life

Worry Stones

I used to be so big and strong
I used to know my right from wrong
I used to never be afraid
I used to be somebody
I used to have something inside
Now just this hole it’s open wide
I used to want it all
I used to be somebody

Nine Inch Nails “Down in It”

I mentioned my affinity for astrology in an earlier post, so I’m not going to feel bad (much) by telling you that I have become devoted to worry stones. I have a primary one that is by me daily. It says “Relax”, and I bought it for myself in Asheville in 2019. I liked the sentiment but put it into my nightstand drawer for almost two years. This year, I finally took it out and placed it next to my laptop so I could see it. And then I started picking it up and rubbing my fingers across the letters etched on it. And now it has become comfort.

Truthfully, I have found myself taking it with me everywhere when I need the reassurance. And it is reassurance. I never thought a rock with a word etched on it could help, but it does. But then there are a number of things in the last few years I never thought about, so maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised. Comfort can come from the most surprising places or things.

I’ve bought worry stones for others. I don’t know what they really think of them, but I hope, at least, they know that someone out there is thinking of them and that these stones bring them some small comfort.

I can’t remember if I talked in detail about the anxiety I have developed the last few years. I, well, I have. I’ve always been a somewhat anxious person, but it has become worse. Worse to the point that when it is at its zenith, I can’t leave the house. And now that I am the sole caregiver, that anxiety is heightened. That’s the fun thing about anxiety: anxiety begets anxiety. And couple that with preparing to return to the office, hiring, busy work times, workers in the house doing a variety of much-needed jobs…I could go on, but you get the point. It leads to a lot of anxiety. I have always suffered from depression, but I have told many that with depression, I can function. Anxiety has brought me to my knees, and that’s a terrible feeling.

It has not been a few good weeks for me. I could feel the anxiety building, and as I said, anxiety begets anxiety. And believe me, I am medicated and therapized. It’s also incredibly humbling. You feel so out of control, and it is difficult to talk about, especially to those who don’t experience anxiety. There is this odd dance of “I’m still competent, yet I cannot do this thing.” And “sometimes I may overreact to things that seem small and insignificant.” I feel under a lot of pressure, and I’m trying SO hard to make it look like I have my shit together or at least keep my shit together. I will acknowledge it, but I do not wish to be debilitated by it.

I know a lot of that pressure is self imposed. No one is perfect. It’s a difficult lesson to learn, especially when you are possibly least able to do so. Last time I checked, though, life doesn’t consult you on a fucking thing. It is what it is. But I am trying.

And…my body has decided to let me know it has needs too. I developed dry eye syndrome two years ago and have been wearing glasses for all this time. My eyes have a regimen to treat them that is impressive actually: drops every few hours, eye exercises and warm compresses for 20 minutes a night. I haven’t seen much improvement yet, but I’m not fond of my glasses, so I’ll be seeking follow ups.

And then there’s lymphedema. Apparently I have developed it. Most of the time, cases are caused by cancer treatment – which I have not had – but it turns out there is a small subset of people who are genetically predisposed and primarily women in their late 30s and 40s. It’s – I’ll be frank – utterly humiliating and certainly not attractive and also painful and irritating. Swollen feet. Swollen ankles. Sensitive feet and ankles. And there really isn’t a treatment for it other than massage, compression garments and elevation. And on top of returning to work and trying to do everything else, I’m dealing with this. My shoes don’t fit. I’m already anxious. Can’t wear my cute skirts. Guess who never thought at 44 she’d be researching compression hosiery?! Lose 40 pounds, now require compression hosiery. On the plus side, I did ask my occupational therapist to try to identify compression items made in NC. Might as well, right??

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. I have beach trips planned for the summer. I’m talking to friends about other trips. I’m having my hardwood floors refinished. I’m making improvements around the house. I am trying to continue the march forward even though some days it feels like it’s happening against so many constraints. I’m trying.

April was a good month. I bought myself a ticket to see David Sedaris, and I bought a good seat. Center section, fourth row. I’ve decided that if I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it right. It was an excellent seat, and Sedaris was hysterical and awesome. I’d wanted to see him for years. Then, on April 28, I attended my first concert in decades. I went to see Nine Inch Nails (row X, center section). It was a great concert. I have seen them before. In 1995, I saw them with David Bowie. Then I was, “oh, I’m seeing NIN and David Bowie is there.” Now I’m like, “I saw Bowie!!!”. It was a good show, but I definitely couldn’t stay for all the encores although I did drink wine out of can. That was weird.

So I’m trying. As always, some days are harder than others, and I feel empathy for Atlas, Sisyphus and Prometheus. But I also try to give myself – and others – grace. This life shit isn’t easy. Not at all.

A Case of the “Uns”

I promised myself and I think you all that I would try to be honest and open about feelings and situations as I navigate through this new reality.

Or maybe I promised only myself. I don’t know.

So this week, I have accomplished a lot on some major items on my to-do list. I hired a handyman to make some much-needed repairs around the house. And it looks great! Is it perfect? No. But it is much improved and much needed. Benign neglect eventually shows. Hopefully these improvements will change that. I have other people coming out next week to do a few things, and then the week after next, I have people coming out to repair the screens on my back porch that children and asshole squirrels have torn.

Squirrels really are assholes. In addition to my screen, they like to nibble on wood and dig up and eat my flowers. Assholes. Don’t let their adorable appearance fool you. They are assholes.

But.

Despite all the good things that occurred this week, I am having a rough night. Maybe it’s fatigue. Maybe it’s just the busy-ness of the week getting to me. Maybe it’s fucking perimenopause because why not??? I’m teary. And emotional. And feeling sorry for myself. I’m having a case of the “uns” as I call it. Think of any adjective: pleasant, intelligent, attractive, loveable, etc. and put “un” in front of it. That’s it. That’s what is going on with me. I feel UNpleasant; UNattractive; UNloveable; UNintelligent; UNimportant. UNremarkable; UNworthy…you get the point.

Why?? Again, I don’t know. I’m sitting here marking items off my to-do list like crazy. I’ve been on calls with district offices trying to help ensure our program is portrayed as well as it can be. I’m planning a retirement party for a dear colleague and team member. I’m wearing real shirts and lipstick every day!

But. I feel the “uns” in the back of my mind. And there is a loneliness associated with it, maybe because I have only myself to talk about these feelings with.

The truth is that I have always had a case of the “uns.” They have always been there as I was growing up. I tamped it down, subjugated it, pasted on a smile and went on my way. I’ve mentioned before that I feel as raw and vulnerable as I did when I was a teenager lately. Well, the “uns” were a part of that time of my life too. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. 44 going on 15. That’s pleasant. Give me acne, and I really am back at 15.

But, at the same time, maybe there is a purpose to these feelings. Maybe they are part of the same forces that are helping me to crack the shell that has been around me and hindering me from feeling. It’s true that these aren’t feelings you necessarily want to feel, but they are feelings. I am feeling something. And it’s acute enough to make me cry through 5 kleenexes on a Friday night.

It’s cleansing in a way. I feel better. Sad, but better for letting these feelings manifest. And I get to realize that I have primarily myself to count on. There is no one riding in on a horse to banish these feelings and take care of things. And that’s good. I need to rely on myself. I need to trust myself. Having feelings and crying on a Friday night is not a bad thing. It’s both discovery and healing.

I’m an only child, and in some ways, there is an inherent loneliness that comes with that. Or maybe not – I have only my experience to go on. But I did and do feel lonely as an only. Lonely Only, right? But at the same time, it’s familiar. I have only myself to count on. To rely on. To depend on.

I can do this. I’m up for the challenge. Me, myself and I. We’re strong enough.

Thought Experiment

Last week a friend mentioned a scenario during driving at night that made him think of his 16-year-old self and how the feelings from then are very different from the feelings of now. I thought that was interesting, and being me, I ran with it. So I have two questions for you to ponder:

  1. What do you think your 16-year-old self would think of the life you have?
  2. How do you think you would feel if you lived the life your 16-year-old self envisioned?

When I think of my 16-year-old self, I acknowledge that I was both mature for my age and quite naive and sheltered. My younger self would be proud that I left my hometown. That I went to college and graduate school. I have a much better job and have achieved more things than my younger self could have imagined.. My 16-year-old self wasn’t sure what she was going to major in, but what I’m doing now would seem like a foreign language she didn’t want to take. But I love it.

My younger self would be surprised and maybe a bit disappointed (I am, too, sometimes) that I had only one child. I don’t think she knew much about infertility other than what she read in her great-grandmother’s magazines when she was a child. Another way in which I was both precocious and naive. But my own precocious only is loved. Very much loved.

My younger self would not have imagined a pandemic, quarantine and subsequently, the death of a spouse at an early age. Hell, I’m not sure my current self can encompass all of that yet.

But I hope my younger self would be proud of how resilient I am. I’ve been through infertility, pandemics, death of a spouse, diagnoses…and I’m still standing (and I just knocked on wood and threw salt. Please do the same). Sometimes people think that these adversities are bad things. I don’t see them that way. Yes, they suck. Don’t get me wrong. But, I feel like they have molded and shaped me into a better, stronger person. When you know darkness, you appreciate the light that much more. When you feel at your lowest, you appreciate the highs exquisitely. I’m not saying I would have asked for those experiences, but I accept and value them. They are formative experiences. And I hope they have made me into a better, richer person.

Conversely, I don’t think I would have liked the life my 16-year-old self envisioned. It was free from adversity. It was spoiled. It was charmed. And life isn’t like that as I have learned over and over again. Her life was wish fulfillment. And I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that. It’s just…well…unrealistic. And my 16-year-old self didn’t know that.

Would I change anything? No. I believe strongly that life lessons are taught for a reason or at the very least, you can learn from what you experience. It’s a journey.

Some churches and very rich private homes have spaces dedicated to a labyrinth. You can walk the space and pray or whatever. I like that idea. I’d walk the labyrinth because it symbolizes a purposeful, yet possibly meandering journey and an overall depiction of wholeness. I get that. I really get that. I know where I want to go, and I know where I’ve been, but it may take me a while to get there. And that’s OK.

Catharsis?

Whew. lt’s late, and I’ll probably regret this post tomorrow, which will be in 18 minutes as I start this. Or maybe not. I mentioned in prior posts that I talk, talk, talk…the words just spill out of me…word vomit everywhere. It’s quite confessional. I like to think that maybe the universe grants me some sort of absolution as I spill everything in my brain or maybe I am guilty as I am with so many others of the hubris of thinking that the universe cares what I am thinking and have to say. Someone recently told me I was an open book, and I couldn’t decide if that was a compliment or not. Kind of like when someone in high school told me that I reminded him of the characters on Seinfeld. They weren’t exactly likeable.

So, I promised updates in several posts. It’s difficult to come up with how to refer to something as momentous as the date of your husband’s death. Anniversary seems…not right. I know that “anniversary” can be used to refer to anything notable, but I think it has a mostly positive, happy connotation. So a friend coined “Deathiversary” and I think that is perfect. I threw it out in the last post.

This may be a long post.

Friends, what I experienced from mid-October to December 1, I now refer to as Deathiversary Season. I was expecting a day, not a 6-week period. I think what happened was that I didn’t expect the anxiety around the knowledge of what transpired to build and build. Negative anticipation. I know now. I know now what happens on each of those days. We made it through Halloween and had a good time even though I had to give myself several pep talks over the course of the day as I gutted and carved pumpkins with my unwashed hair. But D had a good time, and that is what is important. The next day…I hadn’t slept and neither had D, so we decided to take the day off and withdrew from the world that day. I had foolishly thought I would work. Silly me. So we stayed in bed and cuddled and did nothing.

The next day, November 2, I flew to Denver to visit a friend. I’m still a little shocked I did it, but I needed to get out of town and what better than to go to the other side of the country? It was a short trip, but great and much needed. I consider that a bold act (and maybe that tells you a lot about me and my sheltered existence), and I’m proud of myself for doing it. I won’t deny – it was weird as hell to be back in an airport and flying with a mask. I had become very familiar with travel due to work in the years prior to COVID, but I realized my “travel muscles” had atrophied. I felt like I needed to re-learn everything. But it was a great trip of which I will always think fondly.

And then the rest of November. See, that’s what caught me off guard. November. I was a disaster that month. My anxiety remained high. I found myself staying up way too late. And then I couldn’t sleep or slept very little. And I cried a lot. Like every night. That’s all I did…cry and not sleep. And I think it was because November is in general a loaded month: Jimmy loved Thanksgiving and there were other anxieties building on anxieties around milestones and gatherings and … there was just a lot. I can’t even adequately explain it. But hey, I binge watched Ted Lasso while standing in my kitchen each night and adored it (seriously, watch it if you haven’t). And I still woke up, got Daniel to school and worked. Not looking for a medal; I guess I want to emphasize I wasn’t a complete basket case. I try to save being a basket case from 10pm – 2AM.

And the final milestone. December 1. Our wedding anniversary. A day worthy of the term of “anniversary.” By the time that date approached, I felt more in control. In some ways, I considered it a bookend on “Deathiversary Season”. Last year was significant because our anniversary was exactly one month after he died. And this year? This year would have been 20 years. When the day came, I looked at our wedding picture on the living room wall and sent up a few good wishes and thoughts to…somewhere? And I felt lighter.

Tomorrow (oh, today now) is my last day of work for the year. This week has been rough. Lots of hands-on work that could only be done after hours because I was in meetings all day, every day. It’s Daniel’s last day of school too, and we’re going to go see the new Spider-Man movie after school. First time we’ll have been in a theater in years! And I’m drooling over the thought of popcorn. Yes, please. And all the “butter” I can put on it. Christmas presents are bought. We both received flu shots, and I received the COVID booster today. I’m of the opinion that I will take all the vaccine they want to give me.

It’s interesting because there’s also a darkness about this time of year (and I’m not talking literal darkness although, yes, it was fucking dark at 5PM today). If you think about it, Autumn in general and Halloween and Christmas are all about recognizing death and trying to find light and hope where you can. The cyclical nature of the year always strikes me. You have the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and each day afterwards, it becomes darker earlier an infinitesimal amount until you reach 3/4 through December and the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. But after that day, each day is a infinitesimal bit brighter. It sparks lots of imagery and philosophical musings, but I’ll spare you because I’m trying to rein in my thoughts (not everyone needs a glimpse into the Scream painting that is my mind).

I decided that I wasn’t sure I felt like listening to my usual Christmas music, so I made a playlist of eclectic songs with the help of friends. It may have gotten a touch out of control because it is almost FOUR HOURS!!!! Go big or go home? But I listened to it in its entirety as I was working, and I think it’s quite good. Knock yourselves out if you wish. I think I mentioned how important music has become to me the last year. It has. It really has. It started with putting an Air Pod in and listening while I did stuff around the house. And then it progressed to listening to new music suggested by friends. And then next thing I know I’m creating Spotify playlists. And then I’m creating a 4-hour Eclectic Christmas playlist. And THEN I’m listening to Taylor Swift songs friends suggested, and I’m crying and wondering why I avoided her and her amazing songwriting ability. She has replaced Radiohead as my go-to “gonna wallow and cry” artist. It’s kind of funny because a friend and I were talking earlier this week, and we both admitted to having songs that just wreck us and instead of avoiding them, we listen to them over and over and over. It’s like picking a scab: you know you shouldn’t, but you still do it.

You may be thinking, “KeAnne, are you depressed?” Well, yes…I have 125 mg daily that agrees with you. But no. But yes.

This has been a rough week. I’m down two key positions, which means I am both in meetings all day, plotting strategy and whatever nefarious things everyone thinks we get up to (I wish…rather mundane), and then after hours doing hands-on work. Many, many late nights this week. I don’t mind. I’m happy to do what my teams need. But it’s exhausting. I was asked this week why I was working so hard, and my response was that I can’t not. It has to get done. Some deadlines can’t be moved.

But today (or yesterday I guess) was emotional. Probably fatigue. Probably stress. I put on my “make me cry” playlist (Yes T. Swift is on it. And so is Radiohead), and I’ve cried off and on all night. And it’s so dark outside. And I felt so lonely and alone. And I know that’s not true. The gifts waiting for me at my desk (office day! real clothes!) demonstrate that people care about me. The cards in my mailbox. The gifts from friends across the country. And it’s demonstrated in a million other ways. I guess I’m trying to tie my feelings today to the above paragraphs about the darkness of the season. In some ways, there is an inherent loneliness built into this time of the year that our celebrations are trying to stave off. Safety in numbers at the very least. But there is a part of me that has always been attracted to the darkness and that feeling of being alone (not that I want to be alone). So my goal is not to allow myself to wallow in it. I have magic to make for D.

Some days I wonder if I am 15 or 44. They are both similar: skin issues; hormonal issues; drama (relationship and drama in general); listening to sad songs on repeat; staring in the mirror, wondering if I am attractive; crying; lots of work to do. Of course the 15-year-old doesn’t necessarily have to be the one to clean up the cat vomit in the living room (thanks for getting the message about being part of the team, cat!).

Good lord, this is long. I’m sorry. No, I’m not sorry. This is my reality. There are good days. There are bad days. I think I mentioned in an earlier post – or maybe not – hell, I can’t remember – that I identified with a crab: hard exoskeleton but soft underbelly. In many ways, I feel like the last year has been a crucible that has burned off that exoskeleton. I feel quite raw. But I also like to think that maybe that time in the crucible is helping me to be a softer, kinder person. A more genuine person. These are parts of myself and feelings that I kept hidden out of fear of being vulnerable. And I like it! I like feeling and doing kind things. But…did I miss my opportunity? Do people still value kindness? Or am I out of step? Should I just stick to cerebral stuff since it is what I am good at?

I’m OK. I’m OK. I promise (see 125 mg a few paragraphs above). We all fall on black days from now and then. Next post will be trying to prove I have a sense of humor and involving Christmas ornaments.

And I’m ready to suffer, and I’m ready to hope. (FL+TM)

Got the suffering down. Now let’s go for the hope.

Entropy

I’m not going to deny that the last few years were…not ideal. I feel like everything around me is falling apart both literally and metaphorically. I no sooner fix one issue with my house than another arises. Fucking whack-a-mole. Mondays suck because three jobs. Behavior…yeah. Mercury Retrograde. And I feel bad talking about it because it feels like all I do is talk about the bad stuff. Each week I say, “I’m tired of my own shit. I won’t inflict it on others.”

Entropy describes the last few years well. Things not getting done around the house. Easier to give into feelings and situations instead of trying to fix them. Entropy is fucking powerful, and it is easy to be dragged down by it.

I am usually a driven person. I do things. Sometimes I do too much. I was the definition of “work before play” and therefore, “play” typically never happened. And somewhere in the last few years, I lost that. It became easier to succumb and wallow. When you feel out of control, sometimes it is easier to give in and say, “why bother? No one else is.”

Well, now, I’m the only adult. I want to be better. To do better. My list is long. I want to reject entropy. I want to fortify myself against it. I CAN be better. And I know: I’ve been through a lot in the last year and should cut myself some slack or give myself some grace. But at some point, you have to stop making excuses and step up (woman up?). I need to be an example. I need to feel good.

“You’re turning into something you are not” – Radiohead “High and Dry”

Today we went to buy pumpkins. We bought a lot, and it was great. I also bought flowers to put in planters. I hadn’t done that in years. I love flowers. I don’t in any way claim to have a green thumb, but I love flowers. So I decided I would pot these flowers today. I did it. It felt SO good. It’s a small thing, but I felt like it was a tiny shield being erected against entropy.

One step at a time. One flower at a time.

Apparently Fridays Can Suck Too

It’s possible I might be in an especially raw phase. I cried at least 5 times this week. I just finished crying in fact. And I might cry more. The jury is out although it would be nice if they would give me a heads up.

I blame Mercury Retrograde. Yes. We are in that lovely period in which Mercury likes to fuck with us. I have an entire post planned on it if I can get past this week because I have a lot of Mercury in my natal chart, so I am essentially fucked.

I hope you don’t mind expletives. I am quite fluent with them these days. I always liked them and used them before, but now, it’s like my native tongue. Makes me think of when I returned home from college the first few times. My aunts and my mom looked at each other knowingly as the expletives rolled off my tongue. A look I learned to decipher as, “oh, so cute! College girl thinks she has grown up!”

I don’t like to feel that anything is overwhelming for me. At all. But I’m also human and apparently have pesky things called feelings, and they can be hurt and trampled on too. That really destroys my vibe as someone who is above that sort of thing, but here we are.

And 12-year-olds are especially good…exquisitely good…at picking out your weaknesses and trampling all over them gleefully.

He’s apologized. I’m sulking and trying not to cry again. It’s fine. It’s fine. It’s all fine. I am both 15 and 44 and that’s a weird place to be.

It’s just…one minute you are going along thinking – not that you have it together – fuck no. Never that. But that you are managing things. You are getting by (that is a bar set very low). And then, something emotionally sideswipes you and you realize you have nothing together, your life is shit, and it’s like a bucket of ice-cold water has been dropped over your head. Everything you believed is a joke. You know shit. This week has been an entire week of this. And believe me, my expectations are very low. And somehow that hurts even more.

And when you try so hard to look like you have it together, that you are keeping everything together, it’s like an extra low blow. Especially when you are trying to look towards the future and try to make plans – you know “be optimistic”: the universe guffaws (maybe in a nicotine-deadened croaky voice), “ha ha ha. Why did you ever think you could do anything like that? Achieve anything like that? You are FUCKED!”

Like I said. Expletives are my lingua franca these days.

Just think of me as a crab: hard exoskeleton, soft underbelly. That’s what I feel like.

***

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Today is Manufacturing Day. I’ve posted about this day for many years, but please think of the manufacturers in your area and thank them, support them, vote for legislation friendly to them. Manufacturing is so important to our economy and, frankly, fascinating! Someone said on a call today, “manufacturing has changed!” And that is so true. It is very different than what it used to be, and I want us to get to a point where we can visit plants again (damn COVID) so people can see what it is like now. I could think of a zillion types of tours to plan to showcase the various products made in NC, and I know my colleagues across the nation could do the same. I love Manufacturing Day. It inspires me, and I love trying to figure out best how to highlight what all we make. And the truth is that if we as a nation no longer make things, we are doomed. If I, a prissy English major who had never been exposed to manufacturing prior to 2000, can find it fascinating, I guarantee that you can too.

***

And welcome October. It’s time to get out my Halloween villages and set up a few things. I love October. I love the leaves changing. I love knowing we are getting to the end of the year and the shortest day of the year. It appeals to something primal in me. I have 20 pairs of Halloween socks. I love it. Today, October 1, also marks the 11th month since Jimmy died. I am stunned it is month 11 already.

Life and feelings ebb and flow. Flow and ebb. Emotions come and go. Go and come. You do your best. It’s all you can do.

And, well, fuck it, right? You knew I couldn’t end without an expletive 🙂

I Don’t Like Mondays

I try not to air too much dirty laundry, but, well, sometimes I need to vent and share, and I like to think this is my safe-ish space to do so. I have no interest in being the poster child for “getting by” because I have lots of raw, ugly emotions here.

I hate Mondays. I think we can all say that to some degree, and a friend turned me on to “I Don’t Like Mondays” by The Boomtown Rats, and it sums it up.

I used to blithely say it, but now I really, really mean it. Mondays now mean attempted school refusal because it’s a PE day (note to self: another call I need to make). Lots of meetings. And putting on three hats: job 1, job 2 (marketing) and job 3 (mommy). It’s a long day. And it includes garbage needing to be dealt with. It sounds silly, but I don’t know…garbage symbolizes so much, and it is a huge pain. Garbage night symbolizes to me one of those tasks that I didn’t have to do previously but now must do now. And I fucking hate it. 

And my sweet boy. Mondays are a trigger for him because of gym class. He hates gym class. I hated gym class too. Do I look like someone who excelled in gym? Nope. Like I said, school refusal attempted. And then surliness at me. Demanding I speak to him a certain way. Nothing pisses me off more than being told to use a nicer tone or say “please” by my 12 year old. And this comes barely two days after taking him to a Lego festival, spending a lot of money and being told that it was the BEST day.

I am not good with this. I am too verbal and use too many words to be effective, and it angers me SO MUCH. This morning, once he agreed to go to school, he announced he was going to the woods. I muttered, “By all means, go live deliberately” and he shouted, “I don’t understand your slang.” I laughed and laughed. 

And then after I dropped him off at school, I came home and cried and cried.

I mention all of this not to shame him or myself (though the shame for me is omnipresent) but to point out the reality of our lives right now. It is not all great. It is not often great at all. 

I am lonely. I am alone. I often don’t know what to do. I Google a lot. We both have therapists. It’s just hard. And I’m OK with that being our reality because it is true: hard. But I wonder when it will be less hard. And I hope there will be a time.

I like to think I am doing my best, but when I don’t feel like I am doing my best at anything, I can’t believe I am doing my best at parenting either. But I know the tween surliness is developmental and I know that his rages at me are also due to him knowing I am a safe person he can rage to. I know that. Just not easy to take. And that all gets woven together with being the only parent and being alone and feeling alone and trying to do my job, and I just want to scream.

Me

We went to the beach for Labor Day weekend – a do-over from a few prior rainy trips and a “last hurrah” to the beach as well as an early birthday present for me. And it was wonderful!  But we did have a scary moment. The ocean was the calmest I had seen it in years and there were amazing sand bars that extended far out.  Daniel and I played in the water, swam (me) and overall had a great time. 

And then the scare happened: the closest sand bar disappeared suddenly. Daniel freaked out and wrapped himself around my neck. I knew we were only a few inches away from being able to touch, but the tide was coming in quickly and I had someone gripping me even though I tried to calm him down so I could walk or swim us closer. It was the scariest moment I have ever had in the ocean. Fortunately, there were swimmers close by that could help us progress the few inches needed, but I was devastated. Relieved. Humiliated. Grateful. Angry. I had talked to Daniel several times about not grabbing me around the neck if he was scared in the water. I know that panic occurs and how it makes our rational thoughts disappear instantly. But I could feel what could have happened, and it was terrifying. All I could think of was that this child who was berating me the night before for not doing something for him was now gripping me, hoping I would save him even though he could quite literally have drowned us both. We returned to our room, and I cried from the adrenaline and from feeling like a failure who couldn’t take care of her child and from feeling overall like a terrible mother and human.

So that’s where we are. If I’m not waving, I’m drowning. Sometimes literally; mostly figuratively.

And in the midst of all this other drama, milestones occur. Last week, on Sept. 22, I realized it was the anniversary of when I met Jimmy. We’ve always considered it a significant date, and it felt weird to me that it took me almost the entire day before I realized what the date was. We met in 1996, so it would have been 25 years. Then, on Sept. 25, I took Daniel to BrickUniverse and gave the credit card a work out even though I hate Legos at this point. September 25 was also Jimmy’s birthday, so I thought indulging Daniel might be a good idea. It was a good day. It was a good way to honor Jimmy because he would have loved taking Daniel to BrickUniverse. 

I have lots of milestones this time of year: my birthday (9/9); our meeting anniversary (9/22); his birthday (9/25). Next month is the last week of his life at the end of October. Then we have the first anniversary of his death on 11/1. Our wedding anniversary is 12/1 and let me tell you what a gift last year was with the first month of his death arriving on our anniversary. I usually enjoy celebrating milestones and important dates, but I kind of want to put my head in the sand this year. The dates are a lot, especially as they come almost all at once.

I write this not to seek pity or even condolences. More of a rumination on what it’s like to be us … to be me mainly … right now. I try to keep a stiff upper lip, but to be frank, this shit is hard. 

But I try. I try so hard every day (maybe sing that to Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran.” That would be amusing). It’s all I have and all I can do.

I joke that many days I feel like Sisyphus, and that is true. But I also think of this video, and it makes me laugh and feel better.

“Like Sisyphus, I am bound to hell.”

Sisyphus indeed. Better days will come.

2015

Today, J came home mid-day from the last day of work for the year, looking more at peace than in several years. He bounded up the stairs to the porch with our takeout feast, grinning the entire time.

Today wasn’t only his last day of the year; it was his last day of employment period at the company at which he celebrated 14 years earlier in the month.

In October we found out he was being made “redundant,” and though other opportunities with the company were available, we agreed that he should search elsewhere. Mergers, culture, people…it had been a stressful few years and not a good fit.

So now, we greet 2016 with me as the breadwinner we joke. We’re OK. There are irons in the fire and ideally, J will get a few weeks of rest before moving on. Fingers crossed.

That is kind of how 2015 went. Not a bad year exactly but not exactly great. Highs, lows, stress, relief…the year had it all.

We are so fortunate in all we have that it seems churlish to think about the less stellar parts. Yet I’m tired of them. What I am just realizing is that this is what adulthood and adult lives are. Shit happens. Shit happens interspersed with good and great stuff. This is life. This is my life.

So I bid 2015 farewell. We did good stuff, watched good stuff, had fun and cuddles. Beach trips. Legos. Listen to Your Mother. Bad stuff too. Stress. Work. Bad complexions thanks to stress. Anxiety. Weight gain.

But as they say, tomorrow is a new day. Nay, a new year. Welcome, 2016. You arrive full of promise but I also expect the lows.

My collard greens are prepped & I have black eyed peas and pork in the wings. 

Goodbye, 2015. Welcome, 2016.

#MicroblogMondays: Wiped

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I think this picture sums up our feelings about the weekend. Daniel was soooo full of energy & we were not. It would be nice if it didn’t rain for a while too 🙂

In other news, we are ordering new couches & a mattress! You know you’re adults when purchases like that make you happy 🙂

#MicroblogMondays: The Oven

Sunday night, we were doing a million things since Monday marked our household’s return to work and school. We were prepping ingredients for beef stew, a hearty multi-day meal that would relieve us from cooking and be perfect for the polar vortex due later this week.

I slipped the beef into the oven and was surprised and aghast to smell something charred and smoky coming from the oven an hour into the stew’s first cook. All the liquid had evaporated and was charring on the bottom of the pan. Baffled, I separated the meat, scrubbed the pan and added triple the liquid I normally did. The beef and its veggies seemed to perform as expected the next hour.

An hour later, I put a pan of 4 burritos into the oven for 20 minutes at 350. Twenty minutes later I start to smell the charred, smoky smell again. When I took out the burritos, I saw some of the cheese had blackened. Technically the dish still had another 10 minutes, but there was no way I was risking that.

I was confused. Neither recipe was a new recipe. I make beef stew every few months and hadn’t deviated. Same thing for the burritos. Plus, I’m a good cook. I’m no Food Network Star, but I can follow & tweak a recipe into something pretty good. I take pride in my cooking, so the oven trouble inexperienced was disconcerting. I chalked it up to chance and the weather. It had been an odd winter day with temperatures in the 70s and rain & severe storms. Maybe cooking on this day was like making fudge, in which the temperature and humidity mattered?

Tonight I turned on the oven to bake mini pizzas for Daniel’s lunch and the oven flashed “Failure!” That was odd. Jimmy reset it and we were able to finish the pizzas. A pan of rolls did not fare as well and soon, the oven had that familiar charred, smoky smell. And it was beeping “failure” messages again. Clearly, something was wrong with the oven. I felt vindicated because I now knew that it wasn’t my fault we had the cooking issues the night before. The bad news was that our oven was obviously on the fritz.

We bought that oven over Thanksgiving weekend in 2008. I remember it because we were just out of the first trimester with Daniel and had blood drawn a few days earlier for the quad screen. I was a panicky mess. Our microwave had broken that week, so we needed to get a new one. Thanks to Thanksgiving sales, Jimmy wanted to get a new, matching stove too. I vividly remember sitting in the rocking chairs outside of Lowes as we debated the pros and cons. I was at the point of our pregnancy in which I wanted to bury my head in the sand until someone told me everything would be OK. Maybe I thought I would hate the stove if bad things came to pass; it would be the Stove of Doom (I wasn’t very rational at that time). I agreed to buy the microwave and stove. I also decided to resume my anti-anxiety medication.

There isn’t any real point to that story except I have vivid memories of buying it thanks to the time in our life it was. But I need a stove/oven that works. And I’m glad my cooking doesn’t suck suddenly. Damn it.

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