Monday, October 3, 2016

Failure to act...

I wish I had made my shrink appointments to be weekly instead of bi-weekly. This morning I woke from a dream that I just can't shake off.

I take pride in being a good mom to my kids. We have open conversations and yet I keep good boundaries so that they know I'm Mom and not their BFF.

But I failed my youngest when she was very young. I should have done something differently. She was spending the night at a friend's house and when I went to pick her up the other mom said "I found them playing naked in the bathroom but I tried not to overreact." I know that kids have normal sex play so I didn't make a big deal of it. I assumed it was normal kid sex play, nothing to be worried about.

I was wrong. My youngest hadn't wanted to participate. It was not consensual sex play. She felt violated. She was violated and I did nothing.

She now has PTSD and is struggling with sexual feelings. She spent most of last year in mental hospitals with a large part due to this non-consensual sex play. (I don't call it rape, even though that is the experience my daughter had, I don't refer to it as rape because the other party was just a child as well. I think this child was a bully but I'm not sure I can refer to her as a rapist at the age of 7. Who knows what had happened to her.)

The theme I'm noticing here is a lack of action. For me, guilt and failure result not from the things I've done but the times in which I did not act.

So how do I begin to make that right?

Monday, September 26, 2016

More ramblings on failure

I had an appointment with my shrink today. She asked how often I've failed at things. I honestly replied not often. I've made more than my share of mistakes but failing at a task? Not often.

However, I carry with me my Aunt Susie's voice every time I make a mistake. She's been dead several years and she was absent for many years of my life and yet i still hear smoker voice with a tilt of laughter saying "Crystal, everything you touch turns to shit." I can't remember when she first said it. I can't remember the context. What I remember is that I've always been hard on things. As I kid I blew through shoes, I still tear up shoes. I have to get new dishes every few years because mine break. A year or so ago I was doing lawn work and sliced the electrical cord and weed-wacked my own leg. I bought a new car last year and my front right bumper is totally scratched up. It's true, I'm hard on things. It's not true that everything I touch turns to shit. Every time I do something stupid and innocent, like driving to the wrong town for my hotel a few weeks back and discovering I had passed the hotel 30 miles before. I started to beat myself up with talk about being a dumb-ass when my daughter stopped me and helped me to laugh at myself. I'd never be so cruel to someone else and yet I do speak to myself that way.

One of the things I'm supposed to be doing for my mentor is creating a collage on fear and failure with cutouts from magazines. I started going through a pile of magazines today. I wasn't finding much inspiration or pictures that represent fear or failure to me. Then my view shifted. I realized  I'd been looking for the wrong things, I was being too literal. The more I flipped through the magazines the worse I felt about myself. I hated seeing the pictures of beautiful women, these beautiful seascapes and landscapes of places I'll likely never visit. Pictures of families hiking and having fun made me feel like I was wasting my life. I was judging myself, my family, my life on pictures in a magazine that is posed and created to sell items or tell me where to go on my dream vacation or how to organize and decorate my dream home. Rather than being inspired, it made me depressed to know I'd never spend $65 on a pair of jeans and I find it nearly impossible to envision myself in Cuba and that my bedroom will probably never be clean let alone perfectly decorated. I was judging myself, condemning myself, and wishing for a different life.

And yet, as I put the scissors and magazines away, I walked into my home (which is beyond what I ever imagined for myself) and my youngest was holding the kitten her sister rescued. My husband kissed my neck, my middle daughter petting my dog, and I realized that my life is good, my life is far more than good, far more than I ever imagined for myself. I am not a failure. I may or may not go to Cuba. I find it a point of honor not to spend $65 on a pair of jeans; I'm proud that my girls are not wrapped up in name brand clothing and consider thrift store shopping an adventure. I'd love to give my home a fresh splash of paint and do some decorating but I can do that a piece at a time. I want my home to be clean but not perfect...some days that's a huge struggle but I'm working on it. Our house is a house of love and laughter, that's far better than anything a magazine could offer.

New sets of dishes every few years is fun. I can replace my shoes. I live and love with passion and that may mean my things may not be gently worn but that is far from turning them to shit. Knowing my Aunt Susie, she probably said it with love and laughter never intending to hurt me and certainly not expecting it to stick.


It's been busy, so what's new right? I guess this could be about a failure to post blogs in a timely manner. I gotta be honest. I'm sick of thinking about failure. I've found that I don't like the word at all. I don't like considering myself or anyone else a failure. I prefer an "oops" or mistake; not failure.To me failure means the end; that there's no coming back. Thankfully, that isn't how the world works.

Nearly every week I attend a staffing for men (mostly) who are in a program to help them face their problems and perpetration of domestic violence. These guys have usually had multiple arrests and convictions of DV, this is their last chance if you will. I'm amazed and frustrated by this process. One of the things that frustrates me is knowing some of their histories and realizing that instead of sitting in jail, they are out on the streets and thus it feels that DV isn't always taken seriously. However, on the other side of things this program makes my heart sing. These are guys who've been through their own trauma and have inflicted trauma on others but yet this program sees their value as human beings, as people who have had trauma that has led them down a dark path and instead of giving up and calling them failures, they are surrounded by professionals that want to help them deal with their trauma and go forth as good and decent partners, spouses, and parents. They may have failed in their relationships before but they are not failures; they are people who need support so that they can do better.

In that sense, failure does not exist because we have grace, we have second, third, seventy-second chances to be better, to make it work.

Yet, one failure to act still nags at me and haunts me. When I was in my late twenties and early thirties I had a younger cousin who was very much challenged at home, she had a rough life. We talked about bringing her into our home and raising her. We were barely scraping by and knew there wouldn't be assistance available unless she ended up in the system and we didn't want that to happen to her. We were also afraid, afraid of what I'm not totally sure but fear was definitely present. We didn't take her into our home. She's now a drug addict and has lost her own kiddos to the system. I, we, failed her. I can't make it right. So how do I begin to forgive myself for that failure? It happened. I don't know that she would have done any better in our home, she would have moved to a large city and potentially be exposed to more drugs there than in the small town in which she lived. Maybe we couldn't of handled her but my failure is that I didn't even try. I gave up the fight for her before it was even started. So there is failure, I have failed her. That is how the world works at least part of  the time.

It's a cliche but it's true: our regrets are made not by the things we tried but those we did not attempt. So is regret the same as failure or something completely different? Perhaps regret is the haunting residue of failure.

As sick of it as I am, I guess I still have work to do. Until next time...

Friday, September 16, 2016

She's coming home

A few weeks ago I drove my middle child across states to try living with my sister. She lives in a small town, there's more family and my baby girl (I refer to all of my girls as "baby girl") has high anxiety so we all thought it might be a good thing for her. Yesterday she told me she wanted to come home. She said she feels "worthless." That broke my heart. I wanted to leave last night to go get her.

So why talk about that hear? My self talk immediately became that of my failure: "What have I done wrong that she struggles with so much anxiety? I should gotten her to therapy before she left. I should have done xyz." I also heard in her voice that she feels a bit of that failure vibe too. She's worried that she's disappointed the family there by coming home so quickly. 

Realistically neither of us should be considering failure at this point. We wanted to try something different, we did. We didn't know what would happen, we weren't sure if it would be a good fit or not, there weren't expectations. Okay, I think she had some unstated expectations, the expectations I had were confined to her learning to drive and coming home sooner than later. She didn't learn to drive but she did drive more there than she ever has here. She is coming home sooner than later, I just wish it wasn't breaking her heart so much.

I'm glad to have my baby girl back. I have a better idea of what I need to do to support her. Those are good things. We can give her some extra support and love so that she can fly when she feels ready. I think she feels like she should be flying now. She's seen most of her friends fly off to college and they seem great. She wasn't ready for that and that's okay. I hope she'll relieve herself of that pressure. If you have suggestions about how I can help her release that let me know. 

I want to help her release those expectations and fears and that feeling of failure so she can be free. I realize that I too need to release my own expectations and fears and feelings of failure so I do not infect her any more than what's been done. Perhaps we can learn to fly together.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Happy Birthday Christopher

Christopher would have been 27 today. I imagine that he would have graduated from college, gotten a job and still rides his long board to work. His brown hair tousled and windblown from the ride. Perhaps by now he'd be looking to settle down and start a family or perhaps he'd be adventuring around the world and exploring.

I also imagine that our daily reality would have been pretty harsh had he survived. Had he lived, I probably wouldn't know him either as we were set to give him up for adoption. I was only 16 and quite a mess, I wouldn't have been a great mother. Some of my roughest years were still to come. Often I've thought death was kinder to me than adoption would have been. I would have constantly been looking and wondering and trying to find him just to know that he was okay.

Please understand, I believe in adoption. I believe mothers and fathers who give their children to another family to raise are brave and show great faith. I do not think I could have been so strong.

This morning I spoke into the wind, knowing that the wind would take my message to Christopher wherever and whoever he may be now. I said, "Happy Birthday, I love you and still think of you often." The pain never fully goes away, it ebbs and flows. For me, acknowledging it is far better than ignoring it and pushing through the pain. I can speak into the wind and release the pain rather than holding on to it.

I love you Christopher and I always will.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The wagon is circling back!

Hello and Happy Monday!

The past few weeks have been rough at work. So rough that I've had days in which I'm not sure I can continue doing what I do for another year or so. This weekend my husband asked if I'd made it to the gym in the past few weeks. Of course, I had not been.

A hard truth is that when I go to the gym my mental health is greatly improved. Earlier this summer I had a few rough days that I went before work and then went after as well. It helps me to relieve the stress and frustrations. So why didn't I go in the past few weeks?

The other things I've failed to do in the past few weeks is eat gluten free. I've also shredded my nails. I've simply fallen off the wagon.

When did I fall off the wagon? After going to get my psych eval for the ordination process.

I think this was a major lesson in self-sabotage. The closer I get to what I really want in life, some part of me freaks out and stops taking care of me.  What is up with that?

On the flip side, I did call my shrink and set an appointment. I have recognized and acknowledged my behaviors.

This week is going to be another rough week both emotionally and work wise. Had my first child survived, he would be 27 on Wednesday. It's crazy to think about, even after all these years I have an image of him how he'd grow and change each year. Last night I was feeling down about this and  imagined him being in the midst of wedding plans and thought to myself--"Are you going to create a ghost family for Christopher too?" I'm going to try not to do that but what the hell, maybe I will if it brings me comfort.

My eldest baby girl turns 21 on Tuesday!  She's away at college and working, I can't wait to celebrate with her later.

On Friday I'm taking my middle daughter to live 10 hours away!  She's off to learn how to adult! 

My youngest has her first full week of freshman year this week. 

I'll be working 3 late nights. 

This morning I knew that what I need most is time at the gym and time to write. I had my gym time and it felt great to move and sweat. This writing is a little crammed but it's here so I'm counting that as a positive!

May this Monday bring you what you need!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


My feelings were hurt. I didn't say anything because I understood the other person's perspective of why they had "disappeared." The only person I mentioned it to was Joel. He's a great sounding board and agreed that this person probably needed some time to lick their wounds as I had been unable to help them. That's all fine but I was still hurt, annoyed, and even angry that instead of talking to me directly that I was temporarily cut out.

This morning I was pondering what I should do. Do I reach out to this person or wait until they reach out to me? Do I act as though nothing has happened or do I acknowledge it? What does this other person want? Do they want the help I can give or is all of that too late?

On my way to work I remembered the DR asking me "Do you always take care of other's emotions?" He said that even in the psych eval process I was trying to take care of his emotions, gauging my responses based on what I felt he could handle. I owned it, "Yes." We spoke about how I learned this as a child as a coping and survival method. I developed empathy so that I could manage the emotions of the people around me. It kept me safe(r).

At what point is managing other people's emotions damaging to my own? I'm hurt and frustrated. I know the other person is as well. Is it my responsibility to keep my feelings to myself as not to further injure the other? On the other hand, I can feel my frustrating building. As a parent, as a manager, as pastor, in whatever instances we have the opportunity to exercise "control" or "power-over" another person we must be aware so that we do not abuse our power. We must be responsible, but when do we get to say "That hurt me when you said X or did X?" Or is that never appropriate?

I've had plenty of parenting moments in which I told my girls "I may be the grown-up but I have feelings too and that hurt." Or am I teaching them my empathy for the wrong reasons? Am I teaching them to take care of others versus taking care of themselves?