Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Kitchen...

Jennifer and Joel cleaned the kitchen every night after dinner. They cleared the table, washed the dishes and wiped down the kitchen table and the counter tops. Jennifer and Joel worked well together but they didn't always do a perfect job...  

September 15, 1985

Dear Ophelia,
"I just got back from a family meeting about the kitchen. God, I hated it. They make us sit down, stop everything then they commence to put us down and complain. I don't think we've been doing that bad of a job in the kitchen. They say when we do a bad job, it means we don't care about the family. They say we're not considerate and we have to show some responsibility.

God, I've been trying so hard not to create waves. I haven't been arguing with Jeff. I've been trying to accept that life isn't fair, I've been going out of my way for them. I guess I'm very self-centered because I am so involved with my career, trying to determine if I'm insane or not, I've been worried about school, my new friends, my grades, reports I have to do, letters I have to write, my contract with myself, even writing in you--I worry about that--my posture and lately, there's been pressure between Joel and I. I even had a dream that we hated each other.

Lately, he's been saying, much too often, that he hates me, that I'm no fun anymore etc. He says it like he's kidding but I know he's not. Joel demands constant attention and I'm not the type to give it to him. I feel pressured that I always have to be in a good mood and happy to please Joel and that, of course, makes me mad. Anyway, I've been worried about that too. I want things back the way the were. 

I think I worry too much or something. I'm too involved with myself and I don't have enough time to get things done. Anyway, after that meeting, I really cried and I was racked over with sobs. I wish they could just cheerfully say, 'Guys, we want you to start doing a better job cause you've been slipping lately.' But instead, they have a one hour meeting in which they complain and put us down. Everything we say can and will be used against us. I feel like I have to make a list of everything I do for this family so I can show them that I do care and stuff.

Joel doesn't even seem affected by the meeting but here I am breaking down. I need to be appreciated, that's one reason I write in here. 'If only they knew,' I say. They say I don't care but all they have to do is read the contract I made with myself and then they'd know. If I didn't care, I wouldn't be crying right now!

Plus, I get annoyed easily. My mom annoys me. Sometimes her voice annoys me and her facial expressions and the way she totally moves her hands when she's talking. When people start to annoy me, I become very untalkative and unresponsive around them. Mom noticed that and she wonders why but how can I tell her without hurting her feelings?

Anyway, I have been trying with this family. On family trips, I've helped more than ever before. I've done a lot of things that weren't even my job to do. I wasn't raised to help out like Joel and Christian were, I had to learn about it and I had to learn that trust was important. I think I've come a long way. 

And of course I'm self-centered! My whole life circles around me. I only know my own thoughts. I only see out of my own eyes. I feel so alone right now. I feel like a totally alone alien, like I'm different from everybody else (which is good). I feel like no one thinks like I do, I wish I knew how other people thought. 

Well, I gotta go. It's 9:41. I'm too emotional and sensitive. I gotta take a shower, I'm still crying. Bye. Love you, you're like me, Jennifer."

Jennifer's Diary

The kitchen--it's location in the house, all the chores attached to it, the food issues and the money issues it can bring up--the kitchen is the heart and hotbed of the home! Jennifer remembers a lot of family meetings regarding the kitchen!

I feel for Jen in this entry. She speaks the truth--her parents are right--she is self-centered. She's not apologizing for that either. When Jennifer lived with her mother--she was a latchkey kid from about the age of 8. Her job was to take care of herself so that her mom could work. When Jennifer lived with her dad, she remained a latchkey kid and she was unsupervised even when her father was home. Jennifer fed herself all her meals, rode her bike wherever she needed to go, purchased her own clothes and supplies for school, went to bed when she felt like it and was 100% responsible for her own homework--basically, she made all of her own decisions. She used to tell her dad her plans, she didn't ask for permission. This is a lot of freedom for a kid in junior high.

Now, she's in high school. She's trying to change. She's trying to consider the family as a whole. She is feeling pressure from all sides. Teens in general live in pressure-cookers--they are making huge life-changing decisions, they have no perspective of time or mortality, they have jobs, they drive cars, they have tons of homework, they can be their own worst critics, they have no idea how beautiful they are, they are expected to act like adults but they are treated like kids, they have raging hormones, they can reproduce and that's scary and all of it can be overwhelming. It was hard for Jennifer not to live in the center of her own world during this time.

I think Jennifer is suffering from extreme anxiety. It would be cool if some kind of "forensic psychologist" could review her diaries and diagnose young Jennifer. I know she's not insane, but her gut was telling her that she needed help and I think she was right. Jennifer's normal teen problems were amplified through anxiety, depression and mood swings.

While I'm not a fan of medicating children--I think Jennifer might have benefited from some kind of anti-anxiety medication along with therapy. Jennifer did not know how to ask for this kind of help--but she found it anyway--in illegal drugs. It's amazing how resourceful humans are, for better or for worse! Jennifer finds a drug that reduces her anxiety and she takes to it like a duck to water. It was not good behavior on her part, but it may have helped save her life. I wonder how many teens are using drugs just to survive the day?

Did you have a "drug of choice" as a kid? Was it a stimulant or a depressive? Was it just for fun, or did it help you cope?

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