Category Archives: Trauma

Reflecting on 2021

Well, first of all, whew; I’m glad that’s over! I mean, losing Betty White on the last day of the year was just…unnecessarily mean behavior from the universe.

Last year was a bit of a rough ride for me and Hope. It started with the absurdity of the January 6 insurrection—I can’t tell y’all how many friends and family fretted about our safety. We were fine, but having worked at the Capitol early in my career, my partner at the time worked at the complex. I have many friends and colleagues who work there or frequent the complex. Aside from the emotional proximity–that was some wild White people-ish. My career has been devoted to making this country better and to see what we saw…It was as stunning to me as watching the towers fall 20 years ago.

Hope and I would endure a major trauma just days later that was just…Nearly a year later, it is surreal. I remember feeling guilty, angry, pained, devastated. It took months for Hope to recover as she was already flat down given traumas from 2020. But, as always, she is the strongest person I know. Thinking about the last 2 years, Hope had a rough entry into baby adulting.

And then one day, thanks to a great team, she was better. She got a job, started saving up for a car, and started pushing all kinds of boundaries that left us sporadically at each other’s throats. I’m not going to lie, I spent a lot of time mad this summer. This period also left me with some major trust issues, that I’m just starting to unpack now. I came to realize a couple of things during this time. First, my intrinsic motivation made me behave very differently at Hope’s age. I didn’t *really* cut up until I was out of undergrad and had a home of my own. Second, what boundaries I strode across at Hope’s age was done 2 hours away from home and my parents’ knowledge. It helped me remember that her behavior was delightfully, annoyingly and trust-bustingly normal. I did find solace in that.

I said no a lot at work last year. I hope to do more of that this year. My priorities with work are evolving. I’m fortunate to have a lot of autonomy, but something is missing. I’m not being intellectually stimulated in a way that feels good. The last 2 years have been crisis management. How do you sustain anything when a 2 year crisis is quickly turning into a 3 year crisis? It’s exhausting and doesn’t leave much for intellectual creativity or curiosity. I think I’m busier than ever and bored, really bored. I took a 6 week philosophy course that ended last month and the readings, discussions, they were both hard and invigorating. I also realized that this class was honestly the hardest I’ve intentionally worked my brain since the accident. I turned my camera off and hit mute one night because I was overwhelmed by the fact that my brain “still had it.” I didn’t realize how fearful I was that my capacity would always be affected. Anyway, that’s also how I realized, I was bored.

I took a vacation alone; I recommend it. Hope bought a car. I’m so proud of her. My perimenopause symptoms worsened–like WTH? This is really some trash, but I’m glad my circle is normalizing talking about it; it helps to know your repro-revolt isn’t any more or less weird than your sista friends’ experience. I started a small crochet business making pet sweaters and scarves (for now!). Hope made a big decision about her relationships with her biological family. She also has the most amazing Afro now that her hair has grown out, and the best part is that she finally seems to really love her hair. I was partnered and now I’m single again. I was reminded that straight men really have no clue what BS straight women have to contend with. I really need us to do better parenting and modeling healthy romantic relationships because there are a lot of jerks who didn’t get schooled.

As we celebrated last night, Hope and I talked about our desires for 2022–a return to normalcy, the end of the pandemic, a return to living in residence at college, possibly the sale of our home, companionship for both of us and a trip to Vegas for Hope. Yappy just wants us to never leave him ever again–I really need to start working on that in hopes of getting out of the house more.

It was a tough year, but Hope and I ended it on a positive note–dressed up for homemade pasta, playing Mario Kart with frosted sugar cookies, and Costo’s Bailey’s knockoff.

Happy New Year Peeps. Thanks for rocking with me, Hope, and Yappy for another year.


Thoughts on Reunion

I’ve often written about Hope being in reunion with some of her biological family. Over the years, the relationship has ebbed and flowed. While it isn’t what I always hoped for Hope, in total, it’s definitely been a good thing for her. I don’t know what I imagined the relationship would look like, or how everyone would deal with their own emotional stuff related to the separation, the loss, the adoption, and the reunion. I just know that everyone involved has tried to figure this thing out.

Years ago, I wrote about finding Hope’s biological mom. I remember when I found her, I felt like the information was burning my hand; I wanted to reach out to her. I wanted to orchestrate the connection. Thanks to my therapist (who is amazing!), I slowed down and really deliberated my reasoning. I wanted Hope’s mom to know that Hope was ok, that I was a good mother, and that I was hopeful that she could have a relationship with her daughter. I never reached out to her, and ultimately that was a wise decision. Hope has expressed minimal interest in reconnecting over the years. I ran the risk of really overstepping in reaching out to her mother; so I stayed in my lane. I just made sure that Hope knew that I would support her at any point in her journey if she wanted to initiate contact.

I’ve kept tabs on her mom; the internet is a scary place. For less than $50 I have her address, phone number, job location, and a lot of other information. I update the information every year just in case Hope changes her mind. I never wanted her to have to go through a big search in the way so many adoptees must endure trying to find family. I keep things in a digital file with a link that’s available to Hope at any time.

I think of all of Hope’s biological family on major holidays. I wonder what their dreams of their family looked like, I wonder what family recipes Hope is missing out on, what family traditions she is missing. Sure, Hope and I have our own traditions–pizza and gifts on Christmas Eve, Thanksgiving with family, brunch on Easter–but I know that there are other pieces that are just not here.

Recently, an opportunity for more reunion presented itself. At Hope’s request, I jumped into background check mode: web searches, image searches, cross-references, reaching out to someone, who knows someone, who knows someone. within a few hours, I was pretty sure it was a legit overture. Within 24 hours, it was confirmed. I kept Hope informed the whole time.

And then she made a decision that wasn’t a shock, but it did feel…I don’t know. I’m still figuring it out. But that’s my stuff. I’m sure that Hope is navigating a lot of emotions she hasn’t shared about the situation. I’m proud of her for articulating her immediate needs; I know those needs may change in time…or not.

For many adoptees, reunion can be complicated; this one isn’t any different. Emotions can be complicated too. Decision-making is also complicated. And you know what, there isn’t a single right answer.

That’s not quite true. APs just gotta support adoptees.

Eight years ago, I promised I would always support her having connection with her family if that was what she wanted. Certainly, there have been times when holding that promise felt hard for me, but I tried my best to support Hope. These connections are her birthright.

We’re all a bit older now, and a little wiser (I hope). And my decision-making in Hope’s life is decreasing as I try to create space for her young adult flexes. It’s an interesting time for both of us. I’m hopeful for Hope’s future and will continue to walk alongside her as she navigates decisions about reunion. I’ve kind of made peace with my own curious questions about her family; none of it is really my business. It’s Hope’s business.

But on the eve of another holiday, I can’t help but wonder about all Hope’s people out there. I hope they are thriving, that they are happy, healthy, and as whole as one can be when their child is not with them. I pray that one day everyone’s questions will get answered, and that everyone can get to the next level of healing.


Adoption Musings on a Sunday

I just couldn’t manage a midweek post between work and tending to Hope’s injury. I’ve been to multiple stores and had multiple Amazon deliveries to make sure we have what’s needed. Dressings need to be changed often so even though I bought a lot right at the beginning, she blew through things quickly.

She’s improving a lot, though the pain is still pretty bad. Blisters popped and revealed the very tender, super vulnerable new skin beneath it. No infection and no worsening, so, so far, so good. Burn unit consult this week.

I’ve been thinking so much about adoption lately. I’m pretty certain because 8 years ago in August/September, I saw Hope’s profile for the first time. I remember there was a video of her having been on one of those Wednesday’s kids spots for the local news. I remember sitting at my desk at work, looking at the video feeling such a rush of different emotions. Love at first sight. Terror, as in, WTF are you doing??? Joy as I watched her bounce around. I excitedly sent the video to my mom, where she watched at her office desk. I called her and I remember saying something to the effect of, “This is her, this is the child that is going to be my daughter.” I just knew.

I have wanted to adopt since I was an adolescent. I’m not sure why I was drawn to it so young. I don’t recall knowing anyone who was adopted (that I know of anyway). I also knew I wanted an older child. Again, no idea why. The thing is I thought I would adopt a boy. We didn’t have any boys in my immediate family other than my dad. I thought I wanted the “boy” experience, whatever that was. The December before I met Hope, I did my vision board; I included a picture of a child’s bedroom and a faceless child. The images I selected clearly reflected “girlie” vibes. I remember thinking it was so different than what was supposed to be on the board. I was supposed to be a boy mom. Ha! The universe said, nah, at least not right now.

The fact that my current Beau is also an adoptee, also tends to keep the topic top of mind because he’s slowly telling me his story. From his perspective, it’s a doozy. And that’s real. I can see the hurt, trauma, desire, sadness, and more. My heart breaks. I can also see adoptive parents who probably did the best they could with what they had. That doesn’t excuse whatever was done or wasn’t done, but entering my own 8th young year of parenting I sometimes get feeling like every choice available is problematic for any of a zillion reasons and just trying your best to choose the one that will be the least problematic.

The truth is that parenting is probably one of the most difficult jobs anyone can possibly take on. It’s rough out here in these parenting streets, and no one gets out unscathed. And parenting books suck, and frankly so do a lot of online parenting groups, IMHO.

And adoptive parenting is its own beast. You come in thinking you just want to be a regular-degular, but somehow super duper parent, ie, neurotypical kid, same race, kinda looks like me, no trauma, no drama, super smart, gifted, talented, etc. etc. You quickly realize that even if those existed, you weren’t on that track. Precious little is discussed about some of the special needs and challenges. I think a lot of APs just think I want a child and then things will be…just normal, life will just begin and continue.

It does and it doesn’t, and maybe you low key actually were on that track after all.

My and Hope’s story started with a hospital stay and me working on my dissertation. It was rocky. The tears, especially for me, seemed endless. My relationships were strained; I felt alone; Hope couldn’t cope with much of anything because moving in was just overwhelming. We were a bit of a mess if you go back to that first year of posts.

But we got through it somehow and continue to thrive in spit of it all.

We continue to grow together and figure it out. I’m not the best parent, my flaws are many. But I have done my best to date, and Hope continues to have a safe place to grow, explore, and transition into adulthood. And ultimately providing that emotional place is the core of my job. So, I’m succeeding.

I’m not even sure what my point is with this stream of consciousness rambling post. This season is just triggering a lot of great memories about the genesis of my little family.

Anyhoo, have a marvelous Sunday.


Ten Things on Wednesday: 7/14/2021

  1. Yeah, so work reentry is rough. Busy, busy, busy. I have so much to do. It would’ve still been insanely busy even if I had not taken a week off, so no regrets. I do wonder if/when America will get over this ridiculous “week long” vacation situation and consider a 2 week minimum. The work ethic here is killing us.
  2. Hope is saving up for a car, y’all. As we begin talking about his process, I’m acutely aware of how much I take for granted in terms of environmental learning from my family. My dad was a mechanic, and took enormous pride in fixing EVERYTHING, including his cars. I honestly am struggling to remember how I learned certain things about purchasing and maintaining a car; I just learned it along the way.
  3. Even though I’ve been intentionally talking about these things with Hope for years, I’m realizing the extent to which my daughter has been unable to take in and retain information. Trauma is a beeotch. I’m convinced that these 7 years has just been a brain “rest” period; the result is that Hope has been oblivious to a lot of the environmental learning that just happens in families. It’s not intentional; she probably was listening but just could not process the information.
  4. Case in point: I do not ever remember learning what mileage on a car was; I just somehow learned and knew that that was how many miles the car had driven. Last night Hope asked me if mileage represented how many miles the car had left to drive. I was like, “an expiration date?” Whew, I have laughed about it for 24 hours because: HILARIOUS. But then I think about what the question represents, and I wonder how many other things Hope just missed learning because of her rocky start in life. Makes me sad.
  5. These last two weeks or so, I’m seeing so much growth in Hope. She’s regaining some much needed confidence. She enjoys working. She’s helping out around the house more, even picking up groceries. She’s quick to remind me that she needs me, but I’m starting to see glimpses of her future. I’m excited to see how she progresses.
  6. The truth is that Hope is probably more stable than I am right now. I’m still feeling overwhelmed by most things. Running simple errands can be challenging; lack of motivation. I’m in my head a lot, which is not unusual, but it’s not a good thing these days. I really need a meds adjustment, but the simple act of dialing my doc’s number–which is on speed dial–just seems like…work.
  7. Even on the weekends, I’m likely to just stay home all day. This isn’t like me. I’m an extrovert; I like being around people. I get off on the energy. But even thinking about going out much is enough to shut me down for a couple of days. Some of this is pandemic fall out, but the rest of it…is just me.
  8. I am logging my food and stepping up my exercise. I might not have hot girl summer, but it will be toasty girl fall!
  9. Yappy is currently sleeping in the middle of the bed. I’ve been relegated to the edge because the look he gave me when I attempted to move him about 30 mins ago was wanton rebellion. He ain’t moving. I’m not sure how a 10lb dog because the master of me, but here we are.
  10. I have a serious case of wanderlust. I am eyeballing trips to Iceland and Costa Rica. My fantasy would be to go alone, like I did with Puerto Rico a couple of years ago. I just need some decompression time. Where should I go? Open to suggestions! I’m concerned about the delta variant, but I am vaxxed. I am unwilling to travel for work, but I need to get on a plan sometime soon.

PTSD

It seems June is not only Pride but PTSD Awareness Month. I did not know that before today. It’s kind of hard to keep up with the multitude of awareness months and days.

In many ways, PTSD has ruled aspects of my life since Hope became my daughter. She was diagnosed years ago, and the events of the last year resulted in a fresh new round of targeted treatment.

Although I’ve certainly struggled with my own traumas throughout my life, I had never been diagnosed with PTSD or C-PTSD…until very recently. I remember the anxiety I felt the first time I drove through the tunnel where I had my accident and how long it took me to not avoid it or to feel panicky about it. It definitely took a while, but I was treated for anxiety and just kept working at it. That’s representative of how I navigated things.

That is until recently.

When Hope started working again last month, I was excited for her to get up and out of the house and to hopefully find purpose in being functional. I knew she was a great worker; her managers loved her last summer and even when she volunteers she always gets this amazing feedback. The girl works hard, is great with people (despite being somewhat of an introvert) and is a great employee. I knew that getting a job would help her turn the corner after the challenges of the year.

Now intellectually, I knew all of that. But my emotional self was triggered AF.

By the end of her first week, I was enduring mini panic attacks when she left for work. I tried really hard not to fret and worry about her when she wasn’t home within 20 minutes of her shift ending—but I worked myself into an emotional frenzy anyway. When she called out twice in two weeks for what didn’t seem to me like legit excuses, I lost my ish. I tried to offer care and concern, but I also came down hard on issues of work ethic and commitment. I hounded her about her schedule. I became deeply concerned about whether she was eating enough and the right things to keep her well and energy powered.

I tried to keep a lot of my panic to myself, but I failed. By last week, I was kind of a wreck on the inside. I was tired of being constantly on edge, consumed with worry and hounding Hope such that I could tell long term it would damage our relationship. I was miserable.

I convinced myself that it was because I didn’t trust Hope to make good decisions. Based on some of the decisions she made last summer, which precipitated the emotional mudslide of the year, the concern wasn’t completely unwarranted. But it just wasn’t healthy how much I was fretting about it. Five days a week, I was losing my ish on the inside.

By the time my weekly therapy appointment came around, my therapist, who was already trying to help me with my panic attacks noted things were worsening. That’s when she said, “ABM, I think we need to change course in working through this. This isn’t just panic attacks, you are being triggered by Hope going to work and your inability to prevent what happened last time from happening again. This isn’t really about trusting Hope, this is about being terrified that something bad will happen to her again and your inability to stop it. This is PTSD.”

I looked at the Zoom screen, bit my lip and began to cry. What? How? I mean, I’m worried about Hope, but is it really all that? Seriously. Won’t this just get better with time? Are you serious? She walked through my symptoms from the last few weeks, talked me through the diagnosis and made some recommendations on moving forward. It was so clear she was right.

I’m still processing what this means, but I know that naming it has helped. I also talked to Hope about being really afraid. My daughter continues to amaze me. She was gracious and understanding; and I’m a little less afraid now.

But, really I’m still terrified and that’s going to take some time to work through. Of all the things I thought would trip me up, Hope going to work ain’t it, but here we are. I’m going to get through this though; I will. Might take more than a minute, but I will. I’ve asked Hope to be patient with me and that I will do my best to try to avoid being an overbearing, overprotective troll.

She smiled and said we’ll get through it. She’s right; we will.


Modeling Behavior

Not gonna lie; I have a number of vices…

Cake.

A good glass of wine.

An occasional edible or three.

Pizza.

Shopping.

Buying organizing stuff that I don’t bother using to actually organize.

And a bunch of other stuff…

But I also have a lot of healthy habits.

Daily exercise.

Simple prayers of gratitude.

Cooking.

Desperately fighting my anxiety and depression.

I’m fortunate that I have had only a few moments in this life where my mental health rendered me unable to function. About 15 years ago, I took a month off from work to just pull it together. It was hard. I was keeping crazy hours, trying to define myself professionally, trying to navigate a dreadfully unhealthy relationship, and struggling with an eating disorder. I just had to hit the pause button.

The early years of parenting nearly brought me to the brink. I’m not ashamed to admit that I wasn’t prepared to really tackle the trauma that Hope had endured. I thought I was, and Lord knows I fought for her every step of the way. The reality is that those pre-adoption classes that agencies make APs take as a part of the approval process are bullshit; they are soooo woefully inadequate. I knew nothing about secondary trauma, post-adoption depression or all the ways in which trauma might manifest in my daughter’s worldview.

There were definitely times when it brought me to my knees, begging for a timeout from the rest of my life so that I could really figure out how to parent and do it well.

I spent a lot of time just putting my head down and plowing through.

As Hope and I recover from another recent major trauma, I’m considering hitting the pause button once again.

I’m tired. This pandemic with non-stop social unrest has gotten the best of me, and it’s gotten the best of Hope as well.

In recent years, I’ve really tried to model healthy behavior for Hope. I work out daily; even if it’s just a YouTube workout video in the living room. I get outside every day, rain or shine. I balance my sweet tooth with attempts to get my fruits and veggies in. I get up; I get dressed even when there is no where to go. I, at least, put on fresh lounge wear. I make sure she sees me reading for pleasure, for work and for information.

When Hope fell into the deepest pit of depression a few months ago, I really tried to include her in light workouts, cooking, doing hair, reading. It was hard to see her decline and just roll over to go back to sleep. I get it; gosh to I get it. I often feel like I could just roll over and sleep for ages because my emotions are just too much that they feel both burdensome and invisible. But I’ve got to work and keep us fed and sheltered, so I soldier on.

With the recent developments, we’re back into the stuck in bed thing. It’s so hard because really, there’s a pandemic and crazies are out protesting an election that was resolved months ago. Other than going for a walk and to buy groceries, being out and about isn’t really an option. On my days off I still get up, get dressed and pull together a plan for the day—even if it is sitting on the couch watching movies. I try to stay active. I try to model pushing back on the darkness for Hope.

It’s hard to maintain that flow. It also feels useless as my beautiful daughter languishes in bed for days at a time, getting up to eat after I’ve gone to bed and jacking up my Netflix recommendations even when she has her own profile. I encourage her to try. She never regrets getting up and about, but she never initiates it on her own.

Recent developments have just taken their toll on me, and I’m finding it hard to keep going. I, too, could use some time to lay in bed—even though I know I won’t, or at least won’t the same way Hope does—and just sit with my emotions. I’m kinda overwhelmed with all that’s going on.

So, I’m looking to take some time off. Even with that, I feel bad because I need to cancel some engagements and some workshops I committed to recently. But I try to remember that if I got hit by a bus, those things would go on and folks would simply find someone else to do the things I thought I would do. Cancelling is not the end of the world, and some of this stuff…well, I probably should’ve said no to in the first place anyway.

I’m trying to model self-care. I’m trying to model coping. I’m trying to model self-love and resilience. I honestly don’t know if the lessons are landing, but I’m doing the best I can as I try to find my way through my own darkness.

We’ll see what the next month holds and whether I take the time I need and show my daughter how I hit the pause button. I just know I’m really tired, right now.


2020 Reflections

Each year I do a vision board. I have it blown up and I keep it framed in my bedroom so that I see it daily and am reminded that there are things to do.

My 2020 board included things like evolving my parenting now that Hope is in college, chasing some adventure, self acceptance, health and as always love.

How does the meme go?

How it started…It was to be a year of great promise.

How it ended…It was a year of survival.

COVID-19 pretty much took a wrecking ball to the year.

Hope is currently not enrolled in school, and I’m back to daily, active parenting. Just when she was becoming more social and connected, everything was cut off. It all made her really vulnerable, and just like that trouble found her. It’s been really hard dealing with the fallout of the summer’s drama. The pandemic made it just that much worse—there are so few outlets for having any sort of social connection.

Adventure? Well, going to the grocery store became an adventure. Going anywhere became an adventure. I feel like my world just closed in this year. In January I was counting down days to a trip to Israel in March, but instability in the region made my travel buddy want to cancel. We rebooked and planned a trip to Costa Rica, but then COVID hit and our trip got postponed to November. November came, along with a surge in cases, and Costa Rica was cancelled. In July Hope and I took a day trip to see my parents. That was a highlight for the year.

My vision board has hiking and relearning how to swim on it, meanwhile the pool never even opened. Adventure finally came about two months ago when I decided that we would start visiting local farms in the area. It was fun, and I have a lot of jam in my pantry now. It was wonderful having fresh pressed cider and fresh picked collard greens. I will likely sign up for a CSA in 2021 so that I can be sure to keep the goodness coming.

While I’m grateful that I found small ways of creating adventure, I’m sad that my world shrank in so many ways.

I have had a lot of time to think about what I like and dislike about myself. I’ve also had a lot of time to remember that Hope watches and learns from me. I have been able to make a lot of progress on self-acceptance. Listen, I’m not saying I’m “there,” but I’ve at least switched my thinking from focusing on my looks and size, to focus on what my body can do and what I need to do to make sure it is able to keep doing those things. I lost about 20lbs this year, most of it in January-March, but have largely kept it off. I walk every day. I’ve managed to increase my daily steps substantially. I cook more.

But I also still make a cake every 4-5 days; I still eat too much sugar, I still haven’t mastered hydration and my coping mechanism when it comes to consumption is still…an issue. 😊

I’ve been fortunate that I didn’t take a financial hit this year. I’m grateful for that. It’s meant that I’ve been able to keep debt low and afford some things that have made quarantining more comfortable—more streaming subscriptions, a new electronic standing desk, and some other odds and ends. I’m now contemplating some updates to the kitchen and my bathroom. I mean, if I’m going to be hold up here indefinitely, I probably should make it pretty and comfortable.

The flip side is that this has been one of the most challenging years of my career. The emotional toll is heavy. Dealing with rampant White supremacy in the midst of a pandemic is draining. The murder of George Floyd will be with me for a long time. The fall out has changed the way I think about the work I do, the pleasantries that I’m sometimes forced to engage in, the patience that I’m nearly always in short supply of. And watching some folks just fade back into racial oblivion is…toxic, yet to be expected during the best of times.

It’s been hard.

And love? One of the great loves of my life passed away in January, Elihu. I miss him every day. I wonder what I could’ve done to change the course of our relationship, even though I know my ending it was the right thing to do at the time. The loss of E came on the heels of losing another one of my great loves just the year before. Dating this year was trash. I am seeing someone, but I know it’s not a great fit for me, so I also know it has an expiration date. What can I say pandemics…#shrug. I’m hopeful that maybe I’ll make a meaningful connection in 2021—not meaningful like the Match commercial with Satan and 2020, but meaningful nonetheless.

But I suppose there are some bright spots.

  • I survived my own bout with COVID early in the year.
  • Hope had two jobs for a while and was really good at them.
  • Yappy is much more affectionate with Hope, even if he is primarily still very attached to me.
  • I managed it all without completely falling apart.
  • I deepened some of my friendships.
  • I did a lot of writing and creating, though not in this space.
  • I found another level to my voice regarding diversity at work.

I’m also super conscious of the fact that lots of folks would trade places with me in a minute during this crapshoot of a year. Hope and I are fine. I would give my left foot to hug my mom and dad, see my sisters and snuggle my niece and nephews, but I guess I’ll settle for waving on camera. In the grand scheme of things Hope and I are very fortunate to be comfortable. Our families have not suffered any losses. We are able to afford what we need and largely what we want. We have each other and Yappy.

We’re ok.

I have no idea what my vision board will look like for 2021; right now I just want a giant picture of OUTSIDE, but I’m guessing I should be more specific.


Let’s Talk about Sex

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.

screaming season 2 GIF
via Giphy

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….

not ready GIF
via Giphy

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!

Nbc GIF by Good Girls
via Giphy

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?


Fragile

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.

#sendmorechocolatepeanuts #fragilelikebombs


The Sun is Shining

My last post was a lot. As Hope would say, a lot a lot. I learned that my description of my family crisis was really upsetting to some adoptees. I want to acknowledge that sometimes I write  things that may be triggering for some readers. I will write more about that sometime soon, but I want to acknowledge that reality. 

Today is a new day, and the crisis is over. There are just waves of relief. My daughter is safe.

These last few weeks have really been scary. There are always times when I worry about Hope; I worry about her in some form or fashion all the time. This was different. The stakes felt higher, the threat to our relationship seemed higher, and I was just scared, really, really scared for her. 

I know I feel lucky. Parenting is hard; it just is, and some days are just harder than others. And some days, for some parents turn into weeks, months and years. 

The thing I’m most grateful for is being so close to Hope.These last few weeks have been an emotional ringer for both of us. We kept talking. We spent quality time together. We ate together. We used good communication strategies. For most of the time we were really patient with each other, and when we were able to articulate why. I feel like we are even closer now. 

There are and will continue to be some reverberations from this episode. There’s some monitoring and support that needs to happen to make sure things stay safe. There will probably still be some tears (from both of us). There will be lifelong lessons to reflect on (for both of us). 

But this morning, I’m just happy that the sun is shining and that Hope is ok. 


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