Is it time to disappear for a while?

In August, I resurrected this old blog with intentions of getting back in the groove of frequent posting. It struck me that my youngest would soon be in a threes program at a local preschool for three and a half hours, three days a week. I could now expect to have ten and a half uninterrupted hours a week to position myself toward some long-term goals and create new habits that weren’t accessible with a lack of childcare.

I knew it wouldn’t be easy to add more to my plate. There’s a lot of hoops to get through to maximize time when you’re time-blind and enterprising. I did some research into planners for folks with ADHD minds and found a planner that I thought would suit me best. I got geared up and started working with it right before my oldest son’s first week of school.

Despite this, things didn’t go as planned.

My oldest son started eighth grade this year. It’s exciting because he’s a teenager. It’s great because he goes to a fantastic public school, has a great group of friends, and he and I have a really awesome relationship. He’s smart, interesting, empathetic, and really funny. I am loving this age.

What I didn’t expect was the way that his eighth grade year would hit me. Like a ton of bricks, as the trope goes.

Right around the time my oldest turned twelve, I wasn’t having the best time. Covid was playing a role, but wasn’t the only issue at hand. My therapist shared with me then that as our children grow, it’s normal for us to relive that age. Makes sense to me. You’re consistently comparing your past experience to their current, to meet them as they are and relate to them as best as you can. You’re making connections about past experiences and using those as a barometer for the expectations that you should have of your child. It’s great as a tool of measurement for what they can and should be responsible for, as well as a warning for what is to come.

When this isn’t helpful, is when alarms are going off about traumas that happened to you at this age that your child isn’t at risk to run into. It wasn’t helpful when, as my son was easing into twelve years old, the memory of my first time being molested resurfaced and became central to my day-to-day thoughts. It’s harder to relate to him and what he’s going through when parental neglect and sexual abuse from a neighbor are the most defining events of this stage in my past.

I can’t seem to move on from the crushing weight of twelve-year-old me memories that fell upon me like an anvil after decades of legs spinning, racing through the desert, and telling myself it was something that “just happened.” The perspective and wisdom that I carry now as an adult allowed me to understand that this incident was a catalyst for the eighth grade year that followed: drug abuse, more sexual abuse, rape, juvenile delinquency and frequent need for emergency mental health care–all before ninth grade. I now understood that it didn’t occur in isolation. Rather, it was foundational to the person I was in adolescence.

I can’t move on, but I’ve integrated. The thoughts are there, I feel them, I let them pass. I’ll always live a post-trauma life, no matter the goals I achieve, the lessons I learn, the books I read. No matter the success that others perceive, this is the life I will lead.

Eighth grade

My oldest’s thirteenth birthday came and went without the overwhelming impact that I felt from his twelfth. It was right before summer–our first vaxxed one. I lost thirty pounds, had a busy social calendar, bought a new wardrobe and declared it my “hot girl summer.” It seemed like I was in the clear, my self care and therapy surely were responsible for my mental health remaining intact.

What I didn’t consider is that I’ve always referenced that stage in my life as “eighth grade.” It wasn’t about being thirteen or a teenager. I was too young for my high school friends that were too young for their twenty-something friends that we hung out with. I wasn’t even a freshman.

Me, during the first week of eighth grade

Friendship loss

Before I could even wrap my head around what was going on with me, I was on a playground with a few of my closest mom friends, an hour after the bell rang for my now-eighth grader’s first class. While he was in class, I was listening to a rant with classist undertones. The conversation about a childcare worker one of the mothers employed was uncomfortable for me in the moment, and more so as she was raging updates in a group text later.

I now realize that her rant was “emotional dumping,” and not a vent like I had perceived. I realize now, that classism is a non-starter in my relationships. I realize now the way this person was acting in that moment and in the past was really triggering for me.

Image via The Advocacy for Change Project‘s Instagram

I made the mistake of breaking my self-imposed “no gossip” rule to see if one of my other friends would empathize with the young woman my friend employed, and texted something that left a lot of room for misinterpretation. And I sent it to the group chat instead of the friend I meant to message. Yikes.

The ranting friend wasn’t receptive to my calls, and only responded to my text apology by later sending a combative text declaring she had no interest in a discussion, then threw in more classist messaging (“all this for a babysitter you don’t even know. Was it worth it?”). I don’t suppose I’ll hear from her again, in recent conflict with another ex-friend, she confided “she is dead to me.” Me too, I guess.

Unfortunately I’ve received the cold shoulder from others in the group. I saw this group as my closest local friends so that’s been hard. My abandonment and self worth issues only briefly flared up, which speaks volumes about the progress I’ve made. Still, the guilt and shame I feel for disregarding my personal values and speaking negatively about a friend.

I do still have many great local friends, and if that’s all it took to end a friendship for good, it was built on sand. Ultimately this person didn’t see my value despite my faux pas, and I’m bound to make faux pas. I’m an unrefined, aw-shucks gal with friends in low places; I’ve clawed my way here. I’m not always going to be my best self–there will be moments when I slip. But I’m creative, wise, loving, have a lot to offer, and I’ll never stop trying to be better than before. I’m multifaceted and I don’t want to spend time with people that only value my shiniest parts.

It still hurts. But it’s not like I’m going to talk about the woman to anyone. Even to my therapist I was withholding her name. If I didn’t already know not to gossip, I sure would now.

A natural disaster strikes

The day after I received a cold, formal thank you for the gift I sent to the aforementioned woman, the remnants of Hurricane Ida struck the Northeast. The rains lasted all through the night and lives were lost due to the heavy downpour. Two of our mature trees, about forty feet tall, fell. One destroyed our fence and the other took down my neighbor’s shed and fence.

Upon discovering the damage, I didn’t even feel upset. I just got home from a pre-sunrise gym sesh, was riding that fitness high, when I was shocked to see it the tremendous tree taking over our yard. As I shared my shock with my husband, he said, “There was a tree there?” and I went from shocked to baffled, then he said “Well, insurance will have to pay for it, no big deal.” So I received his same calm and began imagining all of the full-sun plants I’d be able to plant in my native garden.

Two long weeks later, the sight of it, and knowing the time burden and financial burden is just tiring. Or, maybe it’s that I see a ton of firewood that was once a condo for wildlife atop property damage that needs to be tended to whenever I look out the window to get my mind off of my friendship loss.

Responsible for suffering?

Eleven days ago, our housekeepers were here. For a couple of months now, I’ve taken over the yardwork & lawnmowing to free up space in our budget for a kind woman and her mother to help us out every two weeks. After meeting them, I was excited and sure we would have a long term relationship. We’ve had more short term housekeepers than I’d like to admit come into our lives over the decade I’ve been with my husband, but this family exuded kindness and warmth like no other and I thoroughly enjoyed having them in my home.

Our friends who help us clean (how I explain our relationship to my 3 year old) have come six times, all with our dog here, but for some reason he barked while in the room with Mrs. J. I ran into the room after I heard the bark and crash, and helped her up out of the corner she fell in. She looked shocked but there was no blood and my dog was already away from her. She kept reassuring me and her daughter, Mrs. A, that she was fine, until we carried on–I took Elvis to preschool, they continued cleaning through the afternoon. The whole afternoon!

The following Tuesday, I received a call from Mrs. A’s adult daughter. Apparently after several days of pain, Mrs. J headed to the hospital and discovered that she had suffered injuries that would require her, in her advanced age, to rest for the next month.

I’m devastated about her suffering, guilt ridden over Mrs. J’s pain and Mrs. A having to work without her partner. I’ve offered to help Mrs. A during preschool hours with housecleaning and let her know to reach out to my husband about our home insurance taking care of medical bills. But nothing will feel like enough.

Current events

I admit, I got used to not having my sympathetic nervous system constantly engaged by the news cycle of the previous presidency really quickly. However, Texas’ recent abortion ban and Gabby Petito’s murder have both been heavy, due to my values and past experiences. I may go into these topics more in a different post, but I will say that, days ago, watching a brief clip of police body cam footage of Gabby in the aftermath of what I observe as an obvious domestic violence situation, I felt a pull that it was time to really sit down with my stories. I felt like it was time to shed a few of the “extra” things I’ve been doing, and sit with my writing, process my experiences, and integrate them the best way I know how: by creating a beginning, middle and end. Like this post, about the last three weeks. I process experiences best by organizing what I know to be true categorically or chronologically rather than allowing my thoughts to swarm unnamed, in and out of my home, feasting on the sweet morsels of joy that my lifestyle and choices have baked. It was time to write.

I went to bed with that thought and could not seem to rest, despite the tiredness I had felt throughout the day.

What’s next

When I awoke, bright and early, I the first media I consumed was a clip from Michaela Coel’s Emmy acceptance speech that a friend had shared late the night before.

Write the tale that scares you. That makes you feel uncertain. That isn’t comfortable. I dare you. In a world that entices us to browse through the lives of others to help us better determine how we feel about ourselves, and to, in turn, feel the need to be constantly visible–for visibility, these days, seems to somehow equate to success. Do not be afraid to disappear. From it. From us. For a while, and see what comes to you in the silence.

Michaela Coel

I don’t believe in signs, I believe in opportunities. I believe in being receptive to the lessons that are presented to you at a time when you need them most, and I believe that when inspiration gallops to your door, wearing a saddle with a path suddenly cleared, it’s best to take it for a ride.

Next steps

I’ll seize this opportunity to evaluate my friendships and prioritize relationships differently. I’m going to tie off loose ends on current projects, then halt posting on social media. I’ll utilize my planner for organizing the future, my written journal for getting thoughts out of my head, and this blog for organizing thoughts and synthesizing information. I’ll emphasize deep work in writing, art, and design, and relationships with people that I admire–for their creativity, parenting, empathy and unique perspective.

I may have taken a hit, but that isn’t going to stop me from leveling up.

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