Well? How Did I Get Here?

My daughter turned 17 years old this week. Remember the shit you were doing when you were 17? Well, she’s not doing that yet. But she wants to. She watches enough movies and TV to know that she is held back from a lot of interesting trouble. She is also a much younger 17 than I was at that age. She’s still more of a 14 year-old level, aside from realizing she’s almost a legal adult.
She has a boyfriend, who shouldn’t even be blessed with the privilege of sharing her air. He has no ambition, no plans toward which he could apply that ambition anyway, and no concept of consequence. He starves for attention, and will say anything to get it, which caused my daughter to fall behind in school. I’m not saying she’s absolved of responsibility there, but I’ve seen first-hand what it looks like to ignore him. He doesn’t go away. She already has a difficult time focusing, and I can’t imagine he’s very good at standing by while she studies.
He also has a habit of just showing up. Showing up at our house. Showing up at the school (after he graduated – yeah, he’s 18, by the way). Just dropping by whenever he feels like it, or at the very least, just texting incessantly until the midnight hour (to my phone, and yes he does know this).
I don’t want my daughter dating him, but she is in the phase of falling head over heels for whatever dumbshit happens to say the right thing to her. He has never been mean to her, and hasn’t disrespected her, rather, he seems to prioritize her happiness and safety. That being said, he also puts major emphasis on her presence in his life. He doesn’t want to lose her. Everything he does out of anger is someone else’s fault because they said something about her. He repeatedly crashes his bike because he is always speeding around town with no brakes, but insists that she ride around with him. I’ve made some poor choices in my life, especially when I was her age, but when everyone around you sees that you’re settling so hard you’re practically collapsing, it’s time to step back and think about who you’re dating.
Are they good for you? It’s one thing for your partner to want for your happiness, but there comes a time when they have to be unpopular, and help you reach what you need, instead of what you want. If you have $10 to your name, and you want to go to a movie, but you also need gas money for the week, you gotta make the better choice. It’s not always the one you want. If your partner doesn’t support that same mindset, they’re not good for you.
Are you giving up something important, because you want to make them happy? A college degree, your dream job, a hobby, your social life, your family relationships, your personal regimen of care… if something is taking a backseat to your relationship, and it’s not a necessary compromise, GET IT BACK. Relationships need give and take, and it’s completely inappropriate for one person to sacrifice, without the other person reciprocating. If your dream is being smothered by what your partner wants, speak up for yourself, and decide how much you really want to spend your life with someone who doesn’t want you to reach your goals.
Do they encourage you to grow and better yourself? Same thing as above. Do they tell you to go back to school, or quit smoking, or draw more (even when you don’t want to), or get the body you want, or go for the job you don’t know if you’ll get? Do they pump you up, when you feel discouraged or unsure of yourself? Do they push you to find the best parts of yourself, when you want to crawl in a hole and die of guilt and shame? Wallowing in your depressive state alongside you, has its place I’m sure, but when you need to stop being so harsh on yourself, your partner needs to shine. They need to show you why you lean on them, why you let them into the most private parts of your life, why they are good for you.
Do they show that they love you, without holding you hostage? That’s the one that gets me the most. I’ve heard “You can’t [leave/break up with me/do that]. I love you!” Let me tell you something: love is strong. It can make people see things that aren’t true, and things that others don’t see. It can change a person completely. It can convince you that things are going to be okay forever. But most of the time, things aren’t going to be okay. You’re going to break up with a bunch of people, and it’s going to suck, regardless of which side you’re on.

But, we live on, because love is strong, but not stronger than your personal will. You can’t get that from anybody else, no matter how much they love you. So when someone suggests that you overlook a personal principle about your life, just because they happen to express love for you verbally, look for how they treat you. Do they back up those confessions of emotion with actions that show their love, or do they just kinda say it over and over again, and expect that to be enough? If someone loves you, they’ll show you. You won’t have to hear it all the time, because you’ll feel it and see it in how they treat you, as well as how they treat themselves. Telling someone you love them is not enough, and love alone is not a reason to stay with someone, if they don’t even have the respect (for you, them, or your relationship) to stop a behavior that is damaging. If they love you, they will show you, by growing and maturing with you. If they are just focused on the way you make them feel, and not about how you feel, they will try to use their “love” to guilt you into staying, without actually changing the behavior. They know what you want to hear, and exactly how to say it to you, and you’ll melt in their hands, and nothing will have to change, because you remember how much they love you. That’s love, right?
I’ve been a love hostage. A few different kinds, actually. Ones where the guy was lingering and submissive and still clinging to me, after I essentially told him to fuck off because he was too passive for me. The tears and wailing and moaning about what “we had” was embarrassing to stand around for, and I felt like I was in a bad movie. He loved me. I’ve also been a love hostage to someone who was in fatal attraction mode. He repeatedly stole cars and drove them 50 miles to my town, only to ditch the car and break into my apartment. He loved me. The point is, everyone was okay afterward, and the shitty situations dissolved once the shitty relationship was severed, despite whatever “love” remained unrequited. Had I stayed because they were in love, I may still be miserable to this day.
My daughter will be fine. I want to guide her toward loving herself, accepting the great things about her, as well as the areas for improvement. I want her to know that she doesn’t need to be in a relationship to be happy. She needs to be a strong, independent person, because that’s how we come into this world, and that’s how we go out. You can’t let someone love you, if you don’t love yourself. If/when the time comes, I hope she is with a good guy, but she’s currently madly in love with this guy, and I just have to deal with it for now. I was so smart when I was her age, and I still made such stupid choices. I can’t imagine the ones she’ll make. She so naive and trusting, and admittedly gullible (why she tells people that, I have no idea!) so people will take advantage of her, and that scares me. I want her to find love with someone who knows how to live with her, and that isn’t easy. It took me 32 years!
Being with Matt has been great, because he knows how to live with me (for the most part) but we’re still learning. We’re learning how to be together, and how to be ourselves. We have battles, but we try not to say anything that we would want to take back. Love has very little to do with why we stay together after a fight. We argue, but then we de-escalate because we have mutual respect for the great things we do together, and for the challenges we face, and we each realize how the other one is integral in making things work. It’s a finely tuned machine, and it wouldn’t run without both of us. I want that for my daughter.
Hell, I want that for my son too! He will one day find a girl that will most likely break his heart, because he’s very old-fashioned, so that will bring a whole different set of challenges, where my daughter likes the attention and acceptance of someone admiring her, and is easily swayed by it. My son is a gentleman, and we all know girls like assholes, until they grow up and realize their worth, so once he does find a good girl, he’s probably going to do everything he can to respect her. Some women don’t want to be respected. They should stay away from my son.
The past 17 years have not flown by at all whatsoever, and actually feel more like 27 years, but I’ve just been unguided through too many terrible situations. I’ve let too much happen to me, since becoming a mom. I never thought about how my personal sacrifices were affecting my kids. My daughter wants to be like me, because she has no idea how many years I was just a shitty person, and just didn’t get help. If I have anything to do with it, my daughter won’t have to go through those years of doubt alone, because I’ll be right there beside her, even when there’s some asshole there, trying to convince her that he loves her more than I do.
Psh. Losers.

-jg

Manic Depression Is A Frustrating Mess

There’s a commercial on TV right now, for a medication that targets the “misunderstood side” of Manic Depression, and that is the Manic Episode.

Now, for those who are unfamiliar with Manic Depression, that’s okay. It’s a term that is going away now, with Bi-Polar Disorder being the new moniker taking its place. It sounds a bit more immediate, in my opinion, being that you can go from a high point (in mood or behavior) to a low point within a short period of time, and I always understood Manic Depression to be more of long term thing: weeks or months of “high”, followed by weeks or months of “low” and so on. Now, they’re saying it’s both. Schizophrenia is a completely different thing, though Manic Depression and Bi-Polar Disorder can make you feel like multiple people exist within you at different times. So here we are, up to speed on our terms. I will refer to them by acronyms, from here on.

I have always identified more with the MD symptoms than the BPD symptoms. I think everyone has the capacity to change their mood during the day, based on whatever situational stimuli they have going on. BPD is an extreme version of that, and can be dangerous, depending on the person. I have not ever been that way, outside of the normal heated arguments I (again seem to) think everyone has. I don’t think I ever get overly energetic or “hyper” for lack of a better word, and the only problems I have with sleeping involve my back pain, which is an unrelated issue.

I do, however, experience periods of time where I am creative, and the execution of that creativity is gratifying, and I am motivated to do more, and create more, and clean more, and get rid of excess things, and show people the attention I think they deserve… followed by periods of time where I can do nothing but sleep, and be in a fog, and feel no motivation, and don’t enjoy anything (music, tv, movies, painting, photography, writing, time with family) with no explanation for it. These peaks and valleys are noticeable and oddly predictable, and I always try to take advantage of the peaks while they’re around, because I know I’ll be fucking useless once those valleys come around. So, that’s what I do.

I should mention, I am not currently being treated for MD or BPD. I have taken Psychology and Sociology and Mental Health and Human Development and Philosophy, and I have watched a TON of TV commercials, but I have also talked to multiple doctors about the symptoms. I choose not to medicate for it, because I don’t personally think I need it, and even though my doctors are probably paid by the pill, they agree that a prescription is not necessary. I also am not interested in unsolicited advice that I don’t want and am in no way asking for. So like the medication, don’t fuckin offer it to me.

The TV ad shows a woman making sandwiches, and she gets through a few, and starts thinking “Why don’t I make a shitload of sandwiches, while I have the Mustardayonnaise out?” So she starts making hella sandwiches, and she’s wrapping em in foil, and some sandwiches are all rushed and sloppy, and I think that’s supposed to be a metaphor for how our work suffers in quality on Manic Monday. She makes like 100 sandwiches, at least, and then the camera pans out, and she’s on a fuckin house of cards. I don’t know, I might be mixing up the two ads that are run by this pharmaceutical brand (one is the sandwich lady, and the other one is a fuckin crazy post-it note queen going to town on some shit). Anyway, the message is: “Manic episodes can leave you on shaky ground” or something like that. I think that might be the actual tagline.

When I was watching the commercial, and I saw her being a damn sandwich wizard, I was captivated! “Go, girl!” I yelled at the TV, because I was excited for her progress and her forward thinking. I was impressed by her productivity. I wanted to make a sandwich. I wanted to be her kid. But then they were all weird about it in the ad, which made me feel pretty violated, first of all. I felt like they lured me to the van with the candy, but when I got there, it was just a bunch of candy shamers. I didn’t want to feel guilty for cheering her on, and it was a sick move on their part, to make me feel that way. They started talking about the Manic episodes being “the misunderstood side” of MD.

Excuse me? I’m pretty sure the DEPRESSION is misunderstood as something people can just “snap out of” and “feel better” and “try to look at the positive things” to get through. To compare one to the other, is just ridiculous. Both elements are equally misunderstood, and this medication is only making a bad thing worse! It targets the Manic episodes solely, leaving you with nothing but an indefinite Depressive state, and a laundry list of side effects – including, but not limited to, suicidal thoughts or actions, headache, dizziness, loss of vision, or it may worsen your depression. Why would anyone want to pay for that, much less ingest it, and form an addiction they have to continually pay for, not only out of pocket, but through the insurance plan they also pay for? Are people that opposed to smoking a joint before bedtime and calling it good, that they would rather put themselves through the addiction and financial hardship of a chemical blast to the brain?!

I guess I just don’t get it. I live in a pretty liberal state, so I feel like people should always try cannabis first, before climbing on board the candy wagon. When someone takes a medication for MD or BPD, they aren’t just taking one – they’re taking co-prescriptions with it, and they’re paying for those too. And not only are they paying for them, but they don’t even think about what the “medicine” is doing to them! I don’t understand what needs to happen, for people to realize how beneficial cannabis is, and how poisonous prescription drugs can be. Every day, I read about 20+ new class-action lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies, and they’re never in the newspaper or digital news or even on TV news. It’s a quiet class-action settlement that you wouldn’t otherwise know about, unless you were looking for it (or following new lawsuits all the time, like I do). You’ll never see it in the news, because there’s not enough time between prescription drug commercials. If you think your doctor isn’t being paid kick-backs by pharmaceutical companies, you’re one of the people making me laugh right now. Seriously. That level of stupidity and denial makes me laugh my ass off, because I know there is a moron walking around, and it isn’t me.

At this time, I am currently in a Manic state, but that could be because school just got out for the summer yesterday, and that means I get to go to the track at 5 AM now. It also could be that I am 35 minutes from my deadline to post this, and I am still writing. I have been awake for 7 hours, and haven’t eaten, so that’s probably not a great thing, and the coffee will make me crash soon. At least I’ll be surrounded by my kids, so they can pick up the slack.

I don’t think I could afford to take a medication that took me out of my brain, because my kids would probably fall off the face of Shaq’s flat green Earth. In my Depressive episodes, I end up reminding (torturing) myself about how much I love my kids, and how they’ll be gone soon, and making stupid choices, and I want to be there for them, and I want to hear everything they ever have to say… and then when they won’t shut up about dumb things, I scold myself for wishing they would stop talking. I bully myself into participating in a conversation about Lego superheroes or Reader’s Digest, when I’m dying inside and just want to fall asleep to see how much time passes by. I make myself do it. I use it as a reason to never forget what I have. I take the shitty things, and I turn them into silver linings. It’s not easy, and I don’t know how I even do it, but I’m sure that not everybody can do it, and that makes me feel sad too. My sister tells me the same thing about herself, and that makes me feel sad too. The misunderstood spiral goes on.

When I get Manic again, I try to think of ways to show appreciation for people, and I end up flooding my mind with ideas, and get my gears jammed, so I ultimately spend an hour just thinking, and not actually doing anything. Mostly, I just end up cooking a lot, and sometimes if I’m lucky, writing. I haven’t been in a peak for awhile, which is why my writing has been struggling. I promise to try to “snap out of it” really soon, and “just feel better” so perhaps a good upward climb on the ol’ house of cards is just what I need.

-jg

En Garde, Ne Touchez Pas

Nobody has ever really considered me to be their Best Friend. Or at least, they’ve never told me about it. I grew up before the “selfie” thing began, so there aren’t any pictures of me cuddled up to my bestie, or manicured photos of us dressed up and ready to go somewhere fun. No home videos of me and my bff doing something funny or interesting. Those things don’t exist, because they never happened. Nobody ever looked at me that way. Unless you count dudes, who generally felt pretty safe around me, because I was “one of the guys,” which is a phrase I CAN’T STAND. But they weren’t jumping to preserve those fun candid moments in a photograph. They just didn’t do that stuff.

The fact of the matter is, I wasn’t the type to have a bestie, in the traditional way. I found the posing and posturing stuff to be forced, and was uncomfortable with hugs and arm holding and being physically close to my girl friends. I noticed them doing it, when they didn’t notice they were doing it, and I would think to myself, “Why don’t I do that? Why do I want nobody to come near me? Why does it feel weird and unnatural?” I didn’t feel that way around my male friends, because most of our contact was aggressive (shin kicks, arm punches, pushing and shoving, head smacking, etc) so there was nothing out of place about it. It seemed like what everyone did, but at the same time, I wasn’t going to smack my girl friends, so I just cut off the physical contact piece altogether, and thought that was fine.

Guys felt comfortable to me, because I grew up with my older brother and his friends. I also wasn’t particularly girly, I didn’t mind getting hurt or dirty, I swore a lot, I was abrasive and confrontational, but somehow also the funniest person in the room. It was (is) nearly impossible to offend me, and I think I was a breath of fresh air, for the guys in my class. I think they liked when I swore, and when I said things about boobs. That’s not why I hung out with them, though: to make them laugh and want to hear more, though that was a draw, for sure. I liked making people laugh, and it seemed like I was always more successful at making guys laugh, so I naturally gravitated toward that feeling. It had nothing to do with the girls not being fun to be around, because I definitely had a few kickass female friends, who I still love and respect. No, I hung out with the guys because it was just easier. I didn’t have to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings, because I grew up when guys were still afraid to show their vulnerability outside of their bedroom. They weren’t offended by my humor, which I KNOW is over the damn top sometimes, and it feels great to not have to filter yourself, and just let shit land. I could just be myself.

I couldn’t do that with my female friends, for the most part, because (in addition to the awkward physical contact) they had some real feelings. We were pre-teen/teenage girls, growing up in a small town, during the aggressive second wave of feminism. I had to pretend to be something I wasn’t – or rather, hide parts of myself that just wanted to be crude and playfully insulting. I used a lot of insult humor, and felt like I was being constantly fed opportunities by my classmates and teachers, and I didn’t want to pass on ANY joke; I wanted to say everything that I thought was clever, and put my wit on display when I thought the timing was perfect. I felt conflicted… I didn’t want to hurt or offend my friends, simply because it felt like it was the wrong thing to do. Even though my jokes were fueled by timing and set-ups, there was seldom any truth to them, and were usually not meant to hurt. Still, I didn’t want to put them in the situation where they had to work out whether or not I was truly making fun of them. It was a tangled web. I did make my female friends cry a few times, and I’m not proud of that, but at the time, I don’t think it mattered much to me. I cared about being funny, and barely stifled the urge to roast everyone at all times.

One friend did consider me their Best Friend for several years, and he happened to be a guy. I look back on our friendship, and I don’t know why he thought I was better than his other friends. I was pretty mean, and didn’t realize I was being such a relentless asshole about it, until probably right now as I write this. We can’t ever see ourselves the way other people see us, no matter how we scale ourselves back, no matter how funny we think we are, or how harmless we think our intentions are. In that same way, we can’t see what others value in us, either. I never thought to ask about my qualities as a friend, and never told him why I valued him. He was a fun and patient person, and that made me feel comfortable to be myself. I wish I had given him credit for that, because the act of not letting myself disappear completely, was probably the most integral part of my upbringing.

When I was a teenager, I once told my mother, after not seeing her for many years, that I didn’t want her to hug me, and that it made me uncomfortable. It broke her heart, and I can’t imagine one of my kids saying that to me, and on top of that, I probably was a fucking dick about it at the time. I was so guarded, that I didn’t know why anyone would be shrouding me in hugs. I thought I was such a rude and abrasive person, that everybody else saw me that way too, and that they all knew that they were all better than me. Like they all saw through my façade of defense mechanisms, and were ready to expose how sub-par I was, at any minute. Why did I feel that way around my own mother? It didn’t make sense. I had gotten so far into my own head, that I felt like I had been rejected by everyone, simply because nobody wanted me to be the traditional “friend” to them. I felt like I was being left out of something on purpose, because I didn’t belong. They went to each other’s houses, and went out to do things on weekends, and went to school functions, and played sports, and took dance, and had all the things I wanted… but I was left out, so I must not have deserved to feel included. It was me, not them. They all liked each other. I let that toxic mindset cause me to reject my mother, which is such a terrible thing to realize.

As an adult, I am still fairly guarded. I’m still not a hugger, though sometimes a person’s vibe can strike me in just the right way, and I’ll hug them. My daughter isn’t a hugger, either, other than with me, which is ironic. I think she’s as guarded as I am, because she has a similarly minimal group of friends, but unlike me, she places importance on having a best friend. Where I wrote off any interest in being a part of that culture, she does want the affirmation and acceptance, and to feel like she identifies with someone. She takes the selfies, and is comfortable with the casual physical contact, and wants to be included, but doesn’t like too much attention. She likes attention, but she doesn’t want the focus to be on her, is a better way to describe it. She uses voices and sound effects and random moves and faces to capture people’s interest, if even for a few seconds. I used jokes and sarcasm to do the same thing. Who’s to say which method is correct?

My son is one of the most personable people I’ve ever known in my entire life; he’s so intelligent and funny, with an incredibly mature and dry sense of humor, and an outgoing attitude that adults find charming. He’s polite in a way that is practically non-existent in this society, always holding the door for someone, or shaking hands with people he encounters, even casually.  He is involved in clubs and organizations, loves to act and sing and play music, and rolls with whatever everyone wants to do. Despite these great qualities, his peers don’t like him. The males like to assert their dominance over him, because he is non-confrontational. The females don’t know he exists, because he’s not an athlete, and that just happens to be the big deal in our area. He also joined his class in the middle of 7th grade, so he never outgrew the New Kid label. It doesn’t help that his sense of humor is so much more elevated than those around him, so the only people laughing are usually the teachers or parents. The kids don’t get it. They don’t realize he’s so funny, so one of his two biggest personality traits misses the mark with them. His other boldest trait would be his intelligence, and his classmates don’t appreciate that, either. The truth is, my son is what you would call a “Know-It-All.” He loves knowledge, and will read or watch anything in order to gain it. He reads copyright information. He studies people throughout history, that you would never think to care about, much less think to memorize their entire life story. He recites timelines, origins, and little-known facts like someone is testing him. He asks everyone’s opinion about everything, all the time. He wants to gather information, and if you don’t have information for him, he’s going to give you information instead. He uses that interest to his advantage, earning Honors in school consistently, and killing the grading curve on tests. He likes to show off how much he knows. In high school, people don’t really like that. They’ll appreciate it much later in life, but right now… not so much.

Therefore, his net of friends is widely cast, but sparsely populated. He will be the first to admit that he prefers it this way. I wonder how much of that confession is a defense mechanism of his own. Like my jokes. Like his sister’s outbursts. We create our own comfort zones, where we get to show the person we want everyone to see, and we acknowledge but still hide our true feelings, and we convince ourselves we don’t want the things that aren’t available to us.

Eventually, we find people who don’t make us feel excluded. We feel like we’re accepted, even without putting on the front. We don’t have to hide the rejection, because it’s not present, and we don’t have to create a comfort zone, because our true personality traits are naturally valued by those around us. The good ones and the bad ones, and we don’t have to make excuses for it. We can be unapologetically US. I think all of my classmates found that in each other, and I just never did, so that’s why I didn’t fit in. I put up the guard like it was my idea. Now, I get to be with people who make me feel comfortable and real, and so, I have stopped hiding my real personality. It’s about living my life, and accepting that not everyone will like it. Those who want to accept me, will. Those who don’t want to include me in their selfie, can fuck off.

 

-jg

Living in Fear of Living

My son said something to me recently, that made me sad. He was talking about something that was difficult, or undesirable; not something that would hurt or kill him, but a common situation he just didn’t want to experience in the future.
“Well, that would make it so I had to (do this bothersome/uncomfortable thing) so I’m definitely not going to do that!”
While I would normally applaud him for making a decision to avoid an undesirable outcome, I did not teach him to live in fear of feeling or experiencing things that aren’t necessarily ideal. I have lived through many things that were dark and scary, and when I look back, I realize those situations could have ended in my death. Several times. But I went through them, and I made more bad decisions, and I experienced more hurt and loss and sadness and failure, and I went back and did it again. I wasn’t afraid to feel those things, because they’re necessary.
I have been completely broke and starving, staying awake all night in my car, because I didn’t want to be late to bring my daughter to school the next day… and at other times, I have also had more money than I could spend.
I have lived in my car, I have lived in a trailer, and I have lived in a beautiful split-level ranch. I have lived with my parents, as an adult. I have lived with toxic people who I depended on for help. I have lived with people who I had no idea were keeping me hostage.
I have felt like I had nowhere to turn, and I have had enormous support all around me. I have felt smothered by attention, from those who love me, and those who don’t.
I have submitted countless pieces of my writing, and had them all be rejected. To this day, I have not been paid for one word I have written, and I continue to write for free.
I goofed around in school and got poor grades, and I went to college at 26. I dropped out of college, and went to work. I have quit jobs, been fired, and been promoted, only to then be laid-off indefinitely.
I have been married, I have been divorced. Twice each. Stalked countless times. I’ve been “loved” in ways that terrified me.
I have been very overweight, and I have been severely underweight. Both because of choices I made, to not care for myself.
I have loved myself, and hated myself. I have contemplated suicide, and I have been grateful for resisting the urge to do so.
I have been in trouble that was so bad, I thought it had to be a dream. I have been in situations that were less than ideal, and if I had known they were coming, I may have said “I’m definitely not doing that!” But I went out and lived those shitty things, because that is where you grow.
The idea that my son thinks he can pick and choose what he can feel in his life, or what he will experience, is unfathomable. I realize he is trying to make as smooth of a path as possible for himself, but he needs to let things happen: good AND bad. He needs to go for things that lie beyond the destruction of his ideal picture. He needs to be brave. He needs to be scared, and do it anyway. He needs to feel sad, bored, and let down, because that is life, and we grow from the pain. The happy times are beautiful, and should be cherished, but they do nothing to bolster our fight. I want him to fight.

-jg

Mothers’ Day… Just ONE?!

In honor of this upcoming Day of Life, as I like to call it, I have decided to post a piece I had written last year, because I just don’t think I’ll ever be able to top it. Enjoy….

Being a Mom is SUPER FUCKING HARD.

Oops, I mean… spoiler alert. Being a Mom is literally THE most difficult job on the planet. I can say that, because I’v e worked at every job on the planet. No, that isn’t true, and of course I don’t care what job you think is more difficult, I still stand by the original statement. This job is taxing on every single part of your existence. There is nothing else.

But for shits and giggles, let’s think about a difficult job: underwater welding. Sure, getting fried in the water sounds cool, but not when there aren’t drugs involved, and we’re talking about a life-ending shot of electricity to the body. That never sounds cool. So, you’re an underwater welder, and that’s a tough day, I can admit, which is why I chose it for this example. I’m just warming you up, see. So I can yoink the proverbial carpet out from under proverbial you. Underwater welding is dangerous, and I would never want to wake up in the morning to the knowledge that I had to report to underwater anything, much less for 10 hours of welding.

But picture this: life is good, you’re underwater welding, you have your underwater welding coworkers, and you’re all eating lunch, and it’s time to get back to work, but one of your coworkers barfs all over you! Like, everything they just ate, is now being pulled by gravity, down the front of your whole body, each piece of disgusting food searching for a place to crust onto. They even got some in your mouth. Then, another coworker gets diarrhea all over the place, before they can get to a bathroom, and it’s in their hair, and it’s just leaking out of every microscopic hole in the fabric of their clothing. And another coworker says he’s hungry, and doesn’t want anything he has in his lunchbox, even though he has all of his favorite foods that he liked as recently as yesterday. Oh, and another one has taken all of his clothes off, and is trying to stick a piece of his apple in his butt. All of them are looking to you for solutions, NOW. They’re touching you. They’re whining at you, in stereo, like some hellish choir. And don’t even think about taking a nap! There are bodily fluids in the form of toxic sludge, just waiting to be cleaned up. Cleaned up by you. You could ask another coworker for help, because you have one available, but he has his own job to do, so you probably have to handle this one yourself.

All of this, of course, comes after the First Day of Work, where you have to find a way to push something large through an impossibly small opening, while somebody rips your very soul out of you, without giving up, without asking for anything, without killing someone. Congratulations, you’ve made it through the first day! Here comes the diarrhea….

Now, don’t get me wrong: I know there are men who do all of these things (other than the First Day part) every day, and they’re fucking spectacular at it. There are men I know, who are better parents to their children than the Mother is. There are men I know, who do all of the parenting. I am speaking in a generalization of our society, which is the only one I can speak from with accuracy. This piece aims to highlight the things Mothers are typically expected to handle, regardless of the number of parents in the household. When baby shits himself, it automatically prompts the person holding the baby to exclaim “Oh boy, someone has a present for Mommy!”  Huh?! Why the fuck is it for Mommy? What if they were so inspired by your face, that they shit their pants and gave it to YOU as a present? That shit is your gift, and you’re trying to re-gift to Mom because you assume that that is the process of things. Why should someone who has probably changed a few diapers in their life be expected to change a shitty diaper? No, that’s Mom’s job, here you go.

That shit used to drive me insane! I will gladly change a friend’s baby without even blinking an eye, because THE BABY NEEDS TO BE CHANGED. If you were bedridden for some unfortunate reason, and weren’t able to use the toilet, would you expect a hospice worker to come over and say “Oh gross! Someone else…. I am NOT doing this!” No, you’re lying if you think that would feel ok to you. The diaper needs to be freshened, it doesn’t matter who is doing it. I’m sure the baby has no preference.

Same thing with puking. When a friend’s baby pukes on me, it doesn’t occur to me to be grossed out or flinch. I will take care of the baby, and then clean up myself afterward. The baby is helpless for their own care. Ridiculing it for puking is not necessary, I can assure you. Change the damn baby and stop whining about how gross they are. You’re gross.

So, Mom is expected to keep everyone clean of bodily fluids of all types, keep everyone fed, keep everyone’s clothes on, keep everything picked up, even though there are thugs following her around, fucking up her shit in her wake. Moms have to have everything in order, which if you didn’t know, is impossible to do when kids are involved. It’s barely possible with a grown man in the house, much less ANY number of tiny relentlessly wild humans who apparently aren’t aware of just how many strings they can pull at once. These things have to be done, and if by some miracle, someone sees your house on a clean day, I’m just kidding, that never happens. But if it did happen, like I said, by some miracle, then you get zero credit for everything that happened up until that point. It’s like in the movies, when the house is trashed, and the parents are coming home, so everyone is hauling ass to clean the house, and they get the last thing cleaned in the nick of time, and the parents think nothing has been going on. It’s status quo. All of your hard work and effort has gotten you to the point of looking like you haven’t done anything all day, because nothing is out, and nothing is going on.

And don’t even get me started on how much of a slap in the face it is, when someone comes home to the part where the thugs are fucking shit up behind the woman who has been frantically cleaning and trying to keep food and bodily fluids from being expelled (sometimes unnoticed, where it dries onto the surface, and you only realize it’s there when it starts to smell really really bad) all day long, and she hasn’t had a chance to brush her hair or eat a piece of toast, and the partner says, “You don’t even do anything but stay home and play with the kids.”

Jah, please help.

Being a Mom is difficult from day one, and for the rest of her life. Your Mom had to watch you make mistakes that tore her apart inside. She knew about things you didn’t know she knew. She didn’t approach you, because she wanted to see if you would do the right thing. Sometimes, you didn’t, and she loved you anyway. But when you did do the right thing, it was everything to her.

She had to watch you leave her home, which no Mom is ever ready for, no matter what she says. Yeah, I’m blowing it up for all the tough-as-nails Moms out there. It is never easy to say goodbye to your child, and it doesn’t matter if they’re leaving for the weekend or the semester. Moms spend hours of labor trying to get you into this world, then spend years trying to prepare you to leave her home, and then when you do, they want you to come back. She calls you and hounds you to come visit, and it gets annoying, but you were everything she knew for decades, and now she can’t hug you when she wants, or see if you’re doing alright. Your Mom will never stop wondering if you’re okay, even when you’re old enough to take care of her. She made you. She spent years of her life putting you first, not considering herself a priority for time, money, food, love, or care. She has worked endlessly for your happiness, and has felt the pain of your misdirected anger. She has cried for you more times than you can count.

There is a reason why so many people talk about how special their Mom is/was. Moms are something that gets woven into us. Some people have had a less than positive experience with their Moms, and can’t relate at all to any of what I’ve said. Again, I’m speaking from a basic cultural standpoint that is prevalent in even the poorest of homes. Income and status need not have anything to do with it. To some children, their mother is their security blanket, and the mother doesn’t even pay attention to them, but just knowing that she is physically there is enough to create a bond.

Mothers experience a change when they have a baby, and whether that change is positive or negative, it never leaves her, and it never leaves the baby. The baby will grow up with feelings toward the woman who felt at least positively enough about them, that she would let her body be defeated by pain, just to bring them into this world. Even for Moms who don’t show their children affection or support, there is still an emotional tie that never goes away. Even cases of greed and deceit early on, can turn into guilt and anguish for women who are incapable of manifesting the “Motherly” manner toward their children. So there is always an effect.

I think, generally, Mothers teach us that women can MAKE a human being. They can make a person. They can produce the vessel, to be filled with good or bad, and present it to the world. Women make the mark on society by even choosing to have a child or not. It’s a process that makes a person realize they could have been nothing, but instead they are here, and now they too have the choice to create something to present to the world. Without Mothers, there is nothing to present. We make the world.

This day is for every Mom, even the Mother of that evil spray-tanned toddler wearing the president’s hat. I’m sure she has the superhuman ability to love him, which is pretty impressive for any human (she’s human, right?). You gotta give it to the woman who dealt with that shit,….so then I guess probably the nanny?

No worries, nannies. You will have your own special relationship with the child/ren, because it’s been shown that children develop similar bonds with nannies, for the same reasons as they do with their Moms: when needs are met, the child feels safe, and trusts that they can rely on this person for care. The only difference is, the child grows to realize that this nanny is not their Mother, and they thereby create the separation, but the genuine emotional feeling of security is still there.

Even in respect to the nannies, Moms have to make the decision to let another person care for their child, and I am sure there are some Mothers who would prefer a better situation, but can’t for whatever reason. This is difficult for those Moms, because women are expected to return to work so quickly after maternity leave, that they miss out on the essential bonding that happens between a Mother and baby. For Moms who can’t be bothered by their children’s presence, there are some much more toxic underlying issues happening in that world, and it’s probably better for the child to be cared for by the nanny. This will create a bigger bond between the child and nanny, but the child will learn that their needs are being met by somebody and it very well could have been nobody. The Mother had to make sure the child was cared for, so there is some semblance of love toward the child, whether the Mother wants to acknowledge it or not.

Becoming a Mom is easy. BEING a Mom, every day, is the tough part. Giving up will cross your mind. You lose a part of you that for soooo long, used to belong to you, but now belongs to someone else. You cry, you laugh, you pray to nobody, you eat a plate of French fries at 2 o’clock in the morning because it’s the only time you can eat without someone stealing your food, you starve for five days straight because you put the kids first, you wonder if you will ever pee without an audience again, you forget how many days it has been since the last time you showered (tub with baby may have been it), you find things within you that you didn’t think were there, you find things within your toilet that you did not want in there, you stop giving a fuck about anyone else, you surprise yourself with how long you can go without sleeping, you silent scream wishes that the baby would just go to sleep, but then when they do, you just stare at them and stroke their fat little hands, wondering how they can be that beautiful.

And then they wake up and they’ve shit themselves, and removed their diaper for you already, and painted a beautiful poop mural on the wall. That full body electrical shock is sounding pretty nice, isn’t it?

Happy Life Day!

-jg

Uncomfortable Comforting

When I think about the kind of person I want to be, I generally just say “I don’t know” because that’s just easier than really allowing yourself to be completely selfish for a minute. Forget who everyone else wants me to be. Who do *I* want to be?
I want to be strong, but some people would argue that I am the strongest person they know. Others have called me weak. Some have said I was my own worst enemy, which would be crazy to think about: having me as an enemy. Yikes. I would be anyone’s worst enemy. Except for the people who think I’m weak. So maybe I don’t think I’m weak at all, and just don’t recognize just how formidable of a person I truly am. I know I’ve made it through some bullshit, and even look like it’s effortless at times. It’s never effortless. My whole life is a struggle. I don’t ever want to be someone who doesn’t struggle. I want to be strong.
But I also want to be kind. Despite the fact that I would give my right leg to develop the power to spit acid in the face of my enemy, I feel the pain of others. I feel that everyone goes through some shit, and the ones who are hurting the worst are the ones who are going around hurting others. They are unable to work through their feelings, and I feel sorry for them. It is a scary world when you’re unable to connect with yourself and be honest. I have gotten so good at doing that very thing (out of necessity) that I have had to rediscover that process in the form of participating in my daughter’s counseling sessions. I bite my tongue when I can sense she is going to talk about something that would normally be none of her business. But the fact is, she has witnessed something that may not be her business, but still has an effect on her, and still evokes feelings that she may not be able to process. When she gets her gears jammed by something unfamiliar, she gets anxious, and then her skin flares up. The past couple of days have been particularly bad for her, and her skin is breaking out. She talks about subjects that I am comfortable with processing internally, but am uncomfortable  with facing in front of others. It helps my daughter to be able to recognize that struggle, and how deep the ripples go. It isn’t often that she sees me become uneasy, so when she plows through those conversations anyway, it makes both of us stronger in the end. I place great importance on strength, but equally important is kindness.

-jg

Be Kind, Remind

Five years ago, I almost lost my kids in a car accident. They were passengers in a car with my ex husband, on a nice and sunny, clear afternoon. My ex husband (who has a lengthy history of accidents due to drunk driving or just being fucked up on whatever he could find) went off the road, later blaming it on swerving to avoid hitting a dog (the other 7 witnesses said there was no dog, and he simply drifted off the road). What happened next, has left both of my kids with nightmares they can’t escape.
The car blasted through the guard rail, rolled down a steep hill into a ravine, where they hit a tree, and the car caught fire. Their seatbelts were stuck, so they had to work their way out of them (driver never wore one). Their doors were stuck as well, so they had to climb out of the window. No sooner did everyone get out, then the car exploded, sending my ex husband flying.
He got no charges on him, despite the fact that hypodermic needles were found in his car wreckage. No sobriety tests were administered, which would normally seem weird to me, but I read it in the police report so I guess they didn’t care about his OUI history (*eventually they did, after a few more offenses and several years). The tow company that pulled the car said that nobody should have survived a crash like that.
I got a call from him that night, and he told me it was “no big deal, just a little accident.”
I can’t imagine experiencing that, EVER, much less as a 9- or 11- year old kid. It’s so much a big deal. They’re lucky to be alive today, and I don’t know what I would do if they weren’t here. I don’t even think I would still be here.
Cherish your loved ones, let them know you appreciate them. Be there for them, even if it doesn’t bring you anything extra, it might make all the difference to them. You never know when you have said your last word to someone. Try not to make it a hateful one.

-jg