why am I like this

 I've had lots of years between when I started this blogging journey and now. Years that have certainly mellowed me out. Years that gave me more grace and compassion for everyone and all the things. Years God spent teaching me lesson after lesson, crumbling my entire "how to do life" narrative, and honestly probably making me more palatable to people (or not- I'm an acquired taste 😆).

The performing perfectionist, trying-to-be-in-control, hasn't worked hard enough to earn a break (and secretly judges everyone who takes a break for themselves out of sheer jealousy) was sent a swift kick to the derriere in the form of debilitating back pain. Honestly, I could laugh until I cry about how I have been sick to my stomach my entire life- spent decades just making sure that where ever I was going, there would be a working toilet in the very very near vicinity, and knowing I was going to puke and/or crap my brains out everywhere I went. And that level of illness still didn't stop me from being a dumb ass about allowing myself to rest. I've always said that God needs a sledgehammer to the skull with me to make things sink in. Well this time, it was a sledgehammer to the back that left me unable to physically stand up straight and not really able to walk, before I learned that sometimes I need to ask for help and I have to rely on other people. And there's not only no shame in that, but there's beauty. There's community. There's allowing other people to be there for me the way I love to be there for other people. I absolutely took that joy away from so many people for so many years. I had my first born, a 29 week preemie in the NICU for 2 months and I said NO when my friends asked if they could set up a meal train for me! WHAT IN THE WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD WAS MY PROBLEM!?!?! And then, because I didn't learn well the first time, I said no AGAIN when my son was born! I could cheerfully choke my past self honestly. I'm so so sorry to all of the wonderful people in my life that tried to help me out and I quickly said no, I'm good. I wasn't good. I was SO FAR FROM GOOD. But no one was allowed to know that. I put some ridiculous expectations on myself (still working on that). I never felt worthy enough to be fully loved, fully helped, fully seen. My inner monologue is such a jerk. 

I was born suuuuuuuuuuper sensitive to absolutely every teeny tiny little thing, including everyone's feelings. I read somewhere about "taking the temperature of the room and adjusting yourself to meet its need" and light bulbs flashed in my brain, along with a DING DING DING! That was exactly it. I believe we've established in other posts that I'm the canary in the coal mine. My face finds all the mold, all the chemicals, all the smells. It's a real weird skill and it makes going places hard because bloodhound nose is a whole entire thing. I also like to take on the emotions of everyone around me, and then try and fix all their problems. I'm a real delight. And somehow, in all of that, I forgot to check on me. I was at the very bottom of the list, undeserving of a fix, or support. It's not for lack of people trying, I just tried harder to always decline. 

But you can't say no to help (as much) when you have a 2 and a 5 year old, and you can't walk. or move a whole lot. And both of your kiddos are exceptional escape artists. And you live 12 hours away from family, and your husband travels a LOT for work. My neighbors and friends rallied in such an amazing way, even when my brain screamed that I COULD NOT be a burden on anyone. They plowed right through that crap. And I couldn't get up, so really how was I gonna stop them? It was amazing and humbling, and started me on a years long journey on how to learn to rest and receive help, especially in the middle of the hard. 

I've had social and general anxiety my entire life, and had no idea. I just thought everyone constantly worried about the eleventy million ways you could die in any given scenerio all the time. Catastrophizing is a real good time (a word I did not learn until I was in my 40's, even though I spent my whole life doing it, which is where talking about things and asking for help may have come in handy). Between my back situation, and the mold we were unknowingly living in in Charleston, the beast of anxiety thrived. Hubbs was in Seattle, I was laying in bed, and all the sudden my heart started racing and I was sweaty and my chest hurt. My hands and feet were tingly and numb and my stomach took a nosedive. I was convinced I was having a heart attack. I honestly did not think I was going to survive. I called my mom, hysterically sobbing and she prayed with me and tried to get me to breathe, while she booked a flight for that afternoon (have I mentioned that she is a saint?). That phone call was hard enough. Then she told me to call a friend to come over and hang out with the kids and so I felt safe with another adult in the house if something were to happen. Ummmmm....... no no, I don't do that. She insisted. I think picking up my phone and calling my friend Shannon was maybe one of the hardest and most humbling things I've ever done. She came immediately over with her kiddos, who were besties with my kiddos. And me being me, I tried to go downstairs and play hostess even though horses were galloping across my chest. She quickly told me to get upstairs, lay down, take a nap because I was having a panic attack, my very first one, and I needed to rest. My brain was so foggy, but I listened, and she stayed until my mom arrived and the kids had a blast because yay their friends were over and then they got to see Nana and I was in fetal position trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with me and how could I possibly live my life like this? Why couldn't I just control this and power through? 

I think I spent my entire life telling God that he gave me enough strength to do everything on my own and I was in control of everything, and He kept trying, subtly, to let me know that I controlled nothing and it would be a lot easier if I would just accept the help he was providing. And then there was the less subtle. He threw in a car accident where I probably should have died but I walked away with a concussion and 2 black eyes. You would think that would have taught me some stuff. NOPE. Then I got pregnant with all of the puke and none of the glow that resulted in a placental abruption at 29 weeks that should have ended really badly. Instead I got a miracle babygirl who is thriving. Did I learn some lessons? Not so much. God needed to get unsubtle real quick. Taking out my ability to move was probably the only way I was gonna pay attention. 

I'm a reader/ researcher by nature, so I just started diving in. Getting every Christian book I could on anxiety, how to heal from trauma, how not to control everything, etc etc. I tried talk therapy and it never worked. For starters, halfway through I'd have to excuse myself because my stomach had other plans for me- and because I'm embarrassed about the 💩 situations, I would sit there sweating, waiting for the right moment to tell them that my butt was literally going to explode and I needed a few minutes. And second, I'm a tried and true people pleaser, and so obviously my job was to tell my story in a way that was highly entertaining, and insist that I was all better now. Those things don't affect me anymore. (I was disassociating from aaaaaaaaallllll of it- a word I didn't learn until a year ago and it would have been hugely helpful earlier in life). After a few weeks, my therapists would say I was all good and if I have anything else I need to talk about, just make a new appointment, but I seemed fine. And then I would return home and pretty much live as an agoraphobe. 

I was trying so hard to get out of my head, to not be afraid to get in the car and take the kids somewhere by myself. But I was stuck in so much fear. I was trying so hard to heal my son and I from the mold exposure. It absolutely wrecked us. He stopped growing. He wasn't talking. He wasn't wanting to eat at all. He didn't burp or fart and he didn't poop for days at a time. I felt even more sick all the time, and it seemed every week I would have a new scary reaction to a food or just the environment that previously had been fine. My lips and tongue would start swelling up. And I would have a panic attack because if my throat closed up, what were my kids supposed to do? Would they know to call 911? Would hubbs be able to get back quickly enough from work or where ever he was traveling so that he could take the kids? Would whoever took the kids know to always check boyfriend for choking, because he literally choked on every. single. bite. of food and of the toys he would put in his mouth. (both my kids gave me tiny heart attacks multiple times by stopping breathing and they're almost 13 and 10 now and I STILL check their breathing at night because mom is gonna mom). This was just constant. My body and my brain were so drained. 

Then hubbs said "hey wanna move to France for a few months?" and I said NO FREAKING WAY real quick. Because no is my go to answer. Because I was just starting to figure out how to deal with boyfriend who still wasn't really talking, escaped and hid ALL THE TIME, had meltdowns of epic proportions. It may not have been a healthy environment, but I was used to it, and the unknown is terrifying. How do we Asher-proof a hotel? (did I mention that he did in fact escape a hotel room once and made it all the way down the hall while I hobbled after him in my underwear because I was about to get in the shower? good times). But I thought about it (aka hubbs pushed for it a lot and promised me that he would do whatever he needed to make sure we had a safe place to stay there). And we lived just outside of Paris for 3 months. 

3 GLORIOUS months. We lived in a resort (which was cheaper than living in a hotel room in Paris itself!) which was basically a townhome right out of Beauty and the Beast. Also. We lived 5 minutes outside of Disney Paris. The food. The history there. Disney. The clean, mold free air. It was heaven. Boyfriend THRIVED. Did he still escape the townhouse? You bet! That kid can climb out of literally any window- even if said window is only supposed to open a few inches for safety purposes. Did I still have anxiety? Absolutely. Paris is magical, but not that magical (and one day I'm gonna write about all of our Paris adventures. Today is not that day). He was talking way more, he was trying more foods, we could go to Disney and like any young kid he could still have a meltdown, but it was less intense, even when waiting in lines. It became pretty clear that we needed to move out of South Carolina. Our cul-de-sac was amazing and full of the absolute best people. And we miss our friends down there fiercely. But getting the heck out of dodge was the right answer. We left Paris May 20th, 2019.... and we moved to Jersey August 2019. Hubbs got a temporary assignment in Philly, and we basically just prayed that from there he would find a permanent one. Because we had no intentions to move back down south. We found the perfect place to rent (a man who owned a bunch of restaurants had just renovated it with a chef's dream kitchen, there was no carpet and NO MOLD). And then we started looking for houses. 

I wanted to go smaller- the townhouse in Paris was so manageable cleaning wise, and I wanted to keep that vibe. I wanted to live in basically a warehouse or an old library- everything is wide open, except doors on bathrooms and bedrooms. I wanted a cul-de-sac, because it was such a great way for all the kids to hang out and play together. 

We searched and searched, and all of the places we were so excited about were a big fat no when we went to see them in person. There was this old 1800's farmhouse that had the most fantastic fireplace ever and I was so excited to check it out. I walked in, I still loved the fireplace, but I was also pretty positive that place was haunted, so hard pass. (That whole taking the temperature of the places I'm in? Sometimes it comes in real handy). 

There was one house that hubbs was the most excited about. I absolutely hated it. The pictures were just really old country decor, divided rooms not one big space, and it was almost 5,000 square feet. Literally the exact opposite of everything on my house wish list. But he said we should at least see it. Fine. We pull into the driveway and I started crying, looked at him, and said "This is home." 

Friends, this house literally has a door on every single room. It's giant. It SO wasn't my style. And I loved every single bit of it as we walked through. The opposite of everything I said I wanted. It was built in 1853, a working dairy farm for a very long time. And one of the most peaceful places I've ever been. We walked through in February. We put in an offer at the beginning of March 2020. And a week or so later, the country went into lockdown. God's timing is absolutely extraordinary. 

I plan on doing many posts about all of the farm projects we've embarked on. This home is a labor of love, one that has been surprisingly enjoyable, and we love it more and more every day. But that's for another time. 

I was out of the mold (mostly- we had some mold issues in this house, not nearly as bad (and the outside wasn't a moldy swamp). We are only an hour away from both of our families.  The pandemic meant that hubbs couldn't travel for work- he couldn't even go into the office for a very long time, so my heart was very happy. And still. I couldn't shake the anxiety, the incessant need to control everything, the fear that something terrible was waiting for us just around the corner. 

AAAAAAAAAAND there it is. After all the reading, all the working on myself, all the healing physically and emotionally. Turns out, at the heart of the matter is my waiting for the other shoe to drop. Because in my experience, it always does. And sometimes in big ways. 

I have one of those lives that is stranger than fiction. When I tell people about just a few of the things that have happened to me, they swear I'm making it up. A lot of it is funny now, just not so much at the time. 

I loved/ hated performing. I love singing and playing the piano, and I believe that God gave me a talent for it for a reason. Unfortunately, I hated doing it in front of other people (but I also loved getting applause sooooooo.... yeah. welcome to my brain). In my mind, I had to be perfect before anyone was allowed to hear me. Which made practicing tricky. And would also make me freeze up and refuse when anyone asked on a whim if I could play or sing them something. Let's just say that I used to practice for weeks before Christmas Eve, because I knew my family would want me to play Christmas music that we could all sing to, and I refused to do it if I couldn't do it perfectly (yes I'm shaking my head at how dumb that is, but again, welcome to my brain. it's a mess in here). When I was in probably the 4th or 5th grade, I was in a church Christmas pageant and had 2 lines that were fairly similar- one at the beginning of the play and then the other towards the end. I was great in rehearsals. The night of, I said the wrong line, and literally skipped at least half of the play. I can't remember if one of the adults led us back to the right spot so that the play made sense or if they just rolled with it, because I realized almost immediately what I'd done and was filled with the most amount of shame and guilt and embarrassment and swore that I was never going to be in another play ever again. And of course I couldn't tell anyone how embarrassed and ashamed I was. I never wanted to be a burden so I wanted everyone to think I was just happy all the time. Then there was the time I was in a county wide talent show, and instead of playing the piano myself, my teacher thought I should focus on singing and get an accompanist... and he lost his place in the middle of my song, so I finished it a capella with him trying at times to jump in but not able to. Again, suuuuuper embarrassed because it wasn't perfect (even though it wasn't my mistake). I couldn't see that it took guts to just keep singing. I just knew it wasn't perfect, and I never did win that county talent show in all the years I auditioned for it. Almost every time I was on the stage in high school, I fell, tripped, burped, had to puke. Every time I performed in any way, as a musician or a cheerleader, or playing sports in gym class, or just in general walking around and being alive, I embarrassed the crap out of myself. You'd think I'd learn to roll with it and laugh it off. But instead, I just drowned in low self worth. I was never going to be the girl who kept her cool, who was quiet and mysterious, who attracted boys with her effortless grace and beauty. I was the obnoxiously loud when she's nervous oversharer, who was sweaty ALL THE TIME, fell down for no discernable reason always, and who's stomach constantly made noises so loud you'd have thought I swallowed a microphone. Zero mystery, zero grace, lots of constant babble, and pit stains down to my hips. And just for funsies, my brain would replay on a loop all of the craptacular moments over and over and over again forever and ever 😏Should I mention how I was hanging out with a boy I liked in college and we were comparing stomach muscles (because why not I guess) and I told him to punch me in the stomach and then I farted when he did and I died of embarrassment on the spot and tried not to ever look at him ever again? Or when I was on a date and bit into a cherry tomato that shot across the table and landed in front of him, and then I never heard from him again? Or when I have a conversation with literally anyone my entire chest turns bright splotchy red because peopling is hard so why not make everyone think I have some weird rash disorder? Or the time I fell down the stairs in the center of a very crowded restaurant and everyone stopped and watched, or the time I fell down the stairs walking into the hall and down the aisle on my bridesmaid walk at my sister-in-law's wedding? And then, meeting up with all those same people a few weeks later, falling down while walking into a restaurant? This is just the tip of my iceberg of klutziness. I think God was trying to tell me to take life less seriously, but I missed that memo. My brain just insisted I couldn't do anything right, so not to even bother trying new things. I was a disaster with the things I was good at, hard pass at the new stuff thankyouverymuch. 

Apparently we're taking the scenic journey to the point. Hi, oversharer, party of 1. 

We spent a decent amount of time in high school trying to figure out why I felt so sick so often. Lots of different tests, putting cameras down my throat and taking pictures (they said my stomach looked like it went a few rounds with Mike Tyson), and they wanted to see if I had a dairy allergy. The day of my test, they called to cancel because apparently someone had stolen the breathing tube needed to take said dairy test so they couldn't administer it. Ok, that's ridiculous but also kinda funny (PS they never rescheduled the test). I was one of the youngest out of all my friends and they could all drive and I was so so so excited to get my license. I was going with my driving school instructor because my parents had either a giant cargo van or a stick-shift bronco, neither of which I could drive easily, so I had to take the test with my instructor's car. My 17th birthday, I'm all set. The instructor calls my house. She can't take me because the steering column of the car snapped in half the night before so the car wasn't driveable. Do you know how hard it is to snap a steering column in half? Pretty much impossible. And yet.... So I didn't get my license until about a month later. Odd and disappointing. After I crashed my beloved 1971 Chevy nova in the accident that should have taken me out, I got a Honda. I drove said Honda to a friend's house in a not so great area of Trenton so he could read the curriculum I was working on for the History of Rock n Roll class I was teaching at my new job. I left around 11pm, and while I was driving, my transmission fell out of my car. I managed to coast to a closed gas station, because this was before I had a cell phone. I used a pay phone to call AAA to tow my car to my parents house since my brothers could help me fix the car. We're going down 95, doing about 90, when I notice that his speech is becoming slurred, and then he's asleep. Like, totally out. So I'm talking to him louder and louder to try and wake him up as the truck is drifting across the lanes. I finally punch him in the arm and he startles awake and I say "Oh this next exit is my exit because we know the owner of a garage around here." Friends, I did not know any owner, and I certainly didn't know where in the world I was, but turns out I picked an exit in the middle of nowhere Jackson maybe?? that had zero places to pull over. Cell phones would have been really handy at this point. We finally see a gas station and he pulls in and I leap out of the truck and run to the payphone booth to call my parents and the police. And I'm watching him get out of his truck to unhook my car.... but he forgot to put the truck in park so now he's chasing his still moving tow truck through the parking lot. I honestly wish I was making this up. The police came to take the report and to let me sit in their car while my parents had to wake up and drive a half hour to come and get me. And then I got to borrow a car, my brother's clothes, and my mom's make-up that next morning so I could drive an hour and a half to the school I taught at. That one was traumatic and I honestly saw my life flash before my eyes on that ride. A few years into our marriage, we decided to take the motorcycle down to a well known bike rally in Oregon. I should point out that we are in no way biker people. Not even close. Stuck out like sore thumbs. We were in a bar, and all I wanted to do was go back to the hotel, so we all got ready to leave but of course I had to pee. I get out of the bathroom and everyone I was with was already outside. I'm trying to make my way there, but instead, there's a bar brawl in front of me. I'm trying to weave around it, but nope. One of the guys in front of me gets stabbed, and there's about 4 big guys carrying him to throw him out of the front of the bar, and I'm directly behind them. I am a very sheltered blonde (at the time) ex cheerleader and I am not prepared for anything that I'm seeing. I just want to make it out without also getting stabbed for being a witness. Just a sneak peek into the "you can't be serious" stories. So many more, but these are the big guys that stuck with me. The ones that make me think "if something absolutely nutso is gonna happen, it's gonna happen to me."

I never dated anyone in the military because I knew I couldn't handle long distance, but ended up marrying someone who travels all the time for work. All I ever wanted to be in life was a mom, and that journey started out with a bang at 29 weeks and a 2 month NICU stay and many heart stopping moments. And pregnancy 2 gave us the most incredible son who has special needs and no official diagnosis, who is just a literal ball of happy. My amazing family that looks different from most everybody elses.   

In my head, always, was the assumption that if something out of the ordinary, something that only a small fraction of people deal with, something that was left of center was going to happen, it would happen to me. It's been my life experience. Some of these things are funny anecdotes. Some of these things are traumatic or life changing. I can laugh now- I used to get pulled over all the time because a criminal stole my license plate number and "my car was wanted for murder in Oregon" (yes that's a thing that followed me around for a few years). But the time my blender exploded and rained boiling hot soup down on my son and I, resulting in 2nd degree burns and a 2 night stay in the Seattle burn unit with a 9 month old? That one'll stick. Heading to the airport to go on our honeymoon to Mexico just to be told that if we got on the plane, hubbs would be deported because he didn't have a passport? That stung, but we got 2 honeymoons out of it. Laid up on a PT table, all strapped in to what looks like a straight jacket and getting my back stretched out while boyfriend is strapped into his stroller (tightly) and girlfriend is showing him movies on the phone in the room with me, and suddenly he figures out how to escape the straps, opens the door and starts running while I'm physically unable to move at all so I'm just screaming for someone to please stop him because he's only 2 1/2 and if he gets on the elevator we're screwed? Praise God the therapist heard me and grabbed him when he got almost all the way down the hallway, then she stayed in the room for the rest of my session and I've never quite recovered from that near miss. 

Clearly, I'm not short winded. But all of this to say- stuff happened. Lots.  As a kid, and most definitely as a parent. I've read all the books and done all the journaling and as it turns out, I tick every box for the C-PTSD checklist. So I guess I'm not surprised that I have control issues. And that I have anxiety about the lack of control I feel in so many of these situations. 

What I am surprised about is how I never realized how much it affected intimacy in all of my relationships, including with God. How I try my best to not be fully vulnerable. How I've built this wall up so high for so many years, that almost everyone is an arm's length away. That I literally cry at E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G maybe because it's just all stored emotion that has nowhere else to go. That I only give one-armed hugs. Which sucks, who even does that!?! Why do I do that!?! That I am really good in a crisis- I was a boss with girlfriend's birth, boyfriend's burns and his broken femur. But I'm an anxious disaster in day to day. Like I'm in a holding pattern, waiting for the "other thing". Sidenote- that's not how faith is supposed to work either. 

After reading a devotional about the hope of prayer, it hit me like lightning. I subconsciously pray like I'm walking through a minefield. With all of the stranger than fiction things, it feels like if I speak it or think it or read about or put it out there, it will come true (only the bad stuff of course). So I tiptoe around prayer because I don't want to accidentally set off a landmine. Zero stars, do not recommend. kinda defeats the point of prayer and faith.

Because of all of the temperature taking, people pleasing empath skills, I've always been able to accurately predict what would happen in the future based on people's previous behaviors. Which contributes to the fear and the subsequent control because I don't want to "jinx" something into being true. 

Spoiler alert: GOD DOESN'T WORK LIKE THAT. Could somebody send the memo to my body? For example. I worked with special needs adults at a summer camp for 2 summers while I was in college. It was such an amazing, unforgettable experience, and I love those days so much. And in the back of my head, a little voice was saying "this will probably be your child." I was 19 so I knew absolutely nothing and I ignored it. Years later, I'm at a friend's house. Neither of us has children yet, but we know it's getting to be that time. She has the Jenny McCarthy book she wrote about her son's autism. I asked to borrow it, and that voice was back. "You'll need this." And I just knew somehow. I didn't say it out loud. I didn't want to know. But I think I knew that God was preparing my heart. And the thing is, I was created to be boyfriend's mom. I KNOW in my bones how to be his mom. And of course I've questioned sometimes if I'm doing the right things, but for the most part, I've stuck solidly with gut instinct in my parenting. And I have a feeling I never felt unprepared or surprised about my kiddos because of that still, small voice. I thank God for his still, small voice.... and somehow I also feel like "don't read anything upsetting because it's gonna play in my brain on a hamster wheel and then somehow come true." Again, not how God works. But then my brain does that stupid thing that it also does in fights with the hubbs where it remembers every last itty bitty detail of every little thing that ever happened in the history of ever and it uses that information to verbally club its opponent. Which in this case is also me. And I want to get off the hamster wheel. 

So I'm reading and I'm praying and I'm crying and I'm reading some more and I'm joining on-line Bible studies about untangling emotions and how trauma is a jerk and control costs you peace of mind and how everything we're going through has already been sifted through God's hands (thank you Rebekah Lyons because that nugget is GOLD) and I'm trying to let go and let God and I will always be a work in progress but maybe one day I'll be more open to leaving my house and trying new things and He has made beautiful things out of the dust and my story is just one of them and it's not finished yet.  

God wants good things for my life. I need to believe Him. 


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