WHATEVS…

Sierra's online journal

Living Like Me April 19, 2020

(Day 8: Share something you struggle with)

One of the many positive things I’ve seen come out of this ongoing pandemic is that many people—including several of my personal friends—have opened up about their struggles with mental health. Suddenly, talking about anxiety and depression is okay for those who are living with it. And some people are feeling it for the first time. And even those lucky enough to have no idea what it’s like first-hand seem to have a good understanding of that now’s the time to check in with the people. To ask how they’re doing. To offer moments of levity. To spread cheer. To make sure friends know that they’re there to listen if anyone needs to talk. And that’s a powerful thing.

white and brown wooden tiles

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

I’ve always been pretty open about describing myself as “an anxious person.” But I’ve never really owned the title. So here goes. I struggle with anxiety and depression.

What’s that mean, though? Well, it means that at any given moment, I am consciously working at keeping my thoughts and emotions in check. Picture it like the Whack-a-Mole carnival game. An ugly thought pops up? BAM! Not today. A niggling worry rears its head? POW! Not today. I wield my mallet and keep all the negativity at bay. And most days, I’m successful at that. I’m able to live what others would call a “normal” life. Yes, on the good days, I can make myself believe that I’m a good mom, a good wife, a good person in general. I do the right things, say the right things, and blend in.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much for a good day to turn bad. It often doesn’t even take any outside influence. Sometimes it’s as simple as forgetting to constantly remind myself that life is good, that I don’t need to worry so much, that I’m a good person. Other times, I don’t forget but rather am just too exhausted from constantly battling my own thoughts and simply can’t anymore. I put my mallet down and watch the moles pop up all over the place, feeling overwhelmed. And that’s when I snap or cry or stress out for what seems like no reason. Times like these, I withdraw. If I can isolate myself physically, I do. If I can’t, I try to “stay in my own bubble” by avoiding conversation and personal interactions. When this happens, I worry what “they” are thinking. I convince myself of what “normal” me knows are lies. They think I’m rude. They think I’m stupid. They don’t want to be around me. 

adult alone anxious black and white

Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

In the really bad moments, those lies about what others are thinking spiral out of control until they have solidified into facts. I’m a terrible mom. My husband should leave me. I can’t do anything right. Getting out of bed is a chore. Carrying out everyday tasks feels insurmountable. I don’t want to even try. I think life for everyone would be better if I weren’t in it.

Living with anxiety and depression has taught me a ton, not only about myself but about the world (and people!) around me. First, I’ve learned that these feelings are part of what makes me ME. It wasn’t until my first panic attack that it even occurred to me that not everyone feels like I do. It happened a little over ten years ago and landed me in the ER with uncontrollable shaking, an abnormally low body temperature, and the overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t warm up. They checked my vitals, ran their tests, and referred me back to my primary care physician for a follow-up. Nothing was physically wrong. I’d had an anxiety attack.

My doctor, in turn, referred me to a psychiatrist who, I was told, I’d have to meet with in order to obtain a prescription for anxiety medication. I told her I didn’t want medication. I just wanted to never feel that way again. She handed me a script and told me to bring it to the pharmacy to be filled, that it would tide me over until I could meet with the psychiatrist. Numbly, I followed her directions and when the pharmacist handed me that paper bag holding that amber bottle, she asked if I had any questions. And I did. I explained that my doctor had handed the script to me with no directions or explanation. What is it? When do I take it? The pharmacist read the label and told me, “Says here, three times per day by mouth.” And I was sent on my way. I took one in the car on the way home and within minutes was high as a kite. My husband read the bottle and gave me a shocked look. She had prescribed me a controlled substance intended to be taken “as needed.” But her instructions were to take it three times daily. And she had given me three refills. All before I even met with a psychiatrist.

My meeting with the psychiatrist came about a month later. He asked lots of questions, starting with the medication my doctor had given me and whether or not I felt it was working. I admitted that I had only taken a few of the pills; certainly not three times daily and I hadn’t had any need to order a refill. He asked about my life and how I’ve been feeling. We chatted for about a half hour during which time he offered me a prescription for a daily medication that would “take the edge off.” I declined. How I felt was normal to me. I didn’t want to not feel like me.

I’ve learned to cope with the feelings, to stay on top of them most times. And I’ve learned what to expect when I need a break from all the coping. I’ve learned how best to care for myself without negatively impacting those around me. I’ve learned who I can count on, to call at any hour of day or night to talk me off the ledge. I’ve learned how to fill my cup with the things that bring “good” with them and how to shield myself from the factors that most often lead to the “bad.” I’ve learned that I’m one of millions of people who live this way. I’ve learned that even at my lowest, I’m never alone.

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

 

(Only) 10 Songs I Love April 16, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 5:10 pm
Tags: , , ,

I’m not musically inclined. My singing voice is reserved for the shower, the car, or any time/place that no one else can hear me. I’ve never learned to play an instrument and can’t read sheet music. But I’m a music lover, for sure. A song can change my mood in an instant. It can conjure up a memory and transport me to another time. I use music to keep myself going, to fall asleep, to unwind, and for a million other reasons throughout every day.

In his heyday, my dad was bassist in a band. When I was a kid, he fed me a steady diet of classic rock and blues…Rolling Stones, the Beatles, J Geils Band, BB King, a little Elvis Presley. I attended my first concert (Bon Jovi) when I was about 5 years old. I remember wearing Cabbage Patch Kid earmuffs to muffle the sound and feeling like queen of the world wearing my concert t-shirt to kindergarten the next day. My mom was a country fan through and through to the point that I still joke that Kris Kristofferson may be my biological dad. But she listened to a other genres, too. Growing up, I heard a lot of Carly Simon. Meatloaf. Cher.
Much to my parents’ chagrin, I developed a taste for hip hop and reggae in my early teen years. It took some coaxing to get their permission to attend rap concerts with friends in those years, but I managed it a handful of times. At one show, I met Lil Wayne, who was walking around the audience selling his “mix tape.” (Yeah. I’m that old.) But I never really abandoned my musical upbringing, either, which has left me with an appreciation for a little bit of everything, my go-to playlists changing every few years or so.
In high school, I listened to a lot of hip hop…DMX, Jay-Z, Ja Rule, Li’l Kim, Missy Elliot, 2Pac, Nas, and who could forget Ma$e? (Answer: Probably everyone has forgotten Ma$e. Let’s be real.) But there was also some alt-rock mixed in…311, Everclear, Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins. I remember a dirty dancing contest at a friend’s birthday party set to Closer by Nine Inch Nails, which I not only rocked but won. Then my college years were defined by the likes of Dave Matthews, Five For Fighting, Alanis Morissette, and Fiona Apple. I kept Maxwell’s cover of This Woman’s Work on steady rotation along with the City High album. In adulthood, my music has slowed down considerably, especially as the world of hip hop has devolved into absurdity. Now, I tend more towards country and “singer-songwriter” type of music. But ultimately, I’m still all over the place in my taste.

So the task of picking just 10 songs that I love is a tall order. But here goes. I’ve gone ahead and included a Spotify link for each song in case you want to give anything a listen. Please do!

No Woman, No Cry – cover by Fugees
Don’t get me wrong. I love me some Bob Marley. But when it comes to No Woman, No Cry, it’s GOT to be the Fugees cover. (Blasphemy, I know.) This one takes me back to the late 90s. I’m 15, playing Tetris on Nintendo in my bedroom. The old-style Nintendo that you have to blow into the console to get it to play correctly, because again, I’m that old. This song’s on repeat. My window is open and the volume on my stereo is cranked high. I’ve got no real responsibilities other than school and want nothing more than for the boy across the street to notice me.

Here We Go Again – Ray Charles & Norah Jones
This one takes me back to Willie Nelson’s 70th birthday party in 2003. The stage (and audience!) was star-studded. I’m sitting to the right of my then boyfriend (now husband) who has “that guy with the eyebrows from The O.C.” and his wife on his left. It bothered me the whole show that I couldn’t think of his name; Peter Gallagher. My parents are sitting front row and my mom keeps turning around to taunt Kris Kristofferson’s wife Lisa about the fact that she’s got a better seat. Performances included Bill Clinton (yes, THAT Bill Clinton) on the sax, Shania Twain, Wyclef Jean, ZZ Top…the list goes on. But the stand-out in my mind from that night was Ray Charles and Norah Jones.

Anna Begins – Counting Crows
I’m not really sure why but this song always makes me cry. This one’s on my list because of the lyrics. It’s a love story. And I’m a sucker for a good love story.

“If it’s love,” she said, “then we’re going to have to think about the consequences.” She can’t stop shaking. I can’t stop touching her and this time, when kindness falls like rain, it washes her away. And Anna begins to change her mind. “These seconds when I’m shaking leave me shuddering for days,” she says. And I’m not ready for this sort of thing.

I’ve since read that Adam Duritz wrote this song for/about a woman he met while vacationing in Greece and the fact that it’s a TRUE love story seals the deal even more for me.

Give It All To You – Luke Wade
I fell in love with Luke Wade’s music back when he was on Pharell’s team of Season 7 of The Voice. Since then, he’s toured in our area a handful of times and my husband and I have never missed a local-ish show. This song is among my favorites for several reasons but the most important reason has nothing to do with the song itself. It started when I came across Luke’s cover of Work Song. I hadn’t heard Hosier’s original at the time but was telling my husband about how romantic the lyrics were. (C’mon. He sings about crawling out of his grave to go home to his woman. That’s the ultimate in romance, no? No? Just me? Weird.) Anyway, weeks later, my husband serenaded me with Give It All To You. When he was done, he smiled proudly and I stared at him in confusion. He insisted, “You said it was the ultimate romantic song.” Realizing what had happened, I broke it to hubby that, though I appreciated the gesture, he’d learned and performed the wrong song. But since that night, this one holds a soft spot for me.

Greatest Love Story – LANCO
I know what you’re thinking. (Great…ANOTHER love story.) But this one makes the list because it reminds me of my daughter. Hubby and I took her to her first concert (Chris Young) when she was five years old. He had two opening performers for that tour: LANCO and Kane Brown. She loved the whole experience of being at a live performance and she fell in love with this song that night. Since then, she’s learned every lyric and often asks for it when we’re driving in the car or having karaoke night at my sister’s. And, yeah, it’s also a love story. Duh.

Caress Me Down – Sublime
Caution: NSFW. Sublime is some feel-good music, isn’t it? A little reggae-ish. A little Spanish. A little something else. “Ungh!” I can’t help but turn this one way up when it comes on. And it always makes me smile. Bonus Track: While we’re talking about Sublime, I’d be remiss to not mention Aimee Allen’s cover of Santeria. You’re welcome.

Yele – Wyclef Jean
Wyclef is my man. And the Carnival had several songs on it that I loved. But my favorite is hands down Yele. I don’t know what it’s about because the song isn’t in English. I’m not even 100% sure what language it IS, though I’m guessing Creole because he’s Haitian. What I do know is that I can sing along to every word and it evokes emotions that transcends language.

Moonshine – Erick Baker
My first introduction to Erick Baker was Unbroken Promise, which inspired a whole chapter of a book I’m writing. After playing that one on repeat for a while, I started to look more into his other work. I’ve since found that he was on the rise to semi-success in music when he gave up touring to save his marriage. Which makes me love him even more. He’s a good husband, a good father, and his music is pretty great, too. Moonshine is a feel-good song that makes me want to belt out every word with the car windows down. If this one doesn’t put you in a good mood, I’m not sure what will.

I wanna drink a little moonshine in the sunshine of a Summer day.
I wanna paint myself some blue skies to cover up the grays.
Cause everybody needs a good time every once in awhile.
A bad day that ends with a smile.
And some white light to wash all our troubles away.

Justice – Citizen Cope
When Cope tours in our area, hubby and I always buy tickets. Always. He began his musical career as a songwriter and eventually got talked into performing his own music, despite crippling stage fright. (In fact, to this day, he often opens shows with his eyes closed to avoid seeing the audience.) He’s got a unique sound, lyrics that can be interpreted many ways by many people, and is such an overall “chill” person. And the audience members at his shows are a reflection of that eclectic vibe. I’ve listened to podcast interviews and the Facebook Live “Q&A” sessions he does for fans and I’ve noticed that he NEVER talks about what his songs are about or what inspired him to write any given track. He leaves it all up to interpretation.

Drunk Girls in Bathroom Lines – Heidi Raye
This song single-handedly embodies an entire universal experience in a 3-minute ditty. My husband, who is a country fan, haaaaaaates this song because he says it’s annoying. But I can’t get enough of it. Maybe he needed to be there. In the line for the women’s room at a bar or a concert. It’s quite possibly the place that women are nicest and chattiest to each other. We’re all in a good mood. We’re all out, having fun. We’re all friends while waiting to pee. We’ve all made “BFF’s we’ll never see again.”

If you’ve stuck it out this long, I commend you. It means you probably love music as much as I do. Feel free to connect with me on Spotify and send me a song recommendation or two. I’ll never turn down a chance to discover some new tunes.

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

A Map to My Heart April 13, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 12:13 pm
Tags: , , , ,

What’s the way to my heart? Hmmm. I haven’t really had any reason to give this topic much thought in a long, long, looooong time because my heart already belongs to the hubs. But how did HE win it? And how has he managed to keep it all these years? THAT I can answer.

1) Be able to hold a conversation.

I like humor. I like logic. I like organizing and listing. I like daydreaming. Some of my favorite times are after our girl’s in bed and we’re up talking about our days or future plans.

2) Try to understand my anxiety.

It doesn’t always make sense, even to me. I often can’t tell you why I feel it or what will make it dissapate. But he always listens and tries his best to reason with me without judging.

3) Kick ass at parenting.

There’s no rule book or instruction manual. We’re all just winging it, doing our best to raise kids who are well-adjusted members of society. I’m so thankful that for the most part, he and I are on the same page when it comes to how best to raise our girl. And when we’re not, we’re always able to find a happy medium. Every day, no matter what, I’m a thousand percent certain that our girl has the type of father who will show her by example how a man should treat the people he loves.

4) Do the “boy jobs.”

Look. I was raised by two loving parents who didn’t really put much emphasis on gender roles. My sister and I were taught to be independent, to never rely on a man. So it took me a long time to feel good about giving up control of anything, even in my relationship. But once I did, it was like a weight was lifted off me. I’m still self sufficient in most things but see no harm in splitting responsibilities, either. Equal partners. Except for when it comes to killing spiders or cleaning up dog vomit. Those are boy jobs, for sure.

5) Never give up or walk away.

I’m often hard to handle. I can be irritable, grumpy, hard to live with. I sometimes try to isolate myself. But he’s held onto my heart all these years because he doesn’t give up on me. He’s patient, he pushes me to open up when all I want to do is disappear inside my own head, he often knows what I need even when I don’t.

 

Oh, the Places I’ll Go: Quarantine Edition April 10, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 2:49 pm
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(Day 5 – List five places you want to visit.)

I can’t be the only one dreaming up a to-do list for when COVID-19 is no longer a threat, businesses reopen, travel bans are lifted, and life can return to normal. Thinking about all the places I want to visit helps me stay optimistic, with an eye toward the future and normalcy. And had I been asked to list five places I’d like to visit a month ago, it would’ve been vacation destinations. But here we are. And here’s my list.

1) My daughter’s school.

She loves it and because of that, I love it. The teachers, the staff… They’re all missed deeply. Before all this, I joined her class for library time at least twice monthly, volunteered at every school event, and attended every PTO meeting. The truth is, I may be missing her school more than she is right now.

2) The movie theater.

We’ve had “family movie night” once per week since social distancing began. In fact, we’re having one tonight. (Hello, “Trolls: World Tour.”) It involves microwave popcorn, candy, pajamas, and blankets as the four of us (our black lab counts!) snuggle on the couch. We enjoy it, sure. But man, do I miss the experience of going to the theater. Never again will I complain about overpriced concessions or sticky floors.

3) Someone’s house.

Anyone’s house. My dad’s, my sister’s, my friends’. I want to have a party. Or go to a party. Or a hundred parties. Invite everyone. Hug everyone. Talk to people face to face.

4) Date night.

Like the rest of the country, I’ve been feeling more frazzled than usual lately. And when I feel like this, the solution is often to book a babysitter and enjoy a night out with the hubs. But now? We can’t have a sitter over. And even if we could, there’s no place to go. I miss dining out and escape rooms and the casino and concerts and paint night and bowling and the theater and all the things we like to do on dates.

5) The grocery store.

Sure, they’re still open. But we’re trying like hell to stay away. I haven’t been into any stores since mid-March but I’ve heard there have been many changes. I don’t want to have to wear a mask or wait in line for my turn to shop. I don’t want to hope the shelves are stocked. I want to interact with the cashier without a plexiglass panel between us. I want to shop leisurely and with my husband and daughter. If I forget something, I want to be able to pop in randomly or send my husband at 11pm. Instead, we’re shopping for two weeks at a time by delivery service. Hoping we’re choosing enough to last. Hoping it’ll all arrive and not be out of stock.

I’m doing my best to stay positive by limiting media consumption, getting a daily dose of vitamin D from outside time, and staying somewhat on a schedule in terms of sleeping and eating. I have faith that we’ll get through this and when we do, I’ll not take for granted all these little things. Because I realize now that these little things are actually pretty big.

 

My MomFriendAunt is Better Than Yours April 9, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 8:13 am
Tags: , ,

(Day 4: Write about someone who inspires you.)

Growing up, my mom’s best friend was always a presence in my life. But it wasn’t until after my mom passed away that I really came appreciated the human being she is.

From the moment my mom’s diagnosis came until she took her final breath roughly three months later, her best friend was one of only four people she allowed to visit her. She was a huge support for our whole family during that emotionally charged time and I know she was a comfort to my mom, as well. She stood beside us in the receiving line at mom’s services and continued to be an incredible support to us in the days (and months and years) after.

It took me a while after my mom passed to realize that calling her “my mom’s best friend” was still true but no longer made sense. Instead, I started calling her “my friend.” And soon after, I dubbed her my “MomFriendAunt” because she’s like all of those roles in one for me.

She’s the one I reach out to when I’m having an “I just want my mommy” moment or when life feels too overwhelming to handle. She’s who I want to call when something exciting happens or I’ve got good news to share. I can say absolutely anything to her and know that the feedback she’ll give will be genuine, said with love, and have my best interest at heart. She listens without judgment, offers advice when warranted, and just… Gets me.

Late night text conversations, “girls weekends,” dinner dates with my daughter and her grandson, celebrations, and hanging out just because. She’s always there for me. I consider her family and feel fortunate to have her in my life.

But I’m certain I’m not the only one who can say all these things about her. I’ve seen the relationship she has with her adult children, extended family, and friends. She’s given so much to so many; she’s truly the most selfless person I know. And she often struggles with putting herself first and believing all the good stuff about herself. My one wish is that someday, somehow, she finally sees how extraordinary she is and just how much she means to so many.

I love you always, Frankie. Thank you for being you.

Photo credit: Not sure…I swiped it from her Facebook profile

 

Pet Peeves: Quarantine Edition April 8, 2020

If you’d asked me to list my top three pet peeves a month ago, you’d have gotten a very different list. But this is where I’m at now…

1) Feeling both overwhelmed AND bored. At the same time. At all times.

My day begins with three hours of working remotely. And most days, that’s not enough time to get the job done, which leaves me feeling…spazzy… for several hours after. And during that time, I also encourage my girl to start her school work, which she’s not always able (read: willing) to do without guidance. So when I’m done working, an hour or two or three of being a teacher begins.

I prepare eleventy bajillion snacks and meals daily. And pick up twice as many toys/messes.

I do my best to keep my girl connected to school, teams, and friends…. Taught her how to use Microsoft Teams, encourage her to video chat with friends, got her tablet set up with the various apps—and there seems to be a new one added at least weekly—our district is relying on for “distance learning,” and staying on top of all the email updates from teachers and coaches. Which reminds me. I still have to Venmo her dance teacher for the Zoom dance classes.

And when all this is done, we’ve got HOURS left in our day to decompress, though it never seems to be enough time.

At 8pm, we head outside for “bell time.” (Town-wide, people are encouraged to ring bells or otherwise make noise from 8:00 to 8:02 as a show of solidarity in this social distancing era.) And while we play our musical instruments, for lack of bells, my girl dances and I silently think, “One day closer to normalcy.”

After our girl is in bed, it’s time for dishes, laundry, picking up toys (again), and cuddling up with hubby on the couch. By this time of night, I’m ready for a giant glass of wine as a remedy for the anxiety that’s built up all day.

Rinse and repeat.

2) Having to repeat myself.

Here’s a smattering of the phrases I catch myself uttering multiple times per day, every day day…

– “Just because we’re home doesn’t mean you don’t have to brush your hair.”

– “I said ONE snack.”

– “No, it’s not lunch time. You JUST finished breakfast!”

– “3:00 is NOT dinnertime.”

– “Turn off the tablet!”

– “C’mon, we have to get this school packet done before we go outside.”

– “If you want to play outside, you need to put on actual clothes. Not pajamas.”

3) People who don’t stay home.

I’m following the rules. Other than outdoor time in our yard and walks around the block, my girl and I have left the house exactly once in the past three weeks. And that was to take part in a birthday parade for my cousin’s twins, which didn’t require us to get out of the car. Hubby goes to work and occasionally the grocery store. That’s it. If everyone did the same, we’d all be able to get back to life as we knew it sooner.

 

Everybody Counts April 6, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 12:36 am
Tags: , ,

(Day 2: Something Someone Told Me About Myself)

In all the craziness of the ongoing pandemic, it’s easy to forget that it’s a census year for the US. Easy to forget until the repeated postcards and reminder letters start piling up, that is. So last week, I finally buckled down and committed to filling out the required information online.

I fired up my laptop, navigated to my2020census.gov, plugged in my access code, and got started. And everything was moving along well for a total of about 60 seconds before I reached the question about my ethnicity.

Easy. White. I’m white. Check. And click next.

ERROR. White isn’t enough. I also must enter my origin. I stare blankly at my screen for a moment, contemplating typing in my standard answer: “European mutt.” But something tells me the federal government wouldn’t be amused with that response so instead I type “unknown.”

ERROR. Not acceptable. I apparently must enter ACTUAL origins. And then the panic started to creep in. I don’t know my origins. What do I put? How will I be counted? Will I be penalized if I’m unable to complete my census? What do people who were adopted enter here?

So I did all I could think of doing. I texted my dad: “Trying to do my census stuff and I don’t know my race. White isn’t good enough. They need to know my ancestry and won’t accept ‘unknown.’ HELP!”

And help came. In an abundance. Complete with color commentary:

“Well, your father was Irish, Scottish, with a touch of English, and your mother was Irish, French, with a touch of German. That’s what I’d tell them. Born under a bad sign, and if not for bad luck, they’d have no luck at all. My maternal grandmother was half French, with 12.5% Canadian Indian. My maternal grandfather was just Irish. My paternal grandfather was Scottish, and my paternal grandmother was Irish. Diabetic bitch. With lotsa alcohol. Both sides, and stubborn as the day is long. Plus tell them, opinionated as hell. Self-righteous sons of bitches, too.”

I back-spaced on “unknown” and considered entering “self-righteous sons of bitches” but instead typed: Irish, Scottish, English, French, German.

There. I’ve been counted.

30-Day Writing Challenge