Turning Thirty

thirty

I’ve been looking forward to turning 30 for years. No joke. I realize that isn’t the typical response to bumping up to the next decade, but honestly I’m so glad to be here.

My twenties were rough. OK, my twenties were shit. Yes, there were good parts and even parts that were so beautiful I couldn’t imagine not having experienced them, but for the most part it was just a drag.

Honestly, I came into my twenties in a bad place. I had full scholarships to college and partied them away. I got pregnant at 19 when I had no idea how to take care of even the tiniest responsibilities in my own life, much less all that comes with raising another human being. My poor kid has spent the last ten years watching me grow up just as much as I watched her. I got married knowing full well that it would end in divorce in an ill attempt to prove that I was totally ready to start a family and be a good little wife and mother. I had another kid to further cement in other people’s minds that I was totally a grown up family lady now. I wasn’t and neither was he and we were divorced after only a few years.

After that, I really just didn’t know what to do with myself. I had no idea who I was, what I believed, and certainly had no idea what I wanted my life to be about.

I made bad decisions and then worse decision and some of those decisions affected my children. I’ve carried around so much guilt for years, even after I finally found my footing and had somewhat started on a better path.

Despite all the bad, I can say that I certainly learned a lot. I always wished I could be one of those people who seem to just know who they are and what they want. They leave high school and immediately go to college, make good grades, and get their degrees. They land good jobs, get married, have a couple babies and never seem to question any of those decisions. What I’ve learned about those people is that they only exist in the minds of others who don’t really know anything about their lives. It may look like they never questioned themselves, and maybe they didn’t for the most part, but they had moments when they felt just like I did. We all do.

It’s taken years of self reflection and getting to a point where I could be totally honest with me, but I’ve made some big moves as far as figuring out what the hell I’m actually doing here. For so many years, I was many things, but I was never Caitlin. I was alternative emo chick, I was a hippie, I was party girl, I was a wife, I was a mother and so many other things, but never Caitlin. It was like I would put on these masks and they totally took over every part of me and I became a totally different person each time. I’ve learned that while I am a wife and a mother and a student, but those things are not me entirely; they are just parts of me. I’ve found that it’s so important to understand yourself on the levels that don’t change. Your career, your relationships, and where you live all of that can change and really has nothing to do with who you are as a person. You have to dig deeper than that and find the things that will always be with you. That’s your anchor. So when big changes happen or this become uncertain, you stay grounded.

Now, at the age of 30, I am so many things, but most importantly I am me. I have an amazing husband and two amazing daughters who I homeschool. I make good grades at the W and I’m pretty good at crafty things. I enjoy writing and hope to one day pursue a career related to writing and/or literature. All of those things are huge parts of my life and I enjoy them immensely and not one of them by itself defines who I am as a person.

(Side Note: Can we please do away with the phrase “dirty thirty”? Just ew.)

Advertisements

My Anxiety Cycles

th

I’ve been battling my anxiety lately. Anxiety goes hand-in-hand with depression, but I don’t really talk about the depression part anymore, because at this point, I honestly think the anxiety is the root of all of it. I think that if I could cure the anxiety part, then the rest of it would be mute, but as anyone with anxiety knows, there really is no curing it.

I talked a little about cycles in my last post. I see my anxiety in cycles. Like, for a while I’m doing well. I’m balancing everything that needs to be done and feeling pretty good about it. Then one day, I realize that I’m behind on laundry and for the next three weeks I’m in bed thinking about how I have no purpose and I’m a failure. I fight off thoughts of suicide. For the record, I’ve never thought about actually taking my own life, but more the idea of it. What would happen if I weren’t here? Would they miss me more than they are relieve? Would my own relief be worth them missing me? At this point, I’ve never not been able to tell myself that taking my own life would be catastrophic. Right now, I’m not afraid that I will do it; I’m afraid that the day will come when it doesn’t sound like a crazy idea. If that makes sense.

th5dw5aruo

I bet that sounds totally irrational to you. I miss some laundry and then wham I’m not worth the breath I consume. It is irrational. It’s crazy. It’s my life.

I’m the absolute worst at feeling like I’m miraculously healed anytime I go more than a couple of months without incident; only to be super let down when things go bad again. I have all of these methods for making my day to day life go easier: meditation, keeping to a schedule, making sure I have some social interaction that’s not too intense, etc. Once I get off track though, all of it goes to hell. It’s really hard to stick to all of it, and I’m pretty sure the pressure that I feel to stick to all of it is part of the problem. It just keeps cycling around, y’all.

I haven’t been in a good place lately. That’s pretty much why I’m writing this post. It helps to put it out there and when I blog it, I don’t have to actually talk to anyone about it, and that helps me sometimes. I’m pretty open about my anxiety in general, but when things aren’t going well, I just don’t want to talk. I feel ashamed I suppose. Like, if I can’t talk to you from a place where I’m overcoming or succeeding in my own eyes, than I just feel a lot of shame about it. I’m working on that. I’m about to try and sleep. If I can sleep well tonight, then I will have energy tomorrow. If I have energy, than I can check a few things off of my to-do list. If I get some things done, then I feel accomplished, so on and so forth.  Resetting the cycle, basically.

2017 hasn’t started out on the best foot, but to be honest, every year of my life has parts where I was paralyzed by anxiety, so that doesn’t mean anything about the year as a whole. I’m still looking for good things in 2017.

My co-parenting experience.

Parenting is hard. We all know that by now, right? One of the more difficult aspects of parenting that I don’t hear much about is co-parenting. It’s something that we all deal with, whether married, separated, divorced, or the two of you never even dated. Co-parenting is an adventure all its own. I will tell you that my ex and haven’t always done the greatest job. The first year after we divorced, I was forever thinking of ways to move out of the country so I could avoid him. I just wanted my girls to be raised my way all the time and he really got in the way of that with all that being their father stuff. And when you add in the inevitable mom guilt that comes with divorcing- yeah, it can be really hard.

For the last few years, things have gotten better. This past year in fact, has been particularly good. I’ve realized that he is a good father. Yes, he and I are very different, but that’s ok. I’ve learned that if I do have an issue I can’t immediately get mad. We have a lot of conversations now and try to get on the same page instead of proving a point or convincing one another that they’re wrong. I can see a difference in our girls. They know that if there is an issue at home, then their daddy is going to hear about it. At one point they were clearly learning how to swing things with us and since he and I did very little communicating, it worked. Now, they know that mom and dad are going to talk about anything they say, so they better tell the truth.

Recently, Maizie had her 8th birthday party and instead of having two separate parties, we had one. Everyone showed up to the same place to celebrate our girl together. I like the idea of them having one big extended family, instead of two sides. I think she really enjoyed that too. Not long ago she told me that she might want to move in with her dad. While we both agreed that she’s a bit young to make that decision and we don’t want to mess with her stability right now, I’m aware that when she is old enough to really decide, she may decide to go. As a mom, that’s so hard, but he’s trusted me many times when he didn’t necessarily agree (i.e. homeschool) so it will be my turn to trust him.

Don’t get me wrong, I am infinitely grateful that we’ve been able to work through some issues, but I realize that this isn’t possible in many cases. That’s ok too. You have to do what’s best for your children and sometimes that means keeping distance. There is no “right” way to parent. What’s important is that at the end of the day you’re there for your child; that the child has stability in some form. And don’t mistake financial security for stability because that’s not the same thing.

We all do what we have to do to get from day to day, right? This is just a little about how we make things work. We still get on each other’s nerves from time to time, but we’re here. I’m here. He’s here. Each of our spouses is here. We’re doing our best, and that’s all we can do.

How do you co-parent? What’s your best co-parenting advice?

 

How to not get schooled by your own kid.

{LOUD NOISES FOLLOWED BY RAISED ARGUING VOICES.}

Me: If you two can’t get along, then you can go to your own rooms and play by yourselves.

{10 MINUTES OF SILENCE, THEN LOUD NOICES FOLLOWED BY LOUD VOICES}

Me: I SAID keep it DOWN. Are you ready to be separated?!

Maizie: Mom, we were just playing and getting along like you said that time! What do you want us to do?? We’re kids!

 

Well, damn. Once again, I’m schooled by a 7 year old. I’m pretty sure this shouldn’t happen as often as it does. Am I the only one who constantly fails at the very things that are at the core of their parenting beliefs? Like, I’m very much against forcing children to eat. Clean plates are all fine and good, but they aren’t necessary, but at least once a week I hear myself tell one of them that they need to finish their supper. I’m not saying let them eat ice cream all day and to hell with the veggies, but making them eat when they aren’t hungry isn’t teaching them anything good. Yet, I do it anyway. Is it just engrained in me that deeply? Am I not “in the moment” enough to even be aware of what I’m saying?

And back to the conversation that I started with, I hate seeing parents scold their children for merely behaving how children should. Like Maizie said, they’re kids. Let them be kids. There will be plenty of time for acting like adults in a few years, so for now, while they’re here at home and not bothering anyone, let them be kids.

It’s so easy to get frustrated as a parent. It’s so easy to get caught up with my adult stuff (cleaning, getting bills paid, school work) and speak harshly to them before I take inventory of what’s actually going on around me. That behavior should have been immediately praised. (For the record, after I admitted that I was wrong, I did praise their behavior, but that should have been my first instinct.) Anyway, enough with the mom guilt (which I also hate, but there I go again), let’s talk about how to do better. I made myself a little list of a few things to help me stay in the moment with them and even a couple things to fix it when I forget. It’s been helping me so maybe it will help you too:

  1. Pause. Even just a few seconds to grab my thoughts before reacting is enough to pull my thoughts back in and think about what’s happening.
  2. Ask myself, is this really a problem? Like, is this really an issue that I need to correct? Is someone getting hurt? Is someone being mean? Or am I just pissed about forgetting to take the garbage out and looking for a place to put my anger?
  3. Be the example. When I yell at my children to get them to stop yelling, I feel like the most ridiculous human being on the planet. Be an example. Always. If I want them to be more calm, then I have to be calm. If I want them to eat more vegetables, then I need to eat more vegetables. So on and so forth.
  4. Find a middle ground. They just can’t contain their excitement and my nerves are way passed shot? That’s what backyards are for. Send them outside to run it off. Or better yet, throw them in the car and go to the park so we can all blow off some steam. Even though I think I’m super busy and important, the truth is that I’m really never so busy that I can’t spend an hour at the park.
  5. Apologize when I act like an ass. Ok, I slipped up… Again. Unfortunately I am not perfect and that’s cool, but it’s so important to apologize. It shows them that I respect them and their feeling. Plus, again, I have to be the example.

It’s not mind-blowing stuff here, but it has helped me and hopefully it can help someone else. It’s hard. Parenting is hard. We’ll all mess up again and again, but that’s ok as you can acknowledge that and do better. Also, shout-out to Maizie for not being afraid to call anyone out on their bullshit, even me.

A little about why we homeschool.

I got a call at work one day from my daughter’s school. Her principal requested that I bring her a change of clothes because she was out of dress code. She was out of dress code because she was wearing leggings. Leggings. She was in the third grade. Why leggings are a problem ever, much less in the third grade, is beyond me. On a separate occasion, I was asked to bring a change of clothes because her shorts were too short. She was in the second grade at that time. You need to understand that this is the same child who had to see the school counselor multiple times a week because she acted out due to stress because of the rigorous testing that goes on in public schools; testing that in no way shape or form tells me anything about my child, except how well she answered questions that day. So, she was pulled out of class in the second grade, when she needed to be studying for her test, and told to get down on her knees in order for her shorts to be measured. Honestly, I think the making her get on her knees thing is what really sent me over the edge.

I could go on for days about the repercussions of teaching females that their clothes are more important than their education, that instead of teaching boys to respect girls, we teach our girls to cater to lack of self control in boys, or that their bodies are inherently sexual from day one. I don’t have to tell you what sorts of ideas this puts in little girl’s heads in regard to their place in the world and their worth as humans. I don’t have to, but I will tell you because it needs to be said over and over and over and over until it fucking stops. We are telling our daughters that their bodies are the only thing that matter to this world. We simultaneously tell them to cover up so they aren’t a distraction to boys, and if they don’t cover up then they are slutty and have no worth, and then fill their magazines with ads of half naked women and tell them that THAT is what men find attractive so THAT is what they should aspire to. Maddie said it best the day I brought her extra clothes to school. I told her that the school had decided that her shorts were too short and that was more important to them than for her to be in class learning and she asked, “If they’re too short for school, then why are these the only kind they sell in the cute stores?” Good point kid. I have no idea why society sets you up for failure like that.

Basically, I’m just over it. I’m over feeling like I have to deal with ludicrous standards and bullying because we’re told it’s our only option. There’s this stigma around homeschooling that makes people believe that it’s abnormal or that only certain types of families do it, when nothing could be further from the truth. I’m over being told that by removing my children from a situation that I perceive to be toxic, that I am sheltering them. There is a huge difference between sheltering and providing a nurturing environment for them to learn. And if it is in fact sheltering, then so be it. I am 110% fine with sheltering them from bullshit like that, because contrary to popular opinion, school is nothing like adult life and sitting in a classroom for eight hours a day isn’t the only way for children to learn how to function in social situations. Is it not bizarre to anyone else that in order to “socialize” our children, we send them to a place every day for 13 years that is nothing like any other social setting they will ever encounter?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate public schools and I certainly don’t hate public school teachers. I have loads of respect for teachers for all the hurdles they have to jump just to do their jobs. I have several amazing teachers in my own family, and over the years, the girls have had loving, caring teachers who gave everything they had to their classrooms. (I’m looking at you Ms. Horne.) Plus, they have to deal with mom’s like me who don’t do well with being told to jump hurdles. But, It just didn’t work for us, so we found another way. That’s all. And if this doesn’t work for us, then we will regroup and find a new direction then as well. I refuse to keep doing what I know isn’t working just because it’s what we’re supposed to do. More importantly, I refuse to show M and M that they should accept anything can’t be made better by simply taking a different path.

So, that’s where we are with education right now. I’m slowly learning how to teach them and they’re slowly remembering that learning can be fun; we’re all pretty nervous and excited at the same time. We might fail or we might succeed beyond our own expectations, but either way we tried, and that’s the real lesson here.

Vibez

24373-Leo-Tolstoy-Quote-If-you-want-to-be-happy-be

(pictured acquired via Google search)

A couple of years ago, I had what some people (my therapist) referred to as a total breakdown. I’d been bottling every emotion I had for 10+ years, and finally my body and my mind decided that it was time for a break. I’d been battling depression and anxiety for years. My mood was as unpredictable and extreme as the weather. I stopped eating and sleeping, until finally, I began having seizures. At that point, there was no more hiding the problem. I couldn’t work or drive or even be alone with my children for the first few months; my girls and I had to move in with my mom. I was forced to sit still and think. Something I was not very good at at the time. I was miserable. I was ashamed of what was going on in my head and of where I’d let myself and my girls end up. I laid around my mom’s in my pajamas for weeks until finally she opened my eyes to the opportunity that I wasn’t seeing. I’d been given the chance to start over. Yes, I was in a shitty place, but because of my support system, I didn’t have any responsibility left except to get well. I began writing in the form of journaling. I contacted a therapist, who I met with regularly for over a year, and that was the best decision I have ever made for myself. One very important thing that I learned from my sessions was that every emotion is valid. They aren’t all pretty and they don’t all feel nice, but they are all important and need validation. For years, I’d been preaching about positive vibes, and yeah positivity is important, but meanwhile I was slowly breaking down. If you’re sad, say you’re sad. Cry it out. Wail if you have to. If you’re mad, tell someone that you’re pissed and you aren’t going to put up with that bullshit. These aren’t negative vibes. These are heavy vibes. There is no positive or negative, there’s just light emotion and heavy emotion and some shit is heavier than other shit. That’s all the more reason to put it down. I do believe in being positive, but mostly I believe in being honest. Like, to be honest, most days I feel ridiculous typing all this down and sharing it on the world wide web. As if anyone cares or is even wondering what I might be thinking about today. I still do it though, mostly because I want to and I told myself I would, but also, because maybe someone does need to hear it. And hey, (positive thinking) maybe one day a group of people will want to hear it. And if not, oh well. I enjoy writing and it helps me to have a place to get things out. So yea, enjoy your happiness, laugh as much as possible, but don’t dismiss your sadness or your anger. Any real self-discovery I’ve ever made came after immense sadness and anger. I love the light times, but it’s the heavy times for which I’m most grateful.

Choices

I’ve been asked more than once why I decided to go back to school, and specifically, why in the hell I would major in English. Usually I brush people off, because honestly, I’m almost 30 now and I just really don’t have time for people who don’t understand or aren’t positive about my journey these days. Like, if you don’t get it, then IDFWY and that’s that. It occurred to me recently, however, that maybe I shouldn’t be so dismissive; so, I thought I’d touch on the subject here.

A couple of years ago, I was playing restaurant with M and M. We took each other’s orders and served the food and giggled about how there really should be a restaurant that served pizza AND cheeseburgers like our pretend restaurant did. As we were eating our pretend meal, Maizie announced that she wanted to be a waitress just like me when she grew up. Now, on one hand, I was flattered that she wanted to be like her mom, but on the other hand, I was heartbroken at how low I’d set the bar. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to put down servers in any way. I’ve been one full and part time off and on since high school. Serving has provided much needed cash flow in my home and many times that extra cash is what kept me afloat. It’s a difficult and many times thankless job and it isn’t that I wouldn’t be proud of them if they chose that as a career, because I will be proud of my girls no matter what career they choose. It was their ability to choose that worried me.

I couldn’t stop thinking about their future. I worried myself sick about whether they would ever see all of the options before them, or if they would feel like some things were out of reach, as I had for so long. I realized that telling them they could do anything wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to tell them to set goals and it wasn’t enough to buy them books about adventurous girls. I had to show them.

Flash forward to last night. They are two years older and I just completed my first semester back in school. The girls and I are talking about dreams and goals and Maddie says, “My number one goal is to go to UCLA after I graduate from Ole Miss,” then Maizie follows her up with, “I want to go to Ole Miss and I want to be a Vet.” Although Maizie was heartbroken to hear that Ole Miss doesn’t have a Vet school, she was relieved that there were other options besides Mississippi State. (Side note: I am not an Ole Miss fan, but as long as they want to go to college it’s whatever forever.) In that moment, I knew exactly how the Grinch felt at the end of the book when his heart grows several sizes because mine felt like it would burst.

So to answer all of the people who don’t understand why I’m going back to school and particularly why I’m majoring in English: this is why. It’s because they needed to know what it looks like to set a goal and see it through. They needed to know that it’s never too late. They needed to know that the world is big and full of possibilities. They needed to know that the world doesn’t end at the Monroe County line, and now they know and so do I and that feels really good to all of us. And whatever we choose to do school wise, career wise, or what have you, it won’t be because we didn’t know.

Raising brave women is not for the faint of heart. You not only have to teach the lessons, you have to be a living breathing example of the lessons and that’s all I’m trying to do here. Maybe I will become a real published writer one day; maybe I will hang my degree on the wall and keep waiting tables. I really don’t know and won’t know until the time comes to make that choice. But I do know this, whatever I do, it will be my choice.