Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Dealing with It

I am still, and likely will be forever, working on developing healthier coping mechanisms for life's inevitable setbacks. Yesterday I got to put these into practice, and I'm fairly proud of myself! I got an email around 3:30 PM that a foundation grant I submitted in April was administratively rejected because I didn't comply with some (as yet unclear) rule. My stomach sank; I had worked extremely hard on this and thought it had a decent chance of funding. My disappointment was overwhelming and I knew I wasn't going to get a whole lot done on paper writing.

I wrote back immediately asking for clarification (take action) and looked over the submission again and couldn't find anything wrong. I finished up essential tasks for the day and decided to leave 45 minutes early. I went and got my eyebrows threaded (self-care) and picked B up from after-care early (quality time with loved ones). We walked home, stopping to point out flowers, a cat, a bird (mindfulness) and then took the dog on a long walk (exercise, time outside). I patiently helped B with homework (more QT). Then I made lunches for the rest of the week and cooked dinner while listening to the "Happier" podcast (accomplishments, positive distractions). When G got home, we talked about it (sharing) and when he asked me if I wanted a glass of wine I said no (sticking to my goals), but did ask him to pick up some seltzer when he went to the store later, and a healthy-ish post-dinner treat (asking for what I need). I read stories to the boys and put them to bed (QT), and then G and I had a 150-calorie Yasso ice cream bar, some seltzer, and watched Sunday's episode of Silicon Valley(QT, reasonable treats). I went to bed by 10 (self-care).

I'm still super annoyed and waiting for them to get back to me about what the heck I did wrong, and if there is any possibility of reversing this decision. But I'm planning a productive day.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Weekend Whip

(the Lego Ninjago theme song, its quite catchy)

The end of last week I wondered if my P@xil was switched with a placebo because I was feeling so out-of-control anxious and unsettled. I think it was related to MIL leaving, or something weird, but I felt better by Monday. The weekend, all in all, was pretty good.

Friday night G and I went to see Real Estate in concert, thanks to tickets from a blog friend. I had never heard of them before I was offered the tix, but I liked the sound. The concert was AMAZING. Live music is definitely up there on the list of "things that make me feel alive", though it isn't something I do very often (can't remember last concert). As I was leaning over the balcony, sipping my vodka soda and swaying to the beat, G's arms around me, I felt young in a way I haven't in a long time. Which reminded me of "Here I Am" and the story of how the main character equated (sort of, I can't articulate well) "feeling alive" to "being a teenager" and definitely bumped the book up in my estimation, since I was still pondering its themes months after reading it.

Saturday I was tired, but I spent 2 hours digging and planting a vegetable garden at the school, and met some new people. It was social but also meditative. Love getting my hands in the dirt! I came home JUST in time to see MIL off; when the boys left for the airport, I changed into shorts and went on a 4-mile run. Running is not my favorite exercise---my body mechanics aren't built for speed or endurance (I can go forever but my joints will pay), but nothing burns off stress like sprinting at intervals. I was spent at the end and felt really chill. I spent the rest of the day at home, hanging with the kids and reading our book club book (Bel Canto).

Sunday was our crazy sports day. I went straight from the gym to soccer with B, then home for shower/lunch and swim lesson for B, then shower for him and haircut for B (while G and L did T ball pictures and the second game of the weekend) and FINALLY got home around 4 and poured some wine and did cooking/meal prep. I finished Bel Canto that evening (it was good, not great). G and I stayed up way too late drinking wine and watching "Master of None"---this season is way better than last season, IMO.

It was supposed to be a 3 day week for me; I was taking Thursday off to volunteer at a school event and Friday off because its my birthday and I've decided to make it a tradition :) But the event was canceled due to rain so it'll be a 4 day week. My goal is to go to bed by 9:30 every night, and not drink until Friday---the stress and celebratory (really I can always find an excuse) eating and drinking have gained me back a few hard-lost pounds so I need to get back on track.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Shadows

I was going to write yesterday, and then hesitated, because I felt like a bit of a fraud. What do I mean? Well, after my perfectly well-adjusted non-therapy-needing post last week, this weekend was a bit of a...backslide. I was sad, and anxious, and uncertain, and things were really getting to me. I still feel that way somewhat, but that is part of real life. And real life is what I'm trying to sell here, so I may as well write anyways!

Mother's Day was, as usual, mostly OK. G had the kids make cards, and he cooked a yummy brunch with mimosas.  I did sort of feel like it was MIL's day, with me as the runner up. Also there were lots of little MIL-related-stressors going on, the usual (and I don't feel like reliving it all to write about it), but still annoying. B's been back in his "I hate school" mode, which is always really stressful for us, because we start wondering if something is going on (there isn't, as far as I can tell) or if he's just prone to having a bad attitude (seems pretty likely), and how do we help him or if we can't help him, how do we cope? I did a barre class. It was OK. The thing I don't like about barre is that its pretty slow-paced and repetitive, so I have lots of time to think. Not a great choice when I'm already brooding.

People (well a few people) keep asking me about our summer travel plans.  I tell them we are going to visit both sets of family, including a family beach trip with my parents, some time with my sister, a week in MIL-city perhaps with another nearby beach trip. But they want something more interesting. Is it a given to travel somewhere new every summer? It seems to me like an enormous luxury! MIL has also been harping on "us all" going on some kind of trip.

The weird thing  is that I don't even WANT to go anywhere. Its not only a matter of money or mother-in-laws, I just feel like laying low. The kids are pretty good travelers at this point, so its not about that. The drive to explore and get out of the routine just isn't there for me right now. On the contrary, I feel like really sinking into the routine, being present and in the moment and savoring our lazy weekends in the backyard or the school playground. I want to cook, and exercise, and read. I want to take the kids to the splash parks and ice cream shops, have friends over for cook-outs, and try out some new family friendly eateries in our neighborhood.

Then this winter, we will fly somewhere warm. That's the plan.




Thursday, May 11, 2017

2017 Quarter 1 BOOKS

Whoa. Guys, I read TWENTY books January-March of 2017. This pace will not continue, because I've only read 2 so far in Q2. I'm going to play around with different ways of talking books---and I'd love your feedback on what works and doesn't. This time I'm going to review all the 3-5 star books I read and just list out the others (reviews upon request).

The WOW! These are the must-reads. READ THEM. Winter 2017 was an unusually good book season! I don't usually have more than a couple of Wow! books.

Born a Crime (Trevor Noah): So well-written, emotional and informative. There were funny undertones but this wasn't a typical comedic memoir. I learned so much about the history of apartheid in South Africa and was blown away by his depiction of his family relationships.

Just Mercy (Bryan Stevenson): I mentioned this one before, but it should be required reading. I admit that capital punishment hasn't really been on my radar as a cause, but reading these incredibly moving stories brought it front and center. The inherent racism, ableism and classism in the criminal justice system guarantee that those with the least will bear the brunt of our "war on crime".

The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver): I can't believe I've never read this before! Its amazing! Its actually my first Kingsolver, and I'm awed at her descriptive passages. While the stories of the missionary family are fascinating, the main character of this book is the Congo, and she really brings it to life.

Exit West (Mohsin Hamid): This was an unexpected favorite. I love how matter-of-fact the protagonists were in their relationship---she really took the "foreign" (and thus "fearsome") aspect out of our young Middle Eastern characters so they were instantly relatable. And I was definitely not prepared for the way we approach the refugee crisis issue by mixing realistic depictions of a war-torn  city whimsically with fantasy elements.


The Storied Life of AJ Fikrey(Gabrielle Zevin): Heart-warming. My favorite kind of story in which random strangers find what they need in each other. And books! 

The Good Books I enjoyed reading or that stayed with me for a while.

Maybe in Another Life (Taylor Jenkins Reid): Chick-lit done (mostly) right and with a cool "Sliding Doors" twist.

The High Mountains of Portugal (Yann Martel): This was truly bizarre but I liked it. Its actually a collection of a few stories in completely different styles, but with an underlying theme (men dealing, or not, with grief).

Today Will be Different (Maria Semple): I related somewhat to that feeling of ennui and desire for self-improvement (obvi), though the ending was unsatisfying.

Truly, Madly, Guilty (Liane Moriarty): This one started off SO GOOD and really engaging. I won't spoil it.

The Mothers (Brit Bennett): The story of the main character was engaging, though the whole conceit of "The Mothers" left me cold.

The Girl Who Saved the King of Scotland and The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared (Jonas Jonnason): I found these funny. I like his wry, humorous style, and they were both pretty good (if far-fetched) stories. I also learned a lot about history and politics. "Hundred-Year-Old Man" was a bit Forrest-Gump-esque and I overall liked it less, but maybe because it was the second one I read and his style was starting to wear on me.

Dark Matter (Blake Crouch): The concept this is based on is mind-blowing. I recommend it for that alone. The execution...could be better.

Here I Am (Jonathan Safran Foer): It took me SO LONG to get into this and I nearly abandoned it until a small anecdote hooked me into the theme. I greatly disliked the main character, and the  pornographic inserts in the beginning added NOTHING to the story. Yet...the theme...really stuck with me. Middle-aged ennui and the overwhelming desire to feel alive and be in the moment. Definitely something I relate to. I also love how he weaved one of the most fascinating parables I've ever heard (Abraham and Isaac) throughout---I've been awed by that story and how it embodied the concept of faith since I first read it many years ago.

My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She's Sorry (Fredrick Backman): Weird and interesting. Not for everyone---but I enjoyed it. If you're expecting another "Man Called Ove", you'll be disappointed, but I'm a sucker for a precocious, outcast kid finding connections in unexpected places.

The Meh Self-explanatory? These are mostly not TERRIBLE, but forgettable.

Vinegar Girl (Anne Tyler), Amy and Isabelle (Elizabeth Strout), The Intersection (Brad Windhauser), The Girl Who Fell from the Sky (Heidi W. Durrow), The Messenger (Lois Lowry), Son (Louis Lowry)

Graduated?

I had a pretty good meeting with the therapist, ending in her telling me that I no longer need therapy! I am staying on her roster, with the plan to contact her if anything changes, and to pro-actively start coming back when I'm considering going off the P@xil.

I told her about the MIL issues, about certain things that happened and how I responded and she told me I'd "achieved great interpersonal growth" in dealing with her. She's absolutely right. I mentioned this a while back, but something changed during her visit last summer and I no longer demonize her or hate her and she no longer has the power to completely ruin my mental state. Sure its still annoying and stressful around her, she's a challenging in-law, but I can handle it. I even challenged her on something last week, and I didn't completely curl up and die. I can take the worst of her and survive, and its empowering.

We talked about how we are working hard to help B right now, how I put a lot of that off last year because I just...couldn't. I am planning to focus my time taking him to weekly social skills groups and continuing to see the family therapist with G on a regular (but limited) schedule to stay on track.

We talked a bit about work, about how I've stopped beating myself up or thinking I'm a complete failure when I can't stay focused and productive every single day or even week. I realize I work in spurts, getting unreal amounts of work done in a few weeks and then just...stalling out. I have been trying SO HARD to be a more steady producer, churning out equal amounts of product every day and I just keep failing over and over and over. Maybe I need to allow myself to work the way I enjoy, and give myself more time & space to really fall into the flow when I'm feeling it, and using the less laser-focused time to take care of the many many administrative and mundane aspects of my job.

I brought up the question of going off the SSRI and we both agreed to wait until fall (and actually October, after I submit my R01) because of the changes coming up to my work schedule, kids' schedule, and travel this summer, in addition to my desire to simply ENJOY this summer.

Overall she said I seemed to have most of my issues under control and she didn't believe in "over-therapizing" and that she trusted I would return should I need it. I felt pretty damn good.



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Okay, Okay...what's next

The "books I read" post remains a work in progress. I just read too darn many books and I have been too lazy to go through and look up how to spell author's names correctly so I can finish up the list. But since I don't want to go another month between posts, I'll give you guys some updates.

Last week was pretty stressful. I trifecta of suck (or as Selina Meyers called it on Veep, a "trifuckta"). My MIL is here and was being challenging, I was on call, and hormones. Plus my tech/assistant had her last day and I really miss her, both for her excellent work and her company (sometimes she was the only person I talk to for days). Also it was blah and cold and rainy.

I made it through the call week & weekend. On the bright side:
  • On Saturday I came home incredibly stressed and I dragged G out for a run in the chilly afternoon. It was hard, because I'm usually a morning exercise person and I was already hungry, but after the run and the shower I felt so much calmer.
  • G, MIL, and the boys went to visit family on Sunday and stayed until Monday afternoon so I had the HOUSE TO MYSELF when I finally got home Sunday from the hospital. I binge watched the entire mini-series of "Big Little Lies" and ate leftover pizza. It was much needed.
  • The "call week diet" should be marketed. I lost three pounds in 7 days by: not drinking at all, going to bed at 9:30 and not snacking after dinner, and walking twice my usual steps each day. Of course last night I stayed up 'til 10:30, had 2 glasses of wine, and a big snack after dinner so the weight loss is not sustainable long term, but at least I know what to do if I need to fit into a dress or something.
I haven't told you guys about my schedule changes yet. In July I'm going 50% clinical. Its actually kind of generous, considering the other 50% is unfunded as of now. I'm terrified. I don't think I'll have enough time to do my research and submit papers and grants. I need to really plan my weeks out well and will need to start using my evenings/weekends for work. I will also lose most of my nice relaxing mornings, since I'm planning on starting clinics at 8 so I can leave on time to pick up the boys.

I am seeing my therapist today, for the first time in months. I'll probably focus on MIL-stress, because an impartial outside voice is always helpful in trying to entangle that baggage. I'm on the fence about stopping the SSRI this summer. Part of me wants to see how I do without it, but another (likely bigger) part just wants to ride out the stability for a bit longer and try to enjoy the summer.

My current "practice" if you will is trying to be OK with occasional negative emotions. Just letting myself feel anxious or sad without feeling the need to "fix it" or distract myself immediately. I guess its part of mindfulness, and something that comes up occasionally in the guided meditations I do---just realizing how you are feeling and viewing it with equanimity.  On the same front, I'm trying, yet again, to find healthier coping mechanisms for those inevitable bad days (i.e. not food, not wine, not shopping, and not diving into mindless internet distraction). Exercise, music, connecting with a friend, going outside...I know these things but I just reach for the cheese and wine and smartphone instead.

Hope you all are having a good week. I promise I'll get the books post up...someday.

Monday, May 1, 2017

May Day

My favorite month is here! Had an OK weekend. The highlight was Friday night when our school had a get-together, open to the neighborhood, with pizza and snacks on the playground. It was crazy hot and the kids figured out how to use the water fountain + plastic cups to spray and soak each other and they all ran around for hours while the grown ups sat in the shade and chatted. We went home after the sun set and they got cold with tired and fed kids.

My back is MUCH better, but now my hip hurts? Weird. Anyways, I was well enough to go for an energizing 4 mile run yesterday, and I got G to join me (since MIL is now here).  I'm planning on heading back to the gym tomorrow and Thursday since I'm on call and won't be able to go this weekend, blah.

Anyways, busy day, gotta go see more patients, but wanted to blog again before I fell right off the wagon. Back with the Quarter 1 Books post later this week...