Monday, August 8, 2022

Dear Reader

 

I miss writing in this space. 

I love the total freedom of it. 

I’m sure your life was on hold, chomping at the bit, waiting for my next post. (insert eye roll here)

When I write here, I’m not trying to impress anyone. 

I’m not trying to build a big audience and earn money from my writing. 

Lies. I always love to earn from my writing. 

You may send all donations for all of the therapy I need to my Pay Pal

Have I told you how much money I spend on therapy just to exist in this family? 

When I started this blog, writing was therapy. 

I was just trying to survive raising two boys on the autism spectrum and one who is not.

Life continues to be challenging even though all three of them are adults (23, 26, and 34). 

Autism parenting does not have a designated empty nest date or a finish line.

My 3 Sons

So...what's new with me? 

Nothing is new. Everything is very old and tired. 

I'm constantly in search of something new. So far, I haven't had much luck.

I haven’t been writing lately (other than journaling). 

I’ve been stressing and depressing instead. It's hard to be creative when your mind is not functioning at 100 percent.

Having my 26-year-old autistic son who thinks he knows much more than he does, living away in Los Angeles has been a blessing and a curse —mostly a curse

He makes sure that he remains in the forefront of my mind, whether he’s with me or miles away. 

His life has been a roller coaster, and the ride is making me sick. I know. I shouldn't even be on the ride. I should extricate myself from his ups and downs. I am a work in progress. 

He goes from having great jobs to quitting good jobs.

From being mentally healthy to sabotaging his mental health.  

Up…down. Rinse and repeat. 

It all affects me more than it should. 

Like it or not, the yanking up and down of his life plays a part in my own mental health. 

Summer depression has been an issue with me from the time we moved to Texas. 

I hate the heat, and this year has been brutal, with temperatures over 100 degrees for months. It’s really pissing me off! 

I am working on radical acceptance of this sucky situation. 

Fighting with it is not changing it. Complaining about it is pitiful. I don't want to be pitiful. When I realize how long I’ve been complaining, I beat myself up for not doing something to change it. That’s an additional drain on my energy. 

Tolerating a distressing situation is a part of life as an adult. 

I remind myself that I have an air-conditioned home. I can choose not to leave my home during the heat of the day. 

I work outside the house in the evening or when there’s cloud cover. 

In caregiving for my mother, I end up running two households and five lives.

Dragging groceries and supplies in and out of my mother's apartment during the heat of the day is a dumb idea. 

I stopped doing it.  

Grocery shopping apps are my friend. (Except,  half the time, they say items are not available that I know damn well are available. When this happens, I send my young, vibrant son to the store instead. He can take the heat.) 

I have book dreams. I have dozens upon dozens of chapters and stories written. 

The feeling that a goal is unreachable can make me shut down. 

Being depressed and beating myself up about not writing makes me more depressed. 

Editing my own writing is a nightmare. It always has been.  It’s hard to find my own mistakes. 

Add ADHD, anxiety, and one family crisis after another makes focusing on writing pretty damn difficult. 

Building a writing career adds the pressure to be perfect. 

Perfection can make me shut down. 

He’s Married Now

I never wrote much here about our eldest son Adrian. He is not on the spectrum. 

He is a college graduate and served in the United States Army Reserve. 

I didn’t carry him in my uterus, but I raised him. He was just about 5 years old when I met his father. 

Now, he is a  grown-ass man with a son, a wife, and a mortgage. 

It’s so nice to pull up to his house and see his success. (Even if his home is larger than ours and has the floor plan of my dreams).

No shade. I’m not hatin’. 

We want our children to be more successful than we are, right?  

Granma status: 

Adrian and his wife, Jasmine, made me a grandmother!!! 

It is one of the most prestigious, pure joy-inducing jobs ever! 

Cayden is two-years-old. 

I am completely in love. 

He is my sun.  He's so pure and full of joy. 

When Adrian and Jasmine had their wedding recently, the best part was taking care of my grandson while they were on their honeymoon! 

23 and Me: 

My twenty-three-year-old son is still living with us. 

He is finding his way in the world. 

He has been having what he called an “existential crisis.” 

He’s such a deep thinker. 

When the world slowed down, he found time to focus on the anxiety beneath the surface (kinda like the rest of us).  

We all had time to think and examine the meaning and purpose of our lives in the last two years. 

Leave it to my kid to teach me new things. 

When I was twenty-three, I had no idea what an existential crisis was.  

I was just swimming upstream, doing all of the things life expected of me.  

I didn’t question everything the way he does. 

Side note -When I was 23, I was madly in love with love. I was caught up in romance. There was no time or interest in reflecting on the meaning of life.

These days both of us treat our mental health like it’s a full-time gig. Therapy, writing, reading, podcasts, and more therapy.  

Therapy is one of our biggest household expenses. 

He volunteers at a mental health support community called the Austin Club House.

During his time there, he has developed even more empathy for those with mental health struggles, including the homeless.  

In fact, he is leaning toward becoming a Peer Mental Health Advocate. 

Recently, he answered the call for submissions to a mental health writing contest sponsored by the Hogg Foundation He won a monetary prize and is being published! 

Maybe, I will follow in his footsteps. 

I’m in a hurry for everything to happen for him. 

He’s in a hurry for nothing. 

His steps are measured and well thought out.   

Note to self, 

Life is not a race Karen. This is his journey, not yours. It’s not your job to hurry things along. You have no control here. 

It’s still like watching paint dry for a person like me who wants everything now! Patience used to be my strong suit. I don't know what happened. 

The pain in my headache

If you’re wondering what oppositional defiance and autism look like in adulthood, it is a picture of my twenty-six-year-old son in the DSM-5.  

He moved to Los Angeles in 2020 to pursue his dreams and escape us. He didn’t want our help financially (except he totally does, only on his terms). Accepting help from us would mean we might have something to say about his decisions. 

He moved to live with my niece and her son. 

However, he burned that bridge pretty quickly.  

My siblings and family also live in L.A. 

He has burned bridges with most of them. 

My family is loving and supportive in the same ways that I am. 

Turns out cussing people out and hanging up the phone on them is not acceptable.

Coming into someone’s home, not speaking, and then storming out because you don’t want to wear a mask around an older, immune-compromised adult is also unacceptable. 

The blessing is California (a blue state) has more services and support.  

He has the best Social Worker in the world (me…for free).  

He does not appreciate or take full advantage of what I’ve tried to put in place to support him. 

When an adult acts like he doesn’t want help, these agencies will not beat your door down to give it to you.  

It kills his brother and me to watch him blow off support when so many here in Texas are desperately seeking help and can't find it. We know so many young adults who have no one to help them navigate an impossible mental health system. And yet, he has my support and more and could not care less. 

Whatever I am for, he is against. 

I’m not Christian enough. So why should he listen to anything I say? 

He continues to be the person in my life who commands the most energy.

And yet, it’s uncanny that so far, he turns out to be the opposite of me. 

I am love and peace. 

He is fight or flight. 

I avoid conflict.  

He lives for it. 

I tell him I don’t want to control his life. I just want to see him happy. 

He tells me, “Life isn’t about being happy.” 

It’s like he tries to make life as hard as can be. 

Ask me for money. No. Problem. 

Take advantage of the support that would help him not waste money. No. Thank you. 

Recently he started attending an extremely conservative church.

When I asked him, “Why the change from the church in Hollywood that you enjoyed?”  

He said, “That was one of those feel-good churches where they don’t preach the hard truth!” (Fire and damnation)

He is antagonizing and frustrating.  

He is the main ingredient of my anxiety, worry, and heart palpitations.

I love him deeply —probably too deep for my own good. 

Sometimes, I don’t know how I pull the love out of thin air for him, but I do. 

Honestly, I don’t want to feel him deeply anymore.  I’m so tired of carrying the extra weight.

I can tell you how hard it is to love him with no shame because more than one thing can be true at the same time. 

There are so many moms in the world who are feeling horrible about how they can have feelings of animosity toward their adult child who causes them so much stress. It’s okay to feel whatever you feel. Love and hostility can co-exist. Love ideally wins.  

As my friend and fellow writer Carrie Cariello often says, “Autism is heartbreak by a thousand papercuts.”  

I continue to work through burnout, which affects my energy reserves. 

It affects my level of patience and ability to be a pleasant human.

Sometimes, I just have nothing left to give. 

I want time just to be focused on myself after years of neglect. 

Menopause only adds to my moodiness and emotionality. 

My marriage is on life-support. 

However, we finally found a black therapist who is culturally sensitive. 

When we told her our story, her jaw dropped a few times. 

But hopefully, she’s a miracle worker. 


Thank you, Dear Reader!

You can read my son's published poem here The Hogg Foundation  

You can also find my stories here on KarenWesleyWrites.medium.com

 

 


Tuesday, April 12, 2022

I Have a New Home, Come on Over

Dear Loyal Reader, 

Have you missed me here on this blog? Some of you have messaged me."What the heck, Karen? Did you stop writing on Confessions?" 

I'm still here. I'm just trying to change my focus.

Recently, I have been writing on KarenWesleyWrites.medium.com  Medium is a digital reading platform where writers like myself have the opportunity to connect with readers from around the globe. It's also a writing platform where writers earn money for their work. 

I hope that you will join me there. You can create an account by signing in with your social media account or email address. It's free to read a certain amount of stories per month. I also post a free "friend link" on my Instagram, Facebook Page, and TwitterOf course, you already follow me on social media, right? 

On "Medium," you have the opportunity to engage and build a relationship with writers like me, who you love, by "clapping" on our articles, writing thoughtful responses, and highlighting your favorite passages. If you comment or ask a question, I will reply. You can also sign up to have my posts come directly to your email address. 

If you enjoy reading great stories from writers from all over the world and want to support the art of writing, please consider signing up for a Medium membership. When you use my membership link, most of your monthly membership ($5.00) will directly support my writing. 

Membership fees allow Medium to pay writers. You have unlimited access to all of the good stuff from other writers in your subjects of interest. I mean, Barack Obama writes there. Yep! Me and Barack. 

Thousands of writers have been writing in this digital format and earning a living (or at least a cup of coffee) with their work for years. 

I started writing on "Medium" because want to change the focus of my writing since the boys are now adults. They have their own stories to tell. I want to diversify and write about mental health, wellness, self-care, and perhaps a few opinion humor and pieces.

I also hoped to change the focus of my life. They say what you focus on grows. I don't know who "they" is, but... I thought maybe if I stopped writing so much about parenting autism, the issues associated with it would disappate in my life. Imagine my disappointment when that didn't happen.  

The transition to adulthood is the hardest part of parenting autism. At least, that has been my experience. My boys are 23 and 26. I am exhausted. I have zero control over anything. I'm just a passenger with a first-class seat to watch them move their lives sideways, backward, and occasionally forward. I can not control their action or inaction, even if it impacts my stress level. 

Autism continues to impact my life no matter what I write about. I will continue to be a voice for autism parents who walk this path. I have been writing this blog for nearly 12 years. I started writing to create autism awareness. I wanted to paint a picture of day-to-day life raising two teenage boys on the autism spectrum. They also happen to be black, growing up in a primarily white suburb of Austin, Texas. 

From the start of this blog, my intention was not one of financial gain. I have earned pennies from my writing in this format. I was too stressed out, raising my sons and keeping them alive. There was no energy to consider monetizing my writing. I couldn't imagine adding the stress of writing deadlines, editors, and publishers' demands to my chaotic life. Although, my close friends and husband strongly encouraged me to do so. 

People who are not writers think you're not a "real writer" unless you publish a book. I am published all over the internet. (Google Karen Wesley Weaver) I am one of the Top Ten Autism Blogs in 2020 by Everyday Health.com My essays have been published in two books. I haven't made my first million dollars, so that doesn't count, right? 

Other people can not measure my payoff, success as a writer, a mother, or anything else I chose to do with my life. 

At the beginning of this blog, the boys and I agreed that if our story helped one person feel less alone in this world, or allowed one person to be inspired to keep going, then it is worth it to share our story. 

I write for my life and sanity. I come here when I have nowhere else to turn. This blog was a source of therapy when I didn't have a therapist. The writing is raw, with no sugarcoating or making it perfect and pretty. I'm trying to do that now on Medium, and let me tell you, my brain doesn't work so good anymore. Prolonged stress has changed my brain. Still, I try. 

I just celebrated my 57th birthday. I'm in menopause. Hormonal imbalance finds me crying at the drop of a hat. I'm tired. My mental health is in the toilet. It's hard to know what is caused by what and what to do to make things better. 

My biggest job in autism parenting has become holding boundaries while trying to move my sons towards independence. Of course, I have zero control over this outcome. The only person I can control is me. That has always been true. It just slaps me in the face now. 

All we can do is build ourselves up with self-compassion, self-love, and self-care. I will be writing about it along the way. Maybe someday, I can pay for all of the therapy we need with my writing earnings. Ha! 

I appreciate you for always supporting my work. 

Love, 

Karen 

You can also find all of my links, including one for a direct donation to support my work on My Linktree



Friday, June 11, 2021

Unhappy Anniversary

I can’t do it. I can’t pretend that our 27th Wedding Anniversary was actually happy. I have a "thing" with people who post the “fabulous life” on social media as if life is all roses. This phenomena that has taken over our lives can lead to some of us feeling more depressed than ever. The reality of most of our lives has plenty of thorns, weeds and dirt.  


Yes. I posted this pic on social media of the two of us having our moment --dinner at our favorite restaurant. 

Yes. We were both smiling pleasantly. (I was acting, mostly. I haven't felt like smiling in weeks). 

*Get it together Karen! You're at our favorite place. This is fine dining. The food will be delicious! We can even afford this...sorta. We made it! Married 27 freakin years! Smile. Dammit! Be happy. 

My husband, Alan always has that dazzling smile. He’s so good-looking and such a charmer. His public persona is impeccable. Everyone says, “He’s the nicest guy they’ve ever met." He has a loving, giving, open heart. I love that about him.

Of course, there are two sides to every story and every Gemini. 

I know all truths are that are hidden beyond my husband's smile.  He struggles through this life like any black man does. He is always proving to the world that he isn’t your average black man. He's none of the stereotypes. He’s not your average man.period.  

How many men do you know who actually stay in a marriage for 27-years with the stress of providing for and raising three boys, two on the autism spectrum? My husband is human, flawed, with moods, inner struggles and insecurities just like the rest of us, despite his charm and dazzling smile. 

He’s a better actor than I am though. I am beyond the whole “acting happy” stage of life. I have very few fake smiles or f*@%s to give these days. 

We had a happy “moment” for our anniversary. I’m thankful for that. The food at Eddy V’s was beyond delicious. We shared a perfect crabcake, a Ceasar salad (which always brings back a memory of my dad. He always made the real deal Caesar with anchovies, from scratch.) Halibut topped with avocado, crab and Panko bread crumbs. 

My French 77 cocktail/s (with vodka instead of gin) helped me  smile and enjoy the moment. His perfect Old-Fashion cocktails helped him relax.  

When we got home and tried to wind down, the anniversary was not genuinely happy. The truth is, we have mental health issues in our home. Mental health or lack thereof,  can steal the glory of the actual “happy” like a shameless thief. It can ruin the party in the blink of an eye.

After this year of CoVid, pandemic, quarantine, social isolation, work-at-home, college-at-home, unemployment, and racial tension, my mental health is in the toilet, swimming in shit. Such a pretty metaphor, isn't it? 

I will not speak in detail of my adult children, but their mental health, or lack there of, impacts my mental health. It has been a shit-show of a year. I am holding on to life by my fingernails. 

The other day I wrote a journal entry that would scare most people if you read it, depending on how you interpret it. I cursed everybody out! I called out all of complete bullshit that has been effecting my life for years now. I have been living the stress for 4 other adults, problem solving, feeling their emotions, (empath) listening like a therapist who lives with her clients. It feels like they continue to ask me for more, and even if they don't ask, I give it. My letter was saying goodbye to that b.s. 

I don't want to end my life.  What I want is to actually start living it fully...in peace.  I’m mature enough to realize that life has really awful moments,  but you get up the next day and try to make it better than yesterday. You grow. You stretch. You say goodbye to what no longer serves you. You work to create the life you want, even though you’re exhausted. You don’t give up. 

You keep working through the pain and along the way, you encourage others to keep going; to take care of ourselves; to forgive ourselves for the places where we fall short. 

Back in high-school, I remember my English teacher called me "Florence Nightingale." He told me to sit down and stop helping everybody. “No one asked you to do that,” he said. 

You didn’t need to ask for my help, for me to give it to you. This kind of thinking can lead to a woman’s undoing. *Burnout and cumulative stress can end in physical and mental illness. Stress can lodge itself in your body as heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer. 

As a caregiver, mother to adults on the autism spectrum, and wife of 27-years, I work continuously  to create and keep boundaries; to find mercy for myself. I practice self-love, self-compassion and self-care.  We keep practicing until we get it right.    

Some people will take your last breath if you’re willing to give it to them. My adult children will probably stand over my grave and yell, “but Mom I need…” 

I work hard everyday to say yes to myself. It’s not easy. 

Will you come on the journey with me? 

*"Burnout -The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle"  (Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. Amelia Nagoski, AMA,  2020) 

My Amazon Store


Saturday, March 27, 2021

Aspie From Maine

My friends on social media are real.  Recently, I lost one of  them. I met Kate Goldfield through this blog. Kate was a fellow blogger, the author of "Aspie from Maine". She wrote about life in her twenties, living with Aspergers.   She was one of my earliest readers when I started writing 12 years-ago. 

The boys were teens at the time. I was mostly at my wits end and would write like this was a diary of confessions. As my dad would say,  I would tell "the natural truth." Unedited. Especially, in the beginning. I had no idea what I was doing really.

Kate would comment and help me with insight into what the boys may have been feeling and experiencing from the perspective of someone living with Aspergers. We became Facebook friends. We were also in several autism support groups together. Support groups on Facebook can be a lifeline for the autism community. It can be one of the only ways we connect with people who really understand the journey we are living. 

Kate was always supportive of my blog which made me think,  maybe I'm doing something right. In fact, if you visit Kate's blog , I am first on the list of blogs that she likes. (Yes. That makes me feel like I was seen.) 

Kate was very active in the online Autism Community both with parents and other adults on the spectrum.  I think she would be delighted to know how many of us were touched by her life and devastated by her death.

Last weekend, she was having difficulty breathing due to asthma. We all knew because like me, she posted about everything! She was wrestling with the decision to go to the E.R. or not. Many of her online friends were encouraging her to go.  But she had a lot of anxiety about the medical system. It had failed her so many times. Over the years, there were countless doctors who did not believe her.  They would dismiss her symptoms and send her away with no answers. Which of course, made her feel worse. There were so many medications prescribed that did not address her needs, or didn’t agree with her chemical sensitivities. It was a major source of frustration. 

The family made a statement on her Facebook page on Monday, March 22nd, 2021.  

“Kate finally went to the ER today and while she was there she went into cardiac arrest and died. The doctors don’t know what caused her to crash so quickly and are going to recommend that the medical examiner does an autopsy.” 

Wait what! WTF? --my initial reaction. 

Personally, I believe there were many contributing factors to her cause of death. One was was a medical and mental health system that failed her. Case Workers who said she wasn’t bad off enough to receive help. A government that doesn’t prioritize marginalized communities and adults with disabilities. A local support system that wasn't enough for her many challenges. 

*Disclaimer (This is the picture Kate painted of her life through her posts and private messages. It is not my intention to blame any one party.)

The family’s statement made reference to her "looking so peaceful." As if that might comfort those of us reading it. In anger I thought, Hell yeah she looked peaceful! She was finally resting after an exhaustive struggle!  

I was sad, hurt, a little angry and afraid. Her early death made me think of my sons who are high-functioning, young adults on the spectrum. High functioning can be such a illusory term. Meaning well-spoken; often highly intelligent. Society often doesn’t see, or can disregard how much their skills of daily living can be affected, and how many challenges they face.

A young adult who is “high-functioning” may be able to get the highest of S.A.T. scores, and yet have tremendous difficulty managing day to day life as a college student. All of the deadlines, and projects must be time-managed in order to be completed on time. For the first time they may also be managing their daily lives without the support of their family. 

Another "high-functioning" young adult may function well in a work environment where there is a distinct routine or work that requires hyper-focus. And yet, they may find it impossible to navigate things like, living on their own, budgeting, and paying bills on time. Because of limited social communication, they can be highly vulnerable and easily taken advantage of.

(I personally know several “highly functioning” adults who have been scammed out of large amounts of money.)

We have a family friend (lets call him Michael). He is 21 years-old. He just completed an Associates degree program. He is struggling, caught between a rock and hard place, desperately wanting independence as most young-adults do. Anxiety makes him hesitant to move into the career he studied for. So he remains in an entry-level position on a job that he doesn't like. He doesn’t have all of the skills for independent living. He’s impacted by depression,  fighting hardest against the people who love him most.  He feels a lifetime worth of anger, disappointment, restricted freedom (from his perspective) and a lot of social rejection. It can take a long time for someone on the spectrum to get over the nightmare of high school. Sometimes,  his perception can make his life feel even more difficult.  It is nevertheless, his reality. 

My own 25-year-old son on the autism spectrum can be “a lot” to deal with. He talks and asks questions incessantly. He used to blow up my phone every-time he was angry or upset about something. He complains about so many things. I think constantly thinking of something to be angry about has got to be exhausting. He has a flair for drama, which I have come to understand and can read. But, I worry. 

"Will he be believed by others in his life when something is terribly wrong?" 

He is the epitome of the boy who cried wolf. 

As he matures, his quest for constant attention has gotten better. Still he wants to be seen and heard. He doesn't seem to care whether it's positive or negative attention. Attention is like oxygen to him. As his mother, I try to give him the benefit of the doubt. I try to listen, but even with that, it is a real journey of setting and keeping boundaries for the sake of  my own mental health.  And I think, I am one of the most patient people on earth! (At least I used to be before they fried my nerves.) 

What will happen to him if I’m no longer here? Will the rest of the world have the time and patience to deal with his difficult personality?  A question many autism parents ask. 

I watched my very real, Facebook friend struggle this past year. She would write posts daily, practically screaming to be heard. The isolation of quarantine in 2020 was difficult for many of us. Those of us with mental health issues were heavily impacted by the level of isolation. 

Kate messaged me a month ago.  She asked, "Will it be okay if I PM and we could have a convo cus I feel like I could learn a lot from you? But if not that is okay you probably have your hands full."  

I had to level with her, ”I’m not always in a good place myself and I don't have all of the answers. But I will listen and respond when I have the capacity to give you a thoughtful reply.” 

At the very least I wanted let her know that she was both seen and heard, despite her extensive list of troubles.   

I told my 22 year-old son on the day that she passed, that people like Kate have been a large part of my purpose in this life.  Through writing our story, I met Kate and many young-adults on the spectrum who were struggling through the teen years and young adulthood. Some of them had parents who from their perspective, were not supportive. They write to me when they are facing a challenge, or just want to be heard.  It's one of the things I'm most proud of in this life. 

I hope and pray that someone reading this will reach out to a person who is struggling, no matter how difficult their personalities may be. You can have boundaries and still support someone with autism or mental health issues. See them. Hear them. 

I see you Kate. I will never forget you. 💔😢


Thursday, March 18, 2021

On Pages



Inside my head 

Absence of sun

Swimming in murky water  

Upstream where there's light

Self-help by the ounce 

On pages

Writers -friends

I love you

Thank you 

You nurture me

Comfort me with optimism 

Speak to me in silence

Remind me what I know

Take me on journeys

As I sit in stillness

You are therapy 

On pages 

Life’s prompts and prose

Sun, earth, moon, eclipse

Self-love cultivation 

Reading is water

Water is self-care 

Writing words 

On pages 

Elicit kindred souls 

Fellow travelers 

on my perpetual journey

Perpetual -sexy 

Everlasting 

Neverending 

Incessant  


 

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Not Amanda Gorman



I walk outside my front door on a crisp, January, afternoon. The fresh air and the Texas sun envelop me. 

“This feels so good,” I think to myself. It’s amazing what fresh air and sun can do for the mood. 

I play in my garden for a few minutes, cutting overgrown Big Blue Lilyturf plants, and pinching back golden pansies with a splash of purple, hoping to make them stand tall and appear fresh. 

The picture above is my cute, outdoor, office set-up for the day.  Harry, my dog is sitting peacefully next to my colorful pouf, and teal-blue, painted, Adirondack chair. It was my Instagram picture of the day. I used it in my “story” with no description. Just “prettiness.”  

It may have reached seventy-degrees, on this beautiful day but the intense Texas sun made it feel at least ten degrees warmer. 
I think to myself, “How lucky am I to be able to create out here?” 
*This is the "trying to be positive and grateful me."

Then I think, “It sure would be nice to have a more private outdoor space in my backyard?” Which is currently a train wreck. 
*This is the real me. 

The real story is, I need to escape the noise inside the house. I need to escape these people in my house (my family). 

#workathome 

My husband, Alan, works from home as he has for several years now.  Except for this past year, there is zero business travel. Zero as in nada! Business travel has been the saving grace of our marriage for 26 years. Absence keeps you from killing each other. Isn’t that how love works?

During this 27th year of marriage and pandemic togetherness, our success tool has been banned. My loving husband is here having one boisterous conference and Webex call, after another, from the time I crack my eyes open in the morning, until well into the evening. His “office” is right outside my bedroom door in our open-floor-plan family room, which allows his voice to carry throughout the entire house, all.day.long. 

Can you feel my eyes rolling out of my head? 

#collegeathome 

Cole, my 22-year-old son is doing college classes in my kitchen, which is adjacent to my Writing room where there is also no door to close as of yet. My writing room is actually our dining room,  which was converted into my mother’s “temporary” bedroom, for ten-years!

As of this summer, I converted it into my Yoga/Writing/Happy Place (only so far it's minus the happy).  It's happy when there is quiet in the house, which is rare, or when I’m wearing my noise-canceling earphones. 
(Feel free to send donations to the Get-Karen-A-Door fund. See the link below. Kidding. There is no link below, though perhaps there should be.) 

There is an advantage to college-at-home. He gets to class on time every day. I get to hear how brilliant he sounds during his Philosophy class discussions. I see and hear his leadership and fearlessness up close. I would never see this if he was on a college campus or in a dorm room. (Dear Lord, why isn’t he in a dorm room?

This is remarkable for the boy who dropped out of college because of anxiety after the first year. The deadlines, the organization, the waking up in time for class, was all just too much for him right out of high school at 18.  

The disadvantage to college-at-home? Way too much family togetherness. We are a family unit of three #athometogether all.of.the.time! My son has become the second husband, I never wanted.

Everyone is constantly, consistently, aware of what the other person is doing, saying, eating, drinking, and using the bathroom. There is the uninvited personal commentary to go along with all of the minding each other’s business all.day.long. Every.day. For almost a year now! 

#createathome 

I am a writer who creates at home. Well...who tries to create at home. When I’m not working on healing and my mental health. Occasionally, I do write something decent. 

I have this successful blog, which is ready for a re-vamp and re-launch. (Help!) I’ve published stories on countless websites about parenting, autism, and mental illness. 

I am a writer, with a terminal compulsion to string words together and tell stories. (Lately, most of the stories are only on Instagram and Facebook.)

Yesterday, I discovered that I am not Amanda Gorman.  I was so inspired by this young, black girl and her poem at the Inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on January 20, 2021. I have listened to her recitation more than once and thought, “I can do that. I can inspire the world with my words. That is my purpose! That is my journey!” 

Only, that didn’t happen in the pretty picture setup of my outdoor writing space yesterday.  I sat and I wrote six-pages of what felt like total crap, otherwise known as a shitty-first-draft. 

Will I try to publish it as a personal essay? 
Will, I ever put a complete book of my stories together? 
Do I have enough focus and drive to make that happen?
Is my fatigue from trauma, PTSD, ADHD, lack of focus, and self-sabotage, standing in my way? 
I won’t bore you with all of the negative self-talk that runs through my head when I write. 

I kept writing, going at it for hours because the sun felt so good on my skin.  I had so much to say, or so I thought. I was translating from a journal entry, which the day before was an awesome spark. Only once I started typing, it all felt forced and disjointed. I worked to make it make sense. I don't think it ever did. 

Finally, hours later, I walked away from it. I got up, brushed my teeth, washed my face brushed my hair and gathered groceries to take around the corner to my mom’s apartment. 

My mother  (my employer who does not pay)  calls with something she “needs” from me every.single.day. Even when she doesn't really need anything.  It’s attention-seeking behavior. Every adult in my family does it.  They are constantly seeking my attention. 

Yesterday she needed paper plates from my pantry, chicken wings, from my freezer, frozen taquitos, and forty-dollars’ worth of quarters, from the bank of my husband, for her elderly neighbor who can not easily get to a real bank. 

(Tootie, mom's neighbor, needs the quarters to wash her clothes in the coin-operated laundry room in their Independent Living Senior apartments. She washes her clothes in the laundry room, where three out of four lights are burned out, and nobody (the management) has done anything about it because according to Tootie, “No one cares about seniors.”)

My privileged mother,  (otherwise known as Employer, who doesn't pay, but always in dire need of services rendered by me) has her own, personal, washer and dryer inside of her apartment. She also has a wonderful,  paid caregiver, who comes in to actually "do" her laundry.  (I digress.) 

I crawl in bed last night.  I swear I will not write another word tomorrow.  Nope. I'm definitely no  Amanda Gorman. 

In fact, there are days I don’t know who I am or what it is that I’m doing and feeling.

Is this a mid-life crisis? Do women have those? 

Last week I wanted to leave my family. I mean seriously...divorce. All of them. 

Is this p.m.s.? Is this perimenopause? Menopause? It’s hard to tell because the periods haven’t completely gone away. They taunt me. One month it’s here. The next month? Maybe. And then...bam! Here the mother f*#%er is again! 

Whatever it is, that I’m going through, half the time I feel crazy, confused, and moody. I hate everything and everyone, especially the people I love. 

Is this pandemic/quarantine blues? 

People aren’t talking so much about it anymore, but it is still the elephant in the room that is making us all lose it. My house has become increasingly smaller because of this god-dammed, pandemic, elephant taking up space, squeezing me closer to these people I live with. 

This is happening just at a time when I hoped to have an empty nest. I thought I might have a little freedom from the responsibility of taking care of adults, deciding what they will eat and how it will all magically appear before them. 

Today I woke up thinking, I will just take care of the laundry list of boring as f*#% to do’s. Maybe I can be successful at the laundry,  grocery shopping, and hunting down a CoVid vaccine appointment for my mother. 

But alas,  I woke up inspired to write this lovely blog entry for those of you who may also be feeling a little bit of pandemic, quarantine, p.m.s., menopausal, compulsion to divorce your family. 

I love you,
 ~Karen 
Not that Karen, 
Not Amanda Gorman
The one & only Karen Wesley, Writer 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Sunday's Dance

Nothing makes me dance on a Sunday morning like being alone in my own house. 

As my husband leaves to go to my mom’s apartment I yell, “Stay extra long! Will ya?” He doesn’t see the humor in my snarkiness. 


Bless him. He has it within his heart to go to my mom’s apartment every Sunday morning, so that they can stream church together.  I do not have it within my heart.  I no longer do things out of a sense of obligation, if I can choose not to. I did that for too many years to count. I have the scars of resentment to prove it. 

 

They started watching church together when my mom lived here in our home. It’s a Baptist church out of Baltimore, Maryland where my husband’s family lives. During the week our house would be filled with screaming, arguing, and constant talking. The last thing I wanted on Sunday morning was to have someone screaming the gospel at me. 


No thanks. I would rather talk to God, quietly through prayer and in my journal. I don’t need the constraints of formal Christianity, which comes with side order of  hypocrisy for many Christians. My relationship with God and my spirituality are not for world consumption or approval.  I admit there is still  a bit of a sting leftover from the over-saturation of a childhood consumed by organized religion. There was no freedom of choice until I turned 18 and had enough. 


I was my mother’s primary caregiver while she lived here. She came to live with us “temporarily” during the height of the teen and adult-transition years for my sons on the autism spectrum. Temporarily turned into ten years of me being so overwhelmed with keeping my children alive and mentally healthy. I didn’t have time to think of ulterior living solutions for my mother. 


I feel the heart palpitations when think about what a nightmare it was when everyone lived here together. I’m still in therapy trying to get over that trauma. 


I had to have my son, Kendal move out when he was 19. He just could not be contained within this house, along with 4 other adults. He moved into a situation that I wasn't all that comfortable with at first. However, it served a purpose. It was healthier for us to live apart. 


Thankfully, he moved to San Antonio to work and live with his older brother 18 months later. Now, he lives in Los Angeles with my niece. The fact that he has a soft place to land  is on my gratitude list every.single.day. 


Late last summer,  I was doing the happy dance after I was able to orchestrate everything so we could move my mother around the corner into a senior-living apartment. She took the last of the Sunday morning noise along with her, along with the landline phone that would ring all living day long. The calls were mostly solicitations or Kendal calling back home to report every tragic life experience and emotion. You know, like frustration over missing the bus or overcooking the chicken to the point of extreme dryness. My heart rate would go up every time the phone rang. A trauma response from years of phone calls with bad news on the other end.


When Mom lived with me, it turned out that the more I did for her as her daughter and caregiver,  the more she wanted me to do, and the less she was willing to do for herself. It wasn’t mentally healthy for either one of us. I felt constantly overwhelmed and stressed. Sometimes, I would hide in my room just “not” not to be asked to do something when she laid eyes on me. I would go to a bar after yoga so I didn’t have to come home to work. I didn't want to answer the questions, as an adult in my own home, “Where are you going? What are you doing? What are you eating? What are you drinking?” 


As fate would have it, my mother reached a point where she could no longer climb the stairs to get to the shower in our two-story home. The  arthritis in her knees had become progressively worse. Anxiety made her believe that everything was impossible.


I hired home-health therapists to come in and help her build her strength and confidence. I knew her days were numbered in this house. 


I was finally able to  find her own, fully-accessible, apartment.  She has a friend/caregiver come into her apartment to help with cooking, cleaning, and bathing.  She now has her very own, private, quiet,  space where she keeps the temperature around 80 degrees.  


She doesn’t have to stumble over our stuff or be inconvenienced by my disorganization. She doesn't have share the guest bathroom with our son’s friends, who just might pee on the toilet seat when they come to visit. 


She is happy with her space and I am thrilled about the doors that close between us. 


The burnout from years of caregiving for my mother and my young adult sons, left me with no choice other than to draw strong boundaries between myself and my family.  The experience of over-giving had kept all of us from growing.


I reached a point where my body would not allow me to do it anymore. I had neglected my own needs in order to take care of theirs for far too long.  The of damage to my soul turned to anger, rage and resentment.  


It took a lot of years of therapy to figure this all out. When everyone was here together, I didn’t have the wherewithall to address how my own mental health was being affected. I continue to work to hold my boundaries as my dependents work to encroach upon them. I’m still responsible for them, but from a healthy distance.


Our family has  lived in this house for over twenty years. Most of those years were extremely loud, and incredibly close. As in, too many of us with too many agendas, opinions, feelings, and emotions, all living within earshot of each other


For me it was like being on-call 24/7,  living with some very needy, non-paying, clients. It was like playing whacamole, putting out one fire, and then the next, with very little time to catch my breath inbetween.


As women, mothers, daughters, and wives, we are conditioned to give from the time we are in our early teen years. Do the things that you are asked to do.  Go to church. Get baptized because it’s time to give your life to God. Please the Elders in the church. Everyone is watching. Give your time in order to please others. You want to be well thought of in our community.  Follow the example of Christ. Don’t embarrass your mother. And what does your happiness have to do with anything? Your job is to make others feel comfortable, so that they will like and accept you. 


Growing up, my children were not happy most of the time. They were socially isolated in school, had issues with anxiety and depression. They had challenges that I could never have imagined in my own childhood. I thought it was my job to protect them, to be their voice, and give them as much happiness and comfort as possible. That was my job for a long time. Only I didn't know when to draw the line. 


The same was true with my mother. Make her comfortable and happy, as you have done your entire life.


Only the weight of all of that was impossible for one person to carry. I was living the way I had been conditioned. The sacrifice of my happiness, was inconsequential. 


That is, until I woke up and realized that my happiness is essential. You can only fake the funk for so long before your body and your brain give way to depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and hopefully not heart disease, or some other illness.  


When we become burnout, our bodies internalize our pain and begin to break down. 


We have to take care of ourselves.  It’s vital to take care of our own needs.  It’s the infamous, put on your oxygen mask first, that I heard that a million times. I probably even wrote about it here on this blog.  And yet, I would only take just enough oxygen to barely keep breathing. Everyone else had as much as I could humanly give them.. 


These days, when I wake up on Sunday morning and I am alone in my house,  I dance. I don’t even need any music. It’s in my soul. 

Sunday Chillin in my swing chair.
No makeup. Alone.