A little late to Lent…

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There are two times per year that seem like the perfect opportunity to make things in life great again. And by that I mean the perfect opportunity to rub the slate clean and start over. The first is, of course, the New Year. Just head to your nearest gym on 1/2 or 1/3. It’s PACKED. It’s time to start over.

For those of us who were raised in the Catholic faith, the other good time to start over is Lent. After all, it’s time to give something up. Ash Wednesday comes along, and we don’t eat meat. We decide on what our Lenten sacrifice will be. It might be chocolate or alcohol or red meat, depending on the year. Sometimes, it’s a diet disguised as a Lenten sacrifice. And last year, it was Facebook…and that served two purposes.

The first purpose was that I am, quite frankly, a compulsive user of Facebook. It is easy for me to spend hours and hours wandering around to different pages and playing different games and following different links to whatever seems like a fun or interesting or especially disturbing article. So it would be psychologically healthier for me not to spend a lot of time on Facebook. But giving up Facebook is also giving up something that keeps me entertained and sometimes makes me smile and often makes me laugh. I get to see pictures of all my little NICU miracles and my friends’ kids and all the dogs and cats that share their lives with my friends and family.

This political climate is TOUGH. I see a lot of things that I don’t like coming out of Washington (and also coming out Harrisburg, honestly). And Facebook is like a rabbit hole of political commentary and horrifying stories and reminders of how awful people in this country can be to each other. Instead of going out and doing something to help the communities about whom I am worried, I am immersing myself in all the yuck I am seeing online. And it doesn’t feel good. And it’s like reliving the same shit over and over again.

I was listening to one of my new favorite podcasts today, Call Your Girlfriend, and they were talking about self-care and how important it is right now. And I am not doing self-care very well. And one great point they had was this: If you want to make a difference, pick one cause that you really care about, and make a phone call to find out how you can help that cause. Instead of reading the stories over and over again about things that you already know are happening and already are horrified by, turn off the news and step away from the computer and do something.

So even though Ash Wednesday is almost over and I have been using Facebook all day long, I am giving it up tonight. I am going to consider what it is I am most concerned about in this country today, and I am going to figure out what I can do to help, and I am going to stop watching the news and reading the stories and making myself continue to feel worse and worse about something I already feel pretty bad about it.

So goodbye for now, Facebook. I will see you on the other side of Easter.

And maybe occasionally on Sundays.

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More things to say…

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I am probably at the point of my social media-induced, election/politics-related anxiety where I should turn off the computer and watch something like OITNB in its entirety over the next few weeks (days?). Everywhere I turn, there is some new piece of news that is almost laughable…except for how it’s not. Free speech? Nope. Easy access to healthcare? Not that either. Respect for the environment? Gone. A plan in place that will help our public schools? Not even close. Every single thing that is important in my eyes is being trampled on. It’s a lot to take in.

My particular brand of anxiety manifests itself in many ways, but one major way is OH MY GOD I WOULD DO ANYTHING TO AVOID MAKING A PHONE CALL. Fun flashback: I used to babysit every Thursday for a family up the street from us when I was in high school, and their mom used to leave me money so I could order Domino’s for me and her three (and later four) kids dinner. The oldest child was only about two years younger than I was, and I used to make her call and order the pizza because doing so myself was terrifying. Anyway, now I order my pizza (and anything else I care to eat for dinner that has to be delivered) online because the internet is one of the best things that has ever happened to people like me.

So here we are, some of us, feeling called to act and having to reconcile that with the fact that our natural instinct is to hunker down and curl up in a ball and wait for things to be okay again. I have, for the last three nights, slept greater than ten hours per night, which is well outside my norm, because life keeps feeling like TOO MUCH and my bed nest and weighted blanket call to me. But when do your self-protective instincts go from protecting you to imprisoning you?

I was scrolling through Twitter this morning and found a site called 5 Calls that makes it REALLY easy to find the information you need to call your senators and representatives. Here’s some more information on the site. Knowing that, at 6:00 in the morning, no one was going to be picking up the phone at these offices, I did a little bit of deep breathing, picked up the phone, and made a couple of calls. Senator Bob Casey is the Democratic senator from PA, and his voicemail was accepting messages. His Republican counterpart, Pat Toomey, had a full voicemail box. I would like to think that it’s because SO MANY people have been leaving him messages and NOT because he does not care what we have to say. I didn’t vote for the guy, but I guess he is my voice in Washington anyway.

Anyway, I called this morning to ask Senator Casey to fight the full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and I also called the Army Corps of Engineers to ask them to consider the people of Standing Rock when they complete their environmental impact study on the Dakota Access Pipeline. There was a script on the site for me to use for both these calls. I branched out a little bit (I had to plea the case of all my sweet preemie patients, who could hit their lifetime insurance caps early on just because they were born too soon), but you certainly don’t have to. Apparently, a phone call is more likely to get attention than an email or a letter or a Facebook message or a Tweet. So I made a few calls. And if I can do it, you can too.

Remember – we belong to each other.

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.

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.