Artist & Writer, San Francisco Bay Area

Soldier On

I had this interesting conversation during this busy whirlwind weekend that is only half over. I was told that I seem to have it all together. It was a sweet & kind compliment.
But… what?
I want it, but I know it’s not what I live day to day, and the concept is joining in my mind with a few more topics, and they’re all swirling and dancing around my head.
Backing up: I went to the bookstore on Wednesday, and I used a gift card to purchase a few books on adoption. And while I was in the parenting section, I found a book that jumped out at me: A Special Education: One family’s journey through the maze of learning disabilities by Dana Buchman. It is Saturday night, and I am done with the book, and it’s a treasure of life experience about parenting and loving children, about the real struggle to grow with the unexpected challenges of learning disabilities. Learning Differences.
I know I don’t know yet about Zee’s situation. Amazingly, someone cancelled and instead of waiting until January, he has a speech therapy appointment next Friday, from private insurance rather than the Regional Center, and they might take on his articulation issues rather than need him to have other displayed issues as well. But this book straightened out something I didn’t know was an issue: wanting to get through his upcoming 3 appointments and emerge on the other end with answers, an action plan, and to have him fixed. Or on his way to being fixed.
But apparently it’s just not like that. It really is a journey as the book suggests, and there are no clear cut answers and solutions. And it nailed another fear- the wondering I’ve had about if his issues will affect his reading in the future, and therefore his whole educational experience, and well, you can guess where it goes from there. The truth is (which I knew on some level) there is no way to know at his age how these other things will play out. So while early intervention can be so key, it’s not a panacea. And since I may not know for a while what his issues are, there is no way to make sure I make sure he gets all this correct help right now. We just do our best. Still it hurts when he says things I can’t understand. And we give it a few jabs at understanding, trying to give our words to what he’s saying, and in the end we still don’t know what it was. I see him just kind of go “oh well.”
Which brings me to having it all together. This book is written by Dana Buchman as I mentioned, and she’s a fashion designer, and I knew I’d heard her name. So she’s in an industry about image, beauty, and is herself this Type A person that thrives on accomplishment, perfection. And she is transformed by parenting her daughter whose weaknesses are always on the surface, public for everyone to see, and as a mother, she has to grow through all this.
Just reading the book reminds me of all the inadequacies I’ve struggled with over the years. Hearing her daughter’s experiences remind me of- yes! I felt that!- and hearing the mother’s struggles, I am there, too.  I can be so awkward in new social situations, and just kick myself for my strangeness. Hanging in new groups and trying to interject and navigate the conversation? Inevitably, I am interrupting someone, or making a comment that is on a subject that’s already changed, or I’m repeating myself because no one heard me the first 2 times (or was it that it was stupid?) Anyway, I bumble around. I’m better in my typical social circles.
My house overflows with stacks of papers, my laundry is always a struggle (I tell GK- warn me 2 white shirts before you’re out! so I can do the whites!), and my car… an internal disaster on four wheels. Packing to go on an overnight with my husband, even without kids and all their stuff? Just one small duffle bag? I can’t think straight. I go to one side of the house for one item and I can’t remember how I got there. I still forgot the toothpaste. And yes, I use lists.
I still remember being in my late teens/early twenties and the mess. I have a photograph somewhere of my bedroom in an apartment I shared with some girls near the beach in San Francisco. I don’t think the floor of the room showed beneath the papers, things, dishes, clothes. I never wore makeup, not a day, until my friend took my to a Nordstrom and had someone put creams and colors on my face. I am sure I wiped off most of it immediately, and later I wore it occasionally. And being in a store like that, I remember how foreign it was. The marble floors and that soft voice on the loudspeakers (not loud), these were so intimidating. I did not belong. Besides not having the money to spend there, I didn’t have any notion of dressing in anything beyond jeans and a sweater a few years old. This was me even through meeting my husband and getting married. I didn’t have a haircut that cost more than $15 until just before my wedding day. And it was a few more years before I had a salon cut regularly.
I am just wondering, what changed? At some point, I started caring more about how I looked and caring more about how I dressed. Not that I know what to do all the time, but I definitely love it when I do know. I always wanted to know how to put clothes together, and I kind of know now. I think I owe that to several factors. Still, I like the old me. I like the new me OK also. But old me was pretty cool.
So yeah, I like having the appearance of “having it all together”, and at the same time, I’m shocked that I pulled it off that look. But do I really want that look? I know those closest to me know all my ups & downs, I’m kind of an open book to anyone who asks what’s going on. And I have this blog thing. But still.
Do I love having my life under control?
Well, if it really ever was, I think I would love that!
How often is it actually under my control? Not a lot. I get lost inside somedays, and I can’t piece together my thoughts or my internal life. So, accomplishing anything is a nice way of feeling… like it’s possible to do even more. .
The downside is, appearances are sometimes easier than the real thing. And if appearance is the goal, it can get even more stressful, because to succeed in appearance relies on someone else’s perceptions.  I can think that if I can get my visible tangible life into a semblance of orderliness, then my internal life will follow suit. But that’s trading one difficult thing for another. But sometimes I do it anyway because I think it’s all I can manage, because what’s inside hurts so much. I don’t write about it here, because I just can’t.
So, this book. Loved it. And it brought these concepts of who we are and how we appear into this wonderful perspective. Even more poignant because I want to raise both my boys, and my maybe future daughter, to embrace their weaknesses, and their strengths, and to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (I think that’s how it goes.) Hoping they can be individuals who shoot for the moon and accept life’s failures. I hope.
And so, we soldier on.
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