One Decade

Today is my daughter’s 10th birthday. Ten years.

I’m sitting in my kitchen supervising 8 girls in sleeping bags chatting in the dark in my living room. They’ve been here for hours. They had pizza and chocolate strawberries and a movie and now it’s bedtime and I just shushed them again. I’m such a mom.

Mom. I’m the mom. It was my job today to be the mom and stand in the shadows. It was my job to organize the stuff and clean the kitchen between activities and blow up the air mattresses, but I don’t get to play the games and get cozy. And I actually feel okay with that. I’m the adult. I had my turn to be the kid (and to think that taking my plate to the sink magically made the kitchen clean). Now my role is different (I have to actually clean the kitchen). My responsibilities are different.

My friends are turning 40. They look and act the way I remember my parents’ friends did when I was a kid. I think that should feel weird but it doesn’t.

Went to a 40th birthday party last night and my friends are talking about going into work late and leaving early and giving the crappy work to the junior lawyers. It’s funny – they have become the senior lawyers that we were so intimidated by.

We took a group photo and I remembered seeing a photo of my grandparents with a bunch of their friends at a 40th birthday party. I thought they were so old.

I see the circle of life coming around. And I see my role in this game. It’s a role I’ve chosen and I am a little excited about embracing it. Sometimes I look at things as if it’s a tv show and I see the roles that we each play.

It feels like my daughter’s 10th birthday is marking the beginning of my new role. A new decade with new opportunities… We move into a new house in two weeks. I’m starting a new job in three weeks. My husband is expecting a promotion soon. And… I seem to still have reasonable mental capacity to hold all of this.

The last ten years have been hard. Really hard. But I think that they’ve been preparing me for the next ten years which may just be awesome.

-LJ

be in harmony

 

Coming back

Lyla hasn’t been around much lately. I think that she needed to take a break from introspection and work on creating the external life that she wanted…But maybe that doesn’t really account for everything.

I took a new job in November of 2016. It paid almost double my old salary and although it was still in the not-for-profit sector, it was my first job that was not for a charity.  The company had money to buy new computers, corporate phones and fancy things. Maybe I was a little intimidated by all that. I decided that, unlike with my other jobs, I was going to try hard not to get fired from this job (spoiler alert: I succeeded!).

Here was my strategy: Don’t try to be a superstar. Don’t talk unless spoken to. Don’t try to solve other people’s problems. Just get the work done well and go home at 5pm. Don’t be overly friendly. Don’t divulge personal matters. Don’t give anyone reason to question your competence. Don’t stir the pot.

As I write this it seems a bit silly. Like maybe I was trying not to be human at work. It technically worked: I didn’t get fired. But… none of the people I have spent every workday with over the past two years know my kids’ first names. So, not sure if it’s really a win.

The toxic work environment (the company has 35% annual staff turnover rate in a 300 person company) didn’t help. I suppose I shouldn’t have put up with it for as long as I did but I just felt like the benefits (salary, flexibility to work from home when needed, stability) outweighed the cost of shutting myself off emotionally from the work.

But an implication of keeping your head down in a toxic corporate culture is that you (I) become complicit in the stupid, blame focused, watch your back, ‘let’s give lip service to asking for everyone’s opinion and never make a decision’ culture.

As I reflect on it, it is probably not an entirely healthy way to spend my days. I should quit. In fact, I think I’ll quit on Monday.

Actually, I got a new job offer last week. It checks the boxes (salary, flexibility to work from home and stability) … and I’m hoping that the corporate culture will be more kind and smart.

I need to think about the type of employee that I want to be at this new job. Which version of me do I want to bring to the office each morning? How do I want to dress, how friendly should I be, how chatty…can I change my mind after the first day or must I be a consistent caricature of the first impression I give?

As I contemplate which iteration of myself to bring to my first day of work, I think I need to take notice of the relief and freedom that I felt when I got this job offer and realized that I could quit within the month. I felt an urge to revisit my blog space, to reach out to friends, and to check in with Lyla (and with myself) emotionally.

For a long time Lyla was defined by her illness and struggles. But she is more than that. She is creative and thoughtful and smart and compassionate. And she deserves to let that show and to be seen for all those things.

She is changing and growing in many ways. And just like I want to bring a different version of myself to my new work,  I want to give her an opportunity to bring a different version of herself to this space.

I’m going to (try to) let Lyla back in. Back to her writing. Back to her friends. Back to holding this space for herself.

Maybe in writing her words, she will read them and see herself in a new light.

Peter Schacht Art
Artwork by Peter Schacht

 

36 années

I’m nervous to write. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Either the flood gates will open and I will be overwhelmed by all that I need to say or… nothing… blank stare, blank page, and I will have to face the fact that I actually have no thoughts, no story to tell, nothing to write.

Yesterday was my birthday. 36 years old. Feels different this time. I feel like I am coming into myself. Becoming a person that I can be proud of, a woman with integrity and ability.

But when did I get so fat? don’t answer that.
And why did I check out of my own life and myself for so long? don’t answer that either.

This year’s birthday validated the sense that I am becoming a person deserving of belonging and acceptance. My colleagues celebrated with fancy donuts yesterday for all of us with September birthdays- I was neither the star of the show nor ignored. I got some really thoughtful cards that were very personal. People “got” me. My kids bought me flowers and cake and an actual birthday gift to support my newest hobby. It was really nice.

I’m not sure what else to write about. Looks like I was right- I have nothing to say. That’s not true. I have things to say, but maybe I just don’t want to jinx anything… things are pretty good right now. Maybe I’ll write more tomorrow.

Charlie Brown and Snoopy comic

35 years

September is almost over. My husband called out my “September Blues” as soon as the first leaf (and tear) fell. He stayed on my team all month and helped keep my shame at bay. With one day left in the month, I feel confident saying that I survived September 2017. (note: The confidence to say that I will survive tomorrow was not something I’ve ever had.)

I survived my birthday too. I made myself the gymnastics birthday party I’ve wanted for a while. Friends came with all their kids and we all did gymnastics together. I was probably the only adult looking forward to it but most of my friends showed up and I think everyone had fun. I don’t have many friends but the ones I have are gold.

So, all in all, September was totally okay. I think. My memory is really shot. There might have been lots of crying and dissociating… But I survived without noticeable scars, so that’s what counts.

Since this is my birthday post (annual)… I should probably reflect and analyze my life maybe.

On my birthdays, I typically look backward with shame and regret. But this year, I don’t want to. If I allowed myself to actually admit it, I would probably say the positive version of, “this year wasn’t a shit show of me screwing everything up”. But I can’t actually say that. I might jinx it.

I wish that I wrote more often. But there aren’t words and ideas in my head anymore. I just think about today and the logistics of the coming week.  This is probably typical of my phase in life. (and maybe the meds and all the pot don’t help with the motivation.)

I don’t really have much… I’m struggling to find the word of what I am missing… optimism? ambition? hope for the larger world? activism? Maybe this is also typical of my phase in life, but I don’t want to stay this apathetic about the world.

I feel like I did all the big things already. I finished university, got a job, got married, had (awesome) kids, got diagnosed with mental illness… But now what? I don’t have any grand ideas about what I want to tackle next.

I don’t see myself going to feed children in starving countries when I can barely feed my own kids. I used to feel like I could volunteer my time to help others but my time is all accounted for now. I don’t have any to offer.

Maybe it’s my time of life, maybe it’s my mental illness, maybe it’s my meds, but either way, I will sit here and drink my tea and try to remember when pizza day is for the grade 3’s and not be sure what the next adventure is.

And maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.

xoxo

birthday quote

I wanna be big and let go of this grudge

Don’t you just hate it when you spend years helping someone you love escape an abusive relationship (and protect her, and care for her kids, and scoop her off the floor and dry her tears) and just when she starts to feel whole again, she reconnects with her abuser? I would hate that too…if it wasn’t me who did it.

In the fall, I dropped by my parents’ apartment one day while I was driving by. I hadn’t seen them in 3 years. I was in a deep depression, feeling very alone and really needed someone to be really happy to see me. They were.

Since then, I’ve met my mom for coffee, introduced her to my kids, and started talking to her on the phone once in a while. At first, I was able to set and maintain very clear boundaries with her. I just ignored the potentially hurtful things that she said and focused on the positives. But I feel that my boundaryis beginning to slip. I feel I am being pushed too close to her spider’s web.

The borderline witch persona inside my mother peaked her head out last week. I shouldn’t have been surprised… but it really gets me every time.

I was hurting and asked her to help me in a way that I needed, rather than the way that she wanted to be seen helping. This triggered her rejection sensors. From there, she went into survival mode and (as always) kicked me when I was down. #storyofmylife.

I desperatly want to repair my relationship with my mom. I want to help her feel less alone, less lost. But she hasn’t changed. The behaviours that pushed me away (and tore me apart) are still engrained in her. I know now that it’s not her fault, that she has a serious mental illness and that her motivation is self-protection and not directly intent to hurt, but that doesn’t make the slaps sting less.

By going back to my mom, letting her into my new life and into my head, I think that I may have hurt the people who have really been there for me throughout these impossible years. I imagine that they feel frustrated, used and see me as ungrateful. They all worked hard with love to help me escape my abuser just to have me turn around and jump back into the lion’s den.

The people who were there for me- I can count you on one hand and I don’t thank you enough. IJ, HB, SA, SJ and (of course) OA, you kept my life together while I fell apart. You all became a team with a mission to save my kids and protect me from myself. You made sure that I had a life to come back to. For that I am eternally grateful. Thank you.

I didn’t mean to choose between hurting you and trying to heal my mother. But at first, it felt so good to see her. It felt good to be kind to her. It helped me see that there were good things that I learned from her and could share with my kids (reading, academia, traditions, cooking badly). Her superficial good lured me in and I forgot why I had pushed away.

I began to feel guilty for abandoning her. I began to feel responsibility to help her heal, to teach her to be the person she thought she was. I felt a need (an urgent, pressured need) to ‘fix’ our family and bring all of my siblings back together with her. I thought that they were all just waiting for me to come around (they weren’t).

I see now that the strength and empathy that I felt towards her was actually only possible because I had cut her out of my life and my head for so long. Her absence made me forget that she is a dangerous and manipulative person to be around.

I want so badly to be a good person who can be kind to her old, sad mother. But she just won’t let me – she can’t keep the witch at bay.

As always, Alanis Morisette articulates my deep feelings:
“I want to be big and let go of this grudge that’s grown old. All this time I’ve not known how to rest this bygone. I want to be soft and resolved, clean of slate and released. I want to forgive the both of us.”

maleficent makeup