All the feelings

My birthday was last week. I turned 45. At some point during the week my mom told me that my dad had sent me a birthday card and a check for fifty dollars.

“What do you want me to do with the check?” she asked, because she knows that in the past I’ve struggled with whether or not to take money from dad on the rare occasion that he sends any.

“Bring it with you to Yellowstone and I’ll deposit it on my bank’s mobile app,” I said without hesitating.

At that moment I didn’t feel anything about it, except maybe mildly annoyed that he only sent fifty bucks and there’s no way that’s going to make a dent in all the ways I’m financially challenged because of the abuse he perpetrated. Later that day, while packing for our upcoming trip to Yellowstone, we realized we didn’t have any binoculars and I was pleased to know I would soon have that fifty bucks so I could get a pair.

When I told my oldest kid about the fifty bucks, their response was simply:


They know about the abuse and they understand how pervasively it has affected my life and their own. I wasn’t thinking about that. I was thinking about how I was suddenly able to buy binoculars so me and my family could see more wildlife while at Yellowstone.

Today’s the day we leave for Yellowstone and I woke up at 6am in a panic.

“That’s understandable,” I thought. “Leaving home for 10 days to go on a road trip with my family and sleep on the ground is stressful”

Yes, and…

When I was settled at the kitchen table with my morning cup of kratom and scrolling through my Facebook feed, I saw a poem my sister had posted. Here’s the poem (it’s by Sherman Alexei:

The No’ (from ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me’)

So we must forgive all those
Who trespass against us?

Fuck that shit.
I’m not some charitable trust.

There are people I will hate
Even after I’m ashes and dust.

I instantly reposted it on my own wall, along with some words about it being exactly what I’m feeling because of “my dad’s stupid birthday gift and the Nazis coming out of the woodwork.” Almost instantly my dear friend who recently visited commented:

“I love you.”

I started sobbing while also trying to be very quiet because my oldest kid is sleeping on the couch in the next room. The suddenness of such intense feelings surprised me. Without realizing it, I’d been conveniently avoiding all the feelings which were boiling just under the surface. The sadness and anger that my dad could send me fifty bucks but after 25 years can still not admit to his destructive and sick abuse. The fear, sadness and rage that Nazis are openly marching in the streets and killing the citizens who stand up to them.

All the feelings.

Thankfully I have a friend who reminds me:

What I know is how incredibly hard this has been and that sometimes we just need someone to rub our back and let us cry. Let us go through the tunnel. I can’t be there to run your back or hold you, but I can send my love as you pass through darkness. Know that I’m walking beside you.



Shame. Everything in my life, all the suffering and pain, come down to shame.

I fear being vulnerable because I think if people see who I really am they’ll run away.

I don’t wear my corset top out with the authentic 1897 walking skirt which I made because people will look at me funny or ask me jokingly if it’s Halloween.

I don’t talk about sex with my husband because…well, I think he might learn things about me that I’m desperately trying to hide.

I’m a shitty housewife because I live with mental and physical chronic illness and I can’t keep the house clean or groceries in the cabinets or my kids bathed all the time.

I failed my oldest kid because I didn’t see they were being bullied until it had been going on for a while and that eventually caused them to become suicidally depressed.

We live in near poverty because my epilepsy keeps me from working more and being able to provide for my family.

There are a whole list of things I won’t even write here in case someone I know stumbles across this blog and is able to identify me.

That’s all shame talking.

This past Monday was my birthday and I had booked both a psychiatry appointment and my therapy on that day. When I walked into therapy and we started talking about what had been going on in my life over the past couple of weeks my therapist suddenly stopped me and said, “You’re familiar with Brené Brown, right?”

(Apparent Competence, a Marsha Lenehan concept, strikes again. My therapist knows I’m a therapist and assumes I keep up on the current great minds in the world of psychology. I act like I do sometimes but I don’t.)

Brené Brown is a self-proclaimed Researcher + Storyteller. Her research focuses on shame, vulnerability, courage and empathy. My therapist brought her up because, well, Shame. It’s the thread that connects all the work I do in therapy and the thing I most need to confront in my life. I know it. I have known it for a long time but how do you confront something to which your emotional and behavioral responses are: “yuck” and “quick, hide”?

I have no fucking idea. So I watched Brené Brown’s Ted Talks on Vulnerability and Shame and I ordered one of her books. I hate self-help books and rarely even pick one up to see what’s in it. I read some when I was younger and I always failed at the self-help ideas suggested in them. My intention with Brené Brown’s book is just to learn more about shame and vulnerability.

As so often happens when my therapist says something helpful, a song popped into my head. Music is the thing I can always count on and it has helped deepen my sense of connection with other humans throughout my life. This time it was the Amanda Fucking Palmer song, In My Mind.

I just want to be the person I am, not the person I want to be.

from Amanda:

And in my mind
I imagine so many things
Things that aren’t really happening
And when they put me in the ground
I’ll start pounding the lid
Saying I haven’t finished yet
I still have a tattoo to get
That says I’m living in the moment
And it’s funny how I imagined
That I could win this, win this fight
But maybe it isn’t all that funny
That I’ve been fighting all my life
But maybe I have to think it’s funny
If I wanna live before I die
And maybe it’s funniest of all
To think I’ll die before I actually see
That I am exactly the person that I want to be

Fuck yes
I am exactly the person that I want to be