10:15 on a Monday Night

Day 5,468,901 of the pandemic…my kids are in bed early (10:10 pm – I know the doctor has repeatedly told me that a 9- and 10-year old need more sleep) and I am sitting here wondering if I should a) do early Christmas shopping (is the end of November early? My definition of “early” is pretty loose re: kids’ bedtime), b) continue watching “Away,” my current Netflix favorite about a mission to Mars starring Hilary Swank or c) keep reading a mystery series I’ve been into lately, where most of the scenes are set in a cozy house in a Quebecois village and always involve warm croissants, homemade jam and a Scotch. Decadent. I’m reading mystery novels for the food and drink escape. Or I could just keep sitting here listening to my kids through the wall talk about how they would spend Robux if they had it – this is a currency in their favorite video game. My son has fallen asleep mid-sentence and my daughter continues to talk…they remind me of an old married couple. My daughter sings random songs from TikTok while my son sleeps. There is no such thing as going to bed early for my daughter.

How are we holding up after the first week of remote learning? Not sure. I’ve never spent so much time at home in my life and I’m one of those people who gets out quite a bit still. Now the kids are locked at home with me and each day is a blur – I’m typically tied up with work all day long and they are back and forth grabbing really crappy snacks that I leave in a basket on the stove (fire hazard). I really feel for everyone out there these days. I probably have it pretty decent given the circumstances, and every day it can be challenging to keep my head straight and remain optimistic. I’m determined not to have the shittiest holiday season ever – I don’t like this time of year and each day I wake up, I start with my pro-holiday mantra of “this is going to be the best holiday season ever!” and “at the end of this week, it will be one down, one to go.” Yay!

If you are reading this, I hope you are hanging in there too. I am available to listen, change your flat tire, bake you some cookies, or buy you a coffee. Just reach out. 🙂

Solo Mama: If You Have Recently Awoken, Please Stay Awake

I’ve been writing posts in advance so I have content to publish regularly. My post for this week was supposed to be about mental health and pandemic environments, but it felt weird to let it post this week.

Everything that has happened over the past couple of weeks, the awakening that started when George Floyd was killed…so many people finally tuning in suddenly realizing how out of whack things are, even though they’ve been out of whack long before any of our lives began. People wearing t-shirts saying “Black Lives Matter” and studying up on white privilege. I’ve been waiting for these past couple of weeks for most of my life. For all this to matter and to finally hit peoples’ radars on a large scale.

I hope this lasts. Personally. Please see the depths of this. It’s not about police brutality. It is about a very broken way of life and a broken society. There are at least two reasons we should not place policing at the focus of all this.

First, when things go wrong, we look for someone to blame so we don’t have to look at ourselves and take accountability for how we have contributed to the issue – oppression, racism, privilege, opportunity (or lack of), etc., and what we can do differently at the most basic level as an individual.

The second reason, from a justice perspective, is that if we only pay attention to the front of the system, then we miss the accumulation of disparity – like a giant snowball of injustice – that occurs once people get past that first gate. Did you know that there are 5 black people for every 1 white person under some type of supervision in our justice system? There are 3 Latinx/Hispanic people for every 1 white person (and that is severely undercounted due to our poor ethnicity data capture in our justice system). People of color are less likely to make bail during the pretrial period. They are less likely to retain adequate defense. More likely to take poor plea deals. More likely to be sentenced more severely than white people accused of the same crime with the same criminal history (sometimes even less of a criminal history than their white counterparts). They are less likely to be diverted to programs the prevent further involvement in the system. Less likely to be sentenced to a treatment court that focus more on treatment of substances or mental health rather than incarceration. More likely to have their probation or parole revoked due to technical violations (as opposed to new crimes).

In our current system, this means that even if a populationally proportionate amount of people of color to white people enter our justice system, they still will experience disparate treatment at every stage of the process.

That’s just one aspect of our society. Looks for stats in every segment of our society, private or public sectors. Look for underrepresentation of people of color in our corporate executive leadership, the number of people who fall out of hiring pools because they have “black” sounding names, look at health indicators (look at who COVID 19 is hitting in disproportionate numbers), morbidity and mortality rates, high school graduation rates…

Oh – there is also intersectionality to consider. What is intersectionality? Think of these as layers of a person’s characteristics that either cause them to be more or less advantaged in society. Race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression are all examples of characteristics that, when layered on top of each other, can make life easier or harder for an individual in certain circles. Google KimberlĂ© Crenshaw to learn more about intersectionality. She coined the term more than 30 years ago.

Finishing with my beginning thought. I hope Black Lives Matter is not a trend. I hope people stay grounded and don’t fall into an “us versus them” mentality in regards to any group of people (which seems to be the trend on all issues over the past couple of years).

Finally, I hope people stay awake, stay curious and stay introspective.

Quarantine is a Great Time to Start Budgeting

I can’t find a lot to laugh about when it comes to personal finances, so you may find this post lacking a little in humor. I am very thankful to be working and I realize not everyone can say that. I will say that budgeting has been at the forefront of my mind now more than ever.

With nowhere to go and nothing to do, I have found some extra cash in the following areas these days: gas expenses, car maintenance, eating out, fancy coffees, clothing, personal care, and childcare. The only category I’ve seen skyrocket is my grocery expenses, but if I factor in all the eating out and fancy coffees and just shift this over to grocery expenses, it evens out. Here are a few things I’ve done to manage money over the last few months:

  1. Use a budgeting app. I actually started this last fall and it has literally become one of the most important things I do every week. I enter all my expenses for the week into my budgeting app (I was doing it more often when life was normal and I was shopping more) and keep track of what I have left to spend for the month. I also listen regularly to personal finance podcasts.
  2. Pay minimum payments. My job isn’t at risk at the moment but anything seems possible these days. Therefore, I am saving whatever I can (not much), and just paying mimimum payments on debt I have.
  3. Indulge once in awhile, because what else will help me keep my peace? My indulgences over the past few weeks have included good shampoo, a Netflix subscription, gas for long drives, tequila, and coconut protein powder. That last one is weird, I know.

I’ve never been a huge debt person. The first time I experienced really bad debt was when my dog died a few years ago. Her kidneys were failing and I didn’t realize that I couldn’t save her. I visited the vet at $3,000 per visit to help ease her pain and to prolong the inevitable failure of her kidneys. I was ready to spend anything to save her and kept throwing these visits on my credit card because I didn’t have $9,000 in savings. Looking back, I will never regret trying to help her, but being almost $10,000 in credit card debt was pretty devastating to come back from with all my other expenses.

It took me a LONG time before I realized that sticking to a budget was going to be the only thing that would help me improve my financial future. Having a budget has been less restrictive than I thought, and I can’t believe it took me 48 years to follow one…

Zoom, Google Meet and WebEx – How Do We Survive Online Meetings for 8 Hours Straight?

One factoid about COVID-19 and the workplace that stuns me: apparently, when you HAVE to work at home, scheduled meetings increase by 150% (neck and neck with the increase in alcohol sales). My first two weeks at home, I had consistent meetings, often scheduled with no time in between, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. I had to start scheduling “I’m making my kids lunch” for 15 minutes on top of existing meetings. Thankfully I’ve seen a slight slowdown with meeting scheduling, probably due to the fact that the government realized that the state was still running even while non-essential employees worked at home and ensuring that our days were full with meetings was a bit overkill. Just my conspiracy theory thinking…

THE single most challenging aspect of working at home with tons of meetings is having young children. Half the time I’m on mute, but with video, and I’m sure my co-workers and client sites are wondering “who the hell is she yelling at and what is going on?” There are occasional meeting bombings that occur. Our house is small. Why do my kids insist on standing right next to me and watching my online meetings like they are an exciting YouTube video? Everyone on my calls thinks it’s cute when some random child pops out of the floor into the camera’s view, but I’m on the verge of losing my shit. Some meeting participants flash their cameras over to where their cute cat or dog is lounging on a chair or a couch. When I flash my camera over to my couch, what you will see is a man-child in flood-ready pajama pants (he gets a new pair every 2 years), chewing on his fingers while he screams things like “Noob” and “son of a b*&%$#” and “I have a backpack with a fish in it so MAN UP!” while staring at a device.

Along with children at home, I am really struggling with the technology. We’ve recently moved over to Google everything. No more Microsoft Office. I thought I’d retire before I saw Word disappear from my life. Moving to the Google Suite is an event that has never made me feel older. Sagging body parts, creaky joints, and sketchy memory have got NOTHING on Google Suite. Learning this platform has aged me about 15 years. Luckily, when I’m facilitating meetings or trainings online, I’m usually paired up with someone at least 3 years younger than me, which is like dog years where the technology learning curve is concerned.

Oops! You will have to excuse me – it’s almost 8 p.m. and I have some work to do that didn’t fit between meetings today…

 

 

 

 

 

Solo Mama: Parenting Your (x) Grader

This past week I picked up a couple of parenting books at church. Specifically, Parenting Your Second Grader and Parenting Your Fourth Grader. I figure I need all the help I can get. As I checked out with the cashier, she smiled and said, “Let us know what you think. We are really interested in feedback about these books.”

(Sure. I will get you some feedback if I survive the journey. As I write this, my second grader is choreographing a dance to Dance Monkey next to me at the table. Obviously I haven’t gotten around to reading about how to parent her.)

As soon as we got into the car, my fourth grader commandeered the fourth grader book and asked if he could read it. He hates to read so I was pleasantly surprised. I figured “Why not?” He might as well get a heads-up on all the voodoo I’m about to be work on him.

The first thing that happened was that he got a huge smile on his face and said, “Momma, look what’s on page 80!!” His sister demanded to know too. I knew too well from already having skimmed the book. “Yeah but look what’s on page 86!” I replied.

Page 80 started a chapter on sex, and page 86 was the beginning of the chapter on technology. My daughter immediately demanded to see the second grader book to see if sex was covered in her book. It was. Both of the kids were now super excited that these parenting books were finally going to force me into conversations about sex. Since last weekend, I’ve been asking friends with older children how they broached the subject with their kids early on. I always thought I’d be the cool parent and be able to talk about all this easily. Not the case. I just don’t think I should be telling an 8- and 9-year old about sex? The books don’t actually tell me to say, they just offer “stems” like, “I’m so glad you asked about that” or “Can we talk about this at another time?” (I will be using that one a lot), or “What kinds of things have you heard about sex?” (Do I need to cite the source for these questions? Are they trademarked due to the fact that they are in these books?).

I was especially interested in any guidance about technology. A suggestion for my fourth grader on this topic was sitting down with him while he played games or watched YouTube videos on the iPad. Last night, I cozied up next to him and the iPad on the couch and he freaked out. “Momma! What are you doing????”

By now, I’ve read both books cover to cover. My son has also read the fourth grader book cover to cover. At the very least, the books will make me think about my parenting. They also offer sections for reflection. Like “What do you hope to be true for your child in 468 weeks regarding (x)?” (The amount of time until my son turns 18). The most helpful part is that they offer phrases and sentiments that your child needs to hear at their respective age based on their social and emotional development.

If anyone reading this knows of any accessible (I am able to read them while stuck in traffic) and fabulous parenting books, please reply or shoot me a message. I’m not sure how much I will be able to digest along with my “on the job” parenting training, but these books have peaked my interest. Now, back to Dance Monkey.

 

Solo Mama and the Resolutions Carried Over From 2019

New Year’s resolutions seem to be a dying fad. This year so far, a few people have mentioned them, but mostly in the context of avid exercisers complaining about their gyms filling up for a couple of months. In place of resolutions, the thing I’ve heard most is “I’m so glad 2019 is over, 2020 has to be a better year.” This seems to be the up and coming outlook; I’m hearing it more and more over the past couple of years.

I always face each year with “meh” – last year wasn’t the worst, I can’t imagine this year will be better or worse. I don’t place any hope in a great new year, simply because as years go, they all have their really high and really low points and everything in between. Most of what I would call “resolutions,” I started resolving to do the last few months of 2019.

I started using my Bible app more – thank you to a network of app users who have each imparted some insight about how to use it. Clearly I’m not upping my technology game in the new year. I think the most useful part of the app is that it pushes out notifications when my friends on the app are doing something. My technology savvy did not allow me to figure out how to shut these down, or maybe God intervened because He wanted to talk to me. I’m about to take my second drink when “Samantha just started a new reading plan!” I’m ready to cuss someone out over text when “Keisha just created a verse image!” I’m drowning in self-pity about being solo mama and up pops “Fred completed his Bible Plan! Say Congrats!” Thanks, God. Yeah. I hear you.

I lost my 15 pounds well before the new year, and changed my eating habits to keep them off (5 months strong!). Over this next year, I’m hoping to introduce what the experts call “exercise” into this program. I learned late last year that we have free access to one of our division’s gyms and it’s pretty decent. All I need to do is drive 10 minutes west, change my clothes and hop on a machine. Those things are proving to be giant barriers for me. I’m not sure if it’s the drive or the effort it takes to change my clothes. Maybe I just can’t stand that it’s free and I’d rather pay $30/month for something I will never use.

I started doing more stuff with my kids intentionally over the past few months. Like, not just letting stuff happen around us (“Look how that iPad just jumped into your hands!”), but actually going out and trying new experiences. We tried cross country skiing a couple of weeks ago as part of a weekend getaway we took together. This weekend, I went to a range and shot arrows with my son and his friend. I’ve developed new friendships with my kids’ friends’ moms which has allowed me to spend time socializing with other adults. We have some things coming up over spring break which are sure to rock the kids’ worlds so we’ve been planning for that.

Finally, about a month ago, I began the never-ending, backbreaking task of starting to clean out my house. A little at a time. I constantly tell the kids that we need to downsize and move to a townhome so that I don’t have to kill myself every summer trying to keep up with the yard. They get sad and say they want a house with a yard. I ask them to help me, they don’t (my daughter will do it for money), and the vicious cycle starts all over. It is probably all just idle threats though unless I plan to move to Missouri, since I could never afford another home in Colorado. That said, I’ve really gotten into keeping track of money with a budgeting app. Thank God for apps. What did we do before we had apps?

So, keeping my expectations realistic, I’m expecting 2020 to be a decent year. On the path to continuous improvement as myself, mom, employee, friend, sibling and daughter. Happy decent new year to you!

Solo Mama Exhausted

It’s the holidays. And most people are stressed, on edge and exhausted. Church today was a good reminder of where to focus. Our pastor had just come back from a 6- month sabbatical with a simple message, which he delivered through tears: God loves you. God wants what’s best for you.

Wow, did this resonate with me. I’m exhausted. I’ve felt disconnected from God for over two years at least and possibly longer. I’ve done all the “right” things to try to get reconnected. Examples include attending church twice a week, listening to numerous different speakers on YouTube and podcasts. Downloading and attempting to use a Bible app which everyone in the world seems to be able to figure out except me.

But I’m exhausted and I still don’t feel connected. I’ve never had to search so hard. God had always been near and present. Through friends, family, my children, people I interacted with daily demonstrated God’s love in some form.

The dark side of this, the dark sad places though, are the haunting voices and feelings that have been tearing me apart from the inside. The fact that I’ve been tearing myself down as a parent. Never feeling like I’m doing it right or good enough. The fact that I’ve been trying to prove to someone that I’m worthy enough to love for the past two years and still not hitting the mark. The fact that even though I put my full self and efforts into my job, there will always be naysayers. I’m so tired. So tired about not making the mark in these major areas of life. I feel gut punched. I imagine most people do, they just don’t say it out loud.

What exhausts you? How do you recharge and remind yourself that you are worthy and good? Once you find this, how do you sustain it? And pithy sayings are never enough anymore to answer the question: “Where does God go when you desperately need Him?”

what a difference 18 months makes

My kids are so close in age I typically don’t see one as older than the other. My son has not really ever taken on the role of “big brother” and my daughter is already a boss, which transcends the age factor. In years past, snow days have really stressed me out because it meant hanging out with two uncivilized trolls who were in a constant state of war. Today though, I felt different. I’ve felt different for the past few months. I don’t know if I’m closer to a miracle concoction of psychotropic meds or maybe I’m mellowing out with age. Who knows. I was excited to pick those kiddos up directly from school and not from after school care. Literally, the conversation went like this:

Me: I’m so excited to spend the afternoon with you guys! I have one more report to review and then we can have some fun!

Son: Why did you pick us up so early? I was having fun at school.

Daughter: Oh Momma I’m so excited! I want to play in the snow! (To her brother) You can shovel like you always wanted to!

Son: I don’t want to go outside.

Me: Ok, yes, we can play in the snow. And then I was thinking maybe an indoor activity at home? A movie?

Son: I want to play on my ipad.

The conversation left me wondering when my son had turned 12 years old. Recalculating from his birth year, I realized he was still only 9. But with a pre-teen attitude. It has been a good year for him. He was assigned a mentor from church through a program called Fathers in the Field, which has been a fabulous opportunity and match for him. Sometimes I’m not a fully believing woman, but I’d say God sent this guy to our doorstep (literally because he can’t pass our doorstep, he has to stay outside – they have really strict boundaries and rules which I also appreciate). My son has also had a stellar soccer season with another great positive male role model – his coach. Between my family members, his coach and mentor father, my son is in a pretty solid place.

My daughter, on the other hand, her mentor is ta-da! Yours truly! She has asked me several times for her own mentor (or “womanter” as she calls it, believing that the “men” in mentor identifies the mentor to be male) and doesn’t seem too thrilled when I tell her it is me. Me, the one who had to ask her teacher how to show more empathy when my daughter comes home and talks about how this or that friend doesn’t want to be her friend anymore or said something mean about her or looked at her in a bad way. My question for this teacher: “Well, I mean, what do I say when she says this stuff is happening to her at school? I always tell her that it’s not about her, that those little girls may be suffering from some self esteem issues and are projecting onto her?” (Thumbs up, momma! Sure, this might make sense to a 40-year old). Fortunately, my daughter’s teacher has some (extensive) experience with second graders and was able to pass along some age appropriate questions and teaching moments when these things happen.

Most days, I’m just thrilled that I’ve managed to keep my kids alive, safe from devastation, and keep a roof over their heads. But I don’t want to jinx myself so I will just leave that there. These are giant wins though. I should be proud of myself. Parenting is brutal. If you are reading this and are also a parent, hats off to you. You have very little time to yourself, are continually exhausted, tossed about on waves of self-loathing and feelings of inadequacy, can barely spell your name (especially if you are over the age of 45 with young children), and are a freaking superstar.

 

Solo Mama: Pathways to Our Careers

Finding meaning in our work…a new series at church. I am fortunate to have always found my work to be profoundly meaningful. Again, mostly selfish reasons for the post, for the purpose of connection with others who may find the connectivity helpful or perhaps “normalize” (although we can never normalize injustice) difficult experiences along their own paths. There may be material within this post that some would find triggering or upsetting, so please be forewarned.

I first entered my career about a year after completing college studies in art and psychology. I landed a job in a diagnostic home for boys housed in a program run by the Catholic church just outside of Chicago. These boys were only meant to be housed in this particular part of the campus for about 90 days, but like all institutions, most stayed much longer. They were chronically abused, neglected, or were already wards of the state, permanently separated from their biological families, most often for good reasons. There were approximately 8-10 boys living in the home at any given time, ranging in age from 6 to 17.

I was a “family educator” and everything that happened in the home drove the delivery of positive or negative consequences based on a point system. It was a constant flow of observing behavior and experiencing interactions with the boys and reinforcing these behaviors and experiences with teaching and points. They carried cards around the home all day long to track points, except when they were at school at the alternative school program most of them attended nearby.

I was one of two females who worked in the home. They would only place up to two females in any boys’ home, and the management had decided I was too soft to work with females. The supervisor who worked in my home was a disheveled, thin, middle-aged man who likely spent his entire life in social services after I left. He came down hard on anyone who was late for their shift; I remember being scolded and threatened with a write-up when I was 3 minutes late for my shift one time, which started at 7 a.m.

The other woman in the home left as quickly as she came (we were hired at the same time), because one of the boys in the home, who was about 11 at the time, threw a chair at her as she was walking away from him, and she landed in the hospital with a severe back injury. I accompanied this young man on a supervised home visit during the time I worked at the home, and discovered that there were probably many factors playing into his behavior based on what I experienced at his apartment.

I used to grocery shop. Lord did we shop. When the kids were at school, we would take the van to the grocery store and spend approximately $300-400 per trip. I also used to accompany the kids on field trips. I remember on one of the trips, an 8-year old boy, I will refer to him as Tyler, who had started following me closely around the home and had really warmed up to me during the first week or so he was at the home, jumped into my lap. He was very squirmy and shifted around a lot and it took me a minute to realize that he was purposely rubbing up against me as he sat on my lap. I felt awkward and weird and I removed him from my lap, sitting him next to me on the seat. When we arrived back at the home, I caught the home supervisor in passing and reported what had happened on the bus with Tyler. He stopped, shook his head and paused for a minute, looking a bit lost. Then he motioned me to come to his office. I remember sitting across from him at his desk and he pulled a file from his drawer and pushed it over to me. He mentioned that it was typically best that they didn’t share the kids’ stories with staff, but he wanted to me to see this file so I was “informed.” He also prepared me for graphic material.

I will never forget reading through that file on Tyler. There wasn’t a lot there, a brief narrative and some other demographic information. I skimmed the narrative and in summary, it described violent, sexual molestation repeatedly imposed on this 8-year old by his mother and her partner and methods by which they did this. I felt sick inside and handed the file back. I learned how to draw safe and appropriate boundaries with Tyler during his short stay in our home. Sadly, he was the second youngest child in the home who had experienced molestation by his mother, the other little boy was only 6. He had been placed in two different foster homes already, and both families had sent him back because of his uncontrollable need to steal things and act out sexually.

The oldest boy in the home was 17. He had been placed with, and abandoned by, at least five foster placements. The most recent one, he had gone to a restaurant with his foster family, and they had literally excused themselves to address something outside the restaurant, and left him there. This young man never said a word. He was tall, slim and quiet. He would appear and disappear in rooms without a sound but spent most of his time in his room. The best I could ever get out of him was a “yes” or “no” when I talked to him. I remember once when a slow, sad smile creeped across his face when I cracked a joke about laundry.

It was at that job that I first experienced being told I was going to die, by a young man who was mentally ill and not doing so well being compliant with his medications, just before he went on run, stole a car, crashed it, and ended up in detention. Minutes before he ran out, he came into the staff office (which was an automatic loss of privileges), looming over me and screaming into my face that he was going to kill me. Fortunately, he was distracted by another young man, who ran by the office and told him “let’s get going!” I had been alone in the home for only a few minutes while the male staff member working with me that night had run next door for something, and all hell broke loose.

I watched a lot of Lion King during that job. The younger kids watched it every afternoon after school. I had most of the lines memorized and all of the songs. After a few months at that job, I started struggling mentally and emotionally. I was young and hadn’t let learned how to compartmentalize my experiences and set good boundaries. One night, as I was driving home around 11:30 p.m., I was hit by an ambulance that was running lights and sirens to a local hospital. Luckily, it was just my car that was totalled, but I realized at that point that I wasn’t going to make it much longer in that job. I had been lost in my thoughts, tired, and distracted when the ambulance hit me.

I left, having worked there just shy of a year. It was a high turnover job, quite a few front-line staff members didn’t even make it as long as I did. I didn’t realize it at the time, because I went straight to corporate for a couple years to escape, but that experience would launch my career working in the justice system. I think the most profound observation about that year was that of the 8-10 boys who lived at that home during any given time, I only met 2 boys who were white. Dozens of boys and young men passed through that home that year, and almost all of them were kids of color. That fact alone hooked me and brought me to the justice system, where I have worked in or alongside in some capacity over the last three decades. While the setting has changed, the impact of our public systems on communities of color has not.

Solo Mama: “I Never Thought I’d (fill in the blank)!”

I have to travel for work this week. On one hand, it is nice to go to bed when I want to, not worry about monitoring minion behavior, and share a bed with two children and a dog. On the other hand, I typically end up missing my kids terribly and spend a lot of time on Facetime exchanging “I want you”s with my daughter and trying to get my son’s attention. In any case, they both spend a lot of time making faces or playing with their hair and looking at themselves on the screen rather than focusing on any coherent conversation with me.

GJ 11-2018-2

One of my favorite things to do when I travel is to find an episode of Law and Order on TV. It is almost guaranteed that you can find an episode playing on some hotel TV. This time I found L&O Criminal Intent. What a great show. Vincent D’Onofrio is brilliant. Through unique detective work and clever interactions and pinpointed perceptions, he is always able to put together very quickly who committed the crime and the person’s intentions, motive, weaknesses, strengths, etc. Yes, it’s very make believe, but wouldn’t it be grand if that’s how crime was solved and criminals were caught? Like a beautifully scripted dance…which inevitably ends with the person charged with the crime crying out at the end “I don’t know why I do this!” or “I don’t know how I became this person!” This is exactly what happened in two episodes I watched tonight.

In one, a woman who had become a murderous monster on account of her greedy husband and a nightmare divorce (“Look what you turned me into!” she screamed as she was hauled off camera by two NYC police officers). In the other, a shy, socially awkward man in his 20s who performs lobotomies on women he drugs and kidnaps so that he can cuddle with them and care for them and they never leave him. He even eats some of their body parts to connect with them (“I don’t know why I do this, I’m so disgusting”). With tears and snot running down his face, the cannibal, played by Neil Patrick Harris, breaks down after being coaxed into a tearful confession by D’Onofrio, who has taken pity on this young nerdy guy who can never get the girl, and masterfully pulls the confession from him in order to avoid the death penalty.

I can relate to these revelations. While I have not murdered anyone, disabled people so I could cuddle with them against their will, or eaten human body parts (THANK GOD!!!!), I often find myself alone crying “How did I become this person?” or “How did I get here?” At first, I would blame something or someone, usually a husband, romantic interest, family member, or more recently, children. If I wouldn’t have met that person, made that decision, sacrificed for that partner, things would be different. Then it was unhealthily turned inward (and still sometimes is) with I’m so screwed up, I’m stupid, I’m unlovable, God hates me, I’m worthless. I once visited with a sort of “medium” who tried to explain to me what had happened in my past lives that had caused certain things to happen to me in this life.

I guess when we are young, we often imagine our future lives as something that is known or familiar already. So it resembles our childhood experience or something we saw on MTV Cribs (wow, that dates me). I certainly didn’t envision two failed marriages, having children by myself, dealing with several mental health diagnoses or living in my MTV Un-Cribs neighborhood and single in my mid-40s (yeah, I’m on the high side of mid but nearly 50 sounds totally inaccurate). These kind of thoughts haunt me on a daily basis. I imagine it might be a common experience, but people rarely talk about it unless it’s a positive thing.

“I never thought I’d win the Powerball!”

“I never thought I’d get to work with Lil Wayne!”

“I never thought I’d win a Grammy!”

“I never thought Bradley Cooper would discover me singing at a drag club and I would sleep with him!”

You get the point. Some days it’s hard to combat the “I never thoughts” with gratitude. And yet, on the positive side, I’m not killing people or eating them. There are no restraining orders out on me. I have a job that is in the field of my passion. I own a house (which is a privilege reserved for the very wealthy in Denver these days). I have great friends. I have two amazing children. I have a great family where there is relatively little drama (it depends on any given day how much I might be causing).

Do you ever think about the “I never thoughts”? How do you deal with them?

(Photo credit: Me)