writing time.  When I feel well I am out and about and don't have as much time (or need) to write.

I also feel a need to capture the dark times.  For me and for others.  It's so difficult to communicate those feelings to others.  It's difficult to remember them when they pass.  But it's important to try, if only so others know they are not alone.

All of that said, I know my writing has been darker for a long period of time (until maybe the last week or two).  I have been in a darker place.  One that won't break.  But even in the midst of this I don't feel sad most of the time.  People sometimes think that because I write about dark feelings I am sad.  That's not always the case.  I have sad moments and happy moments, just like everyone else.  Some are just longer than others.  I don't think my life is horrible or tragic.  I also don't think it's peaches and cream.

Realizing that my writing has been dark, I have asked myself if I should write more positively anyway -- in spite of how I feel.  No one has asked me to do this.  But some people do miss my positivity.  (It didn't feel like criticism, just that the other me was missed.)  Maybe my dark writing will drive people away.

Trust me.  I have thought about this a lot.

And this is my conclusion.  I will watch for this in my life.  I will watch for more positive things.  I will look for happy.  And I will make it a point to try to write when I am in a better place.

But I won't fake it.  As much as I love having other people read my writing, it's not really for you.  It's for me.  If it is meeting your needs and not mine, then it's just not worth it to me anymore.

And that's another thing that's beautiful about feedback.  You can examine it, weigh it, and decide what you want to do with it.  Implement all, some, or none of it.  Without this freedom it loses it's power.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Last Sunday was a little ugly.  I'm not afraid to admit it.

We're a go-to-church-every-Sunday family.  (Except for dad, although that only plays a small part in the story.)

I got up early to work on my lesson.  I'd been up for an hour or so showering, curling my hair, making cute little handouts.  Things like that.  I was in a pretty good mood.  It was going to be a lovely day at church.

Then it was time to wake others.  One daughter was out of town.  That took a little pressure off.  One daughter was exhausted from performing in the orchestra for her school play the night before, but she's kind of a morning person (at least compared to the rest of us) so she groaned and got up.  One daughter is in college.  She got up, looked at the clock, and said she was going to be late (I'm thinking, "Then why don't you get yourself up in time to get ready like an adult?" *grrr*).

The morning started to turn at this point.  Oh, did I mention that I started new meds a day or two before that have been affecting my moods?  No.  Well, that could possibly have played a part in the day as well.

Last two.  These two are the toughest.  They have never been morning people anyway and are both at that age when their bodies need a lot more sleep.  And they haven't gotten to the point where they will get up and do something they aren't dying to do if they are still tired.

I wake my son.  Four times.  Every five minutes or so.  The last time I am not pleasant.  "Get up here now or you are grounded from the computer for a week!"  (You've got to know their currency.)  He stumbles upstairs like the living dead.  I tell him to find his clothes before he eats.  He groans an assent.

I wake my youngest.  She tells me she is *cough, cough* sick.  I tell her she is tired and to get up.  We argue back a forth a bit, me getting more impatient every minute. 

My husband and I have a deal that I won't force the kids to go to church.  (And really, if you're forcing someone to go to church will they be getting much out of it?  The gospel isn't really about force; it's about choosing.)  I agree with this in theory but it's a little tougher to live up to Sunday morning as my stress is climbing.

I tell her that it can't be a decision every Sunday.  You just have to plan to go.  Otherwise you're going to choose to sleep in more often than you think.  Soon you won't be going at all.

I hear my son eating.  I ask if he found his clothes.  He tells me he did.  (Let me add here that he has grown many inches lately and now only has one pair of church pants and one church shirt.  I know, I need to get on that.)

The daughter refuses to go.  We are both grumpy and snapping at each other now (fairly loudly).  I tell her I am leaving and I am disappointed that she won't go.  Son is still eating.  I tell him he's going to be walking (only a few blocks) and he'd better get there soon to do his duties.  Two older daughters are ready and head out to the car with me.  As I pull out of the driveway son peeks his head out the door, gets my attention, and tells me he can't find his shirt.  I tell him good luck and he'd better look harder.  I drive away.  (I am now cursing my sleeping husband for not being up to help me.)

Youngest daughter gets to church just as it's starting and tells me her brother still can't find his shirt.  (I'm fairly certain there is smoke coming out of my ears now.)  I get in the car, drive back home, and start hunting.  I can't find it either.  He gets a lecture for lying to me about having found his clothes.  And another one about learning to put his clothes away. At rather high volume.  He finally ends up wearing one of dad's dress shirts (at least four sizes too big).

We drive back to church (son has missed his duties) and I am trying desperately to let it all go so that I can get something from the meeting.

Throughout this morning the thought that kept running through my head was, "I'm going to kill him/her."  I must have thought that ten times.  Maybe not the best mood to go to church in.  But, if you're in that mood, I guess church is the best place to go.

At this point, the wordsmith part of my brain kicks in.  What's the word for wanting to kill your child?  Homicidal is too general.  Fratricidal is wanting to kill your brother.  There's got to be one for wanting to kill your kid(s).  I can't come up with anything.

After the meeting, and before the others, I speak to a couple of my friends I know pay attention to Greek and Latin roots, like me.  I ask if either of them can think of anything.  They can't.  Although we consider Youth-anasia.  (I know, it's only funny if you're a nerd.)

By the time I get home I still don't have a word, but I've come up with a complex.  I declare that I have a Medea complex, which still doesn't entirely apply because she just killed her sons and I have daughters involved.

I mention to my oldest that I've been trying to come up with a word and does she have any idea.  (She's an English major so she's dealt with root words more recently than I have.)  She starts working on it.  Soon my other daughter and son are working on it as well.  They are on the computer, looking up root words.

And I just start laughing.  I have just told my children that I spent the day wanting to kill them and they are working to figure out what to call it.  As if I've just asked them to define the word shoe.

They said they knew I didn't mean it.  And that makes me happy.

The final word they came up with was pedmeregocide, a mix of Greek and Latin roots.  Ped - child, mere - part, ego - self, cide - kill.

And that's what teamwork looks like in our family.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Holidays from Hell

So I want to know how many people actually look forward to the big holidays.  And how many people live to regret it.


For every happy, cheesy, life-is-wonderful-and-everyone-in-our-family-loves-each-other-so-much movie there are ten about the dysfunctional, we-got-together-and-we're-just-glad-no-one-killed-anyone movies.  Do you think this is just because Hollywood has a grim world view?  I don't.  In fact, I know it's not because I've experienced my share of holidays from hell.

There was the one when I was on the phone with my grandma telling her how much my Christmas presents sucked and found out my mom was on the other phone listening.  (Yeah, I learned a lesson about gratitude that day.  Through my mom's tears.)

There was the one when we were all around the Thanksgiving table and my brother in-law revealed to everyone at the table that our niece was conceived out of wedlock (she knew, others didn't).  Very religious family; it was a big deal.

Or the Christmas when this kid hit that kid with one of the Christmas chimes.  The father of the victim thought there should be an apology.  The father of the perpetrator didn't think it was a big deal.  They ended up in a yelling match, others got involved, someone got shoved into the wall, several people were pulled apart by others, and as we watched everyone storm away in their cars my husband and I looked at each other wondering if we should lock up (we were the only ones still there and it wasn't our house).

And none of us even drink.  These were all without alcohol.  I know there are other, much more intense, stories out there about family holidays gone bad.  Ask anyone who works in the emergency room or as a cop and they'll tell you.  Holidays are ugly.


I have a few hypotheses.  Nothing proven, but I think you'll agree that the ingredients that go into big family holidays are like mixing bleach and cleanser -- you're lucky if no one dies.

Recipe for a big holiday family get together:
1.  High Expectations - this one's going to be the best; everyone's going to have a great time; everyone's going to show up (on time) and bring what they said they would; things are going to go exactly as planned
2.  Family - we belong together; we love each other so much; we hardly ever get together (maybe there's a reason); we know everything about each other (secrets, maybe?); we have a history together (which often means a few grudges)

I'm calling those two ingredients bleach and cleanser, because really with those alone you're already in the danger zone.  Adding anything else is just for kicks to see how big the explosion will get.  But let's toss some in anyway.

Optional ingredients:
New people who don't know where to tread lightly; the girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/guest who drives you crazy even on a good day; alcohol; grandma's dementia which leads her to say whatever comes into her head (some of which turns out to be long kept secrets); poor communication/unspoken expectations (we wanted to watch movies vs. we wanted to watch football, we should pray vs. why does God have to be part of everything?); one part of a couple enjoying themselves while the other wants to be anywhere else; food that doesn't go as planned (the turkey timer that won't pop even though everything else has been ready for over an hour); and did I mention high expectations?

Maybe the only real solution is to change your expectations.  Expect things to go wrong.  Take bets on who starts arguing first, who plays one-upmanship the best, and who reveals the tastiest tidbit of illicit information.  Have a backup meal waiting at home or the hotel (as the case may be) just in case it turns out there's nothing edible.  Make sure you have some Excedrin handy.

And if none of these plans give you any hope, do as my therapist once advised.  Go ahead and take a Valium.  Your desire to kill, and your ability to do so, will be greatly diminished.

Good luck!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Nectar of the Gods

Ever have one of those days?  A day when everything goes wrong?  When everyone hates you?  A day that seems to be neverending?

It's finally over.  You've made it home, to your refuge.  Your haven.  Your day has been horrible, but you've done your time and now you get to relax.

You go to the fridge and see that lovely bottle.  Just holding it in your hand eases the tension.  It's cool; it will bring relief.

You twist the top and hear that sound.  The sound that promises to quench a thirst deeper than physical.  That promises to drown the day's sorrows.

So you take a swallow.  That first precious swallow that tastes better than anything humans have a right to enjoy.  That swig that burns all the way down.  Followed by a sigh of relief.  You have just partaken of the nectar of the gods.

Diet Coke.

And life is good again.  You're going to make it through the night.  All is right with the world.


Monday, November 15, 2010

About the Mess

You may have noticed there's another little tab above this post.  Hopefully, this is my last housekeeping job on my blog for a while.  I don't write a lot about my family, especially not details, or post pictures of them.  However, I decided to do a simple introductory page for those who have asked.  You will find a picture and description of each person I live with at About the Mess.  Enjoy it -- it's all you're going to get.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My Favorite Blogger

I read a lot of blogs.  And there are some incredible writers out there.  Some fabulous storytellers.

But if you were to ask who my favorite is, it would be an easy choice for me.  My favorite blogger is also my favorite author.  And she's got years ahead of her to keep filling my life with entertainment and wisdom.

My favorite blogger is Singing Devil.  And, yes, I will admit that I am biased.  She is my oldest daughter.  She has not branched out into the blogging community, so she doesn't have many followers.  That is sad, because she is such a great writer.  She has been published a couple of times.  And I have no doubt that she will eventually produce several works for commercial consumption.

She is currently on a countdown toward her 20th birthday.  She is also going to college full time and works as a custodian at 4:00am.  She's busy and a little crazy.  She's also brilliant.

If you're looking for something a little different, please visit her.  I think you'll be glad you did.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

About the Author

The SITS activity for this week is to rewrite my About Me page using the tips provided (see here).  Since I didn't have an About Me page, I figured this would be a good time to put one together.  I even put a picture of me on it.

So, above this post, there is now a bar of tabs.  One of these is About the Author.  Check it out.

As always (during this month of exercises, at least), feedback is welcome.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My NOT to Do List

SITS activity number 2:  write a list post in 10 minutes.


I am fairly certain that everyone reading this has made a To Do list at one time or another.  Whether you've lived up to it or not is a different thing entirely.  Some people like to keep a running list, prioritized, with whatever is unfinished at the end of the day rolling over to the next day's list.  Not me.  I like to finish everything on my list; I'm kind of maniacal about it.

Since I've been unwell, I have had to alter my To Do lists.  Sometimes there is just one thing on it for a day.  And I get so frustrated by my inability to complete a real list.

So today, to honor myself and all others who may be struggling to check off their entire lists, I offer a Do Not list.  Some of these will be a little tricky to accomplish, but I have faith in myself.  And in you.  Please accept the challenge to check off everything on this list.

   * Turn stupid, irritating people into frogs.  No, none of them.
   * Throw rocks at your children's heads no matter how much eye rolling they give you.
   * Shoot, eviscerate, and roast on a spit the neighbor's eternally barking dog.
   * Use mind control on people to get what you want; it's just not nice.
   * Accept the nomination for President of the United States (or any other country).
   * Spike your family's food with a sedative so that you can get more sleep.
   * Walk on the ceiling just to prove that you are stronger than the earth's gravity.
   * Stage a military coup to overthrow the government.
   * Use a fire hose to clean your house by blowing it all out the back door.
   * Burn the house down as an alternative to cleaning it.
   * Travel to Mars just to prove that Martians are not green.  (They are red, duh.)
   * Reveal your secret identity.
   * Follow the rainbow and steal the Leprechaun's gold; again, not nice.
   * Create a clone of yourself so that you can rest while she works.
   * Take over the world.  (That will have to wait for another day, Pinky.)

Depression, Smartly

My depression post, with a few tweaks, is up over at Smartly.  If you haven't read it, I invite you to pop over and give it a read.  I also invite you to visit Smartly on a regular basis.  They publish one essay a day, by various authors.  Great writing on a wide variety of topics -- a little something for everyone.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Letter to a Friend -- Take Two

I think it's safe to say that I am in a heavily therapeutic place right now.  Focused on healing so much that I miss a lot.  One thing that proved this to me was my last post.

I don't think it was overly negative or anything, but it didn't even occur to me to write something positive.  Something praising.

Today it occurred to me.  So I want to try again.  There are so many people who have touched my life.  So many who saved me.  From myself.  From bad situations.  Whatever.

This is for them, with one in particular in mind.


Dear Friend,

My heart is overflowing.  I have so much gratitude I don't know how to express it.  When I think of you, and the time we've spent together, I am ovewhelmed at my fortune.  I know God brought you into my life.  I am sure of this.

Do you know that you are God-like in your nature?  Do you know how much you radiate His love?  His tenderness?  His compassion and acceptance?  Do you know that hugging you is like being wrapped in His arms?

You make me feel safe.  You make me feel valued.  You make me feel wanted.  Do you know how rare that has been in my life?

You are amazing.  You fill me with awe.  I look at your life, at all you've been through, and wonder how you became so radiant.  How were you able to endure the darkest things in life and still shine so brightly?  It was your light that got me through some of the darkest times in my life.

You are such an example to me.  I aspire to be like you.  Sometimes when I'm trying to figure out what to do I ask myself what you would do.  I want to be like you.  You are one of the most Christ-like people I have ever met.

The way your face lights up when you see me.  It's overwhelming.  It floods me with love and value.  And I've watched as you give this gift to others.  Like whoever you are with is the most important person in the world.  Like there is nothing you would rather do than sit and be with this person.  With me.

Do you know your power?  Do you understand your greatness?

And no matter how long we are apart, I am welcomed back with love every time.  Never judged for staying away, for being busy, for not staying in touch.  Just loved.

Do you understand how rare you are?

I love you.  I love you so much it makes my heart hurt.  I love you for what you've done and for who you are.

And I praise God every day for bringing you into my life.  Thank you for being willing.  Thank you for letting Him guide you.  Thank you -- for everything.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Letter to a Friend

Activity 1:  Write a letter to a friend as if she is sitting beside you.  How is this writing different from your blog posts?

This prompt immediately brought to mind an incident from high school.  A time when my life was in flux and I chose to exclude a friend.  I did not get the chance to resolve it then; I would like to address it now.


Dear Carol,

What would I say to you if you were here now?  I have regretted my decision for so long, but I don't know if I could find the words.  I don't know if I could even speak.  I think I would have difficulty looking at you because of my shame.

The guilt of our decision, our pact, was weighing heavily on me.  I couldn't keep silent any longer.  I couldn't keep lying.  I knew I needed to tell the truth.

But I should have talked to you before I did so.  Instead, I hung you out to dry.

Why didn't I talk to you first?  I'm not sure.  I think maybe I was afraid.  I was afraid you would get angry with me.  I was afraid you would disagree and talk me out of it.  I was afraid I was too weak to stand up to you.

And I was selfish.  I was more worried about clearing my conscience than protecting my friend.

I don't know how we lost each other so quickly.  One minute we were inseperable.  The next minute you were gone.

I have searched for you.  I have watched for you.  I think of you often, and my heart is filled with regret.

I may never see you again.  I may never have the opportunity to make things right.

But if you were here now, I would tell you that I am so very, very sorry.

Love still,

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Little Housekeeping

No, I'm not going to write about housekeeping.  If you thought that, you really don't know me.

I just want to let people know what is coming up on my blog.  I generally steer clear of conducting business on my blog, but I don't want people to misunderstand.

I have a lot of followers who aren't bloggers.  People who follow me because they know me and like me.  Or my train wreck of a life is entertaining.  Whatever.  I want to clear some things up for them.  Because if there's one thing I've learned in the past year that I've been blogging it's that blogland has it's own set of guidelines and it's own language.

Now if you know me, you know that I'm not a stickler for following the rules.  Commandments and laws, yes.  Societal rules and expectations, not so much.

So as I've been adjusting to this new blog world, I've picked and chosen which rules I'd live by.  I've avoided a bunch of the everybody does it areas.  Because they weren't me.  And if I can't be me on my blog then I won't play anymore.  I'll take my ball and go home.

But I have participated in a few things.  One of those is a blogging community called SITS.  It's all about developing yourself as a blogger and connecting up with other bloggers.  It's about supporting each other.

Truthfully, I've boycotted a bunch of the activities they do.  Just not my thing.  But this month they are all about writing.  It's Content is King month.  That's something I can get on board with.

In particpating in this event, I am choosing to do several of the suggested activities -- all with my flavor.  I will do two of them here and one on my other blog (heavier topic).  That's this week.  Who knows what next week will bring?

The focus for this week is Finding Your Voice.  I think this is something I'm generally pretty good at.  But I usually pick my topics.  Doing this with someone else's prompts may be a challenge.

This month is all about improved writing, so I am throwing out an open invitation.  If you have feedback for me, please share it.  If you see things I could improve on, please tell me.  I'm open.  I promise we'll still be friends afterward.

On with the challenge.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Crying Uncle

I don't know if it was family upbringing or just my natural state, but I grew up fiercely independent.  I didn't ask for help; I researched it on my own.  I learned how to do what needed to be done by myself.  I cowboyed up and got myself through the tough times.  For so many years.

Giving help was fine.  Receiving it was not.  Asking for it was an abomination.

Enter chronic illness.

Wow.  Let me just tell you, independence goes out the window with chronic illness.

Yes, I've studied psychology and had enough therapy to know that interdependent is the healthier place to be.  Knowing that wasn't enough to get me there.  I had to be dragged there kicking and screaming.

I'm still not good at it.  I still think I should be able to do everything I used to.  I still want to be everything for everyone.  I want to solve all the problems.  I want to be the hero -- not the damsel in distress.

But life doesn't always turn out as we planned.

Tonight I had a lesson in interdependence.  Tonight I cried uncle.

Lots of things have slipped since I got sick.  The house (a wreck).  My job (gone).  Volunteering (non-existent).  All of those things are difficult to accept.  But for the most part they are just irritants.  The one that was dangerous was money.

You see, I've been in charge of the money and the bills for most of our marriage.  When I got sick, things started to slip.  We bounced checks.  Bills didn't get paid.  Collectors started calling.  (I hate the fact that my kids are well trained in the art of avoiding the bill collector calls.)

I went through good periods and bad ones.  I'd catch up and then fall behind again.  But all along the way, I was sure we had enough money and I just wasn't managing it well enough.  And I would pledge to get on top of things.  Tomorrow.

Somehow, tomorrow didn't seem to want to appear.  I kept waiting for that magical day to happen when I would be able to conquer the piling debt and stress and get that monkey off my back.

But it didn't come.

I don't know why.  I don't know what kept me from being able to do it.  I know how.  I have the capability.  But I just couldn't do it.  (I have theories, but they would take too long here.)

And now the money problems are at a dangerous level. 

So tonight my husband and I had a meeting.  Not confrontational.  Not a fight.  Warm and open.  Supportive and affirming.  A meeting where I said, "I just can't do it.  I hate that I can't, but I can't."  And he said, "You've done everything for so long.  It's my turn."

And that was it.  He is now in charge of the bills and the money.

I promised to let him do it his way.  I will not interfere or correct or complain.  And when I do (as we both know will probably happen) he will kindly remind me that I promised to trust him.

Lots of feelings of failure.  Lots of feelings of inadequacy.  And so many tears.

And then peace.

Sometimes crying uncle is the right thing to do.  No matter how hard it is.