Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Persona

Nicoleandmaggie had a recent post about the difference between your blog persona and real life. I didn't have much to say, because I figured that since I am just "being myself" here, and not trying to concoct a personality (or sell a "brand"), that my blog persona is pretty identical to me in real life. Simply a more eloquent version of myself (with less cursing). Of course, a lot more self-focused---it is my personal blog, and I have no right to tell others' stories. But, overall, pretty similar.

But recent comments on my posts have made me rethink this. In fact, I'm starting to think that my online persona skews a bit....how do I put it....miserable cow

I read through a few random posts and while its certainly my voice, there does seem to something missing. I can't really describe it...something light? And strangely, I even think the image I'm projecting in people's heads probably looks a lot different than I do in real life (I've been told that, from a couple of bloggers I've met, actually). With the few bloggers I read that don't post photos, I definitely do create an image in my head of what they look like (and where they are geographically, when they don't say), and I bet I'm way off on some of you!

I'm definitely way less serious in real life. Funnier (if you know me in real life and disagree, just let me have my delusions). I write about all the "rules" I create for myself but I rebel against them on the regular, because damn I love cheese puffs, and cocktails, and shopping. I'm not going to describe my physical appearance, because that is weird when you aren't 7 years old.

Sure, I sometimes yell at my kids and snip at my husband. You would too, given the nonsense that goes on at my house sometimes (OMG bedtime). I'm not a freaking saint! And I don't naturally enjoy noise and chaos. I get anxious sometimes. I'm not naturally inclined towards uncertainty. And I'm extremely averse to conflict. Things I have recognized in myself and am working on, because I know life could be paradoxically more calm and also more exciting if I was open to more risk and failure. 

I work out my problems on this page. Tangled jumbles of thoughts & feelings become more manageable when I get them out of my head, separate them, and examine them in the light. Its therapeutic. I do tend to focus on the negative here, for sure, because the rest of my life is devoted to noticing and appreciating the good parts. Also, y'all give good advice. I like the feedback, and the complicated discussions. I like cutting past the pleasantries and diving into the depths with my friends, and I can get that here.

Anyways, just something I've been pondering the past couple of days. 

Do you think your online persona reflects the real you?


Monday, May 23, 2016

All You Need

Thanks for the thoughtful & truthful comments on the last post. I did take them to heart, and I discussed the situation with my primary doctor this morning, and she ended up recommending that I go back to therapy and take time out of my day to journal. Not the focus-on-the-bright-side gratitude journal I like to do before bed, but the get--the-hard-stuff-out therapy-substitute type (NOT to be done right before bed!) that she thinks will help me get the negative thoughts/feelings out of my brain/body and allow me to relax and sleep. I agreed to try it. She's a good doctor, with lots of professional and life experience, and mentioned specifically that she treats a lot of physicians with anxiety, and my case is not atypical for (her words) high-achieving women in the middle of career/parenting/marriage/family pressures. I trust her judgement completely. She also prescribed more Ambien, because damn if it doesn't work like a charm on those days that I need it.

After a rough week of work, last weekend was exactly what I needed, like a soothing balm to my tired and troubled soul. I feel relaxed and content today, even though I'm typing this from the kitchen table in between trying (and failing) to revise grant sections while a presumably "sick" B keeps asking for snacks and entertainment. It honestly could've been a terrible weekend. It rained nearly constantly. I was sick, and exhausted. I didn't work out at all (I haven't worked out for a full week). We spent a lot of time at home. And yet...I felt so completely surrounded by love, and laughter. It was restorative.  I'm recording it here for my memory.

It started Friday evening, with G and I enjoying some wine in the backyard while the kids jumped around eating popsicles. We got Thai take-out, and caught up on our weeks as well as some TV shows---it was our first time hanging out together the whole crazy week. Saturday morning G made blueberry pancakes for the boys. We got ready and met L's friend & parents at the children's museum. The parents were really cool, low-key, and we had good conversations. The boys ran around and had a blast and exhausted themselves. We came home and I helped the boys make rock sugar candy (well, ok, I did most of it). We have jars of supersaturated and brightly colored sugar solution with our sticks suspended in them, waiting for the candy to form. 

L wanted, as usual, to "play with me", so we sat for over an hour, going through the Highlights magazines we got as a gift and never seem to open. He got really into doing each activity. It was especially sweet, because I never see that focused and intent side of my energetic little guy. He leaned against me, excitedly pointing out the differences and the silly things. Then I went to the grocery store and walked home with 40 lbs on groceries on my shoulders, in the rain, and I LOVED IT. It was such a challenge and workout! Leftover yummy thai for dinner, and G and I watched a silly feel-good movie.

Sunday night I slept terribly and woke with an awful headache at 5:30 and couldn't get back to sleep until 7. G got up with the boys and I grabbed an extra hour of sleep. I had my coffee, took some pain meds, and took the dog on an extra long walk, letting the cool air & the medicine work its magic. When I got home the boys were excitedly working on a birthday card for me. They were SO SO proud of their creation (its a secret, though, not until my birthday!), that I can't wait to see it! Later I took the boys to the park while G did some chores, and then he took them to the market so I could rest. I got to lie in bed and read my book (Kate Morton's "the Lake House"...its so so good) while the sun came out and streamed into our room. Heavenly.

The boys were bursting with excitement when they got home, not just from the sugar high of the ice creams they ate, but because they picked out cheeses and crackers for me, "to make you happy!". They got their weekly "swimming pool bath" which they take together in our big jacuzzi tub (that usually is a dog-washing tub or a spot for our clothes-drying-rack, because I'm not a bath person). They had their screen time, while G and I enjoyed the cheeses and crackers with wine. Then they came up and discovered their hidden champagne tastes and suddenly they wanted no part of pasta and only wanted to polish off the expensive crackers and wedge of manchego  and cured meats for dinner. L apparently got a cheese high and had us uncontrollably laughing as he danced & pranced & made faces (he's definitely a clown, and he lives for our laughs).

We weren't in the mood for a real dinner after the cheese plate, but hungry after the boys went down (the less said about bedtime the better...its gotten out of hand), so I made us a pile of tater tots with cheese and a spicy sour cream sauce. PERFECT food for watching Game of Thrones (OMG that episode was intense! HOLD THE DOOR).

This morning B was coughing and sneezing and looked terrible so we decided to keep him home. It was easily figured out that G would stay home the first half, while I had my doctor appointment & some meetings at work, and then I would come home. I took L to school. We walked to the bus stop in the warm sunny morning. He laid his head on me as we rode, one thumb in mouth, the other hand holding mine, as we looked out the window to the beautiful blooming springtime city. I got a text from G saying B looked better, and from my friend planning a birthday lunch & shopping trip. I still have the headache, and sore throat, and exhaustion, but I haven't felt so perfectly at peace & connected in a long long time. A great start to birthday week.




Thursday, May 19, 2016

Thursday Thoughts


I have 23 blogs in my reader and not ONE single post today! That has never happened on a regular old weekday before. But it freed up my blog-reading time for some blog-writing.

It's been a rough week on call. Will be happy relieved around 7pm tomorrow. Sometimes it's hard to stay appropriately detached. Life really isn't fair. Of course I know this, I've done this for many years, but instead of getting easier, its getting harder with age. I used to feel immune. But now I keep seeing myself and my loved ones in every story. My heart keeps breaking. I don't really have a good mechanism for processing this.

I've been unbelievably exhausted this week. Maybe its the emotional load? I'm sleeping OK, but still yawning and drowsy and headache-y all day. I skipped working out this morning because the thought of it just made me want to cry. I make it through the day and head straight to bed after the kids and escape into a book until I get drowsy (or until I get the anxious-not-going-to-be-able-to-fall-asleep feeling and take an ambi&n).

I really thought I had learned how to manage my anxiety. But the past couple of months, it seems to be completely out of hand. Partly its because I've been lax in doing the little things that help (5 minutes meditation, journal at night, limit social media to be more present). I need to re-instate those things and see where I end up. My therapist is still on maternity leave until July. I don't know how effective she's going to be even then, with a newborn, considering I felt she was phoning it in by the third trimester and was getting little out of our sessions (she listened and asked questions but basically had stopped offering much in the way of suggestions/advice/tips, which is what I want. I don't need someone to just listen to me ramble, that's what you guys are for ;)... I want actionable advice for changing my thought process).

I am really not keen on the idea of taking medication for anxiety. I've read about all the meds, I know the options, and none of them sound right for me. I'm afraid of being "numb", which I've seen with friends taking SSRIs for depression. And adverse effects on sleep. Weight gain. Loss of libido. Considering I'm functioning (at a pretty high level!), I really want to continue to try to work this out without meds. I'm holding out hope that I can figure out a lifelong way to cope with and relieve my anxious thought patterns.

I think G forgot that my birthday is next week. The kids mentioned it, and he pulled out his phone to check the calendar. So I guess I need to keep my expectations low. I don't want flowers. Maybe I should make that clear to him. I did get a sitter for the weekend after---I should make a reservation, too. Sigh. I'd LOVE to have him plan something but its never ever going to happen. On his 40th I did a scavenger hunt at home, made him a double layer cake with homemade filling & frosting (on a weekday!) and planned an outing for the 4 of us. Nothing major, I'm not a "party planner" type, but I did put a lot of thought and effort into it.

Clearly I'm feeling grumpy. I'm going to take some NSAIDs for this headache and eat something. Maybe head outside for a minute. Fighting the urge to buy & consume french fries or mozzerella sticks from the cafeteria (I've had both in the past 10 days).







Monday, May 16, 2016

The "Opt" in Optimism

I mentioned I've been trying to approach my life with more optimism. Its been challenging, since its not my natural inclination. As soon as I hear of an idea or plan, I immediately think of all the many many ways it could go wrong. I've always thought this way, and my medical & scientific training have only reinforced the pattern. Prepare for the worst, diligently discuss and record potential adverse effects, follow up your great ideas and results with an exhaustive less of all potential "pitfalls"and "limitations" that render them practically useless. For obvious reasons, this is a necessary and appreciated skill at work. At home, however, its...well...a downer.

I don't think preparing for life's misadventures is necessarily wrong. In fact the very people who demean and denounce my propensity to consider the negative (ahem, my husband) are often quite grateful that I DID pack an extra change of clothing for children & adults in our carry-ons, called the doctor for a pre-vacation appointment in case the mild fever became a full-blown ear infection the day we were scheduled to leave, or padded our bank account for an exceptionally rainy day.

I used to believe that optimism/pessimism were inborn, unchangeable personality traits. But I've come to realize that, like everything else, optimism can be a choice. I may not be able to prevent my mind from automatically running through the list of potential negative events. But I can temper it with the ultimate knowledge that most of the time everything will be OK.  I do this at work all the time. Yes, these bad things may happen, but you are probably going to be fine (and here is the data). Yes, these results may end up completely meaningless but I really believe the study is worth doing (and here is the data). I need to be better about doing it in my own life, and using it to convince MYSELF to say yes, to get excited, and to be more a ray of sunshine than the rain on the parade.


Summer is apparently coming, temperature in the 30s this morning notwithstanding. I'm going to practice saying yes, and saying it with enthusiasm (but packing the band aids and emergency snacks anyways).

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Spring Mix

So the sun made its brief appearance and disappeared again for the rest of the week. I'm glad I took a moment to enjoy it while it lasted!

So much for "kindness", oh man, I lost it with my kids yesterday. While B is at his usual level of challenging, and I've got strategies for dealing with him, L has really dialed it up to 11 (on a scale of 1-10).  He's usually my "easier" kid, so its super demoralizing when he's in these moods. I know I need to re-read "No Drama Discipline" with L's specific challenges in mind this time (I should actually just be on a continuous loop of re-reading that book, its that good) but I haven't had the energy to read much at night, at least not something so meaty, and I want to take actual notes this time, so I can't just flip through it laying in bed.

Sleep was going really well for a while and suddenly decided to disappear. Two nights in a row I've had lots of trouble falling asleep and the meds aren't helping. I hadn't even NEEDED them for a couple of weeks, I was doing so well! I thought I was cured! I have a follow up with my PMD in a couple of weeks and I'll ask about other options. I think (but I may waffle on this) that I will ask about treating my anxiety overall. I'm afraid, however, than an SSRI will make my sleep worse and cause weight gain. I wish my therapist wasn't on maternity leave! She said she was coming back in July...so I'm not keen on getting started with someone new.

So I finally took a few hours to go through all our credit card/bank statements and reconcile YNAB and whoa. We went over in a LOT of categories last month. Thankfully there were 3 paychecks for G last month, which absorbed most of that. I guess I should have expected it, but I didn't, which is why I like keeping the budget in real-time. In our defense, we had over $600 in medical bills for B's ER visit and testing and therapy, and we bought a new dishwasher. We also, however, had a few dinners/drinks out when MIL was here to babysit, and MIL asked to get pizza several times, and our grocery bill was mysteriously high considering I was away on work travel twice and MIL cooks relatively cheap mostly vegetarian food. Also G bought a bunch of clothes/shoes and I realized I didn't really have a budget set for his clothing (I had one for the kids and one for me, and I figured I would lump his into the kids, but when he spent $200 in one go, that took out the "clothing" budget for the YEAR).

Excesses abounded in every domain, and my pants are tight, too. Resuming reasonable eating and drinking, and fighting the urge for "quick fix" of a few weeks of low-carb or some other unsustainable plan. Hate that my metabolism can't roll with a few weeks of extra carbs without packing on 5 pounds but that is the new reality I have to accept.

Goals for May (now that we are a third of the way done)
  • STAY AWAY from my notorious internet time wasters (I know what they are)
  • Read and take-notes on No-Drama Discipline key chapters (and post about it!)
  • Resume reasonable eating habits, with moderation of carbs and alcohol specifically
  • Plan and enjoy Birthday Week, including me-time, family time, and friend time
  • 3 month plan and weekly plan at work, including scheduling writing blocks for papers/grants
There are LOTS of other things I need and want to do, but in the interest of simplicity (and not increasing anxiety), I'll keep it small and manageable. 





Monday, May 9, 2016

Monday MishMash

The thing about writing is that to get over the hump you just have to put fingers to keyboard and get something down, imperfect as it is. So get ready for the most random assortment of thoughts flitting around in my head.

Things I Liked on the Internet
  • This poem really spoke to me. I read it yesterday morning, in between cleaning up breakfast dishes and starting laundry and re-read it this morning as I made my to-do list for the week. There really is little as satisfying as doing meaningful work, and doing it whole-heartedly. 
  • While her life couldn't be more different from mine, I really enjoy Kristen's blog and her optimistic and levelheaded take on frugal living. I love how graciously she responds in the post (and comments) on this post.  And I'm always perplexed by readers who don't get that any blogger is only giving you one slice of their life. Especially when they blog under their real name or if their blog is part of their livelihood. 
  • Another post about turning 40, but with a much more optimistic attitude than mine.
We had two entire weeks of gloomy, gray, cold and rainy weather. It was really affecting my mood. The sun finally came out yesterday and I feel like something has lifted off my shoulders.

Mother's Day was...a typical Sunday, though I did get some cute typical little-kid stuff that they made at school. My fifth plastic bead necklace (I'll get my 6th and final one from L next year, its what they do every year in the preschool/preK). An envelope filled with coupons from B for sweet things like "one hug" & "one kiss" and more dubious ones like "breakfast in bed" & "washing the dishes" (our bedroom is on the THIRD FLOOR I don't even want to imagine B trying to bring me whatever he thinks I would want to eat for breakfast all the way up two flights of stairs!). G picked up flowers when he went food shopping Saturday evening, and they are quite pretty.

I'd been sleeping really well for a few weeks and then last night. I don't know what happened but I got hit with a wave of blah and just couldn't get my mind to stop. Even the amb!en didn't work.

I'm working on approaching my life with kindness and optimism. From little kid challenges, to work projects, to everyday interactions. I'm over being cynical, I'm ready to embrace the light side. Instead of dreading things because they are going to be awful (which may be a self-fulfilling prophecy), I want to begin with the assumption that things will go well. I'll at least have the joy of imaging it, even if it all goes to hell in the end. A lifetime of ingrained thought patterns to overcome here. Also (and this mostly pertains to my kids/husband), I'm trying to let go of being "right" and focus on being kind. This is hard when the kids are acting as if possessed by the devil, but really, yelling only makes the spiral deeper and darker.  I failed at this miserably yesterday. I will try again today.

I'm loving TJ's full fat Greek yogurt with fresh berries and a smattering of granola. I do believe its time for a mid-morning snack. 


Thursday, April 28, 2016

And I'm going to be 40!...someday

Someday meaning less than one month from now, so yeah, that is happening whether I like it or not. And for the record, no, I do not. I have no idea why! I've never before minded getting older but maybe that's because I was never of an age I considered "older" when I got there.

In honor of this milestone, I've been having a little existential freak out. I've been mourning the loss of possibility that comes with aging; and since possibility amounts to hope, I think its worth mourning, at least in a controlled and limited fashion. In my younger days, I had a fabulous coping mechanism for when life was getting me down. I would just daydream about the future, when everything was amazing. It worked every time---I remember being able to FEEL my heart slowing down, and the ache in my chest releasing. It was like taking a sedative, only slightly less addictive.

Now these daydreams ranged from the fantastical (having a huge swimming pool IN MY HOUSE, marrying a member of NKOTB, writing the next "Sweet Valley High" series---as an autobiographical take on my teen years as the most beautiful and popular girl in school) to the mundane (living in paradise, having 3 kids, having a daughter). Regardless, they were a soothing balm to my battered and bruised soul through my awkward teens, lonely 20s, and the hell of infertility that came after.

I don't daydream anymore---I've tried---there just isn't anything big and GOOD* left that isn't already set. I've got my marriage, my career, my children. I won't have a daughter. I won't marry anyone famous. I probably won't live by the beach (my husband doesn't want to) or write teeny bop fiction (ummm. I don't want to). Swimming pools are expensive and having one INSIDE your house is just...stupid. If I think too hard about the future I realize that people I love may be gone, my children will be TEENAGE BOYS, my joints will be creakier & my hair grayer and oh my god this is terrifying STOP. Life, and circumstance, and common sense have taken all the FUN out of daydreaming.

I know full well that I can make changes, but they seem small in scope compared to the wide open field that was "the future". Every year going by leads to some narrowing of possibility. I see it with my children. When they were born, they could be ANYTHING. And now I'm seeing their strengths and weaknesses; of the infinite paths, some are closing off. There are still multitudes left---and the choice is theirs alone, of course---but it happens, that is life.

And when you realize there is nothing really enormous (and GOOD*) ahead, your mind falls into the quintessential "Is this all there is?" mid-life angst.Yes, I know there is a lot of good stuff in my life. There is a lot left for me to do and experience and I have ambitions and plans and hopes and dreams for how I'm going to fill the next several decades should the universe grant me them to fill. But that angst is sitting with me right now.

Months (years?) ago, Xykademiqz wrote a comment that pretty much summed up everything I didn't even know I was thinking and feeling. In fact, if there was a theme to this blog, this is it, including (most especially) the "shiiiiit": 
The blahs in middle age come from no longer there being concrete, inspiring milestones in our future. It's saddening and disorienting, especially for very driven people. I spend a lot of time brooding "Is this all there is? What is the fuckin' point? We are all so insignificant and short-lived in the grand scheme of things... Shiiiiit (The Wire style, http://shiiiit.com/)." But then I try to find the time to better myself or for creative pursuits, or enjoying the creative works of others, or focusing on how cute my kids are, and then I feel better. For a little bit at least.
Which is exactly why, after my family was complete, I've set my focus on self-improvement and seemingly flit from one personal goal to the next and back again. I'll never win Olympic goal, but I can train to shave a few seconds off my running speed, and be just that much fitter and stronger than I was before. I don't have the family I imagined, but I can be the best mother to my sons. I don't have a talent that can become my career, but I can try different things until I find something I'm good enough at to be a fulfilling hobby. I may never marry Leonardo DiCaprio but I can make my own marriage better. And if I can enjoy it all, along the way, I guess that is the fuckin' point. It has to be.

*because, lets face it, the older you get the more the chance of terrible things happening to you and yours increases. Circle of life.