Married to a lady with no memory

This year, the first day of school happened to fall on a Wednesday, which is also Robbie’s day off. I was an absolute wreck worrying about sending our three children, two of whom are too young to be vaccinated, off to school during this catastrophically huge surge of the Delta variant.

In the days leading up to last Wednesday, it felt like my stomach was chewing itself from the inside out, my hands and feet were constantly sweaty, and I found myself walking in circles around the house, unsure of how to go through with the act of sending them to school during a pandemic. At the same time, thanks to years of therapy and ass-busting work, I managed to project a calm, cool demeanor when I wasn’t sobbing in the bathroom or cramming taffy in my mouth in the pantry. Staying calm on the outside is a skill I’ve worked hard to perfect, and it’s vital in our house because Maverick in particular picks up on my worries and tends to take them on.

Robbie’s way of managing me when I’m panicking like this is to suggest food. The last thing I felt like doing is driving downtown to have a nice lunch — OUR CHILDREN ARE SITTING DUCKS, ROBBIE — but I could see the value of a temporary distraction.

The thing about sobriety is that every so often, things come up from the past. For example, there are times when we’re lying in bed looking for a movie to watch.

“Let’s watch that one,” I’ll say.

“We’ve seen that already,” Robbie will answer.

“What? When?!”

I check the release date: 2015.

That’s when he will sit up a little straighter in bed and tell me exactly where we were and what was happening on the day we watched this movie that I have zero recollection of. And I always feel this strange mixture of sadness, shame, and gratitude because at least if we watch it this time, I’ll remember it.

On Wednesday of last week, when we had lunch at Cecelia’s downtown and he opened the car door for me and held my hand so I didn’t stumble in my wedges, I had another one of those moments. He was backing out of the parking space to begin the drive home and I was staring at my phone when he said something about how public bathrooms are never fun to use, but “nothing will top that time I had to poop in the one with the saloon door in New Orleans.”

I looked up from my phone. “What?”

He stared at me. I stared back.

He cleared his throat and raised his voice, probably thinking I obviously didn’t hear him the first time. “I SAID, NOTHING WILL EVER BE WORSE THAN THE TIME I BLEW IT UP IN THAT HOTEL BATHROOM IN NEW ORLEANS WITH NOTHING BUT A SALOON DOOR BETWEEN ME AND EVERYONE WHO WAS WALKING BY.”

I racked my brain. There was the faintest trace of a possibility that I might recall this happening, but I couldn’t be sure.

“Can you tell me this story from the beginning?” I asked, turning my entire body toward him to make sure not to miss any of the details, because let me tell you, it was the funniest thing I’ve heard in the history of ever.

One of the best parts of being married to a man I enjoy hanging out with is hanging out with him, making fun memories I don’t recall, and then getting to experience it all over again with a clear head. He humors me, and I hope it’s more fun than sad for him to get to re-tell these stories to the woman who lived through them with him the first time, but doesn’t remember a damn thing.

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The catalyst

Oh, hi.

Want to know the truth?

Since March 2020, I’ve really struggled to write freely, especially here on my blog. How can I, when what I want to write about involves other people? The old Harmony wouldn’t have given writing about other people a second thought. She was haplessly selfish. The new me tries really hard to be truthful, but also careful. And sometimes those lines are blurry and hard to decipher.

So here’s the truth: aside from therapy assignments, and freelance work for Upworthy, I haven’t written anything at all since I don’t even know when. A writer who isn’t writing is either struggling with depression (check), overwhelm (check), or panic (double check). Weirdly, writing is part of what keeps me grounded and relatively sane, so not writing for long stretches of time is a sign that I’m not doing very well.

It’s time for me to start sharing again, telling on myself and getting my thoughts out because it helps keep me accountable and healthy. Also, I started seeing a psychiatrist. I’m doing light therapy which involves shining a very, very bright light at my face for 5 minutes per day until I no longer hate my fellow man.

Happily, I am still sober. This is nothing short of miraculous, and I’m here to tell you that recovery from addiction works if you do the work. Now, let me tell you: the work SUCKS. I simply cannot stress this enough. If you expect sobriety to be an easy ride, you’re gonna be pissed. However, the payoff to this is the ability to make it through a shit show of a year in one piece while the people and systems around you fall apart. Does it suck to be keenly aware of how bad things are? Absolutely yes.

So what keeps me moving forward?

My kids.

In March 2020, just before Covid-19 hit the United States, my oldest child tried to hang himself.

It was a perfect storm: he was stressed out over things that were happening at school. I was stressed out over things happening at school. Tensions were high, and when he’s anxious, he acts out. Even though I know better, sometimes I forget that when Maverick acts out, I have to look beyond the behavior to see the child. In March 2020, I forgot. I was frazzled and exasperated. I yelled at him. Robbie also yelled at him. The entire family was mad at him on that morning before school. His ADHD medication hadn’t kicked in yet, and the thought struck: they would be better off without me.

Of course it’s not true. The thought that entered my son’s head on a loop was a lie, but the voice was loud enough and strong enough to propel him toward gathering a stack of books while I was in my bedroom getting dressed. He took a belt and looped it through a pull-up bar that was in our living room, stood on the makeshift pillar, and put the loop around his neck.

My daughter, who was 6 years old at the time, came running down the hall shouting. I opened my bedroom door and asked her what was wrong.

MAVERICK’S TRYING TO HANG HIMSELF.

That is what she said.

Nothing made sense. That sentence didn’t make sense. Maverick’s trying to what? I don’t know how I got from the hall to the living room. My heart was in my throat. My face was stricken. White as a piece of paper. I caught a glimpse of myself in the round mirror on the wall and I didn’t know who that pale person was. There she is, the lady whose brilliant, creative, amazing kid tried to hang himself.

I couldn’t find him in the house. I was screaming his name and my throat was closing up. He wasn’t standing on the now-scattered stack of books that Pepper was pointing to.

I told her it was going to be okay, even though I had no idea if that was true. I still don’t. I told her she did the right thing and she was an excellent sister, the best sister. She knew to tell me, and I told her over and over, and have many times since, that she did the right thing.

She saved his life that day. She told him not to do it; her yelling at him to stop is what snapped him back to reality.

I found him sitting outside on the driveway, no shoes, holding his belt. His face was also white. We stood in the bathroom together, two matching white faces.

“Brush your teeth,” I said calmly, because even people who are contemplating suicide need to make dental hygiene a priority. He and I robotically got through the next few hours and days and then there was a pandemic that people still seem to be ignoring almost a full 18 months later.

Pepper started eating her feelings and then she started eating her hair. Everyone needed therapy. No one could sleep. And for the first 6 weeks of quarantine my life was a living hell. But then, as you may have read in my last blog post, it eventually got better.

It keeps getting better.

It’s been months since Maverick had thoughts of suicide, but sometimes the voice comes back. Sometimes, it’s louder. He trusts me now enough to tell me the truth.

My thoughts are scaring me again, Mom.

Children who are on the autism spectrum often have co-morbidities. What that means is, they almost always have another diagnosis like ADHD or OCD. Maverick has ADHD and anxiety, which he takes medication to manage. Often, when kids hit puberty and especially if they’re on the spectrum, they struggle with self-harm and/or thoughts of suicide. Multiple studies have been done on the subject and I can tell you from personal experience that my kid is a spectacular human being who also happens to want to end his life from time to time.

This was probably the catalyst for a lot of things I’ve done since then, namely cutting a lot of extra drama out of my life. I don’t have the bandwidth or the tolerance for anything even remotely toxic and I think right now, that’s appropriate. I have to stay sane and sober and strong and present so I can, you know, help my kid stay alive. This situation forced me to create a fortress-like set of boundaries around myself and my family.

Today, we are doing well — all of us. We’re grateful that our support system rocks. I want to stand on the roof of our new house and scream PSYCHIATRY SAVES PEOPLE! Because it does, and also I wish more people who know this amazing fact would talk about it. So many people, including myself, resist the idea of seeing a psychiatrist because that’s for crazy people. Well, no. It’s really not. Because my son isn’t crazy and neither am I.

We have crawled through this difficult time one day at a time, using all of the tools at our disposal. Therapy, meditation, sunshine, exercise, talking, resting, medication, giving each other grace. Every day that Maverick didn’t want to hurt himself and I didn’t drink or punch anyone in the face, we marked a success.

Because it was.

And now we are here, in July 2021. All in one piece. And I still can’t find the words to adequately express my gratitude.

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I have done everything and nothing all at once

This morning, I received an email from the assistant of a person I admire, like, A LOT, asking what projects I’ve been working on lately.

Because I’m neurotic and very judgmental of myself, I immediately started to panic. What have I been working on? OMG, NOTHING.

I’m 41 years old, still have not queried any agents, and have accomplished exactly zero since the last time we spoke months ago. In fact, as I pondered her email from the floor of my closet, which is where I go to freak out in private, my hands shook as I texted my best friend Audrey.

This perfectly nice assistant is asking me a completely sane and reasonable question — what new projects are in the works? –– and all I could think of was every missed opportunity, every day that I have not written a single word, everything that I have not done.

That’s it: I’m a failure.

“I’ve literally done nothing but move to the new house and keep myself and the kids okay,” I texted Audrey, in all caps to convey the magnitude of my distress.

“OMG HARD STOP,” she replied. “That is ALL you have to do right now. Period, the end.”

Why didn’t I feel like that was enough?

***

Robbie and I bought a house and it’s beautiful. The first and only house we’d ever owned before this one was in Alabama, and we left it to move back to our hometown of Baton Rouge when Asher was born in 2011 and cried for 7 months straight. I needed my mom and his mom and anyone else who would hold my babies for a few hours at a time so I could sleep.

The dream of home ownership remained out of our reach for almost exactly a decade, until one day I got a text from a friend saying that her neighbors were about to put their house on the market. The neighborhood was perfect, 3 minutes from the kid’s school, on the bus route, in the middle of town but also in the woods, with a tight-knit community and a swimming pool. I’d brought the kids trick-or-treating there with friends last Halloween, and the freedom there was palpable. Children ran through yards in herds, ahead of their parents who trailed behind with wagons and flashlights. No one was concerned about their child getting lost because everyone knew everyone.

All I could think was that this was a magical place I didn’t know existed: an actual neighborhood inside the city limits where people cared about each other. It was so refreshing, especially after the difficulties of the pandemic.

“We could never afford it,” Robbie said.

So I put it out of my mind.

One of the things I was told when I first got sober and started working a program of recovery was that I would comprehend the word serenity and that I would know peace. EYEROLL FOREVER. I hated hearing that. I hated knowing that what I was doing, which was slowly killing myself, was no longer working. I hated being wrong, I hated being told what to do, I hated being out of my comfort zone and having to do things I didn’t feel like I had time for like helping another alcoholic.

I mean, seriously. I’m a busy person.

There was so much work to do before I found true serenity, and even longer before I found peace, but I’ve continued to show up and do the work and suddenly I think I might understand what those elusive things mean.

We were able to buy this amazing house with a sprawling backyard and covered patio because Robbie and I have worked our asses off for the past 4 years. I didn’t just get sober: I re-learned how to exist as a human, as a wife, as a partner, and as a mother. At first, I didn’t see how that would translate into concrete life changes. I just thought, okay, I’m happier and my family is healthier, so I kept doing the deal.

But it’s more than that. Not only am I emotionally healthy, but I’m able to show up for my kids when they encounter hard things. Because I’m able to do my job, Robbie has been able to more fully focus on his. And even though the past two years have rocked our family to the core, I remained sober. I kept seeing my therapist. I used all my tools, even the ones I didn’t think I needed, and marveled at how well it all actually worked.

So what have I been doing?

I have been carting myself and my three children to various forms of therapy. I’ve been paying our bills on time and answering the phone when it rings instead of letting calls go to voicemail and not checking it, ever. I’ve tried really, really hard to connect with my children in ways that matter.

They tell me things that matter to them, and they tell me because they can trust me. They’ve had enough positive interactions and enough consistency by now to know that there is no longer a scary mom and a sweet mom, there’s just one person all the time who tries her best.

The answer to the question is that I have finally found serenity, that slippery thing that I wasn’t sure existed.

Hanging out in the hammock.

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No one talks about the fact that trauma never truly goes away.

Every year leading up to Halloween, I secretly hope that it will be different this time. That maybe, this year, I’ve done enough work in therapy or been sober long enough to finally make my demons disappear, because I am an optimist.

And every year, despite my best efforts, the darkness creeps in.

The holidays are a huge trigger for me. For the past 20 years, my sadness and anxiety begins around Halloween and slowly ramps up until after New Year’s.

Every. Fucking. Year.

It’s like clockwork, which is something I don’t understand and likely never will.

It starts with the dreams. Then there’s the inexplicable lack of energy and isolation that I always assume is due to an oncoming cold, or maybe an overindulgence of Halloween candy. And then, out of nowhere, the heaviness, a profound sadness that I can’t explain, and when I try to, I get angry.

I’m angry for being sad. Who wants to be sad during the most joyful time of the year? NOT THIS BITCH.

I’m angry that this weight is still there, after so much work! So many books and journals and countless hours with my therapist, EMDR and letters I was told to write but not actually send, inner child mumbo jumbo and group therapy and service work.

It is still there.

The sadness persists.

I’m angry because every year, I have to admit to myself that what happened to me not only blew up my life, but also rewired my brain because trauma does that. I’m angry that no one told me that trauma never goes away; you can’t work it off like stubborn fat. You can’t pay someone to freeze it off like a wart. You can’t ignore it. All you can do is learn how to live with it.

I drank for years to blot it out, and despite years of refusing to acknowledge the elephant in the room, the effects have bled into every single part of my life. My trauma affects how I parent, my reactions to the people around me, and my marriage. It deeply affects my marriage, actually, because it turns out that it’s really difficult to be a partner when one has no self-worth. For the record, I have self-worth now, but during the holidays it takes a nose dive: all day long, I battle irrational thoughts. It’s the worst.

This entire post is me acknowledging my feelings instead of ignoring them and expecting them to go away, and when they don’t, reaching for a package of cookies since I’m sober now and I don’t have vodka in the house.

Instead of drinking vodka or eating cookies, I’m telling the world that what we do and say to other people matters. Our choices have a ripple effect. I obviously can’t change what happened to me, but I do have the power to change how I cope with the aftermath for the rest of my life.

I drank to numb the pain of being a victim. I DID NOT WANT TO BE A VICTIM. Shudder, gross, ew, no. That sounded, and still sounds, like the weakest shit ever. I’m not a victim, but I do have ongoing issues with post traumatic stress disorder that I’ll likely battle for the rest of my life.

My demons don’t have to define me, and they don’t have to ruin my entire holiday season. While I may never be completely normal during this time of year, I don’t have to drink because of it. What I’m supposed to do, I’m told, is be kind to myself. I am terrible at this.

Yesterday, that looked like buying a 7.5 foot tall Sunkist orange, pre-lit Christmas tree and paying extra to get it here ASAP.

Today, instead of drinking a Monster Zero to power through my day, I took a nap.

I let my 7-year-old fix my hair.

I’m putting my experience out there so that other people can see that recovery is possible. It’s not easy–God, it’s not easy–but it’s the reason why I’m able to be a mom and a friend and a human being who can make a positive impact on the world instead of being a vapid black hole of unhappiness.

If you, like me, are struggling and just sort of treading water to make it to the end of this brutal year, I just want to tell you that it’s going to be okay. We’re going to make it, and these difficult feelings will pass, and the sun will come out again.

Via @adamtots on Instagram

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Everything you need to know

How can I sum up the events of Election Week in the year of our lord 2020?

Here you go. Click, press play, sound up, enjoy.

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“BUT MY RIGHTS!” and other excuses for being a terrible person

There was a time long ago, before I got sober, when I truly did not care what other people did as long as it didn’t directly affect me. I was self-centered, which is pretty typical for a white, middle-class, stay-at-home mom.

I had blinders on. Purposefully.

After I got sober and started working on myself, things got real uncomfortable, real fast. If you’ve followed me for awhile, you’ve heard me talk about how early sobriety felt like someone ripped off my steel armor and skinned me alive in broad daylight. I felt like a newborn mouse — fragile, hairless, blind, and disoriented.

But I didn’t give up, even when it felt like I wasn’t going to make it; even when I had to deep breathe through my day, taking it five minutes at a time to keep myself from jumping through a window or getting loaded. I’ve put in the work, and it is the hardest work I’ve ever done. Not just getting and staying sober, but the excruciating emotional labor of unearthing the why. Why I want to self-medicate. Why I want to self-destruct. Why I never felt good enough.

Ugh.

This stuff is heavy and exhausting and it’s cost us thousands and thousands of dollars in therapy bills, but I can finally tell that it’s paying off because I’ve managed to stay afloat during the Worst Year Ever: 2020. This is the year that put all of my progress to the test, and so far, I seem to be passing because I’m still sober, my marriage is intact, and I’m not incarcerated. Yet.

The downside to emotional health is that I’m so unbelievably and fully aware of ALL THE THINGS, and then I have to find healthy and appropriate ways to process my feelings about said things. Today, I shall blog as a way to process my feelings about what I like to call the “but my rights!” people.

The “but my rights!” people don’t want to wear a mask because they don’t believe in science and they think that COVID-19 is just another version of the flu. They don’t want to be told that they have to put on a mask before they enter a store, because keeping the pandemic under control is infringing on their Constitutional rights. Somehow, they manage to put on shoes and, I assume, undergarments, but the line is solidly drawn at donning a mask.

These are the same people who don’t flush the toilet in the Target bathrooms and probably also can’t be bothered to wash their hands, but who am I to make assumptions? I mean, all I know about them is that they really do not care about other people.

The “but my rights!” folks are the ladies who hover over the toilet and spray their pee everywhere and then just leave it, because who cares? That’s what a janitor is for! They’re doing that person a FAVOR! They’re ensuring the janitor has a lot to do!

The “but my rights!” people are the men who don’t bother to aim their urine, the ones who throw McDonald’s cartons on the ground and leave used condoms in the neighborhood park. The “but my rights!” people don’t clean up behind themselves, and they don’t teach their kids to be aware of other people because let’s face it — other people don’t matter.

The only people that matter to the “but my rights!” people, other than themselves, of course, are:

  1. The NRA
  2. Their Pastor
  3. Jesus Christ
  4. Millionaires

These are the same ones who claim that racism doesn’t exist because it hasn’t actually impacted their life. The “but my rights!” people find each other and form a pack that others are rarely allowed to enter, keeping them insulated from having to think too much about … well … anything.

I can’t imagine being so entitled and wrapped up in my own privilege that I would argue against wearing a thin piece of fabric over my face to protect other people from MY germs. It’s selfish. It’s disappointing. And finally, I’m using that behavior as an example of what NOT to do when I talk to my kids about being a good citizen. Wearing a mask is literally the least we can do, and yet, that seems to be too big an ask for a large number of people down South, where I live.

But my rights!

That’s interesting to me. Mostly, because wearing a mask been proven to save lives, and also because it’s not hard to wear one. I mean, it’s not super fun, and it can be annoying, but so are sports bras. And I know adults can handle it, because all of my children are capable of wearing one.

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This is Why Women Seem Angry.

My friends and I have a working theory that women generally run out of fucks sometime after midlife and that’s why there are so many old women roaming around who simply do not care. I’ve long wondered when I would stop worrying so much.

That time has arrived.

We believe that our fucks ran out ahead of schedule, and the reason why has three main anchoring points.

ANCHORING POINT ONE: The last 4 years.

“What do you mean, Harmony?” Allow me to clarify. THE LAST FOUR YEARS OF LIVING IN TRUMP’S AMERICA.

I have lost respect for so many people. Social media provides a place for literally everyone with internet access to state their opinion and now I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are surrounded by racists, people who don’t think racism is a deal breaker, people who grandstand about wanting to close abortion clinics (but don’t want to care for the women and children who are in need), hypocrites, bigots, and religious zealots who cloak all of these things and more under a coat of righteousness.

Clearly, I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that the past 4 years have been depressingly eye-opening, horrifying, and my circle of people continues to grow smaller — which is a good thing. Before 2016, I was living in an alcohol-induced fog where it was easy to pretend that nothing was wrong. I didn’t want to look at anything that made me feel uncomfortable feelings.

That’s gone now. I’m awake, and I’m sorry it took me so long to get here.

ANCHORING POINT TWO: The pandemic.

I mean, what else is there to say? The isolation, the fear, the outrage, the pressure cooker feeling of being in a house for months with three children, only to realize (months later) how much I actually enjoy being at home all the time with my kids BECAUSE EVERYONE ELSE IS STUPID.

“But that seems harsh.”

Yeah, it’s actually not. Because a lot of people actually die of this virus. Over 180,000 and counting just in America — and if you try to tell me the CDC cannot be trusted then just do me a favor and never, ever return to this website again because you are shitting on the expertise of every scientist and doctor who have devoted their careers to finding the best ways to care for YOU.

Back to why I hate the general public: why would I want to go anywhere when people don’t even believe that Covid-19 is a real thing? Those dumb motherfuckers could sneeze or cough their ignorance onto one of us and we could become asymptomatic carriers and infect my mother or one of my in-laws and then they would end up dying alone in a Covid unit and we wouldn’t even be able to have a funeral.

So, yes. The pandemic used up the remainder of the tolerance I used to have.

ANCHORING POINT THREE: Racial issues.

See my previous blog post.

Now, I realize this all sounds very gloom and doom and perimenopausal, but it’s actually quite liberating.

For example, I put a Biden/Harris 2020 sign in the front yard. My husband is still arguing that Biden isn’t the best choice and he plans to vote third party, but don’t worry, I’ll keep working on him.

In the meantime, our sign blew over in the wind so I went out to stand it back up. Two doors down from us, a tree service was removing one of our neighbor’s rotting trees. There were about 7 (white, very strong-looking) men standing around on the sidewalk staring at me while I adjusted my sign. I looked over at them and waved hello.

Not one of them waved back.

They just stared — not with interest, but with disgust and possibly disbelief. I actually delighted in knowing that I was ruffling their feathers, because yes, I am a white woman who refuses to accept our current administration’s vision of “Making America Great Again.” In fact, it turns my stomach.

While I’m sharing about things that turn my stomach, I’ll add to my list the people who think it’s okay to shame women who visit Planned Parenthood.

“Why is that, Harmony? Have you had an abortion?”

No, thankfully I have never had to make that impossible decision. However, I believe that Planned Parenthood is an important organization and here is why: when I was in my early twenties, not in school, and working a minimum wage job without insurance coverage, that is where I had to go in order to get a prescription for birth control pills. It was $80 to see a doctor and it was a struggle for me to scrape that money together.

Also, every other woman I saw in the waiting room was white, just so you know.

Had I not had Planned Parenthood, what other choice would I have, really? I’ll tell you. I would have had to depend on my partner to always wrap it up, and I wasn’t willing or able to believe that he would. Most men from my generation were brought up to believe that birth control is the woman’s problem and their thought process ends there. Kind of like how dinner is also the woman’s problem — same school of thought. As an aside, my sons already know that where their ejaculate goes is actually their responsibility, but that’s another topic for a different day.

Some people would say I shouldn’t have been having sex outside of marriage, and to those people I’ll say this: that archaic, Bible-based idea is something I one hundred percent reject. I won’t even have the discussion.

Had I not had Planned Parenthood and I did accidentally end up pregnant at that really stupid age, I would not have chosen to get married before I was ready to, nor would I want someone else to decide for me whether or not I was going to carry a child. Because no one can make that decision for another person.

Even people who think they are ready to become parents (exhibit A and B, Harmony and Robbie) aren’t ready to become parents. People who never wanted a kid in the first place? Those children are the ones who truly suffer. I hope that all of the staunchly pro-life people out there can find a way to band together and figure out how to give unwanted babies safe and secure homes, because the government has FAILED AT THIS.

(See also: the foster care system.)

So back to the fact that I am out of fucks. The longer this pandemic drags on, and the more people continue to refuse to do basic things like put on a damn mask to keep other people safe, and the more I notice how people mistreat those who are different or speak about them in a way that’s really not okay, the less I care about what any of those people think.

And it is awesome.

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Not Here to be Your Bitch

After a solid couple of years where I managed to mostly avoid drama in my personal life, I had a major falling out this week with my extended family.

Normally I wouldn’t write about something like this on my blog because it involves blood relatives who have not given their consent, but in this particular situation I think it is important to talk about what happened because it is so common — especially given our current social and political climate.

The event, which is a really nice way of saying “the crazy fight with my family on Facebook” was a result of years — a lifetime, really — of unspoken, clashing opinions about everything from politics to boundaries, until it all came bubbling to the surface in one of those spectacular social media trainwrecks that cause people to pull over onto the side of the road so they can safely upload screenshots to Reddit.

So, what happened?

Well, it’s a lot to try to boil down into a digestible explanation, but essentially I am related to people who do not understand how racist they truly are. Or maybe they do know, deep down, but they keep it sorta tucked away and ignored because they have the luxury to do that.

This relative is one I don’t know very well, but when he sent me a friend request on Facebook months ago, I accepted it. I have a sneaking suspicion that he extended that request because he enjoys the company of the rest of our family and probably, erroneously, assumed I share his views. And the thing is, this is typical — right? All of us are just trying to make it through the day. We are all human beings with our own thoughts and feelings.

But his comments. Oh, his comments. Just so much increasingly offensive racism. At first, I engaged. Then, I stopped and chose to ignore. That was a lot easier. I wondered, should I unfriend this guy? But I didn’t, which I now regret, because I have never censored my social media accounts. If people fight, they fight. If they call me names, I don’t hide their comments. I let the chips fall, because I am not in the business of trying to curate my image or the image of my family. That would make me a fraud. 

Additionally, I’m in weekly therapy to unlearn codependency. This is an important thing to note because through a lot of intense work I have come to understand that I am not responsible for anyone else’s words or actions. Only mine.

One day, I received an email from a woman of color who took the time to school me. I didn’t like what she had to say because she was calling me out, and it stung. She said, “You call yourself an ally, but you won’t even deal with your own family.” She’d lost respect for me, and the longer I sat with it, the more I realized that she was right.  

Over the summer, I started a job with Upworthy writing branded content. Shortly after, George Floyd was killed. The protests started and my work shifted in nature, giving me the opportunity to interview and really dig into the major racial and social issues in America. 

Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

My non-white friends raising boys have different conversations with their sons than I have with mine. For them, it’s terrifying when their husband leaves the house at night to run to the grocery store. They dread the day their children learn to drive. My friend with a LGBTQ child was outed by kids at school. My son’s friends. My daughter’s friends. My friends. Their fear is legit; the things Maverick comes home and tells me that other kids say, the things they think, drives the point home.

“Why are kids so hateful?” People ask that all the time. 

It’s because they’ve learned it. Full stop.

We are faced with a choice: perpetuate the problem, or address the problem.

***

On the day that Joe Biden announced his running mate, I posted a Facebook status about how much I look forward to voting this November. Most of the comments were from friends who are similarly excited to restore some semblance of sanity to the White House, and other friends had questions about why I am voting for Biden rather than Trump. 

But then, here comes my relative, dropping racist comments. After months of ignoring him, I snapped. Now, let me be clear: I REIGNED IT IN when I addressed him. I did not say so many of the things I wanted to say so many of the times he commented and called me a “baby killer” (because I think women deserve the right to make decisions about their own bodies) or a “libtard” (I’m a registered Independent).

This time, when he started, it wasn’t about political differences. He was insulting me and my family, because his comments were about race.

Racial issues are not political issues. Why are we mashing them together? 

I don’t understand how we got here, but I do understand one thing: calling out my white relative was my responsibility. You’ve heard the saying “get your people,” right? That’s what it means. 

I called him out and my family lost their ever-loving minds, publicly, for all to see. They called me a hypocrite. They said I don’t understand where I come from. They called me elitist, and said I just don’t understand tongue-in-cheek humor.

They said I should be ashamed of myself.

Apparently, I failed to fulfill my family role and shield my racist uncle from the consequences of his actions, and they are very disappointed in me. As a recovering people pleaser, I didn’t enjoy it. My nerves are shot, my stomach is upset, and I’m fairly certain I’m giving Robbie nervous diarrhea. But also? I sleep really well at night.

The family dysfunction explosion was so bad that all kinds of people texted and emailed and said “WHOA.” And I was like, “YEAH.” The shock and awe was hard to pinpoint: was it because of what I said or because of what was said to me? No way to know for sure, but no matter how you look at it, the situation sucked.

I love my family, and what I am about to say is complicated, because while I do love them, I am also so deeply disturbed by their thought processes that I’m not quite sure I ever want to be in the same room with them again. Which leads me to my next point: just because someone is related to you, doesn’t always mean they should be in your life.

The hill I chose to cut off my family on is the hill of white supremacy. They don’t know that they’re white supremacists because they refuse to acknowledge that it’s even a thing.

If I didn’t have children, I might not be bothered by racial issues, but guess what? I am a mother who has a responsibility to do the right thing. In the words of a friend, I am not here to make other people comfortable. And neither are my children.

Maverick is almost 12. He’s got a diverse group of friends. They talk about stuff. He has questions. We dig. We talk, because brushing it away or shutting down isn’t communicating and teaching — it’s actually the opposite. When I got sober, I leaned in real hard to being uncomfortable almost all the time. Because frankly, if I don’t teach my three children how to go out into the world and establish their boundaries, how will they ever be happy, joyous, and free?

They won’t.

Robbie and I teach our kids that if someone makes a comment that is inappropriate, it is okay put up your hand and say “That’s enough.” It lets the other person know that you have a boundary. That you aren’t willing to participate. If enough people would just SPEAK UP, maybe, just maybe, something would change. Maybe if enough white people said to other white people, THAT ISN’T OKAY, then we might be able to heal this unfathomable rift in our country.

But, if white people are not willing to acknowledge the problem, the problem only grows. If I shut my mind to the experience of other people and refuse to acknowledge my part in the perpetuation of racism, then my kids will absolutely continue the cycle. Nothing would ever change. 

I only have one life. I want to make it count.

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My Attitude Is The Best Attitude

Please note: I’m writing this post for posterity. In the event that I don’t survive the remainder of 2020, because there are so many hurdles left before Christmas, you guys — so many hurdles — I want to be remembered for my upbeat, can-do attitude.

** Robbie is reading this right now, wondering who I’m talking about. “Upbeat?” “Can-do attitude?” YES, ROBBIE. I AM UPBEAT. I AM THE MOST UPBEAT. **

Part of why I decided to go ahead and have “Trump” and “Pence,” (the two largest of my family of hemorrhoids) removed along with “Betsy DeVos” (the uterus, duh) is because this year is already terrible so let’s pour some more misery into this flaming fire, shall we? I am an all-or-nothing girl, so when things seem pretty bad, I like to ramp them up to nearly intolerable. That just makes sense to me.

Today I had my pre-op appointment. My surgeries are Thursday morning, bright and early. But here’s the important part: I learned during our discussion that Tammie, the nurse, talks to her dog breeder in Alabama more than she talks to her own son. The also instructed me not to shave any part of my body from now until after I return home from surgery.

I could feel my eyes widening, like REALLY REALLY WIDE, as Tammie talked.

Me and my Hibiclens.

“Um … Tammie? Can we circle back to what you just said about not shaving?”

I can’t.

I can’t not shave my armpits for, let’s see, 4 days. And I told Tammie this, very plainly, making sure my eyes were adequately expressing my level of alarm. I negotiated with her and was awarded permission to shave my pits but nothing else for the remainder of the week. The rest of the instructions — Hibiclens, enemas, whatever — didn’t faze me. I breezed right through, because administering two enemas back to back on Thursday morning before the sun comes up is no big deal. But prickly armpits? NOPE. Not having that.

Like I said, I have a wonderful attitude.

Speaking of attitudes, I wanted to tell you guys about my venture into the Land of Botox. I turned 40 in December. Then a lot of really stressful personal stuff that I’ll eventually write about, but can’t yet because I’ll scar my kids for life, happened.

Several days later, our world was upended by a pandemic, so by April I was really feeling terrible about my face. Now, I realize that is vain and shallow, but I was stuck at home 24/7 with the kids while my husband continued to work and every time I looked in the mirror, I just looked exhausted. Which I was.

But I don’t want to actually look as miserable as I feel inside, so at my friend’s behest I made an appointment with the best cosmetic dermatologist in town, Dr. Zedlitz of Z Dermatology. Now, I’m not telling you about her because she asked me to (she doesn’t even know me, she only injected my face one time, but SHE WILL GET TO KNOW ME, BELIEVE THAT). I’m telling you so you’ll know exactly what I did to make myself look well-rested when I am, in fact, not well-rested at all.

First, I got IPL which is this treatment where they put goo on your face and then run over it with a laser. The light attaches to pigment, so any dark spots, hyperpigmentation, or redness is drawn to the surface. I looked like a spotted disaster for like a week and then it all flaked off and revealed really remarkably even skin.

After my IPL, I walked down the hall for Botox. Dr. Z talked to me about “the look” that some women have when they’ve gotten too much work done and how it’s really important to her as a doctor and AS AN ARTIST, BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT SHE IS, to avoid “the look.” She will flat out refuse to inject a patient with anything that will give them “the look.” I think her exact words were “I don’t want anything to do with the look and I don’t want people associating me with the look.”

What I’m driving at here is how important it is to find a doctor who understands that cosmetic shit is supposed to make you look BETTER, not like a plastic robot.

So anyway, she parked Botox between and all around my eyes and a little in my forehead, but I learned during my visit that my eyes are deep set and my forehead is short which is an unfortunate combo for someone with a wrinkly forehead. As far as my forehead goes, there’s not much they can do and that is why some women choose to get bangs when they are approaching midlife. See also: Britney Spears.

It’s now been about 3 months since I got it all done and I’m really happy with the results. I’m supposed to go back for another round of IPL after summer has ended, and after that I’ll likely have something done to get rid of the scarring on my chin from years of hormonal cystic acne, and then I can just focus on keeping up my very intense twice a day regimen of retinol and vitamin C.

Oh, and sunscreen. All the sunscreen.

I used to think women who got their face lasered and/or other cosmetic procedures done were wealthy. That is false. Robbie and I aren’t wealthy, and my decision to do this right as the world is basically imploding might have been a bad move financially, but know this: if I’m going down, I’ll go down looking damn good.

Also, I’m a grown woman and I can do what I want.

Within reason.

Ish.

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