Ostriching. And how that isn’t working for me.

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Oh, this world. I have thoughts. I have feelings. I have anxiety. I have anger. I have disgust. I am trying to hang on to hope.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a solidarity rally locally for the Women’s March on Washington. I was so happy to be there. I had been sitting by and feeling kind of helpless as all the things that I was worried about with the new administration started to appear to come to fruition. But on that day, I was able to get together with like-minded fellow citizens and raise our collective voice to protest against a variety of very important issues. It was powerful.

And now…I don’t know where it goes. I am a fixer and a caretaker. I want everything to be okay, but I don’t have it within my power to make everything okay. So part of me wants to bear witness to all this stuff and become an activist and help the disenfranchised or underrepresented have their voices heard. And then the other part of me wants to climb into my bed nest and cover myself up with my weighted blanket and hope that it will all be “better” when I come up for air.

My anxiety regarding social issues is through the roof. And that means that my tendency to do “behaviors” things is also way up there. So maybe I should have some ice cream for dinner. What can I buy from Amazon? Maybe some hermitting will help. Or I can make like an ostrich. I’ll stick my head in the sand and pretend like none of this is happening. That is not an unusual tactic for me.

So I want to “stay woke.” I want to take the energy that I gathered at the rally on Saturday and parlay it into something good. But I also want to take care of myself and make sure that I am not overextending and spinning my wheels and not getting anything done. I am not sure yet what my version of activism is going to look like, and maybe I don’t have to know right now.

I have never been one to wait though. So that will be hard for me.

ETA – Okay, I decided to take a baby step and email both of my Senators to let them know that I oppose Betsy DeVos for the Secretary of Education. It’s something small, but I did it. And maybe a bunch of small things can add up to be my way of being active without being pulled under.

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January is hard, y’all.

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There are times that I am pretty sure that my depression and anxiety are afflictions I made up in some sort of bid to get attention. After all, what do I have to be depressed about? I have a great career, and I just bought a new home. My parents are healthy, my pets are happy, and my sister is married to an amazing man. I have friends. Why, then, am I depressed sometimes?

Now, we should all know the answer to this question. The reason I am depressed sometimes is because I have an illness called major depressive disorder that sometimes causes the chemicals in my brain to get jacked up and messes with my neurotransmitters. But one thing that depression likes to do is depression likes to lie. So while depression is up there messing around with my brain and screwing with my amygdala and making my corpus callosum a bit less effective than I need it to be, it is also up there telling me that I am an attention-seeker, that other people have real problems, and that I should just grow up and get over it.

And anxiety is like depression’s sidekick. When my depression is lying to me and telling me I am making up my symptoms, anxiety is kicking it up a notch and leading me into racing thoughts and inability to sleep and some ineffective coping mechanisms (Carbs. Online shopping. Candy Crush Saga.). They both help feed my eating disorder and my, um, spending “issue.”

And now it is January. It gets light out later in the morning and dark out earlier in the evening. The high times of the holiday season are over, and discarded Christmas trees sit at the curb, waiting to be picked up by the borough. Gifts have been put away. The promises of the New Year’s Resolutions that were made so earnestly just ten days ago have given way to that specific sort of shame that you feel when you “fail” at your new diet.

January and I are not friends.

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I had to do a LOT of adulting in a very short period when I was getting ready to move. I had to go to my leasing office and break my lease. I had to pack up my apartment and call a moving company and get the utilities at the new house put in my name and accept delivery of new furniture and new appliances. I had to deal with my first plumbing emergency (and had to learn how to turn all the water off to my new house).

I had to make a LOT of phone calls…and I hate making phone calls. I would rather order pizza online and text my friends and email my therapist than talk on the phone. I have such phone anxiety outside of work, which is interesting because, just as in so many other areas, the things that I can’t handle doing outside of work are no problem when I am in the NICU. Make a phone call? Split-second decision? React to an emergency? Not a problem at work. At home, however, I have to talk myself into a lot of things.

I am down to a just a few leftover things that have to be done. I managed to make an appointment to get my car serviced and inspected (it’s a little overdue), thanks to an online scheduling system, an email, and a call the service center made to me. I paid my tuition (had to call my financial advisor to free up the money to make that possible) and learned about the trash pick-up in my new neighborhood (had to call the borough hall and then go there to handle that). My final frontier is my cable service. I have to call the cable company and get my account transferred from my old apartment to my new house. It seems like an easy thing to do. But on top of all the other phone calls and arrangements I have had to make lately, it just seems like a little too much.

Luckily, I have a pretty large data plan and can use my phone as a mobile hotspot. And that is why I can write this blog post about how January is hard. I know I am not the only one who has a tough time at this point in the year. If you need support, please reach out. I moderate my comments and would be happy to converse with you!

As Glennon Doyle Melton says, we belong to each other.

I promise to be here if you need me.

Homeowner

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Yesterday, something enormous happened. I closed on my first (and hopefully only) house. I did not necessarily think this was going to happen in the immediate future, but a string of events led me to be sitting across from a woman at a table with our realtors and arranging to purchase her childhood home (and handing over a check for more money than I ever expected to possess in my lifetime).

I tend to be a pretty sentimental person. Although I once had big dreams, in time I outgrew the idea that bigger was better and that new houses were the way to go. After being married and living in a house that never felt like a home and then retreating from that marriage and living in a “temporary” apartment situation for almost five years, I found myself, through the incredible generosity of my grandmother, who we lost this year, able to consider a home purchase. My plan was to buy in early 2017, but a house found me, and I found a relator, and the last two months flew by, and that is what led us to be sitting around that table yesterday afternoon.

The house that will become my home was built in 1949 and purchased into a family in 1953 who would own it up until yesterday. A marriage was built in my house. Family memories were made. Children were raised. And the woman who sat across from me yesterday gave me an enormous hug and told me that she knew I would love her parents’ house and even passed on to me the original deeds from their initial purchase that her sentimental side had held on to for all these years. She handed me the history of her childhood home. And now I get to make it my future.

This year has been a beast. There has been a lot of bewilderment and fear and discomfort as we have lived through the election season, and we have been forced to acknowledge some difficult truths. There has been a lot of loss…people I care about have lost spouses and parents. I lost my grandmother quite suddenly, inasmuch as the death of a 91-year-old can be sudden and unexpected. It has, quite honestly, been a rough year in the NICU…lots of sadness intermixed with some incredible miracles. I have learned a lot about myself…what I find important, what I am willing to put up with, what I need from other people, what I need from myself. I can’t say that I am sorry to see the year go.

But it also brought me home, to my little brick Cape Cod on the hill. The house has known love and has been loved, and I love it already. I look forward to many happy years living there.

I’m forty years old, and I love graphic t-shirts.

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In the interest of self-discovery, I have been (probably over-) thinking my wardrobe choices through the years. I went through high school and college in the nineties, and that involved a lot of flannel and more than one pair of overalls (oh, how I loved overalls…I would still wear them today if I could find the perfect pair). I also had  a strong hoodie period, a big sweater/clunky shoes era, and a long run of yoga pants for everything. A few years ago, I thought that perhaps I was one of those people who should wear cute tops with delicate patterns and then solid cardigans over them. During my eight months as the clinical coordinator at work, I bought a whole slew of Pixie pants in a variety of colors and added some wedges to my shoe collection, creating a business casual-ish wardrobe. And denim always figures prominently…I am committed to blue jeans.

I have a bit of a Zulily habit, and it was through Zulily that I started seeing these fun graphic t-shirts with a little bit of a message. There was a period of time when it was easy to find workout tops with “inspirational” (shaming) messages about running so you could eat chocolate and drink wine or about how you should push yourself until you drop because if not now, when? That is not the kind of graphic I am looking for. I like things that are a little nerdy, truly inspirational, kind of zen…and certainly feminist! Some of my favorites right now remind me to ebb and flow, point out that feminism is not a dirty word, and help me remember that empowered women empower women. Part of me thinks that I “should” be wearing something more mature. But then I remember that I am not supposed to be “should-ing” on myself, so I put on my “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Serotonin” t-shirt and head out to face another day.

I also decided to bring back pigtails today. And I think I am rocking them.

Sometimes I like to kick it old school…

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I have a variety of journals lying around my apartment, all in varying states of use. I kind of put a lot of stock in the type of paper on which I am writing and the feel of the pen on the page, so there are many times when I start out in some new and “exciting” (stationery supplies are very exciting for me) journal that I have found, just to abandon it in favor of something “better.” And while I love the platform that blogging presents, I do still sometimes have stuff to get out of my head and onto the page that maybe does not have to go out to any person who may stumble on my blog someday. I tried a completely anonymous blog for a while (shared only with my therapist and with members of a pro-anorexia community that I used to wander through in an effort to trigger myself into restricting my food intake) that spoke pretty openly about all that stuff in my head, but I didn’t stick with it. It still felt too exposed.

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Anyway, now I keep a journal, and my recent favorite version of my journal is a sketch book with relatively heavy paper so I can write in it with Sharpies and gel pens and other such instruments without having to worry about it bleeding through. I sat last night and wrote about eight pages, and some of it is certainly not ready for prime time here on my blog. Some of it will stay between me and the page and my therapist. But some of it can be shared, so that is what this post is about. (There are politics discussed below. If you don’t care to read about politics, maybe don’t read much further.)


“And tonight…I write. Countless topics swirl through my brain. What do I want to pull from the possibilities? And where have they all come from? And how can I reach the rawness and desire and fear of the surrounding emotions and so they can be observed as more than just words on a page?”


“One week ago, Donald Trump was chosen as the President-elect. In the past year, I have gone from being relatively apolitical to being someone who is pretty outspoken about her beliefs. My beliefs have very little in common with those of Donald Trump. I find myself with a strong desire to help make it better…to lend my voice and my efforts and my dollar to teach love. I want to approach every single thing I do from a place of love, which seems incongruent to me because even recently I have wondered what love really is. I have wondered if I was worth that. Well, I refuse to wonder anymore. I believe I was made to love and be loved, by God or Sebastian [this is a Glennon Doyle Melton reference from the event I attended for the Penn Foundation several weeks ago] or whatever name I want to give to this Higher Power. I was not placed here randomly. I finally realize that I am answering to a series of “calls.” I say that I do not create opportunity for myself but am good at grabbing it when it presents itself. How did I not realize that these opportunities presenting themselves were being set in motion by someone greater than I…that this is what it feels like to be called? Of course, I have not usually had the peace and silence in my mind to tune into these messages, at least not to the extent I do now.”


“What do does my particular version of “saving the world” look like? Is it just advocacy? Calling a senator’s office to ask him to act on an issue? Sharing information on social media that is fact-checked and not fear-inducing but lends to a greater quest for knowledge? Wearing a safety pin? My BLM magnet and HRC stickers on my car? Finding a church? What will I be called to do?

I was talking to Silver [my yoga teacher] after yoga yesterday about what has been going on in America this week. And I said to her that I was so glad that if something like this had to happen, it happened at this time of my life, when I am 40. Twenty years ago, I would not have had the insight to see where any of this could lead. Twenty years from now, I may be unhealthy or exhausted or unwilling to devote time and attention to a cause. There is a reason that pertains somehow to me that this is happening now.”


“And speaking of my 20s…what was I doing? When I think back to that time of my life, I really see fear as one of my primary motivators. I was hustling for worthiness, even then. What did I miss out on because I was too scared to follow a path that seemed to be appearing before me? What did I lose by following the well-lit path and others’ footsteps instead of forging my own trail or at least following someone into the unexplored and unexpected? Even though it may have been someone I had 100% trusted 100% of the time?”


And that is what I feel comfortable sharing in this arena. In fact, some of that leans a bit toward the uncomfortable side of my fine line, but I am going to let it lean. This doesn’t feel like a time to retreat. We have too much work to do.

Self-care

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I go to therapy a lot, and we talk about self-care a lot, especially in group therapy. I don’t have a great list of things that represent self-care to me, although I do have a pretty clear understanding of what my inner child considers an attempt at self-care that most definitely is not. These are things like: (a) an entire mini ultimate cake from Wegmans (Luckily, I threw half of it away before I could really ride it down a shame spiral), (b) a new pair of shoes (I have many pairs of shoes. I wear perhaps ten of them in regular rotation.), (c) a date with my “friends” Ben & Jerry (self-explanatory), and (d) ten new [tank tops, t-shirts, coloring books, self-help books, pens, water bottles…you get the idea] because I want to “treat” myself. I am not saying that I do not still engage in those behaviors. I definitely due, usually when my defenses are about as down as they can get (so…all last week, once the news of the election results hit, sending my sleep patterns into chaos and my Facebook feed into a frenzy). Wait, there’s another one…burying myself in social media. Not self-care. Still something I do.

So what is self-care for me? And what prevents me from pursuing it? Reading fiction is self-care for me. I love to immerse myself in another world and live someone else’s story through the words of my favorite writers. Watching a good movie while paying full attention to it is self-care for me (I am a chronic multi-tasker…chronic multi-tasking is NOT self-care for me). Attending my individual and group therapy sessions are self-care for me. Emailing my therapist when I am having a really bad day is self-care for me. Coloring in adult coloring books mindfully, without the TV droning in the background is self-care for me. Taking care of my body is self-care for me. Eating something that will not make me feel yucky and sluggish is self-care for me. Yoga is self-care for me, as long as I am in a mental space that I can see it as more than just a series of asanas and can check my ego at the door.

I don’t pursue self-care because I don’t think I deserve it on days that I did not accomplish “enough.” I don’t pursue self-care because my to-do list gets too long, and I “don’t have the time.” I do “have the time” to read every post that has been posted to my local Pantsuit Nation’s FB page and use it to feed either my disgust with the world or my desire to wrap my arms around the entire world and give it a big hug. I do “have the time” to play seven games on Facebook in rotation, watch eight episodes in a row of RHONYC (Viva la marathon!), look for the perfect area rug for my new home, and research thoroughly whatever nursing interest is at the forefront of my mind (right now, it’s a tie between integrating treatment for postpartum depression into the OBGYN office and supporting NICU families through their NICU journey and beyond), and watch every true crime documentary I can find on Netflix.

It’s hard to consider yourself worthy of self-care when the world has so many other things it wants you to do.

I am heading out the door to yoga this morning. I am going to step on to my mat, and I am going to try to leave everything else off of it. I am going to try to lose myself for an hour and a half in the community in the studio but solitude on my mat, on the supportive and soothing voice of my yoga teacher, on the knowledge that I am with a group of people who wish to do the same. And then I will use this time I gave myself to fuel the rest of my day.

Namaste.


I am back from yoga. It was everything today. I left secure in my kula (a Sanskrit word that can be translated to “community of the heart”) and feeling incredible love from the community of yogis that I found in the studio with me this morning.

Always, always, always. Love wins.

Torn

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I have now slept two nights since we all learned that the glass ceiling was merely cracked this time around but remains to be shattered. The first night, I had a very vivid, rather disturbing dream that I was in some semi-scripted reality show that was a combination of The Amazing RaceThe Real World/Road Rules Challenge, and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team, and we who were on the show were being forced to complete obstacles over and over again until we got to the desired result. We also moved further away from the desired result every time we were forced to do a retake. I awoke at 2 AM, sitting straight up when the me in my dream hit the water another time after failing again at one of these retakes. Last night, my dream involved going into the woods and using our wits to secret ourselves away from some violent rebel factions that were preying on refugees so that we could act on these refugees’ behalf and get them away and to safety. A couple of my fellow nurses were involved, as was Olivia Benson (I watched the latest SVU just before turning in last night) and a couple of people with whom I went to high school. It was an odd mix of people. I was not initially welcomed into the group, but through perseverance, I became a part of the movement.

Dreams are often based in something. And if I analyze a bit, I can see that, although I am trying to remain calm and not make this about different political parties and not be divisive in what I post on social media (while still advocating for my beliefs…I don’t think this can only be done through divisiveness), this election is very much affecting me. I cannot and will not pretend not to be disappointed that my candidate didn’t win…that a woman is not going to become the POTUS for the first time in history. I cannot and will not pretend that I do not have serious reservations that the man this country elected is not up to the task. However, I can avoid bashing those who voted differently than I did. That has never been the message to which I wished to lend my voice.

I saw this making the rounds of Twitter and Facebook and thought it included the exact words that needed to be said at the exact time I needed to read and then say them:

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My commitment to equality is not diminished because we are going to have a different President than I wanted. My desire to fight for what I consider right has not changed because the President-elect is not the person I chose for the job. To quote Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside.” I will always believe that love is stronger than hate. I will always believe that love wins. And if you can’t feel that right now because this is still so new and scary for you, don’t worry. There are plenty of us out here who have enough love to go around and who will hold space for you and wait for you and fight for you and love you.

Having a person in the White House who does not seem to agree with any of the truths that I hold so dear is not the ideal situation. But he is not in charge of what I do with my voice and my actions. So I ask you to remember this:

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Today and every day. We belong to each other.