Things I'm Going to Do After

Looking forward at Thanksgiving, I don't think I've ever been this depressed. A lot of it is exhaustion, yes, but a lot of it is looking at another holiday season without the girls. I need to get my head past the next couple of months.

And so, in the middle of this financial, medical, mental, and emotional crisis, a list of things I will be doing once finances get worked out:

  • Buying more lingerie, either Belabumbum or something similarly maternity-friendly.
  • Getting an entire set of Pebeo Porcelaine 150 paints for my tile and mosaic work.
  • Buying maternity clothes as a whole.
  • Setting up the baby stuff and nursery, piece by piece.
  • Buying furniture for the upstairs reading nook, or buying a new living room couch and moving our current couch up where it belongs.
  • Just plain not worrying so goddamn much about everything.
These are my goals, and this is where my head needs to be, on things getting better.


Hello poor, neglected blog.

The reasons for the neglect and the motivation for this post all come from the same place.

I'm having an identity crisis. A very deep, very personal, very destructive identity crisis.

Go me?

In all seriousness though, I finally reached an understanding of why this would be.

At the time of my last posting on this blog life seemed very different. Chris was about to undergo surgery and that was all that was on my mind.

I didn't yet know that I was pregnant. I didn't know Chris would be undergoing radioactive iodine treatment. I had no idea what was coming.

Now all of that is in the rearview mirror and I find myself trying desperately to deal. Crisis mode is *mostly* over and it's on to dealing with the future.

The fun thing about crisis mode is that while you're dealing with it you have no idea what you're doing to yourself. As you pare down life in order to deal with the shitstorm you don't realize what you're giving up and what you'll need to do once it's over.

Between being a wife, mother, expectant mother, housewife, dog owner and cat owner, I'd lost complete track of everything I am that is completely separate from all of the above.

There's an inherent danger in being _______'s _______. Chris's wife. The girls' mother. Baby's mother. Jayne's owner. Eva's foster mother/mistress (she is a dog after all). All of these roles are defined by some other living thing. And I'd lost sight of everything but those roles.

The problem with all of those roles? Success in them can only be gauged second-hand through the success of the primary subject.

Am I a good wife? Doesn't that depend on Chris, and isn't that best determined by him? Am I a good mother? How do I know without the kids? If one of the dogs won't stop barking, does that mean I'm failing, or is there something else involved?

Then there's the bigger picture. Who am I in the world? As far as 99% of the blogosphere is concerned my first identity is "Chris's wife". At the doctors I am "the cancer patient's wife". At the vet I am "Jayne's owner".

None of those are really who I am, or even scratch the surface. I've allowed myself to get to the point that I'm only known as _______'s _________.

Even in blogging and online I've kind of relegated myself to the same positions. I blog on Chris's blog, but it's still his. My involvement in the forum is secondary, not primary. Even on various social sites my involvement is only secondary. I go to club meetings where Chris is the far better known person and I'm still "the wife".

Granted this is at least partially because Chris has such a big personality and such a big presence, but still...

Where am I just "Mel"?

That's a big question, and the reality is that through a mixture of circumstances and personal choice I've made it this way. I've refused to spend the time and energy necessary to be "just Mel". When your life revolves around your family and your home and your job is your family and home, _______'s ______ is the default. Being known only for yourself is far more difficult. It's also impossible, honestly. There is no going back in many ways.

Just because I'll always be _______'s ______ doesn't mean I can't be Mel at the same time. I just need to carve out some room for myself. Focus on some things some of the time that don't revolve around or include the family. Focus on some things and some projects where the success of my efforts depends only on me and therefore can be measured in a way that is clear and makes sense. Make a name for myself in some circles where I'm known primarily for myself and not for my family.

I have tons of interests where I can do that. I have tons of things I want to get into but between circumstances and guilt I've avoided taking the plunge. I just need to take the plunge. Maybe then I'll feel like I exist as someone separate. Maybe.

It's worth a shot.

Life Changes

This past week presented a huge challenge to me personally.

In 5 days my husband goes under the knife for what will most likely be a total thyroidectomy. The tumor is finally coming out. Yay!

There is however a rather un-expected side to the story.

By taking the rate of growth over the tumor between the two ultrasounds so far and assuming that's the fastest it's grown we've determined the tumor probably originated 9-10 years ago and reached a detectable size somewhere around 9 years ago.

So that's how long he went undiagnosed, 8 years or so.

That's... big.

We'd been chasing down the cause of his symptoms for 5 years when the diagnosis finally came in last March. To look at the past and think, "wow how long has this thing been fucking with you" turned out interesting. Symptoms initially assigned to things like prior trauma, age, and stress take on a whole new spin.

Who knows what will happen past surgery? Who knows what will get better? At the very least we'll finally be able to treat the thyroid symptoms, but what else might be improved?

It is both exhilarating, and terrifying.

Most people look to the future with at the very least a naive, deluded idea of what will happen (and most of the time they're mostly right if the status quo is the answer).

Me? I got none of that at the moment. Completely clueless.

It's terrifying and exciting.

There are also other things going on in the background contributing to all of this; Chris is looking for a new job, I'm still working studiously on un-fucking myself, and the entire world seems extremely full of possibility at the moment.

Exhilarating. Terrifying.

I've been jumping between those two feelings all week. I'm raring to go and get the one thing I can pinpoint in my life calendar over and done with. I'm literally counting down the hours.

Wish me luck.

Mel's Manifesto

Most people keep at least a few versions of themselves on hands. The face they turn towards family, the face for friends, the face for work.

My versions are a bit more disparate than most in that some facets of who I am aren't welcome in the circles that other facets move in.

Or at least that's what I told myself for a long, long time.

I'm really fucking tired of it. I'm tired of tamping down my emotions in fear of offending someone I like, I'm tired of not speaking my mind because I don't want a fight, I'm tired of not being all of me all of the time.

Life is too complicated and too weird to be adding more complication in the name of avoiding conflict. What's worse is it's not even real conflict. It's either what I imagined or its conflict because someone else can't imagine a world in which someone breaks their long-held stereotypes or otherwise makes them think.

So I'm avoiding imaginary conflict, or conflict with morons.

How about I just write, and say, and act all of the ways I am all of the time? Wouldn't that be a tad bit simpler?

Oh, I'll still have to bite my tongue every now and then. Some things certainly don't belong out in public and I DO still have a custody case going on.

But the rest? Why do I give a fuck?

So here's my manifesto: all of me, all of the time.

Because it's the right thing to do. Because it will keep me from going insane. Because it's what I need to do.

All of me, all of the time.

One Connection I Never Thought I'd Make

I'm re-listening to Uncertainty at the moment. Why re-listening? Honestly, I thought I would get more out of it this time.

I'm definitely getting more out of it this time.

In the meantime I'm still struggling with the Un-Fucking Project and its inherent difficulties.

One of the later chapters of Uncertainty goes over the inevitable point in a project when the temptation to quit is overwhelming and when the thought of quitting fills you with such relief that you're absolutely convinced you should give up. We all reach this point in a huge creative endeavor at one point or another and it can literally sink us.

Fields developed a test for knowing whether it truly is time to quit or if the sense of relief is from letting go of the creative angst. If it's letting go of angst it means the project isn't the problem, the resistance is the problem.

His very simple test is a visualization. Imagine its two years from now and your project has to come to fruition in all it's glory. You're reaping the benefits and you've accomplished what you wanted to accomplish with this massive outpouring of creative energy. How do you feel? Where do you feel it? Are you happy and contented?

If the answer is happy, contented, thrilled, and you feel it through your entire body, then the temptation to quit isn't because the project is worth quitting. The temptation to quit is instead from what Steven Pressfield calls the Resistance.

The Resistance is a very difficult concept to translate, but I'll do my best. It's actually better to think of the Resistance as an opposite. Take your calling, your creative endeavors, your very mission in life, that "thing you can't not do", and all of the hard work and delayed gratification that goes into every bit of work towards that goal.

The Resistance is the opposite.

The Resistance is what tells you your work is futile. The Resistance is what hides in your fears and tells you you can't possibly make it. The Resistance is what tells you to sacrifice tomorrow for today.

In physics terms, if creative energy is an object in motion, the Resistance is what attempts to make that object be at rest instead, and STAY there. It's ruthless and uses every bit of fear and uncertainty in order to keep us from progressing.

So in light of Fields' test I decided to sit down and run the test on my current projects and goals. Some of them required tweaking (the true goal was not what I first envisioned) but most of them survived this test.

One of the results though truly blew me away.

Sure "have another baby" and "get Chris healthy" and "get the kids back and healthy" ranked really high on the "want it so bad I can taste it scale".

They were nothing compared to "make myself sane and healthy."

Turns out what the Un-Fucking Project is designed to bring about is what I want most desperately in this world. To be in control of my life and my destiny and moreover, myself.

It's also the project I feel the most angst and resistance about, to the point of engaging in multiple levels and forms of avoiding the project including rationalizing, bullshitting myself, and outright avoidance.

I never thought to apply the concept of Resistance to the goal of making myself healthy and sane. But then it makes sense.

What greater creative endeavor do any of us have than creating our own life? What will ever top that act of creation?

Fortunately enough I already own Steven Pressfield's book which covers Resistance, The War of Art.

I've started re-reading the War of Art with a whole new appreciation for its meaning.

On Life Purpose and Phobias

I've decided to take up meditation.

This could be a very dangerous idea.

I've decided to take up meditation so I can gain more control over the swirling chaos which is my internal thought process. More specifically, I decided to take up meditation today because the hormonally agitated anxiety started getting to me.

Like most things I started looking for the "perfect" way to meditate. Like most pursuits of perfection, it failed.


Once again, I had forgotten that sometimes the answer is to just do it.

So I tried, with a modicum of success.

Nobody ever warns you about these things. That if you do X, you might unlock Y.

I carry all of my stress and my pain in one part of my body, my uterus. In chakra terms, when my uterus becomes unblocked, all of me becomes unblocked.

I'm a submissive in a long-term 24/7 relationship so I've gotten quite used to not doing my own unblocking. Problem is, the stronger I've become mentally and emotionally, the harder its been to get unblocked.


I hoped meditation would help.

It helped a little too much.

Ever have one of those "aha" moments, when you realize just how much of a moron you've been?


So all of this blockage is coming out emotionally and I can see clear as day two things:

1. My primary purpose in life is to create, nurture, and grow.
2. I spend the vast majority of my life erecting roadblocks because I'm afraid of my primary purpose in life.

Fun, huh?

The really awesome part was recognizing that I'd avoided consciously associating the two because of the sheer simplicity of my life purpose.

As far as I thought, I didn't HAVE a life purpose.

Oh, I love to create. Love love love. But I'd always associated life purpose with something more tangible.

"Look at Sister Mary over there. She heard the call. She's dedicating her life to the church."
"Look at Ann. The only thing she's ever wanted to be is a wife and mother."
"I've always wanted to be a policeman."
"I've always wanted to be a doctor."
"I've always wanted to cure cancer."

Oh, look at them. How blessed they are to have a calling. Wonder what I should do?


call·ingnoun1.the act of a person or thing that calls.2.vocation, profession, or trade: What is your calling?3.a call  or summons: He had a calling to join the church.4.a strong impulse or inclination: She did it in response to aninner calling.5.a convocation: the calling of Congress.Origin: 1200–50; Middle English; see call-ing1
2.  mission, province, forte, specialty, field. 

          Calling (Mel's definition): that thing you must do, or else it fucks you up

I love to write. Never felt the calling as a writer, and I can't define myself AS a writer, as I don't wake up every morning thinking how much I need to write. Baker? Same thing. Artisan? Yep.

There is something I wake up thinking about how much I need to, MUST, go do.

Create. Nurture. Grow.

I've wanted another child for a long, long time. Can't do it right now but the pull is strong. I love all babies; human, animals, plants. I love them all.

I feel a compulsion to write when moved. I feel a compulsion to design, to draw, to piece, to photograph, to take rare elements and make something new from them.

So what if my calling is EXTREMELY vague. That just leaves more opportunities to fulfill the need.

..... and more opportunities to fuck it up.


It's what I must do. It's what I'm here for. It scares the fuck out of me.

Blame my dad if you want, and all of his talk about starving artists. Blame my tendency to rely on the opinions of others. Blame it on whatever. I'm afraid of putting it out there, because whatever I create stays in the world and then people can *gasp* pass judgement on what I've made. And then if they don't like it I'll just die.

It's a flippin' phobia. An evil, useless, detrimental, life-sucking phobia combined with a stupid fucking irrational thought.

And what do we do with phobias we don't want to deal with? Oh, just use everyday responsibilities and stupid excuses to keep away from whatever we're afraid of.

Huh. I guess a messy house might do that. If I've always got something "more important" to do (after all, "real life" is more important than the "luxury" of creation) then naturally I'll never get around to it.

Like I said, dumbass.

So class, how do you fight a phobia?

Exposure therapy.

Yeppers. Time to do some exposure therapy.

So now until I beat the shit out of this phobia I'll need to do two things:

1. Make something every day.
2. Show that something off one way or another.
3. Notice that the criticism does not kill me or otherwise destroy me.

Sound like a plan?

Today's Challenge - Master Bedroom and Bathroom Part 2

So today's challenge was the master bedroom and bathroom.

How did I do?

Well, like normal my ambitions and expectations far exceeded my actual competence at the moment. To be honest, the expectation that I would finish in one day was a little silly as it was. That I started at 11 am didn't help.

Then, about 2 pm when the time for my second adderall of the day came around, I realized I was in pain. Really bad background pain.

Mel's rule #1: Don't suffer needlessly.
Mel's rule #2: Don't make the week suffer for the day's sake, i.e. don't kill your productivity for the week by killing yourself reaching productivity for the day.

About 4 pm the Midol and ibuprofen finally kicked in. Oh, and the Dr. Pepper and Reese's. Yes, that kind of pain.

So back to the work I went.

I always attack trash and "misfits" first. Misfits are those things that I want to keep, but aren't in their assigned place or even assigned room. Dirty laundry and dishes also fit on that list (unless they're in the laundry room and kitchen, respectively).

Soon the bed was covered with misfits:

Cleaning out under the bed yielded even more trash and misfits.

Dealing with the trash was simple. Out to the truck it went so I could take it to the transfer station in the morning.

The misfits however... many of them don't have a place as of yet, and my organizing areas are already pretty badly backlogged with other stuff waiting re-assignment and final placement. I couldn't very well leave them on the bed, and I couldn't take them somewhere else... so the boxes ended up back against the wall. Grrr.

Now most people wait to vacuum or sweep until the end but I find a clear and clean floor to be much more pleasant and motivating than waiting. So I brought up the Dyson and went to town.

Now, having completed the vacuuming, I had to face the facts; it was too late in the day, and I was too tired, to finish all I had planned.


At times like this when I notice my energy and motivation are on their last legs I make a short little list of what I think I can finish. The list contains three projects: something I can finish in 15 minutes or less that I won't need to touch again, something that will gratify me and fill me with delight in the morning, and something that if I don't finish it will annoy the hell out of me.

The 15 minute project I chose involved making a permanent place for all of the doggie toys I'd discovered while cleaning. Like all 15 minute projects it had a definite set of criteria: must be a permanent solution and must not use or require anything I don't have on hand. For the storage to work it needed to be usable by our smallest dog and be simple and complete.

An old laundry basket I had on hand fit the bill perfectly:

For the gratifying project I chose setting up my vanity. The vanity had similar criteria; easy to do and only involving materials on hand. A folding table and folding chair worked well:

From left to right: makeup brushes, hair items, face cream, hand towel, phone charger, radio/speaker, mirror, internet connection stuff, makeup drawers under table.

As for the last project, I REALLY wanted to at least mostly take care of the bathroom so I wouldn't need to look at it's current state.

At this time Chris called saying he was leaving work. That left me an hour and half to clean the bathroom, clean myself up, and make dinner.

I gave myself 40 minutes for the bathroom, which mostly did the trick:
I'll have to deal with the organization, floor and soap ring in the tub later, but everything else is clean.

That left me 50 minutes to jump in the shower (desperately needed at this point) and make dinner.

Thank God dinner was simple, and only needed half an hour.

I was dressed, made up, and had dinner waiting when he walked through the door.

Only one thing remained: a huge pile of laundry and dishes left on the bed. 15 minutes took care of that:

So current state of bedroom:
Clean floor, very little organization. Ugh.

So what I learned today:

  • Stop expecting perfection.
  • Stop expecting projects to take half the time they'll actually take.
  • Remember that I'm not always at my best.
  • Make cleaning easy to pick up again, and organization easy to pick up where you left off.
All in all, not a bad start.

Today's Challenge - Master Bedroom & Bathroom Part 1

Shortly before we moved to the Inland Northwest, my best friend had an idea.

Knowing my apparent inability to keep things in the household clean and organized, she suggested that I take pictures once a month of my progress and send them to her.

I did not do that. Irrational beliefs concerning well, a lot of things, kept me from doing so.

However, I must admit she had a point.

So I'm going to take her idea, and make it BIGGER.

Thus, Today's Challenge is born. I will take photos of one area of the house I want to complete clean out, redo, etc and post them.

I will include why it's a challenge, and what I intend to do about the challenge.

Later, I will follow up with my progress and what I learned.

So today we're doing the master bedroom and bathroom:

Storage by door


Corner (note short wall)

Part of floor

Internet equipment


Chris's side with To Read pile

Master bathroom

Master bathroom

The issues:

  • Two adults with ADHD, one space. Any organizational system must be simple, memorable by both, and extremely visual.
  • Too much stuff, too little space, no organization.
  • Too many hats; we've used the master bedroom for SO many things, including Chris's office when he was working from home AND a music space. We need to reduce the number of things we use the master bedroom for.
  • Odd room design; as you can see the master bedroom is the loft in a chalet style home. The walls are short. The closet is short in height, but extends back to the short wall leaving a bunch of semi-useless space.
  • The master bath only has room for one person to get ready at a time. In the morning that can be an issue.
  • The useful part of the closet that we can reach (i.e. where the clothes are hanging) is full of clothes and there are more clean clothes to put away.
  • My shoe collection is large and haphazard at the moment.
  • I don't have anywhere but the bathroom to put on my makeup, there's no room in the bathroom FOR my makeup, and I want to put on my makeup while Chris is getting ready in the morning.
  • Chris's "To Read" pile is sky high, as is the pile of magazines he hasn't read yet.
  • There is no good established way to deal with dirty laundry.
  • The internet connection equipment is stored in the master bedroom for good reason, and cannot be moved to another room.
The good:
  • There's plenty of space if used properly.
  • There's some blank wall space.
What I've done before this point:
  • Shoe rack for the door. I'm not happy with it as a permanent solution.
  • Organized both sides of the closet, complete with labels. Chris's clothing runs professional to casual from left to right, making getting dressed for work very easy. His socks and underwear are in the hanging shoe organizer, tshirts shorts and jeans in the sweater organizer. We've run out of room on his side, despite removing items that don't fit. My side runs from dresses to tops and lingerie, with panties and bras in shoe organizers. I've also run out of room.
My plan:
  • Take out anything that doesn't belong. All papers, all office equipment except internet connection equipment. Bedroom is for sleeping (and other related activities), clothing, and getting ready in the morning. Chris's laptop must stay because, well, it must.
  • Set up a makeup vanity where the internet equipment is now, with allowances for the equipment. Move all makeup to drawer cart stored under vanity.
  • Take out the black wire shelves by the door and replace with a 9 cube cubby shelving unit for the extra clothing. Mount curtain rods above the shelving for my shoes.
  • Take excess clothing out of closet so everything is easier to reach. Clean out back of closet which is currently unused. Turn back of closet into world's most soundproof meditation space (seriously).
  • Pare Chris's To Read pile and move excess to eventual home of all books, aka Basement Hall Storage Area.
  • Set up permanent clothes hamper for dirty clothes.
  • Clean out bathroom; remove all unnecessary duplicates and empty containers. Organize medicine cabinet and drawers in a useful fashion.

On Fixing Yourself

I am currently fighting through the middle of what could be charitably called a "life transition".

Heh. That phrase doesn't include any swear words. The way I'd really like to put it is at least 99% vulgarity.

I'm attempting to "un-fuck" myself.

The term "un-fuck" is very, very important. It alludes to the fact that due to how I handled my life mentally and emotionally, I managed to extremely fuck up how I handle myself and by extension, the rest of the world. Yes, there were outside circumstances; biology, culture, how I was raised, etc. Those are external factors and they strongly influenced how I dealt with my brain and my emotions.

But the reality is I still made a choice (even if the choices available weren't awesome) and fucked myself in the head and the emotions.

Accepting that I MADE those choices and CREATED the mental and emotional structure that followed does not absolve those influences from responsibility. It just emphasizes the fact that if I MADE the choices and CREATED those internal structures, I can DESTROY and REPLACE those structures that leave me mentally and emotionally fucked up.

Therefore, the quest to un-fuck myself. Could use the word normalize, but that doesn't work. No one is "normal" and no person is completely the same as everyone else. I could use the term "sanity" but that's also nebulous and open to interpretation.

No, the answer is not to chase a nebulous concept, because you'll never get there. The answer is to chase something not nebulous; something definable. So the quest is not sanity; the quest is to eradicate every way in which I internally fuck myself over.

Problem is, I do that in so many, many ways.

* * *

In order to understand what I'm doing, I need to back up a bit and explain the surface issues.

I have ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactive disorder), Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and an extremely high IQ (155 or so as of last testing).

ADHD is a congenital difference in the structure of the brain that leads to difficulty managing attention and focus    (look, a shiny!) combined with several other traits. It's structural, and chemical, and treatable. However, as of yet it's not curable. Let's not get into the concept of "curable", that pisses me off as much as "normal" does.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is what it sounds like; anxiety over EVERYTHING. It's basis is a mix of structural (some people are more prone), chemical (ditto), and learned behaviors.

High IQ, once thought to be unchanging and entirely structural, is a mix of structural differences in the brain and practice using those differences. You can decrease or increase your IQ through using or not using your brain, but some people have an easier time due to being born with the structures that make it easier. For example, the kid with a naturally high IQ whose parents encourage (or don't prohibit) reading at an early age will find using that IQ easier than the kid who had no access to books at an early age. However, the kid with no access can increase their tested IQ rather rapidly once they learn to read and manage access to books themselves.

Of that mix of traits/conditions/whatever, there's a mixture of what is fixed (structural differences in the brain), what can be influenced (chemicals, neural pathways), and what I can outright change (learned behaviors).

In order to understand how I've decided to attack these issues head-on, it's useful to review my personal reading and podcast listening for the last 6 months:

Your Life Can Be Better (a book on ADD)
Believe it or not, all of these intersect.

The Get-it-Done Guy Podcast is what got me into podcasts in a major way. It also taught me the many small ways in which I can improve life, 5 minutes at a time. That's when I discovered I keep my attention better while listening to other people speak, preferably about real things. That led me to the Accidental Creative, which speaks specifically about setting up life so you can be your most creative. More Attention, Less Deficit is of course about ADHD, but less about the WHY and more about the HOW. So is Your Life Can Be Better.

Uncertainty is quite possible one of the best books ever, as it explores how to take the natural anxiety created by creative work and turn it into something useful. The Happiness Project is about exploring creating, well, happiness. 

These concepts all together can be summed up in one phrase: you can make yourself improve your life by improving yourself first.

The real kicker though was reading (actually listening to) How to Control Your Anxiety Before it Controls You back to back with Stuff.

How to Control Your Anxiety is written by Albert Ellis, who is somewhat of a well-know fixture of the psychiatric community. He is a psychiatrist who developed his own form of therapy for anxiety in order to treat himself for the condition. He came up with Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, or REBT.

REBT is based on the theory that most unrealistic anxiety is caused by what Ellis calls "irrational beliefs" and therefore most anxiety can be treated or eradicated completely by replacing irrational beliefs with rational beliefs. Unlike most anxiety treatments that focus on "why" (tell me about your mother), REBT focuses on "how" the anxiety is triggered and treats the anxiety directly.

So directly after How to Control Your Anxiety, I listened to Stuff.

Oh boy.

I'm not a hoarder, but I do have hoarding tendencies I fight with on a continual basis. Stuff is full of the extreme examples of hoarding but unlike other books of its kind, it focuses on how the hoarders talk about their hoarding and respond to their hoarding. In that way, it does focus on "why" but it also uncovers the beliefs the hoarders have about their possessions.

Light bulb.

Here they were, a whole bunch of examples of people being fucked up by irrational beliefs, all laid out in a row for me to ponder. Some of the beliefs sounded REALLY familiar.

So the intersection of all of these things looks something like this:
Irrational beliefs needing to be replaced by rational beliefs +
Strategies for dealing with anxiety +
Strategies for dealing with ADHD + 
Strategies for increasing creative energy and controlling mindset +
Concept of creating own happiness +
Look how badly you can fuck up your life with your beliefs
= maybe I can change those things in my life that make me miserable by changing myself first

Thus, the un-fucking project.

WHY versus HOW

I'd been focusing way too much on WHY things were the way they were. Knowing why is very important; in fact most therapy focuses on why.

I'd really, really tapped WHY and had run out of its usefulness.

REBT's method is very simple:
1. Identify the situations that make you anxious
ex: public speaking
2. Identify the thought or belief that leads to the anxiety
ex: oh God I have to do this speech perfectly or they'll laugh at me and I'll be so embarrassed
3. Identify a rational belief that would better serve you and not make you as anxious
ex: I'd like to do this speech perfectly but it I don't I can handle the criticism and its no big deal
4. Replace the irrational belief with the rational belief through several methods

One of these methods is the dispute, where you show the irrational belief to be false on a logical and empirical basis, and detrimental on a utility basis.

Ah, utility. My new best friend.

Nothing, nothing has been more eye-opening than looking at my beliefs and behavior through the lens of utility. Is it useful? Does it help me or make things more difficult? Fuck right or wrong, does this FUCK ME UP?

Thus, the concept of un-fucking my mental and emotional processes. Not trying to "fix" me based on a standard. Not trying to reach "sanity" or "normal". Just am I helping myself or getting in my own way?

And if whatever I am doing doesn't work, what am I going to do instead?

* * *

So this has been my transition. Every time I come across a snag in my behavior that causes me issues, I chase that bitch down. Sometimes it's as simple as "I thought this would work better than it did. Oh well, let's look at what went wrong, why it went wrong, and develop another method".

Sometimes things don't work because I'm trying someone else's method and my mind doesn't work that way. Then I look at what the method attempts to accomplish then find another way to get to the endpoint that works for me. That means accepting the parts of my brain that I can't change and finding a way to deal. This is where understanding the creative process helps, because I'm constantly creating ways to do things that work for me.

Sometimes it's an anxiety or a bad reaction due to internal programming (once again something I did myself, therefore I can UNDO) so I chase the programming down and either replace it or toss it completely.

I've done my best to keep track. I've got tons of disputes saved on my computer. I'm trying to keep track of my work process and analyze it for what works. I'm doing my best to fix issues as they pop up. I've even created a subliminal message track on my phone (recorded by me and played at barely audible levels) in order to implant my new rational beliefs in my head (preceded by the all-important "I discard my faulty and limited framework and embrace my open and clear mind". No conflicting messages thankyouverymuch).

All of this is working. It's working to various degrees, but it's working.

I did not properly prepare myself for how much it would suck.

Why do people keep irrational beliefs and fucked up mental and emotional frameworks to begin with? Easy.

They get to be right.

Every time the self-fulfilling prophecy gets fulfilled, you get to feel justified. Whenever something is fucked up "because you're a bad person and deserve it", you get the warm feeling of being right and understanding the world. Yes, it's fucked up. It's still self-reinforcing and gives the brain a feeling of understanding the world.

Take that away, and you're adrift. There's not enough evidence to rebuild your understanding of reality (since reality actually exists somewhere other than your head now) and you no longer spend all your time being right. You now see all of the possibilities you blinded yourself to before, but now that you're not emotionally invested in how horrible or awesome you are you can see yourself for who you are. Now that you understand your every thought and action doesn't fundamentally change reality, you have to face your lack of control over the world.

Who you are right now is someone who is learning just what you are capable of, and just how far you've got to go until your competence reaches your capability and your ambitions.

Accepting that you can change your thoughts and behaviors, deal with the parts of you that won't change, influence the parts you can influence, and outright change the parts you can change, you hit a wall of realization.

There is so much you can do to improve, so much room to improve, and you are an absolute newbie with no experience.  You grasp that you can understand e=mc2, but first you need to learn to add and subtract.

That's where I am at this moment. The initial boost of understanding I can change all of these things has worn off and now I see just how much work there is to do before I see the huge gains I desperately want to see.

I'm eyeing the 200 lbs on the weight rack and knowing I can get there, but right now the 20 lbs I'm lifting is making me sore. Intellectually I know I'm doing the right thing but without the immediate reinforcement of success I need to force myself through every step.

So I've needed to rejigger my expectations and my milestones. 200 lbs is still my goal, but I've set interim goals at 30, 40, 50 and on up. I need my way-points, I need my encouragement to get over the fact that I'm sore and discouraged.

Plans are a constant part of life. I need to pull out and review my goals and processes and plans on a continual basis to remind myself why I'm working so hard and what my end goal looks like and why it will be awesome once I get there.

I'll get there. Maybe not immediately, but I'll get there.

I know this for sure: no matter how bad I feel right now, getting through this process will end much better than spending one more day gripped by depression and anxiety.

I can make my life better by starting with me.

P.S. As an aside, my dear husband is a fucking saint for putting up with this entire process, not trying to interject himself into the process, and praising my small accomplishments when he sees them. Thank you love.

Mel Want - Penti by Kenan Dogulu

 Mel LOVE:

No, I'd probably never wear them, but since when does that matter?

I love a bunch of the styles Penti offers. In fact, the Penti storefront in Cambridge Square ended up being one of the few stops I made on my tourist expedition in Boston at which I actually bought something (several things actually). That storefront is like a candy store for the hosiery-obsessed; walls full of every style in every color in every size.

Well, every style except this one anyway. Like quite a few manufacturers, Turkey-based Penti doesn't offer all of its styles in the US. One of the Madonna/ whore complex issues that plagues the lingerie markets in the US. The American woman's tendency to only buy practical, slutty, or luxury lingerie kinda screws manufacturers over. There's not near enough call for the whimsical, therefore not enough profit to stock American stores with the nifty.

But that's a rant for another day.

I may not be able to buy these as easily in the US, but that doesn't stop me from wanting.


As long as I can remember I've been a perfectionist.

Perfectionism as far as I can tell is not my natural state. Some people are born with the insatiable need to set the world to order and make everything as symmetric as possible; one of my friends in high school would take an entire bag of skittles, pour it out, line the candies up by color, then eat the extras until each color had the same amount and then eat them, in order.

I'm more of the scorched earth kind of person myself. Hell, I'm a Sagitarrius and even if you don't buy into all of the astrology stuff being a fire sign suits me. I'm fickle, tend to burn too bright and too hot and then get too cold, and almost nothing I do has a clean edge. Perfect is not a word in my natural vocabulary.

But I am, nonetheless, a perfectionist.

So this weekend ended up being kind of a watershed moment for me. Chris and I got into an argument (all of our arguments start the same way btw, with my own insecurities) about why I had thus far been unable to accomplish as much in the household as we had both hoped. This is a recurring feature of our life together because, honestly, I suck at cleaning.

Actually, suck is too kind of a word. I half-heartedly attempt to clean, then wipe out all of my own progress, unconsciously.

I don't plan to make the mess worse than before, I just do.

This particular iteration of the "Chris brings it up, Mel feels awful, Mel strikes back, Chris gets upset" cycle happened while sitting in front of a local restaurant on Saturday. I don't know how we got there, but during this set Chris had his own major realization about why.

Why, in this case, turned out to be my complete lack of mental tools needed to get the job done. I have no critical thinking skills to speak of, no process planning skills, and no quality control skills. I know things go wrong, but I never do the necessary steps to determine the problem and fix the process. So each time something goes wrong, I feel utterly helpless and like an utter failure. Add in ADHD complete with its memory glitches and nothing ever gets better. It should be noted, this is a failure in the mental process far before where most organizational systems pick up so my years of trying to organize my life didn't do a damn thing.

Right now he's working on teaching me the necessary skills for process planning and analysis while adapting what he knows for use with my particular flavor of ADHD. We've started with the Deming Cycle (plan-do-study-act) and we're going from there.

That brings us to today. Chris is at work, I'm attempting to take care of the items on my to-do list (and failing horribly) but also adding in the Deming Cycle, specifically the part where I study. I study why things didn't go the way I'd planned and identify a possible solution.

So far today I'd managed to take two different problems and apply those steps. The first problem, losing 2 hours of time to a case of overfocus, I was unable to fix on the spot. However, I've come up with a plan to keep it from happening again. The second problem I managed to fix during the process. I left Walmart craving Taco Bell for lunch and, instead of just buy it, I identified why the craving existed and elected instead to stop at Safeway for a healthier lunchtime dose of crunchy/salty/creamy in the form of homemade tacos (much cheaper and satisfying long run).

That brought me to the afternoon and my review of my to-do list.

One item on my to-do list stuck out and haunted me. Call the bank and get the debit cards fixed.

See, when the IRS fucked up our accounts our debit cards for our household and Chris's personal accounts got canceled. I need to call and get new cards issued.

I don't want to do it. So I sat there trying to force myself to pick up the phone and call the number, all the while playing the theoretical conversation in my head.

"Sorry, I need new debit cards because the IRS seized our bank accounts and I couldn't fix it for months. Please send us new cards."

It stopped being "didn't want to call" and started being "terrified of calling."

This terror was the hangup in my PDSA cycle. I needed to study the problem and determine the best solution.

An hour later I'd managed to make my waterproof mascara run. I started bawling the moment I realized what I was feeling.

* * *

Terror. Terror of admitting my faults to another person, no matter how much a stranger.

I asked myself, what do I think will happen? That if they know the IRS screwed us over and I'm just now fixing it that the knowledge of my screw ups alone will kill me? Will they think I'm a bad person that deserves to be destroyed? Do I really think a stranger will kill me because of a mistake?

Honestly, yes. Deep down I think any imperfection is a death sentence.

I remember Saturday sitting in the truck, Chris having his "aha" moment, and me sobbing about how terrified I was of him finding out how flawed and inadequate I am. Terror that if he ever figures it out, I will be cast aside because I'm imperfect. Nevermind that he's figured that out many times over and I'm still here, it's the fear that rules me.

Terror that the banker on the phone will kill me once they know. Terror that admitting I'm wrong is worthy of an execution. Terror terror terror.

So I shut off the TV, put down the computer, went upstairs, kicked the dogs out of the bedroom, closed the door, and laid down in the silence to contemplate why.

Smart phones can be dangerous, but helpful, tools. I couldn't figure out why my perfectionism was so intense, and why it existed, so I started looking for answers. One quote stopped me in my mental tracks:

I'd been looking for a decision I'd made, or a fatal character flaw in my search for the root of my perfectionism. I'd been looking too high in the mental process.
Oh, I knew my upbringing had a lot to do with the perfectionism. However, I'd always put it in terms of something I'd thought of, a decision I had come to, a way of looking at the world that I'd developed from a lack of complete info.

A sense is something else entirely.

The same article goes on to say:

Perfectionism, then, is a relational issue and not something that arises solely on its own or within a person. There are several environments in which perfectionism can arise, but they all share the sense that acceptance, or harmony, or safety within the family, are dependent on how a family member performs.
Freeing our families from perfectionism is less about finding the right thing to do, and more about creating an environment of acceptance. Of course, it is also important to challenge our children, and ourselves, to reevaluate our beliefs and change our behaviors. Its important to be clear that we love our children whatever they do or do not accomplish. They should know that mistakes are a part of everyone's life and that these mistakes can always form a basis for learning. All of the behavioral and cognitive interventions we can think of to help our children will become most useful in an environment in which their feeling of acceptance is secure. Absent this, explaining to a perfectionistic child that she needn't worry so much is simply heard as one more criticism.
This was enough to dredge up decades of pain and bring it all to the forefront.

I grew up in a household that, for a myriad of reasons, did not show love in ways that I understood innately. I can see the proof of love now, with an adult perspective, but I did not see it then. 

Out of the 5 love languages (Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch) I only innately understood words and touch. "I love you" was a phrase never heard in my household growing up, and for some reason both of my parents feared showing physical affection. Actually, both my parents feared quite a lot and were perfectionists in their own right.

I was starved for a sense of love and affection so I went looking for both, all of the time. The only thing I could do that kinda sorta worked was do something well, and maybe get some praise out of it. Words of praise were scant, but they did happen. Unfortunately praise was usually followed with criticism so I spent most of my time starved for emotional connection. In school I ended up an outcast; that didn't help. As for church, well... my religious training was overly evangelistic. Too much emphasis on what you needed to do to go to heaven and who was going to hell, and very little emphasis on God's love. If you're taught that even God won't let you into heaven unless you're really really good, perfect stops being an ideal and starts being a survival strategy. On a deeply emotional level I became convinced love and acceptance come from good works and pleasing the other person and nothing else.

I made such awesome abuser bait. A bit of affection and some pretty words were all it took. Extra bonus points if my pathetic neediness and groveling pleased them at all.

* * *

Boyfriend 0 couldn't keep me, he was long distance. Boyfriend 1 couldn't keep me either; I'm a natural submissive and he couldn't dominate worth a crap. Boyfriend 2 left me broken hearted; he cheated on me. I know now it's because, at that time, I didn't really exist as a person to him. I still thought it was my fault (after all, I was responsible for whether or not someone accepted me). 

That big breakup happened while I was away at college, and during this time my parents sold my childhood home and moved. I got relegated to a cot in a living room. No arrangements made for me whatsoever, and no sense of roots or family cohesiveness to keep me there.

Boyfriend 0 started looking really, really good at that point, and all it took was some pretty words of love and a promise of acceptance. I was off to a foreign country to get married.

Wait, that's not the whole story. In a weird transition time between deciding to get married and actually doing so, I met Jose.

I'd picked up a temp job while living with my best friend's family (also temporary). I met Jose working the graveyard shift at a manufacturing plant. There was something about him, and we hit it off (I now know it was self-confidence and ambition, both of which draw me like a moth to a flame). One day the fledgling friendship turned into something more hot and heavy. We both insisted it was just "a thing" and it didn't mean anything. Even though we were spending more and more time together and sleep was a distant memory. It didn't help that he'd opened with "I don't believe in love or marriage."

I still planned to leave and get married.

There was a moment (actually more than a few moments) he could have gotten me to stay. I really wanted to stay, and he kept talking about how I should stay, for all of those *other* people in my life. He'd even been trying to get other people to convince me to stay, as I found out later. But he wouldn't say the words "I want you to stay" or "I love you". At that point I had such low self-esteem that even triggering the sub in me by simply saying "Stay" would have worked. But he wouldn't say the words.

So I packed up my bags and left for Canada to go be with abusive first husband like I'd already planned.

Still one of the top 10 stupidest things I've ever done. But the perfectionist in me couldn't stand the thought of destroying my original plan or re-evaluating my assumptions or displeasing someone for whom my pleasing them filled an emotional need.

The good part of what happened with Jose? Even though I ended up losing one of the best friends I'd ever had over my decision to go anyway, the memory of how well he treated me is what pulled me out of my abusive first marriage. Even if it wasn't "love" (and I will now debate that until the ends of the earth) he still treated me like a human being.

14 months after leaving my ex-husband, I met Chris and got my needs to love and be loved and submit in a good healthy way met. Being a sub stopped being a way to get abused and started being a way to heal instead, and I finally felt fully accepted (or as much as I could anyway.)

I still lived in terror that one day he would see me for who I really was and cast me out. After all, if I'm not perfect, I might lose that acceptance. Or at least that's what the deepest, most primal part of me still thought.

* * *

If "The root of perfectionism is a sense of conditional acceptance.", it seems the solution and cure isn't to treat the symptom that is perfectionism (although many, many people have tried). The solution is to change the base premise of acceptance being conditional.

I must change my sense of acceptance to something unconditional and unchanging.

First off, I need to change my sense of God's love to something unconditional and my sense of entry to heaven to something New Testament instead of Old. I must change salvation by works to salvation by love. This shouldn't be too difficult; Grace has now entered my life enough times to beat me over the head with God's unconditional love. Given the number of times God has pulled my ass out of the fire His love can't possible be based on my being perfect (or even competent).

Second, I need to hammer into my own heart that even should the rest of the world shun me tomorrow, I will still live and be okay because I accept me. I am there for myself no matter what, and I can depend on myself no matter what.

If I wouldn't say it to anyone else, I can't say it to myself. If I wouldn't hold anyone else to the same standards, I can't hold myself to those standards. If I can declare someone else's work good and correct despite errors, I can do the same for mine. If I can look past someone else's mistakes, I can look past mine.

If I can love and accept someone else despite their faults, I can love and accept myself despite my faults.

Maybe then I can cure my perfectionism. At the very least life will suck much, much less.

Executive Wife Envy and Stupid Assumptions

I used to hate on executive spouses, specifically executive wives.

Executive, common definition:

executive [ɪgˈzɛkjʊtɪv] n 1. a. a person or group responsible for the administration of a project, activity, or business b. (as modifier) executive duties an executive position.
My definition:
executive: a person in an organization who
  1. is responsible if things get messed up (often in a very public way)
  2. makes the same base amount of money regardless of hours (aka salaried)
  3. can in theory make much more depending on incentives (aka bonus, stock shares)
  4. is consistently on call because of said responsibility
  5. spends all of their time leading, forging new paths, and creating new opportunities... that is, when they're not too busy dealing with bureaucratic nonsense, putting out fires, and complying with whichever new law Congress passed this week
  6. the poor person with a company-paid cell phone and laptop with push email notifications and an inherent inability to truly "get away from it all"
  7. the person who gets publicly canned if something, anything, goes horribly wrong
Note, this definition applies to everyone from the CEO of a major corporation (and CTO's, CIO's, CFO's, etc all the way down) to the sole owner of a small business (farm, restaurant, etc.).

I used to think executives were vicious, money-grubbing, trampling-on-the-little-people capitalist bastards.

Until I married one.

Executive spouse, my old definition
  1. trophy wife
  2. stay at home wife/husband/partner
  3. baby-maker
  4. homemaker
  5. dependent female
  6. spoiled brat who doesn't need to work 'cause spouse works for everything
My new definition:

  1. spouse whose duties comprise of running a household and taking care of matters executive cannot take care of
  2. appointment maker, chauffeur, child care specialist, pet care specialist, family organizer, nurse, lawn and garden care specialist, person who waits at home for the repairman, emergency contact
  3. spouse whose necessary qualities are complete flexibility combined with patience, grace, and the restraint required to not throw the offending Blackberry in the lake while on vacation
  4. the one who "handles it" so the executive can focus on work with the complete trust that the details of their life are handled and their home life is not falling apart
  5. the cheerleader and emotional support of the executive
  6. the person who "executes" all duties pertaining to home and family
I used to absolutely despise executive spouses, specifically executive wives. This probably came from my extreme working-class childhood and spending too many years in Scottsdale surrounded by "trophy wives". I thought they won the spouse lottery and spent all their time living off of the hard work of their spouse while relaxing and wearing designer clothes.

Then, like marrying an executive changed my perceptions of executives, becoming an executive wife changed my perception of all women in my position. I realize now I based my views on a logical fallacy.

Logical fallacy: the public front reflects the personal reality

This is the fallacy of "you look like this, therefore you are this". You look like a bum, therefore you are a bum. You look successful, therefore you can easily afford that new car (even if it's not true). You look carefree, therefore you are carefree.


This is simply not true for the executive spouse. Even if the day has been hell, the kids have been driving you nuts, you've been cleaning dog shit off the porch or cleaning up child vomit, or you've been mowing the lawn all day, that doesn't mean it's acceptable (or a good idea) to look like that's what you've been doing. You may wear many hats, but you can't wear all of them at once. Just like you tell your spouse to "leave work at work", you need to be able to do that as well. That means putting on clean clothes, fixing your makeup, and brushing your hair before the executive gets home.

There is another, extra part to the equation that often gets missed; the executive is not the only one working their job. Often, the spouse is an integral part of the job. Unlike many other jobs, being an executive isn't about what you do, it's about who you are. A huge part of the job is appearing responsible, capable, reliable, stable, and looking like you have good decision-making skills.

If the executive's spouse shows up at their office with a wailing toddler and a baby in a dirty diaper while wearing sweats and crocs with messed-up hair, that shows badly on the executive. The executive can't even make sure their spouse has good clothes and parenting skills, how can they devote the time and attention needed to that million-dollar contract?

Yes, the spouse could just avoid going to the office (although sometimes that's really not possible), but they can't avoid all business functions or interacting with the executive's co-workers. Also, if the executive shows up to work in wrinkled clothes with a baby-vomit stain because they've been too busy taking care of the kids when they get home, that also reflects badly on their availability and focus.

Part of the job of the executive's spouse is to handle home matters in such a way that the executive can devote full time and attention to their job. If the ideal is a productive, focused, brilliant executive the best way to achieve that ideal is through a calm, stress-free home life for the executive. That means the spouse must handle everything needed and do it in such a way that the executive feels unencumbered by guilt and worry at work.

Sweats, crocs, messy hair, messy kids, a messy house, and no clean clothes? Worried and stressed.

Good clothes, makeup, hair and nails done, clean and happy kids, a tidy house, and a closet full of wrinkle-free business-wear? Relaxed and ready to spend time with the family.

The "trophy" wife who gets her nails done, does her hair and makeup every day, and wears good clothing? She earns that every day by contributing to the success of her husband. Her day may have been hell and full of challenges, but she will not for a moment burden her husband with what went wrong at her "work" by whining about how hard it is. She may bitch the same way he bitches about whatever irritation happened that day but she will in no way insinuate that she can't handle it.

She's earned those Manolos she's wearing.

Now here's my confession: I have yet to earn my stripes in this regard. The same logical fallacy above messed with my head for way too long. I assumed being an executive wife would be easy, because it looks easy. So when I ran into difficulty I assumed it was because I was incompetent and got into a horrendous shame/guilt spiral.

I never understood that looking so in control and so at ease is a lot of work. The absolute apex of the art of homemaking is making it look easy. The appearance is for the sake of the executive, not the truth of the situation. If I allow myself to look like I've been dealing with chaos all day I'm defeating the purpose of dealing with the chaos: making sure life's little details are handled and there is no undue stress on my already stressed husband.

Some people turn their money into toys, or entertainment, or outward signs of wealth. People in positions of high responsibility tend to turn their hard-earned cash into peace of mind. The ideal for people who work in high-stress environments is to come home to a stress-free, relaxing, comfortable, drama-free family and house. This is what makes it possible for them to achieve so much at work.

I've been entrusted by my husband to turn his cash and my time into peace of mind and a harmonious home. I've not been so good at it, but I'm working hard at getting better at my job. I'm even making progress.

That being said, there's laundry to do, pants to hem, dinner to make, and makeup and hair to touch up before he gets home.

Beauty is as Beauty Does

So in dealing with the year and a half (almost two years now) of hell, I've picked up some... interesting hobbies.

Anyone who knew me before we left for Idaho probably didn't see me as much of a girly-girl. In fact I had a distinct disdain for makeup, fashion, hosiery, and lingerie, especially the expensive kind.

Then when I started my job as a bank teller and started treating the ADHD I discovered the most dangerous gateway drug ever: eyeliner.

When your job consists of dealing with the public on a one-to-one basis face to face everyday for 5 minutes at a time, makeup becomes almost mandatory. When you have such a ready availability of customers and your job performance metrics depend on randomized surveys there's a huge incentive to try different things out to see if they help.

Turns out a moderate amount of eyeliner encourages others to look you in the eye, making for happier interactions on both sides and increasing customer satisfaction and trust.

Dark brown eyeliner (which Chris ordered for me, God bless Amazon) made my job much easier and more enjoyable.

The experimentation didn't stop there, of course. Contacts turned out to be very helpful. Some brighter colored clothing. Then a good haircut, a proper shade of lipstick, some good eyeshadow...

It only took me 30 years to get to the point I should have reached at the age of 15 or so. I'm just a little behind.

Makeup obsession and experimentation led to clothing obsession and experimentation, then shoe obsession (okay, that was already there) and clothing obsession...

Then the obsessions took a turn for the less obvious. The job performance boost I experienced from wearing makeup turned out to be next to nothing compared to the boost I experienced when the lingerie and hosiery obsession started.

Wait a second. Isn't this all about visible cues, about interacting with other people? Then how does something not visible to the customer become a boost?

Simple. The customer reaction to the makeup efforts only accounted for about half of the boost. The other half was due to my increased confidence.

Turns out NOTHING increases my confidence quite like well-fitting and pretty lingerie and hosiery.

The reaction it gets when Chris sees it is just a bonus.

True beauty may come from the inside, but the inside is certainly helped by efforts on the outside.

So sure, makeup and clothing and lingerie and hosiery obsession may seem like rather shallow pursuits, but the truth can be quite different. Striving for making the best of what I have improves my quality of life and happiness (and therefore the quality of life and happiness of my family) so much that I no longer think of good cosmetics and good clothing as a waste of money or time.

Now, if you don't mind, I'm off to look for more pretty additions to the collection.

Putting it Out There

I've been holding back quite a bit of material, and quite a few words, for a very long time.

Anyone who reads the other blog knows about the situation with my kids, and the separate situation with my husband. My kids currently live with my ex (who is an unfit negligent parent) because of a jurisdictional trick he pulled off in 2010. This has left me feeling helpless and heartbroken and turned out to just be the first of a series of catastrophes.

Not too long after a lazy judge screwed up a whole bunch of lives my dear husband's health took a turn for the worse. He'd been struggling with symptoms for years but had no real diagnosis.

Then his brother died, from a "systematic failure" i.e. a combination of heroin, painkillers, infection, and untreated cancer.  This left him reeling.

Then we received a letter from the IRS, claiming that Chris had underpaid taxes for 10 years.

2 days after returning from the funeral a physician's assistant found the lump in Chris's neck. Thyroid cancer, slow-growing thank God.

Not long after, Chris was laid off of the job he'd held for 5 years. Fortunately I'd just started work, but it wasn't enough. Things were looking up though, because that meant severance pay and a new start for him.

Unfortunately the catastrophes did not stop. Loss of a contract. IRS issues compounding.

Then Chris's mother passed away a few months ago.

Fortunately this month we've been able to take care of a few of the problems. IRS is being dealt with. Chris just started a new job. I just quit my job, which was making both of us miserable.

So yes, there's some good stuff in there, but that's not the point.

I've been dealing for the past year and half with this series of catastrophes while learning to deal with newly diagnosed ADHD and not-so-newly diagnosed depression and generalized anxiety disorder. While doing so, I chose the method of coping I thought would work the best: dropping off the face of the planet.

Oh how wrong I was. Not that isolating myself didn't beat other options such as: running away, curling up in a corner and sobbing, complete and utter self-delusion, etc. However, isolating myself meant giving up the form of therapy that helps me the most: writing. Not just writing though, writing with an audience.

I did this out of a fucked up idea that talking about the pain would make it worse, and to be honest for the first while talking DID make it worse. Every inconsiderate, stupid, ignorant person I ran across just made everything worse.

For the most part our readers are not inconsiderate, stupid, or ignorant though, and I should have made that distinction.

Also, I worked under the fucked-up fear that whatever I wrote about my struggles with this year would be used against me in court by my ex. That's certainly true. It wouldn't be the first time.

However, given the track record on his part of taking my words out of context anyway, it's not like I really have anything to lose.

There's also fear that someone new looking from the outside at my situation would make some false snap judgements. After all, what kind of mother manages to lose her kids and then can't spend all of her time fighting to get the back?

One who is too busy trying to keep her sanity, and trying to keep her husband alive, and trying just to survive. That's the kind of mother I am. The kind that's holding on by her fingernails to whatever logic and sanity she has left while doing her damnedest to get her family back together and not become a widow or get divorced in the meantime.

Anyone who can't see that, well fuck 'em. Life is not clean, life is not fair, and bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people all the damn time.

I can't let the judgements of strangers get in the way of telling the story. I've realized more and more that telling the story is important.

Not just for me. Yes, it's my kind of therapy. Yes, it helps immensely as long as I keep a thick skin against the trolls. But it's not just about me.

Somewhere, out there in the interwebs, someone is dealing with a similar kind of bullshit. Maybe they don't have the custody issues, or the sick spouse, but they know what it's like to have your entire life capsize on you, and every time you right the boat that is your life the storms come back and capsize you again. And again. And again. And they know how hard it is not to give up and swim away but to work with your crew (spouse, family, friends) to right the boat one more time.

You may get discouraged, you may want to call it quits, hell some of the crew is injured and barely holding on and your arms and legs are sore from righting the boat and treading water, but you're going to give it one more shot. Because it's your life goddamnit, and their lives, and you're not going to give up.

That's where I am. Sore and tired and discouraged and sure, there's a nice breeze picking up but it takes more energy than I have to reattach and trim the sail, never mind tend to the rigging. But I'll find the energy somewhere.

Someone, somewhere, knows exactly what I mean by that, and maybe feels like no one understands, just like I once did. So for my sake, and for theirs, I need to write.