I’m 37 and I have purple hair

It’s that time again, folks.

It’s birthday time!

This is going to be another stream-of-consciousness post, which often tend to be rambly; you’ve now been properly warned.

This particular birthday brings up a bit more of the feels than usual, because this year the days of the week and the dates of the month are the same as they were in 2003, when I had my cancer surgery 17 freaking years ago.

I had to start prepping for surgery on Sunday the 9th, which meant no solid food after noon that day. My family took me out for brunch and I ordered my usual Belgian waffle with fruit and whipped cream. Normally, I’d never finish it, but that day, knowing solid food wouldn’t pass my lips again for at least a few days (it would turn out to be 4 full days), I said challenge accepted and I forced myself to eat every. last. bite.

Monday was my birthday. I only remember dinner that day, where I sat at the head of the table and ate chicken broth and jello while my family had pizza. God that sucked. I opened some gifts, but mostly just wanted to go to bed so I could get the surgery over with as soon as possible.

Surgery was on a Tuesday. They took me in over an hour late, and if you know me, you know I operate based on strict, rigid expectations. I couldn’t handle waiting any longer and had my last (of many that had preceded this horrible process) waiting room meltdown. By the time they took me in to get me prepped, I was a complete wreck. I was under so much stress that they couldn’t get a vein for my IV (juuuust this year I finally stumbled across the name for the reason my veins close up under stress and my fingers go white when it’s cold – Raynaud’s Syndrome) and allllll I wanted was to be fucking unconscious.

That Tuesday was the worst day of my life.

Wednesday was the day I was told my mass was cancerous.

Thursday was the day I was allowed to eat solid food once more – my reward for the anticlimatic post-surgery fart.

Friday was Valentine’s Day, of course, and I finally got to go home.

All that hell was 17 years ago! It was a lifetime and yesterday all at once. A lot has changed in that time. The experience has most definitely shaped the person I am now.

I’m using change as a rather rough segue theme, here, but that’s how my brain works. My birthday will forever cause me to simultaneously think of the past and the future and how they affect each other in my life.

In general, I don’t like change. It’s jarring to me. Even positive change. Which means that being the mom of two young kids is almost constantly jarring. These little creatures are constantly changing, wtf!! Having to keep up with them and everything that comes with them is exhausting. And by everything, I mean everything. Schedules, routines, schools, teachers, homework, clothes sizes, equipment (meaning, you need bottles until you don’t. you need diapers until you don’t. highchairs, packnplays, all of it), language, skills (my kid can SPELL! F-U-C-K.), attitude, their preferences in everything (food, TV, toys, clothes), their phases and habits (one kid finally eats! the other currently does not.)

On an average day, keeping up with all of this isn’t so bad. I get the feels here and there when I need to give away all the rest of the 2T clothes, or sell the cloth diapers, but then there’s the time my kid wrote me the sweetest letter in school. Or when I covertly spelled S-N-A-C-K to my husband in front of the kids and my son GOT IT.

But the bigger changes give me varying levels of anxiety.

My mom friends going back to work (don’t leave me!). Seriously, our lives are so busy that simple life changes might as well mean that one has moved to the moon. I’ve worked hard to build friendships here in Oregon and to maintain friendships far and wide, but if I’m being honest, I feel like they are stunted because of the season of life we’re all in (parenting young kids). Building friendships in fragmented in-person playdate conversations and random text messages is super hard, y’all. What’s scarier still is that I only see the seasons getting busier and situations getting trickier, and it sucks. (Another piece for me is that some of my mom friends will read this, so this is me being vulnerable in putting it out there.)

Kids getting busier with school and sports and activities and not knowing what or how much to put my kids in and worrying how this will affect my energy level and mental health. It’s hard to know what my kids will like or be good at or will want to stick with. I don’t want to do too much, but I do want them to do something. And do we do what everyone else is doing? My comparison monster gets the best of me sometimes, and it’s especially strong on the extracurricular activities rat race front of modern parenting. Pair that comparison monster with a moderate case of parenting-related FOMO, and there’s a great recipe for rumination-fueled anxiety. Tell me I’m not alone in this!

Me going back to work. My biggest concern here is about dramatically increasing my workload and thus having a huge negative impact on my energy level and mental health. By dramatically increasing my workload, I mean that I’ll add all the stress and responsibility and time away from home/kids/husband while still needing to get done everything I already do now, most notably all the invisible, logistical work. Will I be scheduling doctors appointments at 1am because that’s when it needs to happen after work and dinner and cleaning and making lunches and maybe some TV? This is majorly why I’m dragging my feet in starting this process. I’m finally getting some breathing room within this parenting life, and I’m more than a little hesitant to give up that extra time.

I can feel the changes looming, you guys. They are there, just there, on the horizon. They won’t be all bad, I know, but right now, it’s all unknown.

I suppose, in some clumsy attempt to tie everything in this post together, the lesson is that I’ve handled some pretty dramatic changes in the past, and so I will again, with as much awkward grace (oxymoron?) as I can muster.

So I sit here, in this Starbucks, on this sunny(!) Monday just having had a pretty great massage. I’m 37 and I have purple hair. Right here, right now, life is pretty good.

img_8194

Proverbial Sanity

I remember when federal holidays were super fun. Do you remember, dear Psychos?

I would get off of school or work and get to sleep in, and oh the bank is closed, so I can’t do that errand, might as well stay home in my pjs and drink tequila milkshakes. And then maybe, if I feel like putting on pants later, I’ll go out for a late lunchy dinner. Linner, if you will.

Remember that?! I don’t, mainly because of those damn milkshakes, but you get the idea.

Before the invasion of my sweet, beautiful children, holidays were fun. Relaxing. Looked forward to. But not anymore.

Now, it’s kinda the complete opposite. Now that I’ve gotten used to having my 5 year old in school 5 days a week, and my 2 year old in school 2 days a week (Ha! I didn’t notice how the numbers matched up like that until now. I think that means that because I’m 36, I should get that many paid vacation days per quarter.), having them both home on the same day is kinda painful. The cherry on top is that my go-to backup place to bring my kids in this small-town-with-nothing-to-do is the library, and on days like today, that’s also closed. It’s the proverbial final nail in the proverbial coffin of my proverbial sanity.

Sensing that the storm was coming, I called in reinforcements (aka MOMS Club) and set up an outdoor playdate for the kids. I’m suuuuper thankful that the weather more than cooperated (it was sunny and downright warm for this time of year!) and also suuuper thankful that moms and kids showed up, not only to entertain my kids, but also to say words to my face and allow me to say words back. A conversation! How delightful.

Now we’re well into the afternoon, and there’s been a minimal amount of yelling on my end. We might just get through the day without any major incidents, folks.

Now if only the small child would just stop kicking and fussing around in her crib and freaking nap already…


Check out the fun, y’all:   https://cheerpeppers.wordpress.com/

nanopoblano2019

Once Upon a Luncheon

Today I attended a MOMS Club Luncheon, and I’m still out and about, trying to soak up some moments without being needed constantly by my kids.

The theme of the luncheon was Once Upon a Mom…where we’re gonna live our fairy tales today. Not waiting for happily ever after.

The guest speaker was Kitty McKay, who apparently did a Ted Talk one time. Her talk was very timely, in that she spoke mainly to being present, enjoying WHAT IS, and flushing your shoulds down the toilet where they belong.

A life long process for me, the perfectionist, who eats shoulds for breakfast.

So now I’m stopping so I can actually live in the moment and enjoy this break with my hot mom friends!

Mama out.

Freedom, PSL, and Winning

Holy crap, it’s here.

Right here, right now, I’m experiencing my first little break where both my kids are in school.

The first ever. Because I don’t have family in town (or in state), and because I haven’t worked outside the home, and because we can’t afford childcare all the time, this is the first time I’m having a legit break during the week since these kids have been alive.

At the same time I’m both crazy ecstatic and utterly lost.

I’ve realized I need to construct a precarious balance in order to maintain my mental health. At least, sometimes it feels precarious. If i don’t have enough to do, or places to go, or people to see, I quickly slip into feeling depressed. purposeless. empty. And if i have too much to do – if i am going from activity to activity with little downtime – then I find myself feeling anxious. exhausted. used up. unhinged, even. Kinda wild and manic, but in a bad way. In a way that feels unsafe and uncontrolled.

Now that my kids are in school and getting into activities of their own, I am concerned that I will have an even harder time managing my own activities and obligations along with theirs, that this delicate balance between stagnation and white water rapids will be even trickier to maintain. It’ll be interesting to see how much my kids will want to be involved in stuff, especially versus how much or little I’ll want them to be involved in stuff.

Balance, balance, balance.

In order to keep myself from going nuts or feeling empty during these small, sweet pockets of kid-free time, methinks I’m going to have to plan and schedule. Even if it’s just planning to watch TV or hang out at Starbucks.

Today, I am congratulating myself on a spectacular first morning of freedom. Observe the following:

1. I dropped off my daughter without crying (I cried on the inside)

2. I promptly posted my daughter’s totes adorbs First Preschool Ever pic to the interwebs.

3. I signed up for a gym membership for the first time ever. Weeeeeird.

4. I’m having my first PSL of the season and it tastes like sweet, delicious with the crispness of a Fall morning and the excitement of a zombie chase!

5. I got several MOMS Club business items DONE with the taste of synthetic pumpkin in my mouth.

6. I just got an email from my local library saying I won a prize through their adult summer reading program and I AM STOKED. I don’t know what it is but this is me, THOROUGHLY STOKED.

IMG_7322

Pumpkin-flavored Freedom

 

Suspended in Joy

For those of you who know me, you know I’m not a risk taker.

I like rules (as long as the rules aren’t dumb, but that’s for another post), I like feeling safe and warm and cozy. Preferably with hot chocolate and a good book.

But I also like doing new things and pushing my comfort zone…within limits. My MOMS Club group found a photo from another chapter where they did this spunky thing called aerial yoga. This sounded right up my alley.

We’re spunky, too. We said.

We can do that even better. With more flare. We didn’t really say.

Fuck those bitches. We’re already signed up. Now I’m just making things up.

I was excited to go. I figured it’d be fun and that I’d probably do okay because I’ve been doing yoga on the regular for a solid 15 years now. Am I the most athletic person? No way. Do I have any upper body strength to speak of? A big fat nooooope. Is my core strength completely shot from surgery and having two kids? You bet.

But hey, let’s give this a shot. We had a private class all set up, so this was a safe space in which to potentially make a fool of myself.

Ohmigosh, you guys. Once we got into those hammocks and I was enveloped by the silky fabric (meaning: no one could see my face), I was grinning like a giddy kid on Christmas morning. The teacher ran the class pretty much like a typical yoga class, so there was time when we were doing normal yoga stretches and breathing, only suspended in pure joy.

It felt awkward, for sure. But it also felt so liberating! Something about swinging and hammocks awakened this inner child in me and I just felt so free. You know that part in Eat, Pray, Love when the wise man in Bali says to smile with your mind, your heart, and even in your liver? My liver was smiling lobe to lobe.

There was something about the hammocks that felt very cocoon-like, womb-like, and very primal. (I have several different metaphors churning around in my head so bear with me.) During shavasana at the end of class, I could peek out and see everyone else’s silhouettes. We all looked kinda like a family of bats hanging upside down in peaceful, creepy sleep, or like corpses caught and wrapped in colorful spiderwebs, spinning slowly and silently, also creepily. I wiggled and squirmed around, completely enveloped and feeling safe and relaxed, and it was warm and sweaty, and at the end I emerged – was born from the hammock – feeling new and different, albeit sweaty and sore. (So I guess my two emerging themes are both about change and transformation: one about sleep, death, corpses…and one about cocoons, wombs, rebirth and metamorphosis. Joking aside, the symbolic implications of this experience were extremely palpable for me. My high school English teachers would be pretty proud.)

I pushed my body to do things I wasn’t sure I could do. The teacher demonstrated an acrobatic move at the end and I wanted to give it a try even though it kinda wigged me out. I needed help getting positioned on the damn hammock, which cut into my side fat like that string you use to tie up a turducken (I don’t cook, clearly), and my movements were far from graceful, but I DID IT! I was inverted and pulling myself up and sliding through and hanging by one leg and I’m just proud of myself. And it was all safe, in this controlled environment. Pretty perfect for me.

44511529_10108620142122893_1009624520685780992_n

Even before the night was over, I could tell that my body would be screaming in protest at all this…exertion. I wasn’t wrong. My triceps are shot and my side fat (ok, fine, love handles) is bruised and I learned that I have these things called “lats,” and guess what – they hurt too. And don’t even give me crap about toxins leaving my body – the pain is still here and I think it’s camping out for a few days.

But. This kind of soreness – the kind where I’m not injured, just hurting – is the best kind. It’s proof that I did something awesome with my body. I actually used it and pushed it to do cool stuff I didn’t even know I could do. Total empowerment, not even kidding.

So I’m writing this to capture the feeling I felt last night and continue to feel today. Maybe I need to go back. Maybe I need one of those things installed in my house. Not creepy in the least.

I didn’t even know aerial yoga was on my bucket list until I crossed it off.

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

I originally wrote this piece for my local MOMS Club newsletter, of which I am the editor. Since I rarely write things these days, I want this one to count for double, so I’m posting it here. Enjoy!

————————————

Hey, y’alls.

 

It’s Melissa, the Newsletter person. Don’t worry, [the president of the club] gave me permission to write here, because it’s summer and we’re all sweaty and tired. Hopefully she doesn’t regret that decision in about a minute and a half. In my defense, I restrained myself from simply posting a giant poop emoji to fill this space.

 

Ah, summer. Since becoming an adult, summers have gotten hard. I’ve had to work in an office indoors, suffering through Women’s Winter (youtube it, seriously), when all I wanted to do was sit around the pool and read traumatic memoirs. Since becoming a mom, summers have gotten even harder. Suddenly, I’ve been demoted to Activities Director, and if I don’t have a plan for the day, ready to report to my son immediately upon waking, my kids flip the switch from silly-cute to screaming cray-cray.

 

All plans have to be strategic. Based on the weather, where can we go that is kid-friendly? Will it have ample shade? Is there an attractive cabana boy ready to bring me free drinks?

 

Of course, none of this will matter, because my kids will whine and complain and be hungry or not hungry. And I will yell at them to GO PLAY and feel bad and count the minutes til nap time.

 

Then there’s the Seasonal Mom Worries (you know, the worries apart from the everyday ones) – sunburns and skin cancer and water safety. Forgetting to pack something for vacation (because it’s up to me to remember basically everything), screaming kids on planes, shark attacks.

 

I also never know what day it is during the summer because our schedule is all over the place. Basically, I feel disoriented, tired, and sweaty without the hassle of actual exercise.

 

Somehow, at the same time summer is frickin’ fun. Splashing and sand castles and ice cream for dinner. I try my hardest to drink it all in, preferably with a tiny umbrella.

 

I’ve long since realized that the great comes with the horrible, otherwise the great wouldn’t feel as such. I’m just trying to be present for it all.

 

Here’s to surviving the rest of the summer, fellow Activities Directors. Watch out for sharks.

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

Quick anxiety update: it’s flare-up time. (Relapse time? Outbreak time? Really unsure what terms to use here, and I’m the mental health expert. Better get on that.)

I’m on my second week of dealing with early morning anxiety…..again. It goes like this: something will wake me up early in the morning. Take your pick – husband, cat, bladder. Neighbors. Traffic. Kids, but very rarely. Go figure. And then something sparks this burning fire in my chest that I can’t extinguish in order to get back to sleep. So I toss and turn in anguish and waste 1-2 hours when I desperately need sleep, but can’t get it. Lastly, my kids wake up, and then it’s all over. The anxiety slowly fades and is replaced by exhaustion as the day goes on. Makes me fantasize about going full Walden.

I’m hopeful to report that I think I’m getting better at squashing this more quickly. The past few mornings I’ve actually been able to get back to sleep and wake up for the day not feeling like such a zombie. It’s this magical combination of self-talk, physical relaxation techniques, and distracting myself by thinking about something – anything – not about me, my body, sleep, or the present moment.

(Update: I started this post yesterday, and this morning I actually slept all the way through the morning and woke up naturally and feeling rested. So there’s hope!)

Now I’m going to outline things that help me – specifically, things whose helpfulness I tend to forget – to fight this anxiety monster that creeps into my bed (or tries to) each morning. This is not meant to be preachy or self-helpy, but it’s rather to help…me. Because, just like depression, anxiety lies. It lies to me and it makes me forget what normal and healthy feels like. It makes me forget what coping skills actually work and it lies to me about there being joy in the world, and that it’s within my reach.

  1. Sleep

The biggest one by far. If I don’t get enough sleep I have very little motivation to face the day. The sleep that anxiety steals from me in the mornings sets up my entire day to be complete rubbish and it’s really hard to get back on track. That makes naps vital on some days (when I can get them), and I’ve been working very hard to get to bed at a time that ensures I’ve allowed for at least 8 hours of sleep. Even though I don’t always get it, I have to carve out room for it. Have to.

2. Exercise

I’m not a person who really enjoys exercising, per se, but this week I’ve been feeling the urge to move my body. I tend to get that feeling when I’m super angry, or when I’m jumping-out-of-my-skin-anxious. I’ve realized that when I exercise, I don’t have room for the jitters. I actually get real-time relief. That’s why I made sure I got out there and ran from zombies, even in this smokey heat wave we’re having. It felt so. good.

3. Music

I’ve written about this before, but the act of singing, like really singing, is so stress relieving and this is one that I forget about all the time. So if you see me running (from zombies) and I suddenly stop to belt out a well-timed lyric and bust a move, then you know what’s going on.

4. Laughter

This usually means social contact, but sometimes a really, really good show or standup routine will fit the bill here. I recently watched Iliza Schlesinger: Elder Millennial on Netflix, and man it was exactly what I needed. I might just watch it again. Also, The Bloggess is the reason I started blogging in the first place, and I realized that I was no longer getting her updates for some reason. That has been remedied.

5. Taking time to get out of my head and space out

Having kids all day everyday, this often takes the form of me being on my phone. This usually comes with a lot of guilt, but I’m trying to tell it to fuck off. As long as the kids are safe and cared for, I am taking lots and lots of tiny micro breaks throughout the day just so I can slip the phone back into my pocket and be present for 20 more minutes when I previously thought I couldn’t. I kinda felt like I needed permission to do this, and only realized that after my therapist had given it to me unsolicited.

6. Having something to look forward to

It has been a godsend to join my local chapter of MOMS Club and automatically have events lined up for me on my calendar each month. It sounds so mundane, but it keeps me going. I’m constantly looking forward to the next thing, and being able to feel excited anticipation is a powerful enemy of anxiety, depression, and loneliness.

There you have it. These are the main coping skills that I often forget are available to me.

Side note: while writing this over the course of two days, I have been interrupted a total of eleventy billion times. Another antidote to anxiety is being able to get into a flow state, and in order to do that you need to cultivate calm and stillness. Yeeeeeah. This is one reason why it’s SO HARD for me to put myself to bed at a reasonable time, because stillness only happens WHEN PEOPLE ARE UNCONSCIOUS. My point: I reeeeeally miss flow states. Please tell them to come back and visit.