Thursday, November 14, 2019

Spinning Wheel

When I close the door behind me, I feel a strong sense of relief. I lean against the door and take a deep, yoga breath. I want to cry but tears will not fall. I think I’m physically too tired to cry. 


My sense of relief that my son is on his way home is followed by guilt. How could I be so relieved to say goodbye to this boy who I love so much? He is a part of my heart. Intrinsically, I feel his feelings from day to day when he’s not here. I ache for his struggle and pain. My mind spins just thinking about his brain and his thought processes. I want nothing but the best for him. And yet, I find him exhausting. 

I want to help him help himself. His oppositional defiance does not allow for my help, even though he screams for my help every.single.day. Keeping up with him is like running on a spinning wheel. The more I run, I find myself completely exhausted and yet in the same place.


I am so glad that his father is driving him back down south to the half-way point to meet his brother so he can take him home. They live together ninety miles away from here. I thank God for the distance. 


I am equally pleased that I am not riding along. The house is empty and beautifully quiet. Finally, there is no talking.  


Having him home for the weekend triggered all of the feelings I used to feel when he lived under this roof. I was constantly in sensory overload from listening to the talking, debating, repeating, arguing. He would follow me around as I moved throughout a room as if I would not still hear him if I step a few feet away.


He is 24-years-old now. He lives in a townhouse apartment with his older brother. They constantly talk about what it means to be a man (which I think is mostly a load of bullshit.) Still, when he is home with me, he reverts back to that insecure little boy who can’t stand to have his mama out of his sight. 

When I step into the laundry room. He follows me. I step into my bathroom to brush my teeth, he follows. I move from one side of the kitchen. He moves towards me. 


Dude! Back up! I don’t need you standing over me in order to hear you. The neighbors can hear you. 


After they pull off with the door closed behind me, I climb the stairs to my bedroom. I want to escape into the chaotic world of the “Real Housewives of Atlanta.” I don’t want to think about my life. I want to be distracted. 


When the show is over, I leave the television on and turn down the sound. I have no desire to hear any more words. There’s an awards show on. “E People’s Choice,” I think. Watching celebrities congratulate one another feels like a huge waste of energy. I have no energy to give them in their fancy gowns with boobs hanging out, just short of showing us all a little nipple. Why is fashion?


The compulsion to cry still lingers, hanging around like an uninvited dark cloud. 


How did I live this way for so many years? 
How did I ever get anything else done? 
The stimuli from his barrage of words limit my thought process, which is not all that great, to begin with. 
How did I actually write a blog during those years? 
No wonder I could never put together an entire book to seal my fate in the world as a successful writer. (At least this is everyone else’s idea of a successful writer.)


I blogged whenever the boys were at school, at work or when I could escape from the house for a few moments. The fact that any of the writing it is coherent is a miracle. I used to publish back then without a lot of editing. My mind was too cluttered to find my own mistakes. I wrote mostly stream of consciousness, sometimes under the gun of limited time. 

Should I shower or should I write? 
Should I wash my hair or should I write? 
Should I take a freakin nap, because I feel like I got my ass kicked last night, or should I write?

The most important thing for me was to get my thoughts out -to release pent up anxiety and frustration. To maybe have someone read my words and feel less crazy and alone in their own world. For that, I am successful. I’m not the author of a best-seller. I am the author of this blog and thousands and thousands of people have read my words over these crazy years. Some have been helped and changed by our story. This is success. 

I have to continually tell myself about my success, because if I listen to the people I work for, I would believe that I have never accomplished anything. I don't have a "job." Dad earns all of the money. I certainly have never done enough for them. Even my husband sometimes reminds me of the entrepreneur and career woman that was when we met.

Well, you and your children changed all that. I didn't realize what I was getting myself into until I was already swept up in it.


Somehow, I managed to take care of all of the things and all of the people. It all feels like a kind of impossible dream, or maybe a nightmare, in hindsight.


This weekend was a reminder of how overwhelmed I felt for so many years. The more we were all together in this house, the more cross conversations and conflict. I still don’t look forward to the times when we are all together. I’m shocked and amazed when it actually goes well. And the holidays are coming. I can hardly wait. (Insert eye-roll here.) 


When we were all living here together, my husband with his loud reactions and tendency to inflame most situations, instead of ignoring them. My mother and her unsolicited, non-editorialized, commentary on everything. The boys -with their constant questions about everything in the world. They ask only to let me know that I don't know anything.


As a part of Kendal’s weekend visit to see us, I took him to visit with my mom at her apartment around the corner. Their interaction triggered the feelings I felt about my mother when we all lived here together. Her inability to stay out of any given conversation that did not involve her. Her unfiltered insults to Kendal as if he has no feelings, and was undeserving of basic human respect. It was like, she thought, ”He's disrespectful, so why should I respect him? He’s clueless! I can say whatever I want to him. He says whatever he wants to us.” I think she thought somehow she was standing up for me because I chose not to fight every, single, battle.


There was always a definite difference between the way she spoke to Kendal as opposed to the way she spoke to my more sensitive, younger son Blue. I think it was because Blue’s feelings would be easily hurt and then he would want nothing to do with her for days. Also, he could really blow up from zero to one hundred in nothing flat. Kendal, on the other hand, would forgive and forget easily. And if he didn’t, I don’t think she cared. 


I’ve always had this thing, whether it’s right or wrong, that I am the only one who has the right to talk shit to my kids. When my mom did it, I would be pissed. I don't even like it when their father says something that I deem as negative. Does he have a right to do so? Well, technically yes, but I don't have to like it.

Maybe I feel like, I give them the most unconditional love. I fight for them every day. I work the hardest to understand them. I see how they struggle out in the world each day. Also, they treat me the worst, so I have a right to get angry with them.


The more dialogue and crosstalk in our house, the more sensory stimulation for everyone. The more sensory overload, the higher my anxiety became over the years. I was always about trying to end every conversation without getting to a point where the boys would become aggressive and angry. It seemed as though my mom and my husband didn’t care if they set the boys off. 


I constantly felt like a supervisor of the circus. 


With all of these triggers, no wonder I was mentally and physically exhausted by the time Kendal moved. No wonder I have turned into this person who craves to be alone. I fantasize about living by myself, having to please or answer to no one; not being on twenty-four-seven call to meet my family’s needs.

I used to always tell my husband, "You can be my boyfriend and come visit me in my secret-hide-away." We are great together when we get away from the stress of this life. Sadly, most of the time we had to leave the house in order to enjoy each other as man and wife.


I am completely traumatized over how most of the last ten years of my life have gone. The boys in their teens and then transitioning to adulthood. My mom living in the center of our lives. Someone always wanting something from me. Constantly feeling like whatever I did was not enough for any of them.


Until the spinning wheel finally slowed down, I didn’t even realize that I had forgotten to take care of myself. 

I’m making up for the lost time.
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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Quiet is Everything

It's strange to have peace and complete quiet in my house. That’s not a thing that has happened for years. There is always noise of one kind or another. The landline ringing. My mother’s daytime television shows, “Judge Judy”, ”The Price is Right”, “The Young and the Restless”. (OMG! If I have watch Victor Newman die and come back to life one more time, I would have to shoot myself.)

Not all of the noise was loud noise. Some of it was benign noise but nevertheless, annoying noise. 


There were years of explosions that could happen at any given moment in this house. It was like living in a War Zone. The boy’s teenage years were full of meltdowns and sibling fighting. When Kendal lived here there was non-stop talking, ranting, complaining, and following me around from room to room until I threatened his life. I could never watch a live television show if I wanted to hear the whole thing unless at least one person was out of the house. 


More recently the explosions are “conversations” between my husband and Blue, my 20-year-old. Blue is a lot like I was at twenty. I did not want to be controlled. He doesn’t either. The difference though is that he is still very much dependent on us. He works, but he doesn’t have a car yet. He doesn’t make enough money to fully take care of himself. We still pay for his transportation and he usually runs out of money before the next paycheck. Therefore, there are uncomfortable conversations that have to be had on a regular basis. 


For a long time, I just didn’t really enjoy being at home. Home has been a place from which I needed to escape. There was always noise, bad energy, conflict, and conversations that I didn’t want to hear or be a part of. My husband is a talker too. He and my mother would constantly listen to political news and talk about how horrible the world is on a regular basis. These were conversations that I just did not need or want in my life. Not to mention, my husband works from home. He is constantly on loud conference calls. And frankly, I think he loves the sound of his own voice. 


Every since Kendal moved out, I crave silence. I love to be alone. Some days I put on my “Beats” and drown the rest of the world out just to make things tolerable. 

Me and Mom after her hair appointment
So a few weeks ago, after almost 10-years, of living in the downstairs dining room of my house, my mother moved into her own apartment. It’s a senior independent living building located literally just around the corner from my house. It had come to the point where Mom could not or would not attempt to climb the stairs because of arthritis and pain in her knees. All of our bathing facilities are on the second floor of our home. She needed a more accessible environment. 


Convincing her that we needed to make this change was no piece of cake. I had her work with Occupational, Physical therapists and doctors for months to get her to believe that she had the strength and tenacity to make this happen. She was starting to convince herself that she needed me to do everything for her. Instinctively, I knew a lot of her apprehension was anxiety. Her brain is way too sharp for her to be as dependent as she was becoming. I just did not have the capacity to do 24/7 caregiving after so many intense years of raising my special-needs sons.


I swore months prior to her move that when she left, I would be getting rid of the house landline. I actually had to fight with my husband to make that happen. The phone was primarily used by mom to stay in touch with our relatives and her friends. Otherwise, the constant ringing was either telemarketers or my son, Kendal who would robo-dial the house phone over and over and over, if I didn't answer my cell, which I also keep on silent for the same reason. 


Phones ringing is one of many triggers for my anxiety. A pleasant phone call for me is the exception, not the rule. This comes from the days of schools calling to let me know there was an issue with one of the boys and I needed to fix something NOW. My call logs are full of nothing but calls from one of the boys in a panic because they needed something from me...NOW. There is always work and drained energy on the other end of the line. 


So, my landline is gone. My cell phone remains silent. I had to set a new boundary with Kendal about phone calls. I simply refuse to answer his calls and texts all day long. Basically, our arrangement is, don’t call me. I’ll call you. Maintaining this boundary is a constant work in progress.


My mother and Judge Judy now live around the corner. I am creating a more silent, and peaceful world. I am not constantly accessible to do all of the things for all of the people.


Mom is doing great by the way. She is more motivated to live her best life and take care of herself as much as possible. She actually likes her space. She doesn’t have navigate around all of our junk. Her refrigerator is just for her. Her bathroom and walk-in shower do not have to be shared with young men. Her paths are clear to walk through her space as she wants to. 


She has plenty of help coming in and out all week from her caregiver, who totally pampers her with delicious home cooking, to all of the therapists that she still works with. I am there almost daily. My husband and son also visit her regularly. I can be at her door in a four-minute walk or a one-minute drive. At 80 years young, she is becoming an independent woman. 


I am happy as f*@% in all of this silence! I actually play music now through the stereo during the day. I stay at home and write. It’s especially sweet when my husband travels for business and Blue is at work. In fact, it's pretty close to heaven.


You can love your family and need space from them at the same time. It is allowed. In fact, all of your feelings are valid and allowed, no matter what anyone else thinks. 


I’m sure that isn’t politically correct to say that I am so happy with the silence in my home with two of the adults who were living here out of it. Mom will probably hate it if she or her friends read this. I don’t apologize. I am still dedicated to taking care of her. 

I don't write for my mom or her friends. I write for me and all of the women like me who are caregivers to adults, who are wives and mothers to children with special needs, who wish that they could scream their truth out loud. 

I hope that you will and don’t apologize for it.  

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Top 10 things I wish I had known In High School.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of high school students at one of our local schools. I was invited by a teacher/friend of mine. Somehow she thought I might have something relevant to say to the African/American History Club that she sponsors. She asked me to speak about my "career," which I did. Mother, Wife, Caregiver, Autism Advocate, Writer, Creator of an online autism support group.

A good part of the time, my self-esteem is in the toilet. It's like I know I'm a badass, but only kinda, sorta. We all have some insecurities. I guess a part of mine is because I haven't reached all of my goals.  Been a little busy.

Anyway, I didn't want to make it all about me. Because, who cares? So I added this list to my presentation. I hope the students got something out of it, other than the donuts I brought. Ha ha!

Top 10 Things I Wish I had Known in High School 


  1. Find your passion and follow it!  Don’t worry about what other people think. What do you love doing that you would do for free if no one paid you? I always had a passion for writing and telling stories. From YearBook Editor in high school to English Composition which was my favorite class because it allowed me to be creative. 
    I enjoyed high school English so much I wanted to teach it. But No...I listened to my mother and studied business in college. I got into Property Management, Real Estate and the mortgage industry, which was a great learning experience.  However, years later I found myself back to my passion for writing. 


  1. The best love affair you can have is with yourself. Learn to love yourself and listen to your inner voice. In your teens and twenties, relationships are something, but they are not everything. You will have the time of your life. You will meet a couple of jerks. You may even meet the love of your life and still end up heartbroken. It won't feel like it at first, but your heart will heal. Each relationship is an experience that teaches you something about yourself, so it’s worth it. I don't regret one, single relationship I had. I do regret how much power I gave them.

    Never settle for less than you deserve just to be with someone. You can be happy. You don’t need a relationship to validate that. 


  1. Freedom is everything!  The ability to choose your own path, your career choices, where you will live,  without thinking about what other people think, need, or want from you is priceless. 


  1. Take every chance you can to see the world. -Acquiring things, and wealth is great. But you will always treasure your experiences more than your things.  -Take the trip. Go to the concert. Instead of buying the things that you may not even like next year. Get your passport and acquire as many stamps from other countries that you can. Put your toes into as many bodies of water as you possibly can. They're all healing.


  1. Mistakes are okay. Don’t beat yourself up when you make them. Failures and mistakes teach us the most important lessons. Make sure you pay attention to the lesson and don’t keep following a pattern that doesn’t work. 


  1. Friendship -You do not have to chase TRUE friends. You don’t have to always make the plans. Always make the call. You will mutually reach out to each other. You will offer each other comfort and advice. True friends will not make you feel less or unworthy. 

    With a true friend, time can pass without seeing each other and you still pick right up where you left off. 

    Also, become friends with people who don’t look or think just like you. You will learn from each other.


  1. As a minority ...you will have to work harder than your peers in Corporate America and many other areas of life.  It may not be fair, but it’s a reality of life. Always work hard and do your very best. Even when no one else is looking, someone else is always looking. Let the results of your work speak for itself. If your results are good, eventually you will win the game. 


  1. Helping others is good for the soul.  It helps you to get outside of yourself and to bless someone else. My son had the biggest struggles in high school. It was when he worked with other students with special needs that he felt the best. Those kids were always genuinely happy to see him when others rejected him.

    The support group and this blog that I created is probably my favorite accomplishment because I reach so many people all over the world and help them feel less alone.

  1. Marriage and children are a huge responsibility! It can limit your choices. The two sons I gave birth to, are on the autism spectrum. Meeting their needs was really a full-time job.  Marriage is hard and long. You definitely start compromising your own wants and needs for your family. 

    My niece (is my hero) because she is following her passion and not a guy. She just graduated from AFI (film school)  and has already traveled all over the world and has already worked on a major television show. “How to Get Away with Murder.” I always told all of my nieces to enjoy life as much as possible before settling down. So far, they are listening.

  1. Life is not a race. You don’t have to conform to anyone else’s timeline. It’s never too late to live your dreams. You are not a failure if you haven’t graduated college by 22 or received your Masters by 26. Or published that memoir by age 54. The only failure is if you stop moving forward.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

"21 Day Self-Love Challenge"


A little over a year ago my friend Becca started making daily self-love/self-care posts on her facebook page Love Becca. I thought she was secretly spying on me. It was as if she was speaking directly to me.

Let me tell you a little bit about my friend...

Love Becca

Becca is a single mama to a teenage girl, living in the greater Los Angeles area.  She has worked as professional organizer for 18+ years, having started out in her career working as  an actress. She is also a certified Feng Shui consultant. Throughout her career, and being a single parent, she discovered the importance of living a happy and well balanced life. She believes you have to treat your mind, body, and soul with love to obtain true happiness...Self Love

Becca was my very first roommate when we were both in our twenties. I can attest to her natural talent of organization. She was then and is now, everything that I'm not with organization and planning.  At the same time we have so much in common. We both ended up back at our passion for writing to support women.

In her daily Facebook posts, she talks about simple things that we should be doing to take care of ourselves as women. During my busiest years with the boys, I have been guilty of ignoring my own basic self-care.  For years I allowed my family to be a priority over taking care of myself.

One day she wrote about making regular doctor appointments. I was like...Hello. How does she know I’m overdue for my annual exam by several months.  Then she wrote about drinking more water (not including the ice cubes in my vodka cocktail.) She wrote about having dates with yourself, doing simple things that you love each day, to spending more time doing something creative.

Her writing speaks directly to me.

I believe that her "21 Day Self Love Journal Challenge" will speak directly to you. Better yet, it will give you the opportunity to have a serious talk with yourself.

I hope that you will click the link above and take the challenge. This challenge changed my life and the way that I look at myself. It got me further down the self-love road.  I hope you will take the time to give back to your self.

Love,

Karen






Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Wine Tastes Better...

I can't believe I ordered the 6 ounces
and not the 9
What does it mean when the glass of wine taste so much better when it's served to you in a restaurant where you're having sushi alone, than it does when you're at home surrounded by your family?

What does it mean when you drive away from home and you feel yourself breathing more deeply? 
You suddenly feel lighter, like a weight has been lifted?  


What does it mean when you’re driving home after a weekend away and the closer you get to home, you’re overcome with a sense of dread? 


What does it mean when leave yoga class feeling renewed and relaxed but when you get in your car, you can’t seem to make yourself drive home? 


When you finally make it home, you sit in your car in the garage, for a few extra minutes in an attempt to extend the peace for just a few moments more. 
You’re feeling all zen and you don’t want it to end. (Notice my cool rhyme? I should be a rapper.)  
You find yourself cowering...hiding, praying that no one comes to open the door to see why you’re just sitting in the car. 
When my son Kendal, lived at home you could best believe he would be in the garage trying to open the car door to start with the talking and the questions.
You don’t go inside where the people are because you don’t want to feel the energy of anyone who doesn’t align with your own sense of peace.  
You don’t want to hear any requests to give up any piece of yourself. 


What does all of this mean? 


Does it mean your body is trying to tell you something? 
Are you listening? 
Is your soul is begging for peace? 

Peace has come to mean solitude. 
People are often equivalent to a drain of energy. 


Maybe it means that your life is whispering,
maybe even screaming…
Something needs to change.  


Things have changed. 
The boys are adults. 
They don’t need me in the same ways. And yet, they still look to me as their biggest resource. 
I am trying to sit in the back seat and just let them drive, but I really want to get out of the car altogether. 
It’s time. And yet, it isn’t. 
They are autistic. 
The average 20 and 23-year-old doesn't have a clue about what they want to do with their lives. 
My boys are still figuring out what they want to be when they grow up. 
They are still figuring out finances, saving, driving, and basic independent living skills.  
As much as I may want them to, they don't operate on my arbitrary timelines. 
I have to constantly navigate between leaving them alone to make their own choices and nudging them forward.


I have more freedom than I’ve had since they were born. And yet, I am still so saturated by the experience of being a mother.
What can I say? 
I got drunk on motherhood.
I overdid it. 
There were too many years of no boundaries.
I literally felt everything they were going through. 
There were no lines between their emotional needs and my own.

Too much of anything is not healthy.  
Now, it's like my body and mind is in a state of rebellion.
I feel it physically in my stomach and in my chest when I hear myself saying yes to something that I absolutely know I don't want to do.
I can't do it anymore.
I don't want to do all of the things and take care of all of the people.
I don't want to cook.
I don't want to go to the grocery store. 
(Well, I never wanted to go to the grocery store.)
I don’t want to be everyone’s everything anymore.

I do a fair amount of beating myself up for these feelings.  
But I keep showing up, doing the work through therapy, reading, journaling, listening to podcasts. 
I am treating my mental health like it's a full-time job. I'm getting a degree in self-care. 
I realize that I am allowed to have these feelings and love my family at the same time. 
I am allowed to love myself and make what I want a priority. 

It’s okay to want to love my family from a distance sometimes.
Like from a small apartment on the beach. 
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. 
I felt so much fonder last weekend when I was in Houston with my girlfriend. And my family was not.

The boys need me less, my mother needs me more. I have all kinds of ambivalent feelings about that. Especially, since her need for me is elective. 


Recently, I heard her say, “My daughter is my everything.”

A lot of people would be thrilled to hear those words come from their mother. 
The words hit me like a ton of bricks.
I have been everything to my children for so long.
I have been her world for the last 10 years during one of the most stressful periods of my life.
For years it was like thinking and decision making for at least three people at a time, four if I include my husband. 
He was busy working. He didn't have time for small things like what we should have for dinner. 

I am energy depleted.
I'm trying to restore myself and at the same time avoid energy drains.

Do all of these feelings that seem to be intertwined with my actual home, mean that I am not happy here? 


Well, home is supposed to be your refuge ...your place of solace. 


Home is my place of work...neverending work. 
Perpetual needs of others to be met.
It’s the place where I worry the most. 
It’s the place where I am constantly figuring out all of the things.
Home might be peaceful.
It might not. 
Things can erupt at any given moment.
That has been the case for years. 
The amygdala of my brain is constantly on alert.
P.T.S.D. is in full effect. 
It’s exhausting constantly being on standby for an explosion or an interruption.  


There are other energies that live here. 
They do not always align together. 
They definitely don’t always align with mine. 


Is this why I like being away from home more and more?

I can control the energy when it’s just me to think about.  


Home is a place where I cringe when I hear my name. 
Someone wants something from me.
I am a creative spirit with focus issues. 
Home is not always the place where I can create. 
I create here when I can, but there are little zaps of resentment when my energy is sidetracked. 
My whole life has been sidetracked. 
I'm ready to get on course. 
To stop living by accident, in a state of reaction to the needs of my family.


I’m a mother, a wife, a caregiver to my mother. 
But I didn’t sign up for this latest shift. 
This is overtime.  
It's like extended, sequestered jury duty. They won't let me go home ...to my place of peace.  

When the boys were children, I literally gave them everything I had without thinking twice. 
Autism and depression made their happiness elusive. 
I tried my best to make up for that anyway that I possibly could.  


I will never forget the day I picked Kendal up from school in the fourth grade. 
He was sad. He was crying because his friends were sitting around together being goofy and laughing together. 
He didn’t understand what was funny. 
He just wanted to laugh like everyone else.
He used to laugh together with his friends in the first grade. 
By the third grade, they were secretly laughing at him because of his constant impersonation of Sonic the Hedgehog (which was very good by the way).
By the fourth grade, he found no reason to laugh. 
All he could feel was difference. 


“Let’s go get some ice cream,” I would say, as he cried in my arms.  
“Tonight we will have whatever you want for dinner.” 
Just an ounce of happiness. 
Is that too much to ask for a nine-year-old child? 
I am a mother, still. 
I am a caregiver. 
I give care to others.
I am an empath.
I feel all things deeply.
My family has watched me give and give and give, over so many years. 
They have come to expect it.
It’s a shock to them that suddenly I realize that I can no longer live without boundaries.


Saying yes all time wasn't healthy for any of us.
Saying yes makes people in your care have more expectations and entitlement.
Saying yes without thinking left me empty. 
I forgot how to say yes to myself. 
I forgot that I am a self.
  
When you are a giver, people are naturally inclined to take what you offer.  
They don’t concern themselves with what you have leftover to give to yourself.
That my dear love is up to you.
There will be no elaborate ceremony where you will be given permission to take care of you. 
This is a gift you give to yourself.

I make the choice to take care of me every day.
I chose to listen to my voice and not allow it to be drowned out by others.  
My happiness is not a destination. 
It is a journey…
and I have a closet full of the most comfortable shoes.