stress

Thought I’d Something More to Say

Lately, Daniel has been curious about whether he is bigger than us. He’ll ask when he’s standing on the floor and once again when he’s on his stool at the kitchen counter.  He’ll ask about his hands or his mouth or his head, and each time we answer some variation of, “No, sweet pea, you aren’t. You will be one day, but please don’t be in a hurry to grow up. Please enjoy being little while you can.”

I tweeted earlier in the week, “being an adult is bullshit.”

I don’t really think being an adult is bullshit. Not really. Mostly. But I contrast how much I chafed at the endless restrictions and how eager to grow up I was as a child with the anxiety, stress and responsibility I have now as an adult. My mind is never quiet. It is always thinking about what comes next: planning dinner, getting out clothes, do we have clean uniforms which means someone needs to do laundry if we don’t, is tonight a bath night, is it time to get the bedroom prepared, do we have homework, what are we sending back to school, is tomorrow hot lunch or do I need to pack lunch, each thought a staccato beat in my head, drumming relentlessly.

I think the holidays are where I see the biggest difference between a carefree childhood and care-heavy adulthood. As a child, I basked in the magic of the season. I dreamed about gifts and Santa. When it was time to eat, I sat down at the table. I performed in chorale performances, musicals, plays, blase about the audience. What I wore for the holidays was a priority: velvet, lace, satin, something festive and adorable, hair rolled, a living doll.  On Christmas Day, the focus was on me and my reaction to gifts, keenly watched to observe a gasp of delight or grin.

As the adult, I am the maker of magic. A festive holiday dinner means that I must cook it if I want it to happen.  I research and identify gift ideas, doling them out to family requesting them. Christmas Eve means long hours of assembling gifts and putting them out after Daniel is in dream land. We are the bleary-eyed ones in the morning when he pops up, rested and raring to go.  We are the ones hoping for the delighted gasp or a grin as he sees what Santa brought him.

Then there are the other holiday tasks: making cards, addressing them, mailing them. Deciding whether we schedule a family portrait. Putting up decorations. Buying more decorations when the ones you bought last year no longer work. Trying to make memories via watching holiday specials, going to see light displays, attending special performances. Baking cookies. Listening to holiday music.

No wonder I feel so exhausted and stressed.

I love being the maker of magic for Daniel. Truly. I want him to feel and experience the magic of the season. I want to fire his imagination and see him become excited as he counts down to Christmas. I love seeing his face as he notices his gifts for the first time, and I want him to feel that he is special and that this is a special time of year.  But there is no denying that it is a lot of work!

I don’t think I realized until recently how you shift to the periphery as an adult. You’re backstage, the director. Pulling the strings, choreographing the steps and routines while the child is the star. If my work is good, it’s invisible.

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today

I spent so much time wanting to grow up that it came as a surprise to realize I was grown up.

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

I think I always thought I’d get a memo or something: KeAnne, you’re an adult now. This is your life. Your one life. You’re living it, doing it. There are no do-overs.

So it comes as a shock to realize that I am in the middle of the only life I’m ever going to have. What I want to do is hit pause. Imagine having the ability to freeze your life, to stop the world from spinning.  You could take a breath and assess, catch up, regain equilibrium and make plans.  I could feel in control of my life instead of feeling like my life is either out of control or in control of me.

To live deliberately.

It’s funny because I only now truly understand what that phrase means. Bad English major!

To live deliberately, something that seems impossible to do when all the responsibilities and must-dos and should-dos are hammering away inside my brain.

Or maybe I’m a weirdo. Are there people out there who have it together, have no worries or anxieties and blithely live their lives, confident that they are living the best life they can?

So my darling boy, please stay young as long as you can. I want your thoughts to be only on playing and having fun. On how many sleeps there are until Santa comes and whether Mommy and Daddy bought a special treat for you. On the love you have for your cuddlies. Enjoy it. Because one day, all to quickly, the world will be too much with you.

White Deer

snow, sleet, ice in North Carolina

Snow/sleet/ice

A few days ago, Daniel and I were driving through our neighborhood, almost home, when he asked, “What’s in that yard?” I was dutifully looking straight ahead, but I started checking out what was on either side of me to figure out what he was talking about, and it was then that I saw them.  At first I thought they were dogs running like crazy from the house on the left.  Then I realized they were deer.  Three young deer.  They raced across the front yard of the house on the left, leaped across the road and raced across the yard of the house on the right into the trees.

It took a few seconds for my brain to process what it saw: two young brown deer and one white deer.  We live in an area with lots of trees, so seeing deer isn’t unusual.  As a matter of fact, Daniel and I watched 5 deer wander around our back yard last weekend.  It’s not unusual for me to see deer crossing the street: deer are notorious for darting across the street with little notice where I work.   However, I had never seen a white deer before.

I joked on Twitter that I hoped the white deer wasn’t a sign of doom or death.  I looked it up, and white deer symbolize purity, an impending spiritual quest or a message from the gods that you had transgressed a taboo.

My imagination took over, and I started wondering what message the white deer had for me based on what is going on in my life right now.  Had I committed some grievous sin against the universe?  Notice how I instantly go for the worst interpretation.  Am I about to be tested by a spiritual journey? I kind of hope not because I think that’s what the last year or so has been.  No more testing, please!

In truth, I’m sure the white deer is simply a white deer.  It happened to cross my path because I was in the right place at the right time.

Sometimes I envy the ancient civilizations.  We modern humans often roll our eyes and laugh at how they attributed everything that happened in their world to a sign from their gods.  How they had huge number of deities governing every aspect of their lives.  We think how primitive their thinking and their understanding of science were.  How very precious these first civilizations were!

Yet, these people felt connected to their gods.  They felt like their gods were literally everywhere and took an interest in their lives and their world.  If the crops failed, perhaps they had displeased a god.  If the harvest was bountiful, the god was pleased with them.  It is simplistic but reassuring at the same time: there is something bigger than they are keeping watch and taking notes.  And if they had transgressed, there were definitive actions they thought they needed to take to make it better: offerings, sacrifice, rituals.  Possibly brutal and disgusting to modern sensibilities, but I can imagine how it would have been a relief to feel like you could do something to change your luck in the world.

I contrast that with how often I want to look for a sign, a symbol, a message in nature, in a certain song on the radio, in a dream before acknowledging the more likely randomness of events.  During the darkest days of our time in infertility hell, I often wondered WHY we had been selected for this outcome.  Were we being tested like Job?  And what about those who had children with little effort?  Were they truly better people?  Were we being punished?  More importantly, was there something we could do to right our karma?

The truth is that life doesn’t work that way.  Life is a crap shoot and sometimes you’re up; other times you’re down.  No omnipotent, omniscient being is picking on you, even if it seems like that.  White deer running across the road are simply white deer running across the road.

I long to believe there are mysteries in the universe yet to be solved; that there is more to life than what it seems.  My heart tells me one thing while my stubborn brain tells me another.

***

I had a three-day weekend last weekend, and it was much anticipated and very nice.  I needed it because I was not looking forward to the work week to come.  Things are a little crazy at work right now with uncertainty due to the recently-announced need for a “mid-year correction.”  The week was culminating in two days of meetings for the entire staff and then another meeting afterwards that I was dreading.  I was in a bad mood all week and just knew it was going to be a bad, no good, horrible week. When you dread Friday, you know you’ve got problems.

Suddenly, mid-way through the week, things started to change.  I skipped a day-long meeting and had a quiet day in the office to catch up on some work, picking up Daniel a little early so we could cook dinner and have a little more time together.  Thursday, mere hours before the staff meeting started, the Friday portion of the meeting was cancelled due to impending bad weather.  With snow/sleet/ice threatening, Jimmy urged us both to stay home on Friday, keeping Daniel home with us since we didn’t want to be caught trying to navigate nasty roads with him in the car.

Friday morning, the nasty weather started earlier than expected, and I was grateful we decided to stay home.  I got some work done, and then we three snuggled and watched it sleet all day.  I even took a nap.  It was a lovely, low-key day.  An unexpected…sleet day and another three-day weekend.  I told Jimmy that the week had ended beautifully, much, much better than I had thought it would even only a few days earlier.

Maybe white deer…maybe there are some mysteries still left.

 

 

Checking My List After the Apocalypse That Wasn’t

It appears that we have survived the Mayan Apocalypse.  Either the prophecy was a bust or I’m living in some sort of alternate universe. Darn Mayans.  It’s got to be a little embarrassing since we’ve been hearing about 12/21/12 for years and nothing happened.  Another doomsday prophecy that failed to deliver!   Since we’re still here, we need to finish those Christmas preparations after all.  Let’s take a look at my to-do list, shall we?

Crossed-Off the To-Do List

  • Christmas cards created and mailed (mostly – we ran out of stamps and have to get more, so if your card doesn’t arrive until after Christmas, my apologies)
  • Christmas shopping finished (mostly – we still need one more gift.  Fun fact: did you know that there is a limit to the amount of alcohol you can buy at the ABC store without needing a permit? Also, our house looks like an Amazon warehouse)
  • Annual holiday trek to the mall, the result of which causes us to question the future of humanity and leave somewhat enraged and quite over our “fellow man.”  There should be a holiday merit badge for surviving a trip to the mall this time of year
  • Christmas tree skirt picked up from the dry cleaners and ready to put around the tree never mind.  Skirt won’t be ready until Monday.  What’s another few days?
  • Gift cards for daycare teachers dropped off (although one had already left for the year, so she won’t get it  until 2013.  It’s the thought that counts, right?)

Not Completed

  • Gifts wrapped and under the tree.  We brought down the wrapping paper; does that count?
  • Seasonal crafts made w/ Daniel in order to imbue the joy of the season.  Um not so much.  In addition to feeling like crap this week, the light in our kitchen went out yesterday, making it impossible to see to do anything.  Jimmy had to replace the ballast in our light.  Nothing like a little home improvement over the holidays!
  • Festive holiday films watched (We started Christmas Vacation but haven’t finished it)
  • Menu for Christmas Eve dinner planned and procured (frozen pizza could work, right?)
  • Exterior illumination completed (still lacking an extension cord for one set of lights)

I feel so unprepared for the fact that Christmas is next week. Next week!  How did that happen? It’s almost laughable how not ready we are. It’s not how I wanted it to be.  I have Norman Rockwell visions of a perfect, meaningful holiday.  Usually it doesn’t pan out, but this year it’s so far from being perfect, it’s ridiculous.

I’m no Martha Stewart, but I promise we are more organized and prepared than this usually.  I chalk it up to this year, to 2012 constantly throwing curve balls.

But that’s OK.  Jimmy and I have gotten to the point where we have accepted that nothing is going according to plan or desire.  We have to accept it because we are out of time.  Christmas is next week, and we are going out of town for our first Christmas event.  The presents may not be wrapped and under the tree until Christmas Eve.  We may not get to do any of the traditions we have worked hard to create over the years.  It is what it is.  Time for me to shrug and move on.

Low expectations feel freeing too.  This year, we’ll just do our thing, and it may be more about getting through Christmas.  As long as the three of us are together and healthy (please, universe, please!), that’s all that matters.

 

 

Trying to Find the Magic

When we left work on Friday, it was our last day of work for 2012, meaning that today Jimmy and I are on vacation.  Daniel is at daycare and will be going all week.  I feel a teensy bit guilty about him being at daycare and us being home, but the reality is that we have almost no preparations made for Christmas and need this week to finish buying gifts, figure out menus, order and mail cards, wrap, etc.  Oh and try to relax.  I almost forgot about that part.  We decided that today will be our officially designated “day of relaxation” in which we do absolutely nothing.  As a matter of fact, I should be back in bed trying to sleep, but the huge mug of peppermint coffee next to me likely won’t help that endeavor.

It seems a little silly that we must designate a day to relax, but it won’t happen otherwise.  Does that make us Type A planners and schedulers? And this is it.  This week is our only chance to get things done and rest because Christmas for us officially begins on Saturday with a trip to visit my mother and stepfather and won’t end until December 27.

I haven’t been sleeping well either thanks to the cold virus from hell.  My right ear is still stopped up, my voice is not as terrifying as it had been, and I now have a hacking, phlegmy cough (you’re welcome), but I’m finally starting to feel somewhat human again.  The holidays wait for no one, so preparations must continue whether I feel up for them or not!

The problem is the magic.  I don’t yet feel the magic of the holiday.  Christmas has crept up on us and slapped us in the face, and it feels like everything is conspiring to keep us from enjoying it.  Everything feels like a massive to-do list, and that’s not how I want it to be.

I’m not a religious person, so I celebrate Christmas as a holiday about love and family, which, if you don’t want to get technical about it, is the symbolism behind the season.  I love Christmas, and we love making it special for Daniel.   We are firmly on Team Santa Claus in this house.  There is a spirit to the season, and I want to help Daniel know about it and experience it.

The Newtown tragedy makes it difficult to find the magic also.  How can we think about mundane things like Christmas presents and reindeer food when there is such horror and suffering in the world?  It seems …unseemly…to be thinking about wrapping paper and what to serve for Christmas meals when there are those suffering so horrifically.

Life goes on, however.  We may feel embarrassed by it, but it’s true.  That sentiment is both reassuring and cruel.  Reassuring because it gives structure to our days; cruel because no one person can stop the wheel.  Jen wrote a great post that gives us permission to live our lives when tragedy happens around us.  And she’s right.   Feeling guilty and sad about our own celebrations won’t change what happened to those children.  We should spend that impulse fighting to change or enact laws to prevent such tragedy from ever happening again. That is a better way to honor their sacrifice.

Fake it until you make it.  Isn’t that what they say?  Today is only the first day of vacation.  Maybe I’ll feel better after more sleep, more medicine, more hugs and cuddles.  We don’t have to be superhuman parents.  Just a few small activities will help create the magic for our 3.5 year old.  Holiday stress is yet another topic left out of the non-existent parenting manual. Maybe I should give myself permission to relax and focus on only a few important things, memories I want Daniel to have.

How do you find holiday magic when life is overwhelming?

Things I Hate About the Holidays So Far

Ahhh the holidays. We started our family celebrations over the weekend and we already are over some things:

1. Eating dinner at 9pm, especially when the meal, when it finally appears, is not very good.

2. No heat in the bedrooms and thin blankets

3. Watching family members ignore your child despite constantly declaring how much they love and are glad to see him

4. Five hours in the car in 24 hours. I think my car knows our bodily shapes well now

5. Once you arrive home, hours spent cleaning up glitter from presents and washing/fumigating clothes and presents of the pervasive cigarette smoke. Oh and baths for every member of the family as well

6. Family members loudly singing along with holiday music playing on the train ride w/ Santa

7. Family telling you they are giving you cash for a gift and referring to small other gifts as “shit” compared to the cash

8. Dogs. My son is used to cats. Even though the dogs were sweet, Daniel cried when one of them ran up to him.

9. Watery coffee.

10. Being forced to defend Michelle Duggar’s integrity while attempting to make small talk once dinner finally appeared.

Good luck and happy holidays!!