The Thing About Choices

Let go of the past and know you did your best at any given moment.

Today I responded to a post on a FB group for parents of children with OCD and anxiety. A mother was requesting advice with regards to her son who was being bullied at school. She was considering pulling him out of school and wanted others to weigh in.

My reply to her post was rather long, because her situation was one that I was presented with not too long ago when Jake was in high school. Now that Jake is nearly 22, he and I have had several conversations about our decision to homeschool.

What parent hasn’t questioned the choices she’s made for her children? Add special needs to that equation and the ante has just been upped. The choices seem to carry more weight. What if I make the wrong choice? What if I ruin him? What if I’m wrong?

The What-If game is a dirty game to play. It’s a game I own a lot of stock in and, let’s just say, the return on my investment isn’t going to make me rich. I have wasted so much time and energy rethinking my choices for Jake over the years. Come to find out, so has Jake.

He often talks about all the things he missed out on by not going to a brick and mortar school. School dances. Class trips. Clubs. Basically any kind of socialization. This was a huge topic of conversation when we made the choice to homeschool Jake. I knew he would miss out on some key high school experiences, but I also knew that he wasn’t learning anything at all, and he was having trouble finding his tribe. I also argued that not all forms of socialization are good. And I firmly believed in every word I said, every argument I countered.

I made every effort to replace those experiences with local groups. But they all fell short. Jake was just too smart, and on such a different social path than his peers. He is an old soul. He doesn’t really understand his generation and the way they act as a whole. I wonder if it would’ve been any different if he’d remained in school?

The things that I didn’t consider that he’d miss out on were tests, taking notes, and homework. None of those seem like such a big deal, right? But going to college has forced him to learn those skills rather quickly. And they are skills. He’s doing just fine it just took him a minute to get up to speed.

So when Jake and I talk and he says that he “missed out on so much” I feel like I let him down. I made the wrong decision, and he’s paying for that in spades. But then I think of all the things he gained from being homeschooled. He was able to follow his passions (higher maths, and sciences like Quantum Physics) and focus on them. He didn’t have to deal with all the extra stuff being fed to him. He was able to learn at an accelerated pace, rather than following the pace of an entire class. And these are things he’s grateful for.

And yet I still feel guilty. The only consolation that I have is that I made the decision that was right at that moment in time. It was a mutual decision. It was what Jake wanted, and it was what I wanted for him. And, honestly, that’s really all that matters.

As parents we spend so much time second-guessing ourselves, beating ourselves up, and carrying the weight of regret around like it might make up for what we now feel was a “bad” decision. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m here to tell you, eight years later, it doesn’t. There is no relief that comes from feeling regret. It changes nothing. All is does is make you physically, mentally and emotionally sick.

What we have to remember is this: at the moment of your (now regrettable) decision, you made it feeling wholeheartedly like you were making the best choice out of the options available to you.

There is a line from the song “Move On” in the musical “Sunday in the Park with George” that is what I want you to take away from reading this.

“The choice may have been mistaken, the choosing was not.” Read that several times. Let it sit inside your heart and offer relief.

No matter how you feel, no matter what you think in this moment, the choosing that you did for your child was never wrong. It came from a place of love and that’s all that matters.

Remember that. Every time you find yourself feeling guilty remember that. Every time you feel like a bad parent remember that.

Be kind to yourself. Make the right choice today for you, and choose to remember that.

And if you’re interested here is the song in full.

Whiner or Winner?

Success is in the wanting, not the hoping.

We all have goals we hope to accomplish, both personal and professional. No one is exempt from this desire. For some it may be as simple as wanting to do well in school, or wanting to be a good parent. Others might have loftier goals – goals that require circumstances to align in the perfect way. Unfortunately, in most cases, the planets will not align accordingly, and Source will not give you a golden ticket. No, it’s a lot , and equal simpler, and equally more complicated than that.

The bottom line that differentiates the whiners from the winners has nothing to do with luck. It has to do with attitude, as in how badly do you want it, and how uncomfortable are you willing to feel. Yes, we all have things we hope for, but as Ms. Dickinson so eloquently pointed out, “hope is the thing with feathers“. And I’m here to tell you that bird will fly right out the window if you let it.

Hope is beautiful. Hope gives us something to hold onto, something to believe in. But hope alone isn’t going to get the job done. You can hope to accomplish something one day, but that day will be a long time coming until you decide that you want to accomplish that same thing. The success is in the wanting, not the hoping.

Hope will get your dreams in the door. But that door will slam shut and lock on the inside unless you rip it off its hinges with a bit of muscle and pluck. But what if I get a splinter? Well, yeah, you might. In fact, truth be told, you’ll most likely get more than one; in which case, you pull those splinters out and get back to work. Because remember way back when you decided that this was something that you wanted? Are you really going to give up that easily?

What if I fail? Again, that is a very good possibility – failure. But failing, much like falling, only requires that you pick yourself back up again. No, it doesn’t feel good, but sitting in a room looking at a locked door with your dream on the other side doesn’t feel good either. Scrapes heal, but regret is insidious, and is a slow leak of unhappiness that will infiltrate and sabotage future wants. Playing it safe might ensure that you don’t fail short-term, but it will definitely ensure that you fail big-time in the long run.

Naysayers will tell you that just because you want something doesn’t mean you will get it. Wanting doesn’t guarantee success. And I agree. But what the naysayers, giver-uppers, and lifetime hopers choose to ignore is something that Mr. Jagger in all of his big-lipped, rock and roll glory told us a long time ago – you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.

Chew on that bit of pop-culture wisdom. I’ve talked about hopes and wants and then along comes this little thing called need. Like sticky-fingered children who need that extra hit of high-fructose corn syrup, we often allow our wants to get confused with our needs and vice-versa. Despite our absolute belief that we do, in fact, need to have the latest greatest, bestest and hippest whatever that just came rolling off the assembly line, we won’t always get it. And you know what? We manage to survive – even live and prosper. And why is that? Because whatever that thing was it was a want, not a need.

Semantics, you say? Nope, nope, nope, all my nopes. We are so full of shit as a consumeristic society. So caught up in the I need, I need, I need chant of conspicuous consumption that we have forgotten how to tell the difference between wants and needs – between wishing and hoping and thinking and praying; planning and dreaming each night – well you get the idea.

But sometimes in a moment of clarity, a moment of, what might seem to be nothing more than serendipity, the Universe smacks us on our third eye and shows us what we need, what we really, really need. That doesn’t mean we’ll get it because the Universe doesn’t work alone. You have to do your part. You have to want the need to get the need.

The Spice Girls, it seems were channeling the voice of The Universe when they sang, “tell me what you want, what you really, really want”. I’m a firm believer that if you put it out there, it being the thing you want, and you do your part, the part that involves the not-just-hoping, then the Universe will have your back.

So what do you want, and are you willing to do your part to get it?

What’s Your Story?

What stories do you tell yourself?

I had a conversation with my son Jake today. A conversation that I am particularly proud of. It all started out as my usual pep talk. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Jake, let me give you a little background.

Jake was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome (TS) at the age of six, and OCD at the age of eight. He “outgrew” his TS around the age of 14, but his OCD went into overdrive. Fast forward eight years…eight difficult years for Jake.

At the age of almost 22 (Feb. 16) Jake is struggling with social anxiety. His OCD mainly takes the form of repetitive thoughts, mostly centering around his anxiety of being “behind everyone else” in terms of where he is in his life. He has held himself accountable for a timeline that has been hi-jacked time and time again by anxiety and OCD.

He regrets that he didn’t have a “normal” high school experience. The local high school was awful, so we home schooled. I wish things had been different. Better choices available. But, at the time, it felt like the best option. And yes, I beat myself up on occasion about this choice. Hindsight, yada, yada.

He continually compares himself to where his peers are, as opposed to where he is. For example, at his age, according to society, he should have a bachelor’s degree by now. He should be surrounded by close friends. But because he doesn’t have those things (yet), he feels less than.

As a result of being home schooled, and struggling with OCD and anxiety, Jake has had a difficult time socially. He has struggled making lasting friendships, and interacting with his peers. Another factor in this has been that his interests are vastly different, and hyper-focused, unlike many of the students in his classes.

You see, Jake is extremely intelligent, and has educated himself over the years. His interests are math and physics…like quantum physics. He wants to answer big questions like “why is the universe?”. He’s been thinking like this most of his life, and has found it difficult to find others who share his intense passion.

But here’s the thing. Over the past few years, I have seen Jake make so much progress. He is currently enrolled in school and is in his second semester as a Freshman. He sees himself as a failure.

Here’s what I see. I see a young man who has walked through the fire, and while he may be covered in soot, continues to get up each day and try. I see someone who has gone from rarely leaving the house to having a job and attending college. I see my son overcoming all the things that have brought him down, and some days still do, making strides each day to change those things.

But I also see this on his bad days. I see him telling the story of an awkward kid who has no social skills. A kid who “doesn’t do anything” and “didn’t even go to high school”. A kid who “has wasted his life”.

But that’s an old story, with only a slight bit of truth written into it…very slight.

Yesterday was a bad day, as I sat and listened to Jake tell his story-the same story he has been telling for years. And I said, “Maybe parts of that story were true at one time…but that’s not your story anymore.”

“You are in school. You are starting to make friends.”

He countered, “Yeah, but it’s not that hard for everyone else.”

“You don’t know that. People are good at wearing masks, making others think they know what they are doing. I think you’d be surprised at how many people struggle socially. Especially in this day and time when everyone is talking to a screen instead of a face. You’re not giving yourself any credit for the things you have accomplished.”

“It’s just hard when I see everyone else surrounded by friends, and making it look so easy.”

“Do you remember what you told me on your first day at Armstrong? You told me that this was a fresh start. That no one there knows you. No one knows your struggles. You said that you could go in and act like the most confident guy in the world and no one would know the difference.”

“Yes, but-“

“Stop it, Jake. You were about to say that you haven’t had the same experiences – or any experiences like the other people. OK, so your life has been different. More difficult than many. More roadblocks. But that was then. You have to stop living in your old story, Jake. You have to put that book away, and write a new story. And that’s what you’re doing, even if you don’t see it.”

“But it’s so hard.”

“I know, but you’re doing it. You’re getting up each day and going out there. You’re putting yourself out there. You’re weighing yourself down with your old story. Let it go. Focus on where you are now. What you’re doing now. When you stop acting like the old you, people will stop seeing the old you. That’s the person you’re showing everyone and that’s not you anymore.

You’ve been telling yourself for so long that you have no social skills, and that’s just not the truth.You have a job where you interact with your co-workers and customers for hours at a time. You’re taking classes and working with other students, raising your hand in class, talking with professors. That’s not what a person without social skills does. I get that it’s not easy for you, but you’re quoting a story that has ended. You are not a person without social skills. You’re in a brand new story now, that you’re writing every day.”

I’m proud of that conversation because it made me think of the stories I’m still telling myself, that are no longer true, if they ever were. For years, I’ve told myself I’m not enough, I have never been enough, and I never will be enough. I’m putting that piece of fiction on the shelf. I’m writing myself a new story.

I think we all create mythologies surrounding ourselves, our identity. Who people have told us we are, who we’ve convinced ourselves that we are. And we’ve told ourselves these stories for so many years, we’ve come to believe them.

What stories do you tell yourself? Are they accurate? Do they reflect who you are now?

Maybe it’s time to consider writing yourself a new story in this brand new year. You deserve it. We all do.

He’s Not Broken Excerpt

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An excerpt from my upcoming book, He’s Not Broken: A Mother’s Journey to Acceptance

I have a photo of my son Jacob in the pilot’s seat on his first flight. He was six-years-old. His hands are on the controls, with the pilot’s hat perched on his head. It’s one of my favorite pictures of him because you can see how happy he is. His face was alive with excitement, no trace of anxiety or sadness to be seen, no sign of Tourette’s, or OCD. In that frozen moment, he was just a regular kid having the time of his life. 


We got in on a Thursday and everything was going fine. By Thursday evening Jacob’s mood had darkened. As we were getting ready to go to dinner, he started crying.


“Momma, I can’t not love you and Daddy, right?” 
“What do you mean, Jacob?” Warner asked.
Jacob’s voice cracked and his eyes darted frantically from me to Warner.
“Right? Right? Tell me. I can’t, right?”


Warner and I exchanged a confused look. I walked around the bed to Jacob. Before I could reach out to him he dropped to the floor and buried his face in his hands. He began to rock back and forth and between sobs he repeated, “Right? Right? You know that, right?”
At that point it became pretty clear that he needed a definitive answer to put his mind to rest. He looked up at us, his face a sticky mix of snot and tears. Warner knelt down on one side of him, me on the other. He wiped Jacob’s face and assured him. “It’s okay, Jacob. Of course you love us. You have to.”


“And we love you too. So much.” I added as I wrapped my arms around him.
He wriggled out of my embrace, stepped around Warner and began to pace the floor.
“But my head is thinking things I don’t mean.” He began to hit the sides of his head. “AHHHH! I CAN’T MAKE IT STOP. THEY WON’T GO AWAY.” He fell to the floor once again. 


Warner and I stood over him, wiping away our own tears and searching for composure. We were lost. How do you explain to a six-year-old that his mind is screwing with him? I sat down on the floor and held him while he cried. Warner sat with us, his arms around me. And we sat there, the three of us in our buttoned up coats, locked in an embrace and an emotional battle we didn’t understand. 


After 30 minutes Jacob had calmed down enough for us to go to dinner where we sat trying to forget the scene that had just played out—trying to blend in with the other families that we saw—the families whose lives seemed so perfect. 


I had pretty much convinced myself that the excitement of the trip was just too much for him, and nothing else.

No Body Is Perfect

Something occurred to me the other day as I was watching a movie on Netflix. There was one particular scene that made me wish I could go back to my late teens, early 20’s. The girl was trying on some clothes and admiring herself in the mirror. And it was that comfort that she felt in looking at her reflection that gave me pause.

I cannot recall ever looking at myself with such confidence. Ever. To be honest, it’s still something I struggle with on a daily basis. Watching her made me sad. And I’ll tell you why.

If I go back and look at pictures of myself around the same age as her, I now see a young woman, that should have felt more confident, more at ease in her body. Not because I was all that, but because I would soon be past those days of youth, and regret that I didn’t embrace them, embrace myself more than I did. My low self-esteem held me back from so many things.

I hated how I looked and felt that if I looked different the world would open up for me. So, I became anorexic in high school. I didn’t set out with anorexia as my goal, but it seemed the smaller I became, the more people noticed me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t being ignored prior to that, but I wasn’t exactly being “seen” either. Losing weight got me compliments. Losing weight made me feel better about myself.

The pictures from those days paint a different reality. I was sick. Not only mentally, but physically. There are so many things I would do differently if I could go back. I imagine that if I had projected more confidence (real, or imagined) I would have had the life that I so desperately wanted.

In some ways I feel like that girl now – just decades older.Wanting to fit in the pages of the magazines, but finding that I’m exhausted from decades of trying to fit a mold that was invented by an industry that constantly set me up for failure – then and now.

Over the years I’ve seen the standards being tested by different body types. But it still bothers me that women are being categorized by body type at all. Plus-sized, full-figured, skinny – all these define women by shape. We are bombarded with headlines about losing weight. Flooded with photos of beautiful, happy, people who just happen to have the perfect body.

I’ve been fed, and have been “eating” these images since I was in 7th grade. And even though I know there is no one size fits all, and that photos are altered, it has never stopped me from second-guessing how I look.

My body isn’t perfect in any way. It doesn’t look the way I wish it did. And I’m not sure that it ever will after a lifetime of being brainwashed.

But at the age of 51, what I’m trying to focus on is not what my body looks like, but what my body has done:

  1. brought two beautiful souls into this world
  2. survived heart surgery
  3. run a 1/2 marathon
  4. survived a suicide attempt
  5. overcome an eating disorder

I encourage all of you to give a shout-out to the body that has gotten them this far. After all, you wouldn’t be here without it. 🙂

Happy 2019

Another year already? Now the mother of a 13-year-old and nearly 21-year- old. My second go round with a teenager.

I’m a half a century plus one; and it seems like I just graduated high school last year. Funny how the mind never quite catches up with the mirror.

I’ve been told that I “don’t act my age”. I’m not sure how a person my age is supposed to act. Why are certain things relegated to the younger crowd? I refuse to take part in that system.

I wear clothes from Hot Topic and Forever 21 (when clearly that was a memo my body didn’t get). I watch shows like Riverdale and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina the Teenage Witch that are geared toward the more hormonal crowd – although as a middle-aged woman I can fully attest to the fact that hormonal fluxes are not ageist.

I read YA fiction, peppered with a good dose of apocalyptic horror and self-help books for good measure. And I like to draw cutesy girls and animals. I dress up at Halloween and I still believe in magic.

That’s who I am. I’m not the number 51, nor am I the ache in my knees when I kneel down in front of the John Green section at Barnes and Noble. I’m not the wild garden of silver that is sprouting from the depths of my scalp, no more than a person with depression is her disease.

I am deeper than a number. Wider than a name. Stronger than an idea.

I am a being of eternal possibility.

I am a being of eternal possibility.

I am a being of eternal possibility.

Say this slowly. Taste the words. Let them melt in your mouth.

Eddie’s Attic Reading

I just did my first poetry reading last night at Eddie’s Attic in Atlanta alongside the amazing Sabrina Benaim and Clementine vonRadics. How awesome is that?!

Just wanted to thank everyone who stopped me to say hi. I never expected my poems to touch so many people.

Stay tuned to this page. I plan on being more active here.

Thanks again. Last night was easily one of the best nights of my life.

 

Publishing My Memoir!

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(This is a very bad mock-up of the cover. Also, Michelle will be changed to Ginger because when you search for Michelle McGee on Google…well, just see for yourself.)

/Widgetflex.swf” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Help Me Publish!!!

1 in 360 (approximately 138,000 US children) have been diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, based on parent report.

Run your fingers through my soul. For once, just once, feel exactly what I feel, believe what I believe, perceive as I perceive. Look, experience, examine, and for once, just once, understand.
-Author Unknown 

He’s Not Broken, is a 16 chapter 65,000 word, non-fiction, autobiographical book of a mother and son’s journey to healing and acceptance. An inspirational testimony of how a life filled with challenges – OCD, Tourette’s, Anxiety – can be used as a vehicle to engage in a proactive approach, rather than a life of silence and denial, it teaches us all that reaching out to others can make a difference.

I began writing He’s Not Broken 10 years ago. 10 years! I did have an agent express interest and request edits, but I’m almost embarrassed to say that those edits took me 5 years. Life happened. OCD happened. Anxiety happened. And every time I sat down to work on edits, I had to face the pain of all those years of struggle. Maybe I needed to take that long in order to have some time away from the story, so that I could make it even stronger in hindsight.

That said, since I have been carrying this book baby for 10 long years, I really need to bring it into the world now.

I believe in He’s Not Broken. I feel certain that it’s a book many will find helpful – caregivers, parents, family members – anyone who has a close connection to someone who requires special needs.

It’s the book I needed when Jake was first diagnosed. It’s the book that would have made me feel less alone. And, even though I certainly had support from family, it wasn’t the same. I needed a friend who could listen, but more than that I needed someone who had navigated the same waters, the same emotions. I want He’s Not Broken to be my stand-in since I can’t reach out personally to everyone. More than anything, I want my book to give others hope.

That’s where you guys come in. I hate asking for things, but He’s Not Broken needs to be available sooner rather than later.

If I’m going to self-publish, I’m going to do it right. That means lots of self-promotion, and a bit of an investment upfront.

I will need about $2500 to get this book out there. That will/should cover the following costs:

copyediting
cover and interior design
advertising
purchase of ISBN number
marketing and publicity
book trailer
promotional copies of book

AND THERE WILL BE CAKE! Ok, maybe not cake, but I have some incentives/rewards to offer as a thank you to all who donate!

And for everyone who donates I will be forever grateful for your support!  Please click this link: /Widgetflex.swf” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Help Me Publish!!!

Peace,
Ginger

 

 

 

New Year = New Old Me

 

IMG_2429Here we are again – a new year with possibilities waiting to unfold. For many, that means a complete makeover—mind, body, soul. The big three. The holy trinity of guaranteed happiness. An overhaul. And while some will be looking to buy a whole new computer, I’m looking to reboot the one I have back to its factory settings.

It really wasn’t that long ago that I used to know what I was doing. I was by no means perfect, but I had an idea of what I needed not just to survive, but to live. After all, that’s the point, right? I’d like to say this past year was that time, but I have to be honest with myself and admit that it’s been the past few years that I’ve lost sight of my own picture.

Last year was particularly bad. I was hit hard with one of the darkest depressive episodes I’ve ever had. And it lasted a very long time. A combination of life stuff and a full hysterectomy that unleashed a pretty horrific army of hormones or lack of, and I began a spiral that nearly ruined me. (But I did get some good poems out if it).

I won’t get into the particulars, but it was bad enough that I chose to admit myself into the hospital—a decision that would affect my whole family in a way that has caused many problems. 😦 It was a difficult decision for me to make considering the stigma attached to such places. And why is that? Shouldn’t we be applauded for recognizing that we need a break, that we need help?

I’ll write more about my experience in the hospital in another post because I think it’s an important post and doesn’t need to be lost in the middle of another.

Back to my reboot. For me it’s the simple stuff, that I’ve allowed to be swallowed up by the struggles I’m having in other areas of my life. And when I say simple, I mean just that simple, basic.

  1. Eating – it’s something I tend to forget when I’m stressed or depressed. And then when I do eat, it’s usually not the most nutritional. Think pickles and crackers. Honestly, food is never something I’ve really enjoyed like I feel like I’m supposed to. Remnants of my days courting an eating disorder, I’m sure. So even on the days when I would remember to eat, it would make me sick. Like my body wasn’t quite sure what was happening.
  2. Drinking –  let me clarify – drinking water. I had the other covered. I know I must be severely dehydrated. Sometimes I’d go the whole day having only had coffee in the morning, and wine in the evening. Other than water to brush my teeth, I really didn’t have any. Not good. No wonder I’m tired all the time. Oh yeah, you can add pickle juice to that list, because I love me some pickle juice. I’m surprised I haven’t dried up.
  3. Exercise – I always know I’ll feel better. Always. And yet….

So there it is—easy as pie. Right? So it would seem. I want it to be easy. But I know that I’m going to have to dig in and go all Nike on it, and soon. So why is it so hard for me?

I’d love to know if you struggle with some of the same issues. It’s in sharing that we learn. I’ve shared. Now it’s your turn!

Tag! You’re it.

Peace, Ginger

 

Debut book of poetry on Amazon!

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Click on this link to purchase your copy of Nothing & Everything – a chapbook of poems about depression. If you are so moved to purchase my book, and, after reading it, are moved even more, please post a review on Amazon. This is a dream come true for me and I want to continue to pursue my passion. Your comments will help me get there. Thanks in advance.