Thursday, December 30, 2010

From the diary of an overwhelmed working mother...

I guess what I’m saying is, this is probably not the best time to test the theory of happy new life.  I’ve had to let drop so many things I enjoyed when I was an at-home mom.  My blog is moribund.  I haven’t read any of the other blogs I liked so well.  If a news segment caught my ear and I didn’t catch it at the time I could always go back to my computer later and read a transcript.  Now I’m helplessly hearing stuff that interests me and I want to know more about slide right on by.  I feel ignorant.  I feel really weighted down by this job.  I feel anchored to it like it’s a ball and chain.  I’m faster on the documentation, but the real slow-down is the phone calling.  Call a dr, call a patient back, call another staff member to coordinate something and try to remember everything I want to tell them so I don’t have to call them a second time.  I really do wish people used email, because I could communicate much more efficiently.  I’m burning through my phone minutes but there’s no way I can not use it on the job.  I have to call back assistants to tell them a plan of care for patients, and I then have to be thinking about that pt, remembering who they are, any special things about them.  Yesterday I saw 6 patients, drove 80 miles, and I’ve only worked my way down to the third one I saw in documenting, and I’m not yet done with that.  I went from downtown (where I had to scrounge for change for parking because I’d forgotten my wallet at home).  I guess I’m just trying to describe the pieces that add up to overwhelemed, and also me coming home from working, doing documentation, taking a break to fix dinner, or go to an appointment, or a teacher conference at Connor’s school, and that puts me behind the whole next day.  Even if I get up at 5.   Even if I go to bed at 11 and then get up at 5.  Which I’ve been doing for a while, and I suppose that’s another nail in the coffin of morose.  The dog has been particularly wearing, whining pitifully this sound that is like nails on a blackboard.  Take him outside and he doesn’t want to go because it’s cold.   I don’t want to take him out because I have to stand there while he sniffs aimlessly and I’m cold. It seems like all we’re doing is stopping our activities and taking him outside to poop or pee.  And that’s not counting the ‘accidents’ in the house.   The house is a mess, and this is really distressing for me.  When it’s in such disorder…counters unwiped, sticky on the floor, crumbs, food left out…I just start to feel like it’s one more Other demanding my attention.  The work demands seem implacable—patients need orders for service, and they deserve to have them done quickly and seamlessly.  However, this agency is not seamless.  All of this, and I don’t think I’m even meeting productivity.  And with the pressure to pass patients on to assistants, where I do an evaluation and then don’t see the patient again until I discharge, yet I have to keep track of what the goals are for that person, and the increments toward that goal, and is the assistant doing it.  And then have to really think about the ‘skill’ part of my visit (and assessments don’t count)—just dissect what I’m doing to present on a documentation template that tends to give a cookie-cutter ambiance to the session anyway.  My head is spinning, and I just don’t feel like I’m keeping track the way I should, and there’s always something more to do.  And there’s calling patients beforehand the night before to arrange visit schedules, as well as having to bring up the computer and look up each one and figure out a system  of sequence that makes sense, only to have it derailed if that doesn’t work for the patient.  So yesterday morning I also had to take the next door neighbors kids to school, and I hadn’t yet written down a schematic of a patient list and directions to each, and telephone numbers (because it’s hell to try to find that on the computer while driving—take off sunglasses, locate bifocals, open computer, turn to avoid glare—oh, the car ahead is moving now—and the stupid cursor is taking forever to appear, and I can’t see the list of patients to select the one I want and then I have to drive some more, select the ‘basic’ box to call up name/address/phone.  Squint because it’s difficult to find the number and read it because the font is so small.  Scott is like trying to push jello through a straw and the two boys begin fighting viciously with Scott yelling so loud it hurts my head and then Connor trying to yell over him to the point that I tell them I don’t want to risk this kind of behavior in a motel room, or a restaurant; I haven’t washed my hair and it doesn’t look like there’s going to be time to; there are dishes in the sink, then we have to wait for several minutes for the kids next door to come out of their house and I’m fretting because I need to be downtown before 9:00 to see this guy.  Which reminds me of another phone call I should make—to his orthotist to be sure that he’s following the stump changes.  Then  I’m getting calls from people asking me about other people.

In other words, there’s an avalanche of details that each need attention, and triaging them and figuring out which are most important while not losing any of them is really taxing for me.  I’m trying to keep a notebook but that system has its limitations with my scrawled cryptic messages and phone numbers.  And I let a big detail drop through cracks, where a patient that was on my schedule for Mon had not come home from the hosp Sunday and I’m on the phone with his wife Sunday night and she’s wanting a schedule for when I’m coming and we agree on Tues in the afternoon.  Then he was moved to a different day on my schedule, and I honest-to-god don’t know if I did it myself because I’d gotten the impression he wasn’t going home from the hospital til Tuesday—but I also remember feeling surprised to see him on my schedule Wed.  I don’t know if I did it, in an effort to see which configuration of visits would work, and then forgot to switch it back, or if a scheduler may have done it—because sometimes they do move things on my schedule:  I’d forgotten he was a Dr. T  pt with a fairly strict protocol:  nurse and PT go out on the same day.  It was team meeting morning and I’m trying to get out the door because my first patient is in Newberg and my next in West Linn, and I’m seeing the schedule I’d constructed the night before slipping away and I may have to be making more phone calls and if I have to be I want to be doing it from the office because my cell phone bill was over $120 due to phone overages, but then that keeps me from leaving too because I have to look up the pt’s phone numbers and write them down, then take them to another phone in another part of the office because the phone that’s usually in the conference room where my computer is set up is not there, and I don’t really like to take my laptop with me because then I’m unplugging it from its power source and wearing down the battery.  Then I’m called to talk to—whatever the hell position it is that Carol has, warrenting her own (shared) office—because I’d bypassed an important step in a patient’s hospitalization which I hadn’t known about until the wife called me after he was already home, and I’d just gotten orders to continue PT without realizing he was in the hosp, and the wife requests no therapy the rest of that week (it’s Wed night), and I talk to the dr. on Fri, who says she thinks we should wait to continue until pt’s wife feels able, so I call the wife and she asks to take the next week off too, which means more phone calls to keep track of because then I’ll need to call her on the Sunday just prior to that week to see if they are ready for more, and I have to call  the dr’s office  for orders and in the meantime I inadvertantly bypassed this whole other official channel where there is this whole transfer and resume process, re-referral and getting new orders to resume and I’ve skipped all that because I’d been working with the doctor’s office and they’d said to go ahead and that’s what they’re calling me into Carol’s office for.  Further squeezing down the time to get to my first boonies patient and feeling myself getting later and later, and at least, thank god there is a person who offerred to pick up my son at school and take him to her house, so I have longer at the end of the day before having to pick him up—because that’s usually the firm deadline that I have to get everything else to conform to and usually that really compresses and squeezes a day.  So I leave the office to go see my patient and get lost, meaning I’m having to stop and pull out the computer for the map that I'd kept the window of, but it’s not resolving to the detail I need so I have no choice but to completely retrace my steps, and now I’m having to call people and tell them to expect me about an hour later than the times I’d originally scheduled and hoping I won’t have to call and revise again.  So it’s while I’m on my way to my final patient’s that the cell phone sounds as I’m driving so I don’t pick up until I pull over (watching the time drain) and listen to the voice mail and it’s a very clipped voice of the patient’s wife whose agreement with I’d forgotten about seeing them this day—because he’d been moved on my schedule (by me?  By a scheduler?) and so I’ve got to call her and get a really frosty reception when I apologize.  So I’m feeling just unsettled and yucky as I head to my last patient.

And that’s just one day.  I spent a great deal of Wednesday trying to hold together a schedule that kept threatening to collapse—so it was phone call after phone call.  One Adult Foster Home would only render a fax tone so I called the pt’s dtr who gave me the number of the home’s manager, who I called and got the visit scheduled.  One lady is way out in the boonies, and this was to be a final visit and she was one whose daughter had never gotten back to me to schedule a Monday visit and so I drove out blind and stood knocking at a locked door after having gotten lost and wandered in ever-increasing traffic for a while and it’s probably partly my fault because I hadn’t persisted in calling after I didn't get an answer when I called over the weekend but I have so many phone calls to make and I’d thought the number that was hers might be an office number and so I’d have less of a chance of speaking with her than the home number, and I’ve sensed a certain passivity of the daughter in advocating for her mother anyway—have offerred to meet her at the house (at least before turning her over to an assistant, but I’d asked the assistant to see if she could arrange a visit when the daughter would be home, and I guess I never verified that the assistant did this or not), but not been taken up on it—no return call after I left a note on the door that Monday—just a peculiar kind of disconnect when it comes to bridging concern about her mother’s condition with action to address it. 

And this doesn’t touch the times I open the computer and attempt to change a scheduled visit to someone else’s schedule, or schedule someone else’s to mine, only to get an error message saying that will exceed authorized visits and a lot of times it’s because the computer has duplicated the schedule; this doesn’t count the times of calling the office with either a question of my own or to answer a question they had for me, only to get put through to a voice mail.  Calling a dr’s office and wading through all the menu options (with the tantalizing feeling that maybe this is the office that I can bypass all of this by pressing 2, and wondering if I should take a chance and press 2, or wait it out in case pressing 2 will delay me further and the voice message comes to the end and tells me that in the future I can bypass this message by pressing 2, and then the receptionist asks me to hold.)

One more hour, and I really didn’t mean to put this time into work woes, but it actually did help to capture a slice of my day.  It helps me to get a sense that maybe anyone would feel overwhelmed too.  And I forget that Gary’s been gone in Asia which double-duties me as far as kid and animal care, I have phone calls hanging out there that I haven’t returned—personal friend phone calls—or family—and we just moved stuff into a place we’ve barely used.  I just didn’t have it in me to do the scramble required to find some sort of child care for Scott and a ride to the school for Connor on Wednesday night—which was on the day I’d see Sharon.  I wracked my brain for options and eventually gave up and missed the session with Sharon.  Didn’t know if this would be a productive one anyway, given the others I’ve had.  I guess it could be said that there is some sort of ‘message’ in my having forgotten her check the week before, and then missing this session.  This is the first time I’ve missed a session, other than when we’ve been travelling, ever.  The truth is, I think, that I am  in a slack, slack period.  Haven’t moved in to the apartment yet, that is,  gotten serious about establishing the rotation with Gary.  It’s Christmas, which is usually a pretty overwhelming time, but I don’t have to be doing any of it this year, so I’m not that overwhelmed, except with some remorse that I’ve been looking at all these Christmas trees in people’s homes with gifts piled high beneath them and nary a one under ours (in part because I can’t quite trust that Scott will be able to overcome his inquisitiveness and inability to handle the suspense—as well as the possibility that he may shake some packages and possibly damage what’s inside.  So this is the first year in a long time that I’ve not been dogged by Christmas busywork shit, but the slack is all taken up by my job.  So I’m as busy, but just haven’t had the additional Christmas busy on top of it.  For which I’m glad.  But, I wonder if the bare underneath of the tree is a metaphor for the bareness of Christmas enthusiasm within me to share with them.  I know that part of the fun of Christmas is having adults share their enthusiasm, to kind of reflect it and amplify.  So I’m totally lacking in that regard.  And if I was any kind of measuring up to the standard of a good mother, I wouldn’t be here writing, but out buying some gifts to have under the tree for them when they get home.

But this is really the first moment I’ve had to myself since last Friday.  Literally.  If I haven’t been up at 5 I’ve been up at 1 (once, when I woke and couldn’t get back to sleep and decided I may as well work—and did so for about 3 hours)

And in choosing this I’ve also chosen to not go and look at some material that’s been up in tabs on my browser forever, which probably isn’t good for the computer; probably uses up tons of memory.  Some of the stuff I’ve had to ‘cut’ (funny, guess it’s metaphoric for what’s going on everywhere, states cutting their budgets, all these demands that the US cut theirs, other nations cutting back severly) has been pretty hard.  Losing my sense of being informed, that’s a hard one to let go.

I wonder if I can call it a lack of intelligence on my part, that I can’t just absorb the important parts of the news as they’re being presented on the radio.  I zone out without realizing, and then 'come back’ just as something is said that I have a question about and realize they’d answered it ‘just’ before I ‘came back’.  Just trying to get a weather forecast does this.  I listen consciously for it, then when the broadcaster starts talking about program sponsors I zone out only to find that without a break they’ve gone into a forecast and I only get to hear the Eastern Oregon forecast because they did the Portland one first before I ‘woke up.’

My brain is scrambled eggs.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pressed and Compressed

I had an inspiration about "Worth" and "Worthiness" and the role it plays in Shame, and what humans do to avoid it.

Funny how it seems to be universal, and visceral.

No time to develop that.

We got a dachshund about 6 weeks ago from a rescue service.  I should back up and say we lost our black lab, who had been failing for months.  The boys set up a chorus:  "No more old dogs!"  Connor found the mutt.  Showing far more initiative then he ever gives his schoolwork, he tracked this one down and presented his photo.

Well, he is cute.

And it's a good thing because in the short time we've had him he's proved to be a lusty barker (the rescue person said he'd been raised in a condominium and was a non-barker:  she was "worried" about this) especially when provoked by the cat, proved to not be reliably toilet trained (seems to ask to go out; taken out--requires a leash as our yard has no fence and there are cars in the front and coyotes in back--pees, urged to go some more, indicates he's finished, take him inside, poops on the floor), is interfering as I type right now, received a paralyzing back injury when he jumped from a low surface (which fortunately resolved on its own), and began to vomit, on the sofa, in between the cushions and into the deep seams of the cushions, a foul, poop-smelling substance.  What did I do with my time before we got a dachshund:  number one on the list for dogs most likely to bite?

AND, we secured the apartment.  Spent last weekend doing some shopping for it and moving big stuff in.  It's a 16th floor one-bedroom, which looks north over the river, the west part of downtown, and the peaks.  The boys have embraced it enthusiastically and have had no hesitation in claiming it for their own.

We haven't begun the rotation formally yet.  Gary took the boys over to spend last night and I'm typing this in the space I have before they get home.  What I should be doing?  Answering emails, vacuuming floors, doing laundry, taking the dog out to poop/pee, making a shopping list, prepping my work schedule for Monday, and writing in my diary.

We're finally on the crux of something I've been moving toward since well before starting this blog.  I began blogging with the intent of recording my decision process, and now am reaching the outcome of this path my husband and I have been on for years and years.  This last bit is moving as agonizingly slowly as the last few weeks of a pregnancy.  And then this will be in the rear view mirror.  I've been preoccupied with this for so long, and guided, kicking and screaming to this point, that it's strange to imagine what life will be like on The Other Side.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Latest

It's late October.

I have 20 minutes before I need to start getting the kids up for school.

Gary and I started looking for places last week doing drive-by's.

The boys are excited about this, stating their preferences of where they want us to look. Connor wants a place he can skate and walk to skateboard shops. Scott's hoping we'll have cable TV.

We found a place on Saturday that's midway between our house and Connor's school. About 3 miles away. It's a daylight basement in a house on 3 acres of spectacularly gardened property. As we spoke with the man who was showing it, I learned his wife is a published author.

She'd be an interesting person to live next to. Or below, I guess.

Though the apartment is quite nice, it's also quite small. I'm not sure I wouldn't feel claustrophobic.

Yesterday I'd put together an itinerary of about 10 properties to look at; we started north and worked our way south. The last one on our list had a sign out that said the leasing office was open so we parked in their lot and went to have a look-see.

There's no denying the location is superb. It's located a block or two from Washington Park, and straddles the Northwest 23rd district and downtown. It's a high-rise with unobstructed views of Portland to the north. She took us to an apartment that approximates the ones that will come available, but are still occupied and couldn't be shown. As we got off the elevator, a man asked us if we were looking at places and said, "It's great living here!" We walked in to the view, and a spectacularly clear rainbow that spanned the city. She took us to the rooftop, 24th floor which is open and appointed with tables, a sink, and barbeque.

Granted, the place she showed us may have given us an unrealistically positive impression, because it was a double studio. To get the accurate feel we had to imagine a wall running through the middle of it and halving the living area we were standing in. It is also on the 21st floor. Maybe the actual flat that's available wouldn't give such a positive impression. Parking in this neighborhood is cheek-by-jowl, though for an extra $100/mo there is outside assigned parking in their lot. For $135 we can park inside the garage.

I can't help but wistfully think about what we could do with our house with a thousand + a month. If nothing else we could be saving a great nest egg for retirement; putting away sufficient money for the boys' college, landscaping our own property...

But I've just spent the past 5 years examining and re-examining the life he and I create together and concluding that it's not acceptable. And it's not going to change.

Separation is the logical outcome of the life we've been living. We haven't been living a life that supports any alternative to separation, that would support us in a partnership of raising our kids, improving our property together, saving for our future. We could still do it, but it would be at odds with the life we're living--a horse's mask on a pig's body. To live true to the life we've been living, we need to follow it's trajectory, which leads to spending over a thousand dollars a month to support a separate residence. That's all there is to it, and I should quit looking back.

Maybe that's what turned Lot's wife into a pillar of salt. Looking back immobilized her.

Friday, September 3, 2010


In the beginning, there was Accusation.  And Accusation felt so horrific that the Family learned to do whatever it took to avoid It.  Differences in opinion and preference came to resemble Accusation, and were suppressed.  Claiming space for oneself, and setting boundaries are other examples.   A sensitivity developed that created alerts whenever approaching the threshold, even coming near to it.

There were some exceptions.  Adults could feel free to accuse children.

I've written before about people who resented being held accountable for their actions or inaction.  I see this now as the responses of people who felt accused, and lashed out.  I've been surrounded by people like this my entire life, and I've lived my life to appease them.  I've learned to self-censor when I get that tingly anxiety that tells me something I'm about to say will sound accusatory.

There have been times when I'm in conversation and notice that I'm feeling uneasy.  I may be talking about an action I took, or a response to another person.  Suddenly I find myself bent in an orbit where I imagine the other person thinks I handled it 'wrong', or that I'm rationalizing and making excuses for myself.  It's as if suddenly I'm in a glass sphere, where no matter how I move I can't escape the gravity that seems to be bending me into a defensive feeling.

I see now.  I learned to defend myself against accusation by attempting to beat the Other to the punch and accuse myself first.

I realized how it goes:  I was talking with my friend Marti about my son Scott.  I was telling her how he's been disclosing to me details of a summer baseball camp 2 or 3 years ago.  Since these details involve some cruelty they are very difficult to hear and absorb, as is the realization of the courage he showed.  The situation predisposed him to act out aggressively.  He did not.  I was marveling to Marti about his self-control when she said, "He's had problems with anger before, hasn't he?"

I felt very awkward, because suddenly it seemed as if our orientation had shifted, and no matter what I said I'd be confirming something I suddenly wanted to defend against:  that I am a mother who minimizes my son's weaknesses, makes excuses for in denial.  One of those mothers, whose widdle baby can do no wrong.  I didn't even have to say anything.  It's as if this was our context and anything I said would merely confirm it.

I spoke with my counselor about this, because this is by no means an isolated example of suddenly feeling...odd, as if I'm in a universe where I'm in agreement about something that I'm not, really, yet feel anything I say will merely prove that I am.  Sharon said, "Whenever I feel like that, I realize that it's usually because I'm thinking I'm not supposed to be a certain way, or a certain person.  And so I've not given room to that person, or quality inside, and the only way it has to speak is in the voices outside of me, in others."

So who is this person I'm not supposed to be?  Well, I'm not supposed to be a mother who minimizes and denies her son's problems, and makes excuses.  Is it possible I could be that person?  And I realize I could.  Because inside of me there is a person who is afraid for her son, and has great hope for him.  She knows that the qualities he has that set him apart from being 'typical' put him at risk.  The field is tilted toward him becoming a behavior problem, if his needs aren't met.  Something needs to happen to engage him so he can participate meaningfully in activities, like school.  I have such hope that what is going on with him will not tip him into a pattern of how he sees himself and how others see him that will be very difficult to undo.  I have such hope that many of his issues are caused by the pace of the maturation of his nervous system.  I have such hope that he will mature to the point where his nervous system can tolerate some of life's perturbations with resilience.

And I realized:  This is the person that I am accusing.  This hopefulness is what gives a grain of truth to the accusation that I'm in denial.  It was so automatic for me accuse it and fear that it confirmed my worst fears about myself.  And, the grain of truth to the accusation really isn't so awful.  I also can reflect on the fact that I've put in place all of the systems that can support Scott should his issues be beyond what maturity can resolve (or at least protect him while the maturation continues).  So there is evidence that I'm not in denial and making excuses.

So I suppose what I can learn from this is that whenever I feel that odd bending of reality, I should look for the accusation, then look for the grain of truth in the accusation that I have in turn accused.  As a means of defending myself from the accusations of others.

I've had a feeling like a band around my chest for so much of my life.  It makes my breathing shallow, unless I get really conscious of it.  I feel it loosen.  Perhaps this is the knot that's been at my center which finally is beginning to soften, unravel.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Communication breakdown...

From today's diary:


At the dental office with the boys.  Connor being seen; Scott beside me. 

During the day I’ve been ruminating.

I’ve been pissed off the past few days, at the office of Scott’s nurse practitioner.  This is the second month in a row where I’ve notified them that I needed a new prescription for Scott’s medications and kept notifying them as the supply dwindled; didn’t get a call back, don’t know if my messages are getting through, and finally have to call them on it and express my displeasure—also via message.  Though I don’t like having to be this way, it is appropriate for me to be this way.  It is appropriate to be angry when repeated calls and requests are met with silence.  My requests are reasonable, and they are not doing their part; and the consequence is that Scott will have his last medication tomorrow.  This means that there will probably be a bigger gap because oftentimes the pharmacy doesn’t have the medication in stock and we have to wait a couple days for them to get it.  We have an appointment with her on Friday, so I suppose my messages will be fresh in mind.  They’ll probably be being careful with me.  I’ve not said things before when things like this happen; I’ve given the benefit of the doubt.

Communication seems to be an issue today.  Calling dr. M’s office directly after having received nothing back from her schedulers, where I’ve usually had a live body to talk to in the past.  I’ve spoken either with them or left a message each day for the past 4 business days: from  “please let Dr. M know that I’ve not received the prescription yet; I’ve had a bad experience with the prescription not arriving” (both on machine and to live bodies) to:  “Please call me.  The prescription hasn’t arrived yet and I need to make arrangements to pick it up” to “I’m not receiving the response from you that I need and it’s going to cost me” to “What can I do so that I don’t have to go right up to the very end of my supply and then have to scramble to get some?  This is not working and has to change.”  Just the mechanics of calling has been difficult; her numbers stored in my cell, so scrolling through the screens to find her numbers to dial on our home phone since my cell doesn’t work well at our house, to listening through her nearly 3 minute long greeting and ears pricking up when she said something about a cell and wondering if that’s different from the other mobile # I have and checking my cell contact list and sure enough it is so then I hang up before her message has finished to dial that number, only I’m not sure if it’s the correct number because she’d already said it before I realized it might be a different number from what I have so I dial the one I wrote down and get lots of rings with no answer and so while that’s ringing I try to use my cell to call her office # back in hopes that it can be working its way through the message and back to where she gives her cell phone # again, and finally the ringing phone is interrupted by a recording that says the party is unavailable and my cell phone has no bars showing and so I dial her number on our land line again (office) and wait through her message to get her cell # which is a different number and in the process learn that the pager I’d tried dialing yesterday was no longer being used (which is just as well because the pager had never resulted in my getting a call back anyway when I tried it before, and I never knew for sure if I’d done it right or not because it does nothing after I press in my phone number—that is, acknowledges that my “numeric” message will be sent, and if I follow it with a #, which it didn’t instruct me to do--it didn’t instruct me to do anything--which is part of why I’m left wondering if I’ve done it wrong and no message at all has gotten through:  my “numeric page”.) and so that may explain why yesterday’s page wasn’t answered (or, it may mean I did it wrong, and I keep intending to ask Dr. M what is the right way to use it), and so I hang up again and call the cell phone and leave a stern message about this being really difficult, my voice trembling with emotion because I feel like crying, and I’m partly ashamed to be reduced to this kind of anger and in essence criticizing her communication system.  Then I call back her schedulers to inform them that they did not respond to a direct request, a reasonable request, which I am entitled to have responded to in a timely manner.


Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Fever of Expectation

I don't know if I mentioned that I belong to a bookreading group; have for over 25 years.  We're a well-oiled machine by now, with a system for choosing our books, the day each month we meet, who facilitates the discussion, and who hosts our gatherings.

I've read some incredible books with this group, books I'd have never read on my own.  And I've had my experience of any given book greatly enhanced in discussion.

This month we're reading The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones.  She also wrote Lost In Translation.  (By the way, years after the movie garnered the acclaim it did, I finally saw it.  I'm afraid I was rather...underwhelmed.  But I don't hold her responsible for that.)

There's a new twist to our August meeting, however.  Mones is a Portland resident.  And, she will take groups that read her book to a   Chinese restaurant in town, and she will do the ordering, and "facilitate" the meal while we discuss her book.

When the possibility for this option was proposed, I'll admit I was a little resistant.  This was when I wasn't working and I had a feeling it might be pretty expensive.

As I read the book, I slap my forehead and wonder what I was thinking when I hesitated.

I've never read descriptions of food like this.  She's awakened--no, she's inspired--longings I never knew existed for flavors and textures I've only read about.  Cravings have opened like holes that only specific shapes can fill.  I wonder if she's up to the challenge of fulfilling them.  I cannot wait for this meal.

This book explores the theme that food is about far more than eating.  It's almost like tantric sex, a gateway through the senses to enlightenment.  In addition to being a path to the divine, it's also a language in which subtleties such as rank and favor are communicated.  There are literary connections slyly conveyed, and a great chef can be the inspiration for great works of art.

So it piques my interest.  I wonder how many other aspects of ourselves might be engaged in this meal.  Should I look for hidden messages, obscure connections?

But what if I'm not so crazy about the story itself?  Can we really have an honest discussion with the author right there?

Problem for me is...the book has some flaws.  They're small, yet erode the fundamentals of my willingness to believe.  We have Maggie, a recent (one year) widow who is a food writer who has to go to China to address a paternity claim against her deceased husband.  Of course it's a shock to her memory of her beloved husband, and her belief in who they had been as a couple.  To confirm the suit's legitimacy she has to take a DNA kit to the child and obtain a sample.  Her editor asks ("since you're going to be there anyway") if she'll take an assignment of profiling a restaurant that will be opening in Beijing, with a young American-Chinese chef who cooks exclusively in the classical Chinese tradition.  In tandem with the restaurant's opening is the publication of a book written by his grandfather, "The Last Chinese Chef."  When Maggie arrives the funding source for the opening has just dried up; his chef 'uncles' who've taught him all he knows through brutal "tough-love" urge him to enter a cooking contest for the Cultural Olympics as a means toward finding more capital.  Maggie pivots to focus her story on the competition.  The time-frames for verification of her departed husband's culpability and the cooking competition roughly coincide.

I guess my quarrel is it's so predictable that the two will fall in love.  And the story just doesn't have much depth--push against its two-dimensionality and it will fall right down.  I like to lean into a story and have it support me.  This one's too flimsy.  Not a bad read, not a great one.

I can forgive this by rationalizing that the romance really isn't the point.  It's merely an artifice to celebrate Chinese cuisine--its history, language, symbolism, cultural significance.  The food writing truly titillates, and it's clear from her acknowledgments page that this is where she put the bulk of her efforts.  Her research includes Chinese cooking/food books hundreds, and thousands of years old.  There's depth to burn behind all writing concerning food.  No problems with substance there.

So what happens if I'm honest about my experience of her story?  Will she order something 'special' for me?

I think I may just keep my mouth shut...except to eat.

(And I'm going to read Lost In Translation, too, to take a second look at her fiction.)

Monday, July 5, 2010

A strange kind of limbo

This process of coming to a decision to end my marriage has proceeded agonizingly slowly.  For me, anyway, since I spent at least 5 years seriously considering it (and arguably as much as 13 years before that getting to the point of seriously considering it).

Before kids, Gary and I together were part of a vigorous and vibrant outdoor community.  We mainly based our pursuits around ski touring into wilderness areas on heavy gear, to then climb and ski the wild slopes.  It was in the context of this community that I met Gary.

It was a fun life, that of adventurer and animal-woman.  It cost me, though.  I had to do a lot of overriding of my inner signals to maintain this life.  I realize now that though I made a lot of friends and our respect/liking was mutual, my main impetus toward this life was to counter being the-person-that-I'm-not-supposed-to-be (timid, agoraphobic, limited, dull).  It was fear of being This Person that motivated me to be That Person.  I held it together for a lot of years, but when I got pregnant at 40, I was really ready to stop pushing myself so hard.

That had a cost too.  I genuinely like the people who were my companions and took great pleasure in their company--intellectual as well as physical.  Most of the members of our particular group aren't even married, and of the ones who are,  only one couple has children.  (Their children are very close in age to mine, but in a twist of irony, our kids don't really get along.)  I knew it was inevitable that parenthood would become a barrier between us--how could it not?  Many of our gatherings were about decompressing after a trip and laughing at the shared mishaps and adventures.  An avenue of connection would inevitably close, once we weren't sharing those trips.

Connor was born.  Two years later we moved to St. Louis.  Life went on in Portland without us.  When we returned in late 2004 I had Scott, and he was only 3 years old and freaked out by the move.  Things weren't well with Gary and I; and I was traumatized and exhausted by the move (and all that had gone before) as well.  To be able to participate with these people, who had continued their pursuits in our absence, and to not hold them back, or even be a hazard, would have required an effort from me I wasn't capable of giving.  I was seriously depressed, yet it felt normal.  All I knew was that I lacked the motivation to do the things that would get me up to speed with my friends, and be a good parent.  I didn't think I was being a good parent as it was.

The past 5 and a half years haven't seen me rise much above the rock bottom I hit when I got here.  I've simply not had it in me to seek out my old friends, not much anyway, and I haven't really enjoyed it when I did.  When I did it was because I was dutiful, but I had to dig way down deep inside of myself.  About all I had energy to do, once the boys were both in school, was to try to take stock of my life and see if it was my fault that Gary and I sucked so badly together.

Here's where things stand right now.  I'm working for a home health agency and have been doing so since late May.  These 4 or 5 weeks into it I'm struggling to learn a complex computer documentation system to deal with a byzantine process of getting paid through medicare.  While in orientation I've been putting in 10+ hours a day, but I'm hoping to be independently operational by next week.  Then I want to cut my hours back to 6 a day and be home a little more with the boys for the summer.  Since Gary is working out of a home office he's around to provide an adult presence for the boys, and I've needed him for this during this period of training.  It's confused some of the boundaries we've laid though.  Gary hasn't yet gotten himself an alternate place to stay.  I'm staying with my friend Marti.  I'm there for 3 nights and then come back to my house for 3.  In theory that's what Gary's supposed to be doing too.  I'd told him until he found a place he could sleep here the nights I'm on my rotation as long as he is away during the boys' waking hours--that is, not come in while they're still up, and be 'gone' (in his basement office) by time they awaken.  This is complicated by summertime and the freedom to stay up later that the boys enjoy. 

I told him tonight that he needs to get serious about finding a place.

We're in the fourth week of the back and forth "rotation" (since Gary's really not 'rotating'.  Maybe this could be called a 'failure to launch'.).  This is so brand new sometimes I'm shocked by it.  Six weeks ago I was an at-home mom and had been for eleven years.  I commute 20 miles on I-5 through brutal traffic going and coming.  During the day when I'm seeing patients this is my primary means from point A to B.  This is an unfamiliar part of the region and I'm having to learn the fundamentals from scratch.  So I'm frequently lost.  I've been driving up to 60 miles in a day seeing patients, in addition to the 40 mile round trip from home.

Sometimes I can't quite believe what I've done.  Perhaps the way I feel is the way a homeowner does who has demolished a dwelling that's too small for her and is looking at the rubble feeling a long ways away from the new, completed home.

Although we've told our immediate families, and our kids have told some of their friends' kids who have told their parents, we haven't talked much about our change in status with the others circle of adults we know.  This includes our climbing friends.  One of them has a birthday today.  There were many years we spent his birthday with him--in the Goat Rocks, on top of Mt. Shasta, in the Indian Heaven wilderness.  Gary was to join a group of them snow camping on the west side of Mt. Hood yesterday because the weather was supposed to be good.  Instead they got blown off the mountain by relentless winds and Gary returned to the house (so much for the rotation).  This afternoon he said one of the guys had called and we were invited to a barbecue at his house tonight.  Gary said he told him about us splitting.  So the circumstances surrounding our going to a party to celebrate a friends' birthday would be people learning for the first time that we are done.

I just didn't feel up for that.  The group has of course evolved with new people that I've met but certainly am not on intimate terms with.  It's not an appropriate setting or gathering for the two of us to be there together.  I called with my regrets.

There's a good chance that if friendships get divided up like so many possessions in a relationship split that I've just ceded those friendships to Gary.  He's kept in better touch with them since we've returned from St. Louis.  Since his is the first face they'll see following the news, it's likely it's the face that will garner the most sympathy.

I do have an answer should anyone ask a "Why" that I feel like answering with more than, "Not available for discussion."  It's succinct:  "We suck.  We suck together."

I do not regret that I am doing this.  Uncomfortable as much of this is, it's less uncomfortable than staying in a marriage that I suck in. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Missing child

Please post on your blogs.  You never know what might be the link in the chain that brings this boy home where he belongs.

An old debate

Several years ago my FIL sent us this video.  What was remarkable to me was seeing what really happens.  I had no idea that the water inside the balloon retains the overall shape of the balloon, even as it falls.  It amazed me to see the speed with which the "skin", the latex, contracts, leaving the water naked.  I remembered basic high school science when we talked about "adhesion", and "cohesion."  Adhesion is the quality of one substance adhering to a different substance, like water drops on a wall.  Cohesion is the force that holds like elements together, like the water in that balloon.

So what defines an object?  Its "skin", or the turgor of what presses against the skin?  The skin proves structure and shape, but the interior also shapes the skin in pushing against it.  It reminds me of the argument about form vs substance.  It's also a metaphor for the debate about externals vs internals ("Beauty is only skin deep").

I've mused about this off and on over the years, and sometimes find situations in life that exemplify that conflict:  the container, or what it contains?

I know a woman who I thought I was on the way to a deep friendship with.  After a time though, I found myself more reluctant to pick up the phone to call her.  I noticed a sinking inside when there'd be a message from her obligating me to call her back.

So I tried to track down the source of this resistance.  And I realized that I didn't like a feeling I had when I was with her.  As a mother, one of my relief valves is to air my perplexity at my childrens' behavior.  I love to hear the thoughts of most of the mothers I'm friends with, who often have some insight and enrich my perspective.  I realized with this mother, though, that the quality of conversation was different.  She would advise me, tell me what I "needed" to be doing.

I had not been asking for help.  And I sensed it would be very uncomfortable if I was to say so.  Something in her tone, her body language, seemed to send a message that 'no' was not an option.  This is a feeling I've often sensed from my MIL when she'd give gifts or offer favors.  Essentially she was asking us the favor of allowing her to feel generous by accepting whatever she was offering.  Except it wasn't an offer; the feeling was it was mandatory to "accept", and the consequences of not would be her feelings would be hurt and it would be our fault.

I used to wonder if it was something mean-spirited in me that caused me to feel that initial revulsion when she gave us something she wanted us to have (newspaper articles, magazine articles she'd clipped and written notes on).  How could I feel that way about someone who only wanted to share of herself?

I think the key is in the nature of the threat.  The threat is that she will be 'hurt' if we don't do as she asks.  She has an image of herself, a role, as it were, that she needs supporting actors to reinforce.  Therefore, her actions in character require corresponding actions of people around her.  Particularly the ones she's related to.  Furthermore the role requires not letting on that you know your role is to bolster her sense of self esteem.

There was a similar feeling with my friend.  She wanted to help, but her helping required me to be one-who-needs-to-be-helped.  Maybe it's more accurate to say she wanted to be a helper.  She too, has a role for herself that requires complementary responses on the part of Others.  I think in both of these situations, my MIL, and my former (now distanced) friend, there is a sense that not acting accordingly is an existential threat--their very self-concept is threatened.

I have dear friends who don't require a role from me to support an image of themselves.  These are people I can easily say 'no' to, if necessary.  There isn't a feeling of impending catastrophe if I do.  All that is required of me is that I treat them decently and respectfully, and keep my agreements.

I believe it is the life within me that pushes out against my skin, that gives me substance and solidity.  Press against me, and you feel a response, that of my life responding to yours.  This kind of life force can no longer be constrained into a role that is too small for it, in order to protect someone else.

Form gives shape to substance, and substance gives meaning to form.  The relationship between the two is what is essential.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Diarrhea (or, it's 1030 am and can I start drinking?)

My dear friend Ailey inspired me to write a post, but I'm going to have to put it off.

I'm trying to not feel too sorry for myself here.  I was looking forward to having the morning to myself at the dojo after dropping Scott at school.  I'd have the first real chance to do some writing in several days.

Because I started the job.  I'm working for the man.  In this orientation period I'm largely shielded from the stressful aspects of home health.  I won't even be going on home visits with therapists/nurses for a while.  Instead I've sat in the middle of the office warren with a computer monitor working my way through an online course on hepatitis.

The office culture swirling around me is pleasant.  I think this will work out ok.

Due to Scott's school schedule (half days only on Fridays) I'll work a 4 day a week schedule, with Fridays off.  So this morning's plan was to take him to school, and nip over the dojo for a few hours until pick-up time.

I'd be just gathering up my stuff right now to fetch him, had things gone to plan.  He woke me at at 4:30 this morning to tell me there was "some diarrhea in the bed."

Two weeks ago we had the nausea and vomiting.  The advice nurse said the vomiting should be tapering off in a few days and the trots could go two weeks.  We had daily diarrhea, with some lapses and relapses, ending the Wednesday before last.  He's been in school since then.

This Wednesday it was Connor, the morning after the Dinner From Hell. (Subject, perhaps, of another post)  It appears to be short lived, with his return to school Thursday.  But the intermittent nature of the symptoms keeps me from counting on it, and I may have doomed myself with the phrase "short lived".

Witness this morning.  After the first wake-up Scott was in the bathroom two more times, excreting copious amounts.  I sighed and weighed the options.  He was entirely chipper, talkative even--way too talkative--and didn't seem sick.  I remembered the advice nurse's...advice...that he could go to school as long as he had enough bowel control to get to the bathroom and was under about 3 movements a day.  Well, we'd had three already so we were in a gray area.  I made the call to keep him home and he hasn't had a movement since.

Gary said bye bye and went to a meeting, or a series.  Said he'd be late.  Left me with a child who's bouncing off the walls.  A child I feel duty-bound to insist upon educational activities as opposed to video games or videos on You Tube.    And that means I have to enforce it.

He held up his end of the bargain and read a couple books online and took quizzes afterward.  So I let him play with the computer for a while.  He's waiting for me to read to him from "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" right now, while playing the piano in such experimental ways I can't think straight.

Hence the Delayed Post.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Reflections on my last days as an at-home mother

Another step down the path:

Make decision       check
inform husband     check

long latency
lo-o-o-ong latency

look for work     check
apply for jobs     check
inform sons        (sigh) check
obtain job and start date     check
husband's trip corresponds with trial run for rotation     check
3 nights at friend's home to complete trial run for separate living rotation   check

Remaining to do:

1st day at work
formally begin separate living rotation 3 nights on, 3 off
get established in this rhythm
find another place (rather than doing rotation at a friend's)
take care of legal details of divorce

This morning I'm very conscious that this is my next-to-the-last morning to wake as an at-home mother. 

Child development research posits 9 temperamental characteristics.  Among other things these affect the ease with which transitions are made.  I approach the boundary from one life into the next.  The circle of my at-home-mom life has already intersected the circle of work-out-of-the-home-mom life, the shadow of the latter looming over the (soon to be) former.  Transitions aren't easy for me; I don't negotiate them gracefully.

Already one of my feet is in the working world, and I feel longing for the world of at-home mom. Yet the longing is tinged with irony because I appreciated at-home-momming most when my kids were in school so I could be alone.  I regret that I didn't enjoy my children, and their presences more when I was home full time.  I regret that I wasn't better at that job.

As companion to this regret I also feel sorrow in surrendering my alone time for professional life.

My hope is that my solitary reflection and writing time has served its purpose.  I thought my alone time was to help me to recover from the demands of children in the context of an unhappy and unsupportive marriage.  I thought the purpose was to have some uninterrupted thinking time to consider if my unhappiness was my fault.  I thought the purpose was to write my pain and name it so it was more bearable.  In all these ways my alone time has served me.

But it's done more.  It has enabled me to discern the shape of the Pattern that has been at the core of my life, and present from the beginning.  It's a Pattern that has required my participation, which I ably gave in the form of self-doubt.  I had to doubt myself and my own visceral feelings, intuitions in order to stay in service to the pattern.  At one time the pattern served to keep me in subjection to authority, and religion reinforced the bonds.  It probably served a survival function at a time when displeasing adults could be harshly punished,  yet persisted beyond its usefulness..  Once it was a strategy to keep me in line when I very much needed to stay in  line:  I was very afraid of pain.  If my feelings and intuitions conflicted with the demands of others it was dangerous to maintain my truth.  If I could poison the well of my own truth, by accusing it of being selfish, self-serving, stupid, or just plain WRONG, then it was easier to submit.  Sadly the strategy became habitual, and became a part of me.  Some form of it has manifested in nearly every area of my life and my marriage is its current embodiment.  The only way I can continue in this marriage is by continuing to poison my own well, doubting the legitimacy of my feelings and intuitions.  To stay in this marriage, I stay in Pattern.  And I say no to Pattern.

Perhaps to uncover these insights, and use them as a basis for decision, has been the reason for the hunger for so much time alone.  Perhaps I no longer need this solitary time and it has served its purpose.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bad mom; or life, other plans, blah blah

I am so unsuited to have a child who has adhd.  A child who has adhd needs a mother who is an extrovert, who doesn't feel drained by demands on her time.  He needs a mom who can readily drop a task orientation and smell the (goddamn) roses, because such a child is unable to move from one moment to the next without smelling the (g..d...) roses.  I should be appreciating his outside-the-box world view and his capacity to be charmed by details I wouldn't ordinarily notice.  Instead my first response is impatience, frustration, and to feel just plain harried as we try to move through a day.  I worry a lot that I give Scott way too many "it's-not-ok-to-be-me" messages.  I'm sure he gets lots of such messages, even in the progressive school he attends.

I'm ashamed to say that I welcome school days and tend to dread holidays.  Sick days are like being robbed. Sick days that involve vomiting and diarrhea are just plain unfair.  This child is not docile and compliant when he's sick.  His activity level isn't appreciably diminished. 

Phase one of the Dry Run was completed late Sunday night.  This was to be The Demonstration to the boys of what we hoped the next few years of their lives would look like with Gary and I apart.  The hope is that if we can do it right, their lives won't feel a whole lot different than Gary gone on a business trip and then me gone on a weekend with the girls.  Gary was in Asia for about 10 days and I planned to go stay with Marti for a few days upon his return Sunday night.  Ideally I'd have left Monday night, but out of the goodness of my heart decided to give Gary a chance to get over jet-lag first.  So I decided Wednesday would be the day.  I'd take Scott to school as usual, and Gary would be responsible for pick-up, then all of the childcare until I returned sometime on Saturday.  Then we'd have to get serious about finding another place.

By the way, since we've told the boys that Gary and I will be separating, the atmosphere around here has been largely positive.  The boys have been getting along (knock on wood) pretty well, with Connor much more tolerant of Scott, and Scott openly affectionate with Connor.  He's been much less inclined to do things to deliberately annoy, and Connor's been less ready to be annoyed.  If anything, this seemed improved in Gary's absence.

Friday morning last week I was looking forward to one last day alone in the house before Gary's return.  On the ride to Scott's school I started hearing ominous sounds from the back seat.  Hastily I grabbed the litter bag and thrust it behind at him.  Clearly I couldn't take him to school, and did a big pivot to take him home.

The rest of the day he seemed fine, and I thought maybe the morning episode had been a fluke.  In the afternoon he began having diarrhea.  By evening I started to take it seriously.  At midnight I was awakened to wretching and the glorious dilemma of both ends erupting at once.  This involved a linen change and emergency laundering.  He was up again at 5 a.m. saying he'd "diarrhea-ed" in his boxers.

Then he was fine all day Saturday.  I regretted having called and canceled his piano lesson.  He slept through Saturday night with no incidents.  He kept food down just fine.  Sunday afternoon he began to complain of a sick stomach and Sunday evening began to vomit.  So much for school next day.  He was home Monday and I was fully on duty as Gary slept off his jet lag.  As I've said, illness doesn't diminish Scott's desire for entertainment, and I'd resolved that if he was too sick for school, he was too sick for TV and video games.  And though he returned to school without incident yesterday, last night he was in the bathroom too many times to count and vomited a small amount this morning.  There's no question he's home again today.

Here's the exhausting part:   he goes into the bathroom, diarrhea; he gets up, I remind him (again) to keep his hands away from his face until he’s washed them—sometimes I have to remind him several times and I start to get angry, or at least very irritated because sometimes his hands are going up around his mouth even as I’m reminding him; he wipes, I remind him to not use such huge wads of toilet paper because a clogged toilet and plumber are NOT sweet thoughts…sometimes he stands up and then has to sit back down again, and sometimes he’s up and washing his hands (me reminding him to (1) wet his hands FIRST   (2) apply soap  (3) wash between his fingers  (4) THEN rinse—because his tendency is to put a bunch of soap in his hands but then put it under the running water thus rinsing it away before he has a chance to use it to clean his hands—(5) then dry)—he’ll get all that done and then have to sit down again:  sometimes this will happen 3 or 4 times in just one sitting.  And then the next sitting is within 10 or 15 minutes.

This has called into question The Plan for The Demonstration which was supposed to launch today.  Sure, it might be instructive for Gary to be responsible to care for a child who is running at two openings at once, possibly for several days on end.  Sure I really want a break from parenting in these conditions.

BUT, the purpose of The Demonstration is also to show the boys that their lives aren't going to feel much different.  Throwing Gary to the wolves, so to speak, may not be the wisest thing to do, given that objective.

I'd hoped I'd spend my last week as a stay-at-home-mom in contemplation and writing.  It's been 10 and a half years, so this really marks the end of an era.  I signed the letter accepting the offer of a home health company yesterday.  Orientation day is Wednesday next week.  I'll begin with 24 hours a week and transition to full time with benefits once the summer is done.  I guess it's ironic that I'll spend my last days as an at-home mom, really being an at-home mom.

Coincidentally I had breakfast with some of my former co-workers from nearly 13 years ago.  We'd worked together for at least 10 years.  The company we worked for was sold, sold again, and yet again.  It's owned now by a huge national chain.  Many of my co-workers have retired.  It feels...odd to be reentering a field at an age when many of my contemporaries are retiring.  But that's nothing new.  I did start having my kids at an age when most of my contemporaries were seeing their offspring graduate from college, or even start having grandchildren.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

From the Void

One of the things I've been occupied with during this blog blackout has been a search for employment.  I had an interesting experience that illustrates a paradox.  It's archetypal and summed up as "fish or cut bait" (usually posed as a question).

I wasn't finding anything in Portland on my profession's website.  Someone suggested I try Crai.gslist.  I found a company and decided to contact them.  At this point I was only beginning to get serious about looking for work, and my purpose was to explore various work settings and what the environment might be like in them.  The recruitment officer said he was impressed by my many years of experience and we set up a meeting time.  I saw it as basically informational, but still dressed as if it was a formal interview.

I was there right on time.  I sat, and waited, 10 minutes, 15 minutes.  I began to feel a bit impatient and to wonder if this might be a clue to how the organization is run.  Finally the clinical supervisor arrived and took me back to the recruiter's office.  There were three of them.

It seemed the meeting went well.  They showed me around their office complex.  I told them I was there for informational purposes and was still working out in my mind what would be a schedule that could meet their needs and accommodate the needs of my family.  There were a few other hurdles I needed to accomplish, such as completing requirements for my license renewal and getting certified in CPR.  As she bade me goodbye the clinical supervisor asked if I'd let them know my plans in the next week or two.  I said I would.

This meeting was on a Monday.  It seemed they had liked me and I liked them.  I felt the business, though a for-profit (I'd only worked for non-profits in my employment history), did put patient welfare first.  I had a sense that they were serious about supporting their staff in meeting patient needs.

On Wednesday I sent thank-you notes to the three who interviewed me and told them I would contact them on Monday the following week.  On Monday I sent them an email, copied to all of them, with some questions I'd not asked during the interview, as well as an update on my progress of renewing my license and signing up for a CPR course.  Additionally, I was tracking down some former co-workers and supervisors to ask if I could use as references--this wasn't easy since it had been better than 10 years since I'd worked with or seen them...and the company I'd worked for is no more (bought out by a company that was bought out by a company, that was bought by a huge for-profit that trades publicly on the stock market).

I was surprised to not hear back from them, and even called the recruiter to ask if they had received my message.  This was on his voice mail. Perhaps he spoke with the clinical supervisor because on Friday I received an email from the clinical supervisor that answered most of my questions.  I responded with an update on my licensure and CPR certification and asked how many references they wanted. I also proposed a certain schedule and start date, subject to negotiation.

No response.

A few days later I sent a message with three references I'd tracked down.

No response.

It had been three weeks since the interview.  On Thursday I called and spoke directly to the clinical supervisor.  "Oh, HI!"  I gave her a date I'd be available to start, and proposed a schedule.  She said they "might have a position available" and told me to send my proposed schedule and availability date--in an email!  This I did.

No response, to this day.  And, when I was glancing through Cra.igslist yesterday, I saw a position posted for this company.

In the meantime I'd found a job position open at another company and contacted their recruiter.  She not only responded, she attached their benefit package for my perusal.  Two days later she emailed again and said she'd like to talk to me and they could "create a position" for me that would be to our mutual advantage.  I filled out an application online and attached my resume.  She sent a message to tell me she'd received it.  Tuesday night she called and left a voice mail saying she'd like to talk to me before scheduling an interview.  Yesterday as I was picking up the phone to call her it rang and it was her.  She had a few questions which I answered and we scheduled an interview for tomorrow.

I don't know if I'll be offered a job there or not.  Its headquarters, where team members would have to meet once a week, is quite a drive.  But it's possible that I could be working in an area that would have close proximity to Scott's school, with a schedule flexible enough to allow for pick-ups and drop-offs.

I can't help but notice the contrast between the brisk responsiveness I've received with the second business in regards to the first.  I considered contacting the first place (which is closer, and we meet at the headquarters only every-other week instead of weekly) to tell them I was looking into a position elsewhere.  When I prepared to write a message something stayed my hand.  It occurred to me that I'd gotten enough messages in the "body language" to tell me why I didn't want to work for them.  They had been telling me why, and it was best to let it go.

The interesting paradox is one hand saying that the difficulty in engaging with the first company is evidence enough that it's not meant to be--particularly when it's contrasted with the responsiveness of the second.  But for every scenario that says difficulty in achieving an objective is a 'sign' that this is not a path to take, there's another that says that anything worth doing has some obstacles to screen out those who aren't serious.

I think I've been a person who was inclined toward the second...persisting in fishing too long, and almost unable to give up.

Wish me luck tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


We've come out.  Sunday we told the boys that we, the parents are going to separate and most likely divorce.  We told them they will stay in the house, while Gary and I do rotations of living with them, probably on a week by week basis.  (We may start out with shorter rotations because a week may be too long for Scott.  He's never been separate from me for more than 2 nights)

A useful opportunity is coming up.  Gary is going to Asia and will be gone about 10 days.  The boys have experienced this many times before.  When he returns I'm going to stay at a friend's house for a few days.  Thus we'll have a real-time dry run which will demonstrate to the boys what their lives will look and feel like.  The goal is that life not feel much different than it does right now.  (That's the least I'm hoping for.  My cherished hope is that absent the poison atmosphere the combination of Gary and I give off, life will feel lighter, better to them, and to me too.)

We've informed our wider families, our own parents and siblings.

We'll need another place for the times we're not at home with the boys.  I don't know yet if we'll share one or each get one.  I need a job and I have an interview on Friday.

That's all for now.  It's a very committing move we've made and we need to follow through with the next one as soon as possible.  I'm glad to have it in the open, finally--to at last be taking meaningful steps.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Um, uh, about this silence...

I guess you could say I'm on sabbatical.

I may have mentioned once that I've been working on a project of transcribing my older diaries into my computer?  Currently I'm up to fall of 1987 and recording the 50th volume.

1986/87 were very significant years for me, and I've found I've had little energy to do much else.  So my focus has narrowed, I haven't been blogging, or reading blogs.  Perhaps when I get past this particular era in my life I'll broaden my focus again.

On an unrelated topic, my sons have been out of school for spring break.  Scott gets 2 weeks, and is just beginning week 2.  He was fascinated with q.uicksand, and I encouraged him  to look up some information on the web.

Did you know that there is a whole niche of fet.ish that involves beautiful women sinking in q.uicksand?


Friday, March 12, 2010

I think the family pattern doesn't need me

Situations like the one I've described earlier surface periodically.  They're a perfect microcosm of a bigger system.  In this case, there is a lie perpetuated, and telling the truth is more threatening than the lie.  The fact that a lie has occurred takes a back seat to preserving an image of What Should Be.  Therefore, telling the truth is threatening to a family system that is based on What Should Be.

I'd had not realized that Telling the Truth is only one part of affecting a system.  There is also the Accepting of the Truth.

There were many scenarios in my family where the emperor had no clothes.   I learned painfully that while being admonished to tell the truth, the real lesson was to keep silent.  Therefore I came to doubt my own eyes.  Maybe I was mistaken, and the emperor was wearing clothes that just made him look naked.  Maybe his appearance to me as naked was evidence of my own sinfulness, the devil tempting me from the One True Way (that he was dressed in finery).  Maybe I was delusional, prideful, thought I "knew better than anyone else". 

The family pattern protects itself.  Self-doubt is very effective in preventing serious questioning.  But if one of the family members breaks through that and begins to question/challenge, there is the fail-safe.  The pattern can refuse to accept the truth.  One way it does this is to cast doubt upon the veracity of the teller.

Such was the position I found myself in when my father told me he had 'no choice' but to accept my brothers' word.  And since my own Word was in direct contradiction to my brothers', where did that leave me?  I asked him and he talked about something else.

I went over and over it in my mind to see if I could be mistaken.  I asked one brother if he could reconcile the seeming conflicting "facts" of the situation and he too didn't answer.

I finally came to a resolve that I was not okay with my brothers' word being invited in to dinner and mine on the porch or out in the yard.  While my father wasn't overtly calling me a liar, my Word was relegated to some ambiguous half-state:  the penumbra of questionable.   I felt the weight of the pressure to just accept this and say no more about it.  That was my role in the family.  I felt the familiar machinations of Pattern to  silence me:  self doubt (doubt about the facts, doubt about my character, a peculiar sensation of unreality).  Also,  threat:  if I asserted  my truth,  it could destroy the family.  A family fight could disintegrate us, and it would be all my fault.  Peace in the family was riding on my willingness to sacrifice my truth and allow it to be left outside.  This is what I've always been required to do and what I've always done.

I wrote my father:

The part I keep returning to is that if I told you something that contradicts what they said, and you're saying you have to believe them, what does that say about me and what I told you?  It seems like it puts my Word off in some ambiguous place that resembles a lie.

I'm having trouble with that.

I don't know if you're telling me that you believe me, but for the purposes of family peace and stability you're going to behave
as if you believe them?  I can be fine with that, but I really want to know if you believe me... because it sure seems if you're "accepting their word", then you must be rejecting mine.  If what  they told you not only contradicts what I told you, but contradicts everything Dan has told me for the past 16 months, then I don't know how you can't be saying that I'm lying.  I've tried looking at this from every angle, but I just can't seem to find another way to look at it.

My father's response was that there was no way that he thought I was lying, and he must have misunderstood (or wanted to) whatever it was my brothers told him, or that he's screwed up in some way.

Again, the substance of the truth was not addressed and I see it will not be.  He is willfully refusing to see something that is in front of him, and very obvious.  What Should Be trumps What Is.

But, this doesn't have to be at the price of my own compliance in betraying my truth.  It appears that the Pattern can make accommodation for my opting out of my role through my father accepting "blame".  He can absorb the cost through saying he was mistaken somehow.  And the belief in family As It Should Be stays intact, and unthreatened.

I broke down the first line of defense of the family image by speaking the truth.  But he is firmly holding the second line of defense by refusing to see, and accept, the truth.  

That's none of my business.

What's important to me is that this latest manifestation that exemplifies our family dynamic, has been a vehicle for seeing clearly what has been going on, and to firmly and consciously refuse it.

I don't know that I've ever done that before.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The official version

For the past 16 months at least there has been an ongoing lie in my family.  One brother asked another for money, (or his wife did), and asked him to say nothing (to our father).  That brother told me, and asked me to say nothing.  I've kept quiet for 16 months.  Over time the feeling that something was very wrong grew inside, as did a strong sense that my silence was amounting to complicity, and protecting people who were behaving unethically.

Yeah, it was me.  And I broke silence last week and told my father everything.  When the brother who'd told me what was going on asked I felt compelled to be honest with him too. So he knows I've talked with my father.

To review.  One brother swore another to secrecy, and believed he was keeping everyone in the dark.  That brother told me and swore me to secrecy, with the first brother being in the dark--he didn't know that I know.  I broke silence and now my father knows.  He doesn't know that I told my brother that swore me to secrecy that he knows.  So now, everyone knows, but the first brother, and his wife, who ironically are now in the dark.

Without revealing that he knew what he knows, my father says he talked to each of my brothers.  He said one brother told him his version of reality (that is, that he stopped accepting money from his brother when my parents stepped in to help them with their monthly expenses) and the other one confirmed it.

If my parents helped them all of last year, and my brother helped them all of last year, in what universe did the one brother stop accepting money from the other when our parents "stepped in to help?"

My father wrote to me:    "I have no choice but to believe that neither Kevin nor Dan would tell me a direct lie when I asked a direct question.  So I have accepted their word..."

I responded:  You're aware that what Kevin and Dan told you directly contradicts what I told you.   And, it directly contradicts what Dan has been telling me for 16 months.  I don't know how you can reconcile that.   

My father hasn't called me a liar.  Yet what's true is he is indicating that he is legitimizing their word as what he will consider real, which must exclude mine.  The firmness of his tone says he wants no more discussion on this matter.

I wrote:   I know you don't want to believe it, and maybe you can find a way to believe them and not think that I am a liar, because that's the way this squares...I stand by what I said, because it's the truth

His next message was about something else and did not address what I said.

I asked the lending brother how it could be true that he'd helped them in the last quarter of 2008, and all of 2009, and my parents had helped them in 2009--how could it then be true that he'd stopped giving them money when my parents started?

He has not answered me.

I'm just beginning to comprehend the implications of this.  There is an official version.  And my father has firmly "said" that he doesn't want to be backed into a corner with the Truth.  We will act as if one brother gave the other money, for a little while, but stopped when the parents stepped in.  The truth has no place in the official version...and where does that leave me?  Hint:  the wind blows cold, and the underside of the bus is greasy.

This is what I've been thinking about for days now.  I haven't talked with them because I'm not sure how to.  And that's what I'm trying to come to grips with.

What seems clear is that in my family a lie has more legitimacy than the truth, if it supports an image of the family.  If Truth undermines the accepted version, well, then it is to be discarded.

In other news, tomorrow I go to talk to someone about a job.  It's more of an informational interview--I'll be interviewing them as much as they me.  I want to talk to a number of places and get a feel for which setting will be the best.  I'm eager to get moving on the divorce process, so we can tell our sons and larger families and finally stop holding this secret.  I'm thoroughly tired of secrets.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The ties that bind

It seems I can hardly mention my counselor, Sharon, without wanting to fill in our history.  It doesn't seem enough to say that I'm in counseling;  I feel compelled to say that I began with her 25 years ago and saw her weekly for 7 years.  We had a very unsatisfactory ending.  I used to record our sessions, and I believe our last one is recorded too, but I've never been able to bring myself to listen to it.  She was going through her own changes, the nature of which I will probably never know.  It was impacting the way in which she did therapy, and the change was not something I could adapt to.  Not long after we parted she stopped practicing as a counselor altogether.

Over time the hurt faded and I was able to remember the positive aspects of therapy, and the lasting good it was doing me.

Fourteen years passed.   I had my two children, moved to St. Louis, and back, faced a deteriorating marriage, and turned 50.    The deteriorating marriage was a catalyst for some intensive writing.   I had time to do it when my youngest began kindergarten.   I wanted to examine how, why, and where things would go wrong between my husband and me.  Most of the things I read suggested that the onus was on me to change. Any given interaction could fall apart so quickly and I really wanted to get a handle on exactly what would happen.  Was there really something about myself that needed to change--an attitude, a belief, a sensitivity?  If his behavior was offensive to me, was it because I was offended, therefore I needed to change whatever part of me took offense?

I spent hours trying to deconstruct some of our arguments or communications-gone-south, mentally laying them out like an exploded diagram of some machine.

I was in the midst of such soul searching when I realized that I owed my ability to even do so to the seven years I'd spent with Sharon.  I felt gratitude and decided to thank her.  So I looked her up online and saw that she was leading a study group of an author I'd recently come across.  I emailed her to see if I could join.  She called me and asked that I come in for a session first.  She was again practicing psychotherapy, to her own surprise, she said.  When she'd left the field of counseling, she never expected to return.  She didn't detail the path that took her through training to be an Archetypal Pattern Analyst.  I was intrigued enough by her study group to agree to see her for a session.  That was over 3 years ago.  I never joined the group.

Indeed, in the course of my life I'd often been frustrated by what seemed to be the emergence of a pattern.  The people and circumstances appeared to be different, but over time I'd realize there seemed to be an underlying template.  There seemed to be a Pattern that was self-similar, and it usually manifested in disheartening ways.  Its course was that I'd involve myself with people in relationships that seemed promising at first, but proved eventually to be unavailable.  There were a few forms of this.  In one men would present themselves as intensely interested, open up their hearts, yet get "scared" when mine opened in response.  It used to seem that the kiss of death of a relationship would be my own interest, which seemed to confirm the old "play hard to get" gambit.  I began to brace myself for the signs of a chill, and could usually sense immediately when the connection was broken--as soon as I began to want it.  I was left bleeding, furious that it had happened yet again:  an event like that propelled me into therapy with Sharon 25 years ago.  I thought I had healed that dynamic when I met Gary, until I realized that unavailability has more subtle forms than physically staying, or not.  Another form of Pattern I experienced was in the realm of accountability.  Certain important people were very offended if I attempted to hold them responsible for some broken agreement.  The implication was that there was some tacit agreement to let it pass unacknowledged--and I was trespassing.  The spotlight wasn't on the lapse, but on my mentioning it.  Their feelings were hurt because I named the act that had hurt my feelings.  It was as if my hurt feelings hurt their feelings.  Thus I spent a lot of time confused.  Was I wanting too much?  Was I too sensitive (a dreaded accusation)?  Was I predisposed to take things the "wrong" way?  Was what I wanted unreasonable?  The benefit of the doubt did not belong to me.  I was always afraid that I was in the wrong.

The dynamic was so much a part of who I was that I didn't really see it.  It didn't stand out as something that was worthy of mention to Sharon when we resumed our therapy relationship with her as Pattern Analyst.  It came up by chance in the course of a different conversation.

Even as I write the above I can hear echoes of the old doubts.  I can hear voices accusing me of "feeling sorry for myself", blaming others for my troubles, whining, 'poor me' and soliciting sympathy.  The driving force behind those thoughts strait-jacketed me and I could not penetrate it. Understanding eluded me.  It was easier to assume I was just wrong, period.  But then I felt miserable, and had a nagging feeling that that really wasn't It, yet I couldn't come up with what was.  I'd just get more confused.

I was wound very tight.  But with the help of Sharon's mentoring, I'm beginning to see the elements of the ties that bind.

Recent events reveal the bones of the pattern at its starkest.  I see very clearly that love in my family was not unconditional.  Love depended on allegiance to a certain unarticulated Code.  And if Truth conflicted with the Code, then Truth was to be sacrificed for What Should Be, instead of What Is.  Loyalty to What Should Be was a requirement for love.  Lies were required, even while a superficial version of  the "truth" was demanded.  As Palemother commented, "truth" in my family was about control and obedience.  What does one who has taken the expectation of Truth literally (and to heart) do when the demands of Truth cross the demands of Code?  What does one who loves the Truth do when required to lie, on pain of losing love?

One doubts oneself.  One poisons the well of her/his own feelings by doubting them.  This solves the problem of lying, when one's heart is devoted to the Truth.  Doubt, and confusion serve a protective function, even if that act of survival makes a person vulnerable in other areas.  This is because such a person is denied access to the hunches and inner promptings that guide our choices.  Such a person is prey to the demands of others because such a person believes the emotions meant to protect are motivated by selfishness. Such a person has to make a way blind in a world that's often pitiless.  Of course, the Code was meant to replace the guidance of a responsive heart and sensitivity.

More later, perhaps.