The Chosen

Full moon rises outside the window
Two deadweight bodies radiating body heat
Legs across mine
Claiming me as their own even in sleep
I don’t mind
I have been theirs since the moment I could finally hold them in my arms instead of vaguely curse at them to get the fuck out of me

Tension rises outside the door
Voices raised as emotions are expressed
Two people learning how to love each other again
How to belong to each other
And themselves
I don’t mind
I have been there, walked those exact steps, been overcome and overwhelmed and desperate
And came out the other side with more love than I ever believed possible

Words rise inside of me
Always wanting to get out
Past my tied tongue and my half open eyes and stiff fingers they demand release
I don’t mind
Racing across the page they are the wind in my sails
Pulling the weight from my heart and pouring it on the page they are my anchor
They are my breath in good times and bad

We rise out of expectations
Insisting on making our own way
Laying down the burdens of antiquated ideals
Ignoring the calls for self sacrifice from the same lips that call us entitled
I love him I love her they love me we love
And I don’t mind
The side eye when I introduce my partnerS
Call myself a witch
Or hear my child drop the f bomb at story time
Because at the end, when I walk into the light again, I will never wonder what my life would have been like if I had chosen it instead of accepted what I was given

Shallow Breaths 1

One of the Authors I look up to the most described her start in writing as the place she could breathe. The place she could be absolutely honest. The place she can lower her defenses long enough to survive the rest of life.

I have continued to sit with this for a couple of days, most notably for the reason that a friend sent me an article about ausitic “masking”. Here is the link. And holy hell I felt seen.

So I started thinking, how much do I breathe? Sadly, the answer seemed to be “not much”. I breathe at the end of the day when I have two children sleeping next to me a some low pressure British reality TV show playing in the background and I contemplate whether or not I should go to sleep as I am so tired life is blurry.

That’s… not cool. And certainly not healthy. And I can blame children and schedules and my Taurean need for excessive amounts of sleep and everything else. And for a long time I have told myself that its just not my season for writing. But if writing is where I can breathe… and one of the only places I can breathe… then every season is the season for writing. Because every season is the season for breathing.

Let us breathe.

And, in all honesty, let’s begin with some shallow breaths. Because while yoga would have us believe that you can just slow down and immediately start that shit, I would contend that in this analogy, we cannot start with deep breaths. Deep breaths require a level of focus not found in the five minute gasps we grant ourselves in quiet moments and in the learning how to take off our masks and in pulling the truth from outside of us to lay on a page and present to the world.

Shallow breaths, on the other hand, doable.

For instance: I consume damn near every article I find about “picky eaters” because I was one and seem to be raising one. Now, admittedly, as a white woman, I manage to take everything too personally, so please hold that information as I go on. This last article I was reading started with acknowledging that dinner was often a fight in her household, with her father being extremely strict and forcing her to sit at the table for hours to eat perfectly good food that her mother had prepared but that could often have uncomfortable and unexpected textures that would make the food hella unappetizing. I nodded to myself. This battle would make food difficult for anyone, especially a child. But then the author completely switched gears and blamed the mom. It was mom’s fault. Mom never let her into the kitchen. Mom ran a one woman show in there and if she could have only helped prepare the food then maybe, maybe she would have been more adventurous.

So, of course, I applied this directly to myself and my picky eater. And called bullshit. Again, I understand this was not written about me and my picky eater. I have absolutely no idea what the rest of the author’s home life was like. How much time she spent there. Whether the power struggles extended to her clothes, friends, hobbies, etc. If she had siblings who were also picky eaters or whether they were vacuum cleaners who tried everything put in front of them. Even acknowledging these unknowns, I call bullshit.

I try to let the kids into the kitchen. I want them to learn skills. I want to share this with them. But goddess dammit sometimes it is just my happy place and I need to be alone in it. I am beyond blessed to have the most helpful children. Who are home with me, all day, because we homeschool, and love being by my side. And its amazing.

And exhausting as every living fuck.

“Moms, it might slow you down a little. It might require patience. But inviting kids into the kitchen could change their whole perspective about the world of food.”

“Might?” Fucking might? Have you tried going on a walk with children without being slowed down? Cool, let’s now add raw meat, hot pans, time sensitive steps, sharp knives, and brains still developing so listening skills are not at their absolute best. I mean, sounds like a great fucking time. An awesome way to wind down at the end of the day where you have given your family your absolute all and helped them identify their emotions and set up art/science projects, joined them in the constant clean up efforts to keep your house from becoming a safety hazard, clutched your heart as they learn skills like bike riding and climbing by failing a few times before flying and know you *have* to let them get a little hurt. Hard fucking pass fram. Mom’s are allowed sanity time, and allowed to have it in the kitchen while making food for everyone else.

Especially because let’s face it – mom’s dinner is not where we learn “adventurous eating”. I make the same 20ish dishes in various forms on a cycle of repeat. My mom did the same thing. As did her mom. As does every cooking mom I know. We cook from our comfort zone.

If anything, my picky eater is more adventurous when we eat out than when we eat at home for the *lack* of being able to peek behind the veil. And whether home or out, it is his autonomy that drives what he eats and what he doesn’t. Safe, secure, confident, good day? High chance he will try a new food. Bad, sad, hard day? Bring on the chicken nuggets. Because he’s a person and frankly most adults operate that way too. I want comfort food at the end of a hard day. Not because I’m afraid to try new things, but because emotionally I gain comfort from the familiar instead of expending energy on the unknown.

So… can we not blame a mom jiving to her own beat for a half an hour preparing food for a family that may or may not fully appreciate the effort? Can we acknowledge that not only is that not how human psychology works, but that requesting that *every* activity be made about the child we teach children and ourselves that boundaries aren’t important when they really, really are?

“Thank you, but now is not a great time to help mommy. I don’t want you to get hurt, but also, I really need this time for me. This is some me time. I would love you to help me another time, though.”

I’m all about opinion pieces. And acknowledge and understand that everyone’s experience is unique and this author might have been desperate for a peek behind the veil and, I dare say, some connection time with her mother.

At the same time, I feel the need the point out that the endless power struggles with her father and the implied lack of autonomy miiiiiiiight have been a driving factor in the need to control what graced her lips? Just me? Cool.

To adults with mother wounds: I am sorry and hold space for you.

To mothers: I see you especially. We are doing the best we can in a society that robs us of our resources and guilts us for fighting for our own sanity and space. You keep doing you.

To picky eaters: the world is full of so many things to experience and enjoy. If you like ordering chicken nuggets everywhere you go – you do you and fuck the haters. So long as your mind is open to other people doing things differently than you and still being valid, honestly, you’re doing better than a lot of the world.

A Eulogy for my Perfectionist Child Syndrome

*Pro tip: if you ever delude yourself into thinking you’re so far along in your healing journey that you’re running out of things to address say, out loud, to the Universe, “But what would I even talk to a therapist about?” And just wait. It’ll come. Like a goddamn dump truck.

*Based on a true story.

Today, in a partner meeting in which topics of budgeting and cost saving procedures were brought up, I felt my anxiety spike. SPIKE.

Was the blame placed at my feet? No. Was pressure to solve the issues put on me? Nope. Was anything brought up in any way that could be considered remotely accusatory? Also no. None of those things. And I have been begging and pleading for budging for…ever. For always. I am the cheap partner in a bougie triad. I should be joyous. Busting out the excel spreadsheet and entering data sets to my heart’s content.

Instead, I was forcing myself to breathe without hyperventilating. Why? I took the time to ask myself. Why am I feeling this way? This is what I wanted. Changes proposed would actually take things off my plate, reduce my stress, and pad the budget.

If you must know, the answer seems to be two fold. The first is due to Perfectionist Child Syndrome. This comes when your parents are so stressed (or other things, for my parents it was stress) that if your parents notice you, it’s because something has gone wrong. No attention means you are doing well enough to not break through their other stressors. Your teachers tell them how wonderful you are in class. You have straight A’s. When you’re at home you keep your head down, and eat what is given to you, and smile when you are looked at to reassure them that all is well.

If they bring something up, or want to talk, or need to show you something – it’s negative. Grades need to be better. Manners need to be minded. Rooms need to be cleaned. Something is not good enough.

So when *anything* I do, or have a hand in, is brought up to be changed in any way, my immediate reaction is “if this task/pattern/chore/emotion is getting noticed, then I have done it poorly” which brings intense anxiety.

A less than helpful problem solving response.

This brings us to the second part. Namely, my ability to blow shit way out of proportion based on irrational and crippling fear. Because if I am doing something poorly enough to be noticed, then what value do I bring to the relationship? And if I have no value, will they let me stay?

I am secure in my partners love, and so I thought that I was wholly secure. Turns out not. Turns out I have deep insecurities about my value. I know my partners love me. BUT. But if I keep the house clean, if I make elaborate meals for dinner, if I homeschool the children to excellence, if I single handedly maintain the budget, if – if – if – then they won’t leave me. Then they will decide I am worth keeping around.

And let’s not mince words: I am wholly dependent on them. I bring in not a single dollar to our bottom line. Oh, don’t bother quoting me the math. I am well aware. We would bleeeeeed money if I were to try and work outside the home. Childcare, increased car, food, and clothes cost. Increased stress for all parties. In no scenario do we gain money by having me work outside the home. If anything, it can be considered that for room and board, I am a 24/7 nanny, decent housekeeper, and quite a good chef while also being an errand runner, laundress, grocery shopper, personal assistant, teacher, and bookkeeper. Which, based on industry averages, is a HELL of a deal.

Yet. Despite all I bring to the relationships, I feel deeply inadequate. Like I have to earn my place in the home, a seat at the table, and the privilege to homeschool our children.

And to be extra-ordinarily clear: my partners say, if not daily then multiple times a week, that they see me, and what I do. They see the effort and the work that I pour out. That they value me and appreciate me. In no way have I *ever* been made to feel as if my place was precarious, my value dependent on my cleaning lady/chef/teacher output. This is something that I wholly put on myself because I have drank deeply of the poison of capitalism. I have gargled that stank until I reek of it. And I hate it. I can rail against it until I am blue in the face. That no one should be broken down into only what they can provide in monetary worth. That productivity is not the golden standard to what is or is not worth my time. That everyone has a place at the table, regardless of their ability to bring tangible gifts to it. And that emotional labor, child rearing, house work, and general life maintenance are valuable labor and deserve recognition and inherent worth. And turn around, look at myself in the mirror, and feel terror that I haven’t done enough today.

Maybe it’s because the fear of god (literally) was put in me as a child and I feared for my eternal soul if I didn’t do enough to prove my faith to a god who watched me all the time to judge my every thought.

Maybe it’s because we live in a society that literally drowns us in messaging that the most essential labor (and therefore laborers) are replaceable and therefore not worth living pay, basic human consideration, or any kind of meaningful recognition. Let alone dignity, honor, and contentment.

Maybe it’s because only women are ever asked if they will choose children or careers while it is an assumption that men can have both, because their partner will shoulder the extra burden – for free.

Probably it’s all of that and an (un)healthy dose of trauma passed down by ancestors and a (not) fun glitch in my brain that requires a daily dose of prozac.

What matters is that I name it. And then strike a match and, much like capitalism, the patriarchy,  and the idea that America is a Christian nation, not stop rooting it out and burning it down until there is no trace left.

What matters is that it stops with me. And my kids do not toss at night wondering if they did enough to earn their place in this world, or their home. As if a place in a home is something to be earned. As if love is a currency to be traded on.

What matters is that I tell myself a truer story – that I am worthy. Of love. Of a home. Of safety and security. And then I tell everyone that truer story.

So here it is, this is the match struck: I am safe. I am worthy. My value is not dependent on my output. Period. I’d say may my perfectionist child syndrome and irrational fears rest in peace but fuck that. Fuck that hard. Let’s burn those bad boys to a crisp and then piss on the ashes. Let’s dance naked around the grave, shoot silver bullets into casket, and let out a string of curses that would make my racist grandmother blush and my gypsy ancestors proud. Let’s show them a full moon full of glorious cellulite as we twirl, sexually satisfied and shameless about our jiggle, while swearing oaths that those who come after us will never see the fears we conquered.

Let’s just… live.