Lost

I’m sorry.

I didn’t mean to disappear again.

I hate that I’m becoming “that blogger,” the one who writes for a week or two and then disappears without any warning or explanation.

I know we don’t owe anyone anything in the Internets, especially not in our own spaces, but I also know that I consider many of you friends and I don’t want to be the kind of friend that just vanishes without a trace for weeks at a time. I don’t like it when my friends do that to me, and I don’t want to do that to my friends either.

So I’m sorry I’ve been away. I’ve tried to write. I’ve tried and I’ve failed. Miserably. This is where most people mention the many unfinished drafts waiting to be published, but I will admit that not a word has been written that you haven’t seen. Not even in my journal. I haven’t been able to write, not anywhere.

I’ve opened up posts. Sometimes I’ve even stared at them for a good couple of minutes, but not once have I written a word. Usually I just shut the computer down and start reading a book.

I just can’t seem to write anything.

I think there are a lot of reasons why, but it’s hard to pin any of them down. Everything is so intertwined right now, it’s hard to tease out one narrative and commit to it from beginning to end without mentioning all the other issues at play. Each strand is so completely, and complexly, a part of all the others, you can’t trace it under your finger without starting down the path of a totally different thread. And the hardest part is, half the time you don’t even realize you’ve gone astray, the colors are so muddled and stained, it’s hard to tell the individual strands apart.

Jesus, even that metaphor is a fucking disaster.

I really, truly don’t know what to say, except that this business of tearing oneself down and then rebuilding from the foundation is devastating, especially when you’ve removed (or are attempting to) all the scaffolding you depended on in the past. Brené Brown talks about abandoning the things we do to numb ourselves and how when she did it she felt like a turtle without its shell… in a briar patch. That is how I feel. It’s excruciating, and I want nothing more than to slip back into the well worn armor I’ve carried around for the entirety of my adult life.

So in the absence of a cohesive narrative, I guess I’ll just start writing and see what happens.

Winter break has been… challenging. 24/7 with both kids, no breaks, my son cutting four molars… It’s not the best environment to be managing all this. But I suppose none is.

Christmas Day was surprisingly nice. Low key. It was what I needed. I didn’t let myself get my hopes up; I’ve spent the last four years learning that what I used to love about holidays with family (actually spending meaningful time with them) is just not possible with young kids. Walking into the day with realistic expectations helped stave off the disappointment, and there were even some nice moments with my overly-stimulated, Christmas-crazed kids. (I realize that risks sounding totally ungrateful–please know I am not ungrateful, and that I appreciate every Christmas I spend with my kids, but–as are many things in parenting–it’s complicated.)

I finally saw my therapist, and we spent the hour tackling my compulsive spending. It was… unpleasant. She is clearly concerned. As per her suggestion, I came home and handed over all my credit cards to my husband. I am carrying around my debit card to buy gas and for emergencies, but on a weekly basis I’m only using cash. I’m giving myself $100 a week right now, but I’m not allowed to by anything non-essential and I have to write down how every cent is spent. (My therapist suggested $50 a week, and I’m going to work down to that in the next month.) I could tell my husband was freaked out by all of it, and I had to assure him (again, through tears) that I hadn’t told her anything I hadn’t already divulged to him. I think the difference is she knows what follow-up questions to ask, and what my responses to those questions mean. She recognizes when I get defensive or try to justify my actions. She knows me. We’re going to work on it. It’s going to be hard. I’m going to stumble and fall, over and over again, but I’m going to keep getting up and continue stumbling forward.

The next few weeks are a test of sorts, to see what kind of self-control I have. If I can stick to my spending plan it will be one thing, if I can’t, it will be quite another. The pressure is considerable.

I’m hitting the wall on the commitment to minimalism. Turns out I’m not just addicted to accumulating stuff but to the stuff itself. I’m having a harder and harder time letting go. And yet I realize I have to. I understand that the life I lead now, with the stuff I own, it’s untenable. And yet I’m not sure how to change. It’s hard. I don’t know how to do this. But I have to and so I keep at it.

I miss writing. And I don’t. I haven’t tackled it here (or anywhere) yet but the Creative Non-Fiction class had a big impact on me. Someone critiquing my work affected me deeply. And then I quit the magazine and can’t seem to maintain a writing schedule here. I recognize all these steps as a distancing of myself from writing, from my understanding of myself as a writer, but I’m not quite sure why I am taking those steps. I assume the reasons will present themselves, eventually.

In the absence of my usual coping techniques (stuff, shopping, writing, even biting my nails, which I’m trying to quit) I find myself scrambling to fill the space and pass the time. I am loathe to even transfer the laundry without an audiobook playing. At night, before I fall asleep, I’ve resorted to my old habit of telling stories in my head, mostly the tooling and retooling of scenes that I love, keeping my mind occupied so it won’t have to acknowledge whatever is brewing behind the projector screen.

This past weekend my husband and I lost ourselves in Broadchurch, the BBC version. I cried. A lot.

I am trying to be accepting of all this, both how I feel and how I’m coping. Maybe that is why it’s hard to write, because I’m trying so desperately not to judge any of this as good or bad. Or maybe it’s because I know I’m clutching at straws, and if I sit still long enough to get it down I’ll see it all for what it is.

I honestly have no idea. But at least I wrote this. And that’s something.

24 Comments

  1. Nobody reads over break anyway, so lots of bloggers take that time off. Great work on the cash only system. Make sure you allot enough to buy essentials like groceries. My husband has 35 each week for nonessentials. You might find Dave Ramsey helpful–your library should have his best seller (something like your total debt solution? Not financial peace university, that is his first book and not as good… I can look it up when off the ipad.). It does have Christianity in it, but is still useful even if you are not Christian.

    I find that I get depressed and anxious when I don’t have something productive to occupy my mind. I need to get back to work so my mind has something to dwell on besides my worries and perceived failings. It is time to plant my garden (figuratively).

    1. Thanks for the Dave Ramsey recommendation. I’ve heard his name a lot. I should check him out.

      As for something productive to occupy my mind, I’ve been reading a lot. I have two fiction books I have to read for my ELD class (the one I teach, so they are young adult fiction, but actually really good) and some other books as well. Mostly I’m reading right now, to pass the time. Or working through the many problem areas of my house, trying to get rid of yet more stuff.

  2. Hugs!
    Try reading WIllPOWER by Baumeister & Tierney. They talk about biting off too big a bite all at once in making changes. Doesn’t go well … as you just said above.
    Be as kind to you as you are to others. Tough to do.
    De-own now in smaller steps. It can take lots and lots and lots of time to de-own. Despite what is said in The life changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo (which is available at SFPublic Library for Kindle) about doing all of a category in one fell swoop remember she also says it takes 6 intensive months to do a SMALL house.
    You are making big scary changes and telling big scary truths. This is super scary to do for any one so recognize you are NORMAL and this is HARD.
    You have a team of readers who are supportive of you and impressed by you and inspired by you. Remind yourself you actually are not alone and you are surrounded by cheering people who are running their own same/different races and are supported by you running your race. You WILL reach your new comfort zone, so just keep breathing as you move through the currents and rapids and waterfalls. You are a brilliant wonderful person.

  3. Willpower by Baumeister and Tierney … esp about depletion of energy and impact on decision making and ‘holding on under pressure’ (24/7 with two small children is HUGE energy depletion situation no matter how much you want and love them!!!) SF Pub Library

  4. Life changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo. 6 months in small Japanese housing without husband and 2 children. I actually think in your setting it would take much longer so give yourself some grace!!! You are a normal person. Be gentle with you.

  5. I am posting and being told i already posted same comment but not seeing posts show up so repeating.
    Life changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo. 6 months in small Japanese housing without husband and 2 children. I actually think in your setting it would take much longer so give yourself some grace!!! You are a normal person. Be gentle with you. Book for kindle at SFPubLibrary

  6. Don’t be sorry. Agree that lots of people take breaks during the holidays from blogging (not that it matters what “other people” do, you do what works for you!) and quite honestly I don’t expect new posts during these 2 weeks (though happy to see them!)
    I really admire all the hard work you’re doing on yourself. The cash system seems like a great idea. Unfortunately for me, I’ve memorized my credit card numbers so on-line shopping (my major weak spot) is ALWAYS possible.
    Giving up all your distraction techniques seems really hard. In fact, my therapist advised making sure I had some kind of (not unhealthy) coping mechanism remaining, as I tried to shed some of the ways I numb myself. The key wasn’t to never use distraction, but to use it more mindfully—being aware that I am upset and doing this activity to calm myself for a specified period of time. The distraction is my “back-up” until I work enough on the cognitive techniques that I’m hoping will prevent such a build up of anxiety in the first place.
    Thinking of you…

    1. I have also memorized my credit card information, and all my favorite shopping sites have it saved anyway so… but I’m not buying anything online. Not ANYTHING. Mostly I took them out so that if I ended up at a Tar.get or somewhere else dangerous, I couldn’t do any real damage.

      I am letting myself have the “mental stories” distractions right now, and being mindful of it. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, I’m just really interested in the fact that it has come back after so many years away. Clearly I needed something to cope, and that is what emerged without me making a conscious choice about it.

  7. Stacks and piles of support. You are doing so much at one time…. stop to rest and self praise for what you have accomplished. Perfect happens in the grave when you get to be Perfectly dead no errors….. otherwise human is happening and human is Not Perfect.
    Take the week before back to school OFF. No shopping but just spend time being and not accomplishing. BREATH in and out and repeat and praise yourself!

  8. Sorry that these days have been so difficult. I know that I don’t possess any definitive understanding of minimalism (watching the stuff accumulate during the holidays is proof of this) but I continue to believe that at it’s core it’s simply about finding what is good and working to elevate that in your life- at the expense of the rest.

    I imagine that the difficult part for you is that you tend to identify the good as what is missing but would it be a futile mental exercise to identify what’s most important to making your life good as it stands right now?

    1. Hmmm, I wonder if I’m identifying that good as what is missing. Mostly I just feel like I’m still overrun with stuff, and the state of my house is causing me a lot of stress. But I’m trying to be really accepting about the where I am right now and that it’s not indicative of where I’ll be next month or next year. I am generally impatient about change, so I’m trying to be really patient, but it’s hard, because, well being here is hard.

      I guess all that to say, I don’t think it would be a futile mental exercise to identify what is most important to making your life good as it stands right now. I will think about that.

    2. Wow. Identifying the good as what is missing. I like that. You’ve got me thinking about my own situation. (No, not kids, other stuff at the moment.)

  9. Life changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo. 6 months in small Japanese housing without husband and 2 children. I actually think in your setting it would take much longer so give yourself some grace!!! You are a normal person. Be gentle with you.

    and, trying again: Willpower by Baumeister & Tierney. Read about depleted energy impacting willpower. Dealing with 2 children 24/7 = depleted energy. Goes with the habits book.

  10. I like what Ana said. A guy I once knew told me that everybody needs a vice (he had a few too many, but I generally agreed). If you have none at all, you have no way to release your negative energy. I think my vice is chocolate. But I’ve been working on identifying other way to feel like I’m treating myself – tea, baths, perfume. You can’t just have nothing.

    I also think that, while all the changes you are trying to make are admirable, it would also be a good idea to work on accepting yourself for who you are. There will always be something to do more of or less of, some way to be a better person. But you’re a great person the way you are, and constantly beating yourself up about your faults it’s right either.

    1. I am trying hard to accept myself as I am, but I am also working on parts of myself that I’m REALLY not okay with. I’m not okay with spending thousands of dollars we don’t have and putting myself and my family in a financially precarious position because I can’t control my spending. So I guess I’m just not sure how much I’m supposed to accept when I’m essentially saying that there are some things that I’m doing that are not okay. I have been careful to judge the action and not myself, and I’m not beating up on myself for having these problems, but that only makes actually managing my urges and impulses so much easier. In the end I HAVE to stop spending money in these ways. I HAVE TO. So while I’m accepting of myself, I am not accepting of some of my behavior.

  11. I just came back to blogworld (yeah, I am ‘that blogger’ ) and saw that you have moved. It will take me some time to catch up with all that’s been happening. Till then, hugs and take care!

  12. Aw, hon. Hugs.

    And a warning: unsolicited advice below.

    Journal. Journal. JOURNAL. Seriously, write it all, write it out. You can’t get rid of coping strategies and not put new ones into place. Write in a journal – all of it. Get it out. The bad stuff, yes, but the good stuff too.

    My therapist gave me homework over our break – to write down my 5 best accomplishments at the end of every day. And those accomplishments could be as easy as “I didn’t lose my shit on my kid when he was being annoying and I was tired and grumpy.” It’s helped me a TON to look at myself and my behaviours in a much more positive light. I think it would be good for you.

    You can’t expect to quit your old coping mechanisms cold turkey when you don’t have anything else in place, because you WILL crawl out of your skin otherwise. Journal. Meditate. Exercise. Whatever works for you to connect with the feelings (aka not numbing behaviour, right? That’s another kind of armor!) but not be overwhelmed with them. Sit with it, write it down, breathe it out.

    Give it a name, put it down in words, and it won’t have as much power over you.

    xoxo

    1. I like your therapist’s advice. I was doing something similar for about a month last January—writing 3 good things from each day into a one-line/day journal. It really ended the day on a good note and to remind myself that even on the so-called “bad days” there was some joy. But then I forgot one or two days and then I just STOPPED doing it for 11 months. I’ll have to pull it back out and start again this week—and I’ll add in accomplishments and things that are more me-focused. I can’t help that my kids were terrible, but if I managed to keep my temper that is definitely worth recording!

    2. Thank you for the advice. I will start writing in my journal again. I like the idea of writing down five of my best accomplishments for the day. Already today I was thinking of what I’d put down and realizing that I had done quite a few things well. That made me feel good about myself in a way I hadn’t in a long time.

      I also hope that by starting an entry that way every night, I might sometimes be called to write more, about other, more complicated things.

  13. I think we all need breaks, when words run out, or they’re too complicated to put into any meaningful form. I don’t think you should worry about how much or whether you’re writing and blogging right now. You’ve got a LOT on your plate, and just coping with one of those things would be major, but dealing with several, and dealing with them as well as you are, is huge. Take a step back, pat yourself on the back for all the steps you’re taking, soak in our admiration, and don’t expect too much else of yourself.

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