Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: mary beth keane

Do All Our Memories Change With Time?

Memory quote from book on background of the book's cover.

“They’d both learned that memory is a fact that’s been dyed and trimmed and rinsed so many times that it comes out looking almost unrecognizable to anyone else who was in the room…”

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

If we’re honest,
all our memories change with time.

We have all had that experience, right? He thought the conversation went one way, she thought it went another, but if you had a third person in the room, they’d swear it went in a completely different direction.

And then there is distant memory. I swear my brother started that big argument. He doesn’t remember arguing at all. Since social media has brought us together with people from our distant past, people we probably never would have seen again are instantly available to exchange photos and stories of events that would have been long forgotten.

One specific instance for me was a picture that a friend posted of a bunch of people at an event. If you had asked me if I had ever gone to this event, I would have said no. Or if you had asked me if I ever hung out with these people outside of work, I would also have said no. And I would not be lying. In fact, even seeing the picture, I still cannot remember the event. But there I am, right in the middle of the picture. It’s not a case of mistaken identity. I’m there, full face, arm around two friends and clearly at the event. I remember working with those people, but I still don’t remember that event.

Which leads me to think, what else have I lost to time?

What details of my past am I completely missing? Not in a “I know that face from somewhere.” or a “What was that game we played together?” kind of way, but in a “That never happened and you’re crazy and trying to trap me into something if you think it did!” way.

It’s something to think about when we accuse others of lying or changing their stories to suit the room. We all experience life from a different perspective, all the time. Everything that happens to us is colored by our own personal past, our mood, and our thinking. And, over time, the story of what happened changes for us. Things become less important to us, or more important. We lose interest or change our perspective a bit. We get older.

Yes, the truth is out there. Something happened, but like that Matrix camera, everyone saw it, experienced it, from different angles, with different lenses, even with a different quality film. Try and respect someone else’s version of the truth. It’s just as valid as yours.


Want to read this book? Find it on Amazon, “Ask Again, Yes”

Read more posts about this book!
When You’re Wrong
Anger Management

When You’re Wrong

“We both know you only get mad when you know you’re wrong.”

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

That’s not true!
Wait. Maybe?
Hold on a minute. (searches through recent arguments) Dammit.

The last argument I started was over closing windows. Yes, you read that right. My husband had the audacity to close the windows and I proceeded to lose my mind. I wasn’t wrong to want the windows open. I wasn’t wrong to be irritated by his response. I was wrong to jump on him about it and then continue a screaming rant about how he ALWAYS does things like this. That’s actually what I was losing my mind about, the fact that I jumped to conclusions and escalated a battle.

When I get really mad, I’m 99% mad at myself. I can’t seem to stop the spiral downward once it starts. I feel the feeling, think the thoughts…and then the words start pouring out before I can stop them. Then I feel like I have to fight to prove why I’m right, to justify my outburst.

In the past, this behavior has gotten way out of control. I wish someone could see inside my head what’s going on when I act like that. It’s like an alter ego has escaped from prison and taken over my mouth. The real me is inside screaming, “Stop! You’re hurting them!”

Recently, as in the last few years, meditation has helped. The idea of “making space” for feelings and watching them pass by helped me change from reacting to responding. A few weeks ago, I was able to walk away from something I knew would trigger me to react. I spent an hour alone, talked to my brother, wrote in a journal, and then came back to respond to the situation in a way that (hopefully) wouldn’t make everything worse.

This last argument didn’t last long, so that was an improvement. The work continues.

Anger Management

“We both know you only get mad when you know you’re wrong.”

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

That’s not true!

Wait. Maybe?

Hold on a minute. (searches through recent arguments) Dammit.

The last argument I started was over closing windows. Yes, you read that right. My husband had the audacity to close the windows and I proceeded to lose my mind. I wasn’t wrong to want the windows open. I wasn’t wrong to be irritated by his response. I was wrong to jump on him about it and then continue a screaming rant about how he ALWAYS does things like this. That’s actually what I was losing my mind about, the fact that I had jumped to conclusions and escalated a battle…again.

When I get really mad, I’m 99% mad at myself. I can’t seem to stop the spiral downward once it starts. I feel the feeling, think the thoughts…and then the words start pouring out before I can stop them. Then I feel like I have to fight to prove why I’m right, to justify my outburst.

In the past, this behavior has gotten way out of control. I wish someone could see inside my head what’s going on when I act like that. It’s like an alter ego has escaped from prison and taken over my mouth. The real me is inside screaming, “Stop! You’re hurting them!”

Medication has helped slow me down in the past, but more recently, meditation has helped much more. The idea of “making space” for feelings and watching them pass by has helped me change from reacting to responding. A few weeks ago, I was able to walk away from something I knew would trigger me to react. I spent an hour alone, talked to my brother, wrote in a journal, and then came back to respond to the situation in a way that (hopefully) wouldn’t make everything worse.

This window closing tirade didn’t last long, so that was an improvement. I was able to slow and pause, think. And then beg for forgiveness.

How many times can a person forgive though?

Those are the kind of thoughts that trigger depression though. I had to stop again. I’m not a bad person. I’m not evil. I’m not mean. I’m doing the best I can and every day is an improvement.

The work continues

Parenting Experience Points

“The thing is, Peter, grown-ups don’t know what they’re doing any better than kids do. That’s the truth.”

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

This quote reminded me of the relationship between my stepdaughter and me. Let’s just say, I was not the ideal parent and I apologized a lot, but it never helped. I wish kids were born knowing the adults in their lives are doing the best they can with what they have.

She was my first child, even though I got her when she was five years old and only half the week. Parenting was new to me. Step-parenting was new to me. She was new to me. I wanted to do better than my parents did, but in a lot of ways I failed. We all fail. It’s how we learn to do better.

Our relationship was torture for both of us much of the time. There were great days, but I felt like I failed at every turn and she’d never forgive me for it, which only made me feel worse about myself, and then I’d get worse. It was a vicious cycle downward that only ended when she finally moved out forever. And at the bottom of my heart, I was glad she did, proud of her for getting away and doing what was best for her.

I haven’t seen her in six years and we only recently, carefully started texting each other. I still don’t know how to talk to her. I try to listen to my husband. He seems to have a better sense of these things. His advice stems from what he’d want, “Just leave her alone and let her come to you when she’s ready,” but I’m afraid. What if the day she comes to me when she’s ready, I am not? What if I screw it all up again?

I didn’t know what I was doing. I still don’t. Parenting is hard. Parenting someone else’s kid is harder.

The only difference between adults and children is experience points. The more experience you have in life, the more you know how much you don’t know, how much you still need to learn…and then we die, hoping our kids do better than we did.

Unintentional Lessons From Childhood

“She raised her hand when she felt like talking and didn’t think that was notable until Mr. Behan told her parents in the parent-teacher conference that he was glad to see a girl raising her hand.”

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

As I read any book, I make notes. I underline perfect sentences, things that start me thinking, and sweet “ah-ha” moments. After I finish reading the book, I go back through and look at my notes, pulling out things that trigger a reaction in me. Sometimes, just days after I’ve finished reading, I can’t remember why I marked a certain passage. Maybe it struck me but didn’t stick? It must not have been that important, a passing idea.

Sometimes a sentence jumps out at me, I’m brought to some revelation about my current situation, or it reminds me of my childhood, and I write about that. This passage did both!

I’m not sure if you know this, but I live in the desert. The rural part, not the city part. I’m not totally in the middle of nowhere. I can drive into town any day of the week. I can drive into the city, and I often do. It’s not that I’m physically that isolated, but the town is small, and it is the desert. People tend to move here because they like being alone. We come together as a community for special occasions, like the 4th of July or a music festival. We complain about “traffic” and crowded parking lots when there are more than a few cars nearby. Unless you are part of some sub-group, it’s not the hub of social activity.

So…what’s your point, Michelle?

I know, I’m getting to that!

Let’s see…summed up… I’ve found myself a bit hungry for social interaction lately.

Since my boys have flown the nest, I’ve been at a loss about how to find a new social circle. How do I meet new people now? BC (before children) I met people at work. With kids, it was playgroups and then homeschool events. I started to get involved in our local community center but with the shutdowns all of that is on hiatus until further notice.

So, what do I do? I looked to the internet, Facebook groups be precise. I found a few that looked promising and joined. That was the easy part. Then, when I started scrolling through the posts, I noticed that people were posting an introduction, a picture and some description of themselves and why they were there. I read them, found them interesting…but could not bring to post one myself, even though I longed to do so. I literally broke into a cold sweat just thinking about what I would write. Why?

Then I saw this underlined in my book and it dawned on me. It’s like raising my hand in class. I never could do it. Even as an adult, in any kind of classroom like situation, an office meeting, anything, I couldn’t raise my hand to say something no matter how much I wanted to. I’d sit there, heart racing, mind trying to put together just the right words to express my thoughts…and do nothing. I have the answer! I have something important to add! I can help with that! But nothing could get me to raise my hand.

Why? Because raising your hand draws attention to yourself, drawing attention to yourself if not lady-like or attractive. And that is the worst crime of all. Where in the world did I get that idea? I assume I got that message from my mother’s family growing up. I can hear their words like family mantras, “don’t make a scene,” “don’t be ugly,” “keep your voice down,” etc. There was no evil scheme to keep a child down, it was just the way they were raised, so they passed those social and cultural rules on to me.

The women in my father’s family were different. They were loud, brash, and wild. Since my parents divorced when I was very young, and back then fathers didn’t get 50/50 custody of their kids, I didn’t see them often. I mostly saw them on holidays when they were at their most boisterous. Recently, I’ve dreamt about being more like what I perceived them to be: confident, proud, intelligent, unrestrained.

So here I am, 47 and looking for new friends on the internet. I joined a group of like-minded people in an attempt to socialize…and I’m paralyzed with fear at the idea of introducing myself, even from behind a screen. What the hell?! I need to get over this right quick. There’s a huge difference between running into a room, doing crazy things, screaming “Look at me!” and contributing to a group social dynamic.

Our children learn some strange lessons, ones we didn’t mean to teach them at all. I wonder what unintentional lessons my children learned from me.

Probing Anxiety Wounds

“Her peripheral vision sparked and distorted the edges of everything so that when she turned quickly to look at something, it moved just out of sight. And even while everything inside her body seemed to speed up, everything outside of her body – the movements of other shoppers, the reaching and lowering of boxes and packages into carts – slowed.”

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

What a rush! I read this description of anxiety and was instantly transported back to when my children were preschool age.

In the past I could work all night at Disneyland surrounded by thousands of tourists and then go to university all day. I could design the sets and lights for live shows, direct a crew of twelve people, and schedule an entire department of technicians, but two toddlers in a grocery store had overwhelmed me and I could not for the life of me understand why.

Looking back, nearly twenty years later, the reason stands clearly before me. Before children, I was responsible for only myself. I slept when I was tired, ate when I was hungry, and went wherever I wanted, when I wanted to. There was no one to consider but myself. Having children changed that completely.

I had already spent my young life playing as much as possible. Now was the time in life to take responsibility for others seriously and I was ready to do it, I just wasn’t sure exactly how to go about it without losing myself completely.

Lack of sleep didn’t help matters. I wasn’t ready to give up my job. I’d worked so long and hard to get to that place and I’d only been there a year when I met my husband. Besides, I didn’t think I’d need to, lots of people work and have kids. The situation seemed perfect to my young mind. My husband worked during the day and I worked after he got home. The shift was only a few hours in the evening anyway, so I was home at a reasonable hour, and I figured a few hours of sleep and I’d be fine to take care of my kids.

I was wrong, but it took me a few years to realize what was happening. I had no idea how much energy little people can consume! I had an amazing support system; my husband was understanding, my family helped me out, and having my Mother-in-law living with us was a blessing beyond belief. Even with all the help, I still found myself getting angrier and angrier every week. Anxiety attacks became more frequent, emotional outburst became more destructive because I could not find a way to escape from confrontation. My family needed me, and I was so afraid of letting them down that I refused to walk away even for a moment.

I’m not sure how it happened, but at some point I had said something my doctor about feeling so angry all the time, that everything seemed to be moving at breakneck speed and couldn’t keep up. I remember telling her about an incident that had worried me. I was standing at the kitchen sink, doing the dishes, when I heard the front door open. I instantly cringed and prayed that my husband would not talk to me, that a child would not call me, that somehow, I would be invisible, and they would just pass me by. I had been flushed with the heat of anger over something as simple as a hand on my back and a kiss hello while I was doing the dishes alone. She immediately prescribed an anti-depressant and told me that I needed to talk to a therapist. I cried and she hugged me. And that’s when the healing began.

Nearly twenty years later, I’m still working on my depression and anxiety, but I’m definitely better than I was back then. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not thankful that I spoke up when I did, before things could get worse. I still have bad day, weeks, but in general I’m good. I’ve learned new ways to cope with anxiety, new outlets. Most of all, I have better understanding of who I am and what my needs are, that they change from time to time, and that everyone is a work in progress.

I stopped medicating ten years ago, the year I moved out of the city. Something about the slower pace of rural living (and the fact that children do grow and don’t need constant attention) helped me immensely. Recently, I feel like I’m self-medicating with alcohol more than I probably should, and I’m working on that. Sign of the times, I guess. The upside is that I’m aware of it earlier and I’m not letting it get me down.

Fascinating the things that a piece of fiction can bring up from your memory. I hadn’t thought of that feeling specifically in years. Writing about it helped me clarify it and clean it up, like gently probing a wound to make sure there’s no debris in it so it can heal properly.

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