Me, too. But I didn’t realize it for 25 years.

October 16, 2017 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

Have you seen #MeToo rolling around social media? It goes like this,

Me too.

If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “me, too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Copy and paste.

#metoo

So first I want to say, if you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted, you’re not alone. Me, too.

Second, if you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted, you should ONLY copy and paste this as your status if YOU ARE READY TO DO SO. Because not only need we not feel shame for being harassed and assaulted, we also need not feel shame about when we’re ready to talk about it. Some of us are ready. We have processed enough of our stories and/or trauma that we can say it out loud, even to the world wide webs. Some of us haven’t. Some of us aren’t ready. Some of us, by sharing now, would be retraumatizing ourselves and making it worse, not better. Pretty please, dearest friend, share when YOU are ready, not when the world decides you should be. OK? OK. Glad we had this chat.

And third, this is my story.

[Trigger/Content Warning: Sexual Assault]

I didn’t let my teenage daughter have a job in high school. Instead, I paid for dance tuition — usually hundreds of dollars per month we had to scrimp and save — so she could dance 20 hours each week and participate in conventions and competitions that cost hundreds more.

I was alternately embarrassed and relieved by this decision. Embarrassed because we were choosing to live a rather elitist lifestyle, pouring money into our child and not requiring her to earn it. Relieved because she wouldn’t be dry-humped and felt up by her McDonald’s manager in the drive-thru like I was at age 16. 

Oh, sure; dance taught Abby a hard work ethic, physical fitness, goal setting, and time management. It was a fantastic part of her education, and she was grateful, but still; LOTS OF MONEY and rhinestones and my kid graduated high school without ever working a job beyond the occasional babysitting gig. This was not at all how I was raised, nor is it how my husband was, and I couldn’t help but wonder if we were setting her up for a lifetime of entitlement. After all, we hear all the time about today’s teenagers who are “too good” for honest, hard work at less glamorous places like fast food restaurants. But every time I thought she could at least work a fryer during the summer and pursue dance, every time I tried to convince myself that just because it happened to me didn’t mean it was going to happen to her — every time I thought of her alone, closing the restaurant at midnight with a man bigger and older than her, my hands got sweaty, and my heart pumped faster, and I knew I was never going to ask her to apply to grill burgers. Not ever. I couldn’t do it.

Which is how, at age 40ish, I finally realized I was sexually assaulted. 

It wasn’t that I’d dismissed what happened to me working swing shifts at McDonald’s. It wasn’t that I’d forgotten. It was simply — and this has come to be even more terrifying to me than assault amnesia — that I believed my experience was wholly unremarkable. As normal as tripping over a curb or missing my seat in 6th grade math class and crashing to the ground. Which is to say, an experience that is memorable and uncomfortable but not anything out of the ordinary or worth commenting on.

THAT is how ingrained sexual assault is in our culture. THAT is how embedded. THAT is how common and mundane. That 16-year-old me thought having a man push me into a corner and rub his erection on me while trying to grab my boobs was just another, normal, unfortunate work condition. A bummer of a surprise like seeing how much of my paycheck went to taxes. A meh, whatever, shrug-it-off situation. Something we girls bitched about in the work room while we ate our $3.49 of free food per shift. But also something none of us even considered reporting. Not because it wouldn’t do any good, but because clothed sexual assault didn’t seem to rise to the “Must Report” level. Any ejaculate was contained in his pants, after all, and, if we said no and pushed him off enough, if we smiled at him so he wouldn’t be mad, he left us alone for the rest of the shift.

I read that now, and I go, DEAR GOD. I mean, DEAR LORD JESUS IN HEAVEN, WHAT THE HELL? It seems impossible to me now that I didn’t see it then. But it’s still true.

I didn’t tell my parents. The same parents who were always so good about telling me no one has the right to touch me in the bathing suit area and that I could talk to them anytime about anything which was true. I didn’t tell them because it didn’t cross my mind. I didn’t tell them until they, too, wondered why Abby wasn’t doing time at a local burger joint. My dad pumped gas as a teen. My husband washed cars at his dad’s used car dealership. I flipped burgers and worked a cash register. Shouldn’t Abby learn the same way? I didn’t tell them until we were having the conversation in my kitchen, and I answered casually, “I just don’t think I want my kid to be dry-humped by her manager.” I said it casually because I still felt casual about it. But as soon as it fell from my mouth, I did a mental double take. And ever since, I’ve been realizing how very ingrained assault is in our culture, our communities, and our lives as women navigating an unfriendly world.

My story is unbelievably common. Unbelievably normal. Obvious assault and harassment experiences we didn’t see as obvious or as assault because we are subconsciously, insidiously trained not to recognize it. One of my girlfriends posted this yesterday, “I was just about to post how extraordinarily lucky I feel to have never been a victim of assault as a woman. Then I remembered the time I was drugged in a bar and (thank goodness) passed out while still in the bar, spending the night in the hospital. I guess that’s another “me too.””

We are trained not to see it, and we are trained to belittle it when it happens to us.Well, sure; I’ve felt unsafe hundreds of times around men, but it’s not as bad as what happened to ____.” Or “He only felt on top of my clothes so I wouldn’t say it was assault, exactly.” Or “It wasn’t technically rape, so… Or I knew better than to go to his room alone.” We have unlimited excuses and dismissals, really. I know I did. Until I had to decide what was OK for my daughter. It turns out what happened to me is definitely Not OK if it happens to her. Which means it’s Not OK that it happened to me. This particular assault was Not OK, and neither are the other times I was grabbed and groped; neither are the dozens of times I was sexually harassed with words and actions. Who knew? 

I’m telling you this story, friends, for specific reasons, which are these:

1. I refuse to be ashamed or embarrassed about this, and I will absolutely do my part to name the things that are Not OK — the things that Must Change — so our world has to face it and do better.

2. Not everyone can share her story. Not yet. Maybe not ever. And I want you to know, whether or not you are able to declare your “me, too,” I still see you. And so do countless others. We know you’re there. We know that for every person who can share, there are myriad more who can’t. We see you. We’re waving in the dark. You’re not alone.

3. You’re also not alone if you, like me, have suddenly become aware. You’re not alone if you realized belatedly you were assaulted. You’re not alone as you reluctantly claim membership in this club. You’re not alone as you realize how widespread this problem is and how brainwashed you were not to see it earlier. You’re not alone as you grieve your discovery of both your own experiences and of our culture as it actually is, rather than as you thought it was. And you’re not alone as you wonder what in the world we might actually do to change it.

Me, too, friends. Me, too.

With love, always,

 

 

 

 

I have poop-water on my floor. Wanna hang out?

October 10, 2017 in Uncategorized by Beth Woolsey

We spent the weekend with our toilet in the backyard because a visiting child tried to flush it. This, of course, caused water to overflow the bowl, gush from the floor, and flood the bathroom. I don’t know how the water gushed from the floor, exactly. Greg told me, but all I caught was plumbing, something something, seal, poop-water, and locking the bathroom door forever. So a kid broke our toilet, and it’s Situation Normal around here; an ongoing bio-hazard and Greg is gagging in the corner. To be clear, I don’t blame the child. I blame the child’s parents for a) teaching the child to flush, a mistake we certainly haven’t made, and b) failing to teach the child that Nothing Works at the Woolsey House, Ever.

Also, our fence gate latch and garage door are broken, our car has a flat tire, the fridge water dispenser won’t stop dispensing so we fixed it with masking tape, one kid is having a (series of) meltdown(s), two kids are recovering from feeling barfy, and, while we had a lovely time on our trip, we’re also glad to be home again. Truly glad. This is us, and I like us, even with poop-water on our floor and really poor plumbing skills.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

We are who we are, friends.

I started writing this post to let you know about retreats I have coming up next month and throughout 2018, and to invite you to join me, but it’s suddenly occurred to me that I just wrote about living in poop-water, and now I’m going to see if you want to hang out. I’d rewrite this whole thing, except I feel like our relationship is past the point of pretending, so I’ll just say…

I have poop-water on my floor. Wanna hang out?

We won’t be hanging out in poop-water. The retreats are in a pristine and lovely house that’s sort of Anti-Poop-Water. Or not anti-poop-water necessarily — like, I don’t think the house has some sort of doctrinal position that’s specifically opposed to poop-water, because, let’s be honest, poop-water happens — but rather absent poop-water. Like, it’s a whole retreat to get away from poop-water, both literal and figurative. A Poop-Water Respite Retreat, if you will. Which suddenly makes me feel like I wasn’t nearly creative enough — or accurate enough — in naming these retreats, because, while I suspect there are a whole lot of parents like me who would like to attend a Writing Retreat, or a Food and Wine Retreat, or a Book Retreat, or a Mindfulness Retreat, there are probably many, many more who would love to attend a retreat that lets us rest from All the Poop-Water, you know?

You know.

I know you know.

That’s why you’re my people.

Do come hang out with me if you can. Details below.

With love, as always,

 

 

 

2018 RETREAT DATES

I’m getting ready to release our 2018 Retreat dates. Mostly, the retreats are how I get to hang out with you, introduce you to other friends of mine who are experts in their fields and all-around rad people, while doing things I think are, well, fun. This year, in addition to the Magic in the Mess Writing Retreat where we give shape to the messy and beautiful stores in each of us, and the Mindfulness Retreat where we learn to be kind to ourselves and to breathe, we’re adding a Food and Wine Retreat — self-explanatory — and a Book-Lovers’ Retreat, with three books, one memoir, one fantasy, and one TBD to read ahead of time and discuss together. I could not be more happy about these options, and I hope you’re excited, too! Here are the dates:

  • Book-Lovers’ Retreat — January 25-29, 2018
  • Food and Wine Retreat — March 8-12, 2018
  • Magic in the Mess Writing Retreat — May 3-6, 2018
  • Mindfulness Retreat — November 8-12, 2018

These four, small group retreats will be located at our previous retreat venue — a stunning, 8-bedroom home with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean in Seal Rock, Oregon — and will continue our tradition of rest, respite, supportive community, incredible food and wine, and new friends all around.

Registration for the 2018 retreat will begin soon. We’ll be releasing all the details shortly. However, if you want to get a jump on registration and hold your spot first in line, please contact Maggie Peterson, retreat registrar, at petersonm1@spu.edu to let her know which retreat you’d like to attend. This does not obligate you to attend, but does ensure you’ll be contacted via email as soon as registration opens.

Why I Write Anyway

September 11, 2017 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

My kids went back to school this week, hooray and praise the Lord God Almighty, Maker of Heaven and School. The college student is colleging, the high schoolers are rocking the hell out of their special ed classes, and the tinies, who aren’t tiny at all at 10 years old, but who I insist on thinking of as my sweet babies, are busy making me alternatively grateful we’re taking a year to travel and homeschool, and also making me question my sanity.

Our house is full of joy and laughter and yelling about whose turn it is to do the dishes. (NOT MINE, FYI.) We’ve been running the usual ragged race and then stopping everything — refusing to budge from the couch because we are EXHAUSTED and we CANNOT DO IT ALL and DAMN IT, NO ONE CAN MAKE US ADHERE TO THESE UNREASONABLE CULTURAL NORMS — back and forth in rapid succession. RUN. Collapse. RUN. Collapse. RUN.

Our family is very Both/And this way. Both high achieving and total quitters. Both kind and utter assholes. Both content and uneasy. Both sure we are living life to its fullest and failing at All the Things.

And threaded through this mundane, magical life this week — my dog will not quit barking at the fence — I’ve been reading the responses to my last blog post, How I Became a Heretic.

It’s always a strange thing when a piece of writing gains wide traction and that’s the snippet of life where people enter the story. Always a strange thing to welcome people to my online living room mid-conversation. But that’s how this space works, like an open house where people come and go, leaving grace and grime in their wake, because they’re human like me, and we humans are nothing if not muddled and magnificent.

And there has been grace. SO MUCH GRACE and solidarity and gentleness and “me, too’s.” But there’s also the grime that comes hand-in-hand with saying what we really think out loud…

“You won’t change anyone’s mind.”

“You’re just shouting in the dark.”

“You’re so bitter.”

“I feel sorry for you.”

“Satan has deceived you.”

‘Well, at least when I disagree, I have the courtesy to keep my mouth shut. I don’t go spreading it around on the internet.”

“I just wish there was ONE place on the internet I could count on seeing no political posts and no religious posts. ONE PLACE. I guess your blog isn’t it. Unfollowing.”

And, my personal favorite, because I think it’s supposed to scare me, but I find it the most comforting of all, “God will judge you,” because God’s other name is Love, and I’m 100% good with Love as my judge. 100%.

I’ve heard all those comments and more this week. And lots of you dear friends have rushed to my defense. I love you for that; I do, but I need you to hear this: It’s OK. Those comments are fine when they’re directed at me. They’re inevitable when I post about faith and doubt and learning to breathe free. People who adhere to the rules and behavior guides tend to feel very threatened when others challenge and break them. I think that’s understandable. I think it’s a sympathetic position. I think we can nod and feel sad and move on. And I think we can direct our attention where it needs to go, which is not into arguing a theological position, but into loving our neighbors as ourselves and figuring out who our neighbors really are.

I grew up in a conservative culture in which silence is revered. Even if we disagree, we would never be so impolite or impolitic to say such a thing out loud. That would create conflict. Unnecessary arguments. Division when the church should breed unity. Besides, ours was a patriarchal culture where men were the heads of households and women were submissive. Surely, as a woman, I wouldn’t challenge what a man told me.

And so, in order to be an upstanding member of the community, I was quiet. And even if I didn’t understand why a rule was the way it was, or thought perhaps we were going about reading the rule all wrong, I knew not to question it. Or, rather, I was allowed to question all I wanted, for a very brief time, as long I was also willing to accept, immediately and wholeheartedly, the authoritative answer and explanation. Doubt was absolutely allowed as long as it was shortly followed by Belief and Adherence.

I didn’t want to lose my people. I didn’t want to lose my community. I didn’t want to lose my childhood friends or my college friends or my young adult friends and camp friends. I didn’t want to lose my fellow parent-friends. I didn’t want to lose my family. And, since those groups were all anchored in the church, I was quiet. I didn’t want to be cast out. I didn’t want to be unwelcome. I didn’t want to be shunned or “released” from the only body of people I knew.

Interestingly, I was never worried about losing Jesus. Never. Not once. I was always confident in that guy, although I get why many of my fellow heretics can’t buy the whole Jesus/God thing. #YouDoYou

So I was taught to shush. To accept the parameters as defined for me, not by a higher power, but by those who assumed authority over me, complete with their iron interpretations of the Bible. I was taught to fly under the radar. I was taught to swallow my discomfort. And I lived that way for years and years and years and years.

Until I realized all of that was about me. All of my worries about “I.” All of my fears about my own loneliness. All of my dread focused on what I might lose. And none of it — none — about those Jesus asked us to love.

During my years of silence, I never worried for my ostracized neighbor. I never worried for those the church had already lost. I never worried for the people of color who were largely absent from our midst or considered why the church was so very segregated. I never worried for gender and sexual minorities. All they had to do, after all, to be part of our community was to enter the church and do what I did — be silent and accept the truth as it was defined for me.

It took me years, though, to see. Years to listen well and hear. Years for comprehension to dawn that the church was keeping me from loving my neighbor as myself. Years to recognize my silence was complicit in their suffering. Years to turn away from trying to keep a false peace in favor of championing the marginalized, the disenfranchised, the hurting, and the lonely. Years to reroute my concern for myself to asking my neighbors how I can love them better. Years to believe what my vulnerable neighbors told me.

That’s why I’m no longer quiet. That’s why I write anyway. That’s why the criticism doesn’t matter, and neither do the efforts to shame or shun or muzzle me back to silence. Because it’s not about me at all. It’s not about worrying about making the in-crowd uncomfortable. It’s not about worrying about being labeled a Trouble Maker or a Deceiver or a Loud Mouth or Talking Out of Turn. Not anymore.

Finally, it’s about the people it should have been about all along. It’s about the people who need to know they’re loved. It’s about fighting to make them a safe space. It’s about clothing the naked, and feeding the hungry, and comforting those who grieve. It’s about creating a new community when the old locks its doors.

So, to the critics, it’s fine. Say what you like to me. (Although if you direct it toward others in this space I’ll shut that shit straight down. My house, my rules.) I’m a big girl. I know who I am. I know what I believe. I know why I believe it. And I know who it’s for.

With love,

 

 

A Small List of Meant To’s

September 2, 2017 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

I meant to be skinnier than this by now. I meant to stop eating All the Cheetos. I meant to be less snappy at Greg, and to make healthier food for my kids.

I meant to be more Godly. To, like, actually love those who hate me, and to do it with ease after so much practice.

I meant to have my book proposal done, not just close to done. And I meant to have my room picked all the way up, including the nightstand which instead has a tub of buttercream frosting; cinnamon graham crackers, mostly gone; a dusty hair band; 4 green earplugs and one orange, partially chewed by the dog; two empty glasses of water; various Lego shrapnel; and a Special Rock gifted to me by one of the children that looks like Every Other Rock, but apparently isn’t.

I meant to have the front yard manicured. Or, if not manicured, at least not mostly dead with blackberry brambles and wisteria and the occasional baby oak tree wrestling for control. Whenever I see someone having a yard sale, I wonder whether I can sell my yard, too. Surely there’s someone out there who needs an extra front yard.

I meant to have organized my laundry room such that I can find panties and a bra. Also, shirts. Also, pants.

I meant to be a gardener, boxes brimming with late summer bounty. I have the boxes, but I haven’t seen them for years, hidden as they are under one wild yard growth or another.

I meant to be a letter writer and a card sender and a person who keeps personal correspondence alive. I meant to be a checkbook balancer and an excellent money manager and have more than $50.05 in savings.

I meant to read books that make me smarter and make me think and make me cry and feel triumphant, but if anyone needs a somewhat smutty and wholly spectacular vampire or werewolf series, let me know; I’m apparently your girl.

I meant to be cultured and to prefer spending time in museums and art galleries than pubs and tiny coffee shops. I meant to be able to pull off elegant should the situation arise.

I meant to have bathrooms that smell like freshly laundered clothes, or, at the very least, like buckets of bleach, instead of like stale kid urine that went there to die. For that matter, I meant to have clean laundry that smells like freshly laundered clothes instead of old cheese and green olives.

After 23 years, I meant to have marriage figured out, and, after 19 years, to know which parenting manual actually works.

I meant to do all these things and a thousand thousand more. I meant to, but HAHAHAHAHA! Nope.

But I’ll tell you a tiny secret. I also decided to be a better friend to myself. To treat myself like I’d treat a girlfriend, sharing her microfailures over wine, making little confessions of Not Enough, and spilling her small bits of shame, hoping she can be known and still loved. The kind who listens to the admissions, then shrugs and hugs and says, But look at all you ARE. Look at all you are, friend. Look at the way you drink in life. Look at how you love your littles and your bigs. Look at how you love your world. Look at how you TRY. Yes? Look at YOU and see the You I do. The one who is so much more than the Meant To’s. So much more than Could Have Been’s. So much more than the Not Enoughs. You, my friend, are fabulous. You, my friend, are seen. You, my friend, are loved BECAUSE of who you are, not in spite of it. 

So in case you have a list of Meant To’s — one that you rehearse — a list of all your wrongs which is the opposite of Love — look at all you ARE, friend, and trust me here for just one second:

You are worthy of infinite love.

You just are.

That’s as true a truth as I know.

Now read it again and trust it for one more second. And one more. And one more. Until you can hear it echo inside of you for a minute. And then an hour. I hear that’s possible. And then a day.

I’ll practice, too.

With love,

 

 

Spoons

July 20, 2017 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

I’m still alive over here. SURPRISE! I’m like that guy they drag out of the house in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Not quite dead yet.

I mean, I’m still sick.

Still working on it.

Still waving in the dark. And pondering whether the night is all bad or if it’s just gotten a bad wrap. For now, it’s quiet here before the dawn. The crickets went to bed a long time ago, and the birds aren’t awake yet to signal the sun to rise. The moon set, but the stars are still out so I can see the outline of my hand. A little light to see by is enough for now. And the stillness of this night is soothing, sitting inside a warm blanket, watching my breath. It’s OK for now to wait for morning; I’m in no rush to force the daylight.

I went to the doctor again. That’s my profession for now. I told her I’m Not Worse. I was rather self-congratulatory about it. She said, though, that Not Worse isn’t the goal. The goal is Better. So we’re working on that now. Maybe we’re making progress? Maybe.

I’m not quite dead yet. I think I’ll go for a walk.

I went to the psychologist, too. Or rather a lovely student working on her PhD in psych. She’s nice, and she’s FREE. So yes, please do learn your craft on me, Lovely Student.

This week, she’s got me working on spoons.

“Imagine,” she said, “that you have a number of spoons every day. I don’t know why we use spoons. We could use anything as currency, but we use spoons.” She shrugged.

“I’m down with spoons,” I said. I wanted her to feel good about her metaphor, even though she seemed fine already.

“So you have spoons. Let’s say ten. Ten spoons to spend every day. They represent energy. If you spend seven, you have three left over at the end of the day. You didn’t overspend your spoons. But let’s say you overspent your spoons. You spent 14. That means you start the next day with 6, not 10. You end up running a deficit. Get it?”

I did get it. She told me to pay attention to the Spending of the Spoons. Not to fix Spoon Spending, necessarily. Just to pay attention to see what gets the Spoons.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. Paying attention to Spoon Use.

Only, I keep laughing at the Spoons.

All week, I’ve been dying over Spoon Spending.

Because I’ve already used All the Spoons.

Every single Spoon.

There is a DEARTH OF SPOONS around here.

I haven’t seen an available Spoon for YEARS.

In this life with 47 children and several jobs; this life of wife-ing and being a friend; this life in which I’m expected to feed myself and, theoretically, bathe and dress  and find my own caffeine; in this life, working on special education eligibility, and legal guardianship of my almost-adult man child, trying to keep my panicky kid calm and maybe even sometimes happy; this life where our churches are falling apart, and those who think like us are no longer welcome; in this life where we’re just beginning to understand what it looks like to actually love the marginalized rather than just think we love, or insist we love, or focus on our own wounds, or seek the approval of those in power in the Christian Machine; in this life of calendaring and doctor’s appointments; this life of trying to make sure my children each get a semblance of attention; this life of trying to learn to breathe; this life like so many of yours, I have already used All the Spoons.

THOUSANDS of Spoons.

Millions of Spoons.

I HAVE USED EVERY DAMN SPOON, friends.

My Spoon Deficit is ENORMOUS.

There is no way to recover from the overall Spoon Loss.

So all I need to know now is how to declare Spoon Bankruptcy.

Is there an office for that? A legal procedure? An online checklist? A toll free number to call?

I know I’m not the only one in Spoon Debt. I mean, I live in America; debt is our native tongue. Surely someone can walk me through this process. Yes? Any Spoon Counselors out there? A 10-Step Spoon Program? Someone hook me up.

In the meantime, I’ll be over here waiting.

Not quite dead yet.

And waving in the dark.

Yours truly,

Not Worse

July 2, 2017 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

Here’s everything I know right now about how I am: I’m Not Worse.

Not Worse. HOORAY!

I feel like this might be confusing. Or discouraging to a Normal Person. Not Worse when you’re really Fairly Terrible and like you Can’t Breathe doesn’t seem particularly encouraging, after all. But if you’re sliding naked down a steep hill, and the hill is covered in brambles, and also shards of glass, and also razor blades, and you Stop Sliding so you’re only bare and bleeding, but not actively incurring more injury, you feel a little celebratory. A little jubulent. A little like, yes, I’m still bleeding out, but SLOWER NOW, so HOORAY!

I’ve been to the behavioral psychologist. I have assignments. So far, I haven’t done them. The problem with assignments is you have to have a brain that Remembers Things, and I don’t. We don’t meet again ’til mid-July, though, so I’m hopeful I can remember by then. Optimism springs eternal.

Because I don’t Remember Things, I blew off my doctor last week.  I had an appointment Monday. I reminded myself all day Sunday then forgot by Monday. A Brain That Works would perhaps have set an alarm. But nope. No alarms for this girl.

I remembered an hour after the appointment with a sudden gasp and an OH SHIT which of course my children heard. Three giggled. The one who’s the rule-following Pharisee was deeply offended. She also detests sarcasm, though, and thinks laundry should be folded, so we can’t take her too seriously, you know?

After I realized I ditched the doctor, I called her office and rescheduled like a grown-up. But because we live in a small town, and because she’s been my doctor for more than 20 years, and because our daughters have danced together, and because she’s been called to the hospital in the middle of the night to prep me for surgery after I suddenly miscarried babies — because we’ve scrapbooked together, and because we’ve adopted children from the same country, because she’s treated me for depression and identified it for me when I couldn’t — she texted me, too.

“Get your booty in here,” she wrote.

I wrote my List of Excuses. The usual ones People Who Aren’t Well use. I meant to. I tried. I wanted to. I’m sorry. I’ll see you next week, I swear. And, because I’m grateful, truly, that I’m not doing this alone, I said thank you. Thank you for riding my butt. 

I ran out to the liquor store later. On my bike because my college kid has claimed my car for the summer to get to work, and because the bike is a good mental health choice. Sunshine. Exercise. Flashing the neighbors because I wore a skirt. All bring me joy.

I bought my dad a bottle of Scotch. I bought my neighbor a bottle of Kraken. I bought my book group a bottle of vodka and prickly pear syrup with lime to make froofy, summer drinks.

Then I rode home.

With my doctor behind me.

Small town, I tell you. Small town.

She asked if I was riding a bike.

I said I was.

She said she really was riding my butt.

I sensed an opportunity to seize some Squandered Mental Health points from the morning.

REDEMPTION AT HAND.

“Do I get to make up any of my lost mental health points by getting out and exercising?” Because we all know we’re on a Points System, yes?

I mean, I can’t keep an appointment with my physician, so Demerits, obviously. But LOOK AT ME: dressed, outside, exercising!

And, you guys, she said YES! I DID get points back!

It was a really lovely 3 seconds.

‘Til she asked what I put in my bike baskets.

And I had to say liquor.

So much for credit.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

At least I tried.

Maybe I’ll accrue points next week.

Until then I’m Not Worse.

And I’m sending you love.

And waving in the dark,

My Outdoor Bedroom: Thoughts on Living Weird. Happy and Weird.

May 26, 2017 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

I used to think I didn’t like the outside. I’m not a long-haul backpacker like my most outdoorsy Oregonian friends. I don’t enjoy endurance hikes, forced-march style. I don’t even go on leisurely grandma walks around the block. But once I was able to tackle outside on my terms — biking in the sunshine, kayaking because I get to sit on my ass in the water, and hiking where hiking means sauntering through the woods and meandering up mountains rather than tight timelines and a race to the top — I was IN. All the way in. Mud in my toes, scrambling over boulders, bugs in my bed, IN.

I started sleeping outside this week, but not in a sleeping bag on a hard pad on the ground. Nope; I started sleeping outside, but in a real bed with sheets, soft pillows, and a ragged, faded plaid down comforter I bought for my first apartment 26 years ago.

{Psst… Greg and I made out on that comforter a lot.}

It’s pretty close to heaven on earth, and it’s 100% Outside My Way.

Greg only grumbled a little when I pestered him for days and days to pull the old iron bedframe from the storage loft, and I went ahead and ignored his eye-rolling while I stole the nightstands back from our Goodwill pile. I mean, I don’t want to brag too much, but I’m really good at ignoring eye-rolling now. Also, sighing. Also-also, the slow shaking of Greg’s head side to side in weary disappointment. I can ignore it ALL.

See, Greg is of the opinion that one bedroom inside a house with things like Protection from Inclement Weather and Temperature Control — Not Very Many Giant Fuzzy Spiders and Zero Raccoons with Razor Blade Teeth and Beady Little Demon Eyes Peering from the Blackberry Bushes — is plenty of bedrooom for me. Greg thinks I don’t need a second, outdoor bedroom. Greg thinks, if I’m going to invest time in a house project, maybe I should finish painting the hallway — or the other 47 things I’ve started — instead of creating a redundant living space in the backyard.

Poor Greg. Bless his heart. And we can pray for him. <– This is our Greg Liturgy. Amen.

As for me, I’m certain this is the Best Idea Ever.

I’ve been fighting Depression again lately. It’s been a rough couple of months. I think. Maybe a rough couple of years? I don’t know. That’s one of the symptoms of mental illness, really; the Not Knowing. The trying to decide if this is Normal or Unhealthy. Is this a Phase or Do I Need Help? So I’ve been fighting Depression again lately; I just don’t know what “lately” really means. I’m bobbing up and down in Ocean of the Unknown. Getting hit by waves of Anger and Hurt and Worry and Blah. Finding myself underwater. Pushing again to the surface. Suspecting this is just part of what it means to be human in all its complexity. Suspecting this is just circumstantial and easily explained. Suspecting none of that’s right at all.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Mental health is a giant jigsaw puzzle, after all, except we only have some of the pieces. The rest we have to go on a scavenger hunt to find with murky clues. We never find them all. And so I manage my mental illness a lot of ways. Partly through medication which saved my life. Partly through pursuing Joy these days instead of the Approval of Others which has made this life richer and fuller and weirder than ever.

So I keep doing Weird Shit that makes me happy instead of Normal Shit in its tightly controlled box of Acceptable Behavior. These days, I’m spending my time building fairy houses out of wall holes. And making my bed outside.

 

I feel like I just keep leveling up on Weird. Things that make No Sense to others, I’m pursuing anyway, and I’m finding Joy there. It turns out making my bed where the dirt gets in is a piece of the puzzle — the piece that looks like watching the stars before I fall asleep and hearing the wind in the cherry trees and waving at you, always waving, in the dark.

With love, friends, from this little piece of earth,

 

 

 

 

P.S. I want you to know, so I get credit, I ironed the stained bed skirt before stacking the mattresses, which was wasted effort entirely since it’s all covered now by the wrinkled comforter. I suppose I could have ironed the comforter, as well, but I’d already ironed one whole thing and felt there was no need to go to ironing extremes. Besides, now the ironed bed skirt is symbolic of all the work we do that never sees the light of day. And it’s also symbolic of my guiding principle which is that Half Assed Is Good Enough. After all, mathematical integers prove that anything more than zero is in an infinite percentage more than nothing; since I ironed something, that is infinitely more than ironing nothing. INFINITELY MORE. And infinity is a LOT, you guys. A TON.

P.P.S. This is my view right now.

 

P.P.P.S. Good night.