My Shot

My husband and I were watching the news and we saw the story on the new preliminary Covid vaccine that boasts almost 95% effectiveness. Also keep in mind that since the election I’ve been rewatching/listening to Hamilton and I’ve been inserting lyrics from the show into everyday life whenever they fit the situation at hand. You’d be surprised how often this is forced by me actually happens, to my delight.

Me: Oooh, with this news plus the election results, it’s finally the light at the end of the tunnel that’s gonna get me through this shitty winter.

H: Yup.

Me: I think the hardest part is that we’ll have to…(I start getting a sparkle in my eye)…wait for it, wait for it.

H: Ha, yes.

The news, discussing which emerging vaccine may be the best: The best vaccine is the one you get, so don’t wait around for a particular brand. The vaccine will be rolled out in stages, with healthcare workers the first in line…

Me: Ha, this reminds me of how they rolled out the vaccine in Contagion. I wonder if we’ll get cool wristbands?! Will there be a run on the pharmacies to get them? I wonder how crazy it’ll be! I picture myself at the front of the line with somebody trying to cut in front of me and I’m screaming, I’M NOT THROWING AWAY MY SHOT!

H, giving me the side-eye: I’m sure it will be fine. What I’m wondering is if the virus will mutate in the meantime, making these vaccines less effective.

Me: Ugh, that would suck. I’m sure if that were to happen, all the scientists and vaccine-producers would feel so helpless…help-leessssss!

H: …I suppose.

Me: And in the meantime, we’re still stuck social distancing and mask-wearing. Trying to stay alive til this horror show is past. Chick-a-plao!

H: …are you still singing over there?

Me: You know that until we have a vaccine I will never be satisfied!

H: I think you should talk less…smile more.

Me: Awesome, wow.


Shout-out to Lin Manuel, cuz this woman’s ready to be in the sequel.

Work.


Day 17

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.

 

I’m Gonna Love You Anyway

(Note: this post was started several long/short months ago.  So when I wrote words like “recently,” they were true at the time, but now I’m just lying.)

My friend, who is a new mom, introduced me to this podcast called The Longest Shortest Time, about early parenthood.  I have started listening to it at night while getting ready for bed in my bathroom and pumping boobjuice at the same time. #momboss

This podcast is extremely validating and makes me feel less alone in my isolated SAHM daily life.

I recently listened to podcast #25, which started out with several moms singing songs they had made up for their kids.  The narrator (creator? producer?) framed the segment by saying that the songs we make up often reflect big themes in our parenting journey.

Now, I make up songs for my kids a lot.  Like, a lot-a lot.  The one we still use the most often (while cleaning up after meals) is Crotchfood.  Behold:

Crotch food, crotch food, food that’s in your crotch.

Crotch food, crotch food, foooooooood…that’s in your crotch!

It’s a real crowd pleaser.

The podcast reminded me of this one tuneless ditty that I made up when my oldest, my son, was very tiny.  I needed something to hold his attention during diaper changes when he’d be thrashing and I’d be weeping.  I’m having trouble remembering all the verses but it went something like this:

Even when you cry

I’m gonna love you an-ny way, an-ny way, an-ny way.

Even when you poop

I’m gonna love you an-ny way, an-ny way, an-ny way.

(insert more verses as needed)

…Because I am your mom.

I was having a rough time bonding with my son and coming to terms with being a new mom, staying at home, living in Oregon, and feeling isolated and depressed.  Reading these lyrics back, I realize I was reminding myself why I became a mom.  I was willing myself to fall more in love with my little guy, especially when it felt the hardest.  We were both struggling, but it was my job to get him (and myself) through it all…so I used the simplest, most available tool I had.  Song.  And it turned out to be very powerful indeed.


NaBloPoMo Day 6

 

Singing For Me

I used to sing more.

When I lived in Northern California, before marriage and kids, I worked one day a week at a counseling agency where my commute was about 35 minutes each way, give or take.

Each Wednesday, after a leisurely morning of sleeping in, exercising, showering, eating, and catching up on stuff, I’d drive to work to see several evening clients.  I plugged in my ipod and chose from one of my many playlists.

And I’d sing.  I’d sing very loudly and with passion.  I’d try to hold the long notes and I remember the first time I successfully held that one note in that one Sara Bareilles song as long as she did.  There were a few times I sang so loud that I remember thinking I should scale it back or I wouldn’t have working vocal chords during my upcoming therapy sessions.

I’m actually a decent singer.  A little better than average, I’d say.  I was one of those kids who idolized the musical theater geeks but never had the ladyballs to join up, even for the backstage stuff.  I was in a dinky choir in middle school once.  I couldn’t read music (and still can’t) and didn’t know how to sing the harmony unless I heard someone sing it first.

Lately, with sadness, I’ve realized that I don’t sing very much anymore.

I don’t have a commute anymore.  When I’m in the car I’m rarely alone.  And when I’m “alone” at home, one or both of the kids are sleeping, so I can’t let loose there either.

Don’t get me wrong – I sing to my kids (when they let me).  But it’s not the same as singing for me.  Singing the songs that I want to sing, in the way I want to sing them.

There’s been a few times when I’ve been folding laundry upstairs and everyone else was downstairs and I put some music on my phone to sing to.  It felt nice.  More than nice, even.  When I’m out running (a loose term for what I actually do) I often can’t help myself and start singing half the lyrics, between gasps of breath and probably loudly and off-key since I can’t hear myself through my earphones.  I’ve forgotten how stress-relieving singing is for me.  It works my lungs, my diaphragm.  It makes my eyes water and my sinuses plug up with emotion (read: snot).  It calms me, makes me feel alive.

I was reminded of this because I’m reading a book: Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection.  In it, she has a chapter that mentions the importance of music, dancing, and singing in what she calls wholehearted living.  I want to be wholehearted.  I want to feel more carefree.  I want to carve out times and places where I can express myself in this way, like I used to.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite songs to sing to.


NaBloPoMo Day 2

Things I’ve Learned Since Becoming a Mama

Now that I’ve been a mama for over a year now (!!), I know all the things practically nothing about parenting.

One thing I do know is that I can’t win.  You win, baby boy.  But please don’t read this until after you’re done being a teenager, because I never said that and you can’t prove that I did.

Here are a few other things I’ve learned in the past year, because sometimes I find something that works for me and those make for good days.

1. Nothing could’ve prepared me for the harsh realities of having a child.  Nothing.

There isn’t any advice anyone could’ve given me and there isn’t any book I could’ve read that would’ve made me feel prepared.  I think I intuitively knew this already, which is why I didn’t read any books.  I just went to doctors appointments and read how big my fetus was (and what piece of fruit he was being compared to…ooh, a grapefruit!) on my pregnancy app.

Yeah, I got some advice and I went to my birthing classes and those things prepared me to a point.  But I knew then, and it’s been confirmed many times over in the past year, that there isn’t anything out there that can fully prepare me for such a profound life change.  I knew I’d just have to wing it, and that’s cool.

2. Never underestimate the power of song.

I sing a lot normally, and I sang a lot while I was pregnant.  I sing in the shower, in the car, while doing the dishes.  So, my wee babe heard a lot of my voice singing Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift and Sara Bareilles.  During the past year, when Dylan has been freaking out over diaper changes or having his face wiped clean, we’ve found that he will dramatically calm down if we sing.  It doesn’t matter what song, and it doesn’t have to be me, either – my husband sings to him and Dylan pays attention.

The hardest part for me has been to remember to sing – especially when we’re having such a hard time that I am close to tears myself – and then to figure out what to sing, which leads me to the next thing I learned.

3. I can make a song out of anything or adapt any song to fit my needs.  Seriously.

I sang Katy Perry’s Firework as a lullaby and Dylan loved it.  I changed the lyrics of Madonna’s Express Yourself to go: “you’ve got to make him express your milk, hey hey hey hey!”  We’ve sung the classics to death – some favorites are the Wheels on the Bus (Brian added the vital missing verse that goes: “the drifters on the bus go stab, stab, stab…all day long!”), You Are My Sunshine, Black Socks, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Bingo (where we sing: “there was a family had a boy and Dylan was his name-o!”), etc.

But the best skill I’ve discovered is my ability to make a song out of any stimuli in front of me.  The best example is Crotch Food (the term we use for food that lands in Dylan’s crotch during the course of a meal).  I don’t think I’ve ever sung it the same way twice, so it’s the song that keeps on giving.

4. Formula makes a great substitute for coffee creamer.

It’s chock full of DHA – what every new-mom-brain needs!  It’s iron fortified!  I was out of milk and/or cream!  Need I say more?!

5. My mama bear instincts are fierce.

I’ve gradually learned how to advocate for myself, and now those skills just naturally spilled over onto my son, covering him with gooey, fierce, sticky mom love.  I’ve learned that if you threaten my ability to do my job as a mom, or judge me or undermine my authority as the mom that I will do whatever it takes to get Dylan and I out of that situation.  Because rawr.

6. The most challenging part of having a kid has been making sure caring for him doesn’t get in the way of my relationship with my husband.

This has been huge.  We’ve had to figure out how to divvy up household tasks and childcare, and it’s very easy to feel like the tasks aren’t equal or fair, even when we’re both working hard to keep our household running.  We have less time to connect and more stress and it’s been very hard not to build resentments and feel unsupported.

I’ve had to remind myself that my husband and I are on the same team.  We made Dylan together, we’re raising him together, we’re a family together, and we’re on the same team.

7. I’m still trying to figure out who I am now.

It’s like I am going through adolescence all over again.  I’ve been through several major life changes in the past two years – getting married, getting pregnant, moving out of state, transitioned from working outside the home to inside the home, and I’ve been home with my kid for the past year.  It’s been disorienting, depressing, isolating, challenging.  I’m having to make new friends, which is hard for me.  I’m having to get used to my new body and grieve my pre-baby one.  I’ve been grieving most of my old life, honestly.  It’s been so weird and surreal to embrace my new identity as a “mom,” and I’m still not used to it.

8. Dr. Seuss books make me feel stupid.

Seriously, you try and pronounce all them non-words in Oh Say Can You Say? on little sleep.

9. I need to keep trusting my intuition.

He’s my kid and I’ve been with him every day of his life.  I know this little guy pretty damn well.  I also trust my judgement a lot.  I need to keep reminding myself that I am good at caring for my little man, that mistakes are ok, and that at the end of the day we’re both going to be just fine.

10. Keep finding the humor in the small things.  The ridiculous things.

We laugh when Dylan farts.  He laughs at his own farts.  Farts are funny, you guys.  We just bought these new knock-off Cherrios for Dylan and some of them are brown and wrinkled and look like buttholes.  It’s hilarious!  It looks like my kid is eating buttholes!  And those are only a few examples; I could go on.

Some Days

Some days
start out
at the bottom of a well, looking up
thrashing makes the chilled water slap my face
and flood my eyes.

My singing
echos
bounces off the walls and travels upward
hopefully someone will hear.

Other days
start out
with the warmth of the sun on my skin
I have to close my eyes
to shield them from the brightness
the warm breeze tugs at the corners of my mouth
like puppet strings.

My singing
spills out
like a volcano filled with honey.

Everyone can hear.