My brain is not working, that’s my problem. Somehow, I’ve allowed myself to fall into a pretty deep hole of depression, low self esteem, or hyper-protectiveness to where anything I try to do that even remotely resembles work is a huge hurdle. Anything that has drama, misunderstandings, unkind behavior and the like makes me want to flee, and it’s spilled over into my volunteer work the most. It’s hurting my head to write this, but I’m going to, anyway. Someone has to say something, and perhaps if it’s me, I’ll feel better and more like keeping on.
What’s happened is that one of my “triggers” has been triggered. It bugs me, because I’ve worked really hard to get past it, but I’m getting the idea that I didn’t get past it; rather I buried it. I’ve talked about my issues with La Leche League before, but I’m going to briefly re-hash a bit to explain why I’ve been so messed up for the past month or two.
First, I love the friends I made in LLL. Love them to pieces. They are some amazing people. But, the organization itself keeps repeating its mistakes, as if no one learns from history (which is probably true). In a majority-women organization with a strong, focused mission, many people get “power” for the first time. And it really screws up some people’s senses of right and wrong, and for some reason empowers them to bring new things into the mission (like natural childbirth, co-sleeping, baby wearing, etc.)
I’m glad I kept looking for all those wedding photos, because next I found photographic evidence of MOST of a very memorable trip I had in the late 1990s. It’s one of my favorite stories, so those of you who know me in person probably have heard it. But I have PHOTOS to prove I’m not making it up! (I have way more photos, but didn’t want to break the Internet.)
Just Another La Leche League Conference
Back in the olden days, when La Leche League was a volunteer-staffed breastfeeding support organization headquartered in Schaumburg, Illinois, the US part was organized into Areas. Some Areas were one state, some a group of states, and some part of a state. But it had something to do with geographic location. How quaint.
I lived in Texas, which was its own Area. Up north from us was AR/OK, which was Arkansas and Oklahoma combined, due to their lower population. Many of my friends lived there, and I was working on my online projects with them. Since I’d recently become the webmaster for the parent organization (making this probably be 1998), they invited me to give a talk, my first in that capacity where I was invited out of state…ooh. It sounded fun to me!
It Gets Interesting
I had a hard time finding the place, even though I think I followed my friends from Little Rock. It was in an old 4H camp (or something like that) either in or near a reservation.
The minute I got unpacked and hugged my friends who were sharing something like a dorm room with me, I got in touch with my artsy friend from Oklahoma, Kris, who I had yet to meet (I had a LOT of online friends back then). She had her own cabin off from the main building. We met, which involved much squealing and hugging (oh, how I miss squealing and hugging).
Immediately we decided we MUST go on a hike. There were trails! A lake! Rocks! Plants! There was a reason I liked Kris; she was also a nature gal. So, we went on a fabulous hike. The woods were beautiful.
We found all sorts of cool rocks, plants we didn’t recognize, and bugs. Kris also likes bugs.
We even managed to see a deer, which made us so happy. We gabbed and gabbed about our children, our spouses (hers was way more annoying than mine and still is, as an ex), our LLL stuff, our friends, and so on.
We were happy and tired when we arrived back at her little cabin. Then, I felt an itch. And another. I pulled down my socks. Kris had no socks, so she just pulled up her pants. Oh, crap. There were tiny, tiny things on our legs. There were tiny, tiny things ALL OVER us. Almost at once we screeched, “Ticks!” and immediately began throwing our clothing off. Now, only a couple of hours ago, Kris and I had never laid eyes on each other. Here we were basically naked, picking ticks off each other. Tiny, tiny deer ticks.
No photos of this are available. Lucky for all.
At last, we got most of the ticks off, leaving an interesting pattern all over us. We de-ticked our clothing and headed to the main building. We found our friend Barbara. She had gone on a hike. Oops. Luckily hers was shorter and she wasn’t totally infested. Everyone else avoided those trails!
The rest of the conference, we had to keep showing people our bit-up extremities. Now you know why I do NOT get close to deer.
The Rest of the Conference
Things went uphill, and as far as I remember, the rest of the conference was fine. I met a lot of “high-ranking” LLL women, which was fun. I gave my talk, learned to dance the two-step with a very handsome actual cowboy (little did I know that would become nothing special to me eventually), and cemented life-long friendships.
We also got a lot of work done, which always amazed me. My team back then were so good at multi-tasking, since they all had young children, led lots of mother-to-mother support meetings, AND did extra things, like our new email lists, websites, and online communities. I’ve always been very proud of those women.
The other thing I remember about this weekend was that I made a lot of purchases at the sales area, where groups brought things they made, and such, to raise funds. I also bought a LOT of raffle tickets. I was trying to help out an Area that had less money than mine. Plus, they gave me a free trip.
I ended up with so much stuff that I had to take an extra suitcase home, but I had no idea how much I would treasure the things I brought. A lot of the stuff was made by Rudy, the husband of the woman in charge of the area (Wista). He was a talented Native American artist who did scrimshaw on mammoth bones (he was allowed to), did paintings and drawings, and a whole bunch of other art stuff. He was also fascinating to talk to and very patient with all my nature questions.
Among many other wonderful items, I got a picture of a wolf by Rudy for my son that he probably still has. I also won dozens of wooden symbols of the West, like buffalo, cacti, howling coyotes, etc., which were I think made by Wista’s brother. My kids loved them. They sat in the windows in my house for years and years. They bring back such great memories (and yes, some are still around in boxes somewhere).
You just never knew who you’d meet at one of these conferences, but I soon learned that you would always come away with lifelong friends and lifelong stories to tell. Yep, it wasn’t all bad.
PS: If you were there, correct or add to my memories! I am not the best remember-er on earth.
Surprisingly, at least to me, I had a really had time dealing with the flood of memories that came up when I opened that box of letters Monday night. I had a huge reaction where all the things I used to feel about myself and other people whomped me but good. I really had boxed those events and emotions up in my mind as well as the actual box!
As I blurted that all out to my therapist yesterday (good timing, that was), she was able to identify what was happening. That always helps, when I know what the heck is going on in my brain. She said I was having an emotional flashback. That made a lot of sense. She then explained the stages of it, which include numbness, re-feeling all hte feelings and their accompanying negative ickiness, and moving toward forgiving yourself and others, which lets you remember that while we all do things we regret or that aren’t really the kinds of things we prefer, we’re all human and doing our best, at the time.
Also among the things I found were mementos of my time volunteering and working for La Leche League (breastfeeding support organization). I know I’m doing better about THAT time, because I no longer call it “a large, international nonprofit organization.” For a while there, I got sick when I said the name.
Back in Austin, I knew doing some more sweaty unpacking would help me deal with the ridiculous amount of poorly handled work stress I dealt with today. So, I came home and immediately dragged out some really heavy boxes, so that I could create some empty shelf space to store tools and holiday decor.
Most of the boxes had the knitting and craft magazines I swore I’d get rid of when I got to them, so I did. That’s painful. But I’m keeping my knitting books, so there! Sewing books will get donated. I really don’t think I’ll be getting a lot of sewing done in the future, since I keep having to work on new startups and nonprofits. And yes, I’m the one who volunteered to do this stuff.
I’m really glad I looked in all the stuff before throwing it out, because I found numerous academic degrees, awards, and important documents. I even found the hospital bracelet my mom wore when I was born, in among the magazines. Whew. I’d hate to lose those diplomas and the all-important Phi Beta Kappa membership. I really should have put this stuff somewhere more secure.