Tag: New Year’s Eve

Behold the Tiny Mushroom, My Mascot of 2016!

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Behold! My Mascot for 2016 Shall be This Tiny Half-Eaten (Probably Poisonous) Mushroom!

Tiny mushrooms fill me with delight.  I fold myself up as small as I can to get inside their world and on their level while my insides expand with curiosity, questions, and my head fills with images of teeny tiny (probably poisonous) sauteed mushrooms on Barbie-sized toasts. That’s how I hope 2016 will be for everyone: a whole lot of marvelous tiny mushrooms popping up begging to be explored filling us all with ideas and questions, and providing us with everyday magic and miniature adventures.

This tiny (probably poisonous) mushroom popped up next to my big aloe plant outside my back door. Right there, for me to enjoy for the few days it will survive. Soon it will be black slime. But don’t worry, it’s good for the soil and soil grows us all, so it’s gross but really important slime.

I don’t have deep thoughts today. In a few days I go back to work and I have needed some mega down-time. So yesterday I spent all day reading a favorite book (A Relative Stranger by Anne Stevenson) and today I have done nothing but watch clips of Ellen Degeneres interviews on TV with some John Oliver bits thrown in.

As a side note –  I just happened upon a Kirkus review of A Relative Stranger that starts off “A Relative Stranger is kin to all those superior suspense stories (say Dorothy Eden’s) written for the inferior sex…” and all I can say is that review had better actually have been written in 1970 because anyone still using that expression today should not be allowed to print shit in official publications. I’m pretty steaming mad over this chauvinistic piece of bullshit. Superior suspense stories written for the inferior sex. Fucking hell.

That kind of harshed my imaginary tiny mushroom buzz.

(Shake it off, Angelina, shake it off!)

Since the main thing I want for myself this year is the hardest thing in the world and there’s a whole lot of chance I won’t be strong enough to accomplish it yet, I want to focus on the little things (hence my 2016 mascot). I started this focus a few months ago when I was overwhelmed by all the broken things around me and couldn’t seem to get anything done. I want to continue that. Do small things and eventually they build up to bigger things. As all people of wit and experience know, small things can pack a big-ass punch. Ask any human who’s spent time with an angry or excited toddler.

Self care is what I want to focus on most this year. I want to add a lot more small acts of self care to every day. Little things that help me stay calmer and more focused. Things that help me enjoy my life more. Things that make my body feel good. Things that feed my spirit. They can be tiny seeds of care like reading for 15 minutes in the morning, or lying down with my headphones on to listen to some calming music, or stretching my calves for 6o seconds.  I already do some good self care things but I need to do more and smaller things so that throughout my day I remember that to be IN my body and want to stay in it I need to make it a more comfortable place to BE. I feel good when I moisturize my skin. I feel good when I eat a really great salad and don’t use a pound of cheese on it. I feel great when I drink lots of water. It’s important that I do MORE of the things that make my spirit forget it’s housed in a crumbling pit of fleshy doom.

I mean, that’s what bodies really ARE, but I need to forget about that more often and do the things that help me forget the doom part and that actually help me forget I have a body at all. The better my body feels, the less aware I am on being housed in one and being uncomfortable in the world which just makes my brain itch and my spirit yell out obscenities because being human is really hard.

It’s like when you’re in the right outfit – you know you’re dressed your best when you forget you have clothes on at all. If you’re wearing things that don’t fit right or make you self conscious, you’ll feel those clothes on your body like they’re made of lead woven with horsehair.

Begin the mad reign of tiny exquisite moments and achievements! Enjoy the perfectly toasted piece of sourdough because a perfectly toasted piece of sourdough is a beautiful way to start the day. Celebrate that invoice you typed up super fast without any mistakes on it because that is a professional feat you can get paid for! Laugh at the stupid jokes you find funny and don’t worry about the people who don’t share your enjoyment of it!

Even if you are laughing at puns, which I think are the WORST, go ahead and don’t worry about me squirming with angry discomfort.*

I’m going to go watch Criminal Minds and drink beer now because that’s something I love doing. Tomorrow I will make some potions a friend ordered and I might go on a walk and get some writing in too. But right now, it’s time to be mellow while watching bloody nasty crimes being committed and solved on TV by really pretty people and imagine how good life would be if we all had our own personal Garcia to look up everything we ever wanted to know in two seconds flat.

As to 2015, I have no regrets.

See you on the other side, bitches!

*I say this under duress. I really want to blow up all puns with dynamite but I feel I have to invite you to enjoy them even though I hate them or else I’m going against my own philosophy and if I go against myself then WHAT MEANING DOES ANYTHING HAVE?! Haha. Just kidding. I really hate puns and think this is the year all you punsters should ditch the punning. For real.

 

The Last Few Days

light in balanceStart over. Do over. Put the lights on and flood the fuck out of the nightmares.

I’m struggling with something I just learned a few days ago (about the past).  It felt like a sock in the gut. I need some therapy for this. The last time I tried to get therapy from Kaiser I was really let down so I don’t know that I can turn to them for help.  I really wish my first psychologist was still alive.

But he’s not.

All the Christmas hoopla and noise is over and New Year’s Eve is almost here, my favorite day of the year. A symbolic new start. I have the next few days off to think about what I want for (and from) myself this year. Not much different from what I wanted last year and every year for the last number of years, but even so, I like to approach each year as a fresh opportunity. I like to focus on new words, new thoughts, and new energy.

I want to not drink alcohol until I’ve lost 85 lbs.

I want to have one whole finished first draft of a novel by this time next year.

That’s all I ask of myself. Perhaps this will be easier while I have a job because at least money isn’t quite as much of a stressor. I mean, we still can’t afford a new car and our current one is held together with packing tape, but at least the regular bills are easier to pay. Max isn’t struggling so hard right now either so I don’t have to micromanage his school experience or fight the school over stupid shit that shouldn’t be so hard to get done. My mom isn’t scheduled for any surgeries and is recovering well from the last two. Also, I just had that writing realization which will (hopefully) help me re-focus on the fiction writing. So this is a good time to get down to business. I hope.

Renewal of hope is what the New Year is all about.

A good amount of self care is called for this year. That’s the other thing I want to work on – writing self care posts on Sugar & Pith. Explore daily self care and share it with others. I need to engage in that actively with purpose. Take care of my skin. Take reading breaks. Do little things around the house that improve my every-day experience in it. Take better care of my body with exercise. With diet. Part of self care is also shutting out the world more often and taking care who I spend time with. Plant more plants.

Cleaning crap out is also excellent self care. I was doing that the day before yesterday. Went through all my clothes and shoes and hat boxes. Cleaned up my office quite a bit (still have some cleaning up to do in here). I love cleaning crap out of my house. It takes a lot of energy to get going with it but once I do it – it makes my head feel clearer.

What are you going to work on this coming year?

If you hate New Year’s Eve and thinking about goals and aspirations then don’t tell me about it. A lot of you get really depressed after Christmas and hate resolutions and winter and all of that. Now that Christmas is over it’s finally quiet enough out there for me to enjoy my favorite time of year and favorite holiday. I did make strong efforts not to ruin Christmas for all of you (YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MANY BITTER GRUMBLINGS AND COMMENTS I HELD BACK). Please let me enjoy this time with those who also enjoy it.

The Final Accounting for 2013

winter trees

This must be done.  Every year.

What I’m letting go of:

  • People who I have given the benefit of the doubt to repeatedly against all evidence that suggested I shouldn’t.  People who have consistently behaved like selfish assholes to those they should care for or at the very least show some respect to but never do.
  • My mom almost dying twice.  Her whole hospitalization.  All the fears that this experience brought up for me.
  • The last 7 years of trauma and misfortune and mistakes and pain and shame and fear and trying to fly while simultaneously cutting my own wings off.
  • The plants I left behind and wish were in my garden here because they are part of people I miss and love and left behind in Oregon and other places.
  • Things I can’t force or fit in the spaces I have allotted them.
  • The rotten self loathing I have been swimming in since I broke my hip.  That I have allowed to grow into a dangerous gangrenous shadow.
  • The network of routines and habits that are holding me hostage to that same spirit-swallowing rotting shadow.
  • The Shoulds, the would’ves, and the can’ts.

What I’m celebrating:

  • All the incredible people who, beyond any reasonable expectation that they should, have stood up with me and my loved ones to help us through the toughest times.  All my friends and family who have held my hand and loved me even when I hated myself.  All the people in my life who shine their light for me in the dark when my own light has run out of batteries.  I’m celebrating this great network of people who have made me laugh and hope and joined me in so many adventures.  More than that – I am recharging my batteries so that when it’s dark for you I can be your light the way you’ve done for me.
  • I’m celebrating that my mom is not just alive but continuing to regain her strength and her confidence and her sense of fun.  No amount of pain or fear I can feel around her trauma can equal what she has felt going through it.  I am also celebrating that this awful even came with unforeseen blessings in the shape of my sister who had to abandon her summer plans to be with us and who did it with such love and support and without hesitation.  I think my mom could not have come through this ordeal as well without Tara.  It gave me a chance to spend a lot of intense time with my sister and as a consequence I have never felt so close to her.  That is a true gift that I treasure.
  • So many wonderful and important things have happened in the past 7 years that outweigh the narrative of our misfortune.  It doesn’t matter, really, how we get to where we are right this minute, it’s a gift to have this minute at all and all the things we have experienced have led us here.  I have often said that I was living the perfect life for me right before it went completely off the rails but the truth is that one of the things I’ve always known I was supposed to be doing (writing novels) was something I wasn’t doing in that “perfect” life.  I hadn’t broken through the fiction barrier yet and what it took was to have my perfect life shaken up and turned upside down.  Eight years later and once again I’m starting to live the life I want to be living and there’s nothing perfect about it.  So the narrative of our misfortune also happens to be the narrative of our success.

(I was purposely matching up the things I’m letting go of with the things I’m celebrating as a reflection of how everything I’m letting go of is also something I’m celebrating, but I’m going off point for a second.  It bothers my OCD to have my points out of synch but this is me embracing how things don’t synch up comfortably that often in real life…)

  1. I fucking published my own novel and people are reading it and enjoying it!!!  I’m just going to sit here for a moment and enjoy this wild point I’ve been reaching for since I was a kid.  So far I think only 20 people have read it but it’s a beautiful 20.  It’s just the starting point and I’m allowed to be excited about it.
  • I have a new small garden to start over with and I wasn’t sure I would for half of this year.  Now I can gather seeds and cuttings from my friends all over again and start fresh.
  • I’m celebrating that those things that don’t fit in the spaces I have allotted them in my life don’t belong in it and letting them go makes room for the things that naturally fit into it.  Life is constantly shape-shifting and what fits into it changes too.  It never works to force things.  Let it all come together organically and it won’t break so easily.
  • The hip-breaking was a real watershed but self loathing isn’t all I grew from it.  I also became a lot more raw and connected to myself in a physical way – I have done a lot to destroy my body but I also have spent a lot more time IN IT, truly feeling it in a way I never did before.  There is room now for a deeper level of self respect than I was capable of before.  It’s going to be a long road back out from under that gangrenous shadow of self loathing – but I recognize in this the same opportunity for rebirth that I seized just before I turned 18 and told my self-harming spirit to choose either life or death, that I couldn’t live forever in the purgatory of neither being alive nor being dead.  I chose life.  For the second time in my life I recognize this same opportunity to choose to live or to die.  I’m choosing to live again.
  • I’m celebrating that the same aspect of my personality that allows routines to become dangerous and self-harming also allows me to change them into habits of health and greater mental stability.  Making the changes is hard but they are also self-perpetuating.  I CAN do this because I’m good at latching onto routines.  I did it 26 years ago.  And then refined my routine changes 24 years ago the first time I quit smoking and quit hanging out with toxic people and lived completely on my own and recreated my whole narrative and learned to laugh by myself and nurture myself as I had not previously known how to do.  I CAN do this.
  • I never dwell in the shoulds which are about other people forming expectations of you or making you believe that their yardstick for success is better than your own.  I let this go as a daily practice.  The minute I feel a should coming on I shatter it.

So many people I love are consumed by the sense of what they should want, what they should strive for, how they should behave, who they should love, what they should be doing, what they should be capable of, how they should look, what their lives should be like, and who they should be.  It’s all crap.  I’m asking all of you to shove the shoulds in the trash where they belong.  You’re the only one who gets to measure your success and happiness and if it looks totally different from everyone else’s – it’s okay.  Let go of how other people are seeing you or how they might be judging you.  Live the life YOU want to live.

It is not my practice to hang onto regrets but I have to admit that I have spent too much time in the last 7 years dwelling on the woulds and would’ves.  I have a lot of friends who spend way too much time dwelling on them too.  It doesn’t get us even a milimeter closer to our goals and dreams or happiness.  Regret is not a good tool for growth.  Everyone feels it, but we have to let it go quickly or it takes root and drives us into walls.  It doesn’t matter what would’ve happened if only we’d made a different choices than the ones we made.  Don’t dwell in that space.  It’s not important how things would’ve been different if…  The only thing that’s important when we make mistakes is to ask ourselves what we WILL do the next time we’re faced with a similar situation.  So let’s crush those would’ves in our bare hands and refuse to let them become the anthem of our lives.

The can’ts are something I work hard at not indulging in.  I have a habit of dreaming big.  The blessing in this is that there isn’t much I tell myself I can’t do.  I CAN become a career novelist.  I CAN become a better mother.  I CAN become a better friend.  I CAN listen to people.  I CAN move beyond my pain.  I CAN make most things I set my mind to.  But sometimes I come across a barrier so big I feel defeated before I have even raised a hammer to try to break it down.  I have learned to ask for help.  I have learned to chip away at barriers even when it seems to make no dent or change.  I fall down, I get up, I fall down, I get up again.  Sometimes my friends help me get back up again because they believe I CAN even when I don’t.  So, my friends who are staring down the great wall of can’ts – listen to those people around you who are telling you that you CAN.  They aren’t lying to you.  They aren’t making empty promises.  They aren’t blowing wind out their asses for a lark.  They see things in you that you don’t always see in yourself.  Let’s celebrate all that we CAN do together.

Dammit.  I totally ruined the whole perfectly sequential points that I thought I cleverly fixed with the addition of the one numbered point by separating the last item into three.  Errrrrrgh!  I’m not changing it.  It will just have to be jacked up because I can’t take any of it back just to keep order.  You probably don’t even know what I’m talking about since my order is generally off-kilter anyway.

I’m halfway through the last day of the year, my favorite day of the year, and I feel peaceful, hopeful, and happy.  I want the same for all of you too!  I wish this feeling was a communicable disease.  I’d infect you all mercilessly!  I’d love to know what you’re letting go of and what you’re celebrating from 2013 before we say goodbye.  But only if you feel like sharing.

XOXOXO

The Final Accounting for 2013

winter trees

This must be done.  Every year.

What I’m letting go of:

  • People who I have given the benefit of the doubt to repeatedly against all evidence that suggested I shouldn’t.  People who have consistently behaved like selfish assholes to those they should care for or at the very least show some respect to but never do.
  • My mom almost dying twice.  Her whole hospitalization.  All the fears that this experience brought up for me.
  • The last 7 years of trauma and misfortune and mistakes and pain and shame and fear and trying to fly while simultaneously cutting my own wings off.
  • The plants I left behind and wish were in my garden here because they are part of people I miss and love and left behind in Oregon and other places.
  • Things I can’t force or fit in the spaces I have allotted them.
  • The rotten self loathing I have been swimming in since I broke my hip.  That I have allowed to grow into a dangerous gangrenous shadow.
  • The network of routines and habits that are holding me hostage to that same spirit-swallowing rotting shadow.
  • The Shoulds, the would’ves, and the can’ts.

What I’m celebrating:

  • All the incredible people who, beyond any reasonable expectation that they should, have stood up with me and my loved ones to help us through the toughest times.  All my friends and family who have held my hand and loved me even when I hated myself.  All the people in my life who shine their light for me in the dark when my own light has run out of batteries.  I’m celebrating this great network of people who have made me laugh and hope and joined me in so many adventures.  More than that – I am recharging my batteries so that when it’s dark for you I can be your light the way you’ve done for me.
  • I’m celebrating that my mom is not just alive but continuing to regain her strength and her confidence and her sense of fun.  No amount of pain or fear I can feel around her trauma can equal what she has felt going through it.  I am also celebrating that this awful even came with unforeseen blessings in the shape of my sister who had to abandon her summer plans to be with us and who did it with such love and support and without hesitation.  I think my mom could not have come through this ordeal as well without Tara.  It gave me a chance to spend a lot of intense time with my sister and as a consequence I have never felt so close to her.  That is a true gift that I treasure.
  • So many wonderful and important things have happened in the past 7 years that outweigh the narrative of our misfortune.  It doesn’t matter, really, how we get to where we are right this minute, it’s a gift to have this minute at all and all the things we have experienced have led us here.  I have often said that I was living the perfect life for me right before it went completely off the rails but the truth is that one of the things I’ve always known I was supposed to be doing (writing novels) was something I wasn’t doing in that “perfect” life.  I hadn’t broken through the fiction barrier yet and what it took was to have my perfect life shaken up and turned upside down.  Eight years later and once again I’m starting to live the life I want to be living and there’s nothing perfect about it.  So the narrative of our misfortune also happens to be the narrative of our success.

(I was purposely matching up the things I’m letting go of with the things I’m celebrating as a reflection of how everything I’m letting go of is also something I’m celebrating, but I’m going off point for a second.  It bothers my OCD to have my points out of synch but this is me embracing how things don’t synch up comfortably that often in real life…)

  1. I fucking published my own novel and people are reading it and enjoying it!!!  I’m just going to sit here for a moment and enjoy this wild point I’ve been reaching for since I was a kid.  So far I think only 20 people have read it but it’s a beautiful 20.  It’s just the starting point and I’m allowed to be excited about it.
  • I have a new small garden to start over with and I wasn’t sure I would for half of this year.  Now I can gather seeds and cuttings from my friends all over again and start fresh.
  • I’m celebrating that those things that don’t fit in the spaces I have allotted them in my life don’t belong in it and letting them go makes room for the things that naturally fit into it.  Life is constantly shape-shifting and what fits into it changes too.  It never works to force things.  Let it all come together organically and it won’t break so easily.
  • The hip-breaking was a real watershed but self loathing isn’t all I grew from it.  I also became a lot more raw and connected to myself in a physical way – I have done a lot to destroy my body but I also have spent a lot more time IN IT, truly feeling it in a way I never did before.  There is room now for a deeper level of self respect than I was capable of before.  It’s going to be a long road back out from under that gangrenous shadow of self loathing – but I recognize in this the same opportunity for rebirth that I seized just before I turned 18 and told my self-harming spirit to choose either life or death, that I couldn’t live forever in the purgatory of neither being alive nor being dead.  I chose life.  For the second time in my life I recognize this same opportunity to choose to live or to die.  I’m choosing to live again.
  • I’m celebrating that the same aspect of my personality that allows routines to become dangerous and self-harming also allows me to change them into habits of health and greater mental stability.  Making the changes is hard but they are also self-perpetuating.  I CAN do this because I’m good at latching onto routines.  I did it 26 years ago.  And then refined my routine changes 24 years ago the first time I quit smoking and quit hanging out with toxic people and lived completely on my own and recreated my whole narrative and learned to laugh by myself and nurture myself as I had not previously known how to do.  I CAN do this.
  • I never dwell in the shoulds which are about other people forming expectations of you or making you believe that their yardstick for success is better than your own.  I let this go as a daily practice.  The minute I feel a should coming on I shatter it.

So many people I love are consumed by the sense of what they should want, what they should strive for, how they should behave, who they should love, what they should be doing, what they should be capable of, how they should look, what they’re lives should be like, and who they should be.  It’s all crap.  I’m asking all of you to shove the shoulds in the trash where they belong.  You’re the only one who gets to measure your own success and happiness and if it looks totally different from everyone else – it’s okay.  Let go of how other people are seeing you or how they might be judging you.  Live the life YOU want to live.

It is not my practice to hang onto regrets but I have to admit that I have spent too much time in the last 7 years dwelling on the woulds and would’ves.  I have a lot of friends who spend way too much time dwelling on them too.  It doesn’t get us even a milimeter closer to our goals and dreams or happiness.  Regret is not a good tool for growth.  Everyone feels it, but we have to let it go quickly or it takes root and drives us into walls.  It doesn’t matter what would’ve happened if only we’d made a different choices than the ones we made.  Don’t dwell in that space.  It’s not important how things would’ve been different if…  The only thing that’s important when we make mistakes is to ask ourselves what we WILL do the next time we’re faced with a similar situation.  So let’s crush those would’ves in our bare hands and refuse to let them become the anthem of our lives.

The can’ts are something I work hard at not indulging in.  I have a habit of dreaming big.  The blessing in this is that there isn’t much I tell myself I can’t do.  I CAN become a career novelist.  I CAN become a better mother.  I CAN become a better friend.  I CAN listen to people.  I CAN move beyond my pain.  I CAN make most things I set my mind to.  But sometimes I come across a barrier so big I feel defeated before I have even raised a hammer to try to break it down.  I have learned to ask for help.  I have learned to chip away at barriers even when it seems to make no dent or change.  I fall down, I get up, I fall down, I get up again.  Sometimes my friends help me get back up again because they believe I CAN even when I don’t.  So, my friends who are staring down the great wall of can’ts – listen to those people around you who are telling you that you CAN.  They aren’t lying to you.  They aren’t making empty promises.  They aren’t blowing wind out their asses for a lark.  They see things in you that you don’t always see in yourself.  Let’s celebrate all that we CAN do together.

Dammit.  I totally ruined the whole perfectly sequential points that I thought I cleverly fixed with the addition of the one numbered point by separating the last item into three.  Errrrrrgh!  I’m not changing it.  It will just have to be jacked up because I can’t take any of it back just to keep order.  You probably don’t even know what I’m talking about since my order is generally off-kilter anyway.

I’m halfway through the last day of the year, my favorite day of the year, and I feel peaceful, hopeful, and happy.  I want the same for all of you too!  I wish this feeling was a communicable disease.  I’d infect you all mercilessly!  I’d love to know what you’re letting go of and what you’re celebrating from 2013 before we say goodbye.  But only if you feel like sharing.

XOXOXO

Hope I Can’t Account For

I love this minute.  I love this hour.  I have a bit of a fever, as I always do, as though my blood was boiling over and my head might explode with excitement waiting for the turning of the calendar.  I tried working on the novel but I can’t settle into a groove, I can’t hang onto a single thread tonight.  I was about to say that I wish it wasn’t so symbolically important to me, the new year, but it stuck in my throat as such a strange thing to wish.  Why not?  I get excited.  I spend plenty of time being a crusty old curmudgeon, why not get childishly excited about something completely abstract for once?

I am grateful for a lot more than I probably let on.

I feel hope I can’t account for.  That may be the best kind.

Sometimes we do things our whole lives and don’t understand why.

I think it’s fascinating to suddenly understand something that’s always been there, always been a shadow puppet in my life, always pulling my strings out of my control and yet I have simply called it this uncomfortable freakish thing and then let it fade against the more stark settings in a circular life inhabiting sharp square spaces.

I’ve heard it said that the devil is in the details.  I think this is true.

We don’t generally eat at table as a family.  I register a sense of guilt that this isn’t a bastion of strength in our lives as it seems to be in other families who take the dinner table as a sacred event.  No one shall be excused from the dinner table without they happen to be dying!  I have thought mistily about what it might be like to have a kid who can eat food without being distracted from the fact that he’s eating food because then we could all sit at the table together.  It’s a nice fairy story and it’s so facile to lay this at the kid’s feet.  He’s quirky and we accommodate him.

The joke is that we are all so quirky we have no way of drawing meaningful lines between normalcy and freakitude.  It came up in casual conversation the other day with Philip, something about eating at the table, the fact that we almost never eat in our dining room, I can’t remember how the conversation twisted out between us but at some point Philip pointed out that we never have really been people who ate food at the table.  Even before Max.  The only time we eat at table is when we have guests.

The light went on like it does in grungy cement basements where a single bulb switched on can feel like the inquisition of Christ in interview room #1.

I did grow up eating at the dinner table.  We sat down every night the way all families are supposed to do.  My whole youth I ate at the table with four other people and the thing I’ve never ever articulated until this week is that it was a constant exercise in self discipline to sit and eat while hearing four other people chew.  Hearing the various noises associated with mastication: teeth grinding down, saliva mixing in mouth cavities with food, open mouthed chewing noises, lip smacking, fork scraping against teeth and against plates, the sound of swallowing… all of these noises were like canons going off constantly in my ears and made it difficult to eat myself.  It wasn’t just being disturbed by the noises that my family was making but knowing that they could hear me making the same noises.  Someone once told me I’m a very loud swallower and I’m still traumatized by the thought of that being true.

It makes sense now.  It makes sense in my current life where we put these “quirks” up to the light and accept them for the part of our overall maze of mental issues that make us who we are.

I don’t have issues sitting at a table with guests, the kind of dinner where someone is always talking (me, for distraction), and where the general clamor acts as a mask over the sounds of eating I find terribly disturbing and unappetizing.  I don’t have these issues in busy restaurants or at parties where everyone is carrying food around on plates and generally chatting and shuffling so much you can never hear teeth clamp down on crunchy things.

My family, I think, may never have known about these issues.  We didn’t live the way Philip, Max, and I live now: in great acceptance of our differences and figuring out how to live in such a way that our issues don’t interfere with our quality of life.  Back then I was a chatterbox (as I am still) but in a different way.  There was a lot I never said, never expressed.  A lot of what I did express wasn’t heard anyway but I could never know if I let something slip, if it would let loose any repercussions that would prove bruising.  I’m pretty sure I told my sister to stop chewing with her mouth open and I’m pretty sure I scolded my brother for slurping milk in great luscious gulps, but never did I say what intense distress it was to me to hear the sounds of eating at the dinner table.

I have always hated eating anything in front of people not eating.  I have generally preferred to eat in private.  Where no one can hear and hate the sounds of my chewing and swallowing.

I was once told that I chew like a cow.  I don’t think I’ve recovered from that one yet.  I think I was seventeen when it was said to me.

If I become uncomfortable at any dinner table I will provide cover in the form of random chatter.  I will wait until someone else provides chatter before I will eat.  There are plenty of times, especially at large tables of people, where none of this could ever possibly be noticed, but the fact remains that eating is not something I’m comfortable about even though I love nothing better than to feed the people I like and love.  They are like irreconcilable siblings.  If you want to know what it takes for something to cross the line from quirk to uncomfortable mental illness, I think this is a great example.

There is no time when eating around other people doesn’t cause me some sort of anxiety.  I deal with it because there is also nothing I love better, nothing I find more meaningful than feeding people.  This doesn’t change my discomfort.  This doesn’t change the fact that “dealing with it” causes me a great expense of energy, part of why I am so tired after socializing.

Crunchy things are a living hell.

The real revelation is that this whole issue made it into the first draft of “Jane Doe” and I didn’t even realize it was me I was writing when I wrote Jane not being able to eat to the sound of people eating.

So even if I had a kid who could eat food without being distracted enough not to see it, examine it, think too much about it, or be grossed out by it, we still wouldn’t be one of those families who eat at a dinner table.

There is the blanket excuse that I need to eat earlier than Philip gets home, and while this is literally true, it is merely a coincidence.  If Philip started getting home at five pm (when I like to eat) I still wouldn’t want to eat at the table.

Maybe this is horrible to other people.  Maybe it’s a sacrilege to the ideal of family life as other people see it.

A lot of people believe that the cornerstone of a healthy family is to eat together.  I think this is because it’s a natural time to share what’s been going on in your day, your mind, you break bread (a sacred ritual) with the people you love and you commune.  I see nothing wrong with that.  Unless you’re us.

Here’s my last thoughts tonight: you have to arrange your life and the life of your family as it works best for you and not according to any impersonal ideal.  What’s important is that families talk together, that they listen to each other, that they come together and love each other as a unit, appreciating each other as is.  That’s what’s important.  How you do accomplish this is immaterial, as long as you are accomplishing it.

It’s okay to make up your own rules.  I will always have these eating issues.  When I wasn’t at liberty to arrange my life how it felt best I was in a great deal more discomfort than now.  I will always find this uncomfortable, food with strangers, food in quiet, food at solemn tables- and it will make me feel like a freak often enough.

In my own home I need not suffer so.  My people don’t want me to suffer so.  My people don’t need table time together.  My son is like me, I just didn’t realize how much I was like him.

I am reminded of my first psychologist, Jay Judine, who is dead now.  He did me a great service by teaching me that it’s okay to be different, it’s okay to make decisions to live in a way that makes me more comfortable as long as I’m not hurting other people in the process.  If it helps me and hurts no one then I don’t have to conform to anyone else’s ideals of life.  He taught me that it wasn’t about depending on crutches, it was all about building a life that’s more comfortable and happy.  Being mentally ill has plenty of shit moments to offer but it’s okay to embrace your quirks unapologetically and to work them to your advantage.

That was a real gift to me.  I try to give it out whenever I can to others because I don’t think there are enough people saying it’s okay to accommodate your own freak flag.  It’s okay to arrange your life in such a way that you find more comfort, that you function optimally with an un-optimal brain and less than ideal issues.  It’s okay to be who you are, you are not less just because you don’t function the way others do.

I know it’s always hard for people to not judge us when they observe we don’t observe the holy family dinner table, that we “let” our child eat all his food in front of a movie or a video game.  They have no idea how torturous and impossible it is to get Max to eat when there’s no stimuli to distract him from eating.

I can’t explain it any other way than that it would be cruel to try and force him (or me) to conform to average people rules.  We’re different.  In our house that’s acceptable.  In other houses it’s extremely uncomfortable.

Here in our house, if nowhere else, it’s safe to be who you are.  Unless you are a serial killer or hurt animals.  We don’t tolerate sociopathic behavior but everything else is okay.  I can’t promise we’ll immediately understand your own brand of different, I can’t promise that we’ll know exactly how to make your own quirks work here.  All I can promise is that we’ll figure it out.

I have a hope I can’t account for.  I want you to have that too.

Before I go for the night, for it’s late already, I want to say one last thing, an acknowledgment of sorts.  I had a long talk with my mother tonight which seems like a good thing to do on the last day of the year, and in the way conversations turn and revolve we somehow ended up on the novel writing.  My mom was worried about us not having any health insurance at all and I told her that I intended my novel to be published and to do well and she told me that she had no doubt that my novel would be published and that it would do well.

Hearing my mother say that to me was a vote of confidence I didn’t expect and that I treasure.  I don’t think there’s a moment in our lives when a parent’s confidence and faith isn’t more powerful than the faith we have in ourselves.

I have to remember this for my own son.

Goodnight my peoples.  If you need a little buoy, if you need a little unaccountable hope, I have it to spare, just ask.

Happy New Year to you all!