to loath or not to loath thyself?

I think I am surprised to find myself writing again. I really thought I would stop- I could not fathom sitting down to try. I thought over the last few months that- well it began before that really but came to a head over the winter – I had lost my way. I felt I was lost and was not sure of my purpose. I just felt stagnant and blocked. What little creative blood that was a trickle much of the time this last a couple years had become a drip drip drip. I know it is there as I feel it light up sometimes. Today I felt it when I received a notice of a local photo contest. And yesterday when some uncanny thing happened involving the IRS – maybe uncanny is the wrong word when using it with IRS – I heard the thought in my head- “you should write about this”. But as with so many of those same thoughts, with that spark that comes with those thoughts the light quickly flickers out.

This past couple years has been hard for me and my family. I guess I would venture to say since my cancer in 2013 things have been tough. There is nothing like a serious illness to change the dynamic of the family. I think I have been harboring a lot of guilt over my getting ill. I had no idea that my cancer treatments would lead to years of chronic pain and my just being unable to be the mom my teen kids probably needed. Sometimes I was someone I did not recognize. And this all during their neediest years. Forget toddlerhood – teens need us more than they ever let on.

I became an official empty nester in March 2020. Just as Covid began my youngest child went off to the Navy. That left me unmoored. I never thought I would be effected by my empty nest. I have my mother living with us, and we have lots to do around the farm. I have my job- even though it pays little. I have various hobbies (of course on hold in early covid). Anyway I was effected by his leaving. I know it was that he was going to the military and to bootcamp that made it worse. In bootcamp they can’t talk with you much if at all. You feel very disconnected and that is hard in a time when we can text our kids at any moment and hopefully hear back from them. As sure as I was that I would not have a life crisis I found myself crying – missing him, my two other kids, and something else… Could it be my identity?

I was shocked about this. And what followed has been months of my getting used to my kids being gone, the military owning one, the other two in various stages of finding themselves, and me doing some deep personal looking at myself. And up came so much guilt of every failing I had as a parent. And they keep stacking up! My daughter got pissed at me last winter. So pissed she didn’t want to talk to me. For like a couple months. This hurt. And also during that time a long friendship ended. That hurt too. There is nothing like the sting of rejection – especially by your kids-to get you to look into the mirror and try and see how things happened and if you can do better.

Learning how to parent young adults is an art. I will think that I am helping my kid- no I am overstepping. I think I say something constructive – no I hurt their feelings. And since they too are learning how to adult they themselves lack the expertise on how to communicate constructively. It is easier to just not answer the texts. Or to curtly say they need space. SPACE? If anyone should need space it should be ME – the mom! I get to say I need space before you do!

I went from anger to sheer sadness to anger and back during the time my daughter didn’t want to talk with me. I sent emails apologizing. And then I realized at some point this issue of my feeling so awful about her need for space was not about her need for space. It was somewhere inside me. The lost me. The me that feared rejection – this fear goes back to my childhood- dysfunctional family -blah blah- we all have some baggage! Just when you think you have dealt with your issues…and believe me I had spent years trying to deal with issues in many a therapists office- on a soft couch or chair -only to have these feelings of rejection pop-up when my young adult daughter got mad at me. Son of a gun.

Once I got down to the issue(s) I knew I needed to jump back into therapy. First working on how to be the parent an adult kid needs and also to look at these rejection feelings…this lost feeling…finding my purpose…maybe even what color my next vehicle should be…ok thats a joke. But here I am trying to figure out what this next chapter of my life will look at. Deal with the sadness over losing some years to illness and pain and to try to not live in fear… but most of all self loathing over the many many mistakes I have made in my life. For not being the “greatest mom ever”.

My therapist told me she has had no mother come in touting how great a mom they were. Most moms beat themselves up over their parenting at some point. And when your kids are young adults and out making their own choices and trying to become independent persons and inevitably making mistakes- (inhale Anne)-you want to help them to not fall down! And when they do it is so easy to blame ourselves for the fall. And when they tell you they want to figure it out on their own it hurts bc we know so much more than they do, right? So much more that we want to instill all our wisdom on them – and yet they would rather hear from an earthworm than from us…it hurts. Then you ask yourself what did I do wrong that they would rather take the advice from the earthworm over me?

And if you keep hanging on to all that stuff it will just drown you. Well it was drowning me anyway. I needed to get off the drama triangle- its a thing -I can come back to this in another post. I needed to step away. Let them live their lives. Let them fall and not feel blame.

I had a kid who two years ago had to go to a rehab for severe drinking issues. He went to Florida to a rehab and a half way house, then another rehab out-patient, and another half way, and during covid another rehab out-patient for depression. I felt terrible for him and for months I didn’t know how to navigate this world of addiction. I still don’t really. As we went along I did realize that I was enabling my son. Not to drink–no no. The drinking was a shock to me (I always thought I would know if my kids were drinking too much being a child of an alcoholic – turns out that is false). Turns out I was helping him too much in rehab and in his making his way in his half way. So I backed way off. We had to. He needed to figure out things for himself. But crap that was so hard for me. But it was a good thing we did it. I am happy to say he found an apartment this winter with a sober friend. Got it on their own. He is working in a steady job – and prayer after prayer -hopefully staying sober.

Just as these accomplishments are not my accomplishments neither was his drinking my fault. Why would I take credit for either?….but I would easily blame myself for my fails as a mom for his drinking. Logically I know it isn’t my fault but I beat myself up when I found out he had a problem.

The things I accomplish in therapy this time may be better for my kids as I learn to parent adult kids. But for me it will be granting myself forgiveness for real and perceived failures. I hope this will help me open up again creatively. But most importantly – maybe I won’t feel so lost and I can begin to navigate where I fit in. What I want for the next chapter. Anne 3.0 haha!

Funk

Upgraded tank.

The other day Kevin and I went on a bagel trek to Frederick, MD- its about 18 miles from us.  For some reason the local Panera has closed. I have not been able to find real bagels other than Panera. I am not sure of the details of their closure but I wanted “real” bagels and I wanted to get out of this house for a bit- so off we went.

I know this probably was not an essential trip – though it was tied in with getting chicken feed and meal worms- and I really wasn’t keen on going so far for bagels but we did.  Wanting real bagels is not a real problem – i can hold out and eat toast or english muffins..but for me the bagels are just a way to feel some normalcy again. Get in the car, stop at Starbucks—get a coffee — grab some bagels from Panera– grab other essentials.  On Saturday AM when I realized the Panera closest to us was closed I was bummed because in my head when I woke I had that task in my head. We get to go get bagels. I needed to feel “normal”—so we went a bit further to Frederick to get them.

What is not normal is that when you leave your house you now carry a face mask, maybe protective gloves, you probably have hand sanitizer in your car and some lysol wipes or something like that.

Sometimes it can almost feel normal on the way to run an errand. .Kevin and I can chat and listen to music. We notice the lack of traffic but we can be in a bubble for a while that feels almost normal.  I love that feeling! But then we pull up to the shopping center and there is a line at the Aldi’s grocers. People stand six feet apart, donning masks (some gloved) all waiting their turn to get in because now we cannot just walk in to a store – there are limits to how many can go in- if you can go in at all.

At Panera a few doors down from Aldi- they are doing curbside pick-up.  It is convenient- but so impersonal. And it has to be for everyone’s safety. It sucks but needed. I thanked the young woman who handed over the bag of bagels to me. I had my mask on because she came to my side of the car. I tried to look grateful with my eyes as I told her to stay safe. I then complimented her on her mask fabric choice. It was cute…. but then I said “I can’t believe I am complimenting you on a mask”.  She said ” I know crazy , right?”  and we went on our way.

I am not sure if my funk began then because this is crazy-  or maybe it had been festering over these last couple weeks.  Things feel off for me.  Maybe it is because I am so over this whole thing – but I know this virus will not be over us for a good while.  We also found out my son in the Navy has been quarantined with his division because someone got Covid-19. My other two kids are out of work because of the shutdowns. Also, my horse is acting a bit off.  And I setup a new bigger fish tank and transferred our current fish- which were Navy son’s- and two didn’t live- too much shock. Such a small thing – I know. But flushing those two fish just made me feel crummy. Who knows what pushes us into the funk. I mean the virus is enough. Seeing the suffering is enough.  There is nothing I can do to stop this thing. Lack of control is scary.

I think maybe it is really dawning on me that the world as we knew it is now gone – and life has changed for good.  Like my life before and after my cancer – there is a definite division.  At least for a while things will be quite different for the world  in how we interact in public.

It is hard to watch the suffering every day. It is hard to feel at the mercy of something you can’t even see.  What will the toll to human life be?  There are so many ways  this virus can devastate us including death.  We see the toll rise each day.  And there will be a balance on how things progress to reopening – so we can hopefully live life again- on the other side of the divide.

So today I am in a funk. Some days it is just really hard….its normal to feel these feelings. This isolation takes it’s toll. The financial worries take their tolls. If you are feeling badly never be afraid to reach out to someone for help.  Even a chat with a friend can be comforting.

I do understand that this has happened before over and over throughout history – we have many before’s and after’s, the Spanish flu, world wars, natural disasters , 9-11…. We are human- and we adapt.  But it is jarring and a change – a new shift in what we knew as reality. So it is stressful and scary. And on some days very overwhelming- I just want to pull the covers over my head and sleep- so I can forget for a while.

Instead, I write.

 

 

 

 

Navy Son- Phone calls

 

Recce Dog

Reece wonders how you all are doing….

HI. How is everyone? Are you holding up during this pandemic?  I can tell you that I am trying to do many things to keep myself from getting too stressed or scared. I have tasked myself with building a new website for our business. I think that will give me sufficient time to not be thinking about this virus. I am exercising, and riding my horse. These things balance me. If I read too much news I am become overwhelmed. I have tried to limit myself to certain times of day to watch or read any news on the pandemic.  If I spend too much time thinking about things my mind go bonkers.

I have been spending some of my time on Facebook pages dedicated to support the loved ones of the Navy recruits that go through the training center in Great Lakes Il. They train over 32.000 navy sailors yearly. Thats amazing.  I am sorry I won’t get to see the place. Covid-19 wrecked graduations for these sailors – and so many other 2020 grads in the world.

The RTC is a well-oiled machine. At the moment they are trying to battle outbreaks of the virus by quarantining new recruits before they begin training and they have had to quarantine divisions if an outbreak occurs. This significantly slows the process of getting new minted sailors out the door to get them to their career training which can take up to 15 months in some cases- and  there have been delays for those waiting to go to training. The Navy has had to make changes on the fly to deal with this unknown enemy.

I have depended on these FB pages to provide me with updated info but also to give me support during a very stressful time. One day we are talking about getting mail and then another about PIR (grad) gifts. Some days wives or husbands need support as they struggle with the separation of their spouse or moms just need a virtual hug.  We share photos and joys of our SR (Seaman Recruit), we celebrate when a family gets the “I am a Sailor” phone call- as that’s the only real celebration these sailors get right now.  And we get rumors about this and that and the admins help navigate those.  And sometimes we get wind of the best rumor of all – phone calls.

The SRs don’t get calls very often. In normal bootcamp (aka no virus around) that SRs get to call a loved one four times. Once when they get to bootcamp- a quick scripted call- I got that one at 3am; then at around three weeks- that one can be longer; and again at five weeks; then the “I am a Sailor” call. Of course if there is an illness or injury they are able to call home as well.

During this pandemic the protocol has changed a bit. We have had three calls already. The I am here call, then the one we had on my 21st anniversary with my hubby- that call was a shock – I wasn’t expecting it .  Luke had no idea it was our anniversary but I told him he gave us the best gift. We spoke for over 30 minutes and it was emotional. Luke had just gotten out of quarantine and was working through P days – aka processing days. There you do just that- get processed- medicals, banking, payroll, etc. He was facing some fitness tests that were making him a little nervous. When we hung up I cried happy and sad tears. I had no idea when I would hear from him again. But I had the relief of knowing he was doing ok for the most part.

The relief is short-lived.  Some worry and stress begin to build up as time marches on. I wrote him a number of letters and hoped we would get one from him.  There were messages on the FB pages that reported some new cases of the virus. If your SR is ill they will call -and you so want a call- but not that call. But with each scheduled (non-emergency) call comes a celebration on the pages. When our SR calls we usually see many reports of the calls from the division. It is a nice place to be because we all know the feelings we are having.

This past Saturday Kevin and I were sitting on the back deck and my phone rang and I saw the Illinois exchange and I grabbed the phone. There had been a rumor on the pages that calls were going to come over this weekend.  I was not counting on it because we had heard from him only two weeks ago. But the call came!

I put the phone on speaker and set it on the table.  Since we had just gotten a letter the day before I knew he had passed the fitness and swim tests.  I knew he was so proud when he received his uniforms with his name on them. But we talked about it all and more. He is still coming to the realization that he is really doing this. In this call he sounded like a different person. I hear the confidence in his voice. The happiness that he is making friends and the pride of his accomplishments.  This is assurance that he is where he needs to be.

I look forward to meeting this new person sometime soon I hope. I had been told that the Navy will transform my kid. He will come into his own. I believed that but didn’t think I would see it this fast. He has always had a good heart. But he was lost as lost could be. Now I think he is found and is developing a sense of self and is now on the life journey of learning more about himself through experiences. I am amazed.

The lifelines for families of loved ones serving in the military are letters and calls – more letters and more calls.  When will we get the next call? I am thinking maybe the weekend of May 17- Kevin’s birthday weekend. That would be great – but we cannot count on it. There is rumor they may graduate early if there are no setbacks, so perhaps the next call will be the “I am a Sailor” call?

All we can do is get ready and wait.

 

Navy Son – Letters —

LettersOn Monday I had the nicest surprise – quite unexpected actually. I had two letters from my son, SR Sweeney (Seaman Recruit), from bootcamp. He should be about completed his two week quarantine- we think – we don’t know for sure. The letters I got from him were written April 1 and one before that.  I think his bootcamp training will begin soon but there is also the virus to contend with and there was a case or two at the center so I have no idea how things are progressing there.

I must say I didn’t expect him to write us much at all.  I was so doubtful that I sent him  with cards and  pre-addressed envelopes. I was making it so easy for him to send us a word or two. I had no idea he would be writing us in quarantine – I wasn’t sure what was allowed.

My son’s letters to us were not on the pre-addressed cards I gave him but instead on Navy RTC stationary. I think I marveled at them like he was five and in kindergarten and brought home his first handwriting assignment.  He actually wrote a whole letter- no two letters!  And yes I am saving every one we get! Just like his those kindergarten assignments.  Once a mom always a mom.

His letters were basic really. But he expressed his desire to get going to work. I also could tell the virus situation had finally become real to him. He wanted us to know the Red Cross could get him a message fast if anything serious went down with us here.  He had been out once or twice to get some medical checks. He got glasses. He’s making some friends. For that I was glad as he is shy. The food was not great. I found out from my Facebook group that they are getting bagged food until they mainstream.

He updated me on some business items they had gone over with him once he was there.  He asked that we write him back. He said he didn’t know what was going on in the outside world.  I struggle with how much to share with him. I know it won’t be anything that I feel would stress him while he is in bootcamp.

But the kicker for me were these words:I miss you both so much…I love you both so much… Definitely not words I would expect from my son. He is shy. He holds back feelings. And those words are what broke me open…tears flowed.  It felt so nice to read the words but also they made me worry about him a little more too.

I know it will be ok. Well I pray it will be.  I know he’s in a bit of a shock now. If he is homesick it should pass- especially after he gets going in bootcamp.  He won’t have as much time to think. He will be exhausted by the end of each day. He will wish he was in quarantine again-  I am told.

Letters are like gold. They connect us when we don’t have the luxury of text or email. Oh how I miss those at your fingers tools! But the separation is needed. It takes that civilian and makes them into a soldier -part of unit. United together for one cause. I get it but I hate the silence.

I am not a true Navy parent yet. We are just at the beginning. But I already know this worry about your child is not the same as leaving them at two-week camp in the summer or dropping them off at college. This is something that is bigger…and I don’t mean to downplay those other worries. I have been through those too, so I speak only from how I am feeling now compared to those other times that we let the thread that ties us together out longer than it had been before.  It was scary and exciting and hopeful.  That worry ebbed a bit as time wore on. But now this thread will be a long unending spool let out further and further. It is so much bigger – this worry- than what I have felt before. Parenthood is the never-ending roller coaster ride of emotion.

I am sensing that this worry is like a knot that lodges itself somewhere inside.  Because this is only the beginning. There will be deployments to far away lands. Missions we won’t know about in detail but know they exist in theory. We won’t ever feel  he is truly safe unless  he is real standing in front of us – and when  he is near us it is only for a short time and there will be a parting again…and the worry cycle continues. I am not there yet but I have a sense that this worry is a different beast. I am very unsettled.

And the letters come and there is an exhale…not a release of all the worry but some. They are a gift. Something I didn’t know I would cherish until they sat in front of me waiting to be opened.

I have written my letters to him as has his dad but they have to wait until we are given his correct division information. He won’t get letters addressed to the quarantine area which I am told by thanks to the Training Center Facebook group admins is the address he gave me. So as the Navy motto reminds us – I will hurry up and wait for his division info to get to us. And I hope the letters that he eventually gets from us give him some peace- and he feels the love behind them.

I had forgotten the special feel of a real letter. We have so much connectivity available all the time but when you don’t have it – the letter for me is a lifeline.  I hope I get more from him- but knowing the rigors of their schedule when doing actual P days ( processing days – first week of real  bootcamp where they process the recruit) I won’t get my hopes up.  But if I do I will appreciate the lift of some of the worry – that exhale -even if it lasts only for a little while.