Listening to upbeat and fun music while I write this. I need to have music that reflects my mood when I'm writing although sometimes the music can induce or influence a mood. Last night the girls and I sat down to supper together. This is shocking considering how rarely this happens. Having regular meals together is a priority of mine so I'm taking a moment to soak in how it feels to have this accomplishment. I think I wrote about the stack of dishes that was left from my mad cooking binge. My youngest and I did most of them so I asked my oldest if she would take care of the dishes after supper. There weren't that many and if she would have done them right away instead of flouncing off to bitch about me on her phone there would have been no need to wake her up at five in the morning which is what I told her would happen if she didn't finish the dishes the night before. I gave her a choice between doing the dishes before she went to bed, or getting up at five to do them. I think she thought she could get away with not doing the dishes which she did until I flipped on her light this morning.
Starting the morning with a fight is never fun. She told me I was running her life and I said that when she showed me that she was capable of running it herself I would stop 'interfering'. Since she got here I've been asking her to trim her nails. She hasn't so I sat down with her in the bathroom and evened them out. Last night I asked the girls where the laptop that they use to watch shows was, both girls said they didn't know so I told them they had to find it which is when my oldest told me that it was at school. Her school provides the kids with a Chromebook, but this is monitored by the faculty and staff while a rogue device probably isn't under their watchful eyes. When the girls came over I asked them to throw their dirty laundry down. Today I emptied my oldest daughter's suitcase. If dispassionate fury is a feeling, that's how I felt while I was in her room. My sister has said she would take the nightstand in there. Before I attacked it there was a stack of binders, papers, wrappers, loose change, and a bunch of other clutter sitting on top of it. I have no problem with people saving nostalgic items as long as I don't have to see them covering furniture that someone else could be using and caring for in a better manner. The problem is my kids don't have personal storage so that's something I need to work on with them. They should have a place for those effects that are special to them. They also need to make some decisions about what to keep and what to toss rather than piling everything on the first horizontal surface they find.
I'm at the next to last chapter of my Breaking Addiction book. I can't remember the last time a book impacted my life this profoundly. I sat on the couch crying as I read about adolescent addiction, parents with addictions, and the difference between tough love, enabling, and ignoring a problem in the hopes that it will go away without a lot of hard work. Hearing the author say that it was better to be lied to and manipulated than to have a dead or injured child really hit home as I thought about being a teenager and living under the roof my parents provided. My oldest uses her phone as an alarm. This morning I read her message to herself. It says; "Wake the fuck up bitch". Possibly she's just trying to be funny, but that really bothered me. I was a lot like she was when I was a kid, but unlike her I had a lot more responsibility and two parents who largely agreed on how children should be raised despite some of their other problems and issues. The last chapter is for healthcare providers. I could skip it, I'm going to see how tough of a read it is and make the decision to keep going or go back and start reading it again. It's not the sort of book you can pick up and set aside. I'll probably order a copy for myself since I know that thing will get a lot of use.
The book asks the reader to go back and think about situations and experiences that shaped you earlier in life. The author says that if you can go back and find out why you feel helpless/powerless you can start working on identifying other events or circumstances where you're likely to feel the same way and come up with some ways to avoid falling back on your addiction. I've written about most of this earlier, but here's a couple of the things I came up with while I was thinking and reflecting on the past.
1. The benefits of my hard work and discipline will be reaped by someone else.
I saw this over and over again when I was a kid and after I was married. Whether it was me having to give the last half of my chocolate bar with my siblings who had already eaten theirs because it 'wasn't fair' that I had saved half of what I had for later, or it was my parents taking money I had earned and telling me it was going into a savings account for me when they were spending it, or it was my ex ordering a second phone line so he could play computer games, my money, my clothes, my food, things I had worked hard for and made a point out of trying to preserve could be stolen by others and instead of an apology I would get a rationalization after a lie(s). Being repeatedly lied to was probably one of the most damaging things that happened to me as a kid. The book says that lying exists when relationships are fragile, but it can also be a factor in an addiction. For some reason my sisters don't have the same issues with this that I do. I can still remember the heartbreak and helpless rage that accompanied the discovery that my money was gone without an apology or any promise or effort to replace it. We're probably talking about a grand total of a couple hundred dollars, but the larger realization that my parents weren't going to pay me back really rocked my world. I knew back then that this was not a terrific sum of money although it was a lot to me, to find out that my parents had robbed my proverbial piggy bank made me view our situation as much more dire than I had previously.
I think that's the day that I lost hope. If my parents couldn't work hard and save a couple hundred dollars, we were totally screwed. My parents were smart and hard working, and if that wasn't enough to get them by, what hope was there for me and the rest of us? That was the year that my dad hit a cop and totaled a vehicle that wasn't insured. He got a ticket, I can't remember if it was for running a red light, hitting the cop, or what, but there was a big blow out fight between my parents after my mom found out that he hadn't paid their insurance premiums for that vehicle. To this day it makes me seriously nervous whenever premiums aren't paid likely because of that accident. Not long after that my mom and sister were in a bad car accident where another other car was declared a total loss. My mom broke both of her feet along with other injuries. My sister was sitting in back so she was just bruised and scratched, but the terror I felt is still visceral. Other kids at school had better clothes than I did. A lot of them worked, but their money was going toward things they wanted, or at least that's how it seemed at the time. You never really know what's going on in someone else's life regardless of how close you are. There's always that secret piece of yourself that doesn't get shared.
One of the stories in the book talks about a woman who is married to a gambling addict. Before her marriage Danielle was a sunny and optimistic person. As time passed and her husband spent money on his addiction that they didn't have she grew shrill, unhappy, and eventually started blaming herself, especially after he told her it was her fault that he had a problem. If she was only _____, then he wouldn't be gambling. This rang so true as my mind went back to the place where we first lived after I was married. I had always had a temper, I had been cynical, but I was also optimistic and positive if that makes sense. I had no control over his spending, and no power over our joint financial situation. No matter how I begged and pleaded he wouldn't change his ways. What he wanted was a priority and things that we needed weren't. Had I read this book back then perhaps I would have recognized his computer and gaming addiction for what it was. I've been thinking a lot about this, the difference between someone who has a gaming habit or likes to game and someone who has an unhealthy relationship with electronics. For me the fact that he hid things from me points to an addiction rather than a bad habit although I can see someone trying to argue that point. I would be interested in hearing what he has to say about the matter. He borrowed money from a variety of relatives, he's still doing that even though he's almost fifty. I borrowed some money from my aunt, I borrowed money from my mom and her husband, and I would like to vow that I will never borrow money from another relative again, but since I can't predict the future I will say that I would consider it an absolute last resort after other possibilities have been exhausted which leads me to my next point.
Yesterday I read an article about self control. I did not arrive at where I'm at today by dumb luck. Every word I read, every letter I type, each trip to my therapist, the posts I've written here, emails I've sent, phone calls I've made, the floors I've swept, the closets I've cleaned out and stripped of hardware, individual threads and feathers that make up my pillow collection, the foods and beverages I choose, and I've made a lot of good choices over the years, these things have all contributed to my personal success and at this moment I consider myself a success because in spite of the efforts of these other people I am still here. I am choosing to learn how to be a better parent than I was the day before. I am voluntarily driving to the library and logging in each day regardless of how little I feel like saying to heck with it all. I can acknowledge the pain, the losses, and the suffering, but I am owning my future. Today I want to go back to the girl in eighth grade, the twenty-two year old who took vows before she read the Breaking Addiction book and realized what a con her ex really is, I want to go back and give her a big hug, take her out to a nice restaurant, and promise her that decades from now she's going to be in a position to forgive people who are stuck and lost.
Even though I'm frustrated with my oldest and angry at her behaviors, I decided to do some reaching out to my sisters so she could spend more time with them doing fun things and getting some of the support and encouragement she really needs. Her therapist can't get her in until October. That feels like a lifetime away right now, but will undoubtedly come sooner than I expect. We're going to go over to play games with my youngest sister on Friday, I'm going to talk to her about the need for screen free time and I know she'll back me up on that which will be helpful. Board games are a way to connect and socialize with others, I'm going to suggest we take a short walk with my sister and niece as exercise is another component of better health and another habit that I neglect. My sister will have treats for us and that's okay because treats are a part of life. Saturday I'm meeting my other sisters at the outlet mall. Jill is in denial about needing new bras, I don't have money for them right now, but I can at least take her in and have her sized. My personal finances are not where I'd like them to be which is contributing to my anxiety, but I can spend the money for these trips and I'm going to take the girls in to go miniature golfing with a group of kids from church on Sunday. I have to think about this since my oldest hasn't exactly earned it, my plan is to think of something she can do to get that event back, but maybe she needs to learn that she loses privileges when she doesn't do the dishes before bedtime and sasses her mother in the mornings.
I need to get going, but I've recently learned that dealing with the girls first thing in the morning is a better strategy for me than trying to parent effectively at night when I'm tired. As a morning person I'm at my best when I first wake up or shortly after so when I go into my daughter's room at five I can control my temper better and think more clearly. This subtle power shift was astonishing. Kids are much more malleable at five in the morning than they are at ten at night. I'm fresher regardless of what kind or how much sleep I've gotten so from now on I'm going to remind myself that however upset I am in the moment, if I can find a way to delay dealing with it until the following morning not only will I have more time to consult others and calm down, but I will have the upper hand. Because of the way that I was raised I have to work extra hard to overcome the tendency to parent the way I was parented. I haven't read any books on parenting recently, the article I read on self control said that if more people would read instead of wasting time on social media sites and other time sucks they would be better off. I've always been a reader, I value Twitter and have made friends there, but I can see how I've used it at the expense of quality reading time. Going forward I'm setting aside time to read each day. I'm thinking an hour or two to start, I can evaluate this as I go along. I start books and don't finish them. I finish some books and not others. I buy more books before I've read the ones I have. This system can be improved and I'm determined to keep making it more efficient, pleasurable, and a higher priority than it has been. Since my family reads it doesn't tend to get the recognition that I feel that it should. My dad was very critical of things that my mom read. I don't criticize what my kids read even if I think it's below their intellect level or not something I think they should be reading. I read a lot of books when I was a kid and I see that as a large positive in a childhood that could have been sunnier. I buy books for my kids, and I'm going to work a trip to the library in once a week as another thing we can do together. The more things like that I can string together, the less time there will be to be on a screen. Screen time happens. It's a part of everyday life for us, but we can work on strategies and keep working with my daughter and her therapist and perhaps others as I continue to gather more information.
I was pretty upset when I started writing this. I feel better now. I feel like I can go out and take a walk to finish clearing my head. I'm going to do the relaxation CD that I put off doing each day. It's decisions like that where I fall down, but fortunately I'm pretty good at recognizing what I need to do even if I could be much better at actually doing it. I once read an article about the four steps of forming a new habit. I'm in the phase where I know I have bad habits that need to be replaced, but the good ones are not automatic, and I have to consciously think about ways to get them into my day. If I remember right that's the second step, The third step is where you do the thing you want or need to be doing consciously, I'm not there yet, but I'm really looking forward to step four where I take walks because I love getting outside for that fresh air and chance to regroup in the beauty of my neighborhood, wherever that happens to be at the time. I feel like I could keep writing, but I don't want to put off taking my walk while I'm thinking about it and motivated to get going.
P.S. I want to make a list of things I can incorporate into my daily routine. Essential oils belong in there, I keep forgetting about those for some reason, but I opened a bottle today and feel like it's helping which is a good reminder...