Sunday, December 17, 2017

Falling apart

I don't have time to write this blog post. I don't have time to clean up the dishes and are still joyously scattered all over the house. I don't have time to write the list of things I need to do today. I don't have time to snuggle the feverish 4-year-old who is curled up in my bed. I don't have time to respond when my husband kisses my shoulder while I'm clicking away at the keyboard, trying to look like I'm doing my homework. I don't have time to mail the New Year's cards that just arrived. I don't have time to correct the mistake the card company made. I might have made the mistake, I don't know. I don't have time to check my horoscope, I don't have time to observe the new moon, I don't have time to really think about how I want to start the new year. This is my FAVORITE time of the year- not Christmas. The end-of-year wrap ups. The BIG GOAL SETTING season. I don't have time for any of it. I'm barely surviving. 

How many times have I written this? I've been blogging for almost ten years and everything I write is some form of this post. "I'm sorry I've been so absent lately! I'm not reading as much as I want to right now! Things are really hectic right now. But don't worry, I'm on the cusp of something new, and everything is about to change." I earnestly believed that. I have spent most of my adult life thinking I was JUST about to nail the magic combo of meal planning, organization, water-drinking, routine following that would make things easier. That would make me happy. If I wrote about it, it would come true.

I've explained away my mental illness for a long time. For two reasons: 1) I figured if I wrote about it, it would become true. 2) It seemed self-indulgent. I've been dramatic my whole life, and I didn't want to steal this battle from the people who were really struggling. Even after being prescribed antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds a few years ago, I told myself it was a mistake. That the doctor was just going along with it to make me quiet. I didn't really need them, or worse, I didn't deserve them. I was being dramatic. I was making a mountain out of molehill. I could go off them at any time. Spoiler alert: that didn't go well.

I'm learning it's not normal to have a stress response that requires you to spend a more than a week sleeping 13-15 hours a night, completely cutting off contact with the people you live with and shirking a large amount of responsibility. "Oh, you're tired, your body needed it," well-meaning friends would say. Meanwhile my husband hasn't spoken to me in a eight days and my professor is wondering if I've dropped off the planet. I'm learning it's not normal to be so afraid of getting caught by a wave of emotion (positive or negative) that you religiously avoid all television and movies you haven't seen before, and that watching something that MIGHT make you cry, for any reason, is so scary that your body shakes and your teeth chatter. I'm learning that it's not normal to save every negative word and feeling for the people at home, showing the world your sweetest face and letting your rage leak out behind closed doors. I'm learning that once you've decided that you're not going to subject the people you love to your nastiness, once you firmly get a grip and shove it deep inside, it POISONS you. It physically weakens you. Your bones hurt all the time and you have no idea why, so you watch another episode of New Girl that you've seen fifteen times and wait for your kids to get into bed so you can pass out and sleep away the feelings. 

I'm learning that being busy is not something to be proud of, and I'm terrible at surviving it. I'm learning that I'll never wake up early enough, plan strictly enough, or drink enough water to do all the things I put on my own plate. I'm learning that my kids will ALWAYS get the least of me, the most squeezed-out-toothpaste-tube parts of me, and that I'm not okay with that being their memory of me. I'm realizing that I used to think "At least they're too young to remember me snapping at them, me choosing the laptop over them." And they're not too young to remember anymore. 

I'm learning it's not normal to keep yourself from crying for months. I'm learning that if you keep it all in, it will eventually explode out of you and the tears will rush so fast that your throat will go raw and your body will rebel and your muscles will feel like you were hit by a truck. In the middle of all of this you'll realize it's been MONTHS since you cried. You'll realize you can't remember the last time. And you'll know something has to change. 

I'm going to the doctor tomorrow and asking for help. More than just medicine. Referrals. Something. Because I'm not healthy, and my family needs me to be healthy. I'd like to be healthy. I'd like to stop spending every Monday thinking THIS TIME I'LL NAIL IT. I'm tired of thinking that this happens to everyone and I just need to suck it up and get over it. I'm tired of falling apart, but even more, I'm tired of trying to pretend like it isn't happening. I'm so tired, and believe me, I'm getting enough sleep. 

I've never been private, and still writing this all seems a little scary. It also feels like taking a deep breath after taking little gasps of air through my nose for a solid hour. I've only survived the last few weeks because wiser women than I have wrapped me in their arms and shared their stories and honored me with their own tears and checked in with me consistently. And if I can be that person to someone else, even virtually, every bit of misplaced shame is worth it. There is nothing wrong with being a little broken. And there is nothing wrong with needing to get help. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Be Your Own Lady Fall Quarterly Update!

Se que nadie le esto así que  me siento tan solo triste y roto como todos los pensamientos que pasan por mi cabezaThe last time I posted, summer was just beginning, and I was feeling really whiny about the future, and I was 31, and I was a first grade teacher. Pretty much the only thing that remains unchanged is that I'm still taking myself mega-seriously, and I've still got it in me to whine.  One morning this summer, I was out to breakfast and whining to a dear friend about how I couldn't "make it all work." I knew I needed to cut some things out to grow in other places, but I didn't want to give up on Be Your Own Lady. She gave me an idea of using this space to share quarterly updates, still talking books and activism and writing without feeling the pressure of regular posting. I loved the idea. I think I'll probably still post a year-end recap, and I'm going to be trying to facilitate more guest posting, but I'm sticking to four major check-ins throughout the year. It will still give me the diary-esque feel I'm going for, and keep me interacting with Be Your Own Lady until I have more time to decide where all this is going.

Work: At the end of the summer, I got a job as a Library Media Specialist at the elementary school I was already working at. I was petrified for three days, then elated, and now I'm still over the moon and also kind of tired. I'm taking graduate courses through Salem State to get my school library license, and I'm learning a lot, but it's really hard. I think it's the actually-trying-to-learn-something thing. It's exhausting. It's worth it, because I'm living a dream that I thought might take much longer to reach. So I'm eyeballs deep in digital literacy standards and Makerspace ideas and the Dewey Decimal system, which, for a book lover and librarian enthusiast, I am shockingly unfamiliar with. I am finally using the nameplate Ben made for me years ago. Ashlie Swicker: Librarian.

Emotional Club (@emotionalclub) on InstagramWriting: Over the summer, before I knew my fall would be quite so consuming, I also worked on making a site for my writing work, with the eventual goal of trying to get a few more freelance jobs. I'm really happy with how it came out, and look forward to adding more of my favorite pieces to the clips page. Check out ashlieswicker.comThe biggest sacrifice I've had to make is my writing group. We've been meeting monthly since last September, sharing insight and excerpts and it's been such an amazing experience to talk about stories and have an excuse to keep my word count up. We met as part of a writing class and enjoyed each other's company so much that we kept meeting afterwards. I adore these ladies and leaving sucks, but I haven't kept up a writing habit for a few hectic months, and I know it will be awhile until things are settled enough for me to dive back in. I miss my story, but also have been picking away at the same plot for three years, and I feel weird relief to step back. Interesting.

Here are my most recent articles for Book Riot:

Buy, Borrow, Bypass: Body Positive Memoirs (Read THIS IS JUST MY FACE! Do it!)

I'm struggling with not writing for them as often as I  should, not keeping up with new releases the way I'd like to, and not pursuing new freelance work the way I thought I'd be this fall. My library job is bigger and more important growth, so when am I being pouty about it taking up so much of my time?

Reading: I'm going to keep myself together and try not to cry right now- I'm having a TERRIBLE fall where reading is concerned. I have so many things I'm interested in reading, but I'm not working hard enough to set aside the time. I could blame it on the fact that I am truly busy, but I find the time to mindlessly scroll Twitter and Insta for countless hours, so there's no excuse. I'm not working out as much as I should to feel good, and my best reading happens when I'm on the elliptical, so there we are. STILL I have read a few things that I loved the crap out of, so here:

Moxie  The Witch Boy  I Am Alfonso Jones  The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

I'm also loving A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir on audio, when I get my act together and remember headphones to listen while I grocery shop, and I'm reading two library-adjacent titles for work (Resolve and Rescue and a book about Makerspaces).  I have some great books on deck, including the third in Libba Bray's Diviners series and some middle grade egalleys that I was praying I'd get approved for, then instantly forgot to download (EYEROLL AT MYSELF). Tell me what you're loving. Get me jealous enough to break this slump!

Blogging: I haven't been doing much but I've been reading some great things that soothe and inspire! Click through and be well (hopefully I'll get back to more focused Coffee and Blogs posts soon!)

Hymn: A Poem by Sherman Alexie  ("Alone, we are defenseless. Collected, we are sacred.")
5 Ways to be a Good Friend  (Another thing I am constantly working on.)
Reading Pathways: Paula Danziger  (Best author of all authors.)

I also check my horoscope every week/day at Astrostyle and monthly with Susan Miller. Chani Nicholas is another great resource.

Looking for similar Posts? Follow me! | Source: visualgraphcLife: My lucky little life is trucking along. Now that we're all back to school I'm MUCH happier than I was in the unscheduled, unstructured summer. Milo is in kindergarten at the school I work in, and I'm liking being so near to him- I wasn't sure how that would go. Elliott is doing so well at PreK, reaching his goals and making friends and seeming more mature everyday. My mom and stepdad were living up here for the month of September, and my sister Laurel is getting married at the end of October, so we've been spending our weekends on family time and birthday celebrations. Ben shot a new movie in September and his last film is being shown in festivals all over. 

I always wish there was more time- to read, to sit around, to see friends, to travel- but I recognize this is a period of wild career growth and I need to buckle down. Each of the boys has a skill they're really working hard on and both are right on the cusp of new milestones. Ben's brainstorming some next steps that are really exciting. We're all strapping in to make it through the holidays without too much stress, and I'm so excited for what 2018 will bring.

That's all I have at the moment, but I would love to hear from you. Where are you in work, reading, writing, life? Do you have a horoscope site to suggest, because I'm currently obsessed! What is making you happy? DO SHARE, these kinds of updates are my favorite things to hear. So much love to each of you. 

(image credits: 1, 2, 3)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

June 24th, 2017

This weekend, I'm going to make some decisions. 

It's my first weekend of summer vacation. I'm spending almost the entire time with friends- on a lake in Maine, at a lovely lunch destination in New Hampshire. I'm going to have a lot of driving time to think and to listen. I'm going to have a lot of time away from the hectic pace of work and family to process everything bouncing around my ridiculous brain. I'm going to absolutely embrace the damn magic of this gift of a weekend.

And I'm going to make some decisions.

Last weekend, I talked with my mom. Really talked, with the barriers down. When I was young, I was a bitch at home, and I didn't have a good relationship with my mom. When I got older, we got incredibly close, but I was so scared of returning to the bitch-daughter status that it was hard for me to be real. This weekend we were real. About the deaths in our lives. About the things we wanted for ourselves a long time ago. About the things we would need to do if we wanted to live the lives we had planned, or even if the plans changed. We ate lobster rolls and fried clams and had one of the most personal conversations of all time under the cover of the bluegrass live music that was playing right next to us. The dude started playing You Are My Sunshine, the song that, in our family, represents all the men who have died before their time, and we started openly sobbing. It was that kind of day.

My mom said two things that have stuck with me big time. She used the phrases "small life" and "I'm not going to let moss grow under my feet." These things resonated so hard I could feel them vibrating in my chest. I can talk FOREVER and I can't find words to explain how those things made me feel.

I haven't fought for much. I haven't taken any risks. The biggest thing I've done that includes even a modicum of self sacrifice is going on medication, and I benefit as much as my family. I got a teaching degree because someone said I'd be a good teacher. I got a job in a district and I stayed there because it's safe and because you get better at it every year. I had one kid because I like kids, and just as much because it's what you do when you've been married awhile. Without much thought, another came along quickly. We moved because we ran out of space. It's a wonderful life, one I truly love. But I wonder how I can add intentionality moving forward.

I spent my teens and twenties dabbling in other people's lives, trying on different personalities, exploring what I liked. Sometimes I cringe when I look back and see how clueless I was, but I try to be patient with myself. It was all work that brought me here, to this strangely pivotal time. I've felt strongly in 2017 that I am at a turning point. And I feel it even more strongly this weekend.

So I'll drive, and I'll think. I'll be with friends and enjoy their company and pay close, close attention to what words and ideas make me light up. I'll make some lists. I'll make some decisions.