Category Archives: self awareness

Welcome Aboard!

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Welcome Aboard!

Hey there blogging friends, there has been a recent uptick in followers here lately and I have no idea why. The newbies could be Russian bots, marketing peeps or spies for Jeff Bezos, complete mystery. For the authentic, in the flesh real people, hello and welcome aboard. Thanks for joining this weird ride of mine. Here’s a snapshot into my life via a description of yesterday’s events so you have an idea of what you’re in for, buckle up.

Nut Butter Log – Thursday

OH FFS there is another school delay! The sleeping in bit is great until it derails the remainder of your day. I needed to be in three places at 9:30am – 1) Work 2) Shoveling my mother’s driveway 3)Driving kids to school. The kids still come first around here followed by mom and then the clients. Calls were made and expectations were appropriately lowered, what I refer to as adjusting the sails.

Getting middle school and high school kids to school on time has a set of variables that I didn’t really anticipate when they were little. I thought preschoolers were a tough bunch – lack of focus, poor bowel movement control and a struggle to tie shoes, sometimes I long for those days. I can’t get into specifics because teens have very intense rules about what can and can’t be posted…let’s just say that some mornings it feels like I am walking a tight rope over lava…in a wind storm.

I dropped my son off first then offered to take my daughter to Wawa for some snacks because she had ski club after school. She was very happy about that (parents of littles – food bribes still work in middle school). We were driving out of the busy parking lot with no expletives and zero honking which, is a minor miracle because that place is the stuff of nightmares. Then it happened, a massive hot chocolate spill directly into my daughter’s crotch.

DD: Mom! Oh no, look!! I look like I peed myself.

Me: You smell good though…you went with the S’mores variety didn’t you (exaggerated sniff)…now that is the smell of summer in February.

DD: Oh My God! I can’t go to school like this.

Me: Nope, you can’t. I’ll take you home (smirking). You can go to work with me. Rob & Laura would love you. (They’re in their 90s)

DD: MOOOOOOOOM.

Me: Relax honey, just think about which pants you will change into and be super fast when we get home. Sometimes the universe sends us a sign to not take ourselves too seriously. We will now refer to this as “The Great Hot Cocoa Incident of 2019”.

DD: I’m sorry you’ll be even later for work. (Side eye and a smirk, she has perfected both)

After I got my daughter to school, I was on my way to my mother’s house to drop off the milk which, I forgot to drop off at 8:30 when I shoveled out her car and walkways. I got to my clients house an hour later then scheduled and then shoveled out their car, driveway and walkway. Lots of shoveling which was good since the gym got sidelined with the delayed opening.

I have a small business which fills in the gaps for people when life gets complicated. Many of my clients are elderly and need assistance with errands, household chores and rides to the doctor. Rob and Laura are clients that I visit twice a week and I adore them. They’re both in their 90s and have some mobility issues. Yesterday our errands included two grocery stores, a diner, the butcher and the post office.

The first grocery store was a hive of activity. Our slow moving somewhat decrepit parade was getting passed by like fighter jets buzzing the tower. I had to suppress the urge to stand in the center of each aisle and assume the starfish stance in an effort to create a safe zone for my clients. Shopping with them is always interesting, they bring a list which is organized by aisle. Things were going well until we got to the beans. Butter beans and Lima beans were both MIA. I can’t really tell the difference between the two but Rob can and he has a recipe that doesn’t allow for bean substitutes. This necessitated a trip to a second food store.

I offered to do the bean run into the second store and have my clients wait in the car. They obliged and I soon found myself in another aisle of beans stumped by the options. There were Butter beans (yes!)..then there were two types Lima beans. One can advertised “Butter Beans, Lima Beans in Sauce” they were white and looked suspiciously like the plain butter beans. The other can of Lima beans were the familiar detested green Limas of my youth. This was a bit of a dilemma, which Limas should I get? When I was putting myself through college, working full time busting my ass, I never imagined this would be my breaking point. In my mind I could hear the overhead store announcement,  “Existential life crisis brought on by beans, aisle 15”.

I could not consult my nonagenarian friends (I went to college so I could use that word), they don’t text so, I made an executive decision and put those nasty green Limas back on the shelf. I found out later that I made the wrong choice because of course I did! I was blinded by my longstanding hatred of green Lima beans. You never know when a food you hated in your childhood will come back and bite you on the ass. Yesterday the green Lima beans did just that, the bastards.

After the beans were tucked into the car I asked my clients where to next – those party animals wanted to go to the diner. I guess they rested up while I was having a mental breakdown over beans and they were hungry. I was hungry too in fact, I treated myself to an Almond Joy while I was checking out with the beans. I had to cleanse the putrid memory of green Lima beans with something equally powerful from my childhood palate.

The diner we went to is their version of Cheers, everyone knows their name here. I walked in the middle of our slow moving parade with Rob in front and Laura behind me. This is a typical conversation:

Me: Rob we have the table in the back corner. Remember if you fall, fall backwards, I’ll catch you.

Rob: (Grunts) It’s crowded.

Me: Yup, we’re threading the needle here, threading the needle, almost there.

When we get to the table I ask them each where they want to sit. Then I sit, taking a mental note of where the canes are resting so, they don’t become tripping hazards for the waitress.

Laura: I love Ann (the waitress), she seems like an interesting person. I wish I knew her better. Check out her feet when you get a chance.

Sure enough Ann is sporting some bold striped socks. Laura knows this because at 92, her head is in a permanent downward tilt. At the first grocery store I saw a dime on the floor which I quickly stepped on to hide from her view. I didn’t want her to bend down and pick it up. Not on my watch Laura, the activity of bending down to pick something up can be a game changer at her age.

After lunch Rob wanted me to stop at the butcher to buy bacon. The store is a throwback to what I can only assume would be 1957. This is one of Rob’s happy places and I marveled at the number of deer heads on the wall (7 and one was wearing an Eagles hat). One more stop at the post office to clear their box and we were back at their house. I helped put groceries away and noticed that there was another pound of bacon in the meat drawer. I informed Rob that he has a significant bacon supply and then remind him we are going to see his Cardiologist next week, we both chuckle at that.

When I get in my car to leave my clients, I get a text from my husband that a family friend is sick and we may need to watch their twins (6 years old). I text the twins mom and offer to help.  She takes me up on it because I’m the friend you call when sh*t goes sideways. I won’t hold your hair back if you’re drunk in a club vomiting into a public toilet but I will drive you home, my friends know this.

Once again I found myself in the position of needing to be in two places at once – picking up my son who stayed after school for robotics and fetching the twins off the bus. I texted my son to hasten his pace and broke several traffic laws to get to the bus on time. For the next 5 1/2 hours I had twins who are equal parts adorable and exhausting. At 9pm I took them home and at 9:30 I picked my daughter up from ski club. Within an hour, I was falling asleep in bed sitting up not watching the news.

Like so many of us, child-rearing competes with caring for aging parents, self-care, and running a household while managing a job.  I’d say this is what it’s like to be the meat in the middle of a generation sandwich but nut butter seems more appropriate. Thanks for visiting :).

 

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Making Space for Forgiveness

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Making Space for Forgiveness

I told her it was OK as my mother sobbed on my shoulder. I turned out fine, my life is far better than anything I could have dreamed. I told her that I forgave her and I understood that she just did what she had been taught, modeled patriarchal behavior. The same shit that her parents did that tore her down. Now she feels regret for repeating those awful behaviors.

Women are so eager to take on the blame. She’s crying over the bad wiring in her brain. The structure and synapses which were created by her own traumas, one by one, they formed a new way of thinking; alcoholism, rationalization, self-preservation, victim-hood, depression and decades of regret, at 73 the guilt is smacking her in the face, hard.

It’s sad and predictable, I remain calm and reassuring, while simultaneously hoping I can get home before the ice cream melts in my car. I know that sounds callous but I’ve been living with this drama my ENTIRE life. My head wanders in several directions: my recently deceased father and the damage he inflicted on all of us, groceries in the car, company coming over and being a witness to my mother dissolving in front of me, again. It’s almost too much to take but I’ve taken so much more than this when I was little.

She laments about her mental illness and the limitations it has caused. Her brilliant mind is her best worst enemy. She talks about her long ago marriage to my father and how brutal he was…he’s been dead less than 5 months. She begins to tell me about the rapes, the beatings, how awful he was and I don’t want the details. She holds the worst of it back and I am grateful for that. I already know too many terrible things about my parents, I don’t need more. I do ask for clarification on a few things, the answers surprise me.

I asked her why she left me in Florida when I was 9 while she and my brother went back to New Jersey for a visit. She has a puzzled look on her face and says that I wanted to stay. I was 9 and calling the shots apparently, I stayed with friends that we barely knew for those two weeks. She asked me if anything bad happened during my weeks with Kay and her family. I tell her no, remembering that is when I started smoking and I kissed a boy for the first time. I don’t mention these things, she has enough on her mind. She didn’t want me to stay with Frank, her then live-in boyfriend. She asks me if Frank ever made a pass at me. He didn’t, I was never assaulted by any of her boyfriends which, in retrospect, is sadly miraculous.

Then she confessed one of her biggest regrets as I stood there. She regrets how she handled it when she found out that 16 year old me was in a relationship with a 32 year old man. A man who 6 months prior, had been my counselor. So predictable, the textbook definition of a vulnerable girl and a predatory male. She’s mad at herself for not lashing out at this man 34 years ago. Instead she gave me the anger and disgust because that is what she was taught. It’s the females fault, it always is, men are the way they are. It’s OK mom, you reacted the way you were taught, I forgive you. She seemed to calm down a bit and I told her I loved her and left to go home.

A few hours later, I’m in my kitchen making a damn good tomato sauce with sausage, eggplant and roasted garlic. I have the echo blasting 70’s music, I’m in my happy place. Then I have one of those ah-ha moments. My mother doesn’t hate me, she hates herself for all the ways she’s failed me. Somehow this awareness removes a burden and I have more space for forgiveness.

Don’t Stop Believin’

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Don’t Stop Believin’

My regular readers may recall that my father died this past September. We had a complicated relationship and I was mostly on the losing end of that situation. We’ve gone from childhood abandonment – to awkward random sightings – to being able to socialize and converse about superficial stuff. We weren’t close, we weren’t estranged, we were in some weird limbo state that we were never able to breakthrough.

Everyone goes through emotions when their parents die, even if you aren’t close. I didn’t know what to expect in this situation. My father in-law whom I adored died this past May, that was heartbreaking. I miss him every day, I carry that with me daily. With my own father it was different, like our history, it was complicated. I didn’t know how to “unpack” this complex variety of emotions. I even went to see a Medium about it, I wasn’t impressed.

So now I refer to my father as “Ghost Dad” and we chat. Mostly I chat, he’s a pretty good listener. The Medium I saw said I could ask him questions (simple yes or no questions) and if the answer was yes I would be granted a yellow rose of some sort. Well that sounded like some basic bullsh*t to me. Our relationship wasn’t generic it was a kaleidoscope of dysfunction, not something a yellow rose could handle. I came up with my own sign and I told Ghost Dad about it several times, dozens of times. I wanted, no demanded, a unicorn on a unicycle farting rainbows.

Pretty outrageous sure, but the guy owed me. Here are the links to digital bits of my soul that I have thrown out to the universe in an effort to exorcise the demons:

Broken

Less Than

I’ll Buy My Own Flowers

Anyhow, if you actually clicked on the links and read through that mess, apologies. I know it’s awful and maybe it made you cry…I want you to know that I’m doing well. On Christmas, I got a present from a good friend who did not know about the very specific sign. Here’s a picture:

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Socks which feature a unicorn farting rainbows with “Don’t Stop Believin'” on them. Sure there isn’t a unicycle but I’m still taking it as a sign from Ghost Dad. He heard my expletive laden rants and he has repented in his own way. Today I choose forgiveness.

I have felt so much lighter since I received these socks. So much so that I told the practical side of my brain to sit this one out, Don’t Stop Believin’!

 

 

*The featured photo is of a mug that my outstanding friend Katie gifted me. I’m pretty sure she knew about the unicorn sign thing, she just gets me. Thanks Katie!

 

 

 

Far, Far Away

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Far, Far Away

Scene: A middle-aged woman walks into an upscale chain restaurant (is that an oxymoron?).

Me: Hi, I’m meeting a friend for lunch, we would like a table for two.

Host: Do you have a reservation?

Me: (Slowly turns head from right to left and counts 5 patrons on my left hand as I spy with my little eye a dozen or so bored employees standing around) No sir, I do not have a reservation, think you could squeeze us in?

Host: Right this way Miss. (He knows I’m not a Miss but guys in any kind of service industry know better than to say Ma’am to any woman under the age of 80 In New Jersey. Southern friends you get a pass and with that accent you can say Ma’am and no one gets offended however, if you bless my heart, I’ll know we have an issue.)

Me: Super, thanks.

So this friend and I haven’t seen each other in a handful of years. We’re both 50 now, we met when we were 15 and became roommates in an adolescent rehab in Long Branch, New Jersey. You probably would never be able to guess this if you were looking at us from afar, just two humdrum moms or perhaps business associates having lunch. I was wearing nice pants and a chenille sweater (I know, I can’t believe chenille is back in style! I love it until you wash it and then the material disintegrates like makeup melting in the summer sun). My friend wore a cute blazer and a beautiful necklace, we were quite civilized, at least if you were judging us on our apparel.

A friendship that spans more than three decades is equal parts decadent and comforting. There is an easiness and a candor to our conversation which surpasses most friendships. We talked about some awful things yesterday; death, health issues and politics. We shared our inner most feelings about our parents which would surely be met with some shock and disdain by a more casual observer, someone who didn’t know our individual histories. There is nothing casual about this friendship though, we have been in the trenches together and on separate paths, and damn it if we both aren’t frickan’ amazing.

The world was not kind to either one us when we met. She came from a family that looked perfect on the outside and was the stuff of nightmares once you pulled up the rug to take a peek. Her father physically beat her, her mother enabled it and added her own emotional and verbal abuse to the toxic mix. Both of her parents worked full time and lived in a desirable neighborhood in Monmouth County. It was a sprawling suburban oasis which bordered more rural areas. They were the kind of people that would send out a Christmas letter which contained a recipe for something delicious while listing the academic achievements of their two children. The letter would include a photo of all four wearing LL Bean with a festive backdrop. Lies, all lies.

My crazy was less subtle. I came from a broken single parent household with a mother who had stopped drinking a few months prior. I didn’t have a tattoo, if I did it would just be three letters – FTW. I was writing that on everything jeans, notebooks, walls, this was in the 80s so I feel like I should get partial credit for the rise of WTF, but I digress. I was a hot little mess and there was no mistaking me for the future Homecoming Queen. I was goth before goth was a thing and the chip on my shoulder was the size of a flying saucer.

So here I was goth girl with the yuppie who wore Ocean Pacific. We found common ground as we were both taking French at the time and shared a tutor named Maximilian. Max was great. He treated us like we were worthwhile, had a genuine interest in our well being and didn’t try to sleep with us (that was shockingly rare). He was keenly interested (or at least made me believe he was) in my profoundly dramatic and somewhat awful poetry. He even gave me a journal so I would have something special to write my poems in, it was incredibly thoughtful. In return, I introduced him to blueberry Hubba Bubba which may have been the single worst gum ever invented. Max, always the gentleman, accepted this token of my affection as if it was a Parisian gourmet treat.

Sample of profoundly dramatic and somewhat awful poetry:

You can never catch me

I’m never within your reach

you just have to set me free

like the waves on the beach

It was March of 1984 when Genevieve and I crossed paths. It was her first stay and my second. My first introduction to our juvie resort was in October of 1983 when I, by some miracle, actually decided to get sober. I got out in December of 1983 and my mother immediately got remarried. That marriage was incredibly brief and led to a cataclysmic shake up of what was once a family of three – my mother, twin brother and I. Our little family was scattered into the universe – my mother trying to find a safe place to start over, my brother couch surfing with friends and I got sent to a cult farm in upstate New York which claimed to be a recovery halfway house (that’s a book all by itself). I ran away from that place after a month and was basically homeless. The rehab in Long Branch agreed to take me in until I could get into another halfway house (one less cultish, Koolaid optional).

From fifteen until now, so much life has been lived, good and bad times. We used to go to AA meetings and often found ourselves at the same one on Tuesday nights. It was there that I found out that Genevieve went “out” again and used. I was devastated, I sobbed and feared for the worst. We had both been sober a couple of years at this point which was remarkable. We watched the revolving door of recovery enough to know that plenty of people never make it back. She did though, a testament to her own strength. I don’t think I have another recovery in me which is why I have been sober since 1983, I’m pretty sure I would lose myself into a permanent oblivion if I ever “slipped”. Slipped isn’t that a nice word for the potential to destroy your life…moving on.

We got sober as teenagers, we are both living, breathing miracles. We did the stuff that teens do – dated inappropriate guys, most of whom were not worthy of us. I say that looking back at a girl who had no self-esteem and shitty role models. I was the poster child for the fragile no-daddy girl, she hated her father, we were both ripe for bad relationships. She married her worst mistake, I dated mine off and on for 4 agonizing years. In between we commiserated and went out to clubs with big hair, high hopes and short skirts.

She had her first baby when we were 19 and she married a guy that beat her when she was pregnant. I threw her baby shower and saw some suspicious bruises, she never admitted it, but I knew. By the grace of God she left that relationship. She worked and put herself through college while her daughter was a baby and into the toddler years. She became a CPA and made her way up the corporate ladder. She met a nice guy about 25 years ago and they got married and had two children. Her path was slow but steady and she fought tooth and nail for everything she got.

I was in a bad relationship in my early twenties that held me back from my own potential. When it ended, I set up a 5 year plan which included finishing my BA and purchasing a house. The most empowering thing I ever did was to buy a house at age 30 and wouldn’t you know it, I closed on Genevieve’s birthday. A few years later, I married the right guy and we have two teenagers, a large dog, a gecko and a carnival goldfish with a will to live which defies logic. When I say that I am living beyond my wildest dreams, it is sincere. I didn’t dare to dream of the life I have now.

So here we were, having lunch…two miracles sitting at the table speaking our minds with the freedom of that invisible safety net of a friend who knows your history. Someone who saw you as a phoenix rising from the ashes…we both flew far, far away.

 

 

That’s Not Appropriate

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That’s Not Appropriate

Recently the hubs and I went to a holiday party. A majority of the party was a group of friends known as the car guys and their wives. The car guys met through their love of cars and somehow, despite this seemingly shallow connection, have created meaningful friendships.

For a handful of years we have socialized  – parties, annual beach getaways, vacations and weddings. It’s an interesting group of friends (the book writes itself). This party is one of the group traditions. There is always an “adult” gift exchange, some naughty variation of the white elephant. I always aim for funny with potential for mildly offensive, it’s my comfort zone. I brought a “People of Walmart” desk calendar, who wouldn’t love that! I also brought a book with stickers for adulting.

The sticker book is a bit of a rub because I was actively brainstorming this idea a few years ago. I got sick of sewing (OK my father in-law sewed) badges on my daughter’s brownie sash. Throughout the process (basically, when I had to safety pin badges on 3 minutes before an event, because, that’s what I do) I would think, damn there should be adulting badges. But badges are such @ssholes with their need to be sewn on, they’re a bit of a commitment. Badges are the tattoo of the sewing world. No, I thought to myself, stickers would be better – cheaper, less hassle. Wouldn’t you know, someone else thought it was a good idea and bippity, boppity, boop – –

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Available here – Adulted Sticker Book

So back to the party. The hubs and I brought two gifts – the People of Walmart desk calendar and the adult sticker book. Oh and the party had a plaid theme. Most of the guys looked like lumberjack wannabes wearing some variation of red & black checkered shirts. The ladies hit Victoria’s Secret hard and got the same pattern in sexy PJs. I wore normal clothes with a plaid scarf because I’m a chicken sh*t. I tried to find something plaid, I really did. I ordered a plaid skirt from Amazon and honestly, when I looked at it, I heard the sound of bagpipes in my mind, I couldn’t pull it off.

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Sketch by Lisa McMillen http://www.cicalisadesigns.com/

The sad part is I didn’t even win the “Least Festive” category (oh yes there are contests too). Some b*tch in a pink sweater dress won. I can’t even win at losing. Hey wait, I think that means I did win at losing. Screw you pink dress lady, I’m a bigger loser than you. I feel better now.

Back to the gift exchange. It was some variation of a white elephant except there was a board and you had to pull instructions from it…for example, find a brunette and exchange gifts. This was confusing to me because I have highlights, am I blonde or brunette? I don’t freaking’ know anymore, the bleach has gotten to me. So I went up to some lady who looked like Velma Dinkley (she may have been wearing a pink sweater dress, the details are fuzzy, like that damn dress) and exchanged gifts. Did I mention that I did this out of turn and it was completely inappropriate? Oh and I’m the sober one at these events which makes it all the more laughable.

I slithered back into the kitchen after that awkward moment and Shelly (wife of a car guy) says “keep that bag, don’t let them get it.” So I basically hid in the kitchen area with a few of the guests, protecting my gift like a momma bear with her cub.

At the end of the exchange we all opened our gifts. Shelly gifted us with “marital aids” which would have been the highlight gift of the evening if this didn’t show up. It was a really cute bottle holder, dressed like Santa. It looked innocent enough, sigh.

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Crocheted Santa Bottle Holder…what could possibly go wrong?

Oh My!!! Inside was something I had never seen before, I didn’t know products like this existed. I’m not a prude. I’ve had a Brazilian Wax or two in my day but (butt) really…I don’t even want to go to the trouble of whitening my teeth.

 

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The End.

 

 

Fear

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Fear

My brain is a swirling mass of bad ideas, thoughts that want to tell me the worst. Imagined bad scenarios pile up like cars on an untreated highway during a rush hour ice storm in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s an unexpected, unanticipated disaster threatening and menacing, I could be taken out at anytime by what I don’t see in the blind spots, navigation is treacherous. No actual cars, just the thoughts in my head that I struggle to not breath life into. I keep them locked up in the darkest recesses of my mind where they ricochet like a vintage game of Pong on meth or speed or whatever causes the most damage and chaos.

What happened? Nothing much, it doesn’t take much. My husband could go out for a walk or to meet a friend for coffee and sometimes my damaged mind assumes diabolical situations – mostly that he is cheating on me or dead in a ditch, perhaps mangled in a car crash. Sometimes I think it’s a girlfriend or a hooker, other times I go full blown psycho and imagine the “other family” like a plot from Brothers & Sisters where I play Sally Field’s character. I try to distract myself from my own wicked thoughts and it’s exhausting. Like the duck which appears calm on the surface of the water but if you go underneath you see the frantic kicking of the webbed feet. I’m the duck cooking dinner and answering homework questions while my mind is imagining horrendous scenarios.

I talk myself off of my woman made mental ledge by giving myself an internal pep talk. He loves me I tell myself, knowing that isn’t enough. I mean plenty of guys that love their wives cheat or die in a car crash, statistical fact. I go deeper into my analysis – what time of the month is it? Last menstrual cycle was 22 days ago – interesting, the math works. Didn’t sleep more than 3 hours, got maybe 4 hours the night before last. What did I eat today? Have I exercised? I do much better when I sleep enough, eat well and get in a work out. Has anything different happened to make me feel vulnerable – why yes two family deaths in the span of six months, some collateral drama.

Much like the pilot of an airplane, I have a pre-flight checklist. If any of these items apply I note them and the demons of my mind step back a bit. It has taken years of self introspection and observation to acknowledge these pitfalls. Inevitably though it always comes back to fear of abandonment.

The scars of a dysfunctional upbringing are the echos that haunt me. In the arrogance of youth when I had more energy, was physically more attractive and had complete financial independence, I had the naivete to think the ghosts of my childhood wouldn’t haunt me. I remember my own mother telling me that there was a certain level of her own damage that she had come to accept as insurmountable. Late twenties me thought what a bunch of bullshit that was and how if you had awareness then surely you had the ability to make some changes.

The decades since have softened my views on this…certainly as individuals we have some control over our outlook on life. I have also come to view these deeper flaws in a way that I view grief. You cannot jump high enough or dig deep enough to get around it, you must go through it. You need to absorb your personal truths and recognize them when they float to the surface. By all means fight the demonic bastards with everything you’ve got, just recognize that they will continue to be unwelcome and hopefully infrequent visitors.

So as much as I hate to admit it, mom was right. Some of my fuckedupness is just a part of me and I need to make peace with it. Not panic when the – damn is he cheating on me or why are they late, did they crash the car thoughts come in, because they wilI. I need to glance at my pre-flight checklist and acknowledge that I have a fear of abandonment which is stoking the flames of the negative fires burning in my brain. I need to go after them one thought at a time – dousing them with logic and pragmatic reflection until they are just smoldering embers waiting for the next opportunity to ignite.