The Scaries

I think maybe I’m having a mid life crisis.  I’m only 37, so I sincerely hope not.  Since I don’t really know when midlife is, maybe I’m just always in crisis.  That sounds a bit more like it.

Happiness in some life aspects seems to be taking its toll and I’m struggling lately.  While my “relationship” with my ex is always in turmoil, my other key relationships seem to be working rather nicely.  It took me a long time to actually feel confident in my life with Joe.  Seeing as both of us were with other people when we decided to be together, the constant wondering if he’d rather be back with her was always in my mind.  Now, not so much.  I’ve accepted the fact that he wants to be with me and with that acceptance it feels like a giant weight has been lifted.

Additionally, my relationships with my kids has never been better.  While I wish I could see them every day, I do get them for 5 days a week so I know I am lucky.  When they are with me there’s not a lot of emotional breakdowns.  There’s the age appropriate ones of course, but no more of the tantrums and fits where I would contemplate calling a priest for an exorcism.  Without all of the hostility and toxic air that Mike and I would spew around the house, they are thriving and I love having this daily reminder that I did the right thing even though it was incredibly hard.

But now, in the absence of these major life instances to worry about, I actually feel a loss.   One might think that now that I have these things worked out, it’s time to reflect on other items that may have been plaguing me but that I’ve brushed aside.  Yes, this is probably true, but I feel like it’s more than that.  It’s almost as if I’m scared of happiness.  That I look at myself being content and happy and immediately begin to wait for the other shoe to drop.  I begin to worry about not being worried about something so I find something to worry about (the ever present vicious cycle). I think that’s why lately I have been so focused and seemingly unhappy in my career.

For me, the Sunday scaries seem to be a thing of the past…because now they begin on Friday night.  I spend my entire weekend with the idea and unhappiness of going back to work on Monday looming in my mind.  AND. I. HATE. IT. I find new causes and excitements each day.  I get excited about buying in bulk and reducing my plastic usage.  I get excited about making muffins with a new recipe.  I even get excited about starting a new book.  But I can’t get excited about going to work.

Don’t get me wrong, when I get there it really isn’t that bad.  I love my students.  I love feeling like I’m making a difference, at least in the life of one child but ever since I switched schools my enthusiasm for teaching at all has gone lower and lower with each passing day.  Yes, I always felt stressed about teaching and my job…but in a way that everyone does.  This year is different.  I feel like an outsider in this school, locked away in my own little corner, almost as if no one expects me to stay so no one makes the effort.  Everything seems so competitive, almost as if you can only do well if you are doing better than someone else.  It’s completely exhausting.

At Collington I was never really a favorite.  I did my job and I did it well and for that I fell under the radar (not extremely motived to do everything in the school, but also not drowning).  I knew the families and they knew me.  And I had people.  There’s something about working in a school in an atmosphere like that one.  You need people.  You are not going to make it without people.  You band together because you know they get it.  I don’t have people at my new school and that makes it rather lonely.  That, topped with a complete lack of any praise EVER makes it a hard environment to work in day in a day out.

So I stress.  And I stew.  And I worry.  I deliberate.  I panic…literally.  And then I tell myself every single morning as I walk out that door that if it gets to be too much, I can quit.  Or I quietly remind myself that I only have a certain amount of days left of this year and next year is sure to be better.  And these two things seem to be all that is getting me through.

I don’t know why I allow myself to be consumed with the stress of this job ALL THE TIME.  I have to stop.  I spend roughly 7.5 hours there each day. That translates to 35.5 hours at work.  That’s it.  Barely a blip on the 168 hours that are in a week.  And yet I spend the rest of those hours worried about work!  And the saddest part of all?  I’m a 37 year old woman and I keep worrying about if I’m doing a good job.  That’s it. No one tells me I’m not.  But no one tells me I am.

This is ridiculous. I have to be more present in the moment with my kids.  I have to focus more on the good things than stress that is ever present.  I have to stop letting 35.5 hours dictate the rest of my time.

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Lenten Promises

Sigh.  A week without wine. I’m ready to throw in the towel.

I’ve been thinking about Lent a lot lately.  I’m not sure why, because I’m not particularly religious.  I think it’s the whole idea about willpower and of beating myself at something.  I’m nothing if I’m not competitive.  I assumed that the hardest thing for me would be to give up wine and that if I could do it for Lent, I could do anything.   And let’s all agree, this is not true.  Giving up wine is not going to give me some insane super power that is going to magically change my life.  It’s just not, and I feel foolish for even thinking it.

As I sit here in my dining room, the sun shining outside, and the wind blowing through the windows I opened, I’m pretty sure I’m doing this Lent “thing” wrong.  As a matter of fact, I’m positive that I am.  Joe and I each decided to give up something for lent that we felt we over-consumed.  For me, wine (though I gave up all alcohol) and for him soda.  And do you know what we did the minute we decided to give them up?  We began planning for Good Friday when we can have them again.  We know exactly where we are going to eat, and exactly what we were going to drink.

Each day we count how many more days we have until we can imbibe again.  Our conversations and communications with each other throughout the day have picked up, but it’s basically each of us telling the other that we want wine or soda and the other one agreeing wholeheartedly before ushering in the “we can do it”s and any other encouraging comments we can muster.

So in a nutshell…we’re talking more but simply about what can’t have and planning for the minute that we can have it again.

I’ll say it again…I think we’re going about this the wrong way. Or at least I am.  What is the point of giving up wine for lent if I’m going to go right back to it? What is the point of giving up wine for lent if it does not affect my life in any way (neither positively or negatively)?

No.  This is not an excuse to go out and buy myself a bottle of wine right now and call it a day.  It may seem like that, but it’s not.  While many people tend to focus on the “fasting” portion of Lent, giving up something we don’t need, depriving ourselves of the excesses and luxuries we may have in order to become more attuned spiritually, we forget that Lent is really a time of self-examination and reflection, a time in which we look inward to really determine ways we can be better: whether it is ways to better serve the Lord, ways to grow spiritually, or simply ways you can make a positive impact on the world, or others, or yourself.

Maybe instead of depriving ourselves of something it would be more admirable to find small ways to change our habits.  Maybe I should add in a reading time each day instead of TV watching.  Somehow I feel like I never have time to read for pleasure, but have no trouble finding time to binge watch 10 episodes of The Office.  Maybe I add a mandatory “no phone” time for myself (another black hole of time suckage along with the TV).  Maybe I make sure I complete a mile every day (whether it’s walking or running) just to get some time outside away from technology with my family and boyfriend.  Maybe I do all three.

To make a long story short (too late) I need to rethink this.  If I want to do this right…really do this right…I need to start thinking of ways I can better myself for more than just 40 days. I need to be in it for the long haul.

 

Tomorrow is a good day.

Some days are for living. Others are for getting through.

I had a whole post written.  I was about to hit publish.  And then I deleted it all.

This morning I woke up from a bad dream and my day got worse from there.

I stressed.  I cried.  I yelled.  I threw a fit.

I wish I could keep myself together better when I get like this.  I get so worked up when I can’t have control over every situation.  When I can’t solve problems that pop up in my life, I seem to lose it.

Today I wasn’t the best mom.  I was a bad wife.  I was a bad me.

Tomorrow I need to do better.

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Teach your children well

“So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.” ~ Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

I had a different post I was going to write about tonight.  I was going to post about the fact that today my kindergartener came home on “yellow” because he couldn’t focus at writing time.  I was going to post about how my four year old thinks no one loves him anymore (in his words) because sometimes we are busy with the new baby.  I was going to post about how  Mike had class tonight so it was just me and the three kids and with the above mentioned factors and Charlie going through a growth spurt and for the first time in three weeks I started to think that maybe I couldn’t do this…

I was going to post about all these things and how they made me feel like a failure as a parent.  Then, as I log into social media for the five minutes I have to breathe, I see the destruction that is Baltimore.  I see the peaceful protests being marred by the loiters and the rioters.  I see stores being burned to the ground and people being hauled off in ambulances.  I see a newly constructed senior center being engulfed in flames less than two blocks from the school where I teach and I wonder if MY 25 kindergarteners are all right.  All of this is hitting way too close to home and I feel the tightness in my chest start to rise.

And with that I realize that in the grand scheme of things being on “yellow” for one day is not the end of the world.  And in 10 minutes Oliver will come to me for a hug and kiss and validation and be back to his normal self.  And Charlie will finish her growth spurt and go back to my happy, adorable baby.  And that none of this is catastrophic because we are all loved, and safe and ALIVE.  All I want at this moment is to keep them home, little, and protected with me for as long as I can.  I want to teach them about these moments while shielding their eyes and hearts from them at the same time.

This is exactly what I think as I turn off Twitter, rush upstairs, and hug all my babies a little tighter.  Because right now, we are OK.

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The Proverbial Itch

““That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.” ~Charles Dickens

This happens every few years.  The proverbial itch.  That feeling I get when I can’t sit still.  It’s usually proceeded by a great life change.  Two years ago it was the death of my father.  Now, the birth of my newest child.  With my father it had a lot to do with me rebelling against him, his death, and the need to prove that I am still very much alive, even when he was not.  It was a need to prove that in a great upheaval, a great depression, I could still be happy.  I felt the need to break free, go crazy, and prove that there was still “something” left in me.

But now, I’m starting to get that feeling again.  I look at my daughter as I hold her in my arms at just 17 days old and think that I have never loved anything in my entire life as much as I’ve love her.  And for someone like me, this can be very scary because when you love something that much, you now have something to lose.

Just the other day I was walking around my neighborhood and I couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that spring seemed to bloom overnight.  The trees seemed to be bare one morning and then alive with light and color the very next day.  And I found this to be the way I love my daughter.  Unsure during my entire pregnancy if having more children was the “responsible” thing to do and then within minutes of her being born not being able to imagine living my life without her in it.

But these are scary feelings and sometimes they seem stronger than I am actually able to process within myself…hence the itching feeling, hence the need to break out of my own skin and shed the uncomfortable feeling of being unable to process so much.

The last time I made choices, and while many of them weren’t very wise choices, they brought me to the place where I am today.  I’m stronger than I once was, I’ve discovered my love for running, I have an amazing new daughter, and I’m the most confident I’ve ever been.  I learned a lot about myself during this time of upheaval, most importantly, to take myself seriously and not let anyone be in charge of my happiness.

But two years ago I did it all wrong. Two years ago I decided that the problem wasn’t me and that it was everything else around me.  At that time running away seemed like the only option.  And while I didn’t run away per se, I left my life behind for a while and jumped head first into something different and something unknown.  I assumed that this would help me feel better.  I assumed that this is what I needed to survive.  But what I realized was just the opposite.  Running away from my life nearly broke me.  I became a shell of the person I was and it took too long to rebuild myself.  I don’t have that kind of time anymore.

Now, things are different.  The main difference, of course, was before I wanted to run away and now I simply want to run.  I’m looking forward to being able to run again.  To getting out there are pounding the pavement and smashing my problems as I work through them.  Maybe this time the itchyness is a good thing; it’s a desire to get back to work on my and continue to my journey to becoming the best person I can be.

And that’s exactly what I’ll do – for me, for my family, and now for my amazing little daughter; the answer I never new I was looking for.

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Non-Fiction

“Outside the windows the day was bright: golden sunshine, blue sky, pleasant wind . . . I wanted to punch the happy day in the face, grab it by the hair, and beat it until it told me what the hell it was so happy about.”  ~Ilona Andrews

No fewer than ten people have said to me an amalgamation of the following terms:

  • “I can’t believe you just had a baby.”
  • “You look great for just having a baby.”
    “You have so much energy! I wish I could have been like that after giving birth.”
  • “You seem so relaxed like you are on vacation.”
  • “You make it seem so easy.”

After each one of these observances I smile, laugh a little laugh, and state that it’s just the whole “not being at work that agrees with me”.  True, I’ve been walking every day.  True, I’ve lost 20 pounds and am actually under my pre-baby weight.  True, my baby seems to do a great job for sleeping long stretches at night.

But these are the observations from the Monet point of view.  From far away it seems like my life after a newborn is a masterpiece.  Rich in color, vibrant in activity, something you can hang on a mantel and then marvel.  It seems like by kid #3 I have it figured out and “baby” motherhood, and “mom of three” motherhood is agreeing with me whole-heartedly.

But here’s the trick: go up to that painting and stand so that your nose is almost touching.  Now it’s a mess; a bunch of blurred lines, overly textured colors, haphazard in appearance and technique and that is more of a representation of my life these day.  When you look up close you’ll see that I’ve been walking everyday because I don’t always have access to a car to pick the kids up from school (luckily we live close) and also because I need running the way some people need prozac, and since I can’t run (and don’t have prozac), I walk.  I lost 20 pounds which happens to be all my baby weight and then some because during my pregnancy I was so stressed and had terrible heartburn so I never ate enough and therefor didn’t gain any weight (which, contrary to what some might think, is not a good thing).  And the reason my baby sleeps so well?  According to her doctor it’s because she’s not eating enough so her body is putting her in a hibernation mode to conserve energy.

So today, I woke my baby up after 3 hours for her 3rd feeding after which she promptly fell asleep and while I should have been cleaning the house, or doing laundry, or any of the other 100 things that needed to get done while the kids were at school, I cried.  Or if I’m being really honest I stuffed my face full of Ritz crackers and cried because I felt like a terrible mother (and then I felt terrible for eating the Ritz crackers).

So not only was I feeling terrible, but then both the other littles were having trouble with their “listening ears” and I had to yell which made me feel even more terrible.  And the icing on the cake (wait, there’s cake?) was the full on melt down I had at dinner when our rental company called and said they were showing our house tomorrow, which means I had to scrub it clean tonight.

But it’s 3 hours later now.  All the kids are in bed and asleep.  I just ate a lovely chocolate bar and a spoon full of peanut butter.  And perspective is starting to creep back in to my subconscious.  In a few short hours it will be a new day and I’ll get the chance to start over again.

Sometimes that’s really all we have to hold on to.

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A step back

“Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.” ~Simon & Garfunkel

I woke up this morning to feed the baby around 4.  Once she was finished and feel back to sleep I was awake for awhile.  I was literally itching to run.  I was calculating if I should or shouldn’t throw my running shoes on for a 4 am walk/shuffle around the block.  That way I would have tons of time to do other stuff during the day.  I know I shouldn’t be running.  I know I should be taking it easy so I can fully heal.  And here I am, making bargains in my head at 4 am about how to manage everything I wanted to accomplish on my ever growing mental list.

I didn’t think I’d get to this place.  I thought I was going to do everything differently.  Right now I’m having a tough time. Normally it’s quite hard for me to admit that.  I don’t like others to see my weaknesses and I usually feel that if you don’t admit to them, they don’t exist.  But here I am admitting this for the whole world (or the 15 people who read my blog) to see.  I am having a tough time.

Surprisingly enough, I’m not having a tough time with the whole “parenting three kids” thing.  Once you have two VERY active boys, adding a third child, especially a calm, almost always sleeping baby into the mix really doesn’t change much.  I’ve found with a little finagling I can balance most of what everyone needs, though maybe not what they all “want”.  Sure, I have a husband at home who is helping and the two oldest are in school at least part time.  But for the most part we are prattling along just as we always did, maybe just a little more tired than we were before.

What I’m having a tough time with is stepping back and simply taking time.  For the first time, I actually have time.  Time to sit back and relax.  Time to heal.  Time to think.  Time to simply enjoy the smaller and larger things in life.  And what am I doing with this time instead?  Planning.  Making lists.  Checking my work e-mail.  Replying to other emails. Organizing and cleaning.  Mentally and physically exhausting myself because I seem to think EVERYTHING needs to be done TODAY.  I feel like if I do it today, I won’t need to think about it tomorrow. I’ll have time to relax tomorrow.  I’ll have time to give more individualized attention tomorrow.  But you know what happens?  A new task or plan pops up for tomorrow and I am right back to square one, thinking that I’ll always have tomorrow to play catch up on the more important things.

Part of it is that I have no idea what to do with free time.  It’s not that I never have it.  Having “grandparents” who love my kids and take them all the time gives me loads of free time.  But that free time is usually marred by the guilt I feel.  Guilt about having a slightly messy household.  Guilt about maybe not having my lesson plans done months in advance or having some new game or activity created for my students.  Guilt about not spending every minute of the day involved with my kids.  Guilt thinking that I should always be doing “more” than I currently am, whether that be at home, work, or among friends and family.

I seem to live by my guilt.  And I’m pretty sure if I don’t do something about it I’m going to die by it as well.  I’ve got to learn to slow down.  I’ve got to learn how to enjoy the smaller things.  I’ve got to learn to let go…especially of the overly high expectations I have of myself.  Maternity leave, while it’s just begun, will be over before I know it and I don’t want to look back and regret not spending more time with the kids, or relaxing, or just being.  I don’t want to look back and realize that the work e-mails could have waited.  The laundry could have waited an hour before putting it away.  Who cares that there are 3 dirty dishes in the sink if it means I spent a little more quality time with the people in my family, or even just some quality time with myself.

I need to breathe, heal, and relax.  I need to take this time to work ON me FOR my family.

And right now, I need to shut this laptop and go play a video game with my 4 year old who is patiently waiting for some extra time with his mom.