Friday, November 8, 2019

"I write my thoughts down in purple ink"

I went on a field trip with my daughter’s class yesterday into Boston to see a play of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The play was fantastic, the students were a great audience and it was a treat to see Nola in the mix with her friends and classmates. I connected with some teachers and saw parents I don’t usually see outside of sports practices. Since I didn’t take the bus with the school group, I walked around a bit after the play, just to enjoy being outside. By the time I was coming home it was time to start after school pick-ups.

The afternoon was a whirlwind. Avery’s text came first, asking if she had to walk home because she had a headache. I was already on my way when I saw Nola had texted at the same time saying she had a headache and it would be great if I could pick them up. (Would be a nicer coincidence if aches weren’t part of it!)

So. Cold air, headaches, the threat of rain. Zane was at a conference but got home a lot earlier than he expected, which was nice. He tried to get the girls to help with a project, but everyone seemed annoyed with life. We waited to see if Avery’s last soccer practice would be affected by the rain, cold and daylight saving’s darkness. It wasn’t. She and Zane bundled up and went to a parent vs kid soccer practice to celebrate the end of an awesome season. I cooked dinner while Madden reminded me that I said we’d sort through the winter clothes bucket we brought up from the basement. (By the way, a “reminder” from a 4-year-old often involves yelling and tears- not going to divulge the individual(s) that were yelling or tearing up.)

Zane and Avery came home as Madden and I were in the kitchen cooking and dancing to his favorite song. It probably looked like a really awesome scene, but now I had a headache, Madden hadn’t gotten any of my help with the hats and gloves that exploded in our living room and Nola was mad that some of the food I made would be cold. I did what any parent would do and said “the only way to make sure all of the food is warm is if I cook so that everything is done at the exact same time and with your brother complaining and me being the only one cooking THAT ISN’T POSSIBLE. Sorry, not sorry.”
I was *thisclose* to going bonkers. It was when I started shoving plates at the girls to put on the table that I knew I needed space. I wasn’t feeling nice, and I knew it would be directed at people that weren’t really the problem. Zane told me to go take some time, take a shower.

In the past I would have been stubborn and stuck around, thinking I needed to be present, whether or not I was feeling pleasant. Instead, I went upstairs and was about to turn on the shower when I grabbed a notebook (yep, in the bathroom) and found a few blank pages and wrote. And wrote and wrote and wrote. I got in the shower and wondered if there was a way to put up some sort of waterproof dry-erase poster in the shower. I got out of the shower, wrote some more.

A day filled with people and no writing. I was a mess.

After I showered, I thanked Zane for anticipating the ugly scene that could follow my bad energy and took a deep breath. Wait. I didn’t feel guilty about not eating with everyone. I knew the timing had been just right to get out of the kitchen and be by myself. Myself- not my thoughts, not my ego, my whole “self”- knew exactly what to do and what I needed.

It’s easy to hear the internal dialogue and think that it knows best. No! If I have learned one thing so far this year is that I need to get out of my own way. Be the observer. Be quiet, be still, notice emotions that surface. It’s part of my emerging routine of self-care and therapy.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Everything is everything and everything is beautiful.

About 10 minutes after I finished writing yesterday I was in my car and noticed the date, the 4th.

Of course it was.

And now, to the synchronicities.

*My mom passed away shortly after midnight on April 4th, 4-4. I remember thinking that 4-4 had a nice roundness to it if I was even able to see anything "nice" about anything at all. We had the wake and funeral at a funeral home close to where we live, and I didn't notice the "44" sign for the building next to it the evening of the wake.

*At some point last winter, it seemed like every time I looked at the time it was on the 11's (5:11, 9:11), and shortly after the girls started noticing as well. It happened that we had my mom's funeral a week after she passed, partly because of schedules and partly because of the weather. I opened my calendar to write down some notes, 11am on 4-11.

We went out to a restaurant with family and friends after the funeral, and while we were waiting for our food I let a phone call go to voice mail. When I checked, the call came at 1:11 and someone left a message that was 1 minute 11 seconds.

*Boston had a dreary April. Full of clouds and rain. 
But the 4th and the 11th? Dry, crisp, beautifully blue not-a-cloud-in-the-sky, days. 

This morning I thought of this blog, how complete and right it felt to begin yesterday. Then, in the next breath, sadness swept me into a ravenous longing for connection. My mom loved the blog I wrote years ago, filled with the unremarkable everyday of my young family. She was unconditional love, and I have found myself seeking that warmth since April. 
So many moments since her death have lined up perfectly, without warning or explanation. These serve as reminders that there is beauty even in the void of grief. That when I'm low and looking at everything through a slightly grey-tinged lens, I get to be my own source of unconditional love. It's incredibly hard to stay in a place of lack when the world around me has shown so much mercy, without me asking. 

*Post title from the song "Stay High" by Brittany Howard, another synchronicity for another time. 

Monday, November 4, 2019


9 months ago I left work
8 months ago I was forced into awakening with an epiphany
7 months ago I was diagnosed with inattentive ADHD
6 months ago my mom died
5 months ago I knew I wanted to write (more like 35 years and 5 months)
4 months ago I knew I wasn't going back to teaching

The final countdown of months 3, 2, and 1 contained far less shocking revelations and experiences.  The summer months were a mix of beauty and chaos. With Zane and I being teachers, we have enjoyed the break from school each year with the whole family. In the background, there was a wobble of uncertainty. Between the sunshine, mercury retrograde and a four-year-old that never seemed to stop talking, there just wasn't a chance to get stuck in fear. I didn't know what this year would hold for me, but I fell in love with the sense of calm I felt when I was writing and focusing solely on healing and getting to know myself again.

I couldn't have predicted the intense upheaval and work that would be waiting for me once everyone was back in school. I had time to reflect, to process the previous months and the onslaught of self-discovery. There was a phase where I felt as if my entire life story was a lie. I couldn't count on some of the things that had been constant or reliable. I left work under one set of circumstances but soon realized that the real reasons for struggling with work were more complicated. The beginning of my awakening was jarring and I was not sure of the truths all around me. Then, my ADHD diagnosis felt gratifying and explained so much, but after the dust settled, I began to question everything I ever thought, did, experienced and believed.

And then. Then, the final punch in the gut was not having my mom around.

I'm still in this season of questions, of revelations. The unfolding of events this past year feels so precise and orchestrated, and they continue to present themselves. I could never have imagined that in losing so much of my core understanding of the reality around me I would gain magical and mysterious experiences. These little gifts have strengthened my awareness of a universe so beautiful and curious that I feel an amazing sense of serene anticipation most days. Other days I swear and cry and stomp my feet, but those days are getting fewer and farther between :)

Passion or need?

"What if I write because of a need and not a passion?"

This was a real fear a few weeks ago, born out of the realization (again) that for me, writing is equal to thinking. Instead of plotting out my intentions beforehand, my thoughts emerge and clarify themselves as I write. This is the case for personal as well as more formal writing. I know this method can't be unheard of, but I'm sure the majority of people (not just writers) plan ahead to communicate their overall message. They get ideas, think, jot down notes, think some more, write, edit, done. (This is an assumption, I know, and even if it holds some truth, I don't mean to imply that anyone else has it "easy.")

But me? If the thoughts stay in my head, they are useless, might as well be mush.

(And if it's in my head and I try to talk my way to understanding and clarity? I can't tell you how many times I've been in a conversation, seen the confusing look staring back at me, and realized that I left out a key part that is vital to the relevance or significance of the information I'm trying to share. Actually, now that I wrote that out, I lied. I realize all of this now. Before I was aware of my "neurodiversity", I didn't know where I had gone wrong and felt embarrassed and awkward. Now I'm able to (mostly) laugh it off and try again.)

I say all of this, not to be harsh and judgemental of myself, but to convey the newfound explanation to all of the challenges I never knew I faced. The "monkey chatter" that happens to all of us (right?!) is my default mode, thanks to adhd-inattentive type. Without an outlet, my thoughts get stuck and run together like a long, confusing story with characters that don't belong with dialogue that repeats itself. This might sound insane, and honestly, as I live and experience it every day, it sometimes feels insane. But the more I live with the knowledge of how my mind works (at least part of it!), the more I can interrupt the self-talk that used to stop me from forward progress. That voice says "how do you NOT know {insert any piece of information or opinion that is generally "known"}??" and tries to strip me of the confidence I've built.

The part of me with an intense interest in psychology is fascinated that I found a way to solidify new information or connections without knowing that's why I wrote everything, everywhere. I have boxes full of "notes" spanning elementary school until college. At first, these notes were confined to diaries and notebooks and journals. As I got older, I resorted to using whatever paper or paper-like object was closest. I have napkins, menus, envelopes, post-its, business cards with scribbles- not too out of the ordinary. I also have leaves (from the Dominican Republic), rocks, sugar packets- less ordinary but functional, if not quirky. The first time I met my husband I wrote on his stomach, something like "you just met me, Ally, but might not remember". Later that night, I jotted down everything that I could remember about meeting him in a notebook in my car. I knew if these tidbits spent too long circling my mind, they might be lost forever.

In discovering that there is a very real purpose to me getting my words down on "paper", I've allowed myself the time to be open, messy and selfish. That means that I don't always know what the end result will be when I begin a prompt, story, project or even email. Instead of being discouraged by my lack of foresight, I get excited that something new and exciting might surprise me.

So here I am. Writing my way to clarity and understanding, figuring out what I believe, know, want to know and want to do. This space and this process is dear to me, and I didn't realize that until just now when I'm nearing the end of this post. I'm relieved that writing does not feel like it's driven only by my need to think clearly.  I have a passion for words, for connecting with others and expressing truths, and writing allows me all that.