Friday, May 9, 2014

I'm my own mama

My mom said she is proud of me for knowing how to call a taxi. That's right folks, I can magic taxis out of thin air with my cell phone.

Sometimes I am so angry at how poorly my parents prepared me to function as an adult in the world. It can feel like they intentionally made me ignorant to control me. But you can't teach people stuff that you yourself don't know.

I am now the person in the relationship who knows how to do grown-up things, simple and complex, transactional and relational.

It's something to think about when Mother's Day rolls around and I am expected by my family and society to be full of genuine gratitude. (My dad texted to remind me to acknowledge the holiday. No sense that this might be asking a bit much.) Of course I am tired of pretending with my parents that I didn't have to step in and fill a large gap of knowledge about how to interact with the world and be well in it. I have had to learn to mother myself. It was hard work. It is hard work.

But it was nice of her to acknowledge that accomplishment in a small way, and feel that she was impressed.

Happy Mother's Day to me, for all the ways this year that I have been a good mother to myself.
And Happy Mother's Day to my mom, who is really trying.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Asking for help is generous

I just want to say that giving people a chance to be in your life, especially when you are down and needy, can be a gift to them.

This week someone I barely knew committed suicide. We only had one interaction, but we had a lot of mutual friends, and I feel like I can see her story clearly because we shared some similar life experiences.

I am going to resist turning her story into a neat narrative or object lesson. She was in pain, that makes me sad. Maybe I know some of the reasons, maybe I don't. She didn't want to share that with me and that's her right. But I feel sad about all the barriers that made it difficult for her to talk about her pain. Maybe it felt like an imposition. A lot of people would have related to her story of pain though, whatever it was.

This week a person reached out to connect to me through my blog. She had questions and needed a community to support her, and luckily we were able to quickly connect her with that. She and I both have had bad things happen in our lives, but it makes those experiences feel meaningful that I can help even a little bit.

Every single person alive has asked for help before and will do it again. All you are doing, when you ask, is saying: "We are connected."

Connection is a gift that anyone can give.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Recovery, Then and Now

Before, recovery meant focusing on all my mistakes. 

As a result of being homeschooled, indoctrinated and sheltered, I saw my poor life skills result in real world consequences. Starting from the day I left home, I lost friends, I misinterpreted situations and conversations constantly, I lost professional development opportunities and distanced potential allies and mentors, I despaired at the complete lack of romantic interest from anyone. Most people were too baffled by my all-consuming incompetence to care about whether I had good intentions (here are some of the gruesome details if you're curious).

When painful rejections happened, I carefully analyzed what I was doing wrong and tried to fix it. I learned to constantly monitor my performance, to slap my own wrist and adjust course. It was a way to survive, but in the process I started to be cruel to myself. I was constantly telling myself that my appearance and personality and feelings and insights were not good enough. At first this message was reinforced by rejections from people around me. Over time my relational and life skills improved, but my self-perception didn't.

Now, recovery means learning to be kind to myself. 

I have successfully learned how to make friends, be polite, play respectability politics when useful, even appear professional for short bursts of time. I have to say, I learned a lot of this with the help of Mean Sara. I'm not angry at her, she was doing her best. But it's time to retire Mean Sara. I've learned everything I could from her.

Mean Sara won't be happy with me until I'm perfect. I'm not perfect, and I never will be.

I will always mess things up. But I have survived some pretty colossal screw-ups, and I will survive my future screw-ups too. Luckily, my mistakes now are usually not so extreme and costly. My life is actually a lot less destroyed than it could be by growing up super-sheltered and controlled by fundamentalist ideas. I have a job I like, a caring spouse and friends. I am doing ok.

But I think kindness and patience is what I always deserved, even in the beginning when I was screwing everything up right and left.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Wanting school

I read a great story today about a homeschool mom whose kids asked to go to school. She took the time to find out what they felt they were missing and let them try it out. She made sure her kids got to feel like they had a choice in what happened to them. What a great mom.

That was not my experience. When I was twelve or thirteen year old homeschooled kid, I told my mom I wanted to go to boarding school.

It seems likely that my inspiration came from British fiction, but also boarding school seemed like the only option because my parents always talked about how the local public school wasn't academically challenging. Come to think of it, most of the things I wasn't allowed to have were described as "not good enough," including friends. And we lived an hour away from any reasonable private school.

My mom was immediately angry and responded that "Boarding school is where people send kids that they don't want."

And I just stared at her and wondered how not being wanted felt any different from my experience of being ignored and isolated and dismissed every day, until she walked off in a huff. And we never talked about it again.

There was no curiosity about what I might be feeling (insane loneliness for one thing), no concept that I had any stake in my education and daily experience, no discussion of why they made this choice, just angry silence.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday is the day I play Dungeons and Dragons!

Sunday is no longer the day I go to church. Sunday is the day I play Dungeons and Dragons!

My first exposure to RPGs was in an Adventures in Odyssey radio show designed to scare good Christian kids into avoiding them, presenting the games as gateways to Satanic Worship. It sounds fringe, but the radio show, produced by James Dobson, was syndicated to a bunch of Christian radio stations. All my friends growing up listened to it.  (Did you?)

You can actually listen to a recording of the two-episode segment here. It even has a special introduction from James Dobson warning parents that the content may be too scary for children, but explaining that the dangers of seductive RPGs are so pressing that it's worth frightening little kids. The show doesn't depict a realistic game of D&D, because how boring would it be to listen to a group of young adults having slow-paced, harmless, nerdy fun?  So of course they make up a sinister plot with eerie supernatural tones, imply that the gaming leads to a nefarious end for a family pet, a candlelit ceremony that is straight out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and all in all it is a very silly exercise in attacking a straw man.

Here are the REAL reasons that my corner of Christianity* was not open to D&D:

Sunday, January 26, 2014

I'm proud, I'm lucky

I am so fucking proud of myself for graduating from college.

This week my spouse is going to be at a conference. He is about to meet an acquaintance I barely knew in undergrad. The acquaintance was a super nice person and I never had any unpleasant interactions with him. But just because he knew some of the same people that I did back then, he is a witness to a difficult time in my life. A humiliating time. I went straight from remembering how nice he is, to being afraid that he remembers some of the lowest points in my life, to feeling those low points like they are still happening.

Thankfully therapy has somewhat prepared me for these times when a trigger brings back a flood of dark feelings. Those feelings are real, but they aren’t the whole story.

I overcame unusual obstacles in college and was able to achieve academic success and grow as a person in spite of them. I am so proud of that.

Here’s a little overview of what I was up against when I showed up as a freshman: When I arrived in class my first day, I didn’t know that I should bring paper and writing utensils.