We need to talk…

Dearly beloved,

I gather you here today to address some issues that I would (not) like to bring to light.

I’m going to try to pull some courage here from so many other women. I’m going to fight the urge to close shop and run away from the internets. I’m going to tell you about my fears and troubles in the hope that bringing them out with help me face them.

I’m having a really hard time lately expressing myself on my blog.  I guess there are a few things going on that are inhibiting my ability to write. But o, blog, writing right now. Pouring out my words. It feels so good. I’ve missed you.

It’s not that I don’t have anything to say (of course), it’s just that…well…(shame)(guilt)…I…(deep breath)… I have been writing under a pseudonym. My name is the only part of my blog that I haven’t been transparent and honest about.

Jackson is my maiden name so I guess that’s only a truth stretch. but Lyla isn’t my legal name. It’s a name I fell in love with in high school and scrawled all over my notebooks practicing my new signature. I actually dreamed of changing my name to Lyla Jackson. I always wanted to name my daughter Lyla but when it came time, it didn’t feel right.

So when I decided to start blogging under a pseudonym, Lyla Jackson felt right.

Why didn’t I write under my ‘real’ name? It started for a few basic reasons (protecting my kids and husband from being googled) but as my life took some nosedives (swandives?), I have been very happy to have a safe space where I can express myself without sharing with my mother, people I used to know or risking my career.

As Lyla, I have found amazing friends online and built social circles. I never could have found this level of honesty if I knew that my words could be googled by every person I went to high school with.

Lyla has represented my strong, honest persona. And she really is me. I am her.

When I order Starbucks and they ask my name, I always say Lyla. I actually looking into getting her a library card, health card, credit card…. just in case I needed an extra passport. (#possiblymanic) But that’s another story…

Over the years, I’ve slowly introduced my alter-ego and my blog to a few very close friends who I felt safe sharing with and who I knew I could trust. I know that they follow my blog and I feel okay with that because I chose to invite them.

But, a few weeks ago, I realized that my walls had been breached. My security had a leak. I know that my brother was told about my blog (without my consent) and read every page I’d ever written.

You know in those old spy movies where they spend the whole movie building up this complicated secret infrastructure and then, as soon as the secret trust is compromised, the guy pushes a red button and the whole compound self destructs and he jettisons out of the building as it explodes.

This is how I felt when I realized that he had been given (and read) my blog. I still feel the urge to initiate a scorched earth campaign. I feel like I need to ‘kill’ Lyla, dissociate from her, unpublish this entire blog that I’ve been pouring my heart into for 4 years.

But I DON’T WANT TO! I love Lyla. I love reading the words she wrote that I don’t remember writing. She is my memory and she dreams about my future. She does not exist in a vacuum. Through Lyla, I am social, I have deep relationships with my readers and many have become amazing new friends.

I don’t want to be bullied out of something amazing that I’ve created for myself. I hate hate hate that I was put in this situation. I know that my brother may read this. He should know that his actions have consequences.

I know that my blog is a public space but the fact that Lyla Jackson is me… that’s my secret. That’s my way of protecting my family (husband and children).

Writing honestly and without too much self consciousness is critical to the way I write my blog. But, lately, it is too hard writing about myself. I can’t feel free and honest, when I know that at any moment, my brother or someone else who I have not invited into my life, might think that they are being helpful by sharing my blog (and my secret identity) with my mother, a cousin, a friend, my boss, my children’s school, or anyone else.

I feel like my boundaries have been violated. I feel like my trust has been betrayed. I feel like someone thinks that I am not entitled to privacy in my private space. But I know that I am.

I have worked really really hard over the past days, months, years to protect my kids from my crazy. If my privacy in this space is violated, if my words are used against me, they will get hurt. I can’t let that happen.

So, I’m not sure what to do. I love this space. It tears me up that I might have to destroy my work, that I might have to leave people I love.  But if this is not a space of freedom, than I would be lying to us all and this would serve no purpose anyway.

Friends, what do you think?

Please don’t be mad that I lied about my name. I hope you understand now why I do that.

I don’t know what to do now.

Advice? Thank you.

painting of the words 'we negotiate with chaos'

#yesallwomen

Last week, I sat at work trying not to cry. I guess I do that often, but there was actually an external reason last week.

I was reading through the twitter hashtag that was trending, #yesallwomen. I was shocked at how overwhelmed I felt reading my sister(in the global sense)s’ honest words.

I’ve never spoken to anyone about feeling unsafe and vulnerable as a woman. And honestly, I just assumed that all of my personal safety fears were just part of my anxiety. I didn’t realize that all women feel these things. Last week I learned that #yesallwomen.

I am a 32 year old white Canadian woman. I am educated, liberated and I feel free. I truly have more personal freedom and opportunities than more than 95% of the women in the world.  But I walk through parking garages holding my keys like a weapon. (I’m not worried about getting my wallet stolen.)

Because there is a moment, daily, weekly, monthly, where you think: “Is today the day I get raped?” #yesallwomen

Reading through these messages, I realized that the daily fears that I have internalized and normalized of being attacked and raped, are something that #yesallwomen feel.

Because you get to a point where you can’t remember not being aware, alert, poised, keys between your knuckles. #yesallwomen

Because men don’t text eachother that they got home safe. #YesAllWomen

Learning that these deep fears are actually a product of me being a woman, and not all part of my personal distorted view of the world, I feel furious! It is NOT OKAY that women in the most “progressive” countries in the world, still have good reason to fear for their physical and sexual safety on a daily basis.

It’s NOT OKAY that I’m learning that I’m not the only woman.

Our culture shames those who try to speak up for their sisters and those who say that our society still stacks the deck against women. We are told that we are ungrateful. We are crazy feminists. Dirty hippies. We are reminded that women in poorer countries have it so much worse.

It’s true. Women in North America can do anything we want. We can even be President. We just can’t walk home alone at night.

Because every time I try to say that I want gender equality I have to explain that I don’t hate men. #yesallwomen

Because I had to explain to a 19 y/o girl what feminism is.. Her reply, I don’t want to be disliked or judged by guys though. #yesallwomen

Because this thread reminded me that the sexism I have come to view as “normal” in life should not be accepted anymore. #yesallwomen

Why do I have to walk down the street and be bombarded by huge photos of half naked women in every ad? It’s demeaning!!! It’s also a classic technique of establishing a group’s lower status in society by routine humiliation and objectification. Rape as a plot device in so many films? An entire cable tv show about different ways that women can get raped?

Why do I feel stupid and ashamed even admitting on my own blog that women are objectified in our society?

Even in Canada, politicians are starting to talk about “the abortion debate”. This infuriates me. Having to listen to debates over a woman’s right to protect herself and her physical health… over and over and over again. I feel so helpless. I feel scared. What if they create laws that won’t let me protect myself?

Because only the female body is legislated. #YesAllWomen

I am terrified for my young daughter’s body.  How can I protect her every day? How can I make sure that her body will always be her own? (I can’t.) How do I teach her to stand up for herself when I know that the world will be working hard against her? How do I prepare her to stay strong in the face of being subtly shamed daily for being a woman. Why do I have to?

How can we protect our daughters when they are being portrayed as fish to be caught?

Because by age 12, every girl knows a girl who has been assaulted. Sometimes that girl is themselves. #YesAllWomen

#notallmen practice violence against women but #YesAllWomen live with the threat of male violence. Every. Single. Day. All over the world.

I don’t want to feel unsafe anymore. Not now, not ever. #YesAllWomen

A painting of a woman curled up underground like a seed and growing like the roots of a tree.

To all the girls I’ve loved before

Remember when you were ten years old and someone mailed you a chain letter and you had to make ten copies, sign your name and mail it to ten more people? I never copied the chain letters. My young heart just couldn’t be bullied into sending a letter under the threat of “10 years of bad luck”. Actually, maybe I should have sent them…

Anyway, this isn’t quite a chain letter (or maybe it is) but I’m really honoured to have been sent it so I’m breaking out the stamps and envelopes. Kim, who opened my eyes to what an honest blog could be, nominated me for a Liebster Award.

In true chain letter fashion, there are rules. I must answer Kim’s random questions. So, here goes:

1. Are you that guy in your neighborhood who feeds the wildlife?

I live in a condo in the city. The only wildlife in my neighborhood is an occasional squirrel climbing those weird small trees they plant in planters on the sidewalk.
I do give fruit and $20 bills to the bag lady who wanders my neighborhood… but mostly because I over-identify with her.

2. Where do you write?

I write at my desk in my gray cubicle at my day job. I’m very sneaky and blog under my maiden name so no one at work will ever find me. I love my job because I get a salary and it’s just busy enough that I’m not completely bored but not so busy that I can’t spend half a day writing on my blog, work for an hour, and then spend the rest of the day reading your blogs.

3. My New Year’s resolution was “More thongs, less yoga pants”. What was yours and are you sticking to it?

I guess my resolution was…um… to not die this year. So far, so good!

4. Lucky Charms for breakfast or are you one of those “I like my heart” kind of people?

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. From 2004-2007, I ate two soft boiled eggs for breakfast every single weekday. (Did I mention I have OCD?)

5. What are your thoughts on global warming? Kidding. Do you like pizza? Some people don’t like pizza and those people cannot be trusted.

Gobal warming? As my good friend Elsa said, “the cold never bothered me anyway.” It’s not so much the warming that concerns me as the polution of our air and contamination of our water and destruction of the ecosystem needed to secure a viable food supply for the future. Also microwaves freak me out, so I eat my pizza cold the next morning. (Didn’t think I’d get the connection did you?)

6. What is your favourite colour and have you used that colour (or a variation of it) to paint your walls?

I tell my kids that my favorite colour is green because I like nature.

But really my favourite colour is white. Which is really the absence of colour. I like it because white isn’t distracting or overstimulating (like my brain). So, yes, my walls are all white (except in my closet where I’ve drawn intensely on the wall with sharpies).

But I don’t dress in white because I also like to drink coffee. So I dress in black because it is kind of the opposite of white. (and because, if you are wearing all black, people can’t actually see your clothes or body. True story.)

7. What do you look forward to in the spring?

I look forward to walking outdoors without getting frostbite on my cheeks. And I like the smells and sounds of spring. And birds. I like that there are birds around.

8. Is there a piece of jewelry that you wear every day? Is there any significance to it?

Yes. Lately, I wear three pieces of jewelery most days.

1. A necklace with a small Lotus charm.

I’ve never been the kind of person who liked jewelery or attached sentiment to items. I also wasn’t the kind of person who thought that it was okay to buy something for yourself just because you think it’s pretty. I must have visited this necklace 6 times last year before buying it. It was $30.

I’m not sure why I love it but I do. It’s a lotus which makes me think of yoga- which reminds me to breath. I think that it also represents the new me, my new growth and my new ability to care for myself.

2. A thin black leather bracelet with a silver ball clasp.

This bracelet was given to me on my birthday last year in the middle of a canoe trip in the Northern Ontario wilderness with 12 strangers/best friends.

Rosie, a beautiful woman on the trip gave this to me. She said that she wanted to give me a birthday gift but she hadn’t bought anything, so she took this bracelet off her wrist and put it on mine. I’ve never recieved this kind of a gift before. It was the most beautiful feeling.

Rosie told me that whenever I doubt my place in the world, I should look at this bracelet and remember all the people here and in my family who love me. I do. Thank you Rosie.

3. My shiny diamond Engagement ring.

Two years ago, after my ‘manic break’, I started having thoughts of pawning my engagement ring for a cup of coffee. So I put it in the drawer for safe keeping. It stayed there for well over a year. I’ve started wearing it again now. It makes me think of my husband. I remember how much I love him.

Sometimes people look at my ring and ask me when I’m getting married. Then I give them a weird look like “Can’t you see by my messy hair, tired eyes and squishy body that I’m already married with kids? Isn’t it obvious that I can’t wear my wedding band because my fingers are still to fat and I refuse to resize it?” Such is life.

9. Cold pillow or warm pillow and are you a pillow flipper in the middle of the night?

I think of myself as more of a pillow biter, if you know what I mean…

10. Favourite picture of you and why?

My favourite picture of me was taken last month at my daughter’s 5th birthday party. It’s framed (in black and white, lest I be overstimulated by the colours) and hanging in my bedroom. It’s a picture of my mini-family and we all look so happy and natural. It feels real. We weren’t posed or all dressed the same or standing in a beautiful room. We were having a great day and we stopped to smile for a photo. I am proud of the loving birthday party that I was able to make for my little girl. Something I was never able to have.

That photo also marks my 5 year anniversary of becoming a mother… and the day I began to lose my hold on reality and my sense of self. I look at that photo and remember how hard I climbed to create the day that this photo was taken. Not just ordering the pizza and cake, and not just all the therapy to learn how to celebrate a birthday, but all the work that went into making sure that this little girl had her mother there to hold her at her 5th birthday.

I feel proud of where I am today. I fought so hard to become this woman who can stand in a photo with her husband and children and feel like she belongs. Our smiles are all so genuine. When I look at that photo, I remember that something would be missing if I wasn’t there with them.

(that just got way more sentimental than I expected…)

liebster

Thanks, Kim, for nominating me for this award. xoxo. Keep breathing babe.

It’s official… I’ve lost my mind

I wasn’t quite sure but now I am. I’ve lost my mind. It’s really gone. I just can’t trust it.

I seem okay. I’m doing good work, I’m acting like a good mom… but I think that I may be quietly going mad.

Apparently there is something called “olfactory hallucinations”. Super fun. I thought that my husband had caught a horrid smell and made him feel really bad about it. But then I got on the subway and other people had that horrid smell too.

Now I’m standing in a meeting at work and I smell it again. Suddenly my boss has that horrid smell. Then I realize that I really can’t trust any of my senses to tell me anything about the world. Even my nose betrays me. Maybe I just think I’m standing here at work typing but really, it’s an illusion too. Maybe I think there is carpet under my feet but there is not.

You know how I like to play a fun game where I try to decide which is my favorite part of bipolar, well, I think that the best (and by best, i mean worst) part is that there is no cure. I will never decode this once and for all. I will always be forever getting my feet stuck in rabbit holes.

It’s like I’m walking, getting stronger, foot stuck, pull it out, walk, foot stuck, stand, pull it out, walk, run, fall in hole, climb out… you get the idea.

But I can never hope to live somewhere that is not full of rabbit holes waiting for me to fall into. Because the holes are in my head…apparently.

There is no finish line, it’s just a hamster wheel that I have to keep running around.

This really sucks because I actually have a really great life. I’m super lucky. Only not. errrr…. grrrr….Because this woman lives in my head:

princess bride witch saying liar

Brain, turn off… please

I fear I will never have time to think all the thoughts that I need to think. I keep getting distracted. Where is the off button for my brain?

But I can’t turn it off, I need to get to work on my brilliant bipolar book that will perfectly capture the essence of what living and mothering with mild madness feels like. It is my life’s purpose. As if writing it and having it validated will make it stop existing. As if being recognized positively for suffering will make it all worth it.

We write about things that have passed. So maybe if I am able to write about this once and for all, it will mean that it is over. Then I can begin living the next chapter- whatever that will look like.

Besides, isn’t all this crazy supposed to make me extra brilliant? I feel like it just makes me extra confused.
extra
xtra
trax
rats
star
I am a star. no. I don’t need to be a star.

Does everyone feel an unstoppable longing for attention? A longing to be seen and heard – by everyone – by anyone. It’s like all of humanity is just driven to have our existance validated in some way. For someone to say, “yes, i see you, i’m here, it’s okay.”

Am I supposed to learn how to say that to myself? Is that what “practising self-kindness” means?

I really want to be truly seen and heard. I can’t even see myself. I have no idea what I look like. I don’t understand how others may see me. I’m not even sure if it matters what they think. But I can’t stop feeling like my whole existence is supposed to focus on appearing the ‘right’ way.

I just really want to do right by my kids. I don’t want them to ever feel the way that I feel. I don’t want anyone to ever feel the way that I feel. I can’t even describe how horrible it is.

But I worry that maybe by over-focusing on trying not to screw up my kids, I’ll do the opposite.

It’s like I’m trying to teach myself a delicate dance on a (seemingly) fine line between smothering them and making them feel rejected. I’m not sure what the dance is supposed to look like.

But if I can’t do it perfectly, I have failed. I will have failed them. I will have failed myself. I will have failed my mother-in-law. I will have failed my husband. I will have failed anyone who ever tried to help me with anything.  I will have failed the waiter who brought me a sandwich yesterday. I will have failed the tree who gave me breath.

If Oedipus hadn’t feared that his son would kill him, he never would have sent him out to the mountains and the fear would not have come true. Sometimes, a decision that you make to avoid a particular outcome, is exactly what brings about that very outcome.

How will I know if I’m doing this life thing right? Where is my report card? and even if I received one, could I ever believe it?

…This post sounds a bit rambling and extreme but I’m actually feeling fine. I think. I’m sitting at my day job doing great work. I just have a lot of thoughts. I feel like I need some time to think about them all.

Where is my power to stop time so that I can get this all figured out?

out-of-this-world-tv-show-maureen-flannigan