Ups and Downs

Well, this weekend was a bit of a set-back in my “feeling mostly happy” streak. It all started with the rain. We Californians aren’t very keen on rain. We’re not used to it. It rained a lot on Friday, complete with wind and flooding. Guys, I don’t even own an umbrella, that’s how weather-spoiled I am.

After teaching all day, I had four stops before I finally had groceries and all the kids (two of whom were sick) and was able to get home, drenched, cold, and getting sick myself. I fumbled with all of our stuff and entered the house through the garage and laundry room. That’s when I found curtain rods on the ground, white powdery stuff all over, and a groveling dog. I thought, OMG, somebody broke into my house. Upon further inspection I noticed paw prints and realized it had something to do with the dog. When I walked further into the house and down the hallway, that was when I saw what had happened. Cue banshee scream.

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This is my bedroom door frame. It looked like a crime scene with dog blood everywhere. The dog also took the liberty of pissing all over the baby’s room and getting white paw prints all over my house. Apparently my dog has storm-triggered psychological problems. Psychological problems I don’t have time for. Do you know how tiring it is being an only parent? Dogs creating more work for me is that last thing I want to deal with (sorry to the animal lovers out there, but this is about survival). I told the dog she was about to be reunited with her beloved owner Kenneth (my husband) and had to keep the kids away from the nails and splinters that were everywhere.

I just had the house cleaned the day before. Did I mention it was Friday afternoon and I was getting sick? It took me over an hour to clean it all up, and in the midst of all of this my washing machine broke.

Cue complete and utter breakdown.

It’s all fine and dandy when things are going well, but the true test of your mental state is when things go wrong. This is when the weight of my shitty reality comes crashing down on me. I am alone. All of this insane responsibility is my problem. Nobody else’s. Alone, alone, alone. This wasn’t how things were supposed to be. I did not sign up to be in charge of all of this BY MYSELF. This wasn’t part of the deal.

It took me a good 36 hours of simmering in my anger and pity party before starting to come back to normal. Today was mostly okay.

Yesterday, the kids and I re-watched the documentary Happy. I remember a scene in the movie where an expert said it isn’t that happy people don’t have adversity (I’m paraphrasing here), it’s just that they have good coping mechanisms and return to their baseline faster. Something like that. I felt guilty for getting so angry over the dog and washing machine incidents. I was snapping at the kids. Less patient. I felt like a horrible beast of a person. It’s nice to be reminded that those kinds of reactions are normal, but we don’t have to get stuck there.

Today I did a lot of reading and playing with the kids.We recently got a bunch of super cool books.

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As overwhelming as it sometimes feels, I’m happy to have these kids in my life. We’re the perfect team.

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Almost a year ago, we were all in Playa del Carmen, Mexico for my sister’s wedding.

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We spent Valentine’s Day at the all-inclusive resort. I had no idea it would be our last. This year, I spent it as an only mother of three.

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(I bought them a heart-shaped cake. As you can see, the baby was quite enthralled.)

Part of me feels like the cruelest joke in the world was played on me. I got to get married and have my family, and then the rug got pulled from beneath me. Just kidding. You get to be single and alone. Here’s a mountain of responsibility. Figure it out.

I’m okay with there not being a solid reason for any of this. The universe doesn’t owe me anything. I get it. It doesn’t make it feel any better, but I can accept that.

I want to be happy. My kids deserve happiness. I deserve happiness. All I know is I am too stubborn to give up. So I keep going, trying to stay busy, keeping an open-mind, and just moving forward. That’s the best I can do.

11 comments

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  1. Steve Hontz

    Thank you for sharing, Teresa. It means so much to know that someone else knows what it’s like. I lost my wife when my daughter was in 8th grade and my son had just started high school. Even though my kids were much older than yours, I went through the same feelings you’re describing – why do I have to handle all these problems myself? Why did the universe dump on me? Who’s there to take care of me?
    You’re right; you get angry, you cry, and then you JUST KEEP GOING. The three of us made a new life for ourselves together. Eventually I moved away from the pain of identifying myself as a widower (rooted in loss) to identifying myself as a strong single parent (rooted in hope and strength). My kids are both out of college and thriving now.
    Best of luck to you. You’ll make it.

  2. Karl

    Reading this has made me feel awful! This morning my daughter was chattering away non-stop whilst I was buttering a toasted bagel, being a man, I can’t multi-task and I somehow lost concentration on the bagel then somehow caught my finger on it and it fell on the floor, I snapped at my daughter, stupidly blaming her for distracting me, she ran off scared. Then my wife came down and poured gas on the fire and said I shouldn’t talk to her like that, when she spends half her day shouting at her, then that escalated into me getting more angry, then she said ‘why don’t you just move out’. All this from a bagel. I then went up stairs and cuddled my daughter, saying that daddy was wrong for blaming her and I’m sorry, then we had a family hug. I realised that I was still suffering from a hangover from the previous night, where I drank 6 beers, because my wife put relentless pressure on me all day because I’d arranged to watch football in a pub with someone that she doesn’t approve of, and it was too hot in the house. Excuses excuses excuses.

  3. Tim

    Hi Teresa,
    Thanks for another life-affirming post. Did anyone ever tell you that you write beautifully? I really appreciate the clear way you communicate on a sensitive subject. Even though my personal situation is not remotely similar to yours, I find what you have to say very comforting. It helps me take a more realistic and positive attitude towards a (far less) difficult situation in my own life that, like you, I never signed up for. I look forward to the next instalment.

  4. Graham

    Hi Teresa, I hope your well.. or at the very least you’re all feeling better now.

    I did see a news item on BBC news about a fierce storm, dubbed “bombogenesis” in California.. and thought.. I wonder if that effected Teresa..!

    Not owning an umbrella though..!! I own 3 lol… and several waterproof coats.. but then this is the UK.

    I’m sure theres a line in the Baz Luhrmann song (Sunscreen) about leaving California before you get too soft..! Not that I’m suggesting for one minute you’re soft… especially after reading your Stephen King Horror story….! But buying an umbrella might be on the cards now.. lol

    I’m also left thinking of the comment you made about my brother in law letting the dog go.. and you keeping yours.. well.. both of yours..Mmmm..! lol You have to laugh.. otherwise you’ll cry…(or banshee scream) but then often we do both at the same time in life.! Then again, maybe not at the very moment when you think someone has broke in to your house.. with dog prints..!

    My heart goes out to you, it really does, on top of ALL the things you have to do daily.. you now have to clean/repair a storm-triggered psychological dog crime scene. It does make me ask the question… is keeping the dogs still the best thing. I know I know.. that sounds bad, but….

    I can completely understand your mental crash.. who wouldn’t crash..! I was talking to a female friend of mine the other day that’s struggling and I explained to her that she’s living a good stockmarket life just now because even though she feels she’s lost and alone, she still fighting. Good stocks go up, then dip, then go up then dip. In the dips, all of us feel low/down/alone etc… but they’re just a blip, because very quickly, the stock bounces back and it grows again.

    In your writings, I see how strong you are. I see you’re living a blip, then a gain, a blip, then a gain. But most importantly, you’re still going up. Now I have never met you before and can only make these assumptions from your style of writing, but to me, your def growing and going up. That’s not to say the dips don’t feel like shit..! Because they do.. but I see you as a fighter. Someone who takes a situation, the loss of Kenneth, and makes it work regardless. On dip days, it will never feel like that, but your a growing stock, and your def investing in yourself and your children’s future. I can clearly see that. Although in contrast, I like the phrase pity party by the way…! lol

    I often use ‘exercise’ as an analogy of psychological life and health, especially for myself. The true measure of fitness isn’t how quickly you can run a mile, the true measure of fitness is how quickly you recover. Apply that to life/relationships/friendships/arguments/death even.. and it’s a good barometer of where you are and how you’re managing in life.

    Snapping at the kids – Normal
    Banshee meltdown = Normal
    Bad dog thoughts..!! = Normal lol
    Guilt = Normal
    Utter breakdown = Normal

    My sister, Fiona, feared dying young, only because our parents died young. = Normal

    However irrational our thoughts are sometimes, what a lot of people forget, is we’re just being normal, and it’s ok to feel like shit sometimes = Normal. It’s how we recover that matters.

    I loved looking at your pictures, nice to share memories. The kids look proud as punch to give you the valentines cake. This is memories for them as well, ones they won’t forget.

    I once had a conversation with someone years ago and they said all they wanted to be happy in life. I replied… You have to work at being happy.! Corny I know.. but it’s true.

    Your Happiness will come, in fact in many ways, it’s there already. In the people that give you a hug, make a valentines cake, and even read/reply to your life just now. Even your door chewing dog is happy to see you. You say you’re too stubborn to give up, I see it differently… you’re too strong too.

    • House of Teresa

      Thanks Graham! Our storm made BBC???? Wow, now I feel slightly justified in being such a baby during all of it haha.

      I’m not sure keeping the dog is the best thing. We got her 5 years ago when we had our house broken into (a previous house). She’s never had any problems before. Although…we’ve been in a drought for the past 5 years, so I guess this is the first year I’ve had the chance to find out she is certifiably batshit insane in bad weather.

  5. Graham

    Your storm was a shit storm.. Literally lol.. It made global news..!! Made the Top 10 most read news articles on the BBC, it may have even been number 3 in the list of top read.. so feel highly justified in being a baby. lol

    In regards to the dog, I thought you had 2 dogs? either way, my experience/observations has been that keeping the dog(s) is just mental.! Now, I def do not want to speak out of turn here, as I say, you haven’t asked my opinion, but on the basis of my ‘thoughts’.. that I feel happy to share, It’s is just mental..! My sister’s husband, Paul, and the kids, 7, 10 and 12, obviously, didn’t want the dog to go. But even practically, during Fiona’s funeral arrangements etc, the dog being looked after by a neighbour was such a massive blessing in disguise. The family dog had been around for years.. But realistically, Paul just couldn’t cope with a job,a dog, and 3 kids. The dog was a bit loop as well which didn’t help. The 2 youngest children adapted within weeks of the dog going, the eldest, he strongly didn’t want the dog to go = Another loss..!

    But.. as adults, we have to make these shitty, but realistic decisions sometimes. Even more so in extreme situations. Fiona’s eldest son, Connor, is now ok with it. Children adjust, and are far tougher than we give them credit for, and by default, Paul’s life is… well… simpler would be the wrong word, but certainly less stressful on that front.

    I’m sure there are people around you that know you well and can help bounce thoughts back.

    Maybe keeping the dog is what you need..! and if I see California is going to experience a shitstorm in another few years… I’ll comment beforehand so you can prepare for batshit fallout. lol

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