Sunday, January 27, 2013

Balancing Act. Saying no to a baby, so I can say yes to everything else.

The past few weeks have been different for me.

I decided that this was going to be the year that I released some responsibilities, and embraced others. I was tired of offering to do things, and then feeling overwhelmed when people accepted my help, or frustrated by the chaos I now had to wrangle - even though I was the one who offered in the first place.

Oh, irony.

It took some soul searching to realize that so much of my frustration and angst was entirely self-created. If I would stop signing up to do stuff, people wouldn't ask me to ........... well, DO STUFF.

I like to help. But I need to stop offering myself up every free moment of the day.

The problem, for me, is that a totally free day feels empty. Wasted. Like I should be working or doing something or going somewhere. I want to say yes. I want to have every minute spoken for. The more the merrier. But I have to rein it in. Have to. Woah Nellie. Absolutely must. And this weekend, the reins almost snapped.

I am currently juggling three part-time jobs, plus a healthy dose of volunteerism, and then just regular day to day "buy toilet paper because we are out, and get a birthday present for that party you found about this morning - the one that starts at 2pm this afternoon - and by the way it's a potluck" mom-of-two-kids kind of stuff. And then on Friday the state called to ask if I could take custody of a baby, due to be born at any moment. Allegedly. (Long story). And when the social worker asked, I took a deep breath and said "Suuuuuuuure."

What I should have said was "sssssssshhhhhhhhhhhiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit".

How could I say no? Like my problems are bigger than that baby's problems?

How could I say no, but why would I say yes? I mean, really. I work 6-7 days a week. My work is not strenuous, and offers a lot of flexibility, so I think to myself "it's no big deal that I have a commitment every single day of the week - I can TOTALLY TAKE CARE OF A BRAND NEW FOSTER BABY." But then I tried to figure out how, exactly, I would be able to do it, and the only thing I could "totally" do was hyperventilate.

I wanted to say yes. How could I say no?
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present The Root of the Problem?

I want to say yes, and I spend a lot of time figuring out how to say yes - which in the end takes even more time away from the things I am already committed to doing. And that's usually when the hyperventilation comes into play.

It's not just affecting me, though. In the end, it is more than just my time that is being squeezed when I am the yes girl.

My family has to deal with my frustration and distraction as I try to get everything done.
My friends notice when I am not at the events and dates when we planned to see each other, because I either double booked or am hiding in my bed clutching a heating pad and feeling guilty for not being there.
My body is exhausted and my mind is racing through the things I am doing, and the things I am NOT doing - which are actually more upsetting to me.

I am a fucking wreck, and I find myself shutting down and cruising Facebook at night, ignoring the emails and bills and projects and my book - the one project that means the most to me, and is currently sitting on the bedside table waiting to be edited. When the heck am I supposed to find the quiet time to tackle that?

And so, last night I made a list. Does that sound simplistic? Hey, listen. I am no life coach. I just did what I needed to do. I wrote down everything. The vaccinations, the physical therapy, the playdates and activities, the work shifts and responsibilities  The things I have been worried about, the things I need to do. I just let it all out. It is a really long list.

And that is okay.

The List can evolve. It is organic and most importantly, I am in control of this list. It's not a To Do list - it allows for procrastination and last-minute changes of plan. If I don't want to do something, or can't, I just nudge it down to a new spot in the hierarchy. The List is written in order of priority, and that order can be rearranged as needed. It is on my phone, just a simple memo, and I can add and delete at will. It comforts me to look at it, calms me down, eases my fears. Everything seems totally doable when it is there on The List, mixed in with other things. And I am losing the nagging paranoia that I have forgotten something terribly urgent. Any time I think of something I have to do, or if I make a plan to do something - even something simple or fun like call a friend or meet someone for lunch, I grab my phone and add it to The List - before I add it to my calendar. It is one of the things I need to do. Adding those fun social commitments to The List is just as important as adding all of the tasks that I need to accomplish.

The List is how the mortgage got paid this morning, and the laundry got dried this afternoon, and the biodegradable paper products will be ordered on Monday for the event I am chairing three weeks from now.

And the most important thing about the list is that it helps me to put everything into perspective.
Even if I could do something, is it more important than the things I am already doing? Can I realistically fit it in? Will I be satisfied? Proud? Stressed? Miserable? And when I realize that shit is going south, that I am committed to something I cannot handle, or when I feel that people are asking more of me than they should be, I am able to see why it makes me feel bad. I have moved all of these things around on The List to make time for them, and now they want more? Well, no. I can't. Because I agreed to do this. This item right here on The List. I budgeted the time and money and energy and enthusiasm for this. And now you want that. That is different. And that isn't on my list. It is easy to say no, because I can see what I have already said yes to.

So I made this list, this crazy, long list, and then I panicked. Where the hell was a new baby going to go on The List? An entire person cannot be a list item.

This morning I lay in bed for a long while, icing my back and slowly realizing that I was actually afraid that the phone was going to ring and I was going to have a brand new baby dropped off at the house. The thought was absolutely terrifying. I looked again and again at my list. This is going to sound overly-simplistic, and in my mind it seems so callous to say it - but its the truth: I scrolled up and down and finally concluded that if a baby came to live with me this week, I would struggle to take on all of the things that baby would need. The doctors appointments and visitations and middle of the night feedings. I can't push everything else down on the list, to add something (someone!) new that would need to be put at the very tippy-top for an indefinite period of time. To say yes to that baby, was to effectively say no to everything and everyone else for the next 4-6 months.

Oh, it is so hard to accept. I have never said no before. I am sick with the guilt, and the wanting to help, to hold that baby who needs someone to put him or her at the top of their list. I cant do it. I can't do it to my family, I can't do it to all of the people who are already counting on me. Who I already said yes to.

So I put that baby right at the top of The List - temporarily:
"Call CPS and tell them I can't take the baby".

I never, ever thought I would say those words. But it is on the list.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

girls night: no discretion required. And thank god for that.

I love me a good girls night.

I know what you are thinking. As part of a roller derby team, I should have had endless girls nights. After all, the entire sport of roller derby is one unending girls night - right? But when you are rolling (sometimes literally) in a group of 16, it feels less like a girls night and more like a field trip. I needed intimacy, dammit. I needed to sit down, turn on my oversharing light and order exactly the right amount of sushi because, after years of practice, we know how to do this.

And so, an official girls night out was declared.

We decided to pregame at a martini bar - don't worry, they make an excellent Shirley Temple. The girls have shown unwavering support of my sobriety, and exhibited a willingness to drink my champagne reserves for which I am forever grateful. During dinner, we talked about the reasons why I didn't drink, and how good it felt to have made the decision once and for all.

"I will say this:" I declared proudly. "This New Years marks the first time I have ever been in the Jack in the Box drive thru at 2am and NOT peed behind the dumpster." The restaurant, of course, was suddenly quiet at that moment. The waitress grinned. Boo cackled.

That naturally led us to stories of public urination that may or may not have happened, and the tools available to assist us in public urination, both reusable (environmentally friendly!) and disposable (individually wrapped!) I have never needed any accessories to help me with this particular endeavor, but it is good to know that the resources are out there for those women who are, lets say, less skilled in that area.

We transitioned into stories of small men with big penises ("That's right baby, I'M A TRIPOD!" one proclaimed proudly, or so the story went.) and kids who treat their mother's boobs like one of those enormous milk dispensers from a cafeteria ("My cut off point was 'If you no longer fit on my lap, and need your own seat next to me to breastfeed, then we are done here.'") followed by a spirited and educational discussion about being in a carnivale parade ("They stuck their hard peepees against my butt. All. Day. Long." "Well, you were wearing a glittery thong. I just saw a photo of your ass, no wonder they were hard." "Did she just say 'peepee'? Is she talking about boners? Or are we still talking about actual peeing?"
And then there was the fascinating conversation about implants, and a love story about dating a man who lives on another island. We all agreed that seeing each other two weekends per month sounded perfectly perfect. The bathroom stays clean, and you don't have to shave as often.

The only thing missing from our conversation was an actual man. And I am sure every male in the restaurant was thrilled to not be any part of it.

At the end of the night, we returned to the martini bar for another round (ginger ale and martinis!) and then I headed back to the house. I was in bed by 11pm; sober, full from a healthy dinner that included a salad, and I didn't have to stop at Jack in the Box - for any reason - on the way home.

I don't want to jinx myself, here.....but I may be growing up.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Trusting our intuition - taking this freak show on the road. Or not.

We had plans for a little mini-vacation today. I use the term "vacation" loosely. We are lucky enough to be surrounded by beauty and adventure everywhere we turn here on Maui. Literally, the drive to the grocery store has a view that people pull over on the side of the road to photograph all day, every day.

I drive under rainbows every afternoon. Sometimes double rainbows.

Today we were going to do something even more than the usual daily awesome, though. We were headed to Hana, a drive which is - by all accounts - a beautiful one. We go "the back way" through Kaupo, rather than taking the notorious Road to Hana, and it is breathtaking. And once in Hana, there are caves to explore pools to dive in, beaches to sleep on, roadside grills to eat at, and waves to surf.

It is a magical experience.

So yay, going to Hana.

And then I woke up early. Early as in 3am. And I was a total wreck. I couldn't put my finger on it, exactly, but something was making me anxious. Anxiously is putting it mildly, actually..... I awoke with my stomach in knots, feeling absolutely terrified. I calmed myself down and fell asleep after an hour or so, but when I woke up again a few hours later, I felt worse. I wasn't anxious - I was completely panicked. 

I rolled over and nudged Sam.

"You are going to think I am crazy," I began. He rolled his eyes. He hears that line a lot.
"No, really. I'm almost embarrassed to even say this out loud."
"What's up?" He lay back and closed his eyes, waiting for the crazy to just wash over him. It's best not to fight it.
"We can't go to Hana. I have a really bad feeling. Bad feeling doesn't do it justice, actually."
He turned and looked at me. "I don't think you are crazy."
"You don't?"
"Nope. Last night I had a vision of us getting run off the road past Kaupo by a pickup truck. I thought it was weird. What a random thought to have....... but if you are feeling something too, we're not going to Hana."

Max wandered into our room a few minutes later. "Mom, I had a bad dream last night. I dreamed we got stuck in a cave."
"You did?"
Sami raised an eyebrow.
"Buddy, is it cool if we don't go to Hana today?"
"I don't want to go." Max was clearly uncomfortable. Was he making this up? It seemed weird.

When Lucy woke up, she came to give me a hug. "Mama, I had a dream that a scraped my knee in a cave today. It was really scary."

Sami and I looked at each other and shook our heads slowly.

So we're not going to Hana. I don't know what the hell is going on, but I can say this with certainty: We will have a fine time together no matter where we are, and I certainly don't feel like testing our familial premonition with a two hour drive on this road:

The biggest risk we will take today is going to Walmart on a Saturday to buy more Kleenex. I'll take lots of photos for the album.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Curate. aka Sometimes, you just need a theme song.

I have been doing a lot of deep thinking lately.

I am cutting back. Not retreating, just.......filtering. I need to stop saying yes to everything, and then either being so strung out or spread thin that I am not really THERE when I need to be - or when I said I would be.

I want to be fun, I want to be busy, I want to be involved, I want to be supportive. But cannot do every damn wonderful thing there is. Sad but true.

So this year my word is "Curate". I thought it was other words. I considered "prioritize" and then bounced around the thesaurus in my head. And I settled on "curate". Pick and choose and design the life that reflects me.

And this is my theme song: "Supply and Demand" by Amos Lee

This is just a link to the studio recording - there are lots of good live versions, but it can hard to understand the lyrics sometimes, so enjoy this version first, then dive in, he's got lots of good stuff. xo

"Supply and Demand"
Somethin’ gotta give with the way I’m livin’
Seems I’m gettin’ down everyday
The more I strive, the less I’m alive
And seems I’m gettin’ further away

Oh well all my superstitions and my crazy suspicions
Of the people that I care about
I been doin’ more screamin’ than i been doin’ dreamin’
And I think it’s time I figured it out

Yeah baby I need a plan to understand
That life ain’t only supply and demand

I been goin’ joggin’ in the park after dark
Draggin’ ’round with me my ball and chain
Took southern skies to make me realize
That I’m causin’ myself this pain

The woman that I’m lovin’ yeah I’m pushin’ and shovin’
Getting further on by the day
And I can’t understand how the heart of this man
Ever let it end up this way

Yeah baby I need a plan to understand
That life ain’t only supply and demand

When the road gets dark and lonesome dear
You can find me here
But honey you don’t know where I am
You need a frieeeend yeeaahh

Life ain’t easy in fact I know it’s sleazy
When you’re the big man in town
Shakin’ religions and makin’ decisions
You never get to slow on down

Well your wife and your baby you tell them yeah well maybe
I’ll meet y’all at a weekend resort
Put your eyes on the prize and you can realize
Your little girl’s life’s so short

Brother you need a plan to understand
That life ain’t only supply and demand
Yeah sister you need a plan to understand
That life ain’t only supply and demand

Hey, you better figure it out now
You know you ain’t comin’ back down, yeah
You better figure it out now
You know you ain’t comin’ back down

Friday, January 4, 2013

And then I looked for the emergency exits. A new normal.

The kids are back in school. When I dropped them off, I sat in the car and stared at the door to the classroom, sitting open in the damp breeze as leaves scuttled across the deck.

I never would have noticed it before. I never would have spent one single moment thinking about that open door.

But that was before Newtown.

Last week. I took the kids to the movies. As we settled into our seats, I scanned the room. I had a conversation in my head about whether we should switch seats. Should we be closer to an exit, or further away? Should we be on the aisle, or in the middle? And these questions had absolutely nothing to do with the view of the screen, which - until that day - had been the only consideration when choosing a seat.

But that was before Aurora.

A few nights ago, we were in a crowd that formed quickly around a celebrity. People were clamoring for photos and trying to get ever-closer to the subject of their excitement. I found myself pressed up against some chairs next to a railing. I couldn't move to the side, couldn't move forward. So I turned around and - in 6 inch stilettos - climbed over the backs of the chairs, several rows of them - to get away.  I was never a huge fan of crowds, but had never been truly frightened - until Tucson.

The bottom line is that, while I shared everyone's horror and disgust on December 14th, I had no idea how it would affect me in my own day to day life. And it turns out that it has affected me quite a bit.

That sucks.
It really, really sucks.

I hate to be worried about getting shot in a theater, or in a crowd, or worry about whether my kids are safe at school. And because I live in a place where gun violence is very rare, I am pretty confident that my fear is completely irrational and unjustified - which is the only reason I was able to drop my kids off and drive away, or sit through that movie, or stick around to watch the crowd disburse at that party.

But then the local movie theater was evacuated due to a bomb threat, and damned if I didn't read that news alert and think "We are never going to the movies again".

I don't know what my point is in writing all of this. I guess it is just to say that I am a fairly reasonable person, and I don't feel safe at the moment - and I don't think I am being paranoid. I am pretty sure I'm not the ony person who has these concerns, and once again I feel like there is comfort in a shared experience - whether it be one of joy or sadness or fear. When you are with someone else, and you are both feeling scared, sometimes just squeezing each other's hand and facing your fear together is the only thing that gets you through.

So here is my hand. I am squeezing tight. And I know it's gonna be okay.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A decision not to drink that is not made in the throes of a hangover

This morning I woke up, clear-headed and strong-stomached, with my eyes open wide to the bright sunshine splashing across the room. There was a gorgeous bottle of Moet on the kitchen counter waiting for my orange juice. I stood for a moment, glass in my hand, and thought about it.

And I decided that I wasn't going to drink alcohol anymore.

This is not a New Year's resolution. This is not a response to recent events, or a judgement of others, or even a fresh start..... this is just a girl, looking at the internet, and saying "I don't want to drink anymore".

I have said that before. And I meant it every time. So what is different now?

I don't want to not drink because I hate how it makes me feel (though I do). I don't want to not drink because it's expensive (though it is). I don't want to not drink because it's bad for me (though anyone who has seen me drink knows that is surely the case).

I want to not drink, because I feel like I'm done drinking. I am all drinked out. It has been a very long time coming - from the dusty bottle of Gibley's in my parents liquor cabinet, to out-running the cops through the woods carrying a keg, to having a "two panty" rule when I went out, which ensured it would be a challenge to flash anyone accidentally (or purposefully, as was more likely the case), to having my husband usher the babysitter out of the house hoping she didn't see me on the kitchen floor where he had left me sound asleep, one shoe still on, my skirt around my waist (but still wearing panties!) because that second margarita had been a little too much.

Because two margaritas, you see, is frequently all it takes. A combination of high metabolism and prescription medications means that I get drunk very efficiently. It is, in fact, one of the most efficient things I do.  I am a notoriously cheap date. The local barkeeps will not be wearing black armbands. I don't drink every day, not even every week. Which makes "I am not going to drink anymore" an easy thing for me to say.

It will not be an easy thing to do.

Never is a very strong word. It will mean saying no, which is not a strong suit of mine. Drinking is a huge part of ...... everything. People give bottles as gifts, buy drinks for friends, suggest meeting for a glass of wine or a beer as an activity. And because this decision isn't coming from a point of desperation, it will be difficult to say "No thank you."

I will be nervous about hurting feelings, or having people feel judged.
After all, it would be easy to have "just one drink".
And then there is this bottle of champagne in the kitchen..........

So I am going into this whole thing with steely determination. I have said in the past that I was done drinking, and it always fell apart, mostly because I didn't really care that much, and I didn't drink often enough or heavily enough for it to bother me. But as I have seen things in this world spin completely out of control - not my control, just anyone's control - control in general - I want to take hold of something that is totally within my power, and just hang on for dear life. It is a totally do-able thing, to not drink. But it is something that you really do have to embrace anew every single day.

And now that I have made this decision, I can make a New Year's Resolution:
I am going to be the most fun sober girl at the party. I am ready to show everyone how this shit is done. I will drink pretty drinks, with fruit and umbrellas and lime and bitters and bubbles and sugar rims and not a drop of alcohol. I will still dance on tables, and maybe, if you are lucky, I will go back to wearing just one pair of panties when I head out for the night.