Monday, October 16, 2017

Behind behind behind

After a whole weekend at home just the 4 of us, I definitely feel more on top of things on the homefront, but still feeling woefully behind at work. Not sure exactly why, but I've been fuzzy headed and tired, having trouble concentrating, so everything feels like a slog. Also, as usual, new things keep coming up that take precedence over my plans and I just don't know when I'm going to catch up. I am on consults this week, have three days of clinic next week, and so on.

Anyways, you guys don't want to see my to-do list, so I'll update you on some other things.

L is having a surprisingly rough transition to kindergarten. He misses his old pre-K teacher & friends, and the long day with no rest is getting to him. We've had meltdowns in the morning for a while and several evenings where he basically just screamed from the time we picked him up from aftercare, until he fell into bed, a writhing, snotty, tearful mess.  No, he's not an infant. He turned SIX this month. He just has trouble articulating his big big feelings. And while I do get it, I really truly do, I am also not a fan of being abused by a tiny tyrant. He enjoys taking his emotions out on me, hitting/spitting/calling me names. Things seem to be settling down and I am grateful.

No one is traveling anywhere until we all go away for winter break. Activities are winding down, by November we'll just have the afterschool karate. Just in time for me to really push into grant writing. I need to have EITHER work or home be chaotic. I can't deal with both. Maybe you can, but I need my margins somewhere.

Speaking of margins, I have been experimenting with more ways to create blank space and time for thinking/processing. Its working. And its helping my time at home immensely to be more engaged and present. (blah blah buzz words, I know, but seriously! Its true!) More on that later. I need to actually eat my lunch during the break from rounds.

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Process

I was having a text exchange with a friend yesterday about how I tend to write more "negative" posts here because it helps me process my thoughts. Its very much a version of therapy for me. Having the space to not only express my issues, but the additional necessity of articulating them in a way that is understandable to another person, often helps me see my problems more clearly and often identify my own solutions.

In fact, this post began as a "woe is me" litany of all the things making me frantic and overwhelmed right now. Its been feeling like an unusually busy month and I keep waiting for things to calm down.
Then I realized I'd written a similar post this summer. And probably another one a few months before that. In other words, the "extra" in my life may actually be my new normal.  I can continue to feel overwhelmed and frantic and count down until I can reclaim my precious margins in my life, or I could work to find some moments of peace amidst the craziness.

One of the worst things I've noticed in the past few weeks is the distance I've been feeling in my marriage. We've both been traveling a few times, and have had to divide and conquer a lot of household projects and kid management, and then I head to bed early and exhausted. We haven't had time to talk or even watch a TV show together in weeks. And since we are both feeling stressed and overwhelmed and not quite clear what all the other person has on their plate, we can't really help, and we find ourselves getting easily annoyed and snippy.

I realize it would have been a good idea to realize this ahead of time and book some date nights into our month. I have a tendency to put that off when we are too busy but in actuality, that is when we need it most. Thankfully we have greatly expanded our arsenal of sitters this month, as we've had "needing to be in two places at one time when only one parent is in town" happen a few times and we've got a few excellent kid-approved neighborhood sitters on the ready.

We also have had some drop-the-ball moments, like the day neither of us made it home early enough for our old dog's poor bladder's liking.  We discussed that I would get the kids and whoever "got home first" would take out the dog...which was unwise, as we both got home the exact same time which was clearly too late. With the different evening activities, we need to sit down, calendar in hand, EVERY week and clarify who is doing what, and book dog-walkers as needed.

That same night, I found myself resentfully eating bowls of chips for dinner because we didn't actually have enough leftovers for all of us and I wasn't about to cook at 8:30 pm when the kitchen had already been cleaned (I'm not knocking chips for dinner as a valid option, I just was in the mood for the hot meal I thought I'd be having, thus the "resentfully"). We were completely out of the TJ's frozen meals because we've been resorting to those options a lot lately. We just need to keep them permanently on our shopping list and buy extra so there is always a yummy, no-cook option.

My parents are in town, and I have to head home to walk the dog and bake cupcakes for L's birthday party tomorrow so I better finish up work. I will be back next week, still have a lot to say, positive and negative and in between.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

This is your brain on... (Part 1)

"To alcohol...the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems"--Homer Simpson

G and I realized our drinking had really ramped up over the summer, what with vacation and rosé and not having our kids in the house. It had gotten to a point that was making me uncomfortable, as I found myself thinking "ooh, a drink would make this more fun!" about pretty much every experience, from play dates to movies to board games with the kids. I've definitely successfully cut back before, but I often felt deprived, and I realized to my shock that I hadn't gone longer than a week of call without drinking since my last pregnancy six years ago.

I was idly googling "cut back drinking", as you do, and came across a slew of blogposts singing the praises of "The Naked Mind", by Annie Grace, which is a short book (that I somehow got a link to a free copy) about changing your thought processing around drinking so that you can quit/cut-back without feeling deprived. In brief, she talks about the neurologic changes that occur with habitual drinking, and the dopamine surges that alter your hedonic setpoint so that things really aren't as fun for you without a drink. She also lays out how alcohol actually worsens anxiety and depression and that you don't really relax/sleep well/become more social under the influence, despite popular opinion. It was eye-opening and encouraging. When she started a 30-day-alcohol-free Experiment, we decided to try it for the month of September (I actually signed up for the on-line program, G just said he wouldn't drink).

The underlying mantra of the program is to use this time to see how your life may (or may not, who knows, its an experiment!) be better without alcohol. She is a classic Questioner (like me!) so obviously this approach spoke to me much more than any kind of "challenge" or "streak" or "accountability" would. Every day there was a blog post and a video that centered around, basically, do-it-yourself cognitive behavioral therapy. Teaching your brain different ways to respond to cravings, to find new go-to ways to respond to stress/boredom, to convince yourself into a self-fulfilling prophecy that you will have fun at the party drinking seltzer instead of wine.

We both succeeded (well, I made it 28 days, with a planned ending before my weekend at the retreat, and G did take a 2 day break during his work trip) and it absolutely worked. We drank liters of seltzer, and on crazy Saturday nights we'd spike it with some juice! I made it through a family vacation, work trip with networking events, date night, book club, and countless evenings that I would've just reached for a glass of wine (or two, or three). I totally feel like I can moderate better going forward, and if not, I will abstain again, maybe for longer, because I know I can do it and I won't feel like I'm missing out.

The downside? I did not lose weight like I thought I would. Maybe it was because I took a 2-week hiatus from exercise thinking it would help my back. Most likely it was because I weirdly developed a sweet tooth for the month (that promptly disappeared last weekend after the Friday night wine social), craving the dopamine hit in the form of cookies and ice cream. So it made me wonder---am I just replacing one bad habit with another? Can I really train myself not to look for those mini-doses of "fun" and "excitement" in the form of unhealthy addictions? I think I finally understand the "food should be boring" thing from Katrina Ubell's podcast I mentioned earlier---its not that food should literally be bland and unsatisfying, but that if you do want to lost weight or change your relationship with food, you absolutely do need to find a non-caloric way to meet those needs.

Someday maybe I'll figure this out. For now I'll look forward to ending my day with 2 squares of dark chocolate, a 100-calorie Yasso yogurt bar, or a sensible serving of wine.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Finally Fall

Hello hello! I promised I'd be back and here I am! The crazy continues, this week includes L's 6th (OMG how???) birthday and treats we have to take into school, my parents flying in to help him celebrate, L's birthday party and the pinata/cupcakes/planning involved, and me traveling again for work (leaving Sunday night-Tuesday afternoon). And that's on top of, you know, work, the kids karate/soccer/running club/woodworking class/therapy, and the usual needing to be fed, read to, consoled and put back to bed for the 1000th time.

Honestly, our lives are usually quite full of blank space, but everything just sort of coalesced into a clusterf&ck of crazy, as it does, and we will have our usual boring routine back soon enough, so I'm trying to just go along for the ride.

I was away this weekend, but it was NOT for work, it was an amazing 2 nights away in the mountains for a "Women's Wellness Retreat" with my BFF and a bunch of women from my neighborhood book group. We drove up Friday and came back Sunday. In between we hiked, rode horses, rock climbed, did yoga & archery, zip-lined, and ate and drank and talked for hours. It was many women (some strangers) in one cabin several of whom found it appropriate to set early AM alarms and snooze them, and some of whom snored & coughed & sleep-talked, so I did NOT get much sleep and came home way more tired than I left. But happy. Very happy. I highly recommend doing something like this should you get the chance. It was super-empowering and rejuvenating. Just bring ear plugs.

G did amazing holding down the fort at home (i.e. keeping children & dog alive and fed), but there were ALL the weekend chores to be done when I got home at 3pm yesterday and I just wasn't up for it. So I am working from home today so that I can simultaneously change out laundry and can get dinner prepped before I go pick up B for his group therapy session.

Things I have to tell you about: recent self-improvement projects, the ongoing back pain saga, L and his kindergarten woes, recent books I've read, and much much more. But I just heard the cute little tune the washer plays when its done, so time to put the clothes in the dryer and work on the "final scientific/invention report" for my completed grant.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Its a little nuts around here...

Guys, these past few weeks have been unusually busy and its not letting up anytime soon. I just have no energy or desire to put my thoughts down on the page right now. They great thing is that...I don't have to! And since every single other goddamn thing on my list is a "have to" or at least a "really really should do for the long term benefit of my health/children/marriage/carrier" I'm going to put the blog on the back burner for a couple of weeks. I'll be back in October!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Goodbye Summer

We are all back home and into our routines (sort of). G went last Friday to get the kids, but they couldn't fly out until Monday. So I got a few relaxing/boring days at the beach alone with my parents until the boys joined us Monday night. Wednesday we flew home and Thursday B went to school. Of course while they were away I imagined a glorious reunion with lots of hugs and happiness and patience. The hugs did happen...

While at the beach, the lower back pain that had been bothering me off and on all summer began to more than bother me, and our flight on Wednesday was excruciating. I ended up spending Thursday (when I was supposed to be working from home, with L, since KG doesn't start until the 12th) dealing with this, starting by going to the doctor. She told me she had no idea what the problem was, but prescribed steroids, muscle relaxants, and PT. I went and got the meds, which did help some, though the non-sedating muscle relaxants still made me slightly loopy. I also got the appointment and referral for PT, and found some exercises online to do, which also helped some. I got zero work done that day. I'm feeling antsy because I can't exercise---I need to take two weeks to relax/heal---but it hurts the worst to sit, so I'm just really restless, and spending a lot of time pacing.

So the summer is over. While I definitely had some fun moments, it was overall a string of mild to moderate stressful things happening one after another, all on a background of constant kid whining and fighting and the crescendo of pre-apocalyptic horrific current events. I've been extremely distracted the past couple of months and have been sucked back into non-ideal coping mechanisms (booze, social media). Add to that my sudden increase in clinical duties (I went from 20% to 50% clinical in July) and I completely dropped the ball in prepping for a major grant submission. I am going to have to postpone the submission until the next cycle which sucks, but is also a relief.

I absolutely love early fall. The crisp, cool air renews my energy and clears my head. I'm ready to focus and get things done. I'm actually at work right now, finishing up a poster for a conference I am going to next week, so I will stop here. I have so much to say and hope to find time to write more this week, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

When you can't breathe...

Soon after I hit post yesterday, I had one of the scariest hours I've experienced. G called me to tell me that water was rising up the driveway in MIL's house and neighbors were going to help them leave, using a KAYAK (!!!!) to navigate the flooded streets to a van waiting nearby that would take them to a family member's home a few miles away.

I gave them about an hour to undertake this mission (and thankfully had a scheduled catch-up phone date with a friend/collaborator) and then began to call. And MIL's phone isn't working. So I called the aunt who's house they were going to---no answer. And then I freaked the fuck out because OMFG. I called my parents, texted my sister, and then had no idea what to do while I waited.

So I turned on a podcast, found a long ignored addictive game on my phone, and opened up some cheese puffs and distracted my way through the hour or so until MIL finally called me (they are completely fine).

Guys, this is so hard. I'm doing the absolutely necessary things at work and home, and trying to exercise/meditate/sleep/eat well, but I've also been spending LOADS of time on social media (including facebook, which has been a good way to keep up with what's going, since I have lots of friends/"friends" near where the kids are and also keep people updated & get support), and overall wasting time and drinking more wine than I should.

I did get a lot of things on my list done, and had thankfully planned a lot of outings for this week, because the last thing I need is MORE time to sit at home & fret. But man, it has not been the least bit relaxing and I'm farther behind then ever at work.

Oh, and please donate to hurricane relief AND (or) efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change. Because we know there is no government looking out for us in any regard at all.