Thursday, October 31, 2013

Here where I am

I can't pinpoint a reason, but I've been feeling exceedingly and increasingly anxious and down the past couple of weeks. Everyone is healthy, we've had some fun times, and even have some more fun times to look forward to this weekend. Yet there it is, that tightness in my chest and churning in my stomach.

It's a mix of things, I suppose. Work has gotten busy and annoying on all fronts. Stupid IRB. Stupid schedulers. And sometimes, yes, stupid patients that call all the damn time for stupid things. I have a call week and weekend starting Monday. I HATE call weekends with a passion. Rounding on patients and families for 6-8 hours and then coming home and having to immediately take over with the kids--not a good set-up for an introvert.

Then there is the extra special fun of a 3 year old and a 2 year old. Tantrums everywhere, hitting/bad words, time outs, picky eating, sibling rivalry, sleep disruptions galore, and simply lots and lots of patience needed. Sometimes more patience than I can draw from my well. All compounded by that underlying knowledge that its going so fast, and these days will never come back.

We are going back and forth on re-financing the house. Which brings to the forefront money and financial stress. And all the things we need to get figured out before we get an appraisal---all of which represent--of course--time or money.

Tensions continue on the marriage front. For all the good intentions, I'm not the least bit surprised to report that we've sunk back into our status quo of quibbling and bickering, me holding things in, and retreating to our separate spaces every evening. The more stressed I get about it, the harder it is to bring up, the more I retreat. The cycle has begun again.

The approaching holidays, as usual, bring the anxiety of disappointing one set of grandparents (and likely two, because its never enough, is it?). Trying to diplomatically plan travel (more time and $$$), B's birthday celebrations, etc...

And I still haven't gotten any Halloween candy.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Good Intentions

I had my heart set on a series of real, thoughtful, meaty, non-bullet-pointed posts. Alas, that mountain seems too high to climb at this moment---I'm on week 2 of a lingering, exhausting URI/LRTI that is obliterating my motivation to do anything beyond the absolutely necessary.
A couple of you did ask about the steps G & I were taking to work on our relationship sans therapist. I want to write this down NOW, before we drift back into the status quo and forget all the fantastic intentions and insights we had, that time and stress will surely drive out of our heads.

At the first therapist visit, G talked a lot about how he feels like he's lost himself in the whirlwind of babies and toddlers and housework the past couple of years. He has no time for his activities or socialization, and feels very isolated and unmotivated. I've offered him time to himself, but he's been reluctant to take it, perhaps not knowing how sincere my offers have been. So we discussed that when help is offered, we should take advantage of it, and if its not offered, we should ask for it. Because both of us recognized that we actually feel good about helping out the other, so its a win win. We've been putting this into action on weekends and weekdays, where once a week I'll get the kids and do dinner/bath/bed myself so that G can work late (or do whatever he wishes, though he usually works late).  I guess technically this is not directly related to our relationship, but anything that helps us get more personal time does increase our general feeling of good will towards each other.

We also discussed my need for having time set aside to talk to each other without interruptions. At the visit, G suggested we eat dinner one night/week after the kids are in bed. We tried this, and basically we were starving and exhausted by 8:30 PM and scarfed down our food and then STILL had to clean up and I hated it. So we decided instead to sit down after the kids were asleep with a glass of wine once a week and talk (instead of our usual TV-watching, internet surfing, or going our separate ways to read/work/sleep). After we made this decision, of course, I got sick and have been going to bed early, and then I was gone for 2 days on a work trip, and then G got we have yet to try it out.

Also related to communication, we discussed how G tends to get defensive very easily when I bring up anything bothering me. Our conversations generally take this pattern: I bring something up, he gets defensive, I start to cry, he gets more defensive and now angry and starts the whole "Oh, I guess I can't do ANYTHING right, so this is another thing I'm doing wrong, etc..." I get annoyed by that nonsense and refuse to continue the conversation. He gets even madder. Then I get angry. We both say things we don't mean to say. One of us storms off.
A couple of times since we discussed this, he's checked himself, realizing he's getting defensive, and stepped back so that we could actually have a productive conversation. I was amazed.

Not discussed at the therapist, but something that we've both brought up before is the issue of s.ex. Or the lack of it, really, that is caused mostly by a mismatch in our optimal times of being in the mood. I am adamant about getting my sleep; so if we want to have our alone time, I would prefer it to be right after the kids are in bed. G insists that he can't just switch from childcare to sexytime mode, and needs to "unwind" for a while at which point I'm generally ready for bed. So he's always trying something as I'm getting ready for bed, after we've watched a movie, or gone out on a date night, and getting rejected because at that point I am exhausted and sleep is priority #1. Once we explained our rationales, it made it pretty easy to come up with the plan that when one of is was in the mood, we would have to be clear about it, and then we could unwind briefly with a drink or just chatting and then get to it, so that I wouldn't fall asleep or feel resentful that I was missing out on sleep and would be tired the next day.

G also mentioned how I never touch him affectionately. I'm honestly just not, and never have been,  very physically affectionate. But its something he needs, and I am working on it. I forget frequently---I got home from a 2-day trip and started making myself dinner (it was late and I was starving!) instead of giving him a hug. I know. I said I'm working on it.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is an issue that I am working on myself. It is my tendency to not want to bring up touchy subjects (conflict aversion) until they build up to a point that I explode, and having a rational conversation becomes difficult. I'm trying to bring things up as they arise. Not everything needs to be said, of course, I pick my battles. But if I've decided something is really bothering me and I want to talk about it, the time to do it is today, not waiting for some perfect moment when the stars align.

I think that's the whole of it. As you can see, we are approaching this with the best of intentions. I'll keep ya'll updated.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Goodby to the Brown Comfy Couch

So....we stopped going to therapy. It was a somewhat mutual decision; we both agreed that we did not like this particular woman. G was fairly adamant that we didn't need therapy, "But if YOU really feel we should go, research new people, meet with someone, and if they are better, I'll go with you". Doing all that the first time took a not unsubstantial amount of time and mental energy, which I possessed only because of the high hopes I carried about therapy. Now that those hopes are deflated, I don't really have the momentum to go through the process again. So I agreed to take a hiatus, and see how things go, with a plan to revisit the idea in 2014 if I think we need it.

In retrospect, I should have trusted my instincts on this. My first meeting with the woman, I noticed that her voice and mannerisms were somewhat annoying. But, I have a tendency to make snap judgements about people based on certain characteristics (voice is a big one...I've dropped classes because the professor's voice drove me up the wall), and I wanted to see if I could get past it. Also, I was lazy (see above re: process); there was nothing fundamentally wrong with her at the first meeting, so I wasn't eager to start over again. And I guess I was desperate to talk to someone about things, that I really had a lot to say the first session, the time flew by, and I felt hopeful that she could help us.

The second session was more awkward. There were several moments when I didn't have anything more to say, and she just sat there staring. Some guidance would've been immensely helpful---asking me about specific aspects about marriage, other aspects of my life...I don't know, is that not how it works? At the time, I chalked the awkwardness up to me being sick (as soon as I left, I realized I had chills, and a really fuzzy head, and was down with a bad cold for the next few days). Also, I assumed that since my major problems were with my marriage, that I didn't need much individual therapy, and that I needed to bring G in, since I'd run out of things to say myself.

So I brought G in, he did not protest or ask many questions. He showed up, and he participated. She asked him to "talk about you", and it was quite enlightening for me to see all the personal struggle he's going through, trying to maintain his identity in the wake up life's upheaval after having the boys. We talked about strategies for carving time out for himself on weekends, strategies for making the kind of progress at work that would lead to more satisfaction, and some ideas of how we could find time to talk more. Even in that session, I got the weird sense that she was "on my side"; when I mentioned how much I wanted to help him have his own space, she would jump in with "how does that make you feel, G? Can you see how much love she has for you?", or when it came up that I wanted us to have more time to talk together "see how much your wife wants to talk to you, she loves you so much.". It was...weird. But overall, G told me he found it helpful to talk to someone, and was fine with going back, so we went. I felt hopeful again, that maybe this would bring us closer together, get us back on track.

I mentioned that the second couples session was where it really broke down. Basically G got stuck on some minutiae, as he tends to do, and she never redirected the conversation to the more general, underlying problem (which was NOT about having time to fix the drywall holes in the bathroom, or our individual standards for clean kitchen counters). And again, I got that weird "on my side" sense, and a bit of "putting words in my mouth". "Oh, you must feel so hurt when he re-cleans the kitchen after you've already cleaned it". No, hurt isn't the word I would use. Annoyed and stabby? That's a different feeling. Anyways, we both left feeling awkward, annoyed, and further off track than ever before. Neither of us was eager to go back 5 days later at our next appointment.

So I  called her to cancel that appointment, wanting to leave a message, but she picked up. I told her we were really busy, and would need to get back to her. She started talking about the session, asking how we felt afterwards, and I admitted we found it frustrating and unhelpful. She was all "Yes, I don't remember exactly the session, but I probably could've done something differently. You learn as you work with a couple, and every couple is different, so some sessions don't go so smoothly". The gist was that she realized she didn't do her job that well, but would try harder next time?

G and I talked that evening and made the final decision not to return, but I haven't called her yet...

OK, this got longer than I'd planned. There will be a separate post on how things are going with G & I, and what we are trying to do to work on our marriage.

Monday, October 7, 2013

What I learned this weekend

Without much fanfare, L turned two. And the 4 of us had another lovely weekend. I learned (or re-learned) a few things:

Children's milestones are bittersweet for the parents. Saturday was a happy day, but there were some unshed tears about my baby growing up, etc. Mostly during swimming lessons, when I realized the adorableness of parent-child swimming instruction was soon to come to an end. I kind of love swimming lessons. The kids are so happy in the water, we get to snuggle them and bounce them while we sing ridiculous swimming-themed versions of nursery rhymes, and catch them when they "Have a great FAAAALLLL" off the side. Its a fun and child-focused moment that starts our often harried weekends on a great note.

$5 worth of decorations from the dollar store, and $7 worth of cake-baking ingredients are all a toddler (and his brother) needs for a special day.

When someone offers you a break, even if you don't think you need it, TAKE IT. You will never regret it.

Paradoxically, planning is essential to being able to enjoy laid-back and relaxed fun. Otherwise there is general stress about how things are going to get done that ruins the vibe.

G & I are actually doing OK as long as we make a point to talk about things. This does not necessarily involve going to therapy. I am working up the courage to call her and cancel this week's session, since we were both secretly dreading it and were so relieved that the other felt the same.

Sometimes kids can actually be a lot of fun. Not just "cute" or "interesting", but honest-to-goodness fun. Like the impromptu dance party we had last night...who knew the under-4 set would love the Beastie Boys so much?

Perception and reality can be miles apart. G was telling me that I never touch him (hug, kiss, hold hands) and that he needs more of that. I was shocked, I thought I'd been doing plenty of that. Then I asked him if my lack of affection was what caused HIS lack of affection. And he was shocked, "I'm ALWAYS touching you". This is why we need to talk.

A second opinion on online shopping acquisitions is key. I am strongly biased towards keeping everything, given the hassle of returns. So I second-guess my initial negative impressions. When G tells me that its "not me" (definitely a diplomatic way of putting it...), its going back*.

BTW, I am definitely keeping both eShakti dresses and all but one top and one wrong-size skirt from Boden. Also the 2 tops and 1 skirt from Loft. That's it, I promise. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Small Plates

Since I don't have the motivation to construct a coherent, themed essay-style post, we shall proceed tapas-style.

  • The psychologist is starting to annoy us. I kind of want to switch (or just quit and use the time/money to go on fun dates with that a good sign, though?). We both felt like she was putting words into our mouths ("oh, you must have felt really hurt then?", I was annoyed. Not "really hurt". Words matter when the very point of the activity is to improve communication.) Also I was feeling uncomfortably like she was taking "my side" and trying to show G how "hurt" he was making me feel. We ended up spending half the session on a little thing (something regarding kitchen-cleaning) that didn't merit this much discussion and ended up annoying both of us...I was hoping a trained therapist would be able to steer the conversation away from minutiae to the real heart of the problem. We have a session scheduled on Thursday afternoon at 4 pm next week...maybe we can switch it out for a glass of wine instead.
  • I went to a "Mommy Book Club" in my desperate effort to make friends. It was...surreal. I was the only full-time working mother there (there were several that "worked" 3-5 hours/week). Most had one, young child. There was a LOT of talk of birth stories, mommy-and-me classes, breastfeeding. I mostly sat and drank my wine. The only reason I decided to go to this was because as a "book club" I was hoping we could discuss something other than the aforementioned topics that tend to dominate any "Mommy" activity. My mistake.
  • No matter what I do, I feel tired and exhausted pretty constantly. Also frequent tension and/or migraine headaches. I'm going to bed early, exercising, drinking tons of water, no one is sick and L is mostly sleeping... I don't get it. No its not my thyroid. Also, no, I'm definitely not pregnant. 
  • The online shopping is getting out of hand. I can't stop buying more and more stuff. I've got a package en route from Loft (I got a $50 off $100 purchase, but 2 items added up to $99 so I had to get a third...). I got my 2 dresses from eshakti and love them both. One is a bit...chesty...for work, but will work nicely for date night. The other is modest enough for work but a bit "fancy" (lots of ruffly stuff at the neckline) and sleeveless. I'm thinking a more casual or structured jacket would tone it down and make it seasonally appropriate. So now I've been obsessed with finding such a jacket. The huge Boden package came in yesterday and I didn't get a chance to try things on yet except the shoes I got, which for some bizarre reason B thought were for him. They are straight up huge size 8 purple and pink color-blocked (or "colour-blocked" as they say) ankle-strapped wedges. Why would they be for a 3-year old boy??
  • Last weekend was really fun. Exhausting, because we stayed up way too late Friday and Saturday, and drank way too much both nights. But fun. And Sunday was relaxing with my parents here. And Monday & Tuesday were even more relaxing (no day care drop-offs! No cooking---and no cooking for the whole week, in fact, my mom made a TON). My parents did annoy me once, but I got over it.
  • L's birthday is Saturday and I am actually happy that it'll be just the 4 of us for the first time ever on a kids' birthday. We did a small store-bought cake with my parents last weekend, and he got his gifts from them (and B got a big gift, too, a new purple that we could hand his little one down to L). I want to put streamers and balloons out in the kitchen Friday night so he can wake up to them. Then we'll do swimming lessons like always, and make a cake together. Then eat said cake. Enjoy what has got to be the last of the 80 degree weather. G got small gifts (books) for both kids that we can wrap. 
  • I was wracking my brain (is that the right spelling for that word?) to figure out a "birthday meal" for L. He seriously doesn't eat anything most times. Not pizza, no pasta, not chicken nuggets, not Indian food or Greek food or Thai food or Chinese food. Definitely not any vegetables. Not anything. Maybe the specialness of the birthday meal will be letting him eat only cake and ice cream and not bothering him with anything else. 
  • Work is annoying me right now. I revised a protocol to meet the scientific review committee concerns, but now its over-budget and I have to un-revise it. Except its already under review at the IRB (the budget took a few days to get back). So if it does get approved, I'll have to amend the protocol. But at least once its approved, I can get my (tiny, barely enough to get started) money. (Seriously, such a small amount I could have taken it out of my personal savings and hardly worried.) But I'm annoyed. I don't work very efficiently when annoyed. 
I don't know about you, but I always eat more when there are small plates involved.