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Purpose and control

I was watching television and a character said he became a doctor because it was always his way to try to control things. Being a doctor made him feel he was in control of his life and his patients’ lives.

I was sitting there watching and it was like one of those AHA! moments. I started wondering if my fiction writing (which I’d been doing since I was a pre-teen) was my way of controlling things in my life. Or finding a way to have control in a world where I really had no control, especially when I first became sick…which is when I started intensely on my writing career and when I was first published.

When I talked about this with T, it also made sense as to why I haven’t been able to write very much in the last few years. I’ve worked so hard to release my idea of controlling everything, and so my default way of writing–and seeing my writing–is no longer the same. T said she could see exactly what I was dealing with, and she felt the discovery was a very interesting and insightful one. I’m not sure how I will be able to write again, but T thinks I’ll find a way. I certainly don’t want to go backward in order to find my ability to write again, but as I am now, I feel like my solace in writing is gone. I used to be able to disappear into my books and create lives and worlds where everything was the way I wanted it to be. But now, where I see that control really is an illusion–even though I’m still working on that in my own life–I’m not sure how to create stories the way I used to.

At the moment, I even feel like I’m struggling to get my ideas across in this post. I feel jumbled and like the words I want are not here. It’s sad and disappointing right now. The thing that I always went to feels like it’s well and truly gone. I mean, I know I haven’t worked on any of my books in recent years, nor have I really started anything new of note, but I guess I thought it would still be there to save me.

It sounds dramatic, but really my writing did save me when I got sick. There were days I never made it out of bed except to go to the bathroom, and yet those were the days where I wrote my books. Those were the most productive days of my writing career. Through pain and vertigo and fatigue…I wrote my books. I wrote deep into the night, hours and hours at a time, and slept through until noon. I would eat lunch and then go back to my writing. It kept me sane, it gave me a life to live when I couldn’t live my own life. My hands would cramp, my arms would ache (I wrote my books in longhand), my neck would hurt…but I kept writing. That was the first time I ever wrote a full-length book, and it was the first time I persisted in finding a publisher for that book.

And here I am, in need of that solace, and unable to find it.

I’m not the same person I was, no question about it. I just don’t know how to be the person I am and still have the purpose I had then.

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I’m cheating on my therapist (part 2)

You might want to read part 1 first. It’s kinda long…

Session number four (at least of the “active” sessions) started out with V talking to me about being bullied again. But this time, it was my grandmother that we were discussing. During my very first conversation with V, we were talking about those “resource” people and V was asking me about extended family like aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. I told her that I loved my grandmother very much, and that she was a big part of our lives growing up and into my adulthood. But that I had some mixed feelings about her, because she was always harping on my weight.

And like some weird television show, I had one of those epiphany moments. I realized very clearly how abusive my grandmother had been to me all my growing up years. How much she had damaged me, hurt me, bullied me, abused me. There was no physical abuse. She loved me. But she hurt me so much.

She compared me to people around us, other girls, other women. She told me I’d never be happy if I didn’t lose weight. She told me that I wouldn’t get a husband if I didn’t lose weight. She took me to her aerobics class as often as she could (very often in the summer when I was out of school), where I was forced into working out with other women of all shapes and sizes. Then she pointed out how I couldn’t keep up with this woman or that woman. She compared me to her (younger) friend’s daughter, a girl who was two years ahead of me in school. Pointed out how slender and in-shape that girl was, how smart she was, how happy she was.

She watched what I ate when we were together. She pointed out what I shouldn’t be eating. She encouraged me to deprive myself, and to eat only the things she gave me. She chastised me when I ate too much, or pointed me away from the cookies or the cake that she had baked for others in the family.

I was the only girl in my family, the youngest of four. I was also the only one of the kids who was overweight. I snuck food because I felt deprived of the food. Oh don’t get me wrong, my mother was watching me, because she, too, was unhappy that I was overweight. But she was more subtle about what she did and said. And she didn’t do the overt comparisons that my grandmother employed.

I went to fat camp, subsidized by my grandparents, because I know my parents couldn’t have afforded it at that time. It was a spectacular failure. I might have lost five or ten pounds at the time–the diet was very restricted and the activities were very forced on us–and I gained it all back very quickly…and then some, I’m sure. And my grandmother pointed it out, reminded me how hard I worked at the camp, and how I was letting it all go to waste.

I loved my grandmother very much. She loved me. She had her own weight issues, her own body image issues…I know this affected her and how she treated me. I know it affected her and affected my mother as well. That doesn’t mean what she did to me all those years wasn’t painful and damaging. As an adult, I understand where it came from for her. I’m working hard to separate her as the woman who loved me from her terrible behaviors toward me. I’m trying to remember that I’m NOT damaged. I am whole and I am okay.

My grandmother is only part of the reason that I never feel like I’m enough. Good enough. A good enough daughter. A good enough sister. A good enough wife. A good enough friend. I work ultra-hard, go the extra mile, do all the little things and the big things…and yet even when people are appreciative, I worry that it wasn’t enough. That I wasn’t enough.

My mother had three boys. All she wanted at that point was a little girl. A daughter, who she could dress in lace and ruffles, who would wear sweet pink dresses and play with baby dolls, who would love her tiny tea set and be the epitome of every dainty little girl. I was none of that. I hate lace and ruffles–they made me itch–and I wasn’t overly fond of pink. I hated dresses. I never once picked up a baby doll and I totally ignored the expensive and lovely tea set that I’m told my uncle bought for me at my mother’s urging. I played with the boys’ toys, with the boys themselves as often as I could work my way into their play-time, and I wore pants and tee shirts. And I was far from the dainty little girl she had hoped for. Very very often, my mother would speak of me, and then tell people all those things…I waited so long for a baby girl, I wanted to dress her in lace and ruffles, I wanted to see her play with baby dolls and tea sets. She never wanted any of those things… Over and over my mother would tell people of my failures. My mother loves me and I love her. If you read any of my blog posts, you can’t miss that. We’re amazing friends. I’m in awe of her. I’m deathly afraid of the day I will lose her. AND she made me feel like I wasn’t enough while I was growing up. I wasn’t who she had expected me to be.

I try so hard to be enough. I’ve been bullied and abused and put down for who I was. I only ever wanted to be loved.

As we were talking about my grandmother–and in part about my mom–V asked me to picture myself as a child. I could immediately remember my little bedroom. The walls were painted a pepto bismal pink, my white iron daybed mattress covered in strawberry shortcake sheets (which were in part pink), the white dressers and desk that had once belonged to my mother, the deep cranberry wool carpeting that my grandparents had passed down to me from a previous house. The full length mirror on the back of my door. The tiny little black and white television on my dresser, under the shelves that held the dolls my grandparents brought for me from every trip they took out of the country (I had never asked for dolls, they just bought them for me). The window air conditioner an uncle gave us for my bedroom. V asked me what that little girl was thinking, and I blurted out she just wants to be loved….she doesn’t want to be alone.

In previous sessions with T, I didn’t really understand talking to the little girl that I used to be. I’m not sure why this time it was more accessible. Maybe because of the revelations I had about my grandmother and my mother. The thing is, I don’t know how to make it better for that little girl. I was alone. I felt unloved. I’m not alone as an adult. I have a wonderful relationship with my mother, I have a good relationship with my father and my brothers. My husband loves me very much. I have a very good friend whom I’ve known since second grade. And yet I still feel not good enough. I just want to feel good enough.

I don’t know what’s going to come next. I was supposed to see V again next week but I’ve canceled the appointment due to my mother’s health. That doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about all of this when I have free brain time, but I’ve been pretty occupied with my mother’s appointments, her care, and taking care of her personal and business issues. I have another appointment scheduled with V in a couple of weeks. If I can manage the appointment, I will. In the meantime, I’m still seeing T, so maybe I’ll be able to address some of these thoughts with her. We’ll have to see how it goes, considering everything else happening at the moment.

 

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Flashback a la pants

I know, I know. It’ll make sense in a minute.

When I was a teenager–a fat, short teenager–I got a job. I was fourteen years old and the law in our state was that you had to be fifteen to get a job, unless you got a special permit. I got the permit to get a job. I was a mousy child, never really interested in being away from my mother and always a goody-two-shoes. Until I hit about 12 1/2 years old. Then I must have gotten bored with school or something, because I turned into a real brat. I skipped classes, I skipped school, I made a pest of myself, I drove my parents crazy. At fourteen, I wanted a job really really badly. I got my permit and I got a job. In an ice cream shop (Baskin Robbins, to name names). I was so freaking responsible, that by the time I was there for two months, I was opening the store alone in the mornings. I rocked. But I digress (and it won’t be the last time I digress). Also, let me tell you that BR cheated you (I don’t know if they still do this) because your ice cream scoops were hollow. I had to train to make scoops based on weight. That’s how the sizes changed back in the day…by weight. As a fat kid, I hated that idea, and so after my training, I cheated often. I scooped REAL scoops for my customers, except when the boss was watching (sorry for screwing up your profits, boss!). So hey, when you go for ice cream, make sure you get waited on by the fat kid, because they’re going to give you REAL scoops, and they’re going to make sure your ice cream gets REALLY covered by hot fudge…not that splat splat splotchy fudge treatment that they got trained on. Oops, digressed again. Just remember, fat kids are awesome.

I applied for the job and I got the job. But the job had requirements, one of which was a “uniform”. I had to wear a golf shirt with the BR logo on it (which I think I had to buy and I had TWO so I could wash one while I was wearing the other as I worked almost every day after school and after one day of working I always had ice cream spilled on my shirt) and a pair of chocolate brown pants. Did I mention I was a short, fat teenager? I mostly shopping in the women’s departments at Sears, Kmart, JC Penny, and another cheap store I can’t remember the name of that is long gone. I also bought clothes from stores like DRESS BARN. I was fourteen. It sucked. So, the brown pants? Unfindable in my size and shape in the specified color. So my mom and I went shopping for material at a fabric store. Also, did I mention we were poor? Yeah, poor. Not like middle-class poor (which isn’t really poor), but like, poor. So we had to find material that was on sale because I needed a lot of material for one pair of pants. And thus became my traumatic childhood experience with polyester. The pants were made of 100% polyester, which did not breathe. And even in the well air conditioned ice cream shop, I sweated and I had chub rub. My mom sewed me the pants, which were baggy and had a thin, weird elastic waistband because that’s the only way to get them to fit me. I loved working at the ice cream shop because it was always cold in there, and as a fat kid I longed to avoid sweating as much as possible. During the summer when we were busy and the doors opened and closed all day, letting in the humidity, I took breaks in the big walk-in freezer in the back room. I pretended to go look for ice cream or check supplies. It was fantastic in there. Oh, I digress…again.

So, ya’ll know about my crocheting hats with my mom for chemo patients…well, anyone with a medical condition that leaves them without hair. Really, the point behind me crocheting was making sure my mother had hats to wear. I know she thinks I’m doing it to give the hats away, but REALLY I’m doing it to make sure she has comfortable hats to wear. I even bought a skein of yarn that she looked at (3 times) but didn’t buy because I knew she loved it but thought it was frivolous. I went back to the store and bought the yarn without telling her, then quietly made the hat. I then took it to her and to my delight she has been wearing it every single damn day. I made it to fit her specifically, to the diameter and length she wanted. The hat is gray and sparkly, so she asked me to make another one with white sparkly yarn, so she had a second hat when she wanted to hand wash and dry the first hat. So I’ve been working on that, but for some weird reason the yarn feels different, even though it’s the same yarn. But in between those two hats, I’ve been trying to find a yarn that is light and airy, because she says most of the hats make her feel hot. So I found a thin, soft yarn, and I worked it to her specifications for sleeping. It’s just a cap, really, that barely comes down to her ears, sits close to her head, and doesn’t shift around. We fitted it several times before I finished it, and last night she told me she slept in it and it was PERFECT. The previous hat she was using to sleep in, that she got at the wig appointment, is a slouchy kind of hat that shifted around and ended up sliding down her face. So she’d wake up with her eyes and nose covered, and she was unhappy. So now she’s sleeping in the second hat, while still wearing the first gray hat every day. I’m so thankful to be able to help her in this way.

As a child I needed her to make those pants for me (and she made other clothing as well) because I couldn’t find what fit me properly in the stores. She was a whiz with the sewing machine. If I sat down at the sewing machine I could make a mean pillowcase. Or a tote bag. They’d probably both be crooked, but I could do it. Now, I’m crocheting her caps that fit to her specifications. What she wants exactly. And it’s so much flashback to my youth and those ugly, horrible, polyester pants.

 

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Dogs, family, fear, love, pain, stress

Seems like a weird title, I know, but bear with me.

I was playing with my widgets (get your mind out of the gutter) and realized I could show the number of posts for each category listed. I considered changing the “list” to a “drop down” to save space, but I don’t like drop downs. I considered a category “cloud” but the cloud didn’t look the way I wanted it to, so I didn’t do that either. Then I skimmed over my categories and noted which ones had the highest post counts (not counting “anxiety” because every post I write is marked with “anxiety” as a category). Yeah, you got it…

Dogs, family, fear, love, pain, stress.

That just so much is me. The things my life are filled with every day…obviously because those are the things I’m talking about the most. I don’t know what I expected, but for some reason I was surprised to see those categories as not only being the highest counts, but the highest by far. Like, the other post counts are half (or less) than these six categories. Go ahead, take a look, I’ll wait.

You’re back? Oh, what…you need to take a pee/coffee/email break? I guess you can do that and come back if you want. Probably be easier to just finish reading the blog post…it isn’t going to go on much longer. Why? Because I’m not sure what else to say about it. I just thought it was interesting to note.

I love my dogs and I love my family. Those are the most important things in my life (family includes Hub, but Hub has his own category…but Hub’s category is lower than “family” because I feel weird talking a lot about Hub on here because he didn’t ask to have his life analyzed…) I live with fear, pain, and stress every single day of my life, just as I live with the dogs and family…and love. It’s such a set of polar opposites…the good things in life: love, family, dogs. The bad things in life: fear, pain, stress. I generally seem to live at one end or the other, nowhere in the middle. I have issues with moderation, balance, etc.

It’s interesting, because my emotions are not really that way. I am generally on an even keel, with only minor amounts of spikes up or down. I’m not sure Hub would agree, but it’s how I feel.

Dogs, family, fear, love, pain, stress.

It’s just interesting to me to know what I’ve really been writing about.

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2014 in about me, anxiety, dogs, family, fear, hub, love, pain, stress

 

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The unknown years

When I was young, I worked. I worked for my mother’s office before I was legally able to work, mostly admin stuff and some computer desktop work. Filing, mailings, that kind of stuff. Nothing terribly exciting, but they paid me, and it was before I really knew what a 9-5 job was like.

When I got into junior high school–before it was a middle school, FYI–I was bored. I was bored with school, bored with studying, and I wanted to start saving for my own car. My older brothers all had cars, so I wanted a car. So at fourteen, I got a special permit to work, and I got a job in food services. I worked after school and on weekends. Someone in my family had to drive me to-and-from work because it was too far away to walk. After about a year, I moved into retail, where I worked both as a sales person and as a cashier. Most of my time was as a cashier. I worked summers, after school, weekends…as often as they would allow so that I could continue to save money. I bought my grandparents’ old car. Then I bought my own car…a convertible.

In high school, I was still working retail, but I also started to dabble in computers. I began repairing computers for people on the side, and I started using a computer at home. I learned everything I could about computers, about software programs…word processing, spreadsheets, databases. I learned to help other people with computers. I got a part-time job working with computers when I got into college. Then I went part-time with college and full-time with computers. I never wondered what career I’d be in or what major I’d have in college.

Now, here I am, after my computer career has ended, and my writing (and publishing) career has stalled. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to still be publishing and I’d LOVE to still be writing books…but I am not. It’s not working for me right at the moment, so I am at a loss. I feel like a twenty-year-old who is trying to decide what major to pick in college. I’m “back-packing around Europe to find myself”…only I’m still at home.

I never wandered, or raised a fuss, or partied, or lazed around. I worked from the time I was able to, and I educated myself on my own and through formal schools. I knew what I wanted to do, what I enjoyed, what made me happy and furthered my life. Now, I’m lost and stagnating. And bored. I’m living the unknown years at the wrong time in my life. And it stinks.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2014 in about me, anxiety, change, feeling lost, future, history

 

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When I was (part 2)

This is a continuation of the previous post, When I was.

I had a job that was important to me. I did my job well, I was respected, but I was overworked. Hub and I were newly married by only about a year. And I got sick. I was so tired, so much, and I ended up with walking pneumonia. I took a leave of absence from my job to try to recover…they were understanding at first. They let me go on short term medical leave, but my illness got worse. I got over the pneumonia, but I was weak and tired…way more than was normal after a virus. So we started going to doctors (which I talk about in other blog posts), but during this time I began writing. I wrote a book, staying up late into the night, writing until my arm was weak and my fingers couldn’t grasp the pen anymore. I slept late into the day while Hub went to work to support us…taking time off to go to doctor’s appointments with me when he could. Other times, my mother took me to see the doctors. But the writing was cathartic, and it seemed to give me life–a reason to find consciousness every day–as I struggled with my health. And with the anger and fear and anxiety and depression that followed me every day. I had no idea what was happening to me physically, but the writing kept me in another world that was normal and sane and happy.

My grandfather was sick…he wasn’t well during my wedding. Less than a year later, he died. I was so sick that I wasn’t able to see him much during that time. I got my book published the summer of 2001, so I was wrapped up in that excitement, even as I was still struggling with my health. And I’d been out of work for over 9 months, and my company finally told me they couldn’t continue to hold my job open. They said they would try to find another position for me when I was ready to return, but I was too angry with them, so I quit. I also wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to work full-time again, because my recovery was so slow. So I started a new book. Again, it kept me alert and sane, grounded in my life even as I lived in my book and with my characters. As I was making my way through my illness, with my writing, with my new world of not supporting myself and relying on my husband for everything, 9/11 happened.

For years I struggled with my health, with doctors, with not knowing and anxiety…fear. And through those years I wrote books and published them. A couple of times I published through other publishers, then I decided to open a publishing company of my own. Just as I got sick the second time. It took me much longer to get the publishing company up and running because of my second illness, but I managed to do it. I had help from family, but the majority of the work was my responsibility. I did everything except accounting, and even then I did some of it because I tracked and paid royalties to our authors. And I ran this publishing company–which became a huge part of my life–for ten years. Along with publishing my own books. But the industry changed massively over the last ten years, and small publishers like us were becoming obsolete. Between that and the issues I went through with my Prilosec-fever and subsequent anxiety issues, I finally closed the publishing company this past fall.

I published another book last summer, but I haven’t really written one in a couple of years. Although I feel the urge to write, I haven’t really been able to. And it makes me feel lost and alone, without a purpose. Which makes me sad. Writing has always been the thing I turned to when I felt lost or in pain, alone, fearful, anxious, unhappy. Whether it was poetry or fiction, I always fall back to my writing. This time I am writing on this blog, but it isn’t exactly the same as the creative type writing I’ve done in the past. I miss it terribly, but it’s just outside my reach.

For now.

 

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When I was

I’ve never really talked about what my career was or is. Mostly, I think, because I’ve been at a standstill in this part of my life.

I started working very young doing office work for my mother’s company. Then I went into retail as soon as it was legal for me to do so. I worked through middle school and all through my high school years. Once I went into college, I ended up working full-time and going to school part-time. I was in college for a writing degree, but I was working in computers. I grew up in a time when computers were NOT common in the home. You know, back in the day when dial-up was through a 2400 baud modem. Anyone? Anyone? <chirp, chirp> Yeah, I know, a million years ago. I accidentally fell into a computer career because it was interesting to me and it was easy. 90% of what I knew I had learned on my own, and I took that and made a career out of it. It paid really nicely, allowed me to work at a flexible and easy-going job (initially), and so I loved it. I continued in school for writing–because I had always been creative and I loved writing–but I worked in the computer industry. And I remained in the computer industry all through college and after, even though my degree was in writing.

I let my writing go for many years. I found great interest in computers, as they changed often and it kept me intrigued. I also found out that the industry I was in was not so accepting of females, and yet I’d grown up surrounded by boys, so I was less than intimidated. I went from working for an all-female company–where we wore shorts to work in the summer and walked barefoot in the office all year round–to an engineering firm that was riddled with geeks and nerds. The only women on staff in the 50+ company were in the accounting department, the HR department, or at the front desk…with the exception of one female engineer and me. I became fast friends with the female engineer, and felt an easy camaraderie with my direct boss. He was interested in mentoring me, and I was lucky that he was not only knowledgeable and patient, but he was respectful of women. I enjoyed the challenge in this job, and made friends with many of the male engineers. I helped that company move physical locations by doing much of the framework for the new building’s network. I worked my ass off for that company, assuming (naively) that I would be rewarded. My boss was being moved up the chain of command, so I thought that my months and months of extra hard work would put me in line for his position. Instead, they hired a man from outside the company. He was resentful of my intimate knowledge of the company (I had not only written all the policies for the network and IT department, but I also was keeper of the company history)…and I was friendly with almost everyone in the company. With the major exception of the owner, who initially approved of everything I did…until he hired my new boss. My new boss basically sabotaged me to the owner, and within weeks of his hire, I was fired. The one and only time I’ve ever been fired. Called to the HR office, where a woman I was friends with for years gazed at me apologetically, and handed me my termination papers. Then I was walked back to my desk by the security person who I had helped train,where he  watched as I packed up my desk and then he walked me out of the building. It was the one and only time I felt set apart in my industry, despite always being in the minority. I even asked the HR woman why I was being fired, and she literally shrugged and said “you’re an at-will employee and the company has decided to let you go.”

I was incredibly soured on the industry at that point. I had a mortgage to pay for, bills that required payment, but I wanted to do nothing. I was angry, and although I interviewed for jobs and had offers, I was hesitant to put myself back in the same position as before. But I finally found a company that I thought would be good to me. There were women in charge, it was woman-owned, and I felt that I would be supported in my position in the company. Again, I was working directly for a man, although this time he was not as amiable as my first male boss. But he did want me to learn, so I took that as something worthwhile. I invested myself again and worked hard. This time, I was given much more opportunity, and I ended up running the company’s IT systems on my own when my boss moved on. I was given a lot of responsibility and I lived up to their expectations…and then some. I was extremely well-respected by management, and I was able to hire a staff. And then, like the previous job, the company decided to expand into another building. Which I facilitated very successfully. I continued to be well-respected by all the staff in the company, and the owner was extremely fond of me. Until such time as my direct boss–the woman I’d been working for for years–decided that they needed a VP of IT, and that I was not experienced enough to fill that position. So she hired an older man who had management experience, but almost no IT experience to speak of. And that’s when my job went downhill. He liked me just fine, though I wasn’t entirely fond of him. But he also expected me to work way more hours than was reasonable, and he dumped every ounce of work on me because he couldn’t do any of it. I was overworked and stressed beyond belief…and I got sick.

When I was part 2…

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2014 in about me, angry, anxiety, failure, history, stress

 

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