I had a strange, somewhat disturbing dream last night:
My mother was here. And my sister; they were talking together in her room like they used to. Dalton and his friend, Zak, were in another room playing, asking me if they could have a sleepover. A boyfriend was also there, just wanting to get me alone so he could… well, you know; and my mother wanted me to help her put on her stockings.
I was drawing. And I just wanted everyone to leave me alone and let me draw. I was creating such wonderful things; but nobody seemed to notice or care.
Then, the doorbell rang and my sister wanted me to go to the door, even though it was her son that was there. He had apparently been sent by his father (my landlord) to say where it was OK to park. And then I got offended because this is my house and I told him that I am the one who makes those decisions! And then I realized my sister didn’t want to be in the middle of this – didn’t want to confront me about my failure to adequately take care of the house, but had a responsibility to her husband (my landlord). And it was like everyone knew how messed up I was and that I didn’t deserve this house and “they” were going to take over.
And I felt similar feelings to what I felt the time when I was 19 and had flown to Atlanta for a vacation with a friend: I had agreed that, while I was there, I would go to Spartanburg, SC and pick up a car for my sister and drive it back to California. But there was apparently some confusion as to what exactly that agreement consisted of – in terms of time, anyway.
The friend I was with somehow managed to get robbed, losing all of our travel money and things got a bit crazy (she was a bit crazy, but I was not yet fully conscious of that fact). To make a long story short, when my sister wanted her car back right away, I told my family that I was in the unfortunate position of not having the money to come home yet but if they could help, I would comply. My dad had given me gas credit cards, but when I tried to use them, I found they were expired and no longer valid. When I told my parents this, I guess they didn’t believe me. They ended up flying my then-16-yr-old brother out to take the responsibility of the car out of my hands and drive it back himself if need be. He showed up, said “get in the car, we’re leaving,” and I was furious. My parents had given him credit cards (ones that assumedly worked) and cash to make the trip! He left. I stayed, stuck in Atlanta,Georgia, with no money (and my crazy friend). My thoughts were that if my parents could pay to fly out my brother, and give him cash for the return trip with the car, then why couldn’t they send me enough money to get home? I really did not understand. And my sister was very angry with me. Everyone acted like I had been completely irresponsible and out of line. I felt completely abandoned and misjudged.
I asked a friend in San Diego to loan me the airfare to get home, which he did, and I stayed with him for a couple of weeks, along with my friend who was dating the guy. I did not tell my family where I was. When I finally contacted them and went home, it didn’t seem like they even had missed me or worried about me at all. I was very hurt. Those feelings have lingered because to this day I do not understand what happened. But it made me sensitive to perceived feelings of being misjudged or maligned.
This is how my dream made me feel. And I realize it has to do with the fact that this week I have been focusing a lot on my frustrating inability to clean out and organize this house, and my guilt and humiliation about being behind on my rent and in such miserable financial shape. There is guilt and shame, along with feelings of being misunderstood and misjudged. But I now realize it is only me who is judging and blaming here. I am the one imposing shame and guilt onto myself and then I project it onto others at times: Because it feels so bad. I do not like feeling incompetent or inept; a failure. Who would?
So money and housecleaning are not my strong points. That really doesn’t mean I’m a bad person, nor does it mean I’m a complete failure or idiot. Or so I tell myself.
As I gradually awoke from this dream this morning, some impressions came to me. When I was caring for my mother, I realize now that it made me feel important, like I mattered; I was doing something important. And I took it seriously, I tried to be Super Woman – raising my son by myself, caring for my mother, in charge of the housework, the shopping, working, paying the bills, doing everything that needed to be done. I could do this; I would prove I was worthy. And I did this for a number of years, sometimes wearing myself pretty thin. I did not pay much attention to my own wants and dreams, but I was ok with that.
Eventually though, things started breaking down: the housework fell behind, organization turned to chaos, things got misplaced and forgotten, bills didn’t get paid – and then my mother died. I know my mother’s death was not my fault or due to any failure on my part. I loved her very much. In fact, I think part of the reason why things started to get out of my control was that I was so worried about her and her care became more time- and energy-consuming.
But it has been nearly three years since my mother died and I STLL have not cleaned out this house and put it in shape. My mother’s things are mostly still here. Her room is not being used except as a place to put things that don’t have any other place to go. And, in fact, this house has gotten much, much worse. I don’t know what to do with everything, there is too much STUFF and it simply feels too overwhelming. I feel frozen. And guilty. And incompetent. And I feel frustrated that I am paying for a house that does not even feel like my home – it is too messy, it is out of control! And this all just feels crazy! And I miss my mother.
I have gone through some major changes since losing my mother: I quit smoking more than a year ago, after a 30+ year habit. I also discovered I could draw, that I have always been an artist, and that I can have a life designed according to my deepest desires. I can do this, and I only have to prove it to myself.
But meanwhile, I do not earn enough money and my house is a mess. And I need to clear out the clutter to make room for the good stuff to come in. Spiritually as well as physically.
A couple of years ago when trying to attack this problem, I found a book, “SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life: A Four-Step Guide to Getting Unstuck,” that seemed to be exactly what I needed. So at that time, I started it, cleaned out a corner of the garage – and then stopped. I am not sure why.
Somewhere around the same time, I also found this book, The Energy of Money: A Spiritual Guide to Financial and Personal Fulfillment, and which I also started to read – but never got past the Introduction. Perhaps I just was not ready.
Then this week, feeling so sick and tired of being depressed over not having any money, sick and tired of being scared and confused – I picked up “S.H.E.D.” again. I re-read what I’d read before and on through to the end of the first chapter. Reading it helped me feel better and perhaps the timing is right this time. I read until I came to a place where there is an Exercise. I am to write an “autobiography of money” for myself. It seems I have tried to do this kind of thing at various times in the past – Molly even has advised me to do this – always trying to get to the bottom of why I never have enough money and never yet being successful at finding an answer that makes sense. But I will try this again; maybe this time things will make sense. Maybe I still need to dig deeper.
Several days have gone by and I still have not done this. But I will; a promise to myself. And, as for my house, my sister has told me just today that she wants to make it a point to come help me with the house when she gets back from her upcoming trip. This is wonderful. I need help and will be very grateful for it.
So I am, at least, trying to deal with things. I still have not heard anything about my children’s book manuscript. I battle feelings of insecurity and anxiety about this every day. And I still am not drawing, not working on my “stuff.” I try to distract myself – last week with trying to establish a social life – and this is still a very good thing. And I am trying to work through my “money” and “house” issues. This is a weird phase for me. But I will get through it.
I was so looking forward to doing this again on Wednesday: SCO: Wednesday Night Walk: Petaluma Downtown & Riverfront. But then was reminded (or told, since I didn’t know about it) that there was a 6th grade parent meeting at the school. I was devastated; I could hardly believe how let down I felt. God, I’ve been so depressed. But who wouldn’t rather go for a walk then go to a fund-raising meeting at the school? (Especially when I needed help doing some fund-raising on my own.) But I was prepared to do my duty and go.
And then I fell asleep. That has been happening a lot lately; I will sit down on the couch to read about an hour or two before dinner and fall asleep – deeply asleep – and not wake up! And this is what happened. Dalton had been in his room playing video games (was supposed to be doing homework) and he came out and woke me up to tell me he was hungry – and it was too late to make it to the meeting! I felt awful – guilty, embarrassed. My disappointment over not getting to go on the Walk was completely overwhelmed by my feeling of guilt for not going to this. And, likewise, I started out this week feeling guilt over letting Dalton do too much this weekend to accommodate my desire to go out and play; thereby causing him to miss school because he was so over-tired! What’s a mom to do? Growing pains of a sort must be what I’m feeling: Trying to adapt to having a Life outside of being a stay-at-home mom. Eventually it will all work out – I hope!
Friday was a good day: my sister went with me to The Find. I am glad she wanted to go with me; I needed to follow up and show my cat magnets to the owner and had put it off all week. This stuff is not easy. Showing strangers one’s creations is a very vulnerable business. But, my sister enjoyed the store like I knew she would and the owner thought my magnets were very cute – but not exactly the right fit for her store. She graciously gave me the names of some other stores she recommended, though, so I made a note of those. We looked at a couple, but decided to go to lunch. I will need to go back and try these stores another day, but I congratulated myself on at least taking the first step. And then my sister and I had lunch at Café Zazzle. It was a beautiful day and we both enjoyed our time together. And at least I accomplished something.
Originally, in trying to decide how to sum up this week, I thought perhaps it was about “Guilt.” But after writing this it occurs to me that perhaps it is more accurately about “Baby Steps.” Big, overwhelming tasks or new and unfamiliar tasks – anything that is daunting or dreaded – can require Baby Steps in order to ultimately get it done. Often it doesn’t seem like Baby Steps are worth the effort; how can Baby Steps get the job done? But it is the Baby Steps that are, I think, the most important thing you can do. Those Baby Steps, I think, are often the hardest part.
So here are the Baby Steps I seem to have taken: Well, first thing was when I sent my children’s book manuscript off for professional critique; that was – and is continuing to be – extremely daunting. Next, I joined some social groups, started a blog, and joined in some activities – on my own, alone, knowing no one; I am making another attempt at dealing with my house-clearing issue and trying to figure out how to get on top of financial matters – very small, but important steps; and I showed my magnets to a store owner with the goal of going further.
So there’s my story for this week. And I feel better just by writing it. Onward and upward…. BABY STEPS it is.