Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Holding It Together--ADHD a Year Later

“This backpack has lasted you four years, it will make it two more weeks,” I said very seriously. Then I searched through a drawer full of old suckers, receipts and chargers to who knows what and pulled out a safety pin. I pushed the pin through the dirty yellow-ish backpack canvas, pulled the open flap together, and pushed the pin closed to secure it. “There,” I said. “It’s fixed. It will work. Have a good day.”
My oldest son who is patient, calm, and mostly unconcerned with how old backpacks look as long as they hold all of his stuff looked at me skeptically and said, “Maybe.” 

As he slung the old backpack over his shoulder the safety pin popped open with gusto and the backpack fell open. “Annnnd maybe not,” he said. 

We laughed. I suggested various ways he could hold the bag so his crap didn’t fall out. 

“It’s all good, it’s fine, it’ll work,” he said as we laughed in an over-tired, end-of-the-school-year-beyond-ready-for-summer-vacation kind of high-pitched way. 


A little over a year ago, this story would have made me cry. I was at a place where I couldn’t laugh at all of the broken parts of my life, even dumb old broken backpacks. I felt like a constant failure…to my kids, to my boss, to my dogs, to my husband, to everyone. I was a walking apology. I was sorry for being late, for not responding, for forgetting to bring the field trip note/passing dish/random thing that I borrowed/library books/etc., not paying the bill, being over-sensitive, crying, feeling frazzled, worrying too much…I was sorry for being me.  
It was at that time that I went to see a doctor and got the diagnosis that changed my life. That is when it was confirmed that I have Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). 

I started taking medicine. It took a little while to figure out what medicine was right for me, but I found it. I also saw a therapist every other week for a couple months. And I read everything I could find about ADHD. 
Part of the past year and the process of managing my mind and life that has been truly fascinating has been looking back and understanding what was really happening, and why I still do some of the things I do. It has also been a little heartbreaking at times, when thinking about how misunderstood I was and maybe how things could have been different, better, less hard and confusing. But part of what I have learned about myself is that to make it this far without totally falling apart or becoming an addict or destroying my relationships is that I have learned to adapt. And ADHD actually has some good parts to it that have helped me along the way. 
Looking back and moving forward, I want to learn more, understand more, and find ways to do better and be better. More good parts, less apologies. More compassion, less confusion. I want that for everyone--people with ADHD and people who are parents/siblings/coworkers/friends of people with ADHD. 

Based on what I have experienced, read and learned, I believe ADHD is a spectrum disorder and can branch off in a lot of different ways and on different levels for each individual who has it. For me, it isn't just medicine that helps, it is a whole bunch of things and  always paying attention to how things affect me and my brain. 

Here is what I have learned about my ADHD past and present:
Running is my everything.
I pinpointed times in my life when I felt calmer and more in control, each time involved when I was moving. In fourth grade I had a teacher who infused exercise and activities like jumping rope into his classroom every day. Everything was clicking that year, I moved up three levels in reading, I actually understood math, I worried less about my parents’ fights and lives, I made some good friends. Years later when I was a grown up training for a marathon and pushing my body, my brain felt amazing. I could handle all the unpredictable-ness of parenting small children. The movement was medicine for my brain.  
After my diagnosis, I started running three days a week no matter what. I schedule my work, my volunteering, my appointments, my family around my three-day running routine as much as I possibly can. When I say it is like a part-time job, it really is. 

To get the most positive impact on my brain I have determined several variables—I have to run at the very least six miles, alone, and on the same path. It doesn’t always work with my schedule, but when it does I feel calmer, happier, and a million times more together. I read an interview with Jane Curtain that had nothing to do with ADHD, but she said that her friend, the great comic Gilda Radner, used to tap dance for hours to get the energy out of her body and feel calm. That is what running and moving does for me. 
Other days I jump rope in my basement and life weights. If I don’t move the energy comes out in various ways such as crying, snapping at people, anxiety similar to a panic attack, or eating or shopping or anything to stop or distract myself from the energy coursing through my body.

Oh wait, routines are my everything.
When routines/schedules/things change, my brain and my body get wonkier than other people’s brains and bodies.  I have felt like a failure my entire life because of this!!!!!! And weird. It turns out this is a pretty common ADHD thing. It is all about a sense of control over our bodies, brains, personal space, and our lives, and fighting off the energy storm.
The reason I love routines and doing things in a certain order or certain way isn’t because I’m weird, it’s my brain craving order and calmness. When I was a kid I would come home from school I had a routine that was very important to me. I used the same Alvin and the Chipmunk’s glass for my drink, sat in the same seat, and watched the same shows (I’d turn the dial from General Hospital to Guiding light from 3:30 to 4 and then sit transfixed watching Oprah at 4 and Donahue at 5).  
It all makes so much more sense to me now. Of course I would have had a hard time with my parents’ divorcing and my mother’s volatile, erratic behavior when I was pre-teen. Going back and forth between homes and states where they lived was a lot of readjusting and transitioning. All of the change was too much for the way my brain was wired.
Now, I still feel a little weird, but I embrace my love of routines and understand that they give me comfort. I have a particular coffee cup I use everyday and I have a morning routine that is broken up into 15-minute increments that I like to go the same way every morning. Like I said earlier, I run on the same path or route every time I go for a run and it literally calms my brain by taking the same path. I try to forgive myself for feeling tense and wonky when routines and plans change, and then I find ways to feel calmer. The ways that work are deep breathing or crying briefly or walking away from a situation for a minute or rewriting to-do lists to adjust to the change (to-do lists are HUGE for me)...anyway I can take back a feeling of control and calmness.  

I feel things more than the average human.
My mother tells stories about my night terrors as a toddler and I can remember all the nightmares that kept me up when I was a kid. Life terrified me and it felt very, very real. Especially when I was trying to sleep. My imagination and my emotions have always been pretty intense. That has led to a life full of trouble sleeping, countless apologies for being "too sensitive" or "too much," and endless worries about deadlines, people getting hurt, wondering if I talk too much, is my headache a tumor or not, and holy woah, global warming. Finding out this past year that ADHD-ers feel things on a whole other level than most people actually comforted me. I felt less "crazy." I felt reassured that being an intense feeler was just how I roll. I also learned to be kinder to myself when I was feeling a little too much...instead of hating myself for feeling upset, I just try to go with it a little, it doesn't last forever. I also appreciate that being wired like this means I get to feel more joy than the average person. My joy is genuine and real. I feel it when I stop the car to get out and squeal about a beautiful sunset or when my kid scores a touchdown in the big game or I get the absolute best Greek salad at the diner down the street from my house. The intense joy and pleasure I feel about life is one of the best parts about being an over-feeler.

There is so much more to me and to ADHD...I feel like I am learning more all the time. Understanding how I work and react doesn’t give me a pass, but it does help me understand what I can do to help my brain and my body work. Instead of being aggravated, disgusted, embarrassed by and apologetic of my brain, I am learning to be compassionate, kind, encouraging, and more patient. I want to know more....I want to understand...I want to give my brain, and me, a chance to be okay....

Not being able to fix the backpack would have been just one more thing to a very long list of failures that I was keeping track of in my head and heart last year. But this year is different. This year I don’t see the backpack held together with safety pins that pop open and make us laugh as an utter failure. I see it as a metaphor for my life. I am pretty broken after years of adapting and apologizing and feeling awful about who I am. After discovering my ADHD, taking the medicine, doing all the work to find new coping strategies, and managing my life better I STILL have broken parts. In the metaphor I am not like the backpacks with zippers that work the way zippers are supposed to work. But it’s fine, it’s mostly all good really. 

No matter what, I’m still holding all the crap together like Peyton's backpack. I'm here trying every single day and loving my kids and family and my life. I still feel like apologizing to the world sometimes, but not all the time and that feels good. Instead of everything falling apart, I am held together with safety pins of love, self-acceptance, a sense of humor, medication, curiosity, and a determination to be okay for myself and my family.

Here is some more stuff about ADHD (links and thoughts...people that know me know I can talk a lot about this stuff because it IS FASCINATING!):
1. Teachers should do what my teacher Mr. McKee did in 1983...have the kids in the classroom move and move and move some more. Take a few minutes in between subjects and at the beginning and end of each day. It will help everyone!!!!

2.Phones make my ADHD worse. If you are a parent of someone with ADHD don't give them a phone or at least set some major boundaries. Phones and social media and texting and ahhhhh...it is distracting, anxiety-inducing, a set up for failure (I forget to text so many people back!) and overwhelming and can lead to addiction and complete sensory overload.

3. Medicine is good and bad. I know there are a lot of people who have a lot to say about medicine. I love mine. It has helped me so much. It calms the storm in my body. It does dull parts of me that I miss though, I don't dance as much as I used to. Honestly, I am okay with the dulling because the ADHD storm was raging so much right before my diagnosis, it was really, really awful. 

4. This is a REALLY useful, informative website to get ADHD information: www.additudemag.com

5. Do not be afraid of ADHD. This is an interesting, good time to be diagnosed with ADHD actually. Everyone everywhere knows so much more about the disorder and our brains. It is so much more than people thought it was in the 1980s! I am hopeful that all of this new research and knowledge will open doors and minds to help people with ADHD, and also help the teachers, bosses, parents, spouses and everyone else who knows and loves people with ADHD.

Monday, August 6, 2018

ADHD Update--Blips on the Radar, Acceptance, Hope

It's been kind of a wild time lately full of so much change. I got my official ADHD diagnosis, started meds and moved into a new house. The past few weeks have been full of looking back and trying to make sense and understand, and moving forward and feeling compassion and hope.

Phase one: Acceptance, Exhaling, and Relief

When I took my medicine for the first time a two months ago, I was nervous about how I would feel and wondered if it would actually do anything.

It did/does help. I felt calmer, less scattered, like my brain wasn't racing a thousand miles a minute. It felt good. It felt like relief. It felt like I had forgotten what being calm actually felt like. I was amazed by how bad and scattered and anxious I had actually felt before I took the medicine.

I seriously had no idea how bad it had gotten. Which is incredibly surprising because I thought I was hyper aware of my mental state. But I had no idea. Trying to pick a thought, a feeling, a direction...my mind, my heart, my brain, my body constantly racing and buzzing and exhausting me.  The medicine slows it all down and gives me some peace, some relief.

I come from a long line of troubled brains and a mother who suffered so much...from mood disorders, mental illness and addiction. So, to get an answer and find a medicine was a huge relief. For the first time in my entire life I felt hope that I would not end up just like my mother. Whether it was a valid fear or not, it had guided my life since I was 12 and I truly thought I was destined to be just like her, and that I would leave my family like she did. I write that and it seems silly, but it was a deep-seated, unconscious fear that impacted my entire life and all of my relationships for forever.

When I realized that the medicine was working and that I was feeling better and that I had a chance for a different future, I cried with gratitude.

When I went to see my psychiatrist I told him, "This is life changing. I feel calm and like I can be more clear and thoughtful and make a decision. I mean well, between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. and then it kind of wears off, but I'm so grateful and I told my husband we can have important conversations between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. everyday and I can actually be pretty clear."

He smiled at me and replied, "Well, you can do that or you can take a second dose that will help your clarity last a little longer."

"Oh, well that would be just wonderful," I exclaimed.

And now, I take Ritalin twice a day. (Metadate CD)

Phase two: Setbacks and Some More Hope

So yeah, then we decided to move and all hell broke loose. I mean moving is stressful for everyone right? Even people whose brains don't need a little assistance and can process information in a more "normal" way, right?

Our move is a good thing. We found a house almost in our price range that we could rent that would fit our whole family and is nicer and just kind of a house we never thought we'd live in, ever. So it's good right? Yes. It's great. But change can be tricky for my brain (and actually a lot of ADHD brains as I'm learning more about us). My hyper-focus is a real asset in times like these however because once I start packing I can't stop until it's all done, dinner be damned.

There were a couple setbacks over the last couple weeks. Emotional meltdowns. Moments when I thought "well, I guess I'm still broken. medicine doesn't work. I'm still messing everything up. what's the point." But those moments didn't make me change my course, which I believe they might have before. They were blips on the radar, nothing more.

There were a couple days when I forgot to take my medicine and well, those were the days when more blips were on my radar.

During the last couple months, I realized it isn't just medicine that helps. It is my medicine, working out everyday, getting enough sleep, having a supportive partner/husband/best friend, and a good therapist. It isn't just "self care," it is a very deliberate "I must do this to think clearly and be a good person for my family and my job" kind of care. It is all medicine if you will.

As I was cleaning and going through boxes during our move, I found journals and diaries from my whole life. It was interesting and emotional. "Basically, I've always been a mess," I told my husband. It was sort of sad to see how I've struggled with identity and figuring out my emotions and my brain for so many years. It was like I have been just around the borderline of normal for forever....functioning enough to get by but not feeling right. Until now. Now, I truly feel like I am understanding my brain more and respecting that it processes a little differently and there are good things about that and hard things about that, but it doesn't mean that I will become an addict and leave my family and I'm not doomed to feel anxiety from my racing brain for forever. And that, feels like such sweet relief. It's not perfect, but life is not perfect. I feel relief in working toward more understanding and less blips and more relief and calm and acceptance.

Where I am Now

I am learning to apologize less and accept myself more. I feel calmer. Less stupid. I say things like, "I think I got this." Even after I pull out my driver's license to sign the new lease agreement on my house and realize my driver's license expired three weeks ago. It's a process. Life is a process. I'm learning to understand and forgive myself. I'm learning to not take on too much. I'm learning that mistakes don't mean the end of the world...even if they do actually mean that I might have to pay more or not get the job or lose the job or make someone really angry. I am learning that doing my best doesn't always fix things and that it will be okay, I mean I hope it will. I am learning that accountability isn't the same as shame and self-hatred. I am learning that it is okay to feel sad that I can't be the person that I thought I should be and to be interested in the person that I can be. Just like the classic Whitney Houston song says "you'll find the point when you'll exhale" and I have been exhaling with relief and hope and it's going to be okay feelings for a while now, and well it feels really hopeful and really good, right now.

Because duh, I can't write about a classic Whitney song and not post it.

(Click here to watch the video.)

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Connection, Positivity & Good Hair--A Drybar Review

The world feels overwhelming. Not just my world, our world. The level of bad news online and on TV is exhausting and so upsetting. It seems strange to write a blog post reviewing a new business that focuses on drying people's hair. But maybe it isn't that strange because when I visited this new business it felt more about community, connectedness and positivity than hair, and boy do we need more of that right now.

I had the opportunity to go to the new Drybar that opened in the town next to me. All I really knew about Drybar before going was what I learned on celebrity Instagram feeds and Twitter--they loved it. Getting the chance to go to the grand opening celebration and getting to feel like a celebrity sounded pretty awesome to me.

The only problem was the grand opening was on the same day as my kids' last day of school. It meant I might not make it back to see them get off the bus and hug them and do the happy dance while saying "happy summer vacation!" I mean I'm not sure the high schooler and middle schoolers would miss me all that much, but my second grader might. I scheduled my appointment early enough so that I could race home and hopefully do the dancing and hugging with Wade.

On the morning of my appointment I called Tim and said, "Maybe I shouldn't do this, I mean it feels excessive and I should stay home and make a summer vacation cake and be there for the kids." He reassured me that it was okay and told me to have fun. I said a reluctant "ok," parked my minivan in the parking garage, and followed the blinking light on my phone navigating me to Drybar and my shot at feeling like a celebrity. "Arrived," my phone told me. But there was no Drybar in sight. I walked up and down the street frantically looking for the salon and checking the time, watching my appointment time slip away. I walked and walked but couldn't find it. Not going to lie, I started crying just a little bit. In my defense I was probably crying because the last few weeks of school are insanely busy and tiring, I felt stupid and like I was letting down Drybar and the PR firm who asked me to review it, and I hadn't done my big project for my college class, I started worrying that my stylist would be mad that I had planned on going here I mean is it cheating on her?, I was low on gas, and well bad stuff is happening everywhere and ahhhhhh. Right when I was about to say "forget it" and go home, I saw yellow balloons swaying gently in the breeze. "There it is," I said. 

I walked in and was immediately greeted by friendly people everywhere. Many of them wearing the coolest yellow earrings. Music was playing, hair dryers were blowing, and people were talking and laughing. 

The salon is all white with cheerful and sophisticated yellow accents everywhere. 

I went straight to the front desk and apologized for missing my appointment and told them I would write a review about them anyway. "No worries, we'll fit you in," a woman said smiling. "Would you like water, coffee or a mimosa?," another woman asked me. "Yes, please, thank you, ahhhh," I said.

Drybar is based on the simple concept of focusing on one thing and being the best at it: Blowouts. Here's the lowdown straight from their website: "The idea was a natural one for curly haired founder Alli Webb, a longtime professional stylist, who constantly found herself overpaying for blowouts at traditional salons. In addition to 100+ locations throughout the US and Canada, our growing product line (created specifically for the perfect blowout), is sold through our own shops, as well as Sephora, Nordstrom, Ulta and Bloomingdale's."

I sipped on my mimosa (which was given to me with a napkin that said "feeling crumby, I can help" like they knew exactly how I was feeling before I walked in!), sat in a comfy chair by giant windows and exhaled.

I looked at the Lookbook to pick a style I wanted. It's so fun--all the styles are named like drinks at a bar, get it? There's the "Straight Up" and "Dirty Martini" and the  "Mai Tai" to name a few. There are also braid and updo options.

My stylist, Cindy, came over to where I was sitting and asked me what I wanted. I chose the "Mai Tai" which was a blowout resulting in "messy, beachy hair" according to the lookbook. 

She washed my hair, massaged my scalp, asked me about my life. Then she did her magic. As I sat under her cheerily bright hairdryer I looked around and saw so many women talking and laughing and supporting each other and affirming each other with kindness and positivity. When I was done, I took a boomerang selfie with my stylist because duh, that's what I do.  We hugged and I said I'd be back (because I'm totally coming back and bringing friends and my daughter!).

It was actually over so fast I wanted to do it all again. But I looked at the time and realized I could make it back home to hug the kids after the bus. I said goodbye, took a last look at the smiling women and yellow accents everywhere and walked out into the world feeling pretty darn great about people, and my hair. 

It turns out it's not just a good idea to do something for yourself sometimes, but it's also a good idea to go be a part of a positive environment at a business that cares about making you feel good. Even with good hair the world is full of things that are upsetting, things we need to care about and be mad about and worry about...it's important. Connecting with other other women, supporting women-owned businesses, laughing together, finding community with people other than online...it's important too.

I made it home for the last day of school hug!

For those of you that live near me, the Drybar is located at 137 W. Maple in Birmingham (not 137 E. Maple like I typed into my phone navigation app! ugh). They have great hours, 2-hour valet parking for clients, and the blowouts aren't that expensive, $45.  They also offer monthly memberships and sell products at the store. 

Click here for information about Birmingham's Drybar.
Click here to find a Drybar near you. 

I participated in grand opening event at Drybar and was provided a blowout to review my experience, all opinions are my own.

Monday, June 4, 2018

A calmer, less scattered future....maybe

This past Saturday I took medicine for my ADHD for the first time. I was nervous and scared and hopeful all at the same time. Would it change me? Would I still want to dance? Would my superpower of hyper-focus be gone? Would I still be able to do 3000 things at once? I just don't know. But I do know that I hope it gives me more clarity and peace. I hope it makes me more reliable. Forgetting to pay bills isn't cute in your mid forties. Neither is being completely scattered so much of the time. Hormones have amplified my ADHD which has mega-amplified my anxiety and made me a complete mess...so, I took medicine and now I wait and hopefully still dance but worry less.

My post medicine selfie. I think I look calmer, maybe?
I know for sure that I really will only take selfies laying down from now on. The gravity pulling my worry wrinkles back definitely makes me look calmer and a tad younger.

I've always been pretty fun. I like to laugh and dance and talk. Most of the time I'm pretty easy to talk to and be around. Most people like me or at least don't have a problem with me. Unless you are the people that I forget to call back. Or the people I let down because I commit to something and then don't do it. Or my kids when I am the last mom at pick up or totally forget (lose) the sign up sheet for everything.  Or my husband when I have a panic attack because I just can't calm my brain down and it scares me and I pick a fight or cry to him.

It wasn't until my brother and I took a quiz on vacation about eight years ago in a magazine that I thought I might have ADHD--attention deficit hyperactive disorder. He and I were laughing and checking boxes on the quiz until we weren't laughing. "Holy shit, this is us," I said to him. I threw the magazine across the room and we went to the beach. We didn't want to have a disorder. We didn't want to think about 'what if we had known this years ago and gotten help....maybe I could have...maybe I would have..." Um nope, we wanted denial and the beach.

Then a few years later my son, JT, was diagnosed in third grade. The similarities between the two of us are/were undeniable. It was like taking that magazine quiz. Do you get lost in daydreams, like really lost, like you don't hear or see what's happening around you? Check. Do you like routine but also want freedom to do what you want? Check. Do you have a lot of energy and feel happy when you are moving/running/jumping/being active? Oh yes, check that. Are you loveable but moody? Yup. Do you lose everything? Um, yes. Do you feel like you are always trying to play catch up? yeah. Do you lack follow through? Uh-oh.

The more I learned about ADHD, the more I was convinced I had it for sure. 

This past winter it all came to a head. I was tired of being "flaky" and forgetful. I was exhausted by losing things. Everyday I felt like a failure. Everyday I worried I was letting everyone down everywhere. Ahhhhhh.  Then I got an opportunity to go back to school and knew that if I was going to do that and work two jobs and keep up with four busy kids, I was going to need help. I decided to go to  a psychiatrist and get some help. Actually I had gotten a referral two years earlier, but you guessed it, I lost the paper with the name and number on it. 

The doctor suggested extensive testing to rule out mood disorders, personality disorders, and depression. The test involved IQ testing and a whole bunch of questions and pictures and it took hours. When I went to get the results I was nervous. My mother has been diagnosed with bipolar, depression and personality disorder...that could be me. It was all a bit overwhelming. The doctor walked into the room looking at a file. He said hello and then he said the most shocking thing I ever heard-- "You are an incredibly intelligent woman," he said. 

I laughed and blurted out, "No one, I mean no one, has ever said that to me, ever."

He went on to tell me I also had ADHD, but nothing else based on the testing. One word on the paper was highlighted under the personality-- "turbulent." Which was exactly how I'd been feeling the past few years in my head...turbulent. 

I explained to the doctor how I have tried everything to try to think clearly and feel less turbulent--running everyday, meditation, diet changes, oils, vitamins, running more. Those things helped but not all the time. 

He suggested medicine. "I'm nervous," I admitted to him. "I understand," he said.

After the appointment I sat in my minivan and I cried. It all felt like a very big deal...the testing, medicine, the acceptance, the fact that I hadn't been dumb and flaky my whole life. My inner child was doing a happy dance and saying "I knew it, I told you I wasn't stupid." All those years of extra studying, losing papers, stressing, failing, apologizing over and over..."I'm smart," I whispered out loud to no one. I wiped away my tears, smiled at my wrinkled middle-aged face in the mirror and put the car in drive. I felt nervous, but ready to face the future.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

I Will Never Fit In, And I Blame John Hughes

I will never fit in, and I blame John Hughes.

Growing up in the 1980s, John Hughes movies were my everything. I related to a lot of the movies--I grew up in a mostly white middle to upper middle class suburb, I had divorced parents, I desperately wanted to fit in but also wanted to be different, and I had a crush on the cute guy down the street that looked like Jake from "Sixteen Candles."

I wonder what happened to all the John Hughes characters as grown ups...what do their lives look like now in their 40s and, gulp, 50s.   Here's one version I recently read about Sam from Sixteen Candles (click here to read it) but what about all the non-Sam Bakers/Molly Ringwolds? 

The character I most related to isn't from the bigger hits like Sixteen Candles or Breakfast Club or even Pretty in Pink. Nope the movie I loved was Some Kind of Wonderful, and the character that I felt the most like was Watts. The misfit drummer who was best friends with guys, had a dysfunctional family, played the drums and wore kickass fringe gloves. 

And she said things like "It's 1987, a woman can be anything she wants to be." She was my angsty feminist icon before I knew what that was. She was weird, misunderstood and just wanted to be respected AND loved. And she didn't love rich people. She had a big chip on her shoulder. 

That was what I felt like. Except I was too scared to wear the gloves in high school and never played the drums.

In almost every other way she was me, I was her. 

In the end of the movie, Watts found some good in a few rich people and got a nice-ish guy. 

(The above pics: me during the actual John Hughes movie years and me in the post John Hughes movie years...less attitude, but still an are you kidding me kind of expression/disbelief/wonder at life/circumstances/luck...)

Fast forward 30 years and um, I still feel a lot like Watts. I still feel like a misfit--weird, misunderstood and I want to be respected AND loved. I got a nice guy (a very nice guy), live in a different but still mostly white middle-upper-class suburb, and also feel distrust of the rich (leftover from not just John Hughes movies, but all 1980s movies, think Karate Kid, Can't Buy Me Love...dude, all the rich white people were so over the top, the poor guys=the good guys...Right? Remember Daniel Son from Karate Kid who lived in an apartment with his mom who drove an old stationwagon and had to battle the awful rich guys from the fancy karate studio?).

Now I'm a mom driving the beat-up, rusty minivan (my version of Daniel Son's mom's station wagon) and trying to figure out life in my post John Hughes world...adulthood. This past fall my oldest was going to his high school homecoming dance with a group of friends. The friend's house where the parents were gathering to take pictures of everyone was owned by a dad who drives a Lamborghini, I felt my inner Watts starting to come out. I was judging that dad like he was the bad guy in an eighties movie. I said things to my kid like "money isn't everything" and felt like I needed to be in a drumming montage. It turned out that the dad seemed nice and my kid just rolled with it all and had a great/drama-free time at homecoming (so un-John Hughes movie-esque).

But I mean really, I still have all these 80s feelings. But now my role is an over-worried, underpaid mom of teens just trying to pay the bills, keep my kids healthy, happy and out of rehab, and stay married. It's a lot. I remember watching Sixteen Candles and being horrified that parents would forget their 16-year-old's birthday, but now I totally get it! 

I find myself channeling my inner Watts and other misfit characters from John Hughes movies. I drive around in my rusty minivan trying to hold it together and hold my head up and not be too judgey (of others or myself). Sometimes when I'm walking the dogs (because of course none of my kids will) I walk across a field and hold one fist up in the air like Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club. When the nice guy that I married takes me on a date I say let's get drunk at Chili's because I know that is what Watts would do, while all the Molly Ringwolds and Lea Thompsons of the suburbs are going to the trendy restaurants that cost a gajillion dollars after shopping at LuluLemon (not that I'm judging, nope I'm rebelling like a sad middle age bad ass). And always wishing for a dance off in a dimly lit gymnasium or a kind loving parental figure to give me some good advice while synthesized music plays from somewhere in the background.
Me getting drunk at Chili's while my good guy looks at Twitter...modern romance. Would this be Watts' life?

Maybe I'm thinking about my teen angst and how John Hughes movies wrecked my perspective because having teenagers is intense (and trigger-y AF). It's nerve-wracking and anxiety inducing and interesting and exciting and  overwhelming and fucking exhausting. Phones and sexting and vaping and driving and bullying on social media and the list of worries and things that could go wrong goes on and on. All while I'm trying to manage my own hormones and mid-life bullshit and not repeat my parents' mistakes and try and finally grow up. 

A lot of the times, I find myself wondering what would Watts do? I mean really, WWWD (What WOULD Watts Do?)?!?!?!?!

I need to see THAT movie. I'm a mess. Thanks a lot John Hughes.

Maybe it's actually not such a horrible thing that I'm so in tune with my inner angsty teen. I mean, maybe John Hughes wasn't only making movies so I could relate to teens when I WAS one, but also for when I had them of my own. I mean the only thing weirder than parenting a teenager is being one. 

Life is hard and weird and so many of us feel like we don't fit in when we are young and old and in between. I personally think it's kind of a cruel joke that teenage hormones and midlife hormones happen at the same time in the same house for a lot of us. 

I know for sure that I would totally want to see the movie about a middle age bad ass Watts figuring shit out while drumming in her garage to get away from her own teenagers and maybe getting high in the library after a heated booster club meeting with a bunch of middle age parents from different cliques who also need to remember what it was like to be angsty and how hard it is to parent kids who are mad at them but still need them and how rejection sucks no matter how old you are and how it doesn't matter who we all voted for in any election because us parents have to stick together if we are going to get through this whole midlife raising teenager business, and then they'd all do a dance, and the nice guy would take Watts to Chili's and get drunk and she would put her fringed gloved fist in the air saying hell yeah it's still a John Hughes movie kind of world...cue synthesized music...end scene...roll credits.

Me on a good day feeling like I got this,
 in an Uncle Buck kind of hat. Don't even get me started about how much  I love John Candy John Hughes movies like Uncle Buck and Planes,Trains & Automobiles because I LOVE them.

I will never fit in and I guess John Hughes, you were right, that's not such a bad thing.

Oh my god, I love this.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Making Rainbows, Remembering Wonder and Feeling It All

"Look what I can do with my eyes," the little girl said. She had a giant red and green bow in her hair. Her voice was husky for a tiny little human who is only three. Her dress was covered with Christmas trees and ruffles, lots of ruffles. "I look into the light [she paused and looked out the window] and then blink and guess what, I can make rainbows with my eyes. I see so many colors everywhere," she said excitedly stretching her hands out wide. "Did you hear me? I can make rainbows with my eyes!," she said almost losing her breath she was so excited. She couldn't believe her newly discovered superpower.

That happened last week at work. I work in a preschool full of three-year-olds who teach me things like rainbow powers every day. They also teach me about finding joy in well, almost everything. It's raining? That means puddles to jump in! It's snowing? Well come on, that is just ridiculously exciting and magical and gosh, isn't the world amazing? These kids will make even the hardest of hearts melt and truly see and feel the wonder of being alive. Not just at Christmas, but every single day.

I'm so grateful to know these kids. Especially this past year because man, it's been a weird one. The political upheaval and mean-spirited compassionless agendas in our government are coinciding with my ever-changing perimenopausal hormones, my middle forties (maybe a midlife crisis?), my children becoming mini adults who drive and get jobs and have independence, and more financial stress than I anticipated.  It's a lot. Especially for someone with mediocre coping skills at best. 

Planning ahead has never really been my strong suit. I don't know what I envisioned this stage of my life to look like. I do know that it looks better than what my mother's life was like at this age and for that I am grateful. (And really, who could have ever predicted Trump? I don't know how to write a blog anymore without mentioning how affected I feel by the president and his supporters and how it all feels strange and unsettling and frankly I am still shaking my head with dismay...)

I am also grateful to be married to a pretty amazing person who encourages me to remember the good stuff about life and know that how I react to it just is what it is. He reminds me what he said to me when we first started dating almost 20 years ago. "You bring so much color to my life," he told me then and reminds me now. "You feel more than I have ever or will ever feel in my life," he said/says. "You make me see things differently. I love you. You make life interesting," he said/says.

Feeling a lot is my super power I guess. It's so good when it's good. But when there is a lot worry about, well, it can be exhausting. It can also get a little out of hand. 

The other day I sent my very patient and saint-like husband this text:

"We can't afford the extra car insurance, I forgot to take out the trash, I missed the sign-up sheet to volunteer in Wade's class, Roy Moore will win that election and the polar bears are starving to death. I can't take it Tim! [insert crying emoji/exhausted emoji, broken heart emoji]"

That night I turned off the news and tried to watch a movie with him. I randomly checked my phone and saw the social media posts that Roy Moore hadn't won. The other guy in the Alabama election won. I cheered and cried a little. It felt like maybe things were going to start making more sense, at least politically. 

Since that night, the news went back to being up and down, just like my hormones. Bills get paid but still the car insurance for a teenage son driver does seem a bit impossible to add. Hopefully we'll figure it out. We take steps forward and back and back and then forward. Doing the dance. Riding the ride. There are moments of pride and joy, and moments of stress and exhaustion. Through it all I am trying to let go and feel it all but not get carried away with worry. 

The other night I was sitting in my living room trying to keep my eyes open, trying to stay awake waiting for Peyton to come home. He's had his license for a few weeks and my god is it nerve wracking (even for a non-feeling/non-worrier). I was squinting at the tracking app I have loaded on my phone following the little bright blinking green dot that represented my son driving. The light from my phone made me squint even more than usual. Then I looked up at my Christmas tree and the lights all blurred together, and I saw a bunch of rainbows. I smiled remembering my little friend's super power at preschool. I exhaled with relief when Peyton pulled in the driveway and the blinking green light said "Peyton has arrived at home."

These next few days over the Christmas break I will be looking for rainbows and remembering the lessons of my preschoolers--finding joy in anything and everything, dancing the dance, riding the ride and truly feeling the wonder of being alive.

Here are a few reasons/moments/people from the last couple months that make me love being alive...