The Craziness that is my Mother

I know a lot of people complain about their own mother’s annoying, obsessive behavior. I know I am not alone when dealing with a lifetime of never feeling like I will ever have a normal, healthy relationship with my mother.

This isn’t another rant of oh-how-my-mom-is-driving-me-crazy. I most definitely have written such venting, desperate, plea for relief type posts here. But this time, it’s about how in some sad, twisted way, my mother’s relentless, stubbornness has actually become a source of happiness for me.

Wait… no. Let me clarify. Nothing of her obsessiveness actually makes me happy. It’s just… well… let me give you an example.

My mom prides herself on saving money. And to be quite fair, she is good at putting away cash for a rainy day. However, she’s not REALLY great at saving money. Behind this facade is the need to always get a great bang for a buck.

Take one of our local pubs. They have daily specials and on Wednesday, they have their 10oz Angus steak for $15. It comes with two sides. And while we’re not talking about the best chophouse even at the level of a franchise monster like The Keg, I have to admit, for a quick fix on mid-week steak crave, it does the trick.

We plan on going to dinner at this pub after our daughter’s music night performance. I knew my parents would be game going to this pub. It’s decent food, large quantities and for a great price. Service… so-so. I mean, when we go for brunch, the service is amazing. For dinner? Not that the service is horrible, but twice I ordered their Australian Cabernet Sauvignon only to get some type of white wine. I mean, come on! Cab-sav? Who doesn’t know that is clearly a red?

My dad and I are both carnivores. Our weakness will always be steaks. So going to this pub for their Wednesday night steak special is a no brainer. It’s a school night and we’ll be in and out with our tummies fed.

My mom, however, isn’t so much of a steak-lover. She likes it, but her weakness is something she doesn’t get at home. Pub style nachos. She’s a sucker for them. But because the special for that night is a really good deal when you consider a saving of $13 for their steaks as any other night it will cost $28 for the 10 oz-er, my mom states she will get the steak as well.

I look at her and ask, “But you like nachos.”

She replies matter-of-factually, “The steaks are a very good deal!”

“Mom, the nachos are $14. You’ll be saving yourself a dollar. You don’t even like steaks that much.”

“But the nachos are always $14. The steaks are a good deal that night!”

Of course, by this point, I’ve lost interest in trying to reason with her.

This is just a small smidgen example of what is pretty much her constant state. Magnify this by 25 and you’re much closer to what it is like to live in my mother’s world.

I haven’t even gotten to that time she went on a cruise to Alaska and the one night they served lobster tails was the same day my mom was feeling motion sickness. But she had to get her money’s worth and since the meals are all included and not limited to just one order, she ordered two and force-fed herself to finish every last bite.

Before leaving the table, she threw up her entire dinner right there at the table. Not only did she spoil her evening, but all those around her probably didn’t enjoy that sight (or smell) as well.

Get the picture?

And where was I going with this?

Oh yes. Right. So while I think my mom is completely crazed to live her life this way, it’s given us, my husband and I, many entertaining conversations with good laughs between some moments of frustration.

I can’t change the way my mom is. But I certainly can make the most of it.

On Being a Firefighter’s Wife, Part IV

This entry will not be as heavy or serious as the previous 3 On Being a Firefighter’s Wife. It is just something that’s been on my mind lately – In all honesty, it has to do with me more than my husband.

The realization I’ve had is that he has been a firefighter for a few years now. His shift has not changed. During their shift cycle, there are still two weekends where he has to work one or two days. On one of those weekends, he is gone all Friday and all Sunday. On the other one of those weekends, he is gone all Saturday.

The Saturday one I can take. Sometimes, we get invited out to social events with friends and he can not be there. Over all, though, I’ve adjusted to that. Plus, when he comes home to us Sunday morning, for a full brunch and some type of outdoor outing, it’s a great feeling! I can not describe it. It’s just… wonderful! To have him home with us safe and sound.

It’s like a cheesy feel-good family movie. I’m up early to greet him, then when he comes through the door, our dog nearly pounced towards the door, barking and whining as he wonders why it’s taking so long for daddy to come in, our daughter wakes up to give her dad a sleepy hug…

And the small things that makes life happy starts to work its magic… the smell of freshly made coffee from freshly ground up beans, eggs & bacon sizzling in the frying pan (or whatever we’re creating for brunch that day) – Both the smell and sound infuses into this Sunday morning bliss.

Then, that weekend where he works on a Friday and Sunday comes along. It’s not that it’s just 2 days of the weekend. There’s just this bit of empty feeling I get when he is not home with us after a long week of work – I can not celebrate that crazy end of the week with my best friend. Nor do I have him around Sunday… the last bit of peace before the daily grind hits us again.

This empty feeling I get is worse now that my work load and responsibility is so heavy. It’s always been there, though. From the start of his career. I know it sounds so trivial but I thought I would be use to it by now.

And it surprises me that I’m still getting that bluesy feeling when I don’t have him at the start and end of a weekend because I’m such an independent person. I’ve never had any issues doing things on my own – In fact, to this day, I love being on my own from time to time. I continue to leave early weekend mornings when he is home, to get a manicure or pedicure, every now and then – Just to be on my own for small doses at a time. Or reading at a coffee shop – for an hour or so. I never am the type of person that needs to have some one with me when I go out and do or see things. When I’m on a business trip, sometimes, I am on my own for dinner and in the evenings. There’s nothing I love more than to dine somewhere and explore afterwards, completely on my own.

Yes – these Sundays when he is not around. I still am not really getting use to it – And I’m not sure if this feeling will ever go away, either.

Apres Ski Conversations

Things come to my mind at odd times. Old memories can be stirred from an activity that I’m doing. Or places that I am visiting (both new and old places).

L'Hotel Horizon Bar

Apres ski bar of L’Hotel Horizon (Sutton, QC)

Over a shared bottle of wine with my husband, between appetizers and our main course, he started to talk about his ski patrol days… of how sometimes he misses it but does not miss the commitment level he had to put in every weekend just to be able to afford skiing.

L'Hotel Horizon Terrace

View from our room in the Auberge.

I told him I don’t fully understand this concept – not that I disagree with it, it’s just not something I have been through. The closest I’ve ever been to that level of intense team work was during my dragon boating days. And while I have no regrets of those days, I don’t miss it. I see it as a different part of my life – one that I’m over with. And that’s always been my case. I do something until I’m ready to move on to another phase of my life. I never realized this about myself until I had this conversation.

L'Hotel Horizon Lounge

Auberge louge for reading and board games

And so these times of regrets for me are far and few. I will work hard to get to a level I am satsified of achieving and then it’s on to something else. I wonder if this will happen with snowboarding? It is getting harder and harder on my body with age. And as frustrating as I get at it, I am not yet ready to give-up for downhill skiing.

Le Cafetier

Le Cafetier – wonderful French cafe in Sutton, QC

But I do have regrets. And for some reason, I suppose it is because Doug brought up his days of ski patrolling, where I started to remember Tamara.

Chaeli then asked who Tamara was. So I told her, “She was daddy’s ex-girlfriend. From before mommy.” I added the last statement in quickly to avoid any confusion on my daughter’s part.

Le Cafetier

The fantastic, fresh, organic ingredients – so delish!

I was then finding myself filled with regret. And so, perhaps from 1/3rd bottle of red wine I had in me by then, I said to my daughter, “I regret not getting to know Tamara more.”

She looked at me perplexed, “Why? Wouldn’t that have been awkward anyway?”

“Yes, it was awkward between Tamara and I when we first met. But she tried. I didn’t. I let my insecurities get the best of me. And saw her as a threat.”

“But why does it matter now?”

Le Cafetier

Local artists are supported by Le Cafeteir – such as this gorgeous, mosaic, stained glass window

Chaeli was still very young at the time. Not even in pre-school when we got the call. Doug got the call, actually – from a former ski-patroller. When Doug hung up, I knew something was not right. I asked him what was wrong and he whispered, “Tamara… she took her own life.”

Now, I’m not saying that had I had not allowed my walls to block her out, that her and I would have become good friends. Or that had we had become friends, I would have been able to do something to ensure her life did not end so early and so tragically.

She suffered from mental health disorder. And she tried to overcome it. But even with her life filled with love, a huge community and all the great volunteer work she did, nothing could end her suffering.

I regret for selfish reasons. I know now, as I look back and remember her through clearer eyes and more confidence of who I am, that she was a good person. Who would have touched my life much more had I given her a chance (given myself a chance, that is).

So when it comes to people I can have regrets. Through my actions or no actions at all. I do and can have regrets.

Getting back on track…

I’ve become a person I don’t identify with anymore.

It can happen so easily. And it doesn’t happen overnight. But one night is all it takes for one to wake up the next morning and think, Who are you? Where are your boundaries? How did everything spin out of control?

For me, it has been 1.5 yrs since I’ve felt more like me.

A lot has happened in the last 1.5 years. Without going into too much finite details I will say some key points:

  • Whatever depression I had experienced two years ago, which lead me to therapy, has pretty much been kept at bay. Not to say it’s not lurking in the shadows waiting for the right opportunity to pounce out at me, but from my cognitive behavioral therapy sessions, I’m still able to exercise myself back on to a straight path anytime I feel like I’m being sucked back in to the darkness. More importantly, I no longer have suicidal thoughts!
  • Regardless of whatever shitty people or shitty things people have done to me, I’m still pretty confident in who I am, which is something I completely lost 2-3 years ago.
  • While this past year has been the most challenging, I am still feeling blessed with what I do have in life.

The issue is that I have this extreme want to excel my career.

On the one hand, it’s been quite obvious the vast number of skills and management responsibilities I have seen over just the past 6 months alone come to being. I am doing things that I know is what will launch my career further down its path.

On the other hand, I have lost that balance. I am sometimes a workaholic, working overtime and like this weekend, spending a few of my free hours each Saturday and Sunday to catch up on a workload which I will always be behind in.

I am a very accountable person. But not just because I have been given a lot to be responsible over, but it is in my nature to do what I can to not fail. I take great accountability in everything that I do. It is both a strength and a weakness.

What I want to do for myself in 2016 is to know when to stop, know when I need to just let go of work and spend some peaceful time, while at the same time, being efficient with my productivity at work.

The challenge with the former – even when I’m not working, I’m thinking about work.

The challenge with the latter – my new manager (a.k.a. NM), is not one to allow me to be efficient. New manager is all over the place with projects. I am not the only one who has observed this. All my close co-workers have pointed this out upon meeting NM for the first time. NM is everywhere, is what they will say.

It’s true. How many times has NM double booked dates/months for clients where I would have to spend a considerable amount of my time trying to sort out on a calendar that is one of my key performance indicators? How many times has NM allocated time for meetings on new ideas NM wishes to push only for our VP to decline as it isn’t top of our priority for our company? Not bad ideas, mind you, but given our low resources and the long list of top priorities, said ideas are just not important enough to discuss right now. I spent half a day on my business trip discussing one of these “to-do” projects where there was so much more we needed to discuss first.

And finally, how many times has NM emailed me, stated a certain procedure which is new to me (as has been most of my job) and that we will discuss it together first, only to then get frustrated with me a week later for not working on that procedure? Yet I was instructed to wait on it until we’ve had a chance to discuss it. <- This has been the worst. Not just from NM’s poor lack of memory and proper management style, but just the demeaning approach put on me. The tone of voice can be abrasive and sometimes even shrill.

My challenge is to manage my NM and this will prove difficult.

My first task is to document all that I do for my projects, specially when there is inconsistency with NM’s work and/or communication (with documentation where possible followed by clarification. I will remain diplomatic but firm. If NM shows anger or frustration for how I decide to do my work, I will eventually need to take all my documentation and approach my VP for advice.

This tactic of mine is not to seek revenge or try to ruin NM’s career. It is simply has come to a point where if I do not do anything, the only person who will suffer is me.

I’ve had lengthy discussions with my husband about this and he continues to encourage me to remember that I deserve taking a break and to not let work own me.

Anyway – wish me luck. 2016 is not going to be easy but I am optimistic something good will come out of this.


Getting ready for Christmas

As rushed as I feel this time of the year, I do love it. I would start decorating right after Halloween but Doug thinks that’s too early – he believes first week of December but as I’m going on a business trip in a couple of weeks, I wanted the decorations up earlier. We compromised – last weekend in November. Just not the tree – live tree needs to go up about two weekends before Christmas. Plus the train and snow village under the tree. I wonder if one day, I’ll get my wish with a fake tree? Less messy, more humane (to trees, that is) and we can enjoy it longer.

Christmas decorationsHaving the decorations up soothes me, though. It makes me slow down when it seems impossible to do so. When I’m home, even if I’m working on my laptop until past 9 PM, I work in the dining room/living room surrounded by all the decorations. So I take mini-breaks to look around me and feel at peace.

It’s no wonder why I start reflecting this past year and how crazy it’s been. To say I’ve been on a roller coaster ride doesn’t even describe what’s been going on and I’ve come to accept that this might be the new normal for me.

A year ago, I found out I had diabetes. A year ago, I was suffering from anxiety and depression. A year ago, I thought about suicide every single day. I felt worthless, guilty and just wanted to end the pain I had no idea how to get rid of.

But then, a year ago, I re-discovered the true meaning of friendship and how the people who were there for me are those I’ll never forget and always be thankful for. A year ago, I was afraid of everything and while I’m still one big scared-y cat, I’m much stronger and have a better sense of why I am again. A year ago, I decided to make an appointment with my therapist.

Christmas decorationsI mentioned yesterday about this past year being an eye-opener as far as friendships. Nothing bad happened last year with anyone. In fact, it has been the most peaceful year as far as relationships goes. Perhaps it’s because I’ve taken the passenger seat to most of my relationships. To those that give equal effort back, I still stay in touch with. To those that haven’t been equal (and we’re talking for years and years), I’ve stopped trying.

I’m not being passive-aggressive about this decision. I’m not trying to be spiteful or anything like that. I’ve just come to the conclusion that all this time, perhaps the friendship meant more to me than it did to them. It was nothing personal (or maybe it was – I’ll never know unless they actually come and talk to me about it). And so I stopped trying so hard because whenever I never felt I was getting anywhere and that the effort in the friendship was one-way, it hurt. I felt rejected. Being who I am, I don’t think I could ever NOT feel rejected in that type of scenario. And I realized I had to stop putting myself in that position of constantly feeling rejected if I didn’t want to fall into depression anymore. As it stands, it’s still a struggle to be happy – I still have to work at it – but at least I’m in a place where I’ve found some middle-ground.

So what of those fizzled-out friendships? I don’t know. Maybe one day, things will change. Maybe those friendships will be rekindled. I don’t know. And it’s not something I can be worried about.

Christmas decorationsWhat I do know is what I have now in the present. And the people who are here with me in the present. All I can do is continue giving back to those people who gave back to me so much a year ago. Who always gave to me, to our friendship.

What I do know is to just enjoy the present and not worry so much about the future. As depressing as it is to have diabetes, it has taught me that there are some things I simply can not control.

And so, I’m thankful for these Christmas decorations. Not just for the tranquility they provide me around the house but for reminding me to live in the present and to be thankful for all that I have.