On Anxiety

7 Apr

This is the post that I keep starting and then deleting and then starting again.

In the realm of the great oversharing internet, one barely known blogger talking about anxiety probably doesn’t even raise an eyebrow anymore, but, for me, putting it out there that I’ve been struggling with something that feels like I should be able to control it but can’t is a tough thing.

I often feel like I’m somebody who doesn’t have an awful lot of natural talent but who is a workhorse. I may not be the smartest person in the room, but I’m a grinder who will get things done. I’ve often fallen into the trap that if things aren’t going well than the solution is to just work harder. But I can’t seem to hard work my way through this one.

My anxiety started this fall and is, I am quite certain, tied to the stress of having a demanding job plus being in grad school plus having a family (about which there are some guilty feelings because I feel like I am a half-assed parent sometimes and my husband is getting the raw end of the deal). My anxiety tends to manifest itself in two ways: worrying about health (mine and the kids) and in feeling physically like I am on the verge of getting sick. I think the worrying about health thing is connected to feeling like if I get sick (or if the kids get sick and then we all drop like dominoes after that) then all of the plates that I am spinning will come crashing down. I’ll have to miss class or I’ll get sick on my work trip or I’ll miss a deadline…or…or…or….

And, oh delightful irony, the worry about health and the anxiety in general has given me a low grade persistent stomach ache that seems to flare up for a week or two at a time. Nothing like a lingering stomach ache to make one feel less health related anxiety!

(Note: never Google “persistent stomachache” unless you’d like to add ovarian cancer to your list of anxiety)

(Related note: I do not have ovarian cancer…which I found out after I Googled and then sprinted into the doctor’s office to get checked. Actual diagnosis? Drum roll please…Anxiety!)

I’m following my doctor’s advice and am trying to work on improving some self-care things like getting more sleep and drinking less caffeine. I’ve noticed exercise seems to help a bit, as does focusing on one thing at a time and not trying to multitask. It doesn’t come naturally to me yet though, so sometimes I struggle with doing the things that will make me feel better. I stay up too late, numbing myself with TV and then I have a giant Diet Coke in the morning because I am tired (and addicted). I feel tired and so I don’t want to exercise.

But I’m going to keep trying because this is the only life I have and what is the alternative, right?

I will have about three weeks off of school in about a month, so I’ll be curious to see if that helps. To get to that point, I have to write three final papers, two reflection papers and finish a handful of assignments. I can do this. I think I can do this. I have to be able to do this.

Maybe I should go take a walk.

Hotel life

6 Apr

I’m in a hotel again tonight, far away from my little family and the still cold Iowa spring. I’m traveling for work this time in order to attend a very large (and sometimes) overwhelming annual conference. While I miss Mr. Monkey and the kiddos, there are some aspects of staying at hotels that I do enjoy, including:

1. The fact that I have air conditioner running at a temperature that would have my beloved husband wearing a parka and mittens to bed. I love a nice cold room.

2. I can make a pillow fort. Last night I had six pillows on the bed and I used them all.

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3. Total control of the remote and no shame about watching some seriously awful television.

4. When the complimentary hotel shampoo and soap are fancier than what you use in your normal life.

5. At our house, the ironing board is in the basement and I almost never iron because it is cold and dark down there. At the hotel I can iron and watch TV at the same time (really terrible TV, as noted in #3)

6. I will get room service breakfast sometime on this trip. Someone is going to show up at my door with bacon. Excellent.

7. When I am at a hotel I am obviously not at home. When I am not at home, my husband misses me. When my husband misses me there is a uptick in the number of mushy text messages I get. It can be nice to be missed.

(But it will be nicer to get home.)

 

Recent Lessons Learned (Parenting Edition)

1 Apr

1. A child who has been hiding behind a chair, grunting, who then says “I not poopy Mama! Not poopy!” is a liar.

2. A child how is in bed and doesn’t want to be and then cries “I poopy! I poopy” may also be a liar but you have to check and so the poop card is the ultimate bedtime stall tactic.

3. If you let your curious five year old “help” you wax your legs, you are dumb and deserve whatever pain you get as a consequence.

4. If you order a pepperoni pizza with bell peppers on it, you are a MONSTER and even with the peppers removed, the pizza will forever be tainted.

5. If you refuse to order another pizza, you must not love your children and should probably start saving for their therapy right now.

6. To really experience what “futility” feels like, practice saying “no running” or “no running feet” every time you see a child run in the house. Marvel at how it absolutely does nothing to slow down the rate of travel.

               6a. You can also try “be careful” for the same useless feeling

               6b. “Gentle hands” also seems to be nicely ineffectual at creating lasting change

7. No toy is ever as interesting as the toy your sibling just started playing with.

8. You have to survive about 15 minutes of “I’m bored” before your five year old will finally go do something. Surviving the 15 minutes without solving his boredom problem is critical to him figuring out how to entertain himself. Do not hand him your phone.

9. The first time you let your child cross the street by themselves so they can walk over to a neighbor’s house will feel like an impossibly big milestone.

10. If you buy an almost two year old cowboy boots you’d better be prepared for cowboy boots with every possible outfit.

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By The Numbers

26 Mar

I have been having a lot of “oh, shit, I’m really an adult now, aren’t I?” moments lately, which really shouldn’t be alarming as I am well into my third decade now, but still it startles me sometimes.

Some of these moments have come as a result of a rather boring meeting I recently attended. This meeting, which had the multiple strikes against it (too long, too late in the day, no snacks), led to me quantifying my life in a way that clearly totals “adult”. For example:

- I have been legally able to drive for more than half my life

- I have been legally allowed to drink for 40% of my life

- I have been married to my husband for 90% of the time that I’ve known him

- I have been a parent for 25% of my life (step-parenting time included)

- One of the people I have helped parent is old enough to drink. Two of the people I have helped parent are old enough to vote (my stepsons were 10 and 13 when I met them and are legal adults now. Crazy)

- 7% of my life has been spent being pregnant or nursing a baby

- I have been not a virgin longer than I was a virgin

- Just over 50% of my life has happened since I moved out of my parent’s house

- I have been in school for over 20 years (and still going). On a related note, my current balance on student loans now exceeds my first annual salary for my first grown-up job. Whee!

- I have a positive net worth (it isn’t a large net worth but it is a positive number. Not having a mortgage helps)

- I am no longer in the coveted 18-34 demographic so I am no longer pop culture relevant, at least to marketers

- I have been paying my own bills for 48% of my life.

- There have been six Presidents of the United States in my life.

 

There are a few numbers that do make me feel still young(ish):

- I will still likely have to work for another three decades

- I just became old enough to become President this year and, so far, there has never been a President who hasn’t been older than me when he took office.

- If I live to be as old as my grandmothers, I still have 60% of my life to go.

- If I take after my mother, I’ll still be technically fertile for another 15 years.

- I am still 8 years away from being as old as my husband was when we met (if you are now trying to do math, yes, he is 17 years older than me)

- 70% of the people I work with are older than I am.

 

I look at all these numbers and, aside from recognizing how silly my calculations are, all I can see is how sort of meaningless age actually is. I’m 35 but I’m not sure what that means, really. I’m wiser than I once was but maybe not as smart as I will be. I can’t be a child prodigy or a wunderkind but I might still be a late bloomer in some areas. I have the start of wrinkles around my eyes and a zit on my chin. I keep finding stray gray hairs on my head as well as the rogue chin hair every now and again. I’m as old as my mother was when she gave birth to me but my life is wholly different than hers was at that time.

I know where I was five years ago and still don’t know where I’ll be five years from now.

I guess this is what being an adult feels like.

 

Dreaming of Greatness

25 Mar

When I was a kid, I used to desperately hope that someday I would be discovered to be some sort of prodigy or that I had some deep innate talent at something. Maybe one day I’d open my mouth and would have a shatteringly lovely singing voice, instead of one that made the church choir director’s eyebrows twitch unpleasantly every time I foolishly auditioned for a solo in the Christmas pagent. Or, even better, one day someone would kick me a soccer ball and it would turn out that I wasn’t just a chubby kid in glasses, I was a chubby kid in glasses that was the second coming of Pele.

I would gladly have settle for just winning the spelling bee or discovering I was a really good dancer.

But I never did. I never was magically talented at anything. I was a better than average swimmer in high school, but never a star and I had to work twice as hard as anyone else on the team to get to better than average. I did well in school but I was never the smartest in the room. I had friends but was never popular, was cute but never beautiful.

Even now I still sometimes hope to discover I am amazing at something and that success would just find me without me having to chase it down and hold on tightly.

I wonder if we are all like that? Is part of becoming an adult learning to accept that we’ll never be child prodigies, learning to accept that we are maybe just destined for ordinary things?

(I don’t mean that as a knock against ordinary things, not really. Real, ordinary life is amazing and hard and beautiful all on its own)

(I just always kind of thought that maybe someday I’d be exceptional in some way)

 

At the Hotel

24 Mar

I went to a hotel last week for a few nights to try to catch up on school work. I’ve been struggling with time management and procrastination A LOT this semester and was getting to the point where I was starting to despair about getting caught up. Because my husband is a kind and helpful (and cute, which is not relevant to this story, but is still nice for me) he didn’t even blink about me ditching him and the kiddos on spring break week and so soon I found myself at kitschy camping themed hotel about five miles from home.

At the hotel, I carefully laid out piles of school work for each of my three main classes. I made a to do list. I set up a snack corner and put a bottle of bubbly water on ice. I changed into my most comfortable stretchy pants and pulled my hair up into a ponytail. I plugged in my laptop and then…

I did my homework.

I finished a take home midterm.

I read three chapters in one textbook.

I started taking notes for a paper due next month.

And I was actually, kind of, weirdly, enjoying it? I felt like I could remember why I wanted to go to grad school in the first place. I felt like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, in terms of trying to connect what I was learning to my professional work. It felt good. I felt eager to keep going with the paper.

And then I got home and stopped. And I should be doing school work now and instead I’m dinking around on the Twitter and playing Candy Crush on my phone. Sigh. What is wrong with me?

All I know is that next semester I am setting aside student loan money for more hotel stays and hopefully I can figure out why I can’t seem to make myself work at home.

Throwback Thursday

20 Mar

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This was Miles when he just turned three. He still had baby cheeks and a rubber band wrist. If I recall correctly he was still in diapers most of the time.

He is five (and a half, he would insist I add) now and is long and lean with barely a hint of chub on him. There are so many things that are easier with a five year old. He can entertain himself sometimes, longer if I let him steal my phone, he can handle his own bathroom business, he is, from time to time, capable of reason…all good things.

But, oh, the cheeks. I miss the cheeks.

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