- Today I breathed. It’s not that I think Biden/Harris will solve all the problems, but I certainly don’t think they will cause as many as we’ve seen during the last administration.
- Watching VP Kamala Harris take the oath of office with Justice Sonia Sotomayor with my daughter this morning was…amazing. #RepresentationMatters
- I can’t really describe the relief I felt watching the Troll in Chief and Troll Barbie take flight and disappearing.
- My only sadness is that I couldn’t take Hope down to the mall to watch it in person. Don’t get me wrong: inaugurations are cold (it flurried here this morning) and usually crowded, but the energy is amazing. It’s actually very cool and super patriotic.
- Did y’all see Michelle Obama and that guy she’s married to? (I love him too.) My gawd that woman is gorgeous. The hair, the outfit, the lashes…the gorgeous former president. I live!!!
- I really needed today. It’s like a bright spot in a dark time for me. The pomp and circumstance! The lofty, aspirational charge of it all. The hope. I needed it really badly.
- Things around here are still precarious. I’m still fighting burnout. I’m still trying to prop Hope up in the midst of new traumas.
- I think I’m going to tackle my front closet and my bedroom closet. They are both a disastrous mess. I was always taught that your closets are a reflection of your life, and well, those 2 closets are a disastrous mess. I’ve been consciously avoiding them for months. I know that tackling them will help.
- I also need to do some purging. Things feel really cluttered around here. So, stuff has to go. Of course I’m also still shopping for a new low profile treadmill; so part of my motivation is to make room for new ish.
- I’ve been really trying to be more introspective right now. I’m honestly feeling a bit lost. Motivation is low. I slap on a functional face on workdays and feel like collapsing after 5pm. I really have not experienced these feelings in a very long time. I don’t like it, but I’m fighting through.
Category Archives: Hard Stuff
So, a week in and I swear I’m ready to already write 2021 off.
Unless you live under a rock, you are aware that the US Capitol was overrun this week in a coup attempt.
Many moons ago, I worked on Capitol Hill in the House of Representatives. I was there for a little over a year as an intern, working for a member from a district similar to the one I grew up in. I primarily worked on tobacco and education policy. It was a plumb gig, as the special assistant to the president of my university recommended me for the position. It was only supposed to be for a semester, and it lasted a year.
I also interned on the Hill for a House Committee chair during my second year of college.
I went on to be an association lobbyist for nearly a decade, spending many days on Capitol Hill meeting with staff and Members on topics in my portfolio.
There is a certain mystique to the Capitol complex. There are tons of tunnels connecting all the buildings. Hidden doorways and chambers, a little subway on the Senate side. There almost always a bustle of people coming and going. Security is always tight; you had to go through metal detectors long before 9/11. There were places where you lowered your voice, more out of reverence than anything. It’s a special place; its representative government live and in real time.
There were lots of things I hated about working on the Hill, but I never forgot how fortunate I was to have been able to work there—It’s a place where careers are made. I often thought of the enslaved people who helped to build the complex and what their spirits must think about me being in that space. It gives me chills.
So, to see people literally climbing the walls of the Capitol building was really emotional. I have friends and colleagues who work there. My current beau works there. To see the space desecrated in ways that really were unthinkable was hard personally, but as an American—yo, WTF.
The news didn’t report how some of these folks urinated outside of offices. There are only a few pictures of the largely Black and brown custodial staff who had to clean up the horrendous mess folks left. They didn’t talk a much about how security rushed to save Members of congress, while staffers where left trying to barricade themselves in offices under siege. I saw staffers tweeting at their bosses in hopes of checking to see if everyone was ok.
And then of course there’s how easy it was for the Capitol to be overrun. Last summer, most of downtown was boarded up because of fear of possible damage to property. My office building has pretty much been boarded up since June given all the protests that have taken place. During the summer tanks and other military vehicles were all over downtown DC. It reminded me a lot of what it was like in the city right after 9/11.
But not this week. The National Guard didn’t get called up until well into the afternoon. Images show that insurgents were treated with patience and kindness throughout the afternoon. There’s lot of video and audio of these terrorists threatening and harming police—so I’m guessing all that Blue Lives Matter stuff is out the window. There is literally no explanation other than giving emotional White folks the benefit of the doubt that wasn’t afforded to protestors who just want law enforcement to stop extrajudicial killings of Black and brown folks. If you know DC, you know this is true.
Even the arrests in the aftermath—what around 20 people? And I’m supposed to feel some kind of way about that? Do you know how many hundreds, and nationally thousands, of people who were arrested during BLM protests last summer? In protests about extending oil pipelines through reservations and sovereign Native property a few years ago? The juxtaposition is hard to swallow.
I watched coverage of what was happening with Hope, who concluded that if this came with adulthood, she didn’t want it. I wonder how all of this will shape her ideals about democracy and participating in it.
Lots has already happened since the coup attempt, and I’m hopeful that this country will get it’s ish together, but Wednesday was a hard day to endure since then.
In the meantime I’m still going to be hunkered down right here until at least after the inauguration.
Hope and I have always talked. She tells me just about everything, and since she can’t keep a secret or lie well, I’m pretty sure of that. I’ve mastered the non-judgmental face while sometimes I scream on the inside; BTW, there’s been a helluva lot of screaming in 2020.
I’ve also always been open and honest when it came to discussing sex. I committed to having a sex positive home very early on. Now there are times when that’s been especially hard, really, really hard. But sex positivity remains the goal. Too many kids don’t get the chance to ask open and honest questions about sex, the feelings, the challenges, the ups and downs and the values I have around it. Parents often say they’ve taught their kids about sex, but they focus almost exclusively on the values associated with it, rather than the mechanics, the more detailed body stuff that we tend to learn either from friends or trial and error. I have always wanted Hope to know she can talk to me about sex; I want to be the first stop for inquiries! And I don’t claim to have all the answers; sometimes I have to say, “ya know, I don’t know the answer to that. Let me research and get back to you.” And then…I do.
Anyhoo, with COVID and the trauma of 2020, Hope and I only have each other day in and day out, we talk a lot and really substantively. And we talk about EVERYTHING.
Even when it’s awkward, I think, “wow the fact that we are doing this, talking like this is really mind-blowing.” I can’t even imagine my parents having some of these kind of chats with me at her age. Heck I don’t see us really having some of these chats at my current age and I’m pushing 50. It’s just not done!
This week Hope brought up some very specific questions and concerns that left me thinking….
Seriously, in the moment, I plastered on my “Oh this is totally normal” face and thought, “This is a wicked time for me to fast from alcohol cause I really need a cocktail.”
I allowed for a long pause, thought about how I’ve handled this issue in my own life, and then I made some recommendations. What I recommended shocked even me to be perfectly honest!
And it’s kinda got me really in my head. Not because I question the decision to make some pointed recommendations, but because these conversations really force me to confront my own hang ups and insecurities. I’m realizing that I’ve really got some stuff to unpack on my own, you know? #morestufftodiscusswithmytherapist
I want Hope to have a full, loving, meaningful relationship with herself, her body and hopefully one day a partner. Heck, I want that for myself too. It’s so taboo to talk about these things, and I feel especially so for women of color. I want Hope to know that how she loves herself directly influences how she looks for love externally. It took me way too long to learn that.
So, we’ll keep talking, and with this pandemic, all anyone around here can do is talk.
So, what does sex positive parenting look like for you?
Everyday I set a couple of small goals for Hope: help me with making dinner, going for a walk, showering and getting dressed. It is not easy, but most days we achieve one or two goals on the path towards healing from the trauma of the summer and early fall. Naturally, some days are better than others, but there is an element of “pulling teeth” to everyday.
This week I acknowledged to myself that juggling work full-time and a heightened level of care-giving is hard. Actually hard is an understatement. My job takes its own emotional toll on me, and this year that toll has been extraordinarily high. Racialized social unrest in a pandemic during an election year is like the worst of the perfect storms for folks like me who do diversity work. I usually am able to compartmentalize some things, but this year–really where was I going to compartmentalize my own emotion? Under the kitchen sink? I upped my therapy to weekly, figured out my preferred strains of cannabis that would help me relax a bit and cope and increased my exercise. I knew that my rope was frayed, but I felt like I wrapped around a little duct tape and was able to keep going.
Then things hit the skids with Hope, and everything has felt like a house of cards built on a seesaw for a couple of months now. At first I could busy myself with the immediate task of pulling together the medical and mental health teams (part of which involved securing a new psychiatrist who does not take our insurance). I’m actually not bad in crisis–I can clearly identify what needs to be done, so I got to doing those things.
Work continued to be demanding, and I began making a cake nearly every 4 or so days because: EATING MY FEELINGS. I tried to pull back on a few projects, and set better boundaries. My evenings became devoted trying to cook better meals, spend quality time with Hope and Yappy and trying to create some sense of normalcy in the midst of what is becoming the worst time in my life.
My own light began to dim a couple of weeks before the election. The idea that that Orange Demon could possibly win began to set in, and I had a harder time managing my anxiety. I took up crocheting a few months ago and I just started trying to focus on that. The COVID cases began to rise and the hopes of visiting my family for Thanksgiving started to fall. I started baking, crushing chicken figures like I was a toddler and throwing myself into dealing with Hope’s challenges. I started feeling just too tired to get my 13.5K steps everyday. It became hard to answer any phone call that wasn’t work related. I tried to pull it together. I bought a new desk, since it’s clear I won’t be in the office anytime soon. I became consumed with rehabbing an office chair I bought second hand (I ended up just running out to buy a new chair this morning), Amazon started making more frequent deliveries as well.
I could and can feel my depression and anxiety is at an all time high; I also feel like there was and is pitifully little I can do about it.
Hope began to make baby steps forward on her journey, and that was the only bright light.
And then both of our bad days collided. On the weekends, I try to plan several activities to get us out and about (safely of course). Last week we went to a farm and did some shopping. We got some fresh fruit and veggies, fresh pressed apple cider, jam and honey sticks. Everything was delicious and it set us up for a few good eats during the week. Hope wanted to go back this weekend, but I found another farm for us to visit that had more things (fresh ice cream!) to enjoy. We’re supposed to visit today.
But yesterday, I struggled. I keep crying for no reason. I was fixated on the stupid office chair, and I was furiously crocheting Yappy a 2nd new sweater. I
was am emotionally exhausted, which makes me feel physically exhausted. Yesterday’s goal was to go on a short family walk. The walk happened and the walk was a disaster. By the time we returned from the house, I just felt like giving up on everything.
I didn’t cook.
I didn’t fold my laundry.
I binged watched Fargo.
People called, but I could barely talk.
I sporadically cried.
I tried to nap, but couldn’t.
I air fried half a bag of tater tots and ate the left over cake and a bunch of chocolate covered peanuts because yum.
I finished Yappy’s sweater (Bright side: he looks very handsome in it).
I sat and just looked into space.
Today, is not much better. I do not feel like dealing with anything or anyone, sadly not even Hope or Yappy. I am disgusted that there are no more chicken fingers in the house–yet I also know I’ll be disgusted if I ate more chicken fingers. There is not more cake which means I need to make some, which is energy I don’t have. I know I can make a mug cake but it’s not the same. It’s mid-month and I need to pay bills, which frankly enrages me for no apparent reason other than hating the exercise. I still don’t have the energy to talk to anyone, even when I know it will help. My gout has flared because I’m eating poorly, so I hurt and I have no one to blame by myself, and well the Holy Homeboy for allowing me to have gout.
Oh yeah, I’m in deep. I *know* I should get Hope up and I know I should try to achieve the small goals, but real talk: My tank is empty and even the fumes are gone. I got nothing, and that’s hella problematic because Hope really doesn’t do well when I lose my shit.
And my shit is definitely gone today.
So because I’m the super fragile one today and I’m also the one who has to keep this boat from capsizing, I’m taking the day to just wallow.
My coffee is currently in a wine tumbler. I’m about to eat some buttered bread for breakfast. I’m going to take a shower, put on some comfy fleece and crawl under my weighted blanket. I might go for a walk at some point, and I might even stock up on more chicken fingers. I’m putting some butter on the counter for later, so I can make a cake. And I will make the Tikka Masala I was supposed to make yesterday, if for no other reasons than 1) the chicken might spoil and 2) I bought fresh naan yesterday and I don’t need the guilt of eating it without the dish.
Yeah, we are both fragile over here.
Hope and I have had an interesting journey. The first year was tough–getting used to one another, trying to create a sense of normalcy, trying to get the healing started. I remember when my depression kicked in and when I started learning about secondary trauma. Hope was in yet another school–she’d already been to so many, and had difficulty making friends.
We connected with some birth family, dealt with a lingering criminal investigation back in Hope’s hometown, estrangement from my mother and oh yeah, finishing a dissertation. I think of that year often nowadays; there’s something about 2020 that reminds me of our “bonding’ time the first few weeks.
I made a cake every week.
I have baked cakes most weeks since March. It’s one of my ultimate comfort foods. As Hope doesn’t really get into cake like I do, I also do not have to share my cake. Yes, that admittedly gives me some petty pleasure. And yes, I just had my nightly piece of chocolate frosted cake.
I have struggled with depression most of my adult life. It’s managed by meds and therapy. Even though my very high intrinsic motivation is one of several triggers for my depression and anxiety, it’s also likely the thing that keeps me from tumbling over into the abyss.
My drive and inability to sit still for very long has meant that I won’t just lay in bed watching the ceiling fan for hours. There have been times when I have wanted nothing more than to do that because the sadness, emptiness and darkness had taken over. The anxiety keeps me up and functioning. It’s frankly an awful vicious cycle.
Proof? I took today off to rest, to just be. Instead I worked on finishing up setting up my new desk, checking and responding to a few emails and drafting a couple of things that need to go out tomorrow.
I did lay on the couch for a couple of hours with Yappy while playing on a coloring app, so there’s that.
Today it really, really sunk in that Hope’s depression and anxiety don’t look anything like mine. They aren’t even in the same neighborhood. They manifest so differently that it has taken me 6 years to realize this. I feel really foolish that I’ve failed to see it as clearly before. I’m also embarrassed and ashamed that there are times when I said things without realizing Hope’s emotional limitations in the moment. I am certain that there are times when my dimwittedness really harmed her and our relationship. That will weigh on my heart until I die.
I’m grateful for whatever grace she has extended me because I certainly don’t deserve it.
Tomorrow brings another parenting pivot. I never stop learning and try to incorporate the new knowledge and make changes. This pivot requires some significant changes. I expect to stumble…a lot, but Hope needs some things from me and those who love her that I really didn’t understand.
This week I received a blast email from Hope’s college president explaining the institution’s decision-making regarding coming back to campus. It was like 5 paragraphs long, and in my opinion, the major takeaway is that it’s very unlikely that Hope will be returning to in person classes in the spring semester.
I think it is the right public health decision. Her school is very small, less than 1,000 students, and while it is well resourced it simply can’t mount the surveillance protocols necessary to do routine testing and quarantines. It’s disappointing that they don’t, but most of the schools in my state, including the very large ones, do not have the ability to do it either. So, it’s definitely the right health decision.
Socially, I fret a bit about Hope’s continued development. She has always struggled with cultivating friendships, but at school she had settled in with a nice group of kids and seemed to really be developing good relationships. She was also getting more engaged in extracurricular programs. Academically, she still had some challenges, but I was delighted that she was doing well socially. I was starting see some wonderful developments, and then COVID-19 happened.
And now, our world is a lot smaller. The whole of this time home I’ve quietly fretted about what this loss of time will mean for Hope and other young people like her.
For my part, I am constantly engaging people, often to the point where I have little desire to engage after work hours. Even still, I regularly schedule happy hours and chats with family and friends so that I can get a bit of my extrovert energy boost.
Hope didn’t take to online chat fests where her school friends. Having a job helped a lot; she was able to meet folks and develop some social relationships. I had really resisted letting her work during the school year, but honestly, I feel like she needs the outlet. Overall, I’ve seen Hope regress back to the small world she’s had for most of our time together. I worry that not being in a space where she can really practice socially will really be harmful the long run.
As a parent, honestly, I have so many worries. Our recent crisis, which frankly isn’t over we’re just in a period of stasis, taught me a lot about my own fears. It taught me that some of those fears are well founded and that others are less so. It’s also taught me that parenting this period of early adulthood has some really unique challenges. I want Hope to be independent, but what that looks like the middle of pandemic is a bit of a mystery. I want her to develop healthy relationships, but there are some specific vulnerabilities that worry me and again—what does that look like during this time? When the risks of getting sick, spreading the virus and frankly possibly killing someone, figuring out what’s allowable while still giving some space and grace seems really complicated.
Adding to all of this is that several months ago I decided that I would try my hand at dating again. It’s been a slow, cautious endeavor, and I’m not even sure it’s been the right decision. I don’t go out much; I try to focus on talking and connecting a lot. Dating was always complicated and now it just feels moreso. I’m also stuck trying to figure out if me stepping out to date is fair to Hope.
I just don’t know.
With each week, I think we all feel the isolation and limitations a bit more. I’m trying to be optimistic about what will happen over these next couple of years with me and Hope. I mean, I believe we will weather this storm, but I do wondering if/how much collateral damage this pandemic will leave us with when it’s all over. What social skills am I losing and what skills is Hope being prevented from developing? Will we feel safe traveling and having adventures again? What is going to happen next in a year that honestly feels like a colossal dumpster fire?
I just don’t know, and well, this part of my parenting journey feels a bit like a black hole. I just don’t know what’s next. I’m hopeful. I’m optimistic, but I’m also a realist and I worry about our health, safety, mental health and overall wellbeing.