Dear Fear

I was driving to work this morning…which is when I do my best thinking…and I started thinking about my penchant for fear.

Growing up, fear saved me. There’s no two ways about it. When you live a tumultuous life…surrounded by unhealthy people…there is very real danger to both your emotional and physical safety.

I learned to fear abandonment. I learned to fear anger. I learned to fear disapproval. I learned to fear failure. I learned that anything I said or did could inadvertently be turned to make me unsafe…

To make me unlovable…

To make me alone.

But…I’m not that kid anymore. I’m not that teenager anymore. I’m not that young woman anymore.

A healthy level of fear is a good thing. Especially when you’re a person who draws in unhealthy people because they’re what you know.

But that same fear is what keeps me drawing in those unhealthy people. Because the known fear is less scary than the unknown. I know I have and can survive what I’ve already been through…I know what to expect from the unhealthy…but…what if I surround myself with HEALTHY people and find out I’m actually the problem…

What if I find out I’m honestly unlovable?

So, because of this, I go into things ready for the other shoe to drop…I go in partially expecting that people will realize that I’m not worthy…that I’m unlovable…that I’m broken.

Because of fear I ruin any chance of my own happiness.

And I don’t want to do that anymore.

So…I’m not stupid enough to believe I’ll turn it right off…as a therapist told me once, “The thing about fear rooted in PTSD is that it’s not irrational…it’s already happened…”. But…I’m going to battle the fuck out of it.

Every time I feel that niggling voice saying, “This won’t last”…every time my brain tells me, “They’re already sick of you”…every time my heart says, “You’re not lovable, protect yourself now”.

No. Just…NO.

I’ve said that 2022 is the year of letting go of what is not meant for me.

That includes fear.

So, Dear Fear, You can go now. I don’t need you anymore. I’m safe now.

I Matter

It’s been awhile since I wrote anything here. Life has been…strange.

I almost lost my daughter to suicide on Christmas Eve. Obviously this changed a lot about our lives. There’s no way it couldn’t. Something like that brings a lot into focus that needs to be focused on. She is growing and facing things…and happier than I’ve seen her in years. I am scared…and yet hopeful for a future that she tried to erase. We both are appreciating more about the relationship we have with each other. There’s nothing about what happened with her that I would want either of us to live through again, but…somehow…I was blessed enough that she realized that I’m her safe place. She realized there’s nothing she can’t talk to me about…she realized there’s nothing I won’t support her through…and she realized that she has reason to keep going.

But it changed something in my own head that I never could have foreseen. Mostly that I want so much good for her…I want her to know that she matters…that her thoughts and feelings matter…and that, as her mother, she will not learn from me until I learn…and live…the truth that…

I MATTER.

I have spent my life…literally…AGONIZING over what other people wanted and what would make them happy. I have spent my life heartbroken over not being enough to be loved…not being what people wanted me to be. I have spent my life going out of my way to put myself last because, as I often said. “If someone has to be unhappy…why shouldn’t it be me? It would be selfish to choose my own happiness first.”

Every. Single. Life. Decision. I made was agonized over in fear that I was being selfish or unfair.

Don’t get me wrong. That is something we should consider. Are we hurting someone? Are we being needlessly selfish? Are we seeing things clearly or in the wrong. It should all be considered. But, not at the expense of recognizing…

I MATTER. YOU MATTER. WE ALL MATTER. EQUALLY.

And…if we don’t, as parents, teach this…what are we teaching our children? We’re teaching them to have the same pain we have. So…I started focusing on this…this new idea of…

I MATTER.

In a fight with a loved one…I must face the facts, accept my own culpability (if there is culpability to be had)…and then…remember that I matter, too.

In a romantic relationship, I must look at what they want…I must look at what I want…I must remind myself that we BOTH deserve happiness…remember that my wants and needs are as valid as theirs…because I matter.

In all relationships…I must know my own worth…I must know what I want…I must know what I don’t want…I must always strive to be fair…but, in the end, if I don’t fight for me, who will? I have to be the one to remember…I matter.

I do not matter more than the rest of the world, but my happiness DOES matter AS MUCH as the rest of the world.

And, so…I’m learning to walk away from what doesn’t work…I’m learning to let go of things that are not meant for me…I’m learning to fight for what I want and what I need…and it is HARD, because I’m fighting a lifetime of habit of putting myself last…I’m fighting a lifetime of telling myself I deserved less…and because…just because you have to let go of things, doesn’t erase the pain of doing so.

But if I don’t fight to remember that

I MATTER…

If I don’t lead by example and show my daughter that I strive to remember that

I MATTER…

Then how will I ever teach her to live a full and happy life….always knowing that..

SHE MATTERS.

A Fear Like No Other

Christmas Eve. Approximately 10:30 pm. That’s when I heard the words that no parent ever wants to hear. “Mom, I need to go to the hospital.” My beautiful, hilarious, outrageous…sad, angry, scared, anxious…15 year old daughter had swallowed a bottle of pills.

It’s a fear I’ve carried with me for a very long time. She’s had more grief in her 15 years than I ever wanted for her. The very battles that I fought for her not to have to fight…I failed.

That’s the majority of what I keep thinking. I failed. I failed my daughter. She, even momentarily, thought that death was the only way to stop the pain.

Everyone keeps telling me I haven’t failed her. They tell me I’m this great mom…that I have done and continue to do what is best for her. But I couldn’t stop this. I couldn’t make it all ok.

I’m lucky. Luckier than some. She came to me within 10 minutes because I CAN say that the kid tells me everything. She was out of the ER within 14 hours. She’s been in another hospital since then, though. She’s where she needs to be. She’s getting the help she needs. She’ll be home soon.

All of the things that I keep telling myself. She’s medically stable. She’s getting help. She’ll be ok. She’ll be home soon.

And none of that takes away the fear I will continue to have until my child is back home where she’s supposed to be. None of that takes away the panic of trying to do everything in my power so it never happens again. None of it takes away the fact that I can’t hug my daughter. I can’t listen to her yell at me for being annoying. I can’t roll my eyes as she barges into my room unannounced.

None of it takes away the fear that next time she won’t come to me.

None of it takes away the fact that her childhood ended the moment she felt so low that death seemed to be the only way out. And I can never give her that childhood back again.

No, World, I Do Not Want To Come In Anymore

Many many moons ago I spent Christmas in Mobile, Alabama with a friend. While we were there we went to a club. For the life of me I don’t remember the name of it. What I DO remember is that we WANTED to go into a club called The World…but it was closed. So, we went on to the next club. Fast forward to later that night…we were leaving the club and we see that The World is now open and there’s a line outside. I started joking about how our hippie friend Charlie…aka Trippy McTripFace…would have said something like, “So I wanted to go to the world, man…but the world was closed…and then the world said, “Come in”…and I said, “No, World…I do not want to come in anymore…”. (If you didn’t read that in the ultimate stoner voice, go back.)

I am reminded of that club lately. I so desperately wanted to join the world in the past few years. I wanted to stop being a hermit…I wanted to let people in…I wanted to belong. I tried to go into the world, but…the world is closed to me. I’m not wanted there. There’s a huge line outside…of all the cool people will get to be a part of the world…but I get to the bouncer and he knows I don’t belong and turns me away. I can hear the laughter…I can feel the beat of the music…I can see the inhabitants…but I will never get in.

To say I don’t want to be in the world, would be a lie. We never get over wanting to belong.

So…instead…I try to convince myself that I don’t want a world that doesn’t want me.

And maybe one day I’ll believe it.

Home

I counted this morning. I moved 13 times between the ages of 10 and 25. 13 times in 15 years. I’ve been in the same place now for almost 18 years…but, if I’m being honest, I’ve been feeling that tug for many, many years…it’s just harder to pick up and go when you have a child.

So…WHY? Why have I moved so much? A couple of them were normal moves, but mostly…I’ve always been searching for home.

I want to say that I thought I had it until I was 10. My childhood vision thought I did…I thought that was what home just looked like. My mother’s mental illness aside, my stepfather (who I thought was my daddy) treated me like a princess and my brothers were the pains in the ass they were supposed to be. Now I know that wasn’t a home…it was a mirage and a lie…but I think it warped my view of what home should look like. Not because I had the things I should, but because if that HUGE of a lie could exist…then the TV realities could, too, right?

I could have parents who loved me. I could have siblings that were my best friends. I could be teased and picked on, but still be enough to be loved.

I searched for that home. But…I never fit. I was too much a girl. I was not enough like others. I was too heavy. I wasn’t pretty. I was smart, but that wasn’t exactly something that made people want me around. I was too responsible. I became funny as hell…but that only gets you so far. I was simultaneously too much and not enough.

So…I searched. And searched and searched and searched.

I searched for a place that felt like home, but places aren’t home.

I searched for family that made me feel like home, but sometimes you’ll never fit no matter how much any of you want it to happen.

I searched in relationships…which is about the dumbest move a person can make.

I searched in large groups. If others could find home there, why couldn’t I? But I couldn’t.

Why? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be enough? Why am I always too much?

There was a cycle that I recognized fully this morning.  I search for home…I think I found it…I jump in…I embrace it…I start to feel like I’m the only one embracing it…so I leave. I may look back, but I leave.

I try to leave this feeling behind.

And therein lies the rub. You can’t leave yourself behind. I am the common denominator of the places I don’t fit. Not just in a way of I must really be too much and not enough (I vascillate on whether these things are true about me). In the way that…

I’m always ready to run.

That’s not anything anyone else is doing. That’s not the decision that anyone else is making.

They stay where they are.

I am the one who runs away.

Am I running from them? Or am I running away from myself?

I believe I’m running to find a home…but, in reality, I am an eternal Toby Tyler…running away to join the circus…

Who else moves that many times? Lol

I’m fair enough to myself to know that the homes I’ve run from really were not meant for me. That wasn’t in my imagination.

But…I’m hoping I’ve reached a place inside of myself where I can recognize home when I finally find it…and be willing to stay still and fight for it.

An Open Letter From an Invisible-Ish Woman

This is something that has been weighing on my heart for a very long time.  Possibly most of my life, but definitely the past year.  It’s time for it to come out.

Dear Nopes,

You probably wonder why I call you that.  You may even wonder if you are a Nope.  You…singularly…are not.  You…with other women…maybe?

A “Nope” is what I’ve always called large groups of women.  Those groups that you see having lunches together.  Those groups you see having large girls nights out.  Those groups that you see doing life together. 

Why do I call them a Nope?  For two reasons:

  1. Nope, I can’t deal with the cattiness that comes along with that many times.  (I’ve always had a theory that someone who will gossip to me will gossip about me.)
  2. Nope, they don’t want anything to do with me anyway.

So…Nopes…here’s what I wish you knew.

  • I wish you knew that I constantly feel like I’m on the outside looking in. 
  • I wish you understood that, even if I’m not like you, I still have worth…and, if you gave me a chance, you just might like me. 
  • No, I don’t have a husband. 
  • No, I don’t have small children. 
  • No, my teenager has no urge to be a prom queen. 
  • No, I don’t own a fancy car and spend my evenings at soccer practice. 
  • Yes, I do have a highly inappropriate sense of humor.  Yes, I do everything to the extreme because I’m passionate and I care. 
  • Yes, I have anxiety and so I either talk to much or not at all. 
  • Yes, I have feelings.
  • And, mostly…Yes, I know you don’t like me…even when you try to hide it.

Just as you wish that people could see you for who you are, I wish you would give me the chance to show you who I really am.  I’m obnoxious, when I care too much not to be.  I’m loud, when I’m fighting for what I believe in.  I joke too much, because laughter is a bright spot in dark days and I want to make everyone I come across have a better day today than yesterday.  I overshare because you never know who NEEDS to hear your story so they know they’re not alone.

Nopes, I don’t think you’re bad people.  I think you have hopes and fears and hearts that feel everything…maybe a little too much, just like me. 

But I think I scare you.  I am the epitome of everything that you are afraid to be…and maybe a little bit of what you wish you were.  I challenge your happy little bubbles and your beliefs that all pegs must fit into the same hole. 

But…Nopes…I never tried to hurt you, upset you, offend you…Quite often, on an individual level…even if you have hurt me…I’ve tried to be the voice of reason when others are hurt by your actions.  Because just because you don’t like me, doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve to be liked.

I wish you felt the same way about me.

I wish you didn’t feel the need to gossip about me.  I wish you didn’t feel the need to ignore me and shy away as if you fear my life is going to rub off on you.  I wish that if there is a real reason you don’t like me and that I’ve done something to hurt you, that you’d tell me so we can clear the air and try again.

I’m not ever going to fit.  I know this.  I will always be slightly on the outside looking in.

But, maybe could crack the window just enough to let me be a little part of it?

Except the gossiping.  That will always be a nope.

Love,

The Invisible-Ish Woman

I Don’t Want To Be Like You

Last night I made a statement. “I don’t want to be me anymore.”

You know what? Nothing could be further from the truth.

What I want is to stop feeling like others think there is something wrong with being me.

I have always been a passionate person. Everything I do…everything I feel…is with passion. And, similarly, I bring out passion in people. Either they passionately love me or they passionately dislike me. There really doesn’t seem to be much middle ground…probably because I, myself, never find middle ground.

But…as for me…I really, REALLY like me.

So…even when I feel like a round peg trying to fit in a square hole…I don’t wish I was square…I wish the hole was more round.

I don’t want to be like you…but I do wish you were more like me.

I wish that no matter how many times you’ve been hurt, you still find ways to love fully.

I wish that no matter how many times you’ve been betrayed, you still find ways to let people in.

I wish that no matter how many times you’ve felt judged, you choose to live a life where you refuse to sit in judgment.

I wish that you could find your inner child…I wish that you could feed that inner child with stupid jokes…as you laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of life.

I wish that you would allow yourself, with a sense of wonder, to be weird…to think the thoughts that make you even laugh at yourself…but that feed your creativity.

I wish you could do all of these things and be well…well rounded.

It is my absolute absurdity and passion…and SHEER REFUSAL to give up that makes me actually quite happy being me.

I just wish that you could see that maybe…just maybe…not only is it ok to be like me, but the world could use a little more of me.

The Helper

This girl gets me…

Hi. My name is Sheri. And I’m a recovering Helper.

Helping is good, right? We learned that in kindergarten. We should always offer to help those who need us.

But helping is like sex…if it’s not consensual on both sides, it doesn’t really make the recipient feel warm and fuzzy. It makes them feel mauled and violated.

Mauled and violated by…THE HELPER.

I know I’m not the only one. How many times have you done it?

You see a friend who…if they would just LISTEN…would make better choices. You can HELP them!!

You have a friend going through a hard time…LET ME DO SOMETHING TO HELP!!!!!!

You have a friend who needs you to hear them vent, but…wait for it…wait for it…you can’t do that because you’re gonna HELP!!!!!!!

YOU ARE ALMIGHTY AND BRILLIANT AND KNOW WHAT EVERYONE ELSE NEEDS!!!!!!!

Is that really what you believe? Of course not.

Is that really what I believe? Nope.

But that’s how we come across.

Offered help is a beautiful thing…and I think more people could have used not missing that day of kindergarten…

But…when your (*cough* my) offer of help is declined…and then we force them to accept our help anyway…we are nonverbally saying, “I know what you need more than you do.”

I caught myself doing that again today. Luckily it was with one of my best friends, but I caught myself thinking…well, I don’t know if she wants this help, but she’s gonna get it!

Yeah…that’s not help…

And I’m trying to do better.

So? Can I help you make Shake & Bake? Please? Because it would make me feel as good as you feel just knowing that I want to.

And that’s how I’m going to ask from now on.

Riding the Sorrycycle

Two running jokes in my life that go back as far as I can remember…

“Sheri can’t ride a bicycle to save her life…hahahaha”

“Oh, look…Sheri is apologizing again…hahahaha”

Yup. I may not be able to ride a bicycle near traffic without fearing for my life, but I am DAMN good at riding the Sorrycycle.

Because that’s what it is…a cycle.

My…person (for lack of a better term at this time…labels, yo…lol)…got upset with me the other day for always apologizing. He told me later,

“I swear…it’s like you’re apologizing for existing.”

Oh! Ok! I get why that could be upsetting. So…let me explain…you see…ummmm..

“I am.”

I AM apologizing for existing and I’m pretty sure I have been from my first word.

I’m sorry for not being pretty enough.

I’m sorry for not being smart enough.

I’m sorry for not being the daughter you wanted.

Actually, I’m sorry for being a girl at all when you only like boys.

I’m sorry for being too quiet.

I’m sorry for being too loud.

I’m sorry for being too fat.

I’m sorry for being too thin.

I’m sorry for needing food and air that someone else deserves more.

I’m sorry. If I say it enough, will you please love me?

Obnoxious, right? Weak. Needy. Insecure. I’ve heard it all. None of it true. It actually takes enormous strength to live the life that causes this.

What life?

A life of narcissistic abuse.

I was looking for a definition of narcissistic abuse to explain, but found this.

Basically? “You’re not enough…you’ll never be enough…you should feel lucky to be allowed to breathe.”

Ok. I’m sorry.

But, Sheri…you’re not a kid anymore…you don’t live with that anymore…get over it!

Well, yes and no.

I don’t live with my initial abusers anymore. However, those who grow up in this manage to keep the cycle going by being magnetically pulled to new narcissists.

But even beyond that…

Telling someone to get off the sorrycycle is like telling someone to stop breathing.

Geez, Sheri. Dramatic much?

Nope.

Being sorry…apologizing for our existence…that’s what kept us alive. My friend quite accurately used the term “de-escalation” this morning.

The words, “I’m sorry” tells your abuser, “I’m taking the blame. You don’t need to keep hurting me to prove it’s my fault. I know I’m lucky you put up with me, so please don’t hurt me.”

“I’m sorry” kept us alive as surely as breathing did.

So…stop saying I’m sorry…

This person is angry. I can’t breathe. They’re going to hurt me. I’m sorry.

This person is disappointed. I can’t breathe. I know I’m lucky you put up with me. I’ll try to do better. I’m sorry.

This person is inconvenienced. I can’t breathe. I should have done something to avoid this. I’m worthless. I’m sorry.

This person wishes I didn’t exist. They’re right. I shouldn’t. I’m sorry.

You leave the abuse (if you’re lucky), but unless you leave humanity you will never leave behind the emotions of others…and ALL emotions are healthy in the right dosage…but we didn’t live around the right dosage…we lived in a pool of other people’s emotions that threatened to drown us at every turn.

I can’t breathe.

I shouldn’t exist.

I’m sorry.

Having left that environment behind (mostly)…I’m one of the luckier ones…I still can’t get off the sorrycycle.

Anger frightens me. More than I think anyone in my world understands. So I strive to deescalate. I’m sorry.

Disappointment terrifies me. So I strive to deescalate. I’m sorry.

Apathy is one step from abandonment. So I deescalate. I’m sorry.

So…yeah…I KNOW how annoying it is that I do this. I KNOW that my loved ones want me to know that I’m safe…I’m secure…I’m loved…and they’re GLAD I exist….

But, until one day when I finally feel truly safe…

I’m sorry.

“No More Secs!!!” (aka When God Needs Us to Just Listen)

“Hold up, God. I’m almost ready to listen…”

I will never forget the day that I finally snapped at Bella for constantly telling me, “One sec!!!!” as I tried to get her moving towards my plans for the day. She was only about 8…she was being a normal 8 year old…but I needed to get us where we were supposed to be…and she kept yelling, “One sec!!!!” for about 10 minutes every time I tried to get her attention. Aaaaaannnnddddd….I snapped…

NO MORE SECS!!!!!!”

Both of our eyes got really big…and then we both lost it…but we finally headed towards our correct destination. 

I realized this morning…

October 2020 to present has basically been the year where God snapped…

“NO MORE SECS!!!”

If I’m honest, God has been trying to get me out the door to His planned destination for years.

“Ok, Sheri, it’s time to set boundaries…” “One sec!!! I need to see this cute boy!”

“Sheri…focus…it’s time to start treating yourself the way you treat others…” “One sec! I swear! I just need to finish doing this for someone!”

“Sheri, it’s time to start listening to the body I gave you when it says it needs rest…” “Ok!! I hear you!! Geez!! One sec!!! I just REALLY want to hit this speed PR!!”

“Sheri, I’m trying to get you out the door to dealing with your anxiety so you can love yourself…” “I know, God, and I trust your path. Just one more sec…I’m too sad to leave right now…:

“ME DANGIT, SHERI, NO MORE SECS!!!”

*trusted person sexually harasses me and removes sense of safety*

*broken leg stops ability to emotionally ‘run’ away*

*physically broken heart forces time of reflection on what’s important* 

*lost friends…tears cried…rock bottom reached*

“Ok…geez, God…no more secs…I’m listening…dang…”

“Thank you. Now let’s go.”

All of these things…yeah…He let them happen…because I WOULD. NOT. LISTEN. while I could still be distracted…while I could still yell…

“ONE MORE SEC, GOD!”

Nope. No more secs. Time to go.

Time to go learn that when someone steals your safety, you set boundaries…you stand firm in what how God believes you deserve to be respected.

Time to learn that when you run from the lessons God needs you to learn, you only elongate your own pain.

Time to learn that life is short and even faith and stubborn tenacity can’t keep a body whole when it needs you to listen.

Time to learn that you need to show yourself the love that you show others and wish for in return…time to learn that people treat us as they see us treat ourselves.

Time to learn that forgiveness and strength go hand in hand.

No more secs. It was time to go.

And I learned. The hard way. Because it was the only way I’d stop…focus…and listen.

And, now…this morning…I sit here…listening to the sounds of my beloved nature…watching my dogs play…in a place that only forgiveness, strength and boundaries could have brought me to…ruminating on recent events and changes…reveling in a sense of peace as no anxieties sit heavy in my chest…and, I think,

“Ok, God. You were right. No more secs.”