Friday, February 27, 2015

Still not mother of the year

The past few weeks, my life has been a little busier than normal. I've felt--quite frequently--like I had a lot of balls in the air, and that one of them was bound to drop sooner or later. I have been talking to myself. A lot. I fit in pretty well at the nursing home. It's like when I am trying to remember a phone number, I'll say it over and over again in my mind since I can never find a paper to write it down.

Now, however, I'm saying all these things in my head because I wrote them down somewhere, but I can't find the damn paper so my inner dialogue is like, "Pick up Peyton at 5 or 7, wait what day is it: Monday, okay 5, I think. Lily has gymnastics. Drop off the recycling. Pick up my mom's laundry. Bring her insurance card. Did I bring her clean undershirts and the kind of socks she likes? Did I text Chloe good morning? Did I check on Lori? Did I pack lunches this morning or were the kids buying? Did we study spelling words or did Lily really write "whore" instead of "were" anyway?" True story. Good that her teacher is a precious angel who finds humor in my parenting shortcomings.

All of this has made me feel much more compassionate toward those around me as I think most of us probably have way more going on than anyone knows. Since, I'm always trying to work those four agreements and lots of times getting stuck on not taking things personally, this is helping.

I have a really bad habit of sinking into myself. Crawling into my shell and dropping out of every inessential (by inessential, I mean no one will die if I don't show up) part of my life. That means, I don't really talk to my friends. I don't go anywhere with anyone. Often I'm short if I remember to respond at all. All of this is an effort to protect and nourish my spirit, but it can often seem to people who care about me, that I'm mad at them or being a bitch. I'm really so sorry.

I'm working on doing a better job of communicating. And at the same time, I'm going to make some vows to you, my girlfriends, who are doing so much more than anyone knows, often at the expense of taking care of yourself the way you need and deserve to be loved and cared for. If you would, though, please pass it on...
  1. If you forget to pick your son up from any sporting event, I will take him home. I will not tell anyone that you forgot or give you any shit about it. We don't ever have to speak of it.
  2. Those pants look good on you. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow too if that is what you choose. I don't care how often you do laundry or if you gained 10 pounds and they're the only comfortable thing you have. I promise I didn't even notice until you told me.
  3. Your daughter is beautiful even if her clothes don't match and are too small. I know that she has a whole wardrobe of matching adorable clothes but it isn't worth fighting with her in the morning.
  4. I don't judge you for yelling at your kids. Good lord, if someone had a hidden camera in my car or house, child protective services would be at my door daily. I am at times a horrible raving lunatic.
  5. I couldn't care less if your kids valentines aren't homemade. I force my child to do crafts so we can bond, dammit; she would much rather have store bought ones. We're all works in progress.
I could go on and on and on. Sometimes we are just so mean to each other. Judging and comparing and competing and gossiping and bleck, bleck, bleck. I promise you all, right now, if you're reading this: I am never going to judge you, your clothes, your kids, your parenting, your weight, your hair or anything else. I get it. I understand. I feel you. My mantle is still void of a mother of the year trophy. Actually, I don't even have a mantle! What do you think about that?

Please, let's be kind to each other. And more than that? Let's be kind to ourselves.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

This mountain that's in front of me...

About 13 years ago, my baby Peyton had to be hospitalized for pneumonia and RSV. Which begs the question: What happened to RSV? You never hear about it anymore. Did they come up with a vaccine? Anyway, I was so afraid. I held him the whole time he was there, only occasionally setting him in that scary cell-like metal crib to go to the bathroom. I held him in the chair all night, waking every two hours as the respiratory therapists misted albuterol into his tiny lungs.

Several years later, I lay next to his hospital bed tossing and turning on an awkward and uncomfortable plastic cot as he tossed and turned in pain awaiting an orthopedic surgeon to re-set his horribly broken and displaced arm.

Those were my two worst hospital memories.

Then, a week ago, after several days in the hospital, I had to take my mom to a nursing home. Although, she is only there for short-term rehab, it's still a nursing home. While it has clean rooms, beautiful surroundings, a state-of-the-art rehab facility and some very kind employees, the halls still smell of urine and people moan and yell unintelligible things. The food is delicious, but many of the patients and residents still drool and spill it all over themselves.

When we walked into the room, I watched my tiny little mom's eyes grow wide and fearful as we surveyed the room occupied by one other person who stared vacantly in the opposite direction of a blaring tv. For what seemed like an eternity the unfamiliar and unpleasant smells and sounds and reality of the situation silently settled over us before my mom piped up, "Do you think she needs the tv that loud when she isn't even watching it?" I swallowed the vomit that was rising in my throat, and my sister found a remote and turned it down.

It has been a few days. Her roommate was sent back to the hospital. She is kind of settling into a routine. The dining hall is reminiscent of a middle school cafeteria. The more...aware...female patients eat at one table--they are the cool girls. The next table is filled with men who aren't drooling. Then there are a few more tables with people who are.

My mom sits with the cool girls (plus one's husband.) They ask every day, "Do you remember what we ordered for lunch?" "No, do you?" "I think I ordered lobster and shrimp." "It's a surprise every day!" The couple is 96 and 91. The wife told me in her thick German accent that they met during the war, when her husband was a handsome army captain. Then she implored the nurse's aide to give her a little booze in her coffee. They're adorable. In the twilight of their life. She said, "You're sooooo young!!" When I tried to slide the menu to her to see, she said, "Oh honey, I'm blind."

Yesterday, one of the gentleman at the men's table attempted to lure me to his table by telling me how delicious his apple juice was. I smiled and told him that was wonderful. He said, "If you come over here, I'll give you a kiss, and you can taste it."

"You're a rascal," I said, "Does that line work on many girls?"

He nodded his head so vigorously that his teeth came loose and tumbled onto his plate, and I had to look away. But every time I looked up he winked at me. I told my mom to keep her distance as he was evidently a ladies man.

In the past two weeks, my daily schedule has changed in a way I never imagined. My house is so quiet, and I miss my mom giggling and gossiping on the phone. I wish that she would pull into the driveway with a car full of groceries just when I sat down to eat. I reassure her that she is getting stronger every day, and that she will be coming home soon, but I'm scared and worried and wish that someone could reassure me in a way I actually believe.

My friends ask if they can help, but I don't how to ask or even what I would ask for. Could you please, ummm, maybe try to be me for awhile so I can curl up in a ball in my bed and cry and pretend this isn't happening because I don't want to be a grown-up and deal with this shit? How do you ask for that? And even if I could find a way to ask for it, who the hell in their right mind would say yes? The only person I know how to ask for help is my husband, but somehow even those requests sometimes get lost in translation, and the help he offers is not what I really wanted or needed.

Today, I cried for a long time. For a really really long time. Ugly self-indulgent sobbing. The cats watched me, heads cocked to the sides, like What. The. Fuck? I cried for myself and for my mom and for my friend who just lost her mom. I cried for my other friends who are going through similar situations or worse and for all those who are gonna go through it. I cried for the fictional characters on Parenthood. And then I got dressed and put on lipstick and more mascara so I can flirt with that old man. And I remembered what it's like when the first step in your makeup routine is putting Preparation H on your swollen eyes.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Is It Tomorrow Yet?

A long time ago, Brad asked why I always went directly to the worst case scenario (If he was 20 minutes late getting home from work without calling, I would immediately begin planning his wake). My answer? Because the worst case scenario had happened, and I didn't want to be caught off guard again.

It reminds me of Connor and Vivi's conversation in The Divine Secrets of the Yaya Sisterhood:
Connor: I don't know what the hell she's so afraid of -- it's like she's always waiting for the bottom to drop out.
Vivi: You know why she thinks that, don't ya, honey? Because it did. It always did.

Despite, my validation and excuses for worrying and catastrophic thinking, I read once that worry is an arrogant if by worrying we are exerting control over situations instead of putting our faith in God. My mom is a HUGE worrier, and looking at her life, I understand why. Many times worrying was probably the only way she felt any sense of control over situations. She so frequently called the hospitals asking if they had any patients named Swan, Bell or my sister's last name, that she and the operator (before automated systems) were on a first name basis.

But I'm progressing. I get many opportunities to practice. Brad calls an hour later on his way home from work, Chloe doesn't text me from 4:00 p.m. until the next morning, Peyton or Lily has an unexplainable headache, and on and on. Normal, daily family life. But, when you indulge in catastrophic thinking--as I sometimes still do--those normal occurrences could turn into daily panic attacks. And although I worry less about things, sometimes I fail and revert to rocking in the old comfortable worry chair.

When I opened my eyes on February 5, 1989, I had no idea that my life had been forever changed. Before that day, it never ever occurred to me that my brother, the strongest, most vibrant person I knew could die. When he did, I was devastated beyond understanding, and some primal part of me decided that going forward I should be prepared for the worst and prevent feeling that kind of heartbreak ever again.

I know now that no amount of worry or preparing for the worst can lessen the pain you feel if the worst thing you can imagine actually happens. However, every minute spent worrying about the unknown will certainly lessen your joy.

One of the best coping mechanisms I learned was in a group therapy class when the facilitator asked regarding anxiety over a situation, "What is the worst that could happen? And what if it did?" We've all lived through bad things, and since life doesn't offer any get-out-of-pain-and-suffering passes as far as I know, the chances are pretty good that we'll live through more.

I've been trying this crazy technique lately of actually feeling my feelings and being with them. Normally, I immediately judge them, "Why do you get so angry about stupid things? What's wrong with you?" or distract myself from them, "I'm really worried so I think I'll watch Parenthood and not think about it," or stuff them, "Well, I'm just going to bury this sadness underneath a healthy dose of anger and maybe some cookies and then I'll project it onto the next stupid thing that happens." I know I belong on a couch.

Anyway, you know how in meditation you acknowledge your thoughts--that was a thought--but don't get caught up in them? That's what I've been trying to do. Today, that has amounted to a lot of acknowledging sadness and crying, which is okay, because I know eventually I'll stop crying. Still gonna skip mascara today.

Have you ever tried that? I'd highly recommend it. The next time you're worried or stressing about something, stop and ask yourself: What is the worst possible thing that could happen? What would I do if it did? Let me know what happens.

Have a beautiful day! xoxo