Saturday, March 24, 2018

Another Winter In A Summer Town

Everybody in my life is sad. 

And I'm a fixer, so, naturally, this feels like I am failing at every relationship I am involved in. 

It's ... overwhelming right now. 

I feel like the worst sister; the worst daughter; the worst friend; the worst acquaintance; the worst sudo-mother; the worst political participant; the worst everything. 

I cannot seem to spread myself far enough, wide enough, long enough, THERE enough for all the people who need me, and all the people I love, let alone the world at large and all the issues I feel compelled to address.

It seems like everyone in my life is wrapped up in a spider's web of something - fear, anxiety, grief, loss, separation, isolation, memories, wants, wishes, denials - and I can't seem to cut through their webs, or the webs that surround me, to get the connection we both need. 

Reaching out is physically painful, because the support isn't there - to give or to receive.  It never feels like enough. 

I'm doing all the things I can think to do...well, that's untrue - my brain can think of 900,000 ways in which I could be more participatory, but I can't find the time or energy or ability or words or breath to accomplish any of them.  I feel so overwhelmed by my own life - the situation I have somehow found myself in, this faux-mothering I'm doing is a million times harder than I could have ever imagined, and there's all these complicating factors, and I mostly just want to nap, or read, or zone out when I get the chance. 

I need to take those opportunities to reach out more, but I don't know how to force myself to do that, because I am physically exhausted.  I feel like all of my energy goes towards things I couldn't care less about - transportation here and there, cleaning up and cooking and tidying and straightening and making sure everyone has food and snacks and water to drink, and my own goddamn medical issues - that I have so little left for the people and things I care most about.  And that's backwards, so backwards, but I don't have the first clue how to adjust it, really.

Anyways, this is just to say, if you feel like you're failing everybody in pretty much every possible way, even though you're trying as hard as you can imagine trying? You're definitely alone.

I hope I'm not alone either. 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

My great-aunt died tonight.

Or I guess, technically, not MY great-aunt. 

She was my dad's aunt, and since my dad is technically my step-dad, and since I have chosen to limit my interaction with him because he's an abusive narcissist, his side of the family has been pretty scarce in my life for a while.

It's probably not a thing, because they were never super involved in our lives in the first place, but it's definitely been noticeable.  Christmas cards, funerals and First Communions, basically - that's been our interaction in the last decade or so.  I think it actually has more to do with the fact that they don't spend time with him anymore either, because he's a generally miserable human being, and the byproduct has been that they don't spend any time with any of us.  Kind of sucks, but what are you going to do?

But back to the great-aunt: She was scarce, but not in a voluntary way.  She was 96 years old, and ill, and infirm, and after a fall a few years ago, afraid to leave her house, basically.  The house with stairs.  So i don't think I've seen her in person in about five plus years.

Which is too bad, because she was a really sweet person. 

Always kind to me, no matter what.  She wouldn't have given two shits that I choose not to really communicate with her nephew, because her husband was the same kind of guy, and I think she'd have probably cheered, if she'd known that some of us had gotten sick enough of his bullshit not to interact with him anymore. (Of course, there was also the 'what he says goes' element of her personality, so it's probably more 50/50 on which way that could have gone.)

But I kept in touch the only way I really could... through letters and cards.  Every new batch of pictures, I'd make a double or two and send them along to Auntie Lucy, with just a "Hey, thinking of you.  Thought you might to see how un-little the littles are getting." Something held over from living with Grandmother and watching her wait for the mail, or the phone to ring, or somebody to just pop in.  Even at her worst, when she wouldn't actually be so great during the visits, when there weren't any, she'd still be waiting for some.

It was certainly not difficult to drop Auntie Lucy a card every now and then and let her know she wasn't forgotten.  I even sent a card to her daughter once, because she was caring for her at home.  Because I've been in her position - or something close to it anyways - just saying "hey, I know this sucks.  It's so hard, and you're doing great even if it feels like you're messing it all up.  I'm around if you ever need to talk."  She never called, but I hope it made her feel a little bit less alone.  Because that's a lonely, rough road to walk.

So now, I have to figure out about wakes and a funeral.  And rearranging any doctor's appointments and whatever else needs to happen this week.  And try not to feel bad about not calling my dad to say I'm sorry she's gone. 

I am sorry she's gone, and I'm sorry I heard about it on goddamn Facebook first, but I'm not putting myself in a situation where I need to try and comfort him.  That's not my job, not anymore. 

And that feels shitty, to be honest: To say, I know my dad will be grieving, and I know that I'm not even going to do more than barely acknowledge it.  Because he'll be at the wakes and the funeral and everything else, and I'll have to see him and not make a scene, which means say "I'm so sorry," and not immediately run away when he tries to hug me or something. 

Boundaries are hard, even at the easiest of times.  They're definitely not going to be easy to hold right now, when everybody is hurting.  But I'm not opening anything even a centimeter more than I have to.

Because I deserve to be treated like an adult human with feelings, and he is incapable of that, so: boundaries are there to protect us both, honestly. Because as much as I'd like to vent my spleen, it would just wind up hurting the people around us - my sisters and such - so that's just going to stay safely spleened up, and I'm going to nod along and keep the walls strictly in place.

But I'm sad, tonight, because ... she was a nice lady, and she was always kind to me, and I know her daughters must be hurting, and even that he's hurting.  All of those things, and the fact that family is a mess, at all times, even the saddest. 

Deep breaths and strong boundaries.  Goals for the week. 

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Why I'll Never 'Get Over" Nazi Cap

Somewhere in the past two years or so, Captain America (in his comic iteration, anyways), became a Nazi. 

Or... more like it came out that he'd always been a Nazi, even though he was, in our real-life actual world, created by two Jewish men during World War II

Now, I'm only going to be able to talk about that in the broadest  of strokes, because I couldn't read any of those comics, because even the idea of Steve Rogers being Hydra made me nauseous. 

So, I didn't read any of that run of the comics, and - I'll be honest here - I had to do some googling to see if he was still, currently, supposed to be Hydra, because I had to stop reading the press around the whole mess, for basically the same reason.

Turns out - not so much: Regular Cap came back and kicked his ass, the whole thing was about the Cosmic Cube or some such nonsense, and Marvel wants us all to calm our tits about it, guys; we never should have doubted them in the first place.

And I'm going to call bullshit on that, for all the reasons many a good writer:
Kicking Hydra Cap's Ass with Thor's Hammer

"The creation of Captain America was deeply personal and deeply political.

Ever since, Steve Rogers has stood in opposition to tyranny, prejudice, and genocide. While other characters have their backstories rolled up behind them as the decades march on to keep them young and relevant, Cap is never removed from his original context. He can’t be. To do so would empty the character of all meaning.
But yesterday, that’s what Marvel did."
 has already expounded on, but also because, if it's true that art matters, in any type of real way, then turning the literal embodiment of AMERICA into a Nazi, in this day and age, sure as fuck means something. 

Maybe, if we didn't have rioters heil-ing in our streets, or white supremacists sitting in the White House, I could feel different.  I don't think so, but it's a possibility.

But we didn't, technically, have those things, right out in the open the way we do today, when this storyline started, so I still say bullshit.

Two years ago when Secret Empire debuted, and Nick Spenser started explaining how chronically ill, disabled, potential queer, likely impoverished (or at the very most working class), son of immigrants, most likely Catholic, New Deal Democrat Steve Rogers somehow got hooked up with an organization that was anti-immigrant, anti-disabled people, anti-Catholic, anti-homosexual, and anti-working class in Brooklyn, in 193whatever, I opted out.

Based on what I've read online - because again, I could not make myself read these comics, and I honestly don't have any desire to even try - his mother met up with a kindly Hydra agent, and young Steve was indoctrinated as a child. 

Again: I just need to remind you that Hydra are Nazis.

And that Marvel gleefully manipulated his backstory, so that Captain America could also be a Nazi, with some useless assurances that audiences should just "wait and see" where it was going. 
So let me be very clear: I don’t care if this gets undone next year, next month, next week. I know it’s clickbait disguised as storytelling. I am not angry because omg how dare you ruin Steve Rogers forever.
I am angry because how dare you use eleven million deaths as clickbait.
How little must we matter. The people who created Captain America, and Superman, and countless other heroes like them. The people who need him. The people whose history and suffering and hope, as we stood on the brink of annihilation, gave you your weekly entertainment and your fun thought experiment, 75 years later.
I hope it was worth it, Marvel. 
Jessica Plumber, On Steve Rogers #1, Antisemitism & Publicity Stunts

And, apparently possessing about as much introspection and self-reflection capabilities as our cheeto-in-chief, fans were basically told to just hold their horses, as post and tweet and columns continued to be written about how this was a betrayal, not just of Cap as a character, and his two Jewish creators, but of all the fans who've claimed Cap, and Steve Rogers, over the years. 

Listen - I'm 38 years old; I'm a woman; I'm chronically ill and disabled - I'm not the target demographic for the Captain America comics, and I never have been.  As a kid, I was always a Wonder Woman girl, and then later, when my body started becoming my greatest enemy, I found Oracle, and we've talked about how awesome I think SHE is. 

But Captain America was mostly an overly-patriotic, Frisbee-flinging, do-gooder, as far as kid me was concerned.  He seemed like the type to lecture you a lot - about finishing your homework, or your vegetables, or something. 

And then, with the MCU, I got a new perspective on Cap, on Steve Rogers, on the First Avenger & leader of the Avengers. 

According to it's IMDB, that movie came out in 2011, and that ... seems impossible to me, but ok: I guess I'll have to take their word for it. 

So 2011, a new Cap, and a backstory I hadn't heard before. 

A little guy standing up to bullies, who's got a good heart.  (I'm not going to lie and tell you that the fact that he also had Chris Evans' everything did not play a part in my easy acceptance of him, because none of us our fools, BUT I can say that I was like Peggy - starry eyed about the guy, even when he was a little punk.) 

From there, I followed Steve Rogers through 70 years on ice; at least two major disagreements with Tony Stark (which I've complained about before); his accumulation of superheroes; his search for & reunion with Bucky; and now his exile into the Wakandan mysteriousness (bc I haven't seen Black Panther yet, so I know so little about how the MCU is going to portray it).  In a couple of months, I'll follow that particular version of Cap - bearded, and with Bucky in tow, the previews make it seem - into battle with a giant purple space dude, who likes jewelry and wants to clobber us all.

But that's not the only version of Cap I became enamored with. 

I fell into Avengers fanfiction somewhere around March of 2013, if my A03 history is to be believed. 

Since then, I've read literally thousands of versions of Steve Rogers. 
Some of them were Captain Americas; some weren't
Some had his canon comic book history (pre-Secret Empire); some of them were born in the 1990s and never lived through the Great Depression. 
Some got the serum and got Capped; some got the serum and stayed little; some never even thought about turning themselves into some sort of medical experiment; still others got a serum that went wrong on them. 

A lot of them were chronically ill, or disabled, at some point, because that's a thing for me.  That's my in for Steve, personally.  This little guy, who wants better than his body allows him, and finds a way.  I mean... there's all different kinds of wish fulfillment, aren't there.

I've read thousands of AUs, where Bucky become Cap or Sam; Where nobody has powers and they all run coffee shops or tattoo parlors or comic book conventions. 

I've read a million Steves, but the one I haven't and won't read? 

Is the god-damn Marvel canon, Nazi Steve. 

Because that's an abomination. 

It's a betrayal of all that that character stands for, and has stood for, for over seventy five years. 

It's bullshit, anti-semetic, shock-value PR, corrupt capitalism at its finest.  Perverting the work of (and again this can't be said too many times) two Jewish writers in such a way as to denigrate everything they were trying to accomplish with the character (and at the same time, trying to claim the moral high ground, because fans weren't 'waiting until the end to judge'). 

The fact that Marvel Comics still doesn't understand what it did was wrong and disgusting makes it hard for me to support them, in any form.  I don't spend money on their books anymore, and I support the MCU in much more tremulous and fearful way - as if they, too, could betray all of that, and all of their fans, at any given moment. 

I'll still have fanon Steve Rogers, no matter what: the fanfic writers I know and love had MANY a well-written response to this whole 'plotline' of bullshit. 

But it's a horrible feeling, knowing that the company valued shock value and money over (arguably) their most important hero.  Certainly one of, at any rate. 

Captain America has been a moral, upstanding, ass-kicking (if uber nationalistic), icon for 70+ years, and they tore it all down, for no real reason at all.  Just to sell some comic books, and take it back a few months later.  And lost a lot of readers, including me, in the process.

It's not much, to say here, on my personal blog, two years later, how disappointed I still am in all that.  How hurt I still find myself over the fact that they took such a good man  -yes, fictional, I know: but someone who STOOD FOR SOMETHING, nevertheless - and played him (and all of us) for publicity.

And if you don't think that have Captain America spout Nazi bullshit has helped other actual non-fictional assholes spout their Nazi bullshit, then you're not as smart as I think you are, dear readers.

** Author's notes **

- Telling me to call him Hydra Cap is also bullshit: Hydra are Nazis, in any version of the comics, don't come at me with that 616 nonsense.
- Here is a good article on which I base some of my political declarations about Steve Rogers.  Others are just common sense (Irish son of immigrants at that time? In New York? Most likely Catholic, no matter what his MCU dogtags say).  Others are wishful thinking/headcanons (There's no proof that Steve Rogers is anything other than straight, I suppose, if you're thinking with a heteronormative lens. He did live in a historical queer area of Brooklyn, at that time, so ... I'll think what I want; you think what you want.)
- Here is a picture of the real Captain America #1 - Doing what he was made to do.  Punching Hitler.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

An Insiders Tip To NTE

So here's the thing... sometimes when I say "How are you? I miss you..."  I really mean "I need you, can you come?" 

But I can't just say that. 

I can't just ask that, because I'm afraid the answer will be no. Because the answer has sometimes been no before.
“Life is weird and annoying for geeks like me, because it doesn’t adhere to logic a lot of the time.  It’s a wild Seussian machine.  We put in Hard Work and Passion and Money and expect to get back Success, when we’re just as likely to get back Failure or Wild Monkeys or Surprise Baby.  The hell of it is, we are told by the culture, our parents, ourselves, that Life is a logical machine.  Now, sure, it’s really rare to put Nothing into the machine and get Success back from it, so it makes sense to load the machine with good stuff, but sometimes it’s just going to shoot out a giraffe at you.”  Commander Logic, December 2011, How to Get Unstuck

Having a shitload of giraffe days in a row.  Feels like I'm having a ton of giraffe years, if I'm being honest. 

Life is not a logical machine. 

I don't know what I'm putting into it, some days. 

Some days, I can barely input "made sure children ate food that wasn't chocolate" and "homework got done and nobody got murdered."  I mean, sure there's "Holy Shit, I helped my nephew Apply to colleges" days and days where the output is "Niece puts you as the person she admires most in a school project" days, but those are few and far between.  Mostly it's "I woke the kids up and laid like a log for three hours, till I felt well enough to sit up and forage for food so I could take my pills" and "attempting to hold together the pieces of a family puzzle when other people are intent on hiding their pieces, or ruining them, or disguising them."

I don't exactly know how to ask for and receive help graciously.  I mean, especially emotional help.  Physical help is a hurdle I've had to jump over nearly every day for the past 23 years: Being chronically ill means sucking up a lot of your modesty or embarrassment or pride and just accepting that you physically cannot accomplish a thing without the aid of another human being.  When you haven't showered by yourself in twenty three years, you learn pretty quick that physical help is something you're just gonna have to put your pride aside for.  (Still: It isn't exactly easy to ask for that help.  It still feels shameful, sometimes, or frustrating.  It's just that I have a lot more practice with it, at this point.)

But emotional help?  Saying "I'm overwhelmed," or "I'm exhausted," or "I'm so goddamn frustrated I want to cry 23 hours out of every damn day?"  Well, those are harder for me.  And part of the reason is that sometimes people in my life have either refused to help me - "What do you want me to do about it?  You're too sensitive!" -  or not realized I was actually asking for help and minimized it so that I felt uncomfortable continuing to reach out - "Everyone's overwhelmed or exhausted."

And I stopped seeing a therapist a long time ago, but I'm thinking - as I prod my niblings into their own counseling sessions, grumbling as they go - that it might be time to re-up on that front, find a new counselor for myself. 

Because all there's all these damn giraffes around here, and the zookeeper doesn't quite know what to do with them all, by herself.  

Monday, January 29, 2018

Among the missing

Howdy folks ~ I know I've been SUPER lax at writing here, but I'm starting to feel like maybe that might need to change again? I don't even know if people still read blogs, but I'm starting to feel like maybe I need to write one, because without this outlet, my mind is a jumbled up mess.

I haven't quite figured out what form this writing might take - I know I'm going to set a schedule, and try to keep it; I know I've got to write about the millions of things that are happening in my life, and in the world, without somehow turning into a giant rage monster (Honestly, hulking out often does seem appropriate, especially on Facebook, these days); I know I've got to start writing about my family and my new place in it, in a way that helps it make sense to me - and hopefully is interesting to the rest of you.  I just know I have to start writing again, and I'm sick of giving myself reasons why blogging isn't the way I should do it.

Maybe it's not... maybe I'll write for a while and decide: Yeah, nobody's reading this anymore, and I'm not enjoying writing it anymore, and it's time to close the shop.  Maybe.  But I feel like that won't happen.  I miss writing here, in a deeply personal way... I miss all of the commenters and all of the nonsense, and all of the anticipation of saying something and knowing someone else would be reading it, would maybe have some input into what was going on.  (Y'all are still the best, I know that, regardless of if I'm here to blab with or not.)

So: Hi.  Happy 2018.  Can we agree that the world is a scary place and having someplace to talk about it might be a good move? And that even though life is ridiculous and busy and hectic and confusing, taking a few minutes (or an hour or two or three) to talk about stuff with other people is not just a good idea, but a necessary one? 

Ok, good.  Glad we're on the same page.

Welcome back.  I missed you.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Here is something from my drafts folder, a piece I started working on the summer I was living with, and losing, my grandmother.  I've been thinking about her a lot lately, about how much she made me feel capable and loved, and how difficult it is for me to make LilGirl feel that way. How it doesn't come as naturally to me, as it must have to her, and how I wish she were around to talk me through it.  So, I've been wandering back and looking at some of the things I've written about her, and about our relationship.  Here is something I think that's worth posting... I don't know why I never finished it, then.  Probably it hurt too much. But, it's a tribute to her, so I want it out there, on this the fifth anniversary of her death.  


She talks in her sleep; probably all sorts of things that she wants to say when she's awake, but doesn't dare.  "Shut up ~ I'll only listen to that for so long;"  "Who do you think is the boss around here, Mister?"  "Well, I'm smarter than that, which you'd knew if you listened to me at all."

But it's not just that: sometimes she opens her eyes and talks to people who aren't really there, except for her.  "What are you doing here?" she'll say, "Where have you been for so long?"

The other morning: "Is that Brian's chin? Do I recognize Brian's chin? I know it's you, because you have my chin, boy: why won't you talk to me?" Her voice is sweet, and cajoling; later it's hurt and quiet. 

Brian is my father, and he's been dead for 13 years.  He was not, contrary to her beliefs, 'necking in the living room the other night with some girl.'  At least not that I could see, and I had a pretty good view of things, since I was sitting on the couch she claimed he was sitting on.

"I'm glad that he has someone;" she reports back, "but did he have to ignore me?  What kind of evil have I done that my own child would pretend I didn't exist?"

When I suggest that he didn't hear her, she gives me a look that says she knows I am not that stupid, and I should know that she isn't that stupid either.  She's right: neither of us is that dumb, but what else can I say?  He's gone: If she saw him in the living room, it certainly wasn't the Brian that either of us used to know, and trying to explain about hallucinations to a person who is hallucinating all the time, is like trying to explain about breathing: you don't do it consciously, therefore you can't think about all the bits and pieces that go into it.  You don't think to yourself "Diaphragm in" before each breath, and she doesn't think to herself "this could possibly be fake" before she has a chat with the person she sees so clearly.

Don't try to convince her that she's hallucinating, all the experts/books/hospice workers agree: so now I've got a woman who's sure she's seen her dead son, and that he ignored her, that he hates her enough to not even say hello, when she is clearly ill and needs his company.

 Even my father, whose memory is pretty tarnished (if only in my own eyes) was never that bad.

She pines for a little boy (sometimes two little boys) who is/are missing, but she can't recall their names or their faces, only that they are her littlest boys and that someone has taken them from her.  My uncle is sometimes cast as the willing accomplice, other times the clueless and cold father, still other times the evil mastermind behind this whole plot: he doesn't know where the boy(s) are, and he doesn't seem concerned enough with finding them, in her opinion.

We don't know how to search for pretend boys, or how to explain that no one has absconded with any of her children, and so she longs for them, brings them up in every quiet moment, wonders if they are fed and clean and happy and "where could they be?"

"Safe and happy; sound and cared for", we promise, but we haven't got enough details for her. There could never be enough details to satisfy a mother who is looking for her missing children.  What is the address, the phone number, the house like?  Where does the father work, the mother shop, the school bus let off?  Do they ever get an extra cookie at night, does the mother wash their hair with that special lice shampoo, are we sure they don't do their homework while sitting in front of the television?

Obviously my worrying genes did not come from the ether.

But what a wonderful mother she must have been, back then, when her kids where little.  To still worry so now, all these years later, about whether or not someone is making sure the little one brushes his teeth because 'he hates to brush his teeth and will just wet the brush and pretend he's brushed, you know'.  To have in her head that there are little hearts out there that it's her job to protect, and to be un-moving in that conviction - it's both awesome and horrible all at the same time.

Because I can so clearly see her in that mom mode - living through the daily struggles of raising nine children, one with a very severe disability in a time where kids with disabilities were hidden from sight more often than not; in the projects of a city she never liked, close to in-laws who treated her like a slave, and far away from the life she lived with her Grams in New Jersey. 

And yet, she excelled - she knocked it out of the park, if you ask me, even if she made mistakes along the way.

But how horrible, to feel that connection, to feel that pull, and to be able to do nothing about it.  This is a feeling I have my own experiences with, that wanting of a child, that feeling that your child is out there somewhere, waiting for you, but you can't get to them.  Our realities are infinitely different - she's reliving the life she's already gone through maybe fifty or sixty years ago, now and I'm looking forward to the life I want in my future - but that pull, that pang and hollow feeling, yeah: I know it too well.

This summer with my grandmother is awful.  It's an endless wait for an end you'd do anything to avoid; like you're constantly slipping towards a great big hole, and you know you're going to go into it face first, eventually, but the fall is taking an eternity and you can't figure out where to put your hands out to stop yourself, so you just keep slipping, closer and closer to the big fall.

She has days where she's fine, mostly, and those days of just sleeping for hours and eating and watching Judge Judy, well they're almost normal, except you can still feel the slide happening, deep down, under your feet, under your skin, in your heart.  It's there in the way that she asks what time it is, again, and you can tell her internal clock has run hours ahead of the actual time, and she's lost again.  The way she tilts to the side while we're watching the news, like a curious puppy who can't quite make out what he's looking at.  The way it takes her 15 minutes to get food onto her fork, into her mouth, chewed and into her stomach: It takes her so much energy to eat, that you want her to eat only the highest calorie foods, to make it worthwhile.  All those little steps, little bumps, all part of the slipping.

And then there's days where she's never here: she eats, but she doesn't taste it.  She talks, but her eyes are empty when she looks at you.  "Where's the mail?" and "What's the time?" over and over again, and they have as little meaning to her as they would to a two year old - all she knows is that those things might happen, and it might mean that something would be different than it is now.  And god, does she want things to be different than they are now.

I can't interest her in anything: the plots of television shows confuse her, peppered with commercials that annoy her.  Movies take too long, and have too many people talking at once.  Books are too heavy for her sore arm, too tiny for her eyes, too confusing if you read them to her.  Puzzles are not her thing, nor are cards - "I used to get berated for playing a card in bridge; your uncle" (my great uncle, actually) "would scold me so for not knowing what everyone else had played." And music is, for the most part, out: I turned on a Pandora station with her favorite song, and she took out her hearing aids and went to sleep.

We talk about a long time ago, but I never know how much of it is true anymore - was there really a woman named Bridgey, who lived above them in the Towers and would shout at Grandmother's misbehaving children as easily as she'd take her own to task?  Did my grandfather lace up his Hessian boots, or was it her father, her grandfather, one of her brothers?

We talk about yesterday, today and tomorrow - who's coming and what's on the schedule, and "does your list make you the boss of everybody?" About the weddings coming up, and how they're not today, or tomorrow, or even next week: "I've missed the bride" she'll tell me at least once a week - but no, Grandmother, it's alright: The wedding isn't until the end of September.

 "I need silver shoes," she shouted as she woke up this morning, before even hello, "add it to your list and we'll go shopping for some on the next nice day."

Never mind that we don't go shopping - that the doctor's appointment she went to last week wiped her out so badly her skin was grey - or that her feet are two different sizes due to the swelling.

 "Silver shoes to match my dress.  And a petticoat, with lace."

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Why is school so stressful??

I spent a large portion of time today, convincing a sixteen year old that his life would not end if he failed his AP physics midterm. That, even if it tanked his GPA, his life would still, somehow, be worth living. We talked about a lot of things - his (most likely situational) depression and how he doesn't think it's capital D Depression (and No, Thank You: He Would Not Like To Talk To Anyone About It, Auntie!); the fact that group projects have always, and will always, suuuuck; the fact that he puts all these roadblocks and excuses up in his own way, and makes it seem like things are impossible to accomplish, when they are not; the idea that he will be taking a much less stressful course load as a senior next year, and why can't it be senior year already; his belief that having driving lessons curtailed as a consequence to poor behavior is 'totally unfair', while I think it is 'maximum effort', and hopefully, never necessary. So Many Things.  Hours worth of things. 

And I never felt like I knew what the hell I was talking about. 

I swear to you, I wanted to Google a million things while we were sitting there - building self confidence in teenagers, how to tell if a teenage boy is Capital D Depressed; what do colleges take into account beside your GPA, and on and on.  I didn't, because texting while you're talking is considered (by me, at least) rude, so I didn't, but all of my answers felt, at the very least, humblingly inadequate.

"It's not fair that I should have to do all the work in a group project! I should just tell my teacher, or take the zero." "Um: No.  If I find out you took a zero on a project just because the other people weren't pulling their weight, we're going to have an issue.  Sometimes, you're going to have to deal with people who let you down, who don't do their share.  You're right: It is 100% unfair, and you SHOULD mention it to the teacher - (bc one kid is dropping the class, he is doing literally no work for the project, and should not have been assigned to a group, IMO)- but, since it's due on Tuesday, at this point, you're either going to have to ride the other people in the group till they produce their part, or do their part for the sake of your grade. It's not fair, but it is Do-able." 

"Well, the test will be scaled, so all I need to do is get about a 45, and that will still be a C, scaled up." (I have no idea how the math works on that, just that's what he said.) "You can - for sure - do better than a 45, and you need to set your sights a lot higher than that. Are you studying the right things; Is there anyway I can help you study, so you can do better? Because aiming for a low pass is something you're better than." 

"I never should have taken this class, I'm in so over my head, and it's impossible to pass, and I'll probably get a 2 on my AP test, and then it will all have been a big waste of my time."  "OK: I can see how it would feel that way, but you have to try to reframe it a bit, I think.  It's not impossible to pass, because you are passing it. Even if you get a 2 on the AP test, you will still have passed AP Physics. Yes, I know your grades aren't where you want them to be, and here are 2 specific things I think you can do to bring it up some this next quarter, but stop thinking of it as impossible, because that just gives you an excuse if you don't do it.  You ARE doing it. You don't need the excuses." 

 And on and on.  I felt like a mix between one of my therapists, and a Hallmark "You can DO it: I have faith in you!" card. (Because that was literally something I said.  It felt so sappy, but it's also 1000000% true, so I figured it needed to be said.)

Mostly what I wanted to say was this:

You are an amazing kid, and I don't like how overwhelmed and stressed out you are right now.  I am going to help you find some better coping strategies, because this is not working out for you.  I also think that maybe you should take some deep breaths, and listen to me when I say: This class - pass or fail, A or D - is not going to be the be-all-end-all of your life.  I know it feels that way right now, because I went through it myself.  But 15 years later? None of those things actually mattered.  What matters is how I responded to tough parts; how you hang in there when things are hard - in school or in life - THAT IS WHAT MATTERS.  So let me help you figure out how to hang in there.  How to breathe, even in the midst of the really tough times.  How to see a challenge that feels overwhelming, and still know - even if nobody else shows up - that you can tackle it.  Because You Absolutely Can.  And I will help you, for as long as you need my help, but I'm also going to show you how to do it yourself.  Because those are the skills you need. 

And off he goes, to take a test he's petrified of, and all I can do is say "Stub a toe" (our family's version of 'Break a leg') and cross my fingers, and know, even if he doesn't, that he can handle whatever comes at him.