Friday, March 14, 2014


So far this year has been a year of reflection and gaining insight. About my marriage and what makes it work, and what threatens to break it apart. About how I work, what motivates me, and how I sabotage myself. About how my children push me over the edge, and what I can do to back up a few feet so I don't fall. About what feels right for my family, and ways to make our lives fit that dream.

I'm collecting insights like…things you collect (sea-shells? stamps? coins?) but the challenge, of course, is putting them into action. I know I should plan my work days better, not snap at my husband, take a deep breath before yelling at my kids---but I don't always do those things. In fact, I rarely remember to do them. Its quite hard to change patterns of learned behavior, especially those that have been there for years.

In biomedical research, we talk a lot of "translation", the critical process of taking molecular and functional insights gained from basic science and using that knowledge to actually improve clinical care; "bench to bedside", as they say. It doesn't always work, of course. Understanding how a gene or pathway functions in a mouse or in a cell line isolated in a laboratory with exposures that you carefully control doesn't necessarily tell you what's going to happen when you modify that gene or pathway in a human actually interacting with the world and making independent decisions.

Similarly, knowing what I should be doing given in the hypothetical situations I've created in my head doesn't necessarily translate to what I actually do in the heat of the moment, with emotions and discomforts and the wants and needs of others. Yes, next time B starts whining about not wanting to go to school, I should really sit down and talk to him about why he doesn't want to go, to figure out if something happened, or something is bothering him. But when its already 8:30 AM, and L is painting the sofa with watercolors, and I haven't eaten anything in the 3 hours I've been up---I simply snap "I don't care, you're going". And I know in the mornings that I need to get to work, sit down, and start working on my most important project first. But when I've had a morning of bickering kids, snappy spouse, no breakfast, and just walked for half an hour in 15 degree windy weather, I make myself a cup of tea and tell myself its "just a little break" before I realize I've spent 30 minutes on decidedly non-work activities. And at the end of the day, I know I should talk to my husband. At least a few minutes of connection, and find out why his day was so "awful", but by the time I've finally got B to stop getting out of bed because "I'm not tired. I want to sleep with you. I want a NEW bed. I want to watch a movie", etc… I just don't have it in me to be encouraging or supportive. So I nip any any possibility of connection in the bud with a quick "I'm tired, goodnight" and go upstairs to read while he hangs out downstairs.

I guess what I'm realizing is that learning about myself is great, but I need to get a lot more practice to ensure that this education actually leads to any positive impact on my life.


  1. "and I haven't eaten anything in the 3 hours I've been up"
    My son and I (and my sister, and my mom, and my MIL) have whatchamacallet that glycemic thing where everything goes to hell if you don't eat often enough or you don't eat enough fiber/protein/non-sugar. Hyperglycemia (hypoglycemia? one of those).

    Back when I was infertile and ttc and found out I had PCOS and stopped eating sugar and refined carbs and started eating 5 meals a day in the hope that I would one day ovulate a side-effect was I stopped having sugar crashes and it was a lot easier to deal with situations rationally. CBT helped a lot before then, but getting my blood-sugar levels even... that was like a miracle.

    My husband now always puts food in me when I get testy or snappish. There's trail mix in the car for emergencies and out on the counter in the kitchen and in my desk at work along with larabars and fresh fruit. We both put food in DC1 when he's testy or melting down. My FIL carries small things for my MIL to eat in his pockets when they go out, just in case.

    I don't know if you've got this problem too, but given what you're saying above, it sounds like a potential action is to have on hand a lot of dried fruit and nuts that you can pop in your mouth and chew on the moment you start feeling upset. That might help the implementation of other actions. I've found it crazy how much my mood depends on the state of my physical body. YMMV.

  2. What I know in my head about myself doesn't always translate well I to everyday practice either. You're right- it isn't easy to change old habits. I do find that it is much easier to be conscious of my actions when I am taking care of myself, and have achieved a decent amount of work-life balance. I have issues with hypoglycaemia, so I need to eat regularly. I need to work out at least four days per week in order to feel ok about my body. And I need sleep. Seven hours a day is best for me (as a shift worker, this is the one that suffers the most). I am at my best when all these things are happening as they should, but it's tough. Life is just so damned busy!

    I have also noticed more extreme mood swings since perimenopause really started to kick in... Not sure if that might be an issue for you or not, but it's definitely something to consider. I'm hoping to find some remedies for that that don't involve hormone replacement.

  3. Ha. During the routine stuff (getting out of the house, going to bed) we've been having more and more screaming and tantrums lately because #1 wants to do EVERYTHING ALL BY SELF. Sure, I could "slow down" if I wanted her bedtime to take 2 hours, and I'm sorry (not really) if I don't find that to be acceptable. The fun activities around the house for her consist basically of changing her clothes over and over again (not very fun since she cries and screams when she can't do it and needs help) demanding that we do puzzles with her (i.e. that we do them for her) over and over again, and watching tv (ok since then at least she snuggles with us).

    And then, we plan a fun activity out of the house to have "quality time" and it's not nearly as fun as we want it to be because a) I hate museums and most other kid-friendly activities available in the city in winter, and b) she throws a fit unless she gets to do EXACTLY what she wants (i.e. ride the elevator for 1h at the Please Touch Museum).

    And I feel bad because I'm supposed to be "enjoying" her now, but I'm just not. I don't find any of these things fun. She is an amazing child and I love her, but all of this just sucks.

    And I only have one.

  4. I love this post. And I totally relate. I know how/why what I do can make me miserable, but I can't help myself. I worry I will never learn from my mistakes. Self forgiveness is also important.

  5. I am honestly trying to do my best, which often is not good enough. I know what i SHOULD do, yet many times, I still do what my fucking useless drive pushes me to. I should yell less, because I know and had enough prove that yelling does not solve anything, on the contrary, yet, I still yell, out of frustration, out of powerlessness, out of lack of control, out of sheer exhaustion and lack of sleep, because once, it would be so nice of my children to just do what. I ask them to do, without testing all the limits in the world, and be more considerate to their poor, tired mother. That moment is still to come. But I am so ready for it, that I fear all this waiting will turn me into a miss Havisham... But it will come, I am sure it will.
    You are not alone, dear. This is a sort of survival of the fittest mode. We should whip ourselves into better shape. If we survive this period, we will enjoy the calm before the teenage years so much more. Baby steps to the elevator. (Bonus points for the movie reference. :-))

  6. A very poignant post. I am in a similar place, facing many of the same issues, and feeling like all the self-knowledge or reflection isn't making me better, I'm doing worse in spite of it all. It's very cyclic for me, and based on some mysterious pattern in my toddler's behavior. Or maybe my toddler's behavior is based on some mysterious pattern in me... Anyway, I admire you, for working at it, for thinking about it, for doing your best. And yeah, learning isn't just a matter of acquiring some facts. That translation you talk about is insanely hard when we have to do it while juggling spinning plates and hungry alligators.

  7. You are trying to do A LOT, and you really need to cut yourself some slack! Everything is harder when you aren't getting good sleep (or enough of it) and are hungry. Also when you're in a hurry and the little people are not.

    You mentioned in a previous post that you need "wide margins" on your time. I love that idea - I am the same way. It sounds like your day-to-day doesn't have that. I'm guessing that's not easily fixable, but maybe something to think about how you might get help to make it so?