Ten Years

Yesterday, Hope and I observed the 10th anniversary of her moving in and me taking custody.

I knew the day was coming, but I wasn’t intentionally keeping up with it. And then, last night a fleeting thought crossed my mind…

“Wait, is today the day? We probably missed it.”

::Looks at calendar::

Oh damn, today is the day.

So, I sent Hope a text.

Our celebration.

It is pretty crazy. In many ways it flew by, I flipped thru her graduation pictures recently. And then there’s evidence of the struggles, each one feeling like it was its own eternal path.

I see the nearly totally gray head of hair. The few new moles on my cheeks. The meds and supplements I take now that I didn’t take then (I’m looking at you, raggedy arse Estrogen that I can’t seem to live without about 15 days or of month, but I digress).

Hope is a legal adult now. She’s so different than the little kid who sat on my cousin’s floor on Thanksgiving and looked the sole of her own foot for an hour desperately willing our attention. What I didn’t know then, but I know now is that When Hope didn’t get enough attention she will have us at the urgent care within 24-36 hours. After a couple of years of unnecessarily dramatic ER trips, I have to try really hard not to be skeptical when she says she’s not feeling well. I know my kid, I swear I’ve experienced so much that I struggle with empathy desensitization. Not proud of it.

Hope is a early twenty something with tats and a nose piercing, a huge head of natural hair, who loves her body, is trying to figure this next chapter out, wanting so much more freedom and never admitting that she knows she’s not ready for it but all her peers are doing all the things.

And our 9th year…

Our 9th year was as difficult as the first 2 years. Now that I think of it, they were mirrors. How the problems manifested differently, but the core issue? Trust and attachment? Yeah.

I’ve been meaning to create a new vision board for the year. The years that I have done them, consistently the things came to pass within 2.5 years. The last one I created was in 2020 before the pandemic. And despite the pandemic, much of it has come to fruition in its own way. But during these 3 years I’ve also experienced some dark emotional stuff that’s made me so different from the person I was 3 years ago. So it’s something I need to do to recapture my bearings. I’ve felt rudderless for some months now.

Some of that is because I’ve been really working hard to process these years. Some of my absolute worst fears came true, just one devastating trauma after another. Every damn year. I’d think, Aye, it’s been two months and we might have leveled out. But, no.

So I’m hitting it hard in therapy these days and wrestling with that stuff hasn’t gotten to the much better phase quite yet. It’s better, much ‘much’ is a stretch.

I’m also seriously considering what it would be like if I did the work I do with some other group or freelance. What would it be like to drive hard for 3-5 years and walk away. I legit feel a deficit in my lifespan after last year especially. I’m feeling like a stretched too far hair tie when the elastic is clearly broken but we just pretend that it still works perfectly.

Yeah, like that.

So I’m trying to figure out financially what’s possible and then after a year or so of nothingness but granting my within-budget heart’s desire, what then? What will make me happy and fulfilled. What level of financial freedom will I have? What’s next?

And how does Hope figure into the plan? Will she be able to create a fully independent life? What other things can I do now to help her scaffold and construct her adult life

So there’s quietly a lot going on over here. Hope is doing well, getting a job really helps emotionally. And I’m just figuring out just what I went thru last year and how do I recover and regain my confidence. It’s easy to say I wouldn’t do xx again when you couldn’t think of anything better so…?

So anyway, I’m ok. We’re ok. We survived together.

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Girl, What?

This parenting-a young-adult thing is so damn hard. I remember one time a former pastor of mine told me that God actually does give you more than you can handle in order to make you more faithful. It was powerful in the moment, but now I see that interpretation as manipulative, insinuating that everything I was already doing wasn’t sufficient… Give and do more.

Hope is evolving. Spreading her wings a bit. It’s awesome and terrifying. Her judgment is still shaky, and I kid you not, she’s into some new-ish nearly weekly.

Well in her most recent boondoggle, Hope asked me over text could she spend one night a week at her beau’s house. I replied a quick no, and braced for the firestorm.

I’m not even going to pretend to lie; my reasons for not agreeing to Hope staying out all night are complicated. I wish she was doing it from a dorm room, away at school, so I could pretend to not know anything about it, you know, the way God intended. But noooo! I have to take it on the chin and be gracious.

My reasons are a nasty mix of a conservative Baptist upbringing, fortified with a side of respectability politics and a little classism hiding up under my far left-leaning, sex-positive politics. I come from generations of clergy and this feels like the last shred of my own upbringing that I haven’t abandoned. No, bring yourself right home.

She both understands and doesn’t understand, and I totally get that. I’m considering letting her stay out on New Year… Which just sounds lame. Of course, she would stay out at New Years. Duh!

Anyway, we start talking about her adulting plans, and frankly, this is where my brain hurt.

Hope: I mean, I’m practically independent now. I pay my car note and my phone bill.

Me: *jaw drops* Um, the house costs money. I pay for your car insurance. Food?

Hope: Oh right, I need to figure out how to sign up for food stamps.

Wait, what?

This continued until I whispered, ‘Why do you want to be poor when you don’t have to be?’

Look I’ve already admitted to being bougie and sometimes classist… Back to my story…

Long story short, they’re so much she didn’t and doesn’t know that she was parroting things she heard around the way. Bless her heart, it doesn’t seem like she had so much as googled anything related to moving.

So we are starting an email thread where she can ask me questions about what it takes to move out. I suggested email because I don’t trust us not to follow communication rules in person. That said, our mutual self-control in this conversation was damn near Olympic-worthy.

So we are working towards independence in 2023. Ironically, this concept, this path, is literally what triggered our chaos seven months ago.

Yeah, really. Smh.


Things I Got So Wrong

Of course, I’ve worked hard to be a good parent, but like so many there are countless things I have done, still do, and probably forever will do wrong.

And by wrong, I mean, I effed up, and added more trauma and drama to the mix. I did my best with what I knew at the time, but like many things, more days of living leads to more knowledge–usually about the ways you effed up, but still more knowledge.

I came across this video on TikTok recently.

Whew, was I hit in the gut. Now, this wasn’t my consistent approach to parenting, but from the start, Hope leveraged illness as a way to get attention. We were regulars at the local hospital ER and at the urgent care when I could not continue to justify the $100 hospital co-pay and additional doctor bills.

It was almost always a stomach ache that triggered the visits. Consistently, the diagnosis was dehydration or no diagnosis at all. It was always an unfulfilling medical visit–for her, no diagnosis meant no sympathy attention and for me no diagnosis meant here we go again.

I’m a GenXer with numerous medical conditions that I just grin and bear it through. I admit, like the video–I have adapted to my limitations, accepted them, and found ways around them. I could never understand why Hope wouldn’t just push through.

Eventually, it became easier to dismiss the tummy ache or encourage her to shake it off. Then she actually had kidney stones, but she was unwilling to make a few modifications to prevent future attacks. It was frustrating–she was finally legitimately sick and wouldn’t do anything to help herself.

Then the pandemic hit and drove through the two of us like a buzzsaw. So many traumatic things have happened during these three years; ironically none of them were COVID-related. She got very sick a few times during this time and tests revealed some truly serious medical issues. I was always frustrated because Hope was unwilling to pursue treatments, and of course, I took that to mean maybe it wasn’t so bad.

But it was. All of it fed into our upheaval this year, and I bear the bulk of the guilt around why. Try as I might, I wasn’t able to consistently be the mom she needed. I was dismissive. I couldn’t understand why she couldn’t meet the challenges. I was angered by her refusal to see her part in her health improvement.

She made a few videos about me and my lack of empathy, which initially made me double down in my own foolishness. Now, many months later, I see my own role in our struggles so differently.

I thought I was meeting her where she was, but I wasn’t. The expectations were definitely not aligned with her capacity levels. Not at all. I kick myself often about how I stopped taking her complaints seriously and then wasn’t able to respond the way she needed. Sure, she was trying to get my attention with the medical shenanigans, but I was so wrong to expect her to behave completely rationally when she was really testing my ability and willingness to embrace her as she was and is. And, well, those tests were completely rational to her.

I’ve been working on my own alignments this last month in particular. It’s like I had some awakenings on things that just were not working in my parenting. It’s all resulted in a nice list of things to work on in therapy, like why does that attention-seeking behavior trigger me so? What daily things can I do to reduce her need for such behavior?

Even with Hope being a young adult; I’m still actively parenting. I’m realizing that there was a part of me that assumed the heavy lift would be over with Hope nicely ensconced in college somewhere. I did so much of my growing away from my parents’ watchful eyes while away at school. Hope is home; I’m seeing it all from the front row. It’s difficult to know when to intervene and when not to because the “adulting” line can be so murky at this age. It’s like jumping into a double dutch jumping session; and I have trouble jumping rope with one rope, much less two.

I’m continuing to work on being a better parent and I’m fortunate that Hope notes my efforts; even when I fail miserably, which is invariably often. All these years later, I’m still figuring this parenting thing out. I’m hopeful that I will continue to grow and break cycles of dysfunction for myself and my daughter. None of this is easy, but it is necessary.

Onward.


Whew, Gratitude

I’m just grateful to have had the stamina to make it to this point to be honest. For me, a single mom with my own life tragedies and traumas this year that are largely invisible, still standing s its own miracle.

I forget my single mom label sometimes. Sometimes I’ll hear about other parents struggling with their aging kids, and it might sound so much worse. Yeah, me, comparing the weight of most parents’ worst nightmares. Then I remember to give myself grace. I’m winging this parenting ish.

I finally found good resources to help me find my way to a new faith. I want to give more energy to this personal work. My ongoing spiritual journey is rapidly evolving internally while appearing tortoise-like externally.

Anyway, before this drifts into a premature end of year” post, I’ll just say I need the recent developments to show a continued upward trend.


Turning the Corner

We seem to have really, genuinely turned the corner at Casa d’ABM! I lowkey had kinda lost hope that we would ever get back to some semblence of normalcy around here after so much drama this year.

And yet we have.

After so many months of festering anger, bickering, fighting, crying and so much more, Hope and I are clawing our way to our version of normal. And it feels so good.

You barely remember how gloriously boring normal is unless you’ve been mired in conflict for so long. I finally feel like I can breathe.

It’s been a few weeks since Hope finally seemed to emotionally regulate. I’m not fooling myself into believing all the angsty, emotional feelings are gone, but it seems she has a much better handle on things these days.

In fact, she recently decided to try out some medication. She hasn’t agreed to therapy yet, but I’m totally gassed up that she was able to decide that she needed some help through medication. I am optimistic that a return to therapy will happen in time.

Moving out has been removed from the discussion now. She’s not ready, not to mention she’s still unemployed. The skill set just isn’t there yet. She’s also been able to better articulate what’s overwhelming her. What I’m trying to say is, I finally see effort from her. That effort is allowing me to stretch a lot more than I’ve been willing to in recent months.

It also means I’m able to make some holiday decisions and move forward with other plans I need to make about 2023. These last few months just made me feel trapped with respect to planning things for next year. I finally feel like I can plan without upsetting her in ways that will set us back.

The big lesson learned: connection. It always comes back to connection. More than anything, Hope wants to feel connected and accepted as she is. I know that there will be more boundary pushing, but I think I’m a bit better equipped to handle it now.

My biggest hope for 2023 at this point is for Hope to fully embrace needing help with some things, that neither of us feel trapped in a toxic cycle, and that we will continue to work to be our version of normal and something akin to happy.

That still feels like a lot to hope for. The pain and trauma of this year are real, and my heart still hurts a lot. But I do have hope for the direction we’re headed in. And for now, that’s a good thing.


Better

I was a mess in my last post, but I was also honest. I hit a bottom; I’m not sure yet if it was the bottom. I was in trouble.

My primary care doc wrote me a new script and gave me good parenting advice, good medical advice regarding Hope and some great suggestions for getting through this period. He has been my PC for pretty much my whole adult life. He knows me and I trust him.

I bought tickets to go to a play. I invited a friend to go, but she got sick. I took a chance and invited Hope. She said yes and we had a great time. It was a vibe. You really don’t understand…I internally bought last minute tickets and invited a guest, all so I wouldn’t be alone with my thoughts. They’ve been dark. And I was afraid. So to end up going with my daughter and having an amazing night… It saved me.

It also gave me courage to send my Hope an email saying some things I really needed to say to her. I don’t trust us to attempt an in-person discussion. If we had another incident like the one we had this summer, I might need to check myself in somewhere for a short term stay. In any case, I was able to say things that I needed to say in a way that I thought she might understand.

She never acknowledged receiving it, but she’s been more engaging and reasonable since I sent it. I had work travel for the last 4 days, and while she had stopped saying she loves me, she’s back to calling me mom. I got in tonight, and I was treated to her just needing to vent about a problem. It was a treat indeed; when it ended in the sweetest hug and an apology for bending my ear. I legit would have stood there all night.

Things are better. I’m so gunshy; I don’t want to be too optimistic. I’ve racked up a lot off my own trauma this year especially parenting related trauma. But I’m hopeful we will forge a relationship with mutual respect and connectuon. I am hopeful we grow out of all of this


Ugh

Does everything feel hard to you?

Just me? Huh…

Everything is hard.

My respite in the Bahamas was short-lived. I was back in the office last week and feel like I’ve been on the usual rollercoaster ever since.

Hope basically kept the house and Yappy in order while I was away, but something just felt…off when I got home. The energy in the house hasn’t been good since the beginning of the pandemic, but there were all sorts of little things around the house that didn’t seem quite right when I returned. I just let it go and pressed forward because, really, what else am I going to do?

The moving-out deadline looms, and it’s freaking me out. Hope remains unemployed and unmotivated. We are currently in the very slow-moving car crash. Like, you can see it happening. This week the psychiatrist asked if I would be willing to put a pause on things. It was hard, but I said no, not without some kind of effort from Hope.

I take no pleasure in how all of this is shaking out. I’m miserable, totally and utterly miserable. And I’m realizing that everything is just feeling harder and harder to do every single day.

I’m scared that everything is going to fall apart, and that I don’t know how to stop it. I do not believe dropping the step-up or move-out requirement is going to change much at this point. I believe that we both need a lot of help and support, and we’re not getting those needs met. 1) They are hard needs to meet,2) getting the help and support we need is hard to access even with resources and 3) Hope is resistant to help. It’s all making me an increasingly nervous wreck.

I managed to make an appointment with a psychiatrist for me this week. It’s been a while in the making, and now I just have to wait two effing months before I can go. Fun times. I plan to call my own primary care doc by the end of this week to see if I can get another medication bump in the meantime. I am miserable.

Communication in the house is still tip-toe driven. And I’m constantly facing what feels like quiet resistance from Hope. It feels like we are utterly light years away from the close relationship we once had. Occasionally I’ll see glimmers of it, but it’s largely hidden.

I just want to see my daughter fully functional, able to better self-manage, emotionally regulate, and maybe, just maybe happy. I haven’t given up hope and I never will, but it just seems so impossible to achieve at this point. I know this moment will pass, but it would be really nice to know when.


Recovering


I’m currently in the Islands boozing with wild abandon…and then falling asleep on the beach.
I’m grateful to my mom friend who reminded me that I suggested we take a trip for some R&R about 2 months ago. I needed this. The pandemic has thrown off my vacation schedule, which has historically been March, July for family visits, and October.

For the past two years of pandemic travel, I’ve only ventured to Mexico and the Caribbean. I think I’m ready to resume wider travel in 2023.
But given the traumas of the summer I needed this reset.

Parenting has been a relative challenge. This chapter of ushering Hope into young adulthood has weathered me, and that’s saying something because the previous 2 years have also been doozies. I just want to get to some sense of normalcy again.

In good news, Hope has finally emotionally regulated a lot in the last month or so. She’s also coming to a place where she might be willing to seek counseling and meds—cross your fingers and say prayers folks. We *might* be on the verge of of a breakthru! She still hasn’t expressed any interest in renegotiating terms for moving out or staying at the end of the year. Pride cometh before the fall.

Yeah, yeah, I’ll be here to catch her.

I worry about her a lot. More than I thought was possible sometimes. I want so much for her, and I know she feels betrayed by my decision that she will need to move out. I’m realizing as we come closer to the deadline that not only is she not ready—she’s not even close. She got a job with Shipt some time ago, but never actually did any shopping or deliveries. When I asked her about it, she said she had so many questions about grocery shopping that she was just overwhelmed.

Yeah, it’s been rare that she’s joined me to do the household shopping. An occasional trip to Costco or Walmart does not give you the life skills to buy other people groceries—even with their list. She’s never made a delivery.


In any case, I know that the realization of adulting is starting to sink in, and it’s not pretty. Hell, I hate adulting myself. Bills, work, responsibilities! It’s a lot!


The last month also found me spiraling from a breakup I didn’t see coming at all. I’m devastated. I’m past the crying—which I didn’t do much of, but the questions, the rationale, the sadness…yeah, I’m still in the thick of it.


And then there’s work…whew. DEI work in the last, what 7ish years, has been brutal. Since that buffoon announced he was running for office, my work has required so much more of me. And bless your hearts White folks…seriously, if you ever considered yourself an ally to any marginalized groups, please go get your people together. I’ve got 10 more years of work before I can retire comfortably and deaing with White folk foolishness is just…whew…never-ending. I love my work, but real talk, I can honestly say I haven’t *liked* it in over 5 years. Working against oppression is effing exhausting.


So, beach time has been a nice balm to my latest emotional upheavals.


I head back to reality in a couple of days. Somehow, I’ve got a presentation due. Two dog sweaters (because somewhere along the way I had the brilliant idea to open an Etsy shop in honor of Yappy), a new order just came in and a zillion other projects that seemed like a good idea, but are now just feeling like time sucks.
I’ll also be calling the doc for a referral to a medication check in and also stepping up my exercise. The stress has done a number on my body and I need to get that under control as well. No joy in retiring early if I’m hobbling around.


I’m also going to start looking at dates to see if I can swing working remotely from the Caribbean for a month or two in 2023. I want to get a taste of my retirement fantasy and also explore some properties. I want to switch up my lifestyle a bit, and it just sounds like a radical thing to just pick up and move for a month and try it out. Just gotta figure out how to bring Yappy!


Anyway, back to the sunbathing.


Onward

It’s the day after Labor Day in the US, and that marks the beginning of fall. It’s my least favorite season. I mean, I love the clothing evolution–booties and cozy sweaters–but emotionally it tends to be one of my most challenging times of any year.

Despite my best efforts, I usually succumb to depression by the time winter rolls in. I’m kinda nervous because I know I’m already a bit down, so it’s going to take extra effort and intention not to fall down the rabbit hole.

I kinda chuckle at the irony of needing to fight depression, when the absolutely LAST thing you feel like doing when you’re depressed is to fight anything. It’s just so much easier to lay down into it.

But, I’m pushing forward and creating some things to look forward to and work on.

I relaunched my little crochet Etsy storefront–I sell sweaters, blankets, and other handmade items for dogs/cats. I also do baby blankets on commission as well.

I’ve initiated a modest master bath renovation. I’m costing it out and of course “modest” is really, really subjective. The highlight of the upgrades is an electric bidet on a “comfort height” toilet. Seriously, I’ve had a non-electric one for years and love it, but I DESERVE less of a squat, heated water, and warm air on my aging tushie.

I’ve scheduled a beach trip for next month, and if I can get my Mr. to take a few days off, I’m hoping we can do a long weekend in a glamping situation.

I’m also trying to pull myself together to modestly increase my workouts, schedule massages, and check out a local stretching studio. (If you are on Fitbit, hit me up. I’m all about the weekly challenges!)

I’m trying y’all. I’m doing what I can to keep my head up.

And yet, things still are what they are in terms of the home. I miss the way things were with Hope. I hate that we have this conflict that has cracked us apart. Last week in therapy I started out saying, “Hey, I think I’m doing ok; I seem to have a handle on things.”

Narrator: And then she cried for an hour.

The grief is just overwhelming sometimes. I’m constantly hoping on the 3 days I go into the office, that things will be and feel different at home when I return. They don’t.

I know some of this is growing pains. I know that some of it is the long tenacles of trauma–hers and mine. I know some of this is untreated mental health. I know some of it is both of us being headstrong and deeply, deeply hurt.

I’ve written many times about being a fixer. Daily, I have to talk myself down from *fixing* us. I know that this is something I can’t fix. I know that all the things I would usually do to fix things will not work; they would potentially make things easier in the short term, but I doubt a “fix” would hold more than a few days. I also know that “fixing” things would mean that I would have to go back on my word; I know for a variety of reasons that would not help things in the long haul.

So, while I grieve the loss of the closeness I had with my daughter, I feel helpless too.

I anticipate that the intensity of these feels will only grow the closer we get to the end of the year. I seriously have no idea what will happen to us on New Years 2023. I do not know if Hope will be ready to move out. She has made it clear she doesn’t want to discuss it, so it just looms over us…kind of like a guillotine. And it makes me feel guilty, not because I do not believe the consequences are appropriate. No, I feel guilty because I fear she really isn’t ready and that she is willing failure to prove to both of us that all she’s capable of. I stay researching alternatives, solutions that will head us off to a different resolution.

And yet, I know that the course we are on…is what it is right now. I’m really trying to be helpful, loving, affirming and a believer in her capacity to do great things. I know she can, but I don’t know if she knows she can.

So, another week has passed. There are other updates, but they aren’t mine to share. I can say that I know that Hope has had great opportunities for explanation and healing of past trauma recently. I’m hopeful that seeds are planted and that they will bloom in the coming months. I’m hopeful for the continued sense of peace, or at least detente, in our home. I’m hopeful for a lot right now.

So, for this week, the motto is simply: Onward.


Nothing New

Not much has changed around the house.

Not much has changed between me and Hope. We are polite, sometimes almost close to lovingly so. We might occasionally laugh about something together; I live for those moments. I feel like they give me a peek into the good times. I usually choke back a few tears when we laugh together or she wants to tell me something. We both have some very clear boundaries that we have quietly constructed. I give hers extra wide berth, while she likes to nudge mine just to see how far she can go.

I’m doing more cooking than I have in a long time. I cook on the weekends so there are options until about Thursday. I really cook for Hope. I might get a spoonful or bowl full when I’m cooking, but I generally will have smoothies, cereal, yogurt, bread, etc all week. I am only this week realizing how obsessive I’ve become about this weekend cooking ritual. Clearly some emotional stuff happening there. I also just know that I unconsciously increased the amounts I’m cooking It’s wild.

I wish things were different. I wish Hope truly believed and understood that we are forever. I wish after all these years she could enjoy some peace in permanence. I believe that there were many authentically joyful times, but I also believe her when she says it was fleeting or an act to meet what she thought were my expectations. I wish things were different in so many ways.

In 125 days, everything changes. It may make things horribly worse or it could be the beginning of another beginning for Hope. Only time will tell. I daily caution myself not to think that far out. I know it will zoom here sooner than I’m willing to acknowledge.

I’m keeping the faith that something will change, something will change.

Cheers to the week.


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