Category Archives: self doubt

Vigilance, My Constant Companion

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Vigilance, My Constant Companion

Well hello blog friends. I’ve been pretty quiet since I got back from the hospital 12 days ago. Don’t let that fool you, my thoughts have taken on a squirrelish  pattern, darting between cars on a 6 lane highway during rush hour.

Hard to know how successful the surgery was at this point. The surgeon proclaimed it “perfect” so I’m counting on that to be accurate. My zombie arm has improved greatly – now I’m afraid of accidentally undoing all the good the surgery did. Plus I have weird sensations in other areas. Hoping it’s just my nerves coming down from some fairly traumatic events.

Recovery from surgery is a strange place to be in mentally. I expected the physical pitfalls – pain, medication issues, potential blood clots, physical restrictions, general discomfort and overall ickiness. I was not fully prepared for the anxiety, mood swings and FFS tears (who am I).

Before I give you a glimpse into my particular rabbit hole of recovery I need to first state the obvious…I’m very fortunate. I am relatively young and healthy. My recovery is projected to be months and isn’t terminal. The surgery I had was to correct a problem and prevent further damage. It was to relieve the chronic, relatively short term pain (months, not years) I experienced and hopefully prevent further damage.

This isn’t terminal cancer or some chronic debilitating disease that I have to manage for however much time I have left on this planet. I am mindful of this and deeply grateful. I also recognize that the fickle finger of fate has the option to change her mind at any point, even the best strategic plans and intentions can implode at any moment. I’m aware of the transient nature of life and my blessings are abundant.

Some things I have observed about myself…

I’m pretty much a rule player. Sure I may wax poetic about what a rebel I am but when the rubber meets the road, I’m a by the book gal. I want to follow discharge directions to the letter, sadly the letter is fuzzy.

Having more questions and curiosity than the discharge papers accounted for, I took to Google to quench my thirst for knowledge. Probably not ideal. There is a wide range of opposing opinions by medical professionals in regard to Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Fusion.

To brace or not to brace? Collar or no collar? Movement or none? When can I drive? When can I safely load the bottom rack of the dishwasher or put a fitted sheet on the bed? I feel safe pouring dry kibble into the dog food bowl but filling the water bowl seems like risky business. These are the activities that stump me daily.

I’ve already contacted the surgeon’s office about a potential blood clot and difficulty swallowing (which to be fair, are valid concerns and warranted calls) I draw the line when asking about specific mundane household chores. I see the surgeon next week for my first follow up visit since my surgery, I’m making a list.

I’m afraid of breaking myself. My biggest hurdle right now is the mental bandwidth I’ve handed over to fear of botching this surgery. Some is valid, some is unlikely. I find myself in a place of fear more often than I anticipated. It takes months, perhaps up to a year for bones to fuse. During this time of healing I will need to be mindful of what I do and do not do physically. Which activities are considered high risk and should be avoided? Vigilance will be my constant companion for the foreseeable future.

Some people don’t appreciate gruesome neck scars. I was able to drive yesterday for the first time since the surgery. My first errands out included dropping the kids off at school and getting some thank you gifts for my friends. My scar is supposed to air out so I didn’t cover it. There was a definite look of disgust on one clerks face when I came back into the store to borrow a pen. Her exact words were – “Take this pen, we have 100 of them. Now get out.”

Do you have a surgical recovery story? Any pro tips? Feel free to comment with your words of wisdom.

 

 

So Far…

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So Far…

Relationships are slippery suckers aren’t they? Sometimes it’s hard to find the perfect grip to keep them from slipping away. Too much pressure, not enough, longevity comes from the ability to apply just the right amount of pressure, that and dumb luck.

A Facebook friend posted about her insecurity within her decades long marriage. She wondered why so many years and 3 kids in, why do these feelings still show up, when does the insecurity stop? My guess is (23 years in) that it doesn’t? Insecurity isn’t a constant companion in my marriage but that bitch does visit from time to time, completely uninvited.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the negative thoughts come from an accurate observed change in your spouse or the internal bad wiring most of us have to diagnosis and re-configure. We’ve been told that half of marriages end in divorce forever, that’s not entirely true. To get an actual percentage, you’d have to study a specific set of marriages over a lifetime to see how many dissolve.

If you’re curious, I found an interesting read on the topic. No proper notes of the specific studies or statistics touted, more of a compilation of weird divorce nuggets put together by a law firm (my guess is they specialize in divorce)Weird Divorce Stats

One statistic stated that the average length of a first marriage that ends in divorce is 8 years. Seems to me that a lot of marriages end once the kids finish high school or after the wife turns 50 which often happen around the same time. Women file for divorce more frequently than men somewhere between 66 – 75%.

According to the weird list I linked above my marriage is doomed. We met in a bar (24% more likely to divorce), my parents divorced (50% increased risk of divorce), we have a daughter (and 5% to the doomed calculation)…Geezus we are already at 79% chance of implosion and I haven’t even gotten to our premarital sexual history and lack of strong religious background yet. Our calculated risk for divorce is somewhere around 200%…But wait, we live in Pennsylvania, are college educated and have children, phew, we might make it. Some of these stats are ridiculous in their specificity.

So what makes a marriage work? Obviously this varies by couple, there isn’t one universal magic formula. Personally, I’m just grateful that I still like my husband and it seems mutual at this point. We still “enjoy” each other’s company (wink) and we know when to give the other space. I try to find new ways to keep him happy…no not that, I’ve already done everything I’m willing to do there. Now I mulch or weed and make the bed, the real sexy stuff no one told you about in early ’80s Home Ec class. I try to take some of his burdens away and when I need help with something, I’m specific and neutral in my requests. That seems to be working so far.

I Did Not Blend In

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I Did Not Blend In

So this weekend was kind of interesting…I went to a bridal shower for the first time in about 15 years. Wow have things gotten out of hand.  The party had a “World Travel” theme complete with props, a DJ, trivia games about the couple and a sea of Spanx laden ladies. There were confetti airplanes, flowers made of maps, luggage tag favors and a custom hashtag for the couple, they went all in.

I’m casual by nature and practical in my approach to clothing. Sure I want to look good,  comfort goes a long way though. I knew that flats would be out of the question with this bunch so I stepped up my game with some neutral 3 inch heeled ankle boots. I probably got them at Marshalls for $29.99, that’s my way. They’re cute and they dress up jeans with the right top. I drove my sister in-law and we agreed on our style prior to the event. We were seriously under dressed. Not what you want to do when you prefer to blend into the scenery.

The venue was in Staten Island and it was gorgeous inside. Chandeliers, a water view, beautiful window treatments, it was stunning. We knew we were in trouble as soon as we walked in. The guests looked like they were at a formal wedding. These ladies brought their A game – sequins, ruffles, prints, red-soled shoes, high end all the way. Meanwhile, I’m rocking my new mom jeans which advertise their ability to “cover muffin top” (I wish I was kidding). I wanted to die but I was hungry and this place is known for good authentic Italian food. I decided I could die after I ate, I stand by that decision.

It was a buffet so naturally there was a line. As I was standing there in the most casual outfit within a three mile radius, I noticed the line of asses at the buffet. It was mesmerizing. All kinds of asses – big, little, wide, flat, pancakes and bubbles on display in all their glory. I respected their confidence, I veer too far in the other direction. I’d wear a mu-mu if it was socially acceptable. I’d alternate with gym clothes, easy peasy. *Sighs* imagines life in a mu-mu. 80ba22001c642d83f830130a50199dbe--simpsons-art-simpsons-funny.jpg

It wasn’t just asses on display, boobs were everywhere. It was 2pm and I saw side boob, is that the new norm because I thought side boob was reserved for after 8pm? The DJ kept encouraging people to dance, while bright sunlight streamed in. Maybe I’m old (OK old and under dressed) but I like to get my boogey on at night with an appropriate amount of darkness. I also prefer to dance with the hubs and this was a ladies only event. I’ll just say it now – “Get off my lawn!” Ahhh, that feels better.

To add insult to injury, I was having a sh*t hair day. I got it cut a week ago and I’m still adjusting to it, not good. These gals had all kinds of stuff going on with their hair, professionally coifed, extensions or a damn impressive ability to use appliances that have always eluded me mainly the curling iron. I wanted to spruce things up, I even borrowed a curling iron from my friend. Sadly I did not have time to practice because something came up with my kid during the time I had allotted for that trial run.

So to recap, sh*tty hair & mom jeans, I did not blend in. I was having an off day and I was surrounded by women that could be extras in a Sopranos reboot or a new variation of the Housewives enterprise. My SIL and I decided that we really need to take things up about 1,000 notches for the wedding. Some of the outfits at the bridal shower cost more than the book value of my 2010 Honda. I can’t even imagine what they will wear to the wedding. Have you ever found yourself over or under dressed?

The Lonely Middle Years of Parenting

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The Lonely Middle Years of Parenting

Parenting kids in middle and high school is such a complicated and lonely space to be in. When our kids are little we tend to share a lot about them. Holiday cards, social media posts, small playgroups, sports teams and parent clubs. The little cherubs happily pose for the camera without a whiff of self consciousness.

Somewhere around 5th grade things start to shift. The kids no longer want you to go public with what you think is cute. Concerns about privacy, social status and damage control start to creep into your thoughts. The kids disappear from your social media feed and you keep things under lock and key. The difficult stuff is whispered to your closest friends, a very limited set of eyes and ears. Even with those confidants the experiences are exhausting and isolating at times.

I’ve had days this past month that have absolutely gutted me. Pain for my child which housed a kaleidoscope of emotions; profound sadness, love, pit of my stomach fear, impatience and resignation. Fortunately the low points have been transient, replaced with more hopeful experiences, it goes in and out like the tide. I can only imagine the despair of families that reside in the muck for extended periods of time. I’m sure those parents are around me, they just aren’t talking about it.

The why of the reasons for not discussing things openly are a complicated stew of ego, protection, shame and insecurity. Shame that maybe we failed as a parent somehow – gave too much or too little. We were too involved or not vigilant enough. We haven’t properly adjusted the sails, we hit the gas when we should have braked and now we are spinning out of control.

The first inclination is protection. Protect the child at all costs from labels, embarrassment, bullies, the boogeyman, mistakes or misunderstandings that can negatively impact their future. That’s a tall order and some days I feel so small, minuscule, a speck of dust, insignificant. At this phase in their lives, your kids generally care more about friendships than family, at least temporarily. Another jagged pill to swallow, the person you want to help most in the world doesn’t necessarily want your assistance or your opinion. They will however, happily relieve you of $20. or the car keys when they start to drive.

Insecurity is the ghost that haunts us all whether we care to admit it or not. Insecurity is married to shame maybe not officially but they are at a minimum shacked up together. If I’m honest, this is the piece of parenthood I feared the most before we had kids. Knowing that I would make mistakes as all humans do. I also knew that making mistakes as a parent would cause me intense pain. Mind you I haven’t had colossal failures, just the usual varieties; having a more impatient tone than intended (this is called yelling), being a few months behind on the dental check up, and not being a constant shadow on their social media.

I’m sure some parents and kids skate through this phase without a pimple or a tear shed, I think those are the unicorns. Most of us take a deep breath and remind ourselves to have a friendly tone when we knock on our child’s bedroom door. We worry about over/under scheduling, setting reasonable expectations that neither diminish goals nor create neurotic overachievers. I’m still searching for that sweet spot of challenging my kids so they can bend without breaking.

 

Fear

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Fear

My brain is a swirling mass of bad ideas, thoughts that want to tell me the worst. Imagined bad scenarios pile up like cars on an untreated highway during a rush hour ice storm in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s an unexpected, unanticipated disaster threatening and menacing, I could be taken out at anytime by what I don’t see in the blind spots, navigation is treacherous. No actual cars, just the thoughts in my head that I struggle to not breath life into. I keep them locked up in the darkest recesses of my mind where they ricochet like a vintage game of Pong on meth or speed or whatever causes the most damage and chaos.

What happened? Nothing much, it doesn’t take much. My husband could go out for a walk or to meet a friend for coffee and sometimes my damaged mind assumes diabolical situations – mostly that he is cheating on me or dead in a ditch, perhaps mangled in a car crash. Sometimes I think it’s a girlfriend or a hooker, other times I go full blown psycho and imagine the “other family” like a plot from Brothers & Sisters where I play Sally Field’s character. I try to distract myself from my own wicked thoughts and it’s exhausting. Like the duck which appears calm on the surface of the water but if you go underneath you see the frantic kicking of the webbed feet. I’m the duck cooking dinner and answering homework questions while my mind is imagining horrendous scenarios.

I talk myself off of my woman made mental ledge by giving myself an internal pep talk. He loves me I tell myself, knowing that isn’t enough. I mean plenty of guys that love their wives cheat or die in a car crash, statistical fact. I go deeper into my analysis – what time of the month is it? Last menstrual cycle was 22 days ago – interesting, the math works. Didn’t sleep more than 3 hours, got maybe 4 hours the night before last. What did I eat today? Have I exercised? I do much better when I sleep enough, eat well and get in a work out. Has anything different happened to make me feel vulnerable – why yes two family deaths in the span of six months, some collateral drama.

Much like the pilot of an airplane, I have a pre-flight checklist. If any of these items apply I note them and the demons of my mind step back a bit. It has taken years of self introspection and observation to acknowledge these pitfalls. Inevitably though it always comes back to fear of abandonment.

The scars of a dysfunctional upbringing are the echos that haunt me. In the arrogance of youth when I had more energy, was physically more attractive and had complete financial independence, I had the naivete to think the ghosts of my childhood wouldn’t haunt me. I remember my own mother telling me that there was a certain level of her own damage that she had come to accept as insurmountable. Late twenties me thought what a bunch of bullshit that was and how if you had awareness then surely you had the ability to make some changes.

The decades since have softened my views on this…certainly as individuals we have some control over our outlook on life. I have also come to view these deeper flaws in a way that I view grief. You cannot jump high enough or dig deep enough to get around it, you must go through it. You need to absorb your personal truths and recognize them when they float to the surface. By all means fight the demonic bastards with everything you’ve got, just recognize that they will continue to be unwelcome and hopefully infrequent visitors.

So as much as I hate to admit it, mom was right. Some of my fuckedupness is just a part of me and I need to make peace with it. Not panic when the – damn is he cheating on me or why are they late, did they crash the car thoughts come in, because they wilI. I need to glance at my pre-flight checklist and acknowledge that I have a fear of abandonment which is stoking the flames of the negative fires burning in my brain. I need to go after them one thought at a time – dousing them with logic and pragmatic reflection until they are just smoldering embers waiting for the next opportunity to ignite.

Writing Prompts

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Writing Prompts

When you feel vulnerable everything is a writing prompt. Sometimes the thoughts just swirl in my head, marinating until they become a somewhat tasty morsel that spills onto the screen. Not enough for a meal but, with any luck it leaves you hungry for more. Most times though, those prompts just wither on the mental vine. Here are some seeds that are lying on the bare ground, waiting for neglect or nurture to determine their fate.

Backstage Pass

My father is in the hospital again. He’s been in several times this year for various illnesses. We aren’t close and that’s not likely to change. He was out of my life from when I was 9 until sometime in my 30s. Too late for strangers with nothing in common to cling to – I say that with sadness, not hostility. We’ve both made attempts to bridge the enormous obvious gap, we just haven’t found the right the platform.

I find out about his health via group texts from his longtime partner. She’s devoted to him and very kind, which is comforting. It’s just awkward. The man had 7 kids from two marriages. I’m the first born but last in the pecking order. When I do get informed, it’s like having a backstage pass for an act you don’t know.

What’s Normal?

My kids recently went back to school and I feel myself being consumed by my own anxiety for them. I’m outing myself in the hopes that it will get me to ease up a bit. I have two teenagers and I can’t help myself, I think of what I was doing at their ages. Then I wonder, is it normal for parents to do this? If you’re a parent do you reflect on what you were doing when you were the same age as your child? Seriously, this is not a rhetorical question, I don’t know what’s normal.

For the Ladies

You ever get your period and think “Oh that makes sense” as you flashback to the night before when you ate half a chocolate cake and contemplated life with a new identity.

Hospice

A friend asked me how I deal with the mental mind f*ck of caring for people on hospice. This is what I wrote to him:

Hospice is a weird thing. I think what draws me in is the lack of bullsh*t. The small stuff and pettiness that most humans get tangled in tends to fade away when someone has a newfound awareness of how finite our time is here. I appreciate that level awareness and honesty and I get into a – do the next right thing modus operandi. It’s more difficult with people you know versus volunteering for strangers. I’m pretty good at compartmentalizing though, one of the benefits of a dysfunctional upbringing.

There is also a curiosity that pulls me in. I kind of want to know what it’s like at the end of life – I mean, we’re all going to die one day, yet people rarely discuss it. Or maybe my twisted brain thinks…if I am a witness and a helper for so many at the end of their lives, perhaps I’ll be granted a swift departure when my time comes. I don’t want to be subjected to weeks or months of Depends and really dry, chapped lips. So basically what I’m saying is….there is no way to delay the existential head f*ck, you just have to lean into that motherf*cker.

 

 

 

*Featured image used via agreement with 123rf.com image is Copyright of Sila Tiptanatoranin

 

Demanding to be Seen & Heard While Wrapped in the Cloak of Invisibility

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Demanding to be Seen & Heard While Wrapped in the Cloak of Invisibility

A recent Facebook post in a group for midlife women asked members to comment with their term for the phase in life between ages 45 and 55. For the record, the author of the post prefers midlife meltdown. Up to this point I hadn’t thought of anything original until I read the post and subsequent comments. I let it marinate.

First I reflected on this phase as a work in progress with more self acceptance than prior decades. Some members were elegant – metamorphosis, renewal and awakening were tossed out like flower petals on a soft meadow. One of my favorite responses was the “F*ck it phase”. I gave it some more thought and landed on the title of this post – “Demanding to be Seen & Heard While Wrapped in the Cloak of Invisibility”.

I recently turned 50 so I am in the sweet spot of the poster’s demographic. I find myself balancing opposite ends of the spectrum – acceptance/discontent, reclamation/ surrender, clumsiness/grace. In short, it’s a mixed bag. I am aware of my short comings, of the finite amount of time we all have and yet there is this spark, indeed a renewal of sorts.

In collective society I have become less visible. This happens to women as the radiance of youth is replaced by the fine lines of wisdom. Once the skin suit we inhabit becomes less appealing to the masses, we blend in until we are barely visible.

Here’s an example, our family used to frequent a local restaurant where they immediately recognized us and would (without asking) bring our favorite appetizers. It was our Italian version of Cheers (everyone knew our name). The same people that owned the restaurant also owned a pizzeria. I would stop in from time to time for take out. The owner rarely recognized me when I was by myself. In fact, it happened so often that he actually acknowledged the oversight. I suspect it happened because I wasn’t attractive to the point where I would stand out or unattractive enough to register in this man’s memory without my family to provide cues. I simply blended into the woodwork.

That never happened in my 20’s or 30’s. It’s a jagged pill to swallow especially if you relied on your looks in your youth. I was aware of the perks of being an attractive young woman but I never fully appreciated the power, I miss it.

Like a lot of women, I fell into a bit of a cliché. I was a upwardly mobile career girl who transitioned into a SAHM in my mid 30’s. When my kids were headed toward middle school the internal panic started.

1) What have I done?

You put your family first, not yourself. That bit about putting your oxygen mask on first in the event of an airplane emergency….you didn’t do that. Tsk, tsk, too late to dwell on it.

2) What will I do now?

Should I go back to school? I already have my BA…what industries are hiring? If I spend X amount on education how long will it take to recoup that and do I have time? Will I go back to school, incur debt and be unable to get a job? What contacts do I have from 2003?

This cycle of self-doubt and reflective reasoning is the stuff of insomnia and panic attacks. It’s painful and no one can walk you through it. People can make suggestions and offer guidance but it’s your brain on the hamster wheel at 3am.

3) Will anyone hire me now?

Maybe, maybe not. Another Facebook group of women were recently discussing ageism in job interviews. One women was considering dying her hair because she thought it would help her odds of getting hired. Others try cosmetic surgery, injectables and most shave decades of experience off their resumes to make the math more difficult for a potential employer. Ageism is real, combine that with a large gap of employment and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. I volunteered for a local hospital for 10 years and could not even get an interview for a data entry job. Eventually I started my own business because it was that or retail.

Many of us wake up at some point and wonder all of the “what ifs” and decide some changes need to be made. I’ve noticed this in myself and others, there is a certain burst of energy and creativity that comes at midlife. Whether it’s writing, painting, sculpture or throwing yourself into a charitable cause or activism, ladies tend to get revved up in the middle. I don’t know if it springs from a new well or one that was previously blocked by fear and expectation. I suppose it doesn’t matter because I jumped in without knowing the answer. That has been the gift of this phase, the willingness to dive into previously uncharted waters.

 

 

Photo credit: Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_yuliialypai’>yuliialypai / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

I Might Be Terrible

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I Might Be Terrible

I’ve been doing cringe worthy crap my entire life. This week has been off the chart, here’s a recap:

Last night I was in a doctor’s office with my daughter. She needed to get an X-ray. I saw a close friend with her daughter also waiting for an appointment. Instead of just saying hi like a normal person. I go over and say “What are you in for?” because people love to announce their private medical concerns in a crowded waiting room. I might be terrible.

One evening at bedtime my daughter mentioned that she has fears of someone breaking in and killing everyone. She asked if I would run in and rescue her. I said, “Hell no, I’ll be running for my life. You’re smallish, hide in a closet, play possum, figure it out.” Now I’m wondering if we should just put her college fund toward therapy. Probably terrible.

A dear friend has been dealing with a kid with a foot injury. Her kid is pretty delicate so the pain tolerance level is – butterfly kisses chafe. One morning this week she was trapped in bed with her tween, afraid of waking her daughter if she moved. I don’t know how long she was pinned, arm going numb as her bladder begged to be emptied. Most parents have been held hostage in this way – desperate to escape, afraid to rouse the sleeping child.

The injury happened over the weekend and the effects lingered for several days. She kept her daughter home from school on Monday, concerned that she wouldn’t be able to use the bathroom without assistance. Later that day she sent me a picture of the balloon animals they made out of an excess of desperate boredom. I texted her…If your kid can make a G-D balloon dog she can pull up elastic pants, that’s all I’m sayin’. My friend insisted the issue was with putting weight on her injured foot, but still…moderately terrible.

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This is the balloon animal my friend made. It appears to have some kind of balloon animal medical issue. I don’t know what it is exactly but my visceral reaction is concern for the balloon and my friend.

I was assisting an 80 year old client with bathing this week. Three minutes into the bath she mentioned that she felt an urge to go. I may have said “please don’t sh*t in the tub” repeatedly under my breath. She has really good hearing. Sh*t in the tub is a horror show so, probably not so terrible.

This weekend I accidentally took my son’s phone. Not too terrible, EXCEPT when he suggested that I might have accidentally picked it up and I immediately dismissed the idea. In fact my husband and I thought that perhaps our son was scared that he lost the phone and was desperate for a scapegoat. Then my husband and son searched the path of a walk they took the prior evening (the search took place in cold, rainy conditions because of course it did). Approximately an hour later the phone was found in my car. Clearly my son’s suspicions were proved correct. Moderately terrible, I apologized.

I was catching up with some volunteer work the other day. To be honest, I’ve wanted to “retire” from this particular project but the benefits are so good it’s hard to walk away. That’s a joke the benefits are a significant loss of personal time, a severe lack of appreciation and agita. I was emailing another volunteer and she was getting a bit testy with me. I decided to use the exchange as a writing prompt and somehow managed to send her a text with my observations which I intended to flesh out into a fictitious blog post. Bottom line is I hurt the other person’s feelings. So I’m terrible AND an idiot. I apologized, definitely terrible.

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From this day forward, all the sh*t that goes sideways will be known as a writing prompt. What terrible cringey things have you done this week?

I leave you with this gem – How to Make a Balloon Poop Emoji –

 

 

 

 

 

Enough

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Enough

It’s amazing how your experiences can come back to tap you on the shoulder (or give an unexpected punch in the gut) decades later. When your life’s foundation is built on a fault line, you never know when the next big earthquake will make it crumble. Hell, sometimes the aftershocks can take it down. Too much stress and the sturdy, seemingly indestructible structure can be fallen by a minor tremor. You never know when it will hit. It’s been anticipated for years, you know it will be catastrophic, you just haven’t nailed down the timing. This is the result of a traumatic childhood, a foundation built on chaos.

Raising kids is the most important work I’ve done and of course it’s the hardest. As a mother, I am all in with these children of mine. I’ve been doing this for fifteen years now  and there are days when I still wish they came with a manual. I did not have a good childhood, I don’t come from good stock and I’ve been winging it the entire time. I’ve done pretty good so far. Both kids are on the honor roll, no one is in trouble with “the law” and they are generally good humans. That’s modest, they’re amazing humans, each in their own way. I’d love to parent brag here but I’ll respect their privacy instead.

There are times when I will reflect on what I was doing at their age, the contrast is startling. Sometimes I lose my patience over minor issues because I get stuck in the long ago realm of my youth and it decreases the length of my fuse. Most of the time I keep it together unless I sense entitlement and then I temporarily lose my cool. If I’ve gone too far, I apologize quickly and we move on.

There have been times when my husband and I disagree on things and he’ll inevitably say that I’m too sensitive. My usual course of action in a heated argument is to leave the room and cool off. I know all the rotten, hurtful things to say to someone to push them over the edge and I choose to disengage. I find it’s best for me to temporarily remove myself from the situation so things don’t spiral out of control. This is a point of frustration for him.

I laugh to myself a little when I hear myself described as too sensitive. I get upset if someone is harsh, I anticipate the feelings of other people and try not to step on them. Is this supposed to be an insult or an observation? The funny thing is I’m not overly sensitive in most areas of my life. There are times though when he’s right and I am too sensitive. The alternative for me is a complete shutdown, that’s the nuclear option.

There are days when it feels like my best efforts are not enough. I get up earlier than everyone in this house, I go to bed later, the hours in-between are primarily filled with doing things for them. Nothing exotic mind you, just the day to day work that no one appreciates until someone stops doing it. I spend the bulk of my hours shopping, cooking, running errands, doing laundry, driving kids and staying on top of the business of raising humans (the forms, the appointments, the scheduling, the shuttling, the social/emotional nuances). The invisible work of motherhood is my primary focus. I squeeze in my small business and writing on the side.

When someone complains that these best efforts of mine aren’t enough, I lose it. I’m so sick of the not enough message. Ladies we are bombarded with this message. Not pretty enough, skinny enough, young enough, smart enough, rich enough, sexy enough, good enough. Not good enough is constantly streaming like the news ticker on CNN or Fox – not good enough is messaged all day, every day. Well, I have had enough.

 

Ethel

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Ethel

I was inspired to start writing a book a few weeks ago, I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. It’s like falling in love or making a new best friend…you want to pour all of your time and energy into it. Of course this doesn’t happen without a little slippage in other areas. There are still just 24 hours in a day, the creative Gods can’t give you more. This turns you into a criminal as you steal time from other parts of  your life.

Time communicating with loved ones gets curtailed, the laundry and dirty dishes pile up and you resent any intrusions. Even the dog gets annoying with her whining about whatever dog woes she’s experiencing. Sorry Fluffy, I don’t have time to deal with your existential crisis right now…5 more pages and I’ll rub your belly. She just grunted at me as she plopped her large dog body onto her bed next to my desk.

It’s been a roller coaster these past few weeks. The peaks of creative spontaneity hammered down by the crushing blows of self doubt. Self doubt is the monster that lives in your head and tells you how terrible you are at everything. My self doubt has migrated from a tap on my shoulder to a hand around my throat and she’s squeezing pretty hard. I keep shaking her off and she comes back over an over again like the protagonist in a bad horror movie.

I went to a writer conference last August and attended a session on self doubt. The facilitator was Danny Gregory and he spoke about his book – Shut Your Monkey. https://dannygregorysblog.com/category/books/shut-your-monkey/ – Instead of a monkey, my take away from that day was to envision my self doubt as an elderly prairie dog named Ethel.

Ethel usually dons granny glasses and a knitted sweater vest. Sometimes she’s cute but lately she’s gotten more critical and suddenly she’s wearing a hockey mask and carrying a long sharp knife like Jason from Friday the 13th. She’s starting to scare me. I’d love to draw her for you but as Ethel as already reminded me several times today, I can’t draw for shit.

The worst part about this recent internal war is that I feel like I’m taking innocent people with me along for the ride. I have an illustrator that I’m working with and a handful of friends that are giving me feedback on my progress. Self doubt was bad enough when it was a solo act, now it feels indulgent. I mean it’s bad enough to spend time frivolously writing the hours away, now you want people to read it and comment. And dear Gawd that poor illustrator, she has a family and clients that pay her…real money.

Ethel: You can’t do this to people. It’s bad enough you waste your own time on this “hobby”. Now you are dragging your friends into this nonsense.

Me: Shut up Ethel you aren’t helping.

Ethel: It’s not like you’re even writing anything meaningful. Humor, who are you to write humor. What makes you think…..

….and that’s when I put a stick of Acme dynamite up Ethel’s ass and blew her up Wile E. Coyote style.