2015- the year of anger and anxiety
(My studio in a sad state of emptiness)
I’m not sure even where exactly to start. Today it started when I couldn’t turn on my husband’s computer to use the printer- a sudden boiling angry rage took over my body and I desperately wanted to start tearing apart the computers and throwing them out the window. I immediately wanted to blame my husband- WHY does everything he sets up seem to need an engineering degree to work?? But really, why does not getting the computer to work bring up that level of anger. Seriously? And then suddenly I was stressed beyond function, getting short with my kids and yelling. Yesterday it started when an unexpected phone call derailed my smoothly laid morning plans. Today it hit me. I’m angry. I mean really really angry. I don’t even know why. It also hit me that it’s been a year and a half since I have done any art. Any little bit of spare time I’ve had has been focused on my product and I’ve stifled/crushed/stepped on any desire to be creative out of a sense of responsibility to see my idea to it’s finish. I have learned TONS along the way, but in today’s brief moment of clarity I saw the impact of stifling my creative self for too long.
This year started with pulling my son out of school to homeschool him/figure out why school has been so stressful academically. After watching him work for a month or two we were back at the therapist immediately finalizing a diagnosis we’ve been skirting the edge of since he was in early elementary- inattentive ADHD. We’d always been able to do just enough- putting him in a wonderful private school helped for several years and he was always smart enough to do just well enough that we could go for periods of time without being concerned. Those periods of peace became shorter and shorter until high-school, which was a nightmare from day one. Typing this out all sounds so easy- but the emotional process of coming to this conclusion has been the hardest thing I have faced as a parent. Even harder than my separation with his dad, as traumatic as that was. Feeling backed into a corner that medication was our only real option, facing many other’s doubts that ADHD was even a real thing (whether mental illness/learning disabilities are real or not could be a whole other frustrated blog post. In a nutshell for those who say it’s not real, if you haven’t personally lived through it- then you have NO FUCKING IDEA what you’re talking about!!), being told that boys just get this way and then they grow out of it. I spent sleepless night after sleepless night going over and over every aspect of what we/he had been through and there is just no doubt. I wish that made it even easier, but it doesn’t. In the process of going through this with my son I woke up one night realizing that he was reliving my own junior high/high school experience that I had blocked out for a long, longs time. Fuck. I knew exactly where he had gotten this from. My experience after several awful years of conflict with my parents around school was a mutual leaving home/getting asked to leave near the end of my 16th year. I felt like I was getting a “do-over” with my son, but not long after he was officially diagnosed and we started trying to find the medication that was the best fit, he asked if he could move in with his dad in Houston and start over. He, my husband, and I had had our own share of conflict over the past couple of years over academics. Add to that a desire to not have to go back to the same high school after leaving twice now (he had finished up his freshman year at a small charter school before begging to return to the local high school) and a long standing fantasy of living with his dad and he was ready for a fresh start. In my hardest act of “if you love them let them go”, I agreed. He moved May 29th. While he and I stay connected through talking and texting, and there are still things I’m managing from a distance, the fact that he is no longer living with us leaves me with an unshakable feeling that I’ve failed. I know we’re still in the middle of it all, but that feeling is deep and I can’t seem to separate from my own childhood pain that is bubbling up living through an aspect of this again.
Three days after my son moved out I get a call from my Mom. They’re going through their own huge challenges, not the least of which is the 95% probability that my dad has thyroid cancer. All of his testing so far says it’s very likely, but we won’t know for 100% sure until he has surgery next month. I could make this paragraph longer but I won’t out of respect for their privacy.
Cue three more weeks and it’s my son’s 16th birthday. It’s not the first birthday I haven’t spent with him since his dad and I have been splitting summers for years, but knowing he wasn’t coming back beyond visiting hit crazy hard. After a full day of near tears and actual tears I get a call from our vet. Tests are back and our German Shepherd has advanced cancer. The fun just does not stop. We’re told that it could be 6 weeks, but we should start saying goodbye to her and choose a time. My husband was off for the following week and we decided we would spend the week with her before taking her back in. 4 days later I’m cooking dinner and turn the corner to realize our dog is no longer breathing. Probably the best for her- as she passed on her bed with family sounds and normalcy all around…but it was personally pretty traumatic to find our dog dead in our kitchen.
Now let’s move on to the professional level. I’ve spent the last almost two years developing a sports tank for nursing moms- something that as a runner and a mama I really needed after each of my kids was born. It wasn’t until after my third little one that I thought “hmmmm, let’s see what we can do about this.” I have proceeded to learn apparel manufacturing and how to run a business from the ground up, which has been no easy task! This process culminated in a Kickstarter Campaign to fund the first run of tanks. Annnnnnnnnd, well, while it’s technically still going for another 10 or so days, let’s just say I’ve raised less than $1000 so far. It has been shared like crazy in mom’s groups, breastfeeding groups and parenting groups. I’ve gotten tons of excitement and positive feedback…. but no one wants to buy it or invest in it. I have to admit I’m having mixed feelings because about 3/4ths of the way through this project I realized it was rapidly pushing me into the role of a full-time working mom, which I am not by choice. I love being with my kids for the most part and I really do love being a stay at home/work at home mom. I didn’t realize everything it took to truly run an actual company until much later in the game and then spent some more sleepless nights feeling guilty about not being with my kids enough. With a failed Kickstarter I’ve just saved myself another year plus of my kids childhood trying to make something work that ultimately wouldn’t (not to mention lots of $$$$). Last but not least, I can’t tell you how much I desperately missed making art. It’s SO hard, this one, because it is a labor of love and not money. It sometimes feels so irresponsible. Starting a company was great for my ego- I felt so grown up, so…together! Having it fail, while secretly (though not secret anymore as I’m typing it here) relieving on one level, has been HARD on my ego for sure. Add it to my list of things I feel like I’ve failed at. Cue the old childhood feelings of “you’ll never amount to anything” and “you’re wasting you’re potential”. Ugh, I can feel the depressed funk creeping in every time I start thinking about it for too long.
Add a four year old and a 21 month to the mix of all of this and I feel like I can’t catch my breath most days. My daughters are amazing and beautiful. They are also firecrackers that feel driven to challenge every.single.boundary. So they will probably succeed in all the areas I’ve failed in and take over the world, which is awesome… but raising two very strong-willed little girls is fucking exhausting most days.
Come back to today. I feel like an erupting volcano of lava and black slime. of poison. I realize that I’ve been keeping a lid on my emotions since I was very young. I was always the good, easy quiet kid until I became the willful, stubborn, stoic “uncaring” teen, until I figured out how to keep control and a mostly patient, sweet, calm outward being. It’s more complex than that, because I am naturally quiet and introverted, but somehow that has led me down a lifelong path of stuffing every strong emotion and pretending I’m not feeling it. CONTROL is the word. I want to go back in time to my child-self and tell her it’s okay to laugh too loud, to scream, to cry. Tell her you don’t have to go through life telling people “it’s fine, it doesn’t matter”, because sometimes it really does matter. This year I can’t keep it up. It’s been slowly leaking out of me, but now I’m cracking all over and falling to pieces. Even my running can’t keep it down the way it used to. It helps, but where I used to feel so free just getting out the door, I instead spend the first 3 miles of every run feeling like I’m having a panic attack. Then as I keep pushing pushing pushing running running running it slowly subsides until I feel ready for another day. One day at a time.
The worst part of all of this? I feel angry for even feeling angry. Can you say first world problems? My kids are healthy, my husband loves me, has a great job, I even get to choose to stay home with my kids. I feel like an asshole for even complaining…and I feel like a shitty mom for my kids not being “enough”.
But I am. I feel like throwing furniture through the windows. I feel like running until my heart stops beating. Not all the time, but waaaayyyy more than I am comfortable with.
I am making a promise to myself to get back in the studio and start making art again. I don’t know what it’s going to look like. I look at my older pieces and it feels like even my art-making process is a way to maintain control. Like I’m suppressing my emotions stitch by stitch, pencil stroke by pencil stroke. I need to let go. I don’t know how.
This whole blog post is a messy mess. Something tells me that’s all it’s going to be for awhile.
Just for the record though, my husband had to send me an entire descriptive multi-step email telling me how to turn his computer on. There are very cool aspects to being married to an engineer/musician, but using his electronics is not one of them.