Tag Archives: scream into the void

Screaming

Evelyn is screaming wearing red lipstick. There is a a comic-book style pow image in back of her.

I discovered recently that my biggest fear is that I’m a bad mother and that one of my children will die by suicide. It’s hard to write that because I don’t want advice or reassurance. I just want to tell you what’s really happening in my inner life. 

I woke up early from an anxious dream. I have anxious dreams a lot. They’re mundane. I’m trying to leave an event but I can’t find my car. There’s a hurt bird and I’m trying to call the Audubon Society but none of the numbers will go through. So I was laying in bed after a dream, calming my body, resting my head on a tension release thing. I decided to go through what I might be worried about, like flipping through a catalog. The tension release thing is like two humps of a camel that I put at the base of my skull. It helps relax tightness in my head. I started thinking of things…

Work? I hadn’t worked all of January recovering from omicron. No, it wasn’t work. Everyone in my business and our clients were incredibly understanding and for the first time I was letting myself rest and receive grace.

Money? Not working meant less money. No. I had a sense that things would work out. 

Child care? We hadn’t had reliable child care since mid-December, and things were still very much up in the air. Everything falls apart without child care. Strangely I wasn’t worried about this. Things had worked out before and somehow they would again. 

The kids? Boy Woww had been having anxiety attacks; the Fairy Pig and K-Pants were their intense selves. My head started to relax and rest into the tension release thing.

When I hit on the right thing my body tells me. It’s taken me a long time to be able to listen to my body, and still I often ignore it. 

I dove down this hole. Is it the kids themselves? No. Is it the intensity of parenting? No. Is it that I’m a bad mother? Yes. There it is. Is it that I won’t be able to help them? Yes. Is it that my badness as a mom will lead to terrible outcomes and one of my kids may die by suicide? Yes. 

Now let me be clear: I am not wishing these things into being. I am not writing them into being. I think that a fear of saying things out loud, lest they come true, keeps us silent and suffering in our inner worlds. And yet I tremble as I write the words. 

Here’s what’s happening at our house. Three beautiful, imperfect gemstones live here. They sparkle in the sun. They glow under kitchen lights. They have crevices that magnify the light. These three gemstones are my treasures. They’re my gifts from God. I want everything wonderful for them and I want to be whole and happy myself. 

And we live in the world. And the world is rough. 

Boy Woww has been having anxiety attacks to the point that they interfere with his daily life. He likes things to be calm and quiet. He’s lived through two years of pandemic so far, something I never had to do as a child. Boy Woww has a sister who is about to get a diagnosis of ADHD. Her body doesn’t allow her to be still. Personal boundaries are a roadblock that stop her from showing her love, so she casts them aside. When we want to watch a family show, she climbs the back of the couch and stalks the family as a predator cat, which drives K-Pants nuts. K-Pants is in his first year of middle school. Middle school has wild ups and downs. And when he has a bad day at school, the whole family feels it. 

These are the things of life. And we’re living them.

I explained all this and more to my therapist. A good therapist is a critical resource. The Fairy Pig learned to walk in my therapist’s office, which I am quite proud of because it meant I was getting the help I needed when I needed it. 

Here’s what my therapist said (I’m paraphrasing, of course):

You can’t control the future. But right now, in these moments, you’re paying attention. Paying attention is important. You’re finding all kinds of ways to help your kids navigate the world in their own ways. For Boy Woww, you’re working to get him the help he needs in big and little ways. For the Fairy Pig, it will be interesting to see if after she gets extra help for ADHD, she becomes more manageable for Boy Woww. They are opposite personalities who need each other and it’s very difficult. You’re doing a really excellent job noticing things and validating your kids.

After getting this wonderful reassurance, I felt comfortable to tell her about how I get overwhelmed and scream at my kids. It probably happens twice a month, where a fire-breathing monster takes over my body. 

What happens when you do that? What do the kids do? 

They tell me to stop it, to take a break. K-Pants will roll his eyes and possibly swear at me. The Fairy Pig will yell back at me, “Mom, you’re NOT HELPING!!” In those moments, I think to myself, “How do I have such disrespectful kids?”

That’s a really good sign, actually. 

What? How are any of these things a good sign?

They’re not afraid of you. When you’re at your worst and you’re screaming, they’re not afraid. Even though it’s awful and no one likes it. 

I was hoping the screaming would go away, and it was for a time, but in pandemic, I’ve had plenty of times where I see myself ramping up, the embers getting fueled with air, and yet I can’t walk away. But still, there are many more times that I do walk away now. Does that make sense? I’m screaming like a cornered squirrel with its tail on fire at the same rate or more as before, but I’m also walking away and taking a break more. So I guess that’s a win?

You are parenting three intense children. Whenever you walk away that’s a win. That’s your whole goal at this point: walk away. 

____

Hearing this was a sensation of whole-body relief. I hold myself to impossibly high standards. I don’t consciously do it. But deep in my psyche there is a quarterback playbook filled with sure-fire runs and passes that I imagine other people using. Plays that get you out of tricky situations, that allow you to stay calm and also teach your children about problem solving and gentle parenting. Plays that I don’t know how to call for. 

So here I am on Scream Into the Void Tuesday. The void screams are so necessary and freeing. The screaming at my children happens. I do walk away more, and that’s a win. I’m noticing things. I’m talking about it. And that’s good enough for now. 

Wandering Around Listless in a Primal Scream State at the One-Year Anniversary of Pandemic

I snuck in one last flight last year around this time for an out-and-back trip to Los Angeles for a meeting. It was sunny and gorgeous in LA and dark and dreary in Portland. The flights were already basically empty. 

And that was it. 

I am now wandering around listlessly in a pandemic purgatory dream state.

***

I do not care about the history of Daylight Savings Time. I just want it to stop. That’s never been more clear than at the one year anniversary of pandemic. I’m sad for seemingly no reason, and I’ve been talking with friends who are feeling the same way. 

My internet was acting up yesterday right before a video call. I texted my kick-ass client Sarah to ask if she might be able to run the meeting if I disappeared into the nothingness of physical life. She responded with what will become my motto for 2021: “I can assert that I’m not in a mental headspace to lead this ship.”

***

Some days are too much. And some days are too much and they also steal an hour from you. It’s not that anything catastrophic happened on Sunday after the construct of Daylight Savings Time snatched away 60 minutes, it’s that each thing piled up to leave me crying in the kitchen at 9:00pm wondering how to dry dishes. 

It started this way.

My grandmother, who shall never know that her existence has been mentioned here on the blog because we are never going to tell her because she hates the idea of things on the internet, has been getting hundreds of spam text messages. She is 87-years-young and she’s a voracious texter, and she loves it when we text her photos of the great-grandchildren. She doesn’t know not to respond to stupid spam texts. So she says things like “Stop” or “Your grandma loves you,” which encourages more texts and now she’s being invited by the dozen to view sites like findamilf.com and raunchysingles.com. Sites she would totally love, of course, it’s just that now it’s hard to find the family members she likes to text amidst all these delightful invitations. And she accidentally pinned all the spam numbers to her favorites in what ostensibly was a fit of frustrated right swiping. 

So the Fairy Pig and I swung by with a box of Girl Scout cookies and an invitation to walk over to get a cappuccino, where we could all sit outside, socially distanced in the rain, to try to solve this phone situation. Spoiler alert: just get the TextKiller or SMS Filter apps. Verizon can’t do anything. But after a very long time which included me taking a five-year-old to the bathroom in a strange place while chatting with the phone company, my customer service helper did suggest those. Totally worth the hour on the phone to freeze your poor grandma’s bones off in the rain. 

And then the series of little things just piled on…

I got home to cook, and as I washed my rice before cooking, bunches of little weevil bodies floated to the top.

I googled, “my rice has bugs can I eat it.” Yes, just wash them out. So then I washed my rice like 100 more times and then looked through the pantry to figure out if the weevils had friends.

Then I remembered it was jury duty for me on Monday, and I was supposed to call to find out if I needed to report. The automated system told me it couldn’t recognize me or find my number. I decided Captcha has been right all along. I probably am a robot. 

Then we put the kids down after tons of little fights–the kind of fights where people say cutting things to each other but it never really comes to full-out meltdowns, your sanity just dies slowly over the course of a few hours.

Then I stubbed my toe on the wave board that had been left in the middle of the kitchen and suddenly it was 9:00pm, because an hour had been snatched out of my little hands.

***

Here we are on Friday. Jury duty, it turns out, had been canceled. Monday, I got to go for a long drive, which allowed me to ponder whether my own screams could give me a headache–cars being basically soundproof isolation chambers, when you have the chance to be in one by yourself.

The week just kept coming with its slow churn of sadness. Not deep, dark sadness, just rainy and mundane sadness and emotional fatigue. 

So if you all are feeling it, I see you. And for those of you who have already shared or affirmed your own grief or sadness that seems to have sort of come out of nowhere, thank you.

Grief and Transformation in Pandemic Parenting

This is a stuffed bear from my childhood. It's upside down, standing on its head on a futon.

It’s February and we’re coming up on the one year mark of when we all started Pandemic Parenting. If my great-great grandmother were alive, I could ask her about parenting through a pandemic, and the corresponding anti-mask societies that had popped up then. No one likes a pandemic and we all rebel against its restrictions, sometimes to our deadly comeuppance. Or to the unintended deaths of others. Because cause and effect, it turns out, are never more apparent than in a pandemic.

But she is not alive. And so we forge ahead untethered. 

And in this period of blind progress through time, I am sitting here, almost one year in, feeling a lot of grief. “I feel like we’ve taken one step forward and ten steps back,” I said when I was chatting with my husband in the bathroom last week. 

I have grief about parenting through a pandemic, about how my anger flares up so quickly, about how I wish my children wouldn’t remember me as a screamer but how I watch myself cementing those memories week over week. 

We are 11 years–a bachelor’s and a Master’s and a Ph.D.–into parenting, and here I am unmoored from the dock and I find myself lilting in the wild, open seas. All the parenting books and classes and child therapists we’ve seen, nothing has left me prepared or feeling like I’ve passed the course. 

I recently took the parenting anger management and kid anger books off the shelf and dropped them off at one of our little neighborhood free libraries. Those clear-cabineted giant birdhouses that hold literary gems and cast-offs. In fact, you may drop any parenting books that you feel might transform my life off on my front door, and I shall find homes for them in the little book birdhouses nearby. 

I find myself taking a radical new tack. I am centering my own wholeness and healing and liberation. I started to find hope through a transformational ending racism course I took, and the amazing mentoring of my business coach, Shamaka Schumake. Two avenues that are not focused on children. For me this comes as a shock and aha!

We’ve gone about parenting struggles as if they were child-centered and solving them focused on solving the child with parenting strategies. I remember myself as a compassionate and thoughtful person who didn’t yell before I had kids. So it seemed natural that kids were the root of my turmoil. But perhaps they are a beloved mirror, the original #unfiltered. They’re showing me my whole self.

I asked my husband to take an ending oppression workshop with me in March. It’s premise is that all people are good and all people are hurt, that oppression hurts everyone who participates in it, and that we must heal and discharge trauma so that we don’t keep perpetuating it. We were weighing whether we could afford the course for both of us. “We would spend this much on an intervention for one of our children,” I said. 

My oldest is two years past the halfway mark of his time with us, our middle child is halfway through, and our youngest is almost a third of the way. I have time. I can show them that I’m growing and learning and capable of transforming even under circumstances that only my great-great-grandmother would remember. 


P.S. A note on my parenting advice boundaries. You are welcome to share your experiences with things that have changed your life. I ask that you keep it focused on you and your experience without suggesting that I do the same thing that worked for you. As many of us with challenging parenting situations will tell you, we’ve had 6,000 different strategies recommended and we’ve tried 8,000. And although you are likely coming from a place of feeling like you are unique in recommending the thing that will change my life, you might not know that I’ve already been offered the thing unsolicited many, many times. What I don’t see offered up online enough are real and candid talks about parenting struggles in a way that centers the humanity and goodness of people. Writing also fulfills my need to be seen and heard. So I will keep writing and keep offering any unsolicited advice to the book birdhouses of the world (which, as a side note, is also where I stash phrases like this too shall pass and cherish every moment, perhaps because my heart is just a block of Minecraft obsidian).