You know I’m running out of ideas when I start writing poetry

Used up

empty

never enough

yet still pretty

in its emptiness

the little flecks

of ground-up energy

paint the sides

like sand left behind after a wave on the beach

nice while it was here

but now it’s gone

all too soon


Day 19

Controlled Danger-Fun

You know how boundaries are on a spectrum, right. On one side it’s rigid, and way over here on the other side it’s chaotic. I was raised firmly planted on the rigid side of the spectrum, and it shows. Dinner was at 6pm, every day, never failed. The laundry was done on Saturday morning, every Saturday morning. You call your parents on Sundays. Put simply, we had clear, predictable routines, expectations, and consequences for violating those expectations. As a kid, I didn’t think anything of it. I assumed it was normal. For the most part, I liked it. I’m a person who likes to know what’s coming next, and whether that’s because of the way I was raised or happily coinciding with the way I was raised has yet to be seen. Perhaps it’s both.

Put another way, I’m a person who likes to be in control. Control, structure, predictability all feel viscerally comforting to me. I crave them like I crave my morning coffee. Feeling out of control, at the very least makes me feel cranky or irritable, and at worst makes me feel anxious and downright panicky.

I do things everyday to maintain my feelings of control over my little bubble. I make my bed. I choose what I put into and onto my body. I make lists and cross them off. I pick up clutter- constantly. I organize the fridge, the junk drawer, my kids’ toys. I plan. I think of everything that could go wrong with that plan and then plan for that, too. It’s a careful balance to make sure that I’m staying productive and healthy and not going overboard trying to make every little thing exactly how I want it. Some days are better than others.

They have a weird relationship, anxiety and control. They’re both illusions, to an extent. I don’t have control over very much in this world, and so there’s very little that is healthy and productive to feel anxiety about. Go figure. In an effort to squelch anxiety by trying to control everything, it often backfires and creates even more anxiety. Ugh.

So. What may sound counter-intuitive in my quest to try and control (or, as a healthier reframing word choice: calm) my anxiety is my charming habit to do stuff that I know makes me anxious. I still drink coffee because I likes it and I wants to. I still stay up late because I likes it and I wants to. And I still watch scary movies because my anxiety will not control my choices and I will not live in fear…all the time.

I make calculated choices and I have to decide what risks and consequences I’m willing to take. As a risk-averse person in general, I don’t like doing big, dangerous things where I don’t feel enough in control. Skydiving and bungee jumping are out, but rollercoasters are in! The perfect amount of fear/excitement and control/safety.

Scary movies also fall into this just right category. Surprising no one, I like the psychological thrillers that burrow under my skin and keep me up at night. Sure, they make my blood pressure rise but I get to make choices from beginning to end. Which creepy show do we watch? How often? Let’s take a pee break right now. Right now! PAUSE IT! Okay, now I need to turn on the lights. I don’t know why we started with the lights off because that was a shitty idea. At this point I’m going to talk my way through this scene so I can stay in the moment and not get sucked i-WHY IS SHE NOT LEAVING THIS HOUSE?! HASN’T SHE BEEN THROUGH ENOUGH? Where is her sense of self-preservation?! RUUUUUUN! Aaaaand oh look this blanket jumped right in front of my eyes before the Bent Neck Lady scrapes down the fucking hall again; all I hear is scraping, hissing, and screaming so I’ll let my imagination take it from here and assume they’re defeating the evil spirits and getting the hell outta dodge because who in their right minds would go back to bed after seeing a floating specter turn a kitten inside out and not tell their parents?! Fucking psychopaths, THAT’S WHO!

This is my idea of controlled danger-fun, dear readers. Who needs to jump out of a plane when all you need to do is watch children be tortured by evil spirits in the comfort of your own home? I tell myself it’s instances like these, and people like me, for which Xanax was invented.


Day 13

Rage. fear. desperation.

My little girl was almost hit by a car today. Almost.

We were on our way home, crossing a busy street. My son was on his bike, my daughter on her scooter and I was on foot. We looked left, we looked right. No cars. We were in a crosswalk. We did everything right.

To the right of the crosswalk is a traffic circle, and I saw a car whip around and it wasn’t slowing down. By this time, I was halfway across, my son was behind me, and my daughter was ahead of me.

I screamed, STOP, [HER NAME], STOP!!!

My girl started to slow down and I lurched forward, groping for her, even though she was still out of reach. I later told my husband that we’d both have been hit if the driver hadn’t slammed on her brakes.

If there was ever a time when I felt like a crazed, full-blown Mama Bear, this was it.

JESUS CHRIST!! I screamed at the car.

SLOW DOWN!!! I bellowed as I threw my arms wide in rage, fear, and desperation. I’m sure my eyes were red and smoke puffed out of my ears. Certainly, adrenaline was pumping through my system.

The driver gave a gesture that I interpreted as apologetic, but it all happened so fast. I just wanted to get back home where we’re safe.

This is several hours later, and I’m still trying to shake the rage. fear. desperation.

A similar incident happened a few months ago, but I was able to shake that one off much sooner. The differences: we weren’t in a pandemic, and I didn’t feel so constantly vulnerable, thinking about health and loved ones and safety and loss. That time, I was close enough to her that I grabbed her hood and yanked her back. Even if the car had continued to run the stop sign, I had successfully pulled her out of the way. Lastly, everyone was moving slower: me, my daughter, the car. It was far less scary, in a far less scary time.

Also a contributing factor: I’m currently experimenting with different cold brew ratios/recipes/techniques and dear baby jesus, I think I made this last batch way too freaking strong. Today I’ve been jittery and strung out. My husband says I’ve been talking a mile a minute today, buthowisthatpossibleIdon’tknowwhatyou’retalkingabout.

Not to mention that I’ve had two nightmares in the past week, one of which was technically a nightmare within a fucking nightmare (so I guess that makes it three nightmares in all). I shit you not, I had a nightmare and in the dream I went to sleep, had yet another nightmare, “woke up,” BUT WAS STILL IN A NIGHTMARE. When I woke up for realsies, you’d better believe it took me a hot minute to be quite certain that I was conscious and the world before me was indeed real. I think it’s high time I made myself a totem, BECAUSE HOW DO I KNOW I’M NOT BEING INCEPTED?! Leo?! JGL???

As a surprise to absolutely no one, I’m also knee-deep in a violent dystopian novel. My choices amaze even myself.

Soooooooo there you have it. Too much, too often I feel like the world is burning and I have a front row seat. I can feel the warm glow on my face and I can see the ash falling from the sky.

Everyone, just please do me a favor and SLOW DOWN when you drive. Check the crosswalks. Then check them again. Thanks.

And go easy on the cold brew.

 

The Sweet Spot

For the moment, this parenting gig is getting easier.

I can feel it.

When the kids were really little, even littler than now, I used to carry around baseline level anxiety that only quieted down once the kids were in bed for the night. It was this wired feeling, a hypervigilance of always having to dart my eyes around during adult conversation to make sure my kids were still in the room/not hitting anyone/weren’t peeing their pants/still breathing/what have you and I could never fully relax. Not really.

Lately though, I’ve been noticing that I don’t have to be quite so “on” all the time. I can go to the park with both my kids and know they aren’t going to run off. Or, if they do, chances are they’ll come back. If they want snacks they’ll always come back.

A more specific example that marks how my kids and I are changing with the times: we recently went to a pumpkin patch we go to every year. Usually, I have to bring and carry a load of stuff (water, snacks, diapers, wipes, extra clothes, the kitchen sink), I’m chasing the kids around, trying to keep them out of the mud, trying to get some pictures, making sure they don’t get hurt, or lost. But this year…this year was different. It was the chillest time, you guys. I even lost track of my kids from time to time and my oldest actually came to find and and tell me where he was going. My heart melted and my mind exploded.  I didn’t even know what to do with myself! My kids were fine! I was fine! I went and got a coffee and a pastry and sat my ass down!

It goes without saying that I’m enjoying this subtle and slow creep into the sweet spot of parenting that’s known as the primary school years. Dear goodness, my kids can be fucking adorable when they have reason to be. And for the life of me, I plan to enjoy the hell outta this phase before it gets to the hell on earth preteen and teen ones.

So bring on all the questions about bugs and spelling and life! Let’s tackle long division! Let’s start watching all the Disney movies and have spirited discussions about racism, sexism, and magic!!

Because y’all, for right now, I’m good. My kids aren’t as whiney as they once were. They’re less needy. They aren’t in mortal peril at all times. And they aren’t yet shooting heroin into their eyeballs. Not yet.

Right now, life is good.

Math beans, hot coffee, and lunch standing up

You guys.

I just experienced the most amazing thing.  You have no idea.  Or maybe you do.  It’s worth its weight in gold, and I think it’s going to end up being my savior.

What is this magic, you ask?

It’s called PRE. SCHOOL.

OMG, you guys.  My oldest had his first day yesterday and it was HEAVEN ON EARTH.

He was excited to go and the drop off was a breeze.  I squatted down to give him a little peptalk, told him I loved him, asked for a hug, and I got a little choked up for a second and then sucked it back because I didn’t want to lose it in front of him, and then…we left.  And he was HAPPY.  Playing with the math beans.  Preschool has “math beans,” who knew?

I went home dazed.  I had no idea what to do.  I hadn’t planned this out.  Usually I have A PLAN.  Well…first things first, I made coffee.  And drank it HOT.  You heard me.  Holy crap, you guys, hot coffee tastes GREAT.  It tastes like preschool tuition well-spent.  And then I went on FACEBOOK.  Because I don’t go on there enough, amirite? I made sure to feed and diaper my youngest, but then…she fell. ASLEEP.  And then my head exploded because now I was really lost in mommy fantasyland.

So I did the dishes, put away laundry, and started to pack for my FIRST WEEKEND EVER AWAY FROM MY KIDS (but that’s a whole other post entirely).

I ate lunch.  MY OWN LUNCH.  It was hot.  I didn’t have to share.  I still ate standing up for some reason, because hey, let’s not get too comfortable here.

When I picked up the boy after what felt like 20 glorious minutes in heaven, he was still HAPPY.  And, ladies and gentlemen, he was still wearing the same shorts as when I dropped him off.  Which can only mean (and was confirmed by asking the teacher) that he DIDN’T PEE HIS PANTS on the first day.  Angels were singing, my friends.

We came home, he ate the rest of his half-eaten lunch (score!) and then HE TOOK A NAP.

The best part – we get to do this THREE. TIMES. A. WEEK.

Preschool tuition tastes like heaven in this mommy’s mouth.

(I think I’ve lost the ability to complete a coherent thought now, but I think you know what I mean.)

Relax Says Frankie

Before becoming a mom, I used to know how to relax.

I was good at it.

I could curl up with a book for hours on the weekends.  I could go to Starbucks and lose myself in sugary caffeinated heaven.  We took vacations and unplugged and were carefree.  At work, when things got particularly stressful or when I was getting a headache, I would carve out 10 minutes, set the alarm on my phone, shut my office door, and I’d lay on my therapy couch (and even on the floor before I had a couch) and just focus on my breath.  It did wonders for me, some days, or at the very least it allowed me to get through the day.

And now…

Even when I get a break, it doesn’t feel like a break.  My kid takes one nap a day now, maaaaaybe two.  Maybe.  And I don’t know when the nap is coming.  Today, it came early.  Tomorrow will be different.  I also never know how long it’s going to last.  19.5 minutes?  30 minutes?  Once in a blue moon, it’s been 1.5 hours.  And each time he goes down, I ask myself, How do I want to spend this time?

Sometimes I clean, do laundry, or otherwise get stuff done.  Other times I try to relax – watch TV, drink iced coffee, read my book, write a blog post, garden, etc.  Note the word try in that last sentence.

I’ve noticed that even when I try to relax, I just can’t.  My posture is rigid, my breathing is shallow, my ears are perked.  My son might wake up at any moment.  Right now, my son is doubled over in the most uncomfortable yoga sleeping position not 10 feet away and I am trying to type as quietly and as quickly as I can and I am trying to pull words out of me even though I don’t feel totally motivated to write in this moment.  But right now, this moment is all I have.

Let me be clear that, for me, this is not a guilt thing.  I do not feel guilty for wanting to relax or for trying.  And when I am successful at shutting the world out for a bit (including my son) I give myself a little pat on the back.  Because everyone needs that, especially moms.  And as an introvert mom, I need quiet shut-out time to recharge my batteries so I can be a better mom to my little snot machine when he wakes up, whenever he wakes up.  At least I know guilt isn’t getting in my way.

It’s very tempting to use things to induce relaxation.  I know it’s cool for moms to joke about wine and coffee, but I can totally see the dangerously slippery slope that is self-medicating when one is no longer in charge of one’s daily schedule.  Ugh, I have to wake up now?!  Better use some coffee.  Poopsticks, today was tough and I only have two hours before I crash in bed, so if I want to relax RIGHT NOW, I’d better use some wine, because wine.  Amirite?!

Sometimes I do this.  Sometimes it’s TV or food.  But I try not to.  And I am also trying to feel okay knowing that I can’t just magically make myself feel relaxed when I want to feel that way, especially when someone else is calling the shots.

I want to remind myself that, sometimes, I end up feeling relaxed when I hadn’t planned on it, and wasn’t even trying.  Which means…I don’t want to keep feeling like I am chasing relaxation, some feeling of peace that I may or may not get from a barista or a bottle of pinot.  Chasing things always takes me out of the present, where I’m more likely able to create peace for myself.  And that it’s okay when I can’t hurry up and settle down RIGHT NOW and for exactly 19.5 minutes.

With that said, he’s awake and screaming.  This time I was given about 45 minutes.

Time’s up.

A Crazy Good Beverage Container

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Lookit what I got for writing a post on Crazy Good Parent!  Thanks, Janice!

That’s right, now I can consume schnapps-flavored coffee during 2am feedings and no one will be the wiser.  No one.

If you missed my guest post, be sure to check it out.

And now we’ll return to our regularly scheduled pregnancy nap.