Thursday, April 9, 2015

What went wrong?

A reader asked me if I could pinpoint what went wrong with our weekend away. It got me thinking. It was definitely multifactorial, but I could think of several reasons.

1) We were both stressed and sleep deprived going into it. Both triggers for pointless arguments and hurt feelings for both of us.
2) We didn't plan the weekend. We assumed it would work itself out because last time we went away, we had an amazing time. And we only had about 24 hours when you take away driving time. But there was just more to do where we went before, this was a smaller city with no real "sight seeing" nearby. So there was a lot of time wandering around aimlessly, or sitting in the hotel room.
3) Because we didn't plan, we never took the time to discuss what each others expectations were from the trip. e.g. I brought my Kindle along and had just started a great book, but I never got to read it. I should've mentioned that I'd like an hour or so to myself to read. I also expected it to be "romantic" (whatever that means) and was disappointed that G didn't seem to be thinking that way.
4) We had planned to meet up with a friend of mine who lives there---they were trying to get a sitter to meet us for dinner but couldn't. So we thought we'd go to their house Sunday on our way home. She was flaky about that plan and kept bringing up Saturday. Long story short, she texted me at 5:30 asking if we could meet at 6 for dinner at a pizza place with their whole family. It was nearby so we headed over and got to catch up some (her kids were SO GOOD they just sat there and ate pizza with TOPPINGS and SOUP with vegetables in it while we talked). G mentioned later that he had actually been looking forward to our initial plan for sushi and was annoyed that I didn't just tell her Sunday was our only option.
5) I also had vague expectations that we'd talk about some issues with our relationship or long term plans on this trip but G didn't seem in the mood to talk about serious things. When we were having a drink at the hotel bar, he wanted to play boardgames that they had there. When we were walking, he would keep looking things up on his phone. When we got back to the hotel, he got on the floor to pet the dog instead of sitting on the bed with me (we brought the dog since we couldn't find a dogsitter) and then TURNED ON THE TV. It was driving me nuts, but yet, I never said anything...
6) I'm not good at communicating. He isn't either, but this was my fault. If I had an expectation or I wanted to talk, I should've said it. Instead I said nothing and ended up blowing up Saturday night (after 2+ rather generous glasses of wine) and STILL not telling him the real reason (I honestly can't remember WHAT I said, it was a blur). We had this stupid "fight" about nothing, I got overly emotional and teary, and the night was basically ruined, and I was angry and depressed and couldn't sleep AGAIN.

He keeps asking me to explain what happened that night and I have no real explanation other than "I went a little crazy". I know it was completely my fault. 

We did have a productive (for us) and less emotional discussion about general relationship issues the other night. I laid out the areas in which either or us was unsatisfied and we came up with some ideas for how to fix them. We'll see what happens. We both mentioned that it seems like we have this SAME discussion every 6 months or so, and nothing ever changes. We should probably do a check-in in a month or so to make sure we are on track, instead of waiting until next October for the blow up.

I stumbled upon a forum discussion the other day (looking for something COMPLETELY different, about IRAs) about what makes people's amazing relationships so amazing. It was really eye-opening. Nothing anyone said was NEW, per se, but it led me to a realization. Amazing relationships are based on inherent compatibility of two people's personalities (unchangeable) and certain "relationship skills" (in part, changeable). The whole debate over whether or not relationships should be "hard work"---the answer depends entirely on whether the couple is lucky/smart enough to be completely compatible. If so, there are minimal conflicts and minimal need to "work on" things. When conflicts do come up, if both people know how to deal with conflict effectively, it also feels less like "work". This includes things like: not getting too emotional---dealing with things logically, communication skills, lack of defensiveness, ability to be open/vulnerable, using humor, empathy.

Where does this leave us? G and I are somewhat compatible. There are a few areas, though, that I wish we were more in sync with. We have to actively work on those areas---requiring compromise on both sides---so each others needs get met. We both have TERRIBLE relationship skills. So trying to navigate these issues becomes a minefield of defensiveness, tears, hurt feelings...and that's when we are able to move past the initial MO of avoidance.

I already KNEW all this on some level, but I'm seeing it more objectively, as a third party looking into our relationship. I see where we were (a really great place), where we are now (not so great) and how we got here (another story for another time), and I actually feel like I have a benchmark for where I want us to be (as opposed to my vague former wishes for "better"). I slept really well last night.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Bright Spots

Even the grayest days have some bright moments. I think they stand out more, in their stark contrast, and I try really hard to notice them, to say to myself "this is a good moment". An island in time where the anxiety is gone, thinking about yesterday and tomorrow subsides, and I can just be happy. It may be 5 minutes, or an hour, but it makes the rest of the day easier to get through.

Consistent bright spots:
  • Being outside in nice weather
  • Being outside with the kids in at least halfway-decent weather (the park!)
  • Snuggling with L (he's my cuddly one)
  • Watching the kids play together
  • Finishing a tough workout
  • Finishing a tough project (taxes, a presentation)
  • A good book
A lot of these things, I have no control over. I can't control the weather (FFS, its 40 and rainy today) or my kids' moods. But I can try to get outside when it IS nice, or take the time to hold L in my lap in the morning even if it means being 5 minutes late. I can decide not to waste my evening folding laundry or aimlessly on the internet and pick up a book. I can decide to go to the gym even when I'm really not feeling it, knowing I'll feel better after, or sitting down and tackling the thing hanging over my head even when tomorrow always seems to be the better time. 

I noticed that my list doesn't contain the superficial things I usually think of as "treats" that I try to give myself when I'm feeling down---no good food, glass of wine, TV show, new clothes. I guess those things are mere distractions, and don't really heal the problem.

I'd like to add more to this list---and then fill my life as full as I can with these moments---its nice to know how I can control my happiness to some extent.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Scream Becomes a Yawn

We went away for the weekend, leaving kids with grandma. It was nothing I thought it would be for reasons I can't explain. Instead of being romantic and fun and relaxing, it was tense and boring and exhausting. It didn't help that we were both sleep-deprived and stressed going into it---G was coming down with something, and stayed up 'til 2AM on Friday finishing up work. I haven't slept well in about 2 weeks. It all bubbled up in an ugly and unproductive way. Of all the conversations I'd planned for us to have, the only one we actually had was the one that made it clear without a doubt that we were not having any more children and that I should schedule the IUD I was waffling about next month.

I was relieved when it was time to go home so I could give up the pretense of "having fun". We promised the kids we would buy them a present but could find nothing in the city except overpriced magnets, T-shirts and hats so we stopped by the-big-box-store-that-we-don't-go-to on the drive home and B got them kites.

I was thrilled. They were simple and colorful. It was perfect kite-flying weather---sunny, warm but windy! We got home and immediately took the boys to the park to fly them. All the kids at the park gathered around wanting a turn, all the dads gathered round with advice on how to fly them.

Within 30 minutes they were broken. Later that night, we were assessing the damage, and decided we could reinforce the hole where the stick poked through by sewing a few rows of threat onto it. We tried to rewind the string but there were complicated knots that were impossible to untangle.

That's how I feel these days. In knots that I can't untangle. Everything seems to be piling up into a perfect storm of anxiety, insomnia and dread. Its my mother-in-law still being here (day 16/21 today), and the fact that things always escalate before she leaves, its being on call this week, being hopelessly behind on 8 million things at work, a paper rejected from FOUR journals in a row, a grant around the one project I was excited about rejected, my tech and research coordinator leaving in 3 months, my funding ending in 14 months, second thoughts about our kindergarten choice,  realizing I really truly have no friends to talk to or hang out with right now, the constant rehashing of the same old problems in my relationship 10 years into our marriage, the projects in the house, the travel coming up that I haven't finished planning, the fact that my drawers are a jumble of 80% crap I never wear and 20% stuff too wrinkly to wear all jammed in there and no time to sort it out, the finality of not having any more babies, the thought of the IUD insertion and the pain that may be involved, the many red rows in our budget and no idea how to cut back, and the fact that therapy does not seem to be doing much for my anxiety 6 months into it.

Oh and the not sleeping.

Most of this stuff will work itself out. I just needed to get it off my chest. I'll shut up and carry on*.

*song lyrics NOT from the early 90s!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Look at the dim side...

First---thank you guys so much for all the support on my last post. I felt better immediately, reading your comments, and its incredibly soothing to know I'm not alone! And yes, its 21 DAYS, I saw that the second I posted it, and fixed it, but I think the original must be on your readers?

I can't express how enamored I am of the strategy of low expectations. If things turn out awful, you have the satisfaction of having predicted it. If they turn out OK, well you win again!

So far the weekend went way better than the pit in my stomach Friday afternoon predicted. When I got home Friday, L was at home with my MIL and he wanted to come with me to walk the dog, and he insisted on riding his scooter. After the dog did her business, we had a blast scootering and running up and down the garden block full speed.

Saturday, after a KILLER workout, I took a surprisingly cheerful B to karate and then out for lunch in Chinatown. G, L, and MIL took a car to go to L's classmate's birthday party. When B & I got on the bus to go home, I realized my keys were not in my pocket. We hopped off, retraced our steps, did not find them at the restaurant or the karate studio, and needed to find a way to spend 2.5 hours before the rest of the family came home. There was a library branch around the corner from karate so we went there---this library did not have a separated kids' section, so we couldn't read out loud. Thankfully we found a box of crayons and some print-outs to color and then a computer opened up and no one else came in, so we spent the over an hour playing "Dora's magic castle". I had to help him maneuver the mouse and we had multiple lessons on "how to left click". B was so GOOD---cheerful and flexible, despite walking miles all over the city in the cold, that the whole thing was quite enjoyable. We headed home and the kids watched a movie while G & I got to go on a magical kid-free grocery & liquor store shopping trip! It was so relaxing! We got to chat along the way!

Got home and played with the kids who were both in great moods. I was laughing hysterically at the games L invented, including "hide and seek" with dinosaurs. Except the way he plays hide and seek is to excitedly tell the seeker where he hid the dinosaur. We had to physically restrain him to keep him from telling B where all of our dinos were hiding! Finally calmed them down and got them to bed and G & I went out for a post-dinner date night.

It was pretty lame, actually. We went to a wine bar nearby---for some reason they had the music up SO LOUD everyone had to shout to have their companions here them. We each had 2 drinks and shared a cheese plate & then a dessert, but halfway through (it was 9:30 at this point) we both started yawning and the conversation stalled. I'm glad we went because it would've seemed like a waste of free babysitting to not go anywhere, but honestly we could've gotten 3 cheeses from TJs and split a bottle of wine at home for a fraction of the cost, and without the hearing damage.

Today has been meh. I'm tired, probably from going full out yesterday without a break. Its even colder. The kids are fighting and grumpy. Everyone left a while ago for the science museum, and I have been cooking/making lunches/cleaning up. I'm supposed to be hemming a night gown for my MIL but I'm writing this instead. I better go re-learn how to set up the sewing machine, its been 2 years since I last used it.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Thoughts

Whoa is me edition. In bullets for easier consumption
  • Insomnia is THE WORST. I've been tired for all sorts of reasons, and the one thing that keeps me going is the thought of sweet sweet sleep at the end of the day. Except with insomnia, I've got the thought of yet another night tossing and turning despite being so tired you want to throw up. 
  • My mother-in-law is here. This is the end of day 6 of 21. Her being here makes me so anxious for so many reasons. Ugh. Its not even like I get all this free time to do other things because I've either been busy with work or I don't actually have anything fun to do.
  • I'm sure those two are related.
  • We did plan a night away NEXT weekend. We booked a car and a night at a dog-friendly hotel (so we don't also have to find & pay a dog-sitter). The kids will get almost 2 full days of being totally and completely spoiled rotten with sugar and screen time. 
  • Hopefully the time away will give G and I a chance to talk about several issues we just haven't had the time/energy to discuss despite living in the same damn house.  Including the 25th time we discuss WHY we don't make time to talk/energy to talk to each other.
  • This weekend we have: saturday: Karate for B, birthday party for L and sunday: swimming for B, science museum for all (except me, since we only have 4 passes in our membership I'll stay home and cook & clean whoo!). And its going to be cold. I'm not super looking forward to it.
  • I really need some friends. I have no one to complain to/bond with over all this crap. Also no one to do fun things with that isn't my immediate family. If there is anything I miss about being younger, its having a handful or more of good friends.
  • I don't think I'm as much of an introvert as I thought I was. I just need some quiet time at home once in a while, and I don't love  am terrified of meeting new people or small talk. I very much like and NEED interaction with people I feel comfortable with. I HATE that I work in an office all by myself and can go days without talking to anyone, and have no one to commiserate or celebrate with over the day to day things or the big life-changing things. Its very isolating. I miss the cameraderie of working in the lab. I wonder how much my success during that time was driven simply by being happy where I was.
  • Its surprisingly easy not to buy things that I don't need. I have spent $0 on material things for myself in 2015. Its near impossible to get costs down on our needs, though. Our grocery bill is astounding and I have no idea how to fix it without spending a lot of time going to various stores or inventing new recipes. G and I are at loggerheads about the cell phone plan (he wants to keep the fancy expensive one). Its not HARD but its miserable not to spend on experiences that aren't needs but are wants---eating food outside the home, activities for kids, travel. We are continuously having to tweak our budget and less goes into savings than I plan each month because we spend it all.
  • Reading about certain things still causes intense feelings: third pregnancies, nursing babies. I try to tread lightly but I can't help it, once I notice it, its too late. (feelings such as: jealousy, inadequacy, regret)
Well its 5pm, lets get this party started. (by party I mean, walk home, walk the dog, deal with tired no-nap kid who's home with MIL, side step prickly MIL comments, await cranky had to go to school kid, and begin weekend)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Springing Ahead

The snow has melted, the days are longer, and we all just got better from a week of alternating illnesses (upper respiratory and GI in a wondrous mix). Everything's coming up Ana!

I was inspired by reading SHU's evening routine post to make some changes to our own evenings. For multiple reasons, we've completely switched things up lately. We enrolled B in an evening activity (karate, 2 blocks from his school, 5:30-6, M/W) so we have to tag team the pick up, where one of us takes B to class and the other gets L home & walks the dog (typically G brings them home and I go home & walk the dog, the daycare is 2 blocks from his office). That means more one on one kid time which both of us find so much more enjoyable than trying to wrangle both kids. Because B is starving after karate, we started sending a small "dinner" for him to eat before class. And then, since he liked that, we started sending dinners with both boys some days. Which means we no longer eat together as a family most nights. It also means we can: go to the park, stop for a treat on the way home, go to the library, or just PLAY together instead of struggling through trying to get kids who are excited to be home with their toys to wash hands, sit at table on bottoms, eat, use manners, wait until everyone is done. There was always nagging, often yelling, and sometimes tears. And G and I had to hoover down our food while we tended to the kids' needs for more this and I dropped that and the DAILY bathroom breaks during dinner (gastro-colic reflex must be strong).

We don't do it everyday (because we frankly can't get it together to pre-cook a dinner every weeknight), and we'll probably take a break from it when G's mom is here for the next 3 weeks, but it was just so so freeing to finally recognize that no one was getting anything except rage out of family dinners right now, and our time with our kids has way more quality doing other things.

Since I now have to leave work early to head across town twice a week, I started going in earlier on those days. Which means our mornings have changed, too. Negotiating this schedule led to a realization and then a discussion about my need to start working as early as possible to take advantage of my energy cycle. I am a morning person, and using that precious morning energy on wrangling kids (which also sometimes led to fights with G)---which left me spent by the time I even got to work---was a really poor time/energy management. I will no longer take the kids to school outside of special circumstances (I used to do it once or twice a week because the kids asked me to) and I will not wait around watching the kids while G gets ready (his morning routine is a whole different arena and his problem to solve). They can play alone or watch a show the way they do on the days I leave early for clinic.

I'm sitting here writing this after a very atypical day. I woke up at 5:30 to work out, got ready, then did laundry and lunch prep for tomorrow waiting to take B to the dentist at 9:30. After the dentist, I met G and we went to the bank to close on the refinance of our mortgage. We finished early and got lunch from a food cart and ate it at a park near city hall. Then I walked home and worked full tilt from noon-5, got everything done in half the time, and now I will take the dog out. G is taking the boys to the park since its the last nice day this week so they may not be home until late. We'll give them a snack, get them to bed, and eat dinner while watching...not sure...we finished House of Cards last night.

I'm not happy with this post, its poorly written, but I know its better to just start back up and the more inspired posts will come. Still haven't worked out a blogging routine. How do you guys make time?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Odds and more odds

Obviously can't get it together to tackle all the meaty issues I really want to discuss here, but our noon conference got cancelled so I'll throw out some bullets

  • My parents came for a few days earlier this month. They couldn't have come at a more perfect time, when we sincerely needed some help and distraction for the kids. It was also nice to spend time with them. I'm so grateful they are both still in relatively good health at 67 & 70 years of age.
  • We've figured out school (or, it was figured out for us) for B next year. I also put a deposit on after school care. Regardless of my concerns about this momentous transition, its nice to have it sorted. We also went to a meet & greet with parents/kids of next year's KG class and it was amazingly fun for adults and for B. Its a good group.
  • Buying plane tickets certainly upsets the budget! We bought 4 tickets to fly across the country (1 will be reimbursed, since its conference travel for me), 4 tickets to fly down south for our annual beach trip and 1 ticket to fly my MIL down next month for a visit, all in the past 5 weeks. Since I just started budgeting in January, I hadn't added anything to our "vacation" fund yet so its all a big mess.
  • Clothes shopping ban is easy peasy. Its too cold to wear anything "cute", but I do feel like I'm wearing half of the clothes I own all at the same time on any given day. 
  • e.g. Today I'm wearing 2 pairs of socks & snow boots, fleece lined tights under cords, a tunic under a sweater dress, and a scarf. and that is INDOORS because my office is ridiculous. But last time I asked them to make it warmer, I had to strip down to tank tops in the middle of winter, so I'm not sure what's worse.
  • My HIIT  coach is leaving for at least a few months (if not permanently). I was actually quite sad when he told me. He is a rare gem of a teacher that can motivate me to work out without annoying the ever loving crap out of me. I hope the new teachers aren't terrible enough to make me quit because I've never been stronger. 
  • Another cold/snowy/rainy weekend ahead. Must think of "anchor events" to prevent total despondence. 
  • L has wind burn on his little face. Its the saddest thing. "My cheeks are COLD FIRE"
  • Its like we're sleep training again, trying to get L to stay in his own bed over night. So far bribes are working the best, but he tends to forget and come upstairs and we have to get up in the cold cold and take him back down. We are tired. But the partial co-sleeping was making us more tired because he's gotten to be more noisy, grabby and annoying in his sleep and both parents were bleary-eyed and angry (its a special kind of exhausted irritability. sleepy angry. slangry? can we make that a thing?)
  • Pretty much every person north of the MDL says this every year around this time, but I really can't wait until Spring! After too many home-bound weekends, we start a whirlwind of activity mid-March: visit to sister, MIL visit--which will enable G & I a weekend away, our cross-country trip, and then few weeks later our (early this year because 3/4 cousins start KG in September) beach trip!

Whoo hoo, I managed a 10 minute blog post!