Love is Not Enough

All through this week, I’ve been getting the signal that loving people is not enough to make my relationships what I want them to be. My daughter left our home at Christmas this year, angry and fed up with me and her sister. I let her be angry. I didn’t try to talk with her, nor influence what she was thinking or any of that. I just let her be. She lives 800 miles away and my time with her is very limited.

It’s frustrating because I m.i.s.s. her and my grandsons e.v.e.r.y. s.i.n.g.l.e. d.a.y.

So I let her be, but she was angry. She tells me “why should I be angry when I can just move on?” And what she means is, move on without me. That’s what she means. Yep, she is kinda mean.

I cannot live without her. I need to see my daughter, I need to touch my daughter. I need to know that my daughter is okay. That is my need – not hers. BTW, she is 37 years old.

I am in so much more need than my daughter is. She is busy, a single mother of two boys. I am disabled and live my days at home alone. It is I who want to spend time with her. It is I who has a need for contact. I want to see my daughter and touch her.

I kept texting her and she never responded. Of course, my need to see her grew. Her sons talked to me and I cherished their words. The thing is she has no way of knowing anything about me. I have to attend to her to get her to see how I feel. She will never know unless I attend to her. I can’t just love her from afar. It won’t work, not if I want a loving relationship with my daughter.

Yesterday, I was talking with my son. He was on the edge a meltdown and we were talking about all the parenting stuff. I told him that my confidence came from being loved by my parents. But it wasn’t just being loved, it was feeling loved. That came from being attended to. When my parents paid attention to me, when they provided for me, when I got the dress I wanted for school when I was 11, I was feeling loved. They were attending to me. Reaching out to be concerned about the kids’ lives, talking to them, being there in times of crisis, that’s part of the love package.

I want my daughter to feel loved. I want my daughter to feel that love is flexible; if her beliefs and actions change, my love will not change. I will follow her wherever she goes, and I will take action to show her that I love her.

Being Ignored

If you are ignored by a group of people; they just don’t acknowledge you. How do you feel?

It is a very strange experience and the resulting emotions are damning. Who would not be diminished by someone who does not acknowledge their existence?

No ask for shared activity.

No discussion over shared food.

No acknowledgment of the work, the effort, the energy taken by them. The them that does the ignoring.

It’s wild. Wildly inappropriate.

Please wait while my diminished self recovers.

Where the Pain Goes

This article and this day inspired me:

Sometimes the pain is just a hum in the background of my experience. I can distract myself from it. I can do chores around the house like dishes and laundry.

And then the pain comes screaming at me: “Me, Me, Me, Look at me!” I am wrung. I can do nothing and I cannot distract.

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

The pain is too much. I shower to give myself the warmth of the water, but I must sit, I cannot stand, the pain manages my body’s energy.

I am disabled in ways that cannot be seen. There is conceptual understanding, I know. But the other understanding is not there. I can see it in the eyes of others that I love and who love me.

Sometimes a long time goes by with just the hum. I don’t know when or how the pain changes.

Yes, I am overdone, but I was just living! I didn’t do anything special or extra, look how active I was in my old life! Why can’t I work all day and have the satisfaction of a job well done?

Because the fibromyalgia is not listening to my old life. The fibro believes it is a new day and a new way to act on this body. So. the fibro marches forward attaching to each muscle and gaining in pain.

How does one function when life is this unpredictable? One day a bearable functioning and the very next, an unbearable existence steeped with pain.

How does one function when the pain puts you down?

Parenting for Covid-19

We act like we can’t stand our own children

What the hay? Everyone keeps meme-ing about giving teachers a jillion dollars and how hard it is to spend the day with their kids. What the, what?

One little afternoon with two kids is overwhelming that is because the kids spend so MUCH time everywhere else.

We take them to pre-K, then summer camp and then after school care and then, over and over, we take them somewhere else – not home.

Parenting has fundamentally changed in the last forty years and in some ways for the better. For purposes of this essay, we talk about how parenting has changed for the worse.

For the sanity of parents everywhere, some things should be decided on with caution. This new generation of parents seems determined to entertain their kids non-stop. This is a parenting mistake, a decision that is destined to make a failure.

There is well-documented value in boredom. Boredom is a basis for creativity and imagination.

What I really want to talk about is a philosophical difference in parenting. Forty years ago, when I brought my daughter home from the hospital, she was coming to a very busy house. She has two older brothers, a stepsister, dogs, and parents who were renovating and moving. We incorporated her right into the crowd. As a family, we want her well fed, happy and invested in our family routine. At three months old, she is going to lay around with us on the couch, listen to our discussions and otherwise be a part of an already active environment.

JB Collection

That is NOT the way that parents act today. Perhaps, out of their own feelings of neglect or because of the age-old promise to outdo our own parents; new parents today are acting quite differently.

First, before pregnancy, all must be perfect. Once all is perfect and the baby is born, the world begins rotating around the child. Everything hinges on whether the child is comfortable, feeling well, entertained (in a healthy way) and on and on and on. The parents continue to behave this way even with a second or third child. The world revolves around the child instead of the child becoming part of the world.

What just happened.

JB Collection

According to teachers I know today, every child has an allergy. Parents communicate this fact loudly and redundantly. There are no careless cookies and cupcakes at any grade school functions – oh no – that won’t happen without a lawsuit.

When my kids were in school, we all agreed with each other, that our own child was the best, the brightest and the most special. That doesn’t happen anymore. Now there is competition and it’s brutal. Parents set out to prove the specialness of their own child and it must be more special than your child. There is no universal agreement anymore, instead it’s “My child is better than yours.”

Because we (the 80s parent) were up close and personal in our child’s business, we could see their bad behavior for what it was: bad behavior. Today, people have a hard time seeing their own child’s bad behavior. Instead, they give reasons and righteousness for otherwise minor behavior problems. Of course this encourages more and bigger behavior problems. Again, you will see that the parent wishes to explain it all away, rather than “manning up” and taking the medicine that goes with the crime. Parents not only allow the bad behavior; they encourage it by trying to explain it away with reasons. “He doesn’t feel well and that girl made him mad.”

The 80s parent did not send children away in order to ensure constant entertainment. Kids had bicycles and found their own entertainment, usually with another pack of kids doing the same thing. While the boundaries seemed loose, the monitoring was not, parents spent the time getting to know all of what the kids were into.

Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

The 80s parents made mistakes. It was a time when we still believed authority (think Catholic priests) and we were betrayed by that authority. Perhaps that is why todays parents are hyper-vigilant, they want to make sure that these kinds of mistakes are not made again. For this I don’t blame them.

I don’t think we need to worry about entertaining kids 24/7. I think it’s ok for kids to be bored. The most important skill we need to develop with our kids is trusting communication. That is a skill that is timeless, and it is a relationship that won’t encourage selfishness and excuses in children. When kids behave badly, they need punishment (gasp). I’ve heard some parents say that nothing in the punishment realm seems to work to encourage discipline. If that is true, then keep pursuing resolution until you find it. If kids and parents need counseling and education so be it. It doesn’t mean that you have failed as a parent. “Man up” and figure it out. The best thing you can ever do is help your child understand consequences.

Self and other honesty encourages health and well-being in every relationship. That’s a sentence that all parents can buy into.

He Brought His Grief with Him

darya tryfanava on Unsplash

He brought his grief with him.  He apologized for interrupting me.  He was completely unconscious of his thoughts and emotions.  I think that he believed that if he could control the universe that is visible to him that he could ultimately control his universe.  He brought his grief with him.  It weighed heavily in the air and when he sat across from me I could feel my chest contract and the breathlessness followed.  My eyes teared up as if it was my own grief.  He told me that people did not understand.  I do not wish to feel his grief but it pervades the atmosphere like humidity, it is heavy and its weight is laying on all of the surfaces in my office.  The round conference table stands between us and I am grateful for its presence.  The conference table stands as an anchor to reality in a world where people die and spiritual things happen which have no physical explanation.

niklas kickl on Unsplash

He tells me again that “people do not understand, they think I am taking this too well.”  I am thinking to myself that I do not see how anyone could mistake this man’s grief.  How could anyone not see how heavily his grief lays upon all things?  As this man walks, his grief precedes him.  I am thinking that he apologizes for interrupting me, but he should apologize for bringing his grief with him.  As h e speaks to me, I feel his grief.  My eyes tear up.  Then I remember my own mother’s death, there are no specifics and no details, it is simply a matter of the grief.  He speaks to me some more and his words are not important.  Again I feel my eyes burning; it hurts to be near him.  I wish for him to go away.  I know that there are things that I may do to help him, but first he must go away.  I will help him when my intellect returns to replace my grief – my grief that is his grief.

A Son

Kahlil Gibran said something to the effect of: your children are not of you, but move through you. They have their own path to be taken by them and not you.

I want to come from higher thinking, accepting of all that my child does or is and yet…

I saw myself as sacrificing so much when he was young. I thought my sacrifice would equate to his success, as if it was equidistant to each other. It was not. No matter what I gave up for the boy, it didn’t matter because he didn’t take the path to success.

I offered him a white collar education, and he turned it down, beating his chest about blue collar blues. I offered him ease of youth, but he turned it down and lived his difficulty instead.

I was jubilant when his IQ was tested, doesn’t he demonstrate the best that a mind has to offer? Isn’t he the one who will give us new knowledge and insight? No, he told me, manual labor was his destiny. He claimed he was a good and hard-working man and didn’t need higher learning. But, he suffered, his brain moved faster than manual labor could provide and so he chose an altered consciousness.

His altered consciousness brought him a dishonest marriage and disappointment that he began to cling to. His life was one sadness after another all leading to a crumpled and vulnerable soul that would not function in the light.

I, who gave him my dream of a youth with freedom, an education with purpose, was disappointed and hurt that his choices walked so consistently to the dark side of life. Where was the brilliant smiling boya, that I loved so deeply? Why couldn’t I find him in the 45 year old man?

JB Collection

Who am I to ask that he make his life different than the one he chose? Who am I to ask that he choose a different path, even now? He is the man that he chose to be, he walks a path that he chose, I am no one to choose. I am only to sit on the sidelines and love.

Who can say why we must love our children? Some say it is the oxytocin. Some say that it is the genetic likeness. Some say that you cannot withhold from what comes from you.

All I know is this. I love them unmitigatedly. I cannot stop my love for my children any more than engineers could stop the direction of the Colorado River, can they? No.

There are those parents who do not care. Who are they? I have not met them. I do not know them.

How to be Sick and/or Disabled

Josh Appel, Unsplash

It’s daunting if you are new to poor health. We healthy ones vastly take advantage of our health. We never give it a thought that we wake up, ease ourselves out of bed and can use any fingers and hands to brush our hair and teeth. What a wonderful gift that arms are!

Being sick usually comes on abruptly and without warning. Typically, we react with denial. We can’t be sick, “I’m not sick, that is just allergies.” Or, just as often “that stomach-ache will go away (and when it doesn’t) I must have eaten something bad.”

Denial is a big part of getting sick. There are so many over the counter cold remedies because people don’t want to have what they have, which is: illness. We take the cough medicine, the nasal decongestant, literally anything to keep us going. There is something un-American about being sick. For some reason, we do not want to be seen as weak or vulnerable in any way, and that includes illness. So, we deny and get angry.

“It’s not fair that I am sick, look at Tom, he is never sick!” or “this is bullshit, I shouldn’t be sick, I take good care of myself.” Or “I am never sick; how did this happen?” In all of these various ways, we keep reminding ourselves and others that the situation is temporary and will shortly be over, because we are good people that take care of ourselves.

If the illness is over quickly, then all is well, and we can move on with our theories of illness and weakness and vulnerability intact. We change nothing about how we think, as we recovered quickly and easily.

What if the illness lingers on? The illness does not leave us and thus our lives must necessarily change to accommodate the illness. We believed that we were healthy because

a) I am a good person

b) I take good care of myself.

While these two statements might be true, it doesn’t necessarily follow that we can have good health. Poor health has etiology in so many places. There are so many ways and reasons that we can become sick. It is never through our own fault, or because we are a bad person.

“Am I ever going to be well?” She sighs sadly as she gazes out the window at the green trees and blue sky.

“No, you’re not!” says the angry child in her head.

And so chronic illness goes. There is so much chronic illness in the world today. Medical consultations abound on the internet. “Drink probiotics to cure everything!” “Use the Keto diet to get rid of pounds!” “Leaky gut is your enemy!” The trustworthy and the shysters share space on the internet trying to convince anyone and everyone that the answer is just a click and a $50.00 dollar bill away from you.

The truth is that chronic illness is here to stay. You won’t find the cure on the internet; you won’t find a cure from your doctor’s office. There is no cure. So, what changes and what do you do?

The answer is different for different conditions. For me, it’s fibromyalgia. My pain requires a lot of doctor visits = money and time. I am fatigued and there is a definite limit to my ability to do. Doingness just stops, hard stop.

Accommodations: First you don’t want accommodations because it casts you as a weak person, one who cannot accomplish. Ugh. Now you must admit to the understanding of your condition, which is never.going.away. Ever.

You resist accommodations because you don’t want to be “that person”, the needy one who has to have “extras” just to get the job done.

You are clearly in anger at this point, you have done your fair share of denial and now you have moved into anger. “Other people” don’t need accommodations, “other people” don’t need anything special to do their work. And so, your thinking goes. It’s not fair that you are suffering from your illness and you are angry that you need help.

It’s un-American to need help. We are all rugged individuals, tough and ready to take on anything.

If you have a chronic illness, if you are disabled, “other people” are likely to dislike you or ignore you, and this can be disappointing and discouraging. At least part of our denial and anger is because of this concept. It is hard to accept the loss of the “rugged individual” in illness and disability.

It’s important to recognize that it is just a concept and a bad one at that. There is nothing wrong with being disabled or with having a chronic illness. Yes, you do need accommodations; this fact does not mean that you are bad, or less of a person than before you became ill or disabled.

You are still the wonderful person that you have always been. Possibly you have new insights and perceptions that make you an even better person than before your illness.”

You may be bargaining “God, please take away my sickness and I will be a good Christian, Jew or Muslim.” “If you give my back my health, I’ll never complain again.” But, guess what? Illness knows no reason and attacks everyone and anyone indiscriminately, all the bargaining in the world will get you nothing. Bargaining is part of the process and leads us to depression.

Depression is the first sign of acceptance. You begin to realize that you are sick, and also realize that you are helpless against your illness. These realizations can make you very sad. Depression can take over, but it cannot be a place to stay.

The final stage of consideration for your loss is acceptance and with it, a kind of peacefulness. You make peace with your body and you let go of any blame attached to your thinking.

The five stages of grief that Kubler-Ross wrote about were never meant to be linear. One day you can feel acceptance and the very next day go back to being angry.

Make no mistake, losing your healthy body is cause for grief. After that, you are then free to choose. Am I incredibly sorry for myself and hateful to everyone? Or, do I love life in a very new way? Choose wisely, it is the rest of your life…

Audi Nissen, Unsplash

Incest

Vlad Kutepov with Unsplash

If I didn’t understand trauma informed care, I wouldn’t understand her story.  She told me that she couldn’t exercise because the harsh breathing evoked by her exercise brought her back to the harsh breathing she experienced when she struggled against her rapist.  When she heard the breathing coming from herself, she would have a mini blackout and it always scared her.  She could not exercise.  She took long walks because, she could always run away if she felt scared and she could always control her breathing when walking.  Her rapist was her brother, as a child, she was often raped.

She noticed that she was not comfortable naked, she wanted to be covered and wouldn’t go to bed without underwear.  She felt vulnerable and oftentimes when in the presence of others, she thought that she was in danger.

When she was breastfeeding, she had to stop as soon as the babies were old enough to pull on her shirt.  It made her think she was being raped, oh hell, she couldn’t believe how vulnerable she felt.

When she finally put it together and figured out why she didn’t like exercising she was fully adult and couldn’t put it in reverse, the damage was done.

She wondered if others suffered the same type of mental agony from their own childhood molestation and abuse.  She read research once that said women often gain weight after being raped.  As if the extra skin and fat will protect them from being raped again.  Or perhaps it was because an overweight woman did not fit in with the sexy ideal of a woman, thus making her feel safer.

Woman Being Comforted, Unsplash

From All Mothers, Everywhere

To my son the drug addict…

Jeremy Paige on Unsplash

What did I miss?  What difference would it make to this adulthood, this one, the one that you have right now?  Did I miss a crucial step that would have kept you from using drugs?  Did I miss some mysterious childhood mantra that would have given you more self love than this?

Why would you ruin this, our lives, with the makings of a mad man?  Drugs, drugs and more drugs.  You know, smarter than others, a brain that absorbs…why do you want this more than anything else?

I can’t stop the questions, because I can’t believe you!

This all feels familiar, not quite a de ja vu’, more like a fuck da you.  Who do you think you are?  There is not another chance for you to fill your world with lies, because we call you, liar!

Orkham Farmanli on Unsplash

So much hurt.  So much pain.  You left no stone unturned in your rampage through the lives of your loved ones.  I see the glass in your eye.  You will not see me again (as if you ever could).  If you saw me truly, this discussion would be void, it would not occur.  But, you must see me first.  This you have not done.  Will you leave my life without ever having known me?  Will you remain a stranger to the love of your mother?  Will you keep your journey lonely, without companionship?

We won’t let drugs into our lives again.  If that means you don’t get to be in our lives, so be it.

Becoming Codependent

Baynard 9/2017

Codependence is usually portrayed as an extremely negative characteristic.  Most writing includes a lot of judgment and blame for the codependent.  It is as if codependents chose codependence.  They do not choose codependence any more than the addict chooses addiction.

Codependents come by their malady honestly.  It is a survival mechanism that doesn’t turn off when it is appropriate to do so.  Codependence is the lion protecting her young, the bear protecting his home. The beginning of codependence is somewhat subtle, while the end may scream dysfunction.  

Codependence often begins with the parent of a child who is either struggling or disabled in some way.  Think of the learning – disabled child in third grade who is being bullied because of her special needs.  Think of the child who is autistic and lacks an ability to make friends at school.  Think of a child with dyslexia who is being teased by peers because of his perceived inadequacy.  Think of a young teacher who does not know how to handle behavior problems and seems to send your child to the principal’s office every single day.  Think of the woman who is in an abusive relationship and often must protect her children from abuse from her partner.  Think of a blind child, who not only struggles because of sight, but is also unhappy and angry.

If the child or partner has suffered in life and the suffering has been repeated (think violence, or sexual abuse, or even PTSD from battle conditions) the codependent person develops a type of hypervigilance which is a defensive stance. 

These are all situations which breed a codependent personality style.  The parent becomes an uber protector who is hyper-vigilant about any perceived threat to the child’s happiness or health.  The hyper-vigilance often creates misinterpretation, as Jeb Kinnison states, regarding anxious attachment style: Hair-trigger misjudgments and mistakes are more likely with this group and can get them into trouble.  This is a facet of the codependent personality style; they often assume the worst about the world.  Again, they come by the fear honestly.  Bad things have happened to their family; they know that the world can be awful.  Protection is the number one goal of the codependent personality.  The codependent is usually protecting their child, their home, or their perception of being loved.

As life progresses, more and more time is swallowed by the child’s high level needs, or more and more time is swallowed by the partner’s high level needs.  The child or partner becomes the ‘focus in life’ for the codependent person. 

When I read articles about codependence, often the word control becomes synonymous with evil.  This is a mistake.  Our codependent person is trying to protect loved ones, albeit in an ultimately unhealthy manner.  Initially, the control is a good thing: necessary to protect one who is not skilled in self-protection.  It is only as time progresses that we see codependence deteriorate into an unhealthy habit.

Many years ago, I worked with parents of blind children.  They told me that during middle school, they (the parents) were instructed by teachers to stop accommodating the blind child.  The teachers urged parents to allow the child to navigate their home on their own.  “Let them get their own glass of milk” they said.  This is guidance away from codependence.  Not everyone gets an educated guide that will help them through the pitfalls of caring for others.

Admittedly codependence can run on too long.  By caring for others, an unwitting codependent may be communicating that the object person is unable to care for self.  For children, this can be damaging.  There are plenty of downsides to codependence, including the inability to maintain relationship boundaries.  On this issue, both parties will suffer.  No relationship boundaries result in the deprivation of personal space.  This can be harmful to healing.

As we learned in the treatment of addiction.  We do not heal when we blame, denigrate or otherwise put down people who are suffering.  It is no help to characterize codependence as evil.

Remember that codependence comes naturally, even though it is a malady and also because it is a malady, it should not be damned.

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