When I hate myself

A few months ago, I didn’t hate myself.  I wasn’t completely in love with me either, but I was better able to look past my many flaws and focus on the things that I did right.  The things that made me who I was and that weren’t so bad.  Then, the “derailing” occurred and as I sit here, trying to put together the pieces of my shattered self-image, I find that I don’t love me so much anymore.

I ask myself why, exactly, is it that today’s version of me isn’t as good as the one I saw back in the spring?  What is it that makes me avoid looking at my face in the mirror and that has me sobbing into my pillows at night?  And I think I’ve come up with a few answers.

For one thing, the derailing involved being bombarded regularly with another’s self-hatred and while I did not agree with this person’s assessment of self, I was pained to see that the characteristics brought into question for being justifiable causes of self-loathing were ones I shared with this individual.  So if they were hate-worthy in someone else, they are hate-worthy in me?  If I wasn’t allowed to love this person who was so like me, how could I possibly love myself?

Next, I think I had covered up my self-hatred by creating a list of a few traits which I found to be admirable and using them to help me ignore the ones inside, the less admirable traits, the ones of which I was not so proud.  Apparently, I had begun to base my self-esteem on what I could do.  I could get up at 5am, work out, create food from scratch, unload the dishwasher, plan and execute school lessons, and just plain old nail everything.  As long as I was doing these things, these tangible things, I was at least okay and not being some of the qualities I least liked in others (wasteful, slothful, lazy, useless, boring). However, the past few months have left me less able to “do”.  Between nursing a broken heart, a shattered self-image, the loss of several relationships with people who may or may not have been my friends, it’s hard to say, and intense physical pain… well, I’ve slowed down.  It’s all been a vicious cycle.  When I don’t sleep, I am exhausted.  When I hurt, I can’t exercise.  When I don’t exercise, I deal with stress in my life less efficiently and I become depressed. When I’m depressed I don’t sleep.  I’m finally at a place where I can work out somewhat again but it’s been very difficult to get motivated.  If I look around and I see only half as much in the accomplishment department as I used to see then, well, I feel like a failure.

Then, of course, there is the pressure to be a better wife than I was for the past 12 years so that my husband doesn’t leave me.  Because he could leave me.  He should leave me, maybe, even.  Other people have left me and my actions had little to nothing to do with them so why shouldn’t he?  When I look at myself through his eyes, I have a hard time seeing what is making him love me.  Is he just pretending because it’s what he’s supposed to be doing or has he genuinely had a change of heart?  How much longer can he keep up this facade before everything slips back to the way it was?  And now that I’m not as useful around the house and with the kids, what could he possibly like more about me?  I’ve put on a little weight due to lack of mobility.  That has to be a deterrent.  Eventually he’ll notice that, right?  Besides, people don’t change.  So, all of the good stuff around here is basically a ticking time bomb.  When I see myself, all I see is a chubby, out of shape, emotionally wrecked, mentally challenged, useless drain on him, her children, and all of the people around her.  How can he see something so considerably different?

Once upon a time, I had the unconditional love of a mother.  She thought I hung the moon and the stars and the entire universe centered around me (not healthy, I know).  Still, I knew what it was like to be loved. At least by her.  This week, we got the tubs of old pictures belonging to my mother out of the attic.  Among the photographs of my childhood memories was a journal she was keeping near her death.  In fact, there were several journals she’d started about that time.  She never finished one.  Never stuck with it.  Annoyed the living daylights out of me.  As I thumbed through this one journal, though, a gratitude journal, I started to realize that toward the end of her life, her focus on me had shifted.  Not one time, in the pages upon pages listing for what she was most grateful did she ever once mention me, my children, or anything related to us.  By the time my mother died, she no longer saw me as the entire world.  In fact, I’m not sure we even liked one another.

I hold my babies in my arms, day in. Day out.  I wrap my arms around them and try to send them all of the love, strength, and positivity I can muster.  I imagine being able to somehow, magically, let them know how much they mean to me.  Are they my entire world? No.  I have other stuff in my life that brings me joy.  I’ve made sure of that.  And while I know that I will always love them more than life itself, and right now I know we have solid, healthy relationships, I cannot help but fear that one day, in the distant but not-so-distant future, my self-hatred will eventually destroy even that. That one thing I’ve managed to do right.

As the dust settles

The past two days I’ve had a change in perspective.  The dust is starting to settle after the craziness of the intense drama which finally blew up in my face.  My perspective has changed in that I’ve been able to see the important gains and positive results of this traumatizing experience.  I’ve been able to look beyond the losses and see what has been given to me.  And folks, it is so much.  More than I ever dreamed possible.  In no particular order, the gifts which I have received…

My husband.

I’ve never tried to cover up the fact that my marriage wasn’t exactly perfect.  Okay, it was not good, guys.  One terrible thing after another has happened to me and my husband throughout the course of our relationship and frankly, we never had a chance to catch our breath and reconnect before the next storm would hit.  So we were hanging on by a thread.  Living a very mundane existence of “waiting it out ’til the kids were grown.”  This wasn’t what either of us wanted but it was what we had.  Over the past two weeks, my husband has more than made up for any shortcomings and any wrongdoings I might have been holding against him.  He’s proven to me, once and for all, that he loves me, he’s not going anywhere, and he’s been willing to make changes he’s needed to make in order to truly be in a marriage with me again.  I’ve been changing too.  I’d say, “We still have a lot of work to do” but that doesn’t even feel right to say.  We’ve been doing all of that work for the past 9 years.  Now it’s time to just enjoy each other.  I was ready for that old marriage to be over.  This new one is way better than that old one ever was. We’ve divorced the old marriage. Not each other.

Friendships.

The chiz went down and when it did, I had to figure out to whom I could turn.  And the people I chose weren’t the ones I usually chose in the past.  Through this ordeal, I learned thtumblr_muqc21nqys1rsyukao1_1280-534at some people in my life were ready to move up to “the friend you call when you need someone right away” ranks.  I was reminded that a couple people who were on that list to begin with were still on that list.  And I was shown that ones I thought were on it?  Not so much.  I also reached out to new people who seemed cool and that went very well.  And, I reached out to one bestie who has always been here for me but, for some reason I never imagined I could be 100% myself around.  Yet, it turns out, no matter how ugly. No matter how imperfect my life becomes? She’s still there.  Loving me.  I’m in awe.  I reconnected with my cousin through this difficult time and learned that we are as compatible as friends as we ever were.  Best of all? I discovered that my very best friend, for life, is the man to whom I’m married.  He’s willing to fight for me.  He’s willing to tell me the truth.  He’s willing to forgive me and tell me that, just because I may have made a mistake does not mean I’m not lovable.  I’ve never been so loved by him.  Yet here I am, at my most unlovable.

My precious children.

Of course, I’ve always had my kids.  They didn’t go anywhere.  However, I must say that they have shown me more compassion and love during these dark weeks than children should ever have to show their mother.  The kindness is immeasurable.  Their love is tangible.  The sweet hugs, the wiping away of my tears, taking care of me and the house, the looks of compassion, a tender hand in mine or on my shoulder.  They may not have been blessed with a perfect mother but they have been blessed with a training program for learning how to be great listeners and empathetic friends.

49587f1ebb377cf5ac35a8d1f69323a5Discernment.

Turns out, I’m pretty book smart but my street smarts aren’t so hot.  I’m about as naive and mature as a teenager, at best.  At times I think I might be less mature and more naive than I was as a teen, even.  Like I might be developing backwards.  I look young, I act young, and I think young.  I also trust and love young.  Easily, openly, and hard.  I love hard. This is all well and good when it comes to my immediate family.  Those people I can safely love hard and no harm will come to me.  Unfortunately, I’m not always able to refrain from loving everyone around me.  Once in a while, that love is dangerous.  Abused. Taken advantage of. Exploited even. I keep thinking about how, if I can’t even protect myself, how am I to protect my children?  Hopefully, and it seems as if this is the case, they already have more discernment even at their tender ages of 11, 9, and 6 than I do at 37.  I’m not sure I’ve gained discernment but I sure have read a lot of articles about red flags and manipulation and, well… hopefully next time I’ll be able to just go to one of my family members and say, “HEY?! Is this dangerous?” and they will be able to guide me.  Also, my gut? It’s pretty on target it would seem.

Focus on new (old) things.

Many of the things I love are bringing me down right now because the are connected to bad memories.  So I’ve had to force myself to focus on either new stuff that interests me or bring out the old stuff that isn’t somehow connected to the icky stuff.  This has helped me refocus on things like my love of the B-52s, my art, my writing, movies in my Netflix queue which I’ve been meaning to watch, working out, my love of healthy foods and coffee.  I cannot remove all of the bad feelings and I cannot control all of the triggers but what I can do is continue to reintroduce non-triggers as regularly as possible.

Have you ever been able to see gifts and precious rewards given to you as a result of a difficult time?  I’d love to hear about your experiences!

Self-care: A writing exercise

I am…deeply humiliated and filled with paralyzing fear.
The main thing about me is…that I honestly don’t think I can survive out in the real world, especially not without the help of my husband.
I always…feel the deepest connections with the wrong people.
I feel most like me when…listening to my vinyl while singing and dancing around my house in my lounge pants, a headband, and t-shirt.
What I like most about a person is…their ability to love, support, and not judge… unconditionally.
I will be…smarter, less trusting, and listening to my gut from now on.
I get angry when…I think about how mean, cruel, manipulative, and disgusting people can be.
I feel happiest when…my entire family is together, spending time laughing and enjoying one another.
I believe in…love.  Even when it hurts.
One thing I want to accomplish is…for a play I’ve written to be produced.
What I like most about myself is…my kind heart and gentle spirit.
I hate it when…I cannot protect my loved ones from pain and suffering.
I was…unaware of the truth right before my eyes.
I feel least like me when…I am trying hard to fit into a conservative judgmental environment or mindset.
I feel weakest when…someone is pointing out or taking advantage of my vulnerabilities and flaws.

Yesterday’s Artists, Today’s Inspirations: Homeschool Art History Class 3, Michelangelo

Last Friday, I finally taught an art class without being exhausted and super stressed out!  Between a good night of sleep and the help of my amazing assistant, I feel like I pulled off a pretty awesome class for our students.  It’s not easy to fit two art projects and a history lesson into a 1.5 hour long period but, like a crazy person, I did plan such a thing and it went pretty smoothly!  Of course, had my husband not pitched in, there is no way I would have walked away from the experience with my sanity in tact.

Narrowing down the projects and topics for an artist like Michelangelo is no simple task.  There are so many fun ideas and countless directions in which I could have taken my students but I decided to focus on two themes:  the physical pain caused him by the painting of the Sistine Chapel and frescoes.

Timeline information is as follows:

Michelangelo

1475-1564

Italy

Fast Facts:

  1. He painted the Sistine Chapel which was literally a pain in his neck.
  2. He was an accomplished poet.
  3. Sculpting was his greatest love and he continued working on sculptures until the week of his death.

I read aloud to the children from this website and then again from this one.  Had several books on hand but none of them fit as perfectly with my lesson plans as the information on these links!

Our art projects included having the children draw family portraits on paper attached under their tables.  The idea was that, like Michelangelo, they would experience discomfort and frustration as they tried to position themselves underneath the tables in order to create a simple drawing.  Many students complained which was precisely what I expected.  I’d imagine they will take the experience with them and vividly remember when art was a pain in the neck… a mere glimpse into the extraordinary agony Michelangelo experienced while painting the Sistine Chapel.

My children had the following to say about the experience:

“Cool idea.  Hurt like crap.”

“I thought it was a cool idea but it did hurt.”

“It hurt my neck.  I couldn’t lay down.”

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For two days prior to our class, my rock star of a husband spent countless hours mixing Plaster of Paris in buckets in order to create frescoes upon which my students could paint.  Due to my sciatica, about all I could do was watch.  He ran out of the medium and had to go to Lowe’s in the pouring rain to get more.  I appreciate his help so much and I’m sure all of the children did as well for the fresco paintings appeared to be a huge hit!

To make these at home, follow the instructions on this link.

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Additional online resources include:

(and, as always, please preview these resources to make sure they are appropriate for your student)

http://www.biography.com/people/michelangelo-9407628

http://www.michelangelo.com/buon/bio-index2.html

http://www.michelangelo.org/

Next up?  A day of dancers with Edgar Degas!

Derailed

Once upon a time, only a few short months ago, I was a rockstar.

That’s right.

A rockstar.

I exercised.

I ate right.

I took my supplements.

I cooked meals from scratch, whipped up amazing homeschool unit studies lickety split, all the while volunteering in my community, being a great friend, staying present and engaged with my children.

Sometimes, even I was amazed at how I kept all of the balls in the air.  I must have had some magical powers.

Then one day I derailed.  I was thrown totally off course. I was running a race, keeping up the pace and suddenly the wind was knocked out of me.

I had seen myself, the other half of my very soul, walking around outside of my body.

My heart was elsewhere.

I was more alone and less alone than I’ve ever felt in my entire life.

It was both the very best and very worst thing that has ever happened to me.

And yet the stars were aligning elsewhere in my life.

Theater opportunities, a chance to teach an art class, girl friends who cared.

None of it mattered.

I stopped seeing anything else except the thing.  The derailment.

The thing that gave me all of the purpose in the world while simultaneously taking any and all purpose away from me.

I had tunnel vision.

I no longer ate, I no longer slept, I no longer exercised, and I certainly wasn’t doing a very good job of being present for any of the people in my home and circle of friends.

I became worthless.

When my husband married me, we didn’t know I had asperger’s.  We didn’t know that I’d be this way.  This extremely sensitive and creative and loving and kind spirit who also couldn’t ever actually mature past her teen years.  Who had poor judgment and even poorer boundaries.  Who loved so hard that it would eventually do her in.  We just didn’t know.

I hate trapping him.

I hate making him miserable and frustrated and alone.

I hate being derailed.

I’m forever changed.

All I want is to be able to go back to being who I was before.  This supermom who appeared to have her act together, more or less.  This girl in a woman’s body who just wanted someone to see her, actually see her, and say, “I get it, I live it, and I love you even more for it.”

Connection is so powerful.  Especially when you aren’t used to having it. Especially when you’ve spent 37 years wandering this earth, feeling like an alien, and finally finding home.

There is no way to recover from that.

I am alone.

And I always will be.

Yesterday’s Artists, Today’s Inspirations: Homeschool Art History Class 2, Leonardo da Vinci

Our second art class took place last Friday but I’m just now getting around to blogging about it because, until today (and until steroids, anti-inflammatory pills and muscle relaxers), I haven’t been able to sit comfortably in order to type!  So I’m thrilled to be in a seated position without any sciatic nerve pain.  It’s a big deal. And I’m thankful.

Without further ado, I’d love to tell you all about our lesson on Leonardo da Vinci.  I already knew quite a bit about the man prior to our study but I will admit that digging deeper into his life was fascinating!  He was truly the definition of a polymath, a word my daughter taught me last week!  Be sure to click the link if you don’t know what that word means. Educate yourself!

The first thing I did in class was to collect our index cards for the group art project we are working on for the end-of-the-year art show.  I was delighted to see how different the cards all were.  No two cards looked alike!

Next, I introduced my students to Leonardo da Vinci and read to them the first chapter of this book.  I’d checked out many books from the library and read through all of them in order to choose what I felt was the best, most succinct information to share with my students.

The children then took out their Artist Timelines and added their photos of Leonardo to the first “panel” on the backside of their timelines.  They were instructed to glue their photos on and then they were shown how to write his name directly under the picture.  Underneath that, the years he lived and then the country in which he was born/lived/worked.  It was to look like this:

Photo

Leonardo da Vinci

1452-1519

Italy

Students who were able to were asked to take out a sheet of paper for writing their fast facts about Leonardo!

  1.  Leonardo was an inventor, artist, sculptor, and scientist.
  2. He lived during a time called the Renaissance which means “rebirth”.
  3. As an artist,he was best known for painting the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper.

Student were also told that they had the option of typing up their fast facts to be printed and glued onto their timelines later at home.

I passed out maps of Italy and had the students label the area of the country in which Leonardo lived and worked: Florence.  Students can color their maps of Italy at home for homework.

After we reviewed and wrote the fast facts, we talked about the Mona Lisa.  Then I read them this really awesome book I found at the library which was told from the point of view of the subject of the painting about the time she was stolen.  It’s such a great book!

I passed out a coloring sheet of the Mona Lisa for my students to work on as I read to them.  With my own children, I find that they seem to listen better when they have something to work on as I’m reading.  My class seemed to enjoy coloring during story time.

Finally, we moved on to flying machines.  I read aloud to the children about some of da Vinci’s inventions and then I passed out brown paper bags to each student.  The bags all contained the exact same materials… 10 rubber bands, paper straws and craft sticks.  Each student also had access to duct tape, masking tape, scotch tape, hot glue, and their own art supplies (scissors, markers, crayons, etc).  The instructions were to use da Vinci’s designs as inspiration and to create their own flying machines.  I loved how every single invention was so unique.  Given the exact same materials, every student created something different from the rest.  How exciting!

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Students were invited to share his or her flying machine at the end of class.

Links for additional study:

(Disclaimer:  This review this material before showing it to your children… I cannot be held responsible for sensitive material.)

https://boingboing.net/2015/09/02/painters-guild.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3204079/Mystery-Mona-Lisa-s-smile-solved-Second-painting-shows-da-Vinci-created-optical-illusion-trick-viewers.html

http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/11/17/leonardos-brain-leonard-shlain/

http://www.ducksters.com/biography/leonardo_da_vinci.php

Stay tuned as we continue our study of the Renaissance next time with Michelangelo.