School Daze

“Two great gobs of greasy, grimy gopher guts, mutilated monkey meat, itty-bitty birdy feet; two big eyeballs rolling down a dirty street and me without a spoon…”

Out of all of the things I could remember from grade school, this is the one thing that just instantly pops in my head when I think of those early days of being a kid in the 70’s. I know there are different versions, depending on where in the world you grew up and so there are variations on the theme, but in general, it’s just plain silliness and I love it.

Whenever I think of school, the first thing that comes to mind is the crisp Autumn air, the leaves turning color and the back to school shopping, which was hands-down my favorite part of it all. Some kids want new shoes, new clothes and backpacks. I, on the other hand, looked forward to new pens and fresh, unmarked notebooks and piles of binder paper, just waiting to be filled with the endless stream of thoughts and ideas I always seem to find whenever faced with a blank page. I loved the new beginning, fresh start and endless possibilities that awaited me with each new school year; it was like New Year’s except without the hangover and the pressure to make resolutions. It was a chance to learn, to strengthen existing friendships, make some new ones and exercise my brain, while learning new concepts and discovering new worlds that I had not previously known. It was an escape from an unquiet, chaotic household to a world of order, clearly defined rules of behavior and expectations. It was a world of learning and because I was (and still am) a huge fan of learning, I received a great deal of praise and encouragement in those classrooms. It was a place that I felt I truly belonged to and some of my most formative lessons growing up took place at school.

As an adult, of course, things are a little different, but I still love learning. I have to work harder than I did as a kid because 5o is just around the proverbial corner and because (as you all know) my mood swings around like dancers doing the Lindy Hop.

But there are rewards that by far outweigh the effort put forth; the sense of accomplishment, of facing challenges and overcoming obstacles that you just don’t get when you run away or quit. It reinforces the belief that I am capable, intelligent and have some serious moxie.

mox·ie
noun NORTH AMERICAN informal
force of character, determination, or nerve.

I love that word, moxie. It’s so cool. Makes me think of old school gangster movies with Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney and Bogey.

Sorry. Shiny thing distracted me.

At any rate, school will always be a place that I love. I may not like the teacher, the subject matter or other miscellaneous things, it is a happy place for me and the memories of playing dodgeball and hopscotch will always be some of my all-time favorites. My first slumber party, becoming a song leader (cooler dancing sister to the cheerleader) and playing volleyball are some of milestones that made me the woman I am today and the teachers who were endlessly patient with my endless supply of questions nurtured the desire to learn in me and allowed me to explore my intellect and question what others called the truth.

Doodles. That’s another thing I love about school. Doodles are awesome.

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25 Years Ago Today

I was dressed in blue, wearing a dress borrowed from my big sister. My engagement ring was my mother’s and my band something we picked up at a pawn shop. Our son was there, 6 months old, a testament to the fact that there was great love between us. We were so young, I realize now; not just young in our ages, but young in the naive belief that this would last forever, that we would live “Happily ever after” and grow old together, holding hands across the distance of our rocking chairs. We would bounce grandchildren upon our knees, having raised our children with great love and instilled in them a sense of how important family is, how important our history is and what our gifts to mankind will be. I believed that with the bond of our love, nothing would separate us, nothing could break us apart; it would carry us through all that Life would send our way. I believe those are thoughts any bride should have on her wedding day, but I also believe that what was missing from those thoughts was how to live such a life; sacrifice, compromise, constant communication and a whole lot more things that I still (to this day) can’t put a name to. I just know that when I have talked to couples who have managed to stay married, there are a lot of things specific to that couple that they practiced that made the difference between staying together and breaking apart. I had never really figured out what would have made the difference with us; maybe if I had refused to follow the expected norm and get married, we would have been able to focus on being parents without the stress of having to make a marriage work as well. Maybe if I had confided more in him, instead of trying to always appear as if I had the answers, I was in control and I was never scared or uncertain. I could maybe from here to eternity and it would not serve to change anything from the past. What I can do is believe that there is someone out there for everyone (not just one person, someone for every part of your life, some for the entirety of your life, but mostly someone to love and to be loved by) and if I am able to drop the walls I’ve built up to guard my heart, if I can be brave enough to trust that heart to someone, to risk being hurt, being rejected or worse of all, found unworthy of such love. If I can trust my instincts well enough to recognize someone who is good and honest, worthy of trust and capable of great love, I will find my happiness with another. But it is a great journey from thinking the thought and taking the action, making the change. I can speak of dropping walls, but I have no idea how to do that. Perhaps this is where the intuition comes in; I have rarely been disappointed when I make a choice based on my “gut feeling” but I have found myself in dire straits when I refuse to heed that warning/feeling.

I guess the main point of all of this is to celebrate my first and only attempt at marriage, recognize that it is nothing to fear, nor to be ashamed of, but as with everything in life, it is something to learn and to grow from. I did not plan for things to end the way they did, but I have a gorgeous, funny, smart, talented, loving son and the experience of being a wife and a mother for a few years. I have had many more years as a single woman, no serious relationships, no ties that bind (love that expression) and if God or the Universe or Fate or whatever decide that I am worthy of a second chance at love, I will not waste that opportunity. I will work to tear down the walls, open my heart and invite love in.

Anger Revisited

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. 
Buddha 

I have shared with you before how I have issues with anger and how at different times in my life it has almost been my undoing. I had heard the quote above before (Kevin?) and it really spoke to me. I had been holding anger against so many people, situations and just in general. To me, there was no other emotion that made me feel so alive, humming with emotion and intensity. The only problem is that it was a very damaging state to maintain for long. Anger is like battery acid, eating away at anything it comes into contact with and it wasn’t long before it began to eat away at my self-esteem, my outlook on life and how I dealt with the world in general. I was like a walking furnace of anger, radiating negative energy all around me. People instinctively pulled away from me, as if knew that getting too close would be harmful to their well-being.

There is a seductive pull of anger, the absolute power of it; it made me feel as though I could fight the world and win. I could blaze a path through a crowd, scare the Hell out of any fool who had the bad luck to try to make me feel better. But, at some point, the anger turns inward and the acid eats away at me. I had managed to wound myself seriously, push away all those who care about me and put myself in a position of great unhappiness. This would be the time I would go out and drink until I blacked out, trying to numb myself from that unhappiness. The unhealthy behaviors would gladly jump to the forefront of my consciousness and before I knew it, things had gone from bad to worse.

It has taken me a great deal of time to fully understand where this anger came from, why I felt justified in blaming others for it and how to undo or heal from the anger I’ve inflicted upon myself. It’s very easy to blame others for my feelings and my failings and very difficult to turn that critical eye inward. Accepting responsibility for my choices, my thoughts and my actions is the only way that I believe I’ll ever find true happiness. Forgiving myself, loving myself and learning from those bad choices are the healing balm for the burns of anger. 

I recognize that a lifetime of behavior cannot be undone in one day and that I will more than likely spend the rest of my life adjusting my thoughts, pulling back the reins on my anger and finding ways to cope with the consequences of my actions that are not self-destructive or destructive to those around me. I believe that anger comes from a place of powerlessness, of feeling as though fighting back is the only option. I no longer believe that I am powerless; I know that I have no power over others’ actions, but I do have power over how I respond to them. Rather than judge them, I need to have compassion and understand that they are driven by things that I cannot see nor can I understand. But just like me, they are doing the best they can with what demons and limitations they carry with them. It’s hard work, though. The force of anger is always right on the surface, while forgiveness, compassion and understanding are further down and take effort to access. I cannot expect things to change if I continue to follow the old behaviors and thought processes. I am no longer the victim, the wounded child or the misunderstood manic-depressive. I am just me, a child of the Universe searching for my destiny and my own self-realization. The people that I meet along the way are on their own journey and when our paths cross, I believe we each give something to the other. My gift will no longer be red-hot, scalding, soul-killing anger. I have many gifts to offer that are healing, understanding and loving. I will do my best to holster the anger and reach deep to find the positive. 

One day at a time.

The Child Within

I have long believed that there is a child within me that directs me, demands things and screams to be heard; it’s the younger version of me, about 5 or 6 years old. She is still very much alive within me and is very persistent in her demands. That child part of me is always looking for something to make me feel good, but as a child, has no ability to sense when feeling good isn’t always possible and difficult “yucky” things must be done instead. Like going to work, waking up early and not eating ice cream and jelly beans for breakfast. The child within demands to be heard, to be loved and to be nurtured. Not necessarily by anyone else, but by me, the woman that I am today. It’s almost as if when I was a child, I kept hope that someday I would be in control, I would be able to do whatever I wanted and as a result, that part of me is now requesting her wishes to be fulfilled. So, within reason and whenever possible, I let the child out; to play, to eat jelly beans and ice cream and to watch cartoons, stay up late on New Year’s Eve and even to tell her story. Yes, she most definitely has a story to tell and it’s all hers. One day, I’ll let her post something and she will tell her view of living her life.

I think all of us have these children within us, especially Adult Children of Alcoholics. We had to grow up very fast, have a heightened sense of awareness, testing the emotional waters whenever our alcoholic parent came home. We had to not shed tears, not make noise and basically, become invisible at times, just to survive. As a result of that, the child does not grow up feeling like an adult, but is sometimes stuck in that state of childhood. I feel that it’s very important to recognize when that child hijacks the mind and does things that aren’t always in our best interest. A great deal of the substance and alcohol abuse I experienced were largely in part because I didn’t want to feel anything, I wanted to be numb. A child cannot process complex situations and detach from the emotions; emotions rule and logic is not yet present; so to numb oneself or to hide seems to be their only option. As an adult, I realize that I must face those unpleasant truths, relive some uncomfortable experiences with logic and maturity to understand what I must do to heal. Feeling the pain, the heartbreak and the disappointment isn’t fun, but once those things are dealt with and faced, the healing can begin. I liken it to getting a tattoo; it hurts while it’s happening, but once it’s finished, the pain lessens until there is no pain at all. Then you just have a really cool piece of body art and the pain was more than worth it (if you’re into that sort of thing, of course)

So, today I am going to let my child within have a few hours watching cartoons and eating waffles with peanut butter and syrup before I have to get down to the business at hand, the yucky stuff, like doing laundry, grocery shopping and just being an adult.

If you feel that you have a child within you also, let him/her out for a bit and see what fun you can have, being a kid again. Love unconditionally, see beauty in everyday life and just laugh, play and shrug your troubles off your shoulders and smile.

In the movie Mama Mia, there is a conversation that I absolutely love and it goes something like this:

Tanya: What happened to that girl who wanted to be a star?

Donna: I grew up.

Tanya: Well, grow back down!

Excellent advice.

Have a great Saturday!