I’ve formed a bit of a tick as an adult: I always unpack as soon as I get home from a trip. Literally, I walk the bag straight to the bedroom, empty it out, and put things away. There’s an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where the two of them have an altercation over taking a suitcase upstairs after coming home from a trip. Those scenes come to mind every time I think about this funny habit I’ve created: My tote bag goes back to its place within 10 minutes of being home.
I’ve spent many hours nerding-out over something new this past week. Since embracing my home/personal organization desire for color and drawing and pens and paper (my INFJ side), this direction has become a bit of a pilgrimage in exploring the modern world’s resources for those who still prefer pen and paper in a digital age.
I don’t take kindly to being talked down to. Not at all really. Actually, that’s probably the best possible way to make an enemy out of me. Forever. Yes, you’ll be my enemy, and I’ll pray for you, because Jesus says to pray for enemies, not to be friends with everyone. It feels emotionally immature, but screw that. Don’t talk to me like an idiot child! I don’t care who you are. Any hope of a working relationship with me will cease. Today. Which will suck for you, because I am invariable rock star, and I can make your life and your work much, much easier, as I’ve proven over the last sixteen years as a god of administration. Yes, I’m confident about my skills. I should be. I’m amazing.
I had a bad afternoon yesterday, and I’m obviously still stewing about it. (Yes, I’ve already admitted to acting emotionally immature, and I’m going with it.) I was so tense when I sat down to dinner I felt like I was shaking. I checked my hands. They weren’t shaking, but my skin was crawling. Here are a few drafts I decided it would be best not to send, so I’ve got that going for me in the wisdom arena.
Your communication skills leave much to be desired. Why don’t you try rephrasing your request as if your reputation, your legitimacy as a professional, and my respect for you depended on it?
Do you think I can’t hear the degrading, insulting, manipulative, and disdainful tone in your voice? Do you think you could hear it if I talked to you that way?
I’m sorry, I must have forgotten when I said you could talk to me like an inbred imbecile. Is there something you’d like to ask the person whose help you need to get through this audit, namely me?
Certainly! I’ll get to work on that as soon as I forfeit my self-respect and start letting people shit on me.
I watched crap TV until two in the morning just to get my mind off the situation, which didn’t help my mood very much. What the hell is on these days anyway?
Isn’t there a blog I follow that talks about happy, positive things? I should check that out more often. Or maybe I should use the fire to promote my consulting business. I got my business cards in the mail today. They’re awesome, like me. Designed by me, of course: minimalist, clean, essential information only.
I thought I decided being angry was a waste of energy. I thought I decided horrible people weren’t worth this kind of effort. Apparently my Irish blood can still boil and I still believe my anger is justified. (I’m an American mutt, and I’ve never become violent, but there’s enough Irish in these veins for my flare-ups to worry me over the years.)
I know, “Unforgiveness is like you drinking poison and expecting the other person to drop dead.” But it’s hard to always be the bigger person. Every. Time. I don’t have to work with this person very often, but every time I do, I want to walk out. I imagine myself throwing a pile of papers in the air, screaming profanities, and slamming the door on my way out. Every time. Without fail. I’ve never had a working relationship that was so toxic, not even close. I went to HR about it and they said not to waste my breath. It will only make it worse. (Not the biggest fan of how HR handles internal conflict either, at all really.)
It’s been awhile, but I did some internet research on courtly love about five years ago and it completely solidified my claim on being a hopeless romantic. “Married or unmarried, be free and love who your heart wrenches for,” is the policy I adopted.
Let me be very clear, the philosophy is not one that encourages spouses to be unfaithful. The marriage bed is to be kept irrevocably pure. The spouse should always be the first and main recipients of the love one has to offer.
But for the love of God, we should love others too! Marriage is between two people. But love is commanded between all people. Our compassion is a gift we can give. Our empathy, our prayers, and our intimate thoughts were created to be shared with others, to encourage and strengthen them, men and women alike. If, when we get married, we forfeit this responsibility for all but one person, then we will cause the world to have less love in circulation than it needs.
It is good for the human heart to love. It is healing for it to feel the warmth of compassion and understanding in return. It beats truer when it knows acceptance. It sleeps more soundly when it is soothed by harmonious words.
There’s something profound that happens in the heart of a woman when she catches a glimpse of how adored she is. She comes alive. She soars. She brushes off the pain of criticism… Because she is loved.
There is something that softens in the heart of a man when someone understands the pain he is experiencing. He opens and heals. His defenses melt, and he lets go of pain from years of heartache.
Those that love and receive love with a pure heart experience a euphoria of connection. Falling in love with the human race is a blessing. In it, you touch the heart of God.
“I started a business consulting business!” I couldn’t take the words back. I realized I sounded like an imbecile about half-way through the exclamation and completely killed the delivery. But the words were out before I could think twice about them and I immediately regretted having put absolutely no thought into how I should describe myself in person now.
As proud as I am of the way I’ve been able to digitally organize myself at work, the last month has shown me that my home life was in need of a much more tangible system. I wanted to use rulers and highlighters and pens and notebooks. I wanted to see color and handwriting and sketches. I loved the Bullet Journal system, but the suggested level of detail was too intense for my purposes. I wanted to chronicle my life, but not down to the most minute detail.
I had another appointment with my naturopath on Wednesday. We talked a bit about the stress I’ve been under because of the Legal Guardianship hearing and dealing with the girls’ dad. I mentioned that my job is a drag, but I’m afraid to do anything about it right now because we have so many balls in the air. It sounded like wisdom when I said it, but he challenged me. What if there’s a big open door I’m not walking through because I’m afraid?
I’ve been playing around with a business card design for years, literally. I first created the file in July 2012. Every so often I get asked about my side business, but I don’t have anything that I actually says I have one. So I determined to finalized the card design yesterday. Then I realized I would be a joke if I didn’t have a website on the card, so naturally, I designed and launched a website yesterday that describes who I am and what services I offer.
The next client question I needed to answer was, “How much is this gonna cost me?” It’s a key question that, obnoxiously, never seems to get answered on a website; like it’s a big secret you’re not allowed to know unless you talk to a salesman. It always feels underhanded and shady to me, so I determined to answer that question with some brainstorming and business planning.
I browsed other business consultant websites and read through example contracts. After a few hours I realized, at the rate I’m worth, I could replace my current job if I had four (4) clients per month. Really, just four? Yes, four. And since I already have a full-time job I can afford to be selective. I don’t have to bend over backwards to please the first schmuck that wants to hire me. I can say, “No, I don’t think it would be a good fit,” and not hurt for it.
The last piece of the puzzle I resolved was a complete business consultant agreement: my first “internal form.”
I’m beaming with pride a bit at the moment. These plans are for me… Finally! I’m putting muscle and skin on a bare-bones dream I’ve had for a long time. It’s exciting. Exhilarating, even! All it cost was some time, $26 to register my domain name with WordPress for the year and $19 to order the business cards.
I’m in business! Realizing that it’s not that hard was the biggest hurdle. Now I have something legitimate to follow-up on a conversation about my skills. All I have to do is watch for an open door.
May 19th is over. The judge approved the continuance, so I have a new date to wait for. June 30th. We were granted Temporary Guardianship until then. As promised in his barrage of harassing text messages over the last few weeks, the girls’ dad was there. It’s standard procedure for the judge to order visitation, but without a completed report she limited it considerably, thankfully. She told us to let him see the girls for one hour this afternoon.
I felt terrible springing the surprise visit on the girls right after they got out of school, but they took it in stride. We met him and his tag-along girlfriend (New Mommy choice) at a public place. Neither of them looked at us or spoke a word to us all day. We have housed and tutored and spoiled and loved those girls like our own children for two years, and he pretended we were invisible. Better than engaging in a fight, I guess, but really? In my mind, not looking someone in the eye just screams shame and guilt and cowardice.
One hour. Before we got there I told the girls if they were uncomfortable they could let me know by asking if I could get them some french fries. We sat in the booth next to theirs for one hour and listened to low voices. Thankfully, they were okay. No requests for french fries. I periodically poked my head around the corner to let the younger one know I was still right there.
The girls told me after that he told them a “funny” story about one time when the neighbor kids decided it would be fun to throw kitchen knives at a board on the floor. Then the game escalated and they thought it would be funny to throw knives at each other. Hysterical. “Where [the hell!] were the parents?” I asked one of the girls who was laughing, retelling the story. “Oh, they were drinking beer in the next room.”
You don’t have to have maternal feelings to see how screwed up that is. First, that he would tell them of that story as part of the “good ol’ days.” Second, that he encouraged the girls to think it was funny. Thirdly… do I need a third point? Every protective bone in my body is screaming.
Their mom, who we have a signed, private custody agreement with, said he was very harsh with them when they were little, which caused a lot of their early fights. “He would say or do something and I’d say no and stop it, then… yeah.” Her words.
She ran away from him once with the kids and he tracked her down by filing a bogus protection order. He knew that the court would require her to be personally served, so he gave the sheriff the address of a friend who knew where she was. The friend gave the address to the sheriff, and the proof of service that the asshole got back had the address where she was living, the battered women’s shelter. She was supposed to be safe there.
These are only a few examples of the dozens of stories I’ve heard about him over the years. Every fiber of my being says, “No! Stay away. You’re a liability. You abandoned them, by every legal and moral definition of the word. You should not be allowed to raise them just because your pride is hurt.” He had absolutely no expressed interest in having the girls live with him until he found out that we were seeking Legal Guardianship. Now suddenly he’s “Father of the Year,” come to right every wrong of the past by harassing the tar out of us, the court, and anyone else who might not agree with him.
He doesn’t understand that he’s only hurting everyone involved. The girls are happy, content, healthy, safe. They’re getting a stellar education. Both of them talk about going to college.
IN a 2010 study by researchers at the University of Chicago, only 6 percent of former foster youths had earned a two- or four-year degree by age 24. Those not in college may be in jail; 34 percent who had left foster care at age 17 or 18 reported being arrested by age 19. (New York Times, 2013)
Their dad checked himself into a mental hospital four years ago, told the staff there that the girls’ mother was dead, and he didn’t have any friends the girls could stay with while he was in a psyche hold. The truth was that he had filed another bogus, emergency police report to have their mother forcibly removed from the house two months prior, and Spike, his only friend, lived ten minutes down the road.
The girls went into foster care. After having multiple “no contact” orders issued against him for harassing the case workers, the foster parents, and the social workers, their dad moved across the country with a new girlfriend. Spike helped their mom find a place to live and get back on her feet. And she got them out of foster care.
Who the hell lets that happen to their children and still, four years later, doesn’t see how horrifying it was?
This is an ugly business. And I’m not an ugly person. God, show me justice. Please.
Do you ever feel like you’re bleeding all over everyone?
I’m anxious about tomorrow. I’m desperately trying not to be, but the desperation is coming out in casually conversing with people about what we’re be up against. It’s not helping. I’m trying to make light of an issue that isn’t light. It isn’t casual. As soon as the gravity of the situation hits them, I watch them back-pedal, stop listening, and try to end the conversation.
“Oh, sorry! Did I get blood on your shoes? Sorry, let me see if I can clean that up for you. I can’t believe I bled on you. That’s so inconsiderate!”
Clearly, I need an outlet, and the world around me is proving to be a pathetic sounding board. I don’t know where to start, or if this is the right place, but I’ll be at the courthouse in less than twelve hours, and there are many many unknowns. I keep telling myself not to worry about tomorrow. It will bring enough trouble of its own. But I keep thinking there’s something I might be able to prepare for.
I’ve filed all the paperwork. I’ve got all my copies ready to go. I even have court clothes picked out. Check. Check. Check! I’ve been working toward this day since last summer, and the most disheartening thing is that it won’t be over tomorrow. We might sit in the waiting room all. day. long. just to hear what we already know: the court investigator has filed a motion for a continuance.
We’re not related to the girls. Their parents live in two different states and have only had a half-dozen points of contacts with the girls in the last two years. Their father is a menace. Their mother has a hard time following-through. It’s complicated. A social worker was assigned to the case two weeks ago to complete the investigation and give their recommendation to the court. Social workers are busy. No surprise there. The investigation isn’t done. They haven’t even called us yet.
This level of stress doesn’t get a resolution tomorrow. It gets a pat on the head and told to keep waiting.
How the hell am I supposed to sleep?
“Praying that the court does what’s best for the girls.” It sounds encouraging doesn’t it? But when it’s delivered to me from a friend, it really feels under-handed. Her three natural-born children are sleeping soundly in their beds. No one is fighting to take them from her. She doesn’t know what this is like. She doesn’t understand what it feels like to have to convince a court of law that you’re a better parent than someone else. It’s not an argument I ever thought I’d be in, especially not with someone I’ve been trying to avoid since I was eleven years old.
I knew the girls’ dad when I was a kid. I kept my distance. Even then I knew his kind of instability was not something I wanted to be around. Talk about bleeding all over people. His insecurities and issues were out for the world to see at a very early age. My friends steered clear too, and now no one will listen to him. No one will take him seriously. No one will stand up for him. No one believes he’s right to fight us on this, not even his own mother.
She will be at the hearing tomorrow too. One, big, happy, dysfunctional, volatile family. God help us.
I have words. I’ve locked them away for five years. After months of spewing my raw soul onto paper, I could only wait for time to pass. It was the only thing left to heal me. I’ve only read through some of those words once or twice since then, but each time it was too soon. The pain was still too near. The pages singed my emotions. I’m still waiting for the sting to cool, and I wonder each year if I’ll ever actually forget.
Then I battle the fear of forgetting. What if I need that strength? I was blind before. What if I lose the sight I’ve gained? It’s all I have to show for what I endured.
I battle the fear of ignorance. What people don’t know can hurt them, and it does, every day. Am I supposed to share my words? I have more than enough of them. The material is yellowing on my shelves. But it’s ugly and dark. People don’t want to know. There are many subjects that people bravely come forward to share here in the 21st century, but this isn’t one of them. This one is locked away in secrets and rumors and whispers and scandals. It’s locked away in pride and shame, only fit to be heard by a jury of peers.
I battle the fear of flippant disregard. “That’s intense,” I imagine the response, barely a complete sentence. More than anything I battle the fear of questions. I’m afraid of the doubt of others. I’m afraid of being misunderstood. I’m afraid my heart and motivations and decisions will be scrutinized and criticized. I survived the worst thing that ever happened to me. “But couldn’t you have survived it like this?” might be the question that leads to my ruin.
As a life-long people-pleaser, I’m know no one will be pleased by my story, least of all me. No one will sleep better at night. These stories need a voice, but I’m afraid I don’t have the courage to see it through.