Saturday, April 20, 2013

I Confess: Apologies, Acknowledgments, Amends 
With No Excuses, But Some Explanations

Part One of the Story of My Life Laid Bare

Note: This blog-post represents something of a departure for me. I feel led to share a number of recent (and some, not-so-recent) realizations about myself. Because of a set of circumstances that began 4 weeks ago, my 1st, very human impulse is to "duck & cover"/"hunker down", or, conversely, to defend myself, as well as family members involved. I'm NOT going to do that. I'm also going to continue to protect the privacy of those involved, even though doing so is probably fanning the flames & playing into the hands of people who do not know me, or my spouse, & have an agenda that may be far different from that they portray. That is all I will say about that. No specifics about anyone but myself. If you truly know me, no amount of smoke & mirrors will alter our experiences with one another, & your opinion, good or bad, of me & mine. However, you may be surprised at some of what I share in this blog post. It hurts. It's humiliating. It's humbling. And that's kind of the point. I'm not going to point fingers or catalog wrongs & failures of others. I have no control over anyone but myself. So, I intend to "own up" to the beam in my own eye. This won't be pretty & if you are bothered by raw emotion, brutal honesty, or deep regret, wait for one of my more trivial or superficial posts. (I will toss in a little of my trademark wry wit, though, so it's not a total downer.) It won't be short, either. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it doesn't serve the confessional well. So, faithful reader, you've been warned. My usual Pollyanna perspective is not present, today. But if you want to peek behind the curtain, & see the real, unvarnished me, this may be the one blog post where I dig deep & do that. The format's unlike my other posts, too. I'm less concerned with my prose style, & more interested in admitting my faults publicly, w/ nothing to hide. If there's an elephant in the room, one might as well acknowledge it. I took a vow, on a long-ago youth retreat, to eschew superficiality, & live in a "glass house", so that I may live humbly, & embrace truth fully, even when that's uncomfortable. In my experience, this can set one up to be ridiculed, accused of "over-sharing", & even have aspects of your life misunderstood, in the negative. On the plus side, though, it can mean others feel safe sharing their own struggles, w/o worrying about judgment, or shock. At it's best, "glass house living" is about wrestling w/ the truth. 

And the truth will set you free, right?
 So, here goes.
  • I confess to being poor. While it may be no surprise to some, the fact is that we're quite lucky to still have a roof over our heads. Only by keeping in constant contact with our mortgage company, have we been able to do so. Recently, our power was off for over a week. When all was said & done, we paid $1800 of our small tax check, to cut it back on. We didn't have any possessions left of value to pawn or sell. Wedding bands? Gone. Class ring? Long gone. Fancy electronics or antiques? Again, no. Here's how bad it's been the past few years---we've had to miss ball games our kids played in, b/c we didn't have the money to pay gate fees, &, at times, no vehicle, or gas to put in one, to get there. The embarrassment you feel when you have to ask for athletic program scholarship, b/c you don't have the fee, or not being able to pitch in & provide carpool, b/c your latest clunker just died, is painful. (I've even had a period of time where I couldn't drive, b/c we couldn't pay a simple moving violation ticket. The judicial moniker for this license suspension? DWP---Driving While Poor.) You hate it most for your kids, whom you alternately shield from the harsher realities, &, as they get older, you gently explain financial realities with.  We've gone to 2nd Harvest during the worst times, & even stooped to getting EBT stamps for months, several years ago. My parents & sister have helped, too. When our finances stabilize, we make a "deposit" back into the food bank, & we've helped my folks, in turn. Still, the 1 in 6 Americans who live w/ food insecurity---that's us. We've done all we could do to keep body & soul together, for every member of our family, including the member with a binge eating disorder, who has, at worst, eaten $40-80 of just purchased groceries, in a few moments. [Quick aside: I've probably done a bad job of explaining why our house is equipt w/ door alarms & extra locks (both suggested by Mobile Crisis), b/c this & other behaviors are part of a complex mental health disorder, & I wouldn't want those who know little about such things to judge the family member harshly. Why the locks & alarms? The answer is the same as "Why's your (walk-in pantry) cupboard bare?"  Simply put, if we don't "protect" the groceries, &, by extension, the person w/ the obsession, things could become very dire, very quickly. Likewise, if we stockpile food when this member of the family is having an episode, it fuels their food focus, so we keep only a day or 2 worth of food on hand, during these cyclical binge bouts. Other measures have been undertaken, too, to keep this family member from going out a window, & shoplifting, to feed their OCD, w/ the consultation of professionals. Happily, this person is doing well on their meds, so locks are put away, & measures scaled back, once again. We, & the person's therapist, are proud of this person's progress, & doing all we can to expand it.] I can say 2 things, to clarify---we've got everything we need, & mostly always have. It helps that we're more focused on "people, not possessions", at our best. Regardless, are our finances bad? Yes. Have we sometimes made money mistakes? Absolutely. Are we working on it? Affirmative. Still, it is humiliating. Some people sense your private shame, & will even exploit it, but the truth is, there's nothing they can say to hurt you that you haven't already said to yourself, time after time.  
  • I confess to being weak. I mean that in every way one can. Weak-willed, at times. Weak-minded, at others. My body, though, is perhaps the most obviously weak part of me. Since I was diagnosed with systemic lupus, after symptoms beginning at 18, I've had 5 different periods of my life where I was in remission. "Remission Cathy" can lead 1st & 2nd grade campers on a day hike up a mountain. She can work 4 ten hour shifts, in 4 back-to-back days. She can chase & change toddlers, toilet-train a non-verbal client older than herself, plan & execute programming as a church youth director, serve as an IEP advocate & case manager for children w/ Serious Emotional Disturbance diagnoses, drive her kids to practices, games, music lessons, fundraisers, community festivals, fun events, the zoo, scouts, science center, school activities, AWANA, formals, shopping, travel, & more. Remission Cathy can bake cookies for her kids & all their neighborhood friends, plan elaborate birthday parties, take the kids to the park, ride theme park rides, cook, clean, do 5 loads of laundry in a day, work Vandy concessions fundraisers at a break-neck pace, throw slumber parties, & host a home "kid's club" 3 days a week, Thanksgiving for extended family, even annual open house parties.  That's not who I'm talking about. I'm talking about "Weak Cathy", who is afraid to make firm plans, for fear of disappointing people, when the disease flares without warning, & she has to cancel with little notice. This other me has returned to work from Social Security Disability, only to eventually become too weak or sick to stay, succumbing once again to the disease's capricious whims. She, who is me, has embarrassed my kids with the bald head of too much chemo, the containers of urine caught to observe signs of a fomenting kidney problem, the added weight & jitters from high dose steroids, at times, so weak she can't make it up & down the front stairs in the same day. Can you imagine a kid trying to explain to their teammates & friends that their family can't participate as fully as other families in working the gate, concessions, or what have you, because you're stuck in bed, while your husband is forced to play nursemaid? There are some people with mild-to-moderate lupus who are able to meet every need of their family, or work outside the home, even when their disease is active. I, though, am too weak to overcome the ravages of active, moderate-to-severe disease, no matter how much I want to. If I'm active for 10 hours of driving, to pick up my daughter at college for break, I have to then have 2 days of "downtime" to be able to drive the 10 hours back. I can't name another parent I know who is so hamstrung, limited, wussy, & incapable of doing what needs to be done. I cost my family money, time, & probably a great deal of embarrassment. Weak.   
  • I confess to being a horrible housekeeper. In high school, I won the Betty Crocker Homemaker Award. If the Betty Crocker people could see my house, they'd come take it back, I'm sure. (Joke's on them---they'd have to find it, first!) For half of the past 2 decades, my house has been anything but "company ready". Has it been as bad as an episode of "Hoarders"? No. Dirty enough to be deemed a health hazard by authorities? Again, not quite. After all, I had Metro Codes in here last year, when the (half of the) flood repairs we had done were completed. Still, I haven't been able to stay on top of all trash dropped in the floor, kitty horfs, or general laundry & kitchen messes, much to my chagrin. As modern as we are all supposed to be, I don't think anyone holds the males (all adult) in a home responsible if it looks trashed or unkempt. The fact is, I should've required everyone to keep their area of responsibility cleaner, & pushed myself to physically do more, whether I felt like it or not. I should've also just let people come in, regardless. It hurt my pride that my once cute casa was now full of mis-matched dishes, broken & worn-out furnishings, damaged walls, etc.. Now I wonder if anyone would've dis-owned us as friends if our less than perfect home & yard was surveyed? If you are wondering how messy it can be, I'm willing to humble myself further. We took photos of the house at its worst last month. Hopefully, those will serve as "before" pictures, if I can get my act together. So, if you really want to see my hausfrau horror show, send me a message; you can be the judge & jury of every photograph. It ain't pretty, but it's honest. Besides, there's no one who'll judge me any harsher than I judge myself.
  • I confess to being depressed. Like many survivors of sexual assault, as well as persons who have an autoimmune disease, I've lived w/ clinical depression symptoms, off & on, for over 25 years. While I don't have all of the symptoms, now, many years ago, I had some of the more alarming aspects of the disease. When the lupus is as active as it is right now, it seems to jolt my system back into depressed mode, quicker than a cat can lick it's ankle. Add in stressors so stubborn that even my best coping mechanisms are no match, & you have one weepy, morose gal on your hands. I'm sure that's less than fun for those in my orbit. I hope I can begin to make it up to my friends & family, w/ God's help. Being in a family where each member has a DSM-IV diagnosis, ideally, should create an atmosphere of mutual support, but there are times when that can't always be a 2-way street, so I'm making a conscious effort to just focus on my own mental health, & let others mind their own mind. Signs and symptoms of depression from NIMH:
  • I confess to being fat. It's hard to believe that a few years over a decade ago, when I was last pregnant, I was in a size 10/12. Since then I've ballooned to double that size. I could blame the steroids, but that's not it. I could rationalize that it's 10 different things. The fact is, I eat too much of the wrong things & lead a sedentary lifestyle. And, "bonus": Since fat is inflammatory, the greater my BMI, the worse my health issues are. Just another way I've found to disappoint those I care about. No pity party---just unvarnished truth. All I can say is I'm working on physical therapy & nutrition w/ my docs, as I can. It may seem like I got XL overnight, but, truthfully, it took time. It's going to take an equal amount of time to un-do the flabby state I find myself in, at least. Anybody want to walk w/ me?
  • I confess to being disorganized. In fact, I'm so very disorganized that I've misplaced the text for this bullet point! But seriously, I'm pretty disorganized. It's one of a myriad of bad habits I have to work on. I haven't always been disorganized, but now it's become the status quo. So, one of my 1st steps is to get our scanner working, & "tame the paper tiger" who menaces my house. I may not always be able to perform the tasks requiring physical work, but I can at least continue managing "brain work", &, again, help create systems of organization that will help maintain our home. I'm also making a concerted effort to push myself physically, whatever the consequence. No one ever died from housework, right?    
  • I confess to being overwhelmed. Really overwhelmed. I've not always been great at knowing what to do next. There is so very much to do, it's kind of tough to know what to focus on, first. Of course, I know you have to start somewhere, & we "discouraged perfectionist" personalities seem to especially stress out & get stuck on the "crucial" 1st step. I certainly don't have all the answers, obviously, but I've got to start somewhere. My instinct is to trash, recycle, & donate as much as possible, to begin with. Any & all advice appreciated, on that! I'm equally overwhelmed by what next steps I should take in several of my personal relationships. After you've said you're sorry, obviously, it's kind of difficult to know what to do. I think one of the things that's important, after owning up to one's faults & flaws, is extending grace, while also erecting appropriate boundaries, & changing unhealthy patterns of behavior. All I can do is listen to other people's perspectives, w/o my pre-conceived notions getting in the way, & look at what my part in healing their hurts would be. Again, I don't have all the answers, & I feel overwhelmed, but that's a lot less important to me than the people I love, & what they need. I'm terrified, truthfully, of making mis-steps on this one, but staying stuck where I'm at is probably worse than risking reconciliation, & failing at it. God help me to keep this in mind: 
  • I confess to being an imperfect wife. My guess is that if you ever heard Jason & I rumble, you'd wonder how I consider our marriage to be a (mostly) happy one. We average a couple of minor tiffs, w/ at least one "doozy" a week. That's an unexpected up-tick from the earlier years of our 17 year marriage. For that reason, we've elected to reach out to the medical/spiritual community, & have been seeing a christian counselor for many months. Couples therapy, like any intervention, takes time, effort, & money. Healing hurts, & improving healthy communication is a long-term process, not a short-term event. There are no big, deep, dark secrets, here. Jason hasn't developed a penchant for dressing as Little Bo Peep, around the house. I haven't been hanging out at the Country Pride Truckstop, trying to find a man who will shave my legs for me, while I eat tapioca pudding. Rather, Jason, who has Asperger's & ADD, has sought out therapy to help combat major depression, & a (not before seen level) problem w/ anger management (verbal, guys---damaging in its own way, but not criminal) that's grown from the frustration of being highly educated, yet not well suited for, several jobs in a row. He sees the therapist, a doc for meds, & has been working w/ Voc Rehab since last year, to improve his, & our family's situation. (I share this w/ his permission.) So, I'm working on being a new-and-improved wife, to help the husband I love combat an unforeseen foe, & therapy is a part of that. For tips on helping a spouse w/ mental health concerns, see:    Aside from these struggles, though, I want to take a moment to let you know ways I believe I've failed my husband, & why I think our marriage is worth working on. Here are some of my failings, as a wife: talk too much, listen too little, become self-focused, rather than selfless, pessimistic outlook, not honest enough, shrewish, offering wrong or unwanted kinds of support or advice, mean-spirited/ugly acting during disagreements, lazy, unsupportive, unappreciative, distrustful, all the issues I've already confessed, so far, & much, much more. Still, this man thinks I'm pretty, at every age, every weight, is smart-as-a-whip, "gets me" more than anyone on the planet, makes me laugh, encourages my gifts (it was in our vows, even!), accepts my flaws, forgives my mistakes, shares my "likes" & passions, expects my "best", tolerates my "worst", gets my jokes, shares my sense of humor, gives me space, when I need it, & loves me unconditionally. This summer will mark a quarter century of being in each other's lives. In a world where people & things are increasingly disposable, he makes me glad he hasn't given me up, when a lot of people would've moved on. He truly is my best friend, & on the worst of our days, even, the inescapable love of my life. I don't deserve him, but I'm so glad God chose to knit us together, & sustains us, even in our darkest moments. Jason is worth my best efforts, & I plan to continue pursuing better relationship w/ him, until we're old(er) & grey(er). I love you YTF, my Raggedy Andy, b/c 3 kisses are a promise I never want to forget.
  • I confess to being an inadequate mother. Some people know from a young age what they want to be "when they grow up", be that doctor, lawyer, or ditch-digger. Me? All I knew I wanted to be, whatever paid the mortgage/rent, was a mom. If I'm totally honest, recent events have left me questioning everything I thought I knew---even that. The story of my road to motherhood is paved w/ miscarried & stillborn babies, true, but more importantly, the knowledge I always held in my heart, that from the time I was eleven, I felt a calling to be an adoptive parent. In fact, I'm reasonably sure that if I'd NEVER married, I still would've adopted. So, to face my failures, as a mother, w/ no excuses, is pain-filled, & shame-filled, beyond the pale. Still, fail I have. Often. I've gotten & followed bad advice. I've reacted out of a place of fear, anger, scorn, frustration, selfishness, stupidity, bad habit, & more, when I could've been bold, strong, accepting, selfless, kinder, positive, patient, persevering, smarter, more willing to compromise, more approachable, a better listener, & other traits that would've served my children better. This, & what follows, are what I most want them to know: All I can say is that I'm sorry for every way in which I've failed you, & I hope you can someday forgive my many short-comings. It breaks my heart that my relationship with you was not as deep, warm, & loving as I'd hoped. I blame myself. That's the only person I can work on, w/ God's help. To learn from others that your child is not only hurting & angry, but that it is your fault, is an experience I hoped I'd never have. I have cried every day for a month, but those tears are wasted, if you're never aware that they exist, or that each teardrop bears a mixture of sorrow, self-recrimination, & regret. I may not agree with your every choice, but I don't have to. You don't need my permission or blessing to live your life, & even having a relationship w/ me is solely your choice. I'm just so sorry I've failed you, whether you choose a continued relationship w/ me, or not. Please know that. I ask your forgiveness, regardless. Unresolved bitterness & anger are not something you deserve to carry through life, wherever you roam. I will always love you, & treasure my time as your mother. I hope, for your sake, that you can remember the good things about your childhood, now that you're grown. As Grandma rightly says of childhood, a wise person "Throws away the bad, & keeps the good.". Know that I am here, if you ever need me. For now, though, I respect your right to choose what relationships to add & discard from your life. I will continue to love you, pray for you, & keep details of your most private struggles private. All I've ever wanted for my children is for them to grow up, seek God's will for their path (not mine), & to be happy. I pray that will come true for you, & that your heavenly Parent's desires for your life come to pass, in His time. <3 <3 <3  Again, My next blog-post will continue w/ Part Two of "I Confess", sharing...                                                                                                                                  
  • I confess to being the wrong sister for what my baby sister often needs.
  • I confess to being a failure, as a daughter.  
  • I confess to being prideful, & sometimes fueled by embarrassment.
  • I confess to being unrealistic, & sometimes overly optimistic.
  • I confess to being the wrong kind of example.
  • I confess to being a poor communicator.
  • I confess to being a bad friend.
  • I confess to being naive.
  • I confess to being prone to errors in judgement.

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