Somehow, I Thought I Would Be Better


Here’s the thing. I actually feel somewhat embarrassed admitting this, but it’s where I’m at right now.

I thought it would be different.

I thought it would be better.

I thought I would be different.

I thought I would be better.

But truthfully, although things got better briefly, better eventually just became the new normal.

You see, for years, my main pains in life were the daily minutiae of which a life is made.

You know the sort.

Cooking meals. Cleaning the house. Paying bills. Sorting mail. Keeping the kitchen table clutter free. (hahahahah! Like THAT is ever going to last or happen for longer than a day or two.)

And FINALLY, these past three months, I have been making big strides. I now cook the majority of my meals and a lot of my psychic pain revolving around meal times is gone.

I’ve given up on cleaning the house, but I have vacuumed a few times, and decluttered a few times (and I could really do it a few more times), and I am finally now considering getting a housecleaner again because my house is probably filthy I’m just accustomed to its filthiness.

I sort the mail and take care of any outstanding medical bills immediately (because those are the only ones that are not on autopay – despite my best efforts to make them so). I mean, gone are the days of being 90-180 days late for no reason other than not opening mail.

But after a few months (and likely a few weeks) of my new reality, the shine has worn off and now it’s just regular old reality and I’M STILL DISSATISFIED WITH MY LIFE.

Damn you, hedonic treadmill!

And last Friday, I was talking with Dr. T about how I feel unfulfilled and like I do nothing of substance all day and how I’m still not done with my ebook despite being 95% done and how I start things but don’t finish them and how I want to try for things but I am so afraid of failure and —

And you know what? I’m terribly worried that even if I do finish that ebook that a few weeks later and it will be my new normal again and I will go about feeling BLAH about my life again. 

The irony is that during the first or second session ever with Dr. T, she mentioned that she thought some of my feelings of stress and whatever was due to my not having a clear idea of what my identity was. That it used to be tied up in work or the things I did or accomplished, and now that I am a SAHM, I felt adrift and identiy-less.

At the time, I thought she was full of crap.

Oh, the crow I eat whenever it comes to things Dr. T observes. (Seriously, the only really good decision I ever made about Dr. T and her advice was sticking with her despite me thinking her kinda woowoo at the beginning.)

And now, here I am. TOTALLY FEELING UNIDENTIFIED.

I felt somewhat comforted the other day when I saw an old post of mine pop up in Facebook Memories. I guess this is how I feel every spring.

But then, I got bummed out because it seems that no matter what I do, no matter how many successes or risks I take, it all goes back to me being terrified of failure and being immobilized by it.

I start so many things only for them to end up abandoned and collecting dust in the wayside.

I have so many ambitions and yet so little follow through.

I feel as if life is passing me by and I can’t even get my shit together enough to homeschool my children.

I feel like a huge failure. 

I don’t know if it’s my Virgo-ness, my ESFJ-ness, my Type 7 Enneagram-ness, or something else entirely (FWIW, I hold very low stock in astrological determiners of personality), but there it is.

And it’s no use telling me how I manage to keep four children alive, blah blah blah blah blah.

In my wretched mind, if I can do it, it’s not that hard, therefore it doesn’t really deserve praise.

Truthfully, I don’t know what will make me feel better. And whether if something makes me feel better, whether the feeling will be permanent or just become the new baseline.

All I know is that I feel kinda meh and blah right now.

Maybe this is how I feel every spring. Restless and desiring bigger and better things. And then life crushes it all out of me.

Anyhow, there is no neat resolution to this post. I’m still figuring it out.

Dr. T asked me what I wanted, and again, I have no idea. Except maybe to feel as if I am doing something worthwhile. (And yes, raising four small humans is eminently worthwhile – but the end result takes SO LONG.)

I want to feel as if I am productive; making something of concrete value and worth. Yet all day long, I do lots of things and am productive but it is the stuff of life. You can’t just eat once and then you’re done. (And that is DEFINITELY not possible with cleaning or laundering or the folding of the laundry.)

And so, each day, it feels as if all I did was erased and swept away by the tumult and happy clamor of my tiny and forceful humans.

It is very unsatisfactory.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m  not depressed. I’m not UNhappy. Just not SATISFIED.

I’m positive Hapa Papa is feeling the same thing (except perhaps slightly worse since he’s not very happy at his job and at least I have more free time than he does and get to stare at all my adorable babies all day).

And before people start writing in with the comments about me needing Jesus or essential oils or both, thanks. I have both. In abundance. (Seriously, I have an entire DRAWER full of oils. And I suppose I have Jesus in my heart or something. So admittedly, that might be in less abundance because I have a cold, dark heart.)

Anyhow, no neatly wrapped bow on this post because that’s not the way life works. We just keep trudging along until one day, we’re on the other side (and hopefully, feeling less blah when I actively pursue the things I think I want).

Have a good Wednesday! May you find what you’re looking for.

 

 

Being Invisible

“So, what do you ladies do?” The hairy, overly tanned middle-aged white man asked.

My friend, Laney, and I had been busy chatting in the hot tub on our last day together when Bob*, with the self-importance only a middle-aged white man can project, interjected and proceeded to monologue for the next 45 minutes wherein our sole purpose was to murmur sweet, appreciative assents while we seethed yet somehow were trapped in societal expectations and did not extricate ourselves. After all, we were there first! Why should we be forced to move? And yet, who was the big loser in this encounter? Us.

I am still pissed about this.

Anyhow, Bob had now moved on from what he thought about himself and was now, however briefly, willing to share the spotlight with one of us.

“What do you do?” he asked again as Laney and I hesitated. Do we engage more? Do we reply in a way to seem interesting? Or do we reply in such a way as to shut down conversation?

I knew what I would do.

“I’m a stay at home mom,” I said.

I watched as the interest in his eyes died before I even finished speaking the words. He turned immediately to Laney

I was uncertain whether I was relieved or furious that he did exactly as I had ensured. Hadn’t I answered in this way so that he would dismiss me and my life? So that I could deflect and not have to endure him any more than I had to?

And yet. And yet.

Every now and then when I think about my life, I think how it is the perfect NOC (non-official cover for those of you not in the know) for spies, cons, and surveillance personnel. After all, there is nothing more nondescript than a mother with her children. No one expects them to be anything but what they are – which is innocuous background noise (at least, until one of those kids has a very public meltdown).

We blend. We are scenery. We disappear.

Today, I walked into a cafe without my usual coterie of babies and for a brief second, I made eye contact with a man sitting at the counter. My mind wandered to where it normally wanders in a split second. I wondered, what would I be like now if I were single? Would I still be attractive? Desirable?

When I meet men now, do they even see me? Or do they only see my SAHM uniform of sweats, unwashed face and hair, long sleeve tee, thick ugly socks, and double-wrapped scarf?

And why does it matter?

Every time I ask Hapa Papa if he is ever worried I will have an affair, he always laughs. Not unkindly, mind you. But still. He laughs.

Nothing is as flattering as your husband laughing at the idea of you having an affair because who would want to have an illicit affair with someone encumbered with three small, young children?

Hapa Papa sure knows how to make a woman feel desirable. Sorry, ladies. He’s taken.

Incidentally, this is not a post to elicit reassurances from my lovely and dear friends.

Lately, I wonder if I ever felt as if I were visible or if it is solely a consequence of my current identity. Did I ever feel as if I owned a place? Secure with my place in the world? My role? My identity?

Or is this merely another manifestation of feeling as if amazing and I are mutually exclusive states of being?

Whatever the reason, I’m done. 2016, you’ve been warned. And you’ll see me coming.

 

*Not his real name. Or it could be. I have no idea. I’m still pissed off about it but I forgot his name in its entirety.

Radical Self-Care

So last week, after I cleaned my laundry room and cleared my kitchen table (I would post a pic but I fear jinxing the situation), and then doing and folding several loads of laundry, I was exhausted. I think I also cooked most of our meals. (Hapa Papa couldn’t figure out whose house he was living in but he wasn’t complaining.) By the end of last week, I was tired, cranky, and barely homeschooled Cookie Monster.

I went into my session with Dr. T feeling defeated and bleh and annoyed with myself.

want to be an excellent homeschooling parent, keep my home clean/neat, and cook good, nutritious meals for my family. But I often feel as if I can only have one, or maybe max out at two of these desires. So, because this week I cleaned and then cooked, I sucked at homeschooling. Like, totally blanked out. I’m surprised Cookie Monster learned anything at all last week. Especially after I yelled at him several times while working with him on math and piano.

I remember back in May, Dr. T asked me what would nurture me and give me life. I had no idea and as a result, got really sad, feeling as if I were no longer a person.

When I think of things that I assume should bring me life such as going on Mothers’ Night Out, hanging out with my friends, running off to the spa and getting massages or pedicures, reading, or watching TV, they are things that I enjoy, but don’t really give me life.

To me, all these activities are escapes. They are my alcohol or drug. I flee my home but come back more exhausted (usually due to staying up too late and not having the energy to take care of my kids and then feeling shitty about that). They don’t actually solve any of my problems.

Then, Dr. T told me something that in retrospect, seems so obvious. Also, suspiciously “easy.”

She told me that for me, self-care would be when I chose not to stay up late to finish a book in one sitting and instead, retired at a more reasonable hour so that I wouldn’t be tired the next morning. Self-care would be when I chose to communicate with Hapa Papa and let him have moments to rest so that I wouldn’t feel guilty about being an entitled prat. Self-care would be when I chose to go through the mail every day and pay bills immediately rather than have mail stack up for months and years at a time. Self-care would be when I chose to walk away from my kids when I feel like I’m going to explode and scream at them for whatever ridiculous reason at the time.

Self-care looked nothing like what I thought it did. And also, seemed semi-doable once I stopped freaking out about doing the self-care “right.”

After some thought, here then, are some things that I can do to make myself feel nurtured and cared for:

1) In order to not feel guilty all the time regarding feeling entitled to tons of free time and shunting the brunt of house and childcare onto Hapa Papa, I will:

– Let Hapa Papa sleep in and I will take the morning shift on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. (Currently, he lets me sleep in every morning unless he is out traveling or needs to be in the office early.)

– Check in with Hapa Papa to make sure he’s doing okay. (I know, I know. It’s weird to actually communicate – but apparently, that is what people do in marriages.)

– Thank Hapa Papa and choose to be grateful for all that he does rather than feel entitled to his kindness and easy-going attitude.

2) Eat regularly (such as breakfast).

– This includes making simple but nutritious food for my family on a more regular basis (we’re talking rice/noodles + meat + veg + fruit).

– Making and drinking more smoothies/popsicles

– Eating fruit. (I realize I buy all this fruit but I save it all for my kids. I don’t actually eat them myself.)

– Taking my vitamins/supplements consistently.

3) Sort and take care of mail daily. (Including paying bills immediately.)

4) Kitchen table daily. Otherwise, the mail and art and stuff stacks up on my kitchen table until we have a party/event at my house and then we shove all that stuff into a bag and then we shove that into the laundry room. And then, I have just piles and piles of bags full of stuff that I have to sort again a year later.

5) Tidy up play areas 15 minutes daily. Force the kids to be part of this in order to earn their screen time for the next day. The place doesn’t have to be spotless, but tidier.

6) Exercise/stretch. Since I have so many things I want to do to care for myself, I’m going to combine this with the children, too. Make them stretch and exercise with me.

7) Meditate. Also, with the children. Likely, right before bed so we can calm down a bit before the nightly ritual of them getting out of bed a million times until I scream at them to stop.

8) Go to bed before midnight. That’s really still not enough time, but I just need to consciously choose to stop choosing to watch shows when it’s 11:30pm or to stop reading even if I’m not yet done. Otherwise, the brief feeling of satisfaction is occluded by my bitchiness due to lack of sleep.

9) Fold laundry and/or do dishes ASAP(This will likely not happen – but one can dream.)

10) Walk away when mad/frustrated. This will hopefully help me not scream at my kids.

11) Write/journal.

12) Put down my phone. I need to stop using my phone so much when I have downtime and just take out a pen and paper and write. Or read. Or whatever. I have the time. I just waste it.

Even looking at this list makes me sort of tighten up inside. I feel anxious and as if I’m setting myself up to fail. However, I just have to tell my all-or-nothing personality to STFU and chill the fuck out.

So, I just have to remind myself (and perhaps you dear readers can help, too). This post is just a gentle reminder of the things I can do to cut down on my anxiety. It is not supposed to make me feel more anxious. (Ah, irony.)

I mean, this is silly and too easy, right? And I say, “easy” because if I had only been doing this already, much of my cycle of angry cleaning then exhaustion would be solved, right? This post is seriously just a Mash Note to the proverb: A stitch in time saves nine. (Incidentally, I didn’t even understand this saying until a few years ago. When I literally was stitching/patching Cookie Monster’s pants. This is probably why I have so many fails at adulting.)

So, this is just how it looks for me to self-care. What does it look like for you?

 

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

What is it about life that it just piles and piles and piles on top of everything and everywhere?

I mean, I realize that entropy is the default state of being and the Second Law of Thermodynamics so why fight against The Universe?

And yet.

No matter how much (or let’s be real, little) I do, it’s never enough. I always feel behind the 8-ball.

Is this a Woman Thing? Or a Mom Thing?

I mean, I don’t really hear Hapa Papa bitching and moaning about the state of the house (although, lately, it seems to be pressing on even him) or feeling as if he’s always behind or never caught up on shit.

However, now that I think about it – and I mean this in no way to diminish what Hapa Papa does because he is quite the involved father and provides pretty much all monetary support for our family – he really only has two major areas of responsibility: providing monetarily for the family and being an involved father.

Everything else is on me. Now, usually I don’t mind because quite frankly, I’m a control freak and I rather enjoy having everything be what I want it to be (or think it should be). But then, when things aren’t quite right, it’s all on me.

Hapa Papa is an easy-going guy and a good sport, so other than a few things, he really doesn’t have a particular opinion on whatever new parenting philosophy I’m trying this month or homeschooling or sports (wait, he does have an opinion on sports) or food or household chores or whatever. As long as it doesn’t particularly bother him, Hapa Papa mostly just gets out of my way and lets me do my thing and tries to support me as much as he can.

He is a good man.

But just like I (God-willing) will never have to feel that singular burden of providing financially for our household, he will never have to feel that singular burden of everything else. The staggering amounts of minutiae in the daily lives of five living and growing human beings.

I am overwhelmed.

(Although, I can’t say I have ever felt whelmed.)

It doesn’t seem as if it’s that much. I mean, I am a competent person of above-average intelligence and ability, right? Right?

So why do I feel so shitty? And so dissatisfied?

And now that I think about all the stuff that is within my purview, it really is a lot! I mean, I am not exaggerating when I say that Hapa Papa only needs to think about (and do) his career/making money and being a good father/husband. (And to clarify, Hapa Papa does a ton more than the “average” husband – so please know that I definitely appreciate him!)

Here’s just some stuff off the top my head that I have to take care of on a regular basis:

– Follow up with Car Rental Company to make sure they submit the missing paperwork to our credit card company re: a claim
– Follow up with Health Insurance Company re: multiple claims/missing money
– Submit FSA receipts
– Take care of all benefits
– Physicals and dental appointments for the whole family
– Saving/Investing
– Paying everyone and every institution that we need to pay
– Enrolling/Scheduling kids and their classes and paying on a monthly/quarterly basis
– Shuttling kids to all their activities
– Feeding/Bathing/Clothing/Maintaining/Keeping Alive/Disciplining children (and self and Hapa Papa)
– Keeping track of extended family birthdays/special events/visits/illnesses/etc.
– Keeping in touch with family friends
– Scheduling car maintenances
– Insurance (life/health/car/home/flood/umbrella WHATEVER)
– Shopping (food/clothes/home/educational/etc.)
– Cooking
– Cleaning/Laundry/Dishes/Garbage
– Mail (absolutely my LEAST favorite)
– Diapers
– Potty Training
– Parenting
– Taking out the garbage
– Compost
– Returning library books
– Sleep training
– Homeschooling
– Ovulation/Fertility Tracking (if we are still trying for a fourth)
– Taxes
– Anything that requires a phone call or a live human

Look. I know this shit is what life is made of. And again, it’s not like Hapa Papa doesn’t contribute in terms of housework (I am always elated when he unloads the dishwasher – one of my LEAST favorite activities even though it is incredibly simple). Furthermore, Hapa Papa is amazing at giving me space to decompress and disappear from the family. He gives me entire WEEKENDS (on a regular basis!) so I know I have it good.

But if I have it so good and am still feeling crushed, how the fuck are other people doing this?

Is everyone else just better at faking it?

(Ok. I do know some people who are terrible at faking it and when I look at them, I judge. I know. I’m a hypocrite. But seriously. Come on, people. Get your shit together.)

What do you think? Are we all just sucking at “adulting”? Did our parents have these problems, too? They must have, right? Let me know in the comments.

When Did I Cease to be a Person?

A few weeks ago, Dr. T asked me to think about what would nurture me as a person. I had no idea what she was talking about. Nurture? As a person?

I said that I did plenty of things I enjoyed – Hapa Papa gave me plenty of free time (more so than he had for himself). I wasn’t sure I needed any more time.

Dr. T replied that things I enjoyed doing such as reading or watching TV or hanging out with friends wasn’t necessarily the same as something Life Giving. Or something after which I felt refreshed and renewed.

I just stared at her blankly.

I thought all week about it and got sadder and sadder.

How could I have no idea what would nurture me? How could everything I thought of only address the surface of things?

Every thing I thought of, I came up with an excuse of how it would be too hard logistically to implement. Or how it depended on too many other people.

And finally, I just wanted to cry.

When did I cease to be a person?

When did everything I do revolve around getting through the day and making sure my kids are alive at the end of it?

How is it that I long for deep connections with my children yet cannot stand spending time with them without constantly checking the clock or texting or Facebooking?

And when I think about what would make me feel like a person, it seems like all those things aren’t actually what would make me a person. Just things I think a person outwardly resembles.

How can I not even know what I want? Or what would make me happy? Or what would give me life?

I feel like I’m a hollowed out discarded exoskeleton, seemingly whole but with no real bones. Fragile.

All the things that I think would make me happy, “If only I did XYZ, then my life would be better…” type things – they pile up and add to guilt and feeling bad and inadequate.

Dr. T believes that I constantly feel bad about myself. I have to take her word for it because it is like background noise to me – a situation that I am likely to only notice once it has ceased.

This week, Dr. T wants me to stop myself when I feel guilty. She says guilt is an indication of moral judgment so she wants me to examine what I’m feeling guilty about, what the underlying moral belief is, and whether or not I truly believe it. If I do, great. If I don’t, to throw it away.

I just nod and say, “Ok” even if I’m not really that sure what she’s talking about.

Am I the only one? The only non-person amidst a sea of Real Persons?

That may explain why I am so, so lonely.

 

 

Synthesizing Disintegration

One of the first questions my therapist, Dr. T, ever asked me to consider revolved around my identity. Something about how my becoming a Stay At Home Mom after a decade of working and being an adult affected me. At the time, I dismissed it. The observation didn’t ring true. But more and more, I’m thinking Dr. T might be onto something. Not specifically about being a SAHM, but more in the general sense of identity and my own conflict at integrating disparate parts of who I think I am, who I want to be, who I think I should be, and who I really am underneath all these divergent selves.

It seems daunting, but really, I’ve done this before. Or at the very least, shed old aspects of me that no longer fit my new narrative.

For example, I used to speed and drive recklessly all the time. In high school, with my car full of friends, I was passing someone on a one lane road when a semi-truck was barreling down head-on at us. Instead of going back to my side of the road, I ignored the truck’s frantic flashing headlights and sped up, stubbornly determined to pass the car to my right. My friends were terrified but didn’t say anything. I felt exhilarated, as if I somehow proved my prowess as a driver.

I would avoid turning on my headlights or windshield wipers until absolutely necessary, as if giving into the forces of nature made me a lesser person. That my eyesight or skills as a driver were bolstered or that I was showing undue weakness by admitting I couldn’t see in the dark or through sheets of rain.

In college, I took extreme pride in once getting from LA to the Bay Area in four hours (that’s 350 miles in 4 hours) and knowing that my old 1996 Avalon didn’t start shuddering until I went past 125mph. Again, my car was full of friends (who were asleep and totally unaware).

When Hapa Papa and I first started dating, I recall feeling so badass and smug when flying down the 10 freeway in the middle of the night on the way to Laughlin, NV and zooming past Hapa Papa’s fraternity brothers, as if that somehow made me cool instead of heedlessly endangering lives.

But then, sometime about ten years ago, I got my second speeding ticket ever on the Grapevine (all my speeding tickets have been on that blasted stretch of road) and I had an epiphany. Was decreasing travel time by at most thirty minutes worth the monetary outlay (over $350 ticket), traffic school, and subsequent eighteen months of Grandma-like driving due to trying to avoid a point on my license worth it? Wouldn’t it just be easier to leave earlier? Or not care how long it takes?

Gradually, I realized that turning on headlights wouldn’t diminish my worth or abilities. That not only was it safer for me and easier to see, I was actually helping other people see me on the road. Or when I used the windshield wipers, I wasn’t wasting RainX or being Grandma-like. I was being responsible. And RainX is cheaper than an accident or death.

Then, once I had kids, I had precious cargo that was my responsibility and duty to keep safe. So I became the kind of driver I used to mock. I was far more careful and rarely ever sped. I try to avoid talking or texting on the phone (admittedly, a very difficult task that I’ve enlisted Cookie Monster’s help in keeping me accountable). I try to ask myself if speeding/texting/whatever is worth injuring/killing my children, myself, or someone else’s child or parent.

Sure, I still take a ridiculous amount of pride in my parallel parking abilities (old habits die hard), but many of my other silly notions of what being a more than competent driver have been stripped away by time, tickets, and reality. This identifying marker of being a “badass” driver morphed into being a cautious driver, a detail that fit my new narrative of a SAHM.

And ultimately, who cares? (I have to say, I absorbed way too many of my father’s stupid ideas about driving, always trying to impress him with my abilities. It’s funny how I only just now realized this.)

I have so many out-moded ideas of who I think I am. Whether shaped by pop-culture, my parents, my peers, or my own brokenness. I cling to these outer markers as if they make up who I am; these images make me valuable and worthy as a person.

I thought I had gotten over so many of my self-worth problems in college and right after. I guess I didn’t. (Or had to dig deeper.)

Dr. T suggested that I pommel my kids and myself with expectations that whether realistic or not, I use as an armor to protect myself from this horrible feeling that perhaps who I am underneath all the characteristics I find valuable (eg: driving competently, attending UCLA, being educated, being cultured, playing piano, etc.), I am ultimately unworthy or unlovable. (Another gem from Dr. T that I initially found jarring with my personal concept of who I was but now think is spot on. Dr. T seems to be worth every penny, folks!)

I still have to ponder over this concept some more because although the concept itself isn’t new to me (and I have dealt with this before), the idea of this being my current reality still is. Particularly since I seem to have a huge personal blind spot.

I feel embarrassed because logically, I know the things in which I judge myself wanting are silly and ridiculous and not the makings of a worthy human being. And yet, the possibility of my children not having these qualities alarms me.

I grieve the possibility of me passing these warped ideas of worth and value onto my children. They are still small, so perhaps I have yet to break them too much yet.

This whole long post is just to say this: I’ve changed and adjusted my identity before. I can do it again. And this time, perhaps I can be more compassionate on myself (and therefore, others), and maybe, just maybe, see myself as human.

 

Have I Become a Cliché?

Lately, when I wake up in the morning, I feel as if I’m gearing up for combat and my enemies are my children and my life. I feel as if I am a cliché, existing in some hack writer’s mediocre opus to the banalities of being a cosseted, American housewife. My default state of being is annoyed. And wouldn’t you be annoyed if your entire day seemed structured to frustrate your every plan?

Children who refuse to sleep in, refuse to get dressed, refuse to eat breakfast, refuse to eat lunch, refuse to eat dinner, refuse to take a bath, refuse to brush teeth, refuse to get in pajamas, refuse to sleep. Children who have minds of their own – minds who do not magically, beautifully, fantastically, sync with your hive mind and do what you want them to do, how you want them to do it, and when.

I feel myself bristling, constantly on edge, spoiling for a fight. If I’m lucky, I can recognize it and identify these feelings in myself before I do too much damage. I try to remind myself that my children are so small, so tiny, so fragile. That it is hard to be small. To constantly be told what to do, how to do it, and when.

It must be hard to be so small. To constantly have to ask for help. To have such little autonomy.

I think of my friend’s moving article on being a more compassionate mother, reminding myself to remember what it was like to be one, three, or five years old.

It is hard. Both being big and being small.

That’s all for today. Be gentle with yourselves, my friends.