Tuesday, July 8, 2014

winds of change

it is amazing to me the saying, "it takes a village..."

all this time, I've tried to do it myself. without help, while outwardly appearing to accept support, but too proud to even take assistance from myself at times.

i feel a change is coming.

it feels as though i am turning a corner. not to jump ahead of myself, i am feeling pretty good. not PERFECT, but pretty good. and i'll take it. i'll actually take it any day of the week, any week, month, season of the year. but regardless, i'll take it. i don't doubt that it has something to do with my accepting help from myself, my baby step in acknowledging that maybe, just maybe, there is something bigger at work here that i can't get a grasp on for a lifetime without outside counsel coming in and doing something to shift a situation that may always be just a tad bit off, a tad bit lacking.

i'm talking about depression. i'm talking about a chemical imbalance.

as anti-medication as i am...as anti-assistance as i am...as much as i ask for help, i am not good at taking it. i'm not always great at admitting that i suffer from the human condition. from fallibility. i am GREAT at admitting it when i am - low and behold - feeling pretty good. but when i have been in the thick of things, my instinct is to hide under the covers, to withdraw, to live in the rain alone until the storm has cleared - because it, too, shall pass.  it is just my plight in life to have to sit through it, right? then, once things have yet again become manageable, i am free to shout from the rooftops how WE ARE NOT ALONE, and that WE SHOULD ALL SUPPORT EACH OTHER, and profess to those who seek solace to BE EASY ON THEMSELVES. PRACTICE FORGIVENESS.

well...ain't that the kettle.

i believe it, though. there is the kicker. it is only recently that i am beginning to truly connect the dots between the fact that if i don't support myself, if i am not easy on myself, if i don't forgive myself...how can i expect to treat others the same way? or if i am able to do that for others, what is it about my own psyche that prevents me from believing that i am worth the same level of love, of support, of self-esteem, that i try to foster in those around me?

enter genetics, stage left.

i have at times refused to acknowledge that i am like my biological family, that i have inherited some of their not-so-appealing traits. genetically, i have a grandfather who was at least at one point a functioning alcoholic, a grandmother who was depressed (god bless her, SHE HAD 11 CHILDREN, who wouldn't be?), and a mother, aunts, uncles, cousins, whom have suffered at least some form of it, even from an outside perspective. bi-polar disorder, etc...the truth is, it's there. and after such a long road for my own survival, after digging myself out my marriage, out of the whole in which i was for almost 7 years, i found myself sliding into another one, a different one, but oddly familiar.

now, though, now i know better. now i know and recognize the signs.

and i choose to change directions. i choose to crawl and fight and claw out rather than keep sliding because gravity dictates that is the way i should go, because dna determines that i am to suffer from this, even in small doses. that means work, that means emotional growth and development, that means awareness and accountability, and intention. that means believing that life doesn't happen to me, but that i play a hand in what happens as well.

knowing that, reading that, seeing on paper that i allow myself to change my path simply because i dictate the quality and integrity and type of person i would like to be and life i want to live...it is incredible how freeing that is. something so simple and unspoken for most...it is as though I've not ever given myself permission to do that, and it is fucking empowering to own that. with god's grace, natch.

i challenge all of you to do it, to love yourselves FIRST. before anyone else. it is so difficult for me to practice, but thankfully, i am in a good place. today. tomorrow, it maybe different, but i won't stop trying.

a friend this morning told me a story about a Jesuit professor she had. he said that "every day, bring your reasonable best". she found it hard to relate, being the go-getting, type-a personality that she is, that we are, and realized later how true that is. some days, our reasonable best is 100%. other days, our reasonable best is only 70%, or 40%. whatever that percentage may be on any given day, bring it. OWN IT. and then, at the end of the day, rejoice in having brought your best. don't chastise yourself for not having brought 100% when you only had 40% to give that day. you brought that 40% with all of your might, and in that you can be proud of yourself and rest easy. it is futile to try for 100% when it is not there to give, and realizing that is the first step. kindness, empathy, compassion, they are worth the most when we can gift ourselves with those things and then, only then, pass them on to others wholeheartedly.

gracias, papa dios.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

on parenting. on parents.

parenting is arguably the most difficult journey I have ever embarked on.

the most rewarding, by far without a doubt. but, the most difficult, emotionally charged, with twists and challenges and obstacles that were not only unforeseen but also unimaginable.

i never imagined coming up against such resistance with my parents - with my mother. i knew we would have different parenting styles, as we also have different realities in which we happen to be parenting. however, i somehow imagined her to be more understanding, more respectful, more loving. and not that she isn't the most loving person to her grandchild, but she is also the person who is antithetical to everything i am trying to instill.

i get it. los padres crian, los abuelos malcrian. "parents raise, grandparents spoil." it is a well-known spanish saying that grandparents look forward to long before the moment when they know if their child even wants to have children. it is that guilt you will have to deal with for the rest of your life if you choose to not to have children. the passive-aggressive, not-so-subtle ribbing about not providing them with their entitlement to spoil - by virtue of having had a child of their own.

i know, i know. most parents do it, you say. parents have hang-ups about a lot of things, and they are not specific to the cuban/hispanic culture, so quit complaining and just ignore it. let it roll off your back. problem is, i am a good child. i grew up the star child. i not only did not misbehave for the most part, but also went to great lengths to cover up any misbehavin' that was happening in order to not disappoint. the image. it's all about the image, right?

ha. that image, and keeping it up, is what has gotten me into a lot of things in life. good, bad, ugly...and you know what? for better or worse, all of those things make me who i am: well-rounded, empathetic, caring, honest, funny, sarcastic, and fully aware of a lot of things that i am fairly adept at feigning ignorance for. i live life less fully than i would like, and it is due to that keeping up appearances.

wait. that is not entirely true. i DO live life fully, for the most part, but i am getting better at that and have worked on it for the last decade. that is the crux of the issue. when i began exerting my independence, when i began separating from the parental nest that had so lovingly raised and dedicated its life to me, i began experiencing some backlash. undeserved backlash. yes, some of it was parenting, and necessary parenting, but so much of it is disagreement with how i choose to live my life. so much of it is blatant expression of that fact that the choices i make are not unique to me - my own choices - but just. plain. WRONG. by virtue of the fact that they are not the same choices that my parents would have made.

i understand not everyone chooses this path. this is the road less traveled. it is not only much easier, but a smoother ride, to simply sit back and do things as they have always been done, just because. to let my parents give my daughter everything she wants, to let her be spoiled completely by them, to - in turn - take the easy route and give in to her whims at every tear that may fall. then, lo and behold, i have raised an entitled child. one that believes life is to be handed to her, one that knows nothing of the value of hard work, is unaware that her choices often come with consequences, however unintended. a child that thinks life is easy, and doesn't have skills to cope when it isn't.

i could argue that i would raise another me, since that is who my parents raised, right? except i wouldn't. they were a family, a nuclear - albeit different since i was adopted - and tight-knit family that did not come without a downside, either. that is another story for another day. but my situation, one in which i have, and probably will never have, no clue about what is happening at her father's house. one in which i fully know she will be spoiled and coddled by her paternal grandparents to the point of it being unhealthy. one in which they are parenting alone, when they are parenting. a life where there are moments, days, weeks, where i will not see my child, hug her, smell her, hold her hand.

...my parents wished for me. they never did anything if i could not come, if i was not included. no date nights, vacations, etc. they openly admit this. it was a wonderful message of belonging, of inclusion, except that it probably contributed to some unhealthy codependence issues. time alone, time apart, time to yourself...it is all a healthy part of growing, nurturing yourself, and developing what will eventually be your own perspective, your own opinions, your individual person. and it wasn't that i wasn't allowed to do that, there were just really specific parameters and messages sent that - although done with the best intentions - i am consciously trying to avoid. and i have a right to do so. i have a right to raise my child in the best way that i see fit, obviously while still respecting her and guiding her and loving her and protecting her.

and this is where we inherently differ. this consistent clashing of heads, where i cannot physically express a boundary for my child without it being challenged, called wrong, pushed so that i eventually give in. or yell i yell a LOT. it is frustrating, it is maddening, and it is exhausting.

i love my parents. i love my mother. but i don't love the guilt, the outright nastiness at times, and the condescension. and what scares me the most is that it has only exacerbated as she gets older. she was never this bad before. she was never outright nasty, name calling, cussing. and the underlying issue is not that i can't deal with trying to ignore this and making my voice heard to her...

...it is that i realize she is changing. aging. mortal.

and, when you've been raised to know that you are your parents' whole life, exerting your independence is a scary thing.

when you've been raised in a codependent family, trying to break away and change those patterns is hard enough, but what happens when you realize they won't always be there? what happens when the relationship that is causing you the most anguish is also the relationship you feel compelled to spend the most time with before it is no longer? and what will you do when that person, that family, is not there?

i know i will get through it. i know i will go on.

but damned if it isn't the scariest thing to think about.