When life gets twisty…

I am almost failing my post-a-day goal! But today was a crazy one. It went something like this:

Child mentions physical concern.sick kid

Parent schedules doctor’s appointment for later in the day.

Doctor confirms concern, sends parent and child to hospital for further testing.

Parent and child go to hospital and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And get awaited-for test.

Results are positive, less extreme than feared. Medicine and follow-ups prescribed.

Parent and child return home after six hours at various medical facilities, for a quick dinner, hefty doses of intense medicine, and bed.

Waiting parent consumes wine and gives thanks for positive diagnosis, which didn’t included the very much feared surgery, or worse, the unspoken but consuming fear of a suspicion of malignancy.

Child is sleeping. Parents are fed and relaxing. Thanks are being raised for this moment, when all is well and the future is hopeful.

And an extra prayer is being sent that the doctors are right.

Sending.

Prayers.

Please, that they got it right this time.

Please.

Take a shower — you’ll feel better

We parents are a bossy lot.  It’s not our fault — we have to be, from the time these tiny beings accompany us home from the hospital.  In the beginning, our bossiness is all about safety and telling our kids what not to do so they don’t get hurt.  Do NOT touch the stove top.  Do NOT eat lawn fertilizer.  Do NOT hit your sister over the head with that plastic race car.

Later, we add in some positives, words that intend to be encouraging but are in fact equally as bossy.  DO clean up your toys.  DO  say please and thank you.  DO flush and wash your hands.

Around the time kids start school, we throw in advice to the mix.  It’s a more subtle form of bossiness, but we’re really still telling them what to do.  Try working on one subject first, take a break, then tackle the next assignment.  Tell your brother how you feel instead of yelling at him.  I always feel better after going to bed on time, really, why not give it a try?

This is the time that kids start ignoring parents, whose voices have suddenly turned into the wordless drone captured so aptly in the Peanuts movies: wah wah, wah wah, wah wah.

Come on, you know it’s true.  How much can you remember of what your parents told you before you grew up and, as Mark Twain famously put it, your parents got a whole lot smarter?

Yeah, me neither.

But I do remember one thing my dad used to say all the time.  “Take a shower.  You’ll feel better.”  

He said it when I was in middle school and feeling uninspired to go to school that day (maybe some of those times I was actually, really sick, too).  He said it when I was in high school, feeling sad over something that had happened.  He said it so much over the years, it became more hilarious than irritating.

The thing is, he was right.  There is something about taking a shower that revives you — getting clean, washing away the dirt (both real and metaphorical), starting fresh.

Getting time in the shower can be tough for at-home parents. Obviously, when you are a parent who works elsewhere, it’s in everybody’s best interest that when you arrive at the office your teeth are brushed and your body clean. But for those of us who don’t *have* to make ourselves presentable first thing in the morning, getting bathroom time quickly falls on the morning to-do list. Plus, especially if you have a baby or toddler, chances are your efforts will be rendered meaningless after a bout of spit-up or a scrambled-egg food fight.

When the kids got older, I chose sleep over showering in the wee hours of the morning. But, lately, I’m getting tired of mucking around in yoga pants, which are, honestly, a half-stitch away from my pajama pants. In fact, the kids seem to think they’re one and the same — “Geez, Mom, are you gonna get dressed today?”  Me: “Why should I? I never see anyone but you people!” Har-dee-har-har.

The past year has been a tough one. Lots has been out of my control. There has been frustration and anxiety and depression. And somehow my laissez-faire approach to my appearance hasn’t done much for my state of mind. And so I remember my father’s words, and even though snuggling with my husband for a few more minutes seems much more appealing than waking up in the darkness, I get out of bed, have a cup of coffee, and take a shower.

If nothing else, I am clean and smell good, and if, god forbid, if someone happens to drop by unannounced, I won’t scare them away. But it’s more than that. When I was young, lazing about in sweatpants was the supreme act of comfort. Now that I am old(er), it’s just the opposite. The comfort now comes from taking care of myself, showing my best self to the world, even when things feel like they’re falling apart. Somehow that single act of taking a shower becomes one of hope, of optimism.

Dad, you were right. But don’t let it go to your head.

Taking time

I’m not sure if it’s just me, or if all moms have the same problem, but I don’t know how to relax.  For whatever reason, I have a hard time doing things for myself when there’s so much to be done for everyone else.  This undoubtedly contributes to my struggle with anxiety.

So on Thursday, when the kids went to camp for the day,  I snuggled up on the couch with a book and read for a few hours.  I dozed a little after that.  I had a nice little lunch and a phone chat with my mom.  Things I did not do — fold laundry, wash dishes, straighten the slipcovers, make the beds or put out the recycling.

It felt so good that on Saturday afternoon I did the same thing (though after a morning of chores and play).

The kids are getting older and don’t need me for constant amusement or care.  And yet I am always “on”, never really turning off until Ray comes home and the kids are asleep and I know he will take over in the night hours as he has ever since they were babies.  

So, away with the guilt!  What’s wrong with spending an hour with a good book on a scorching summer day?  Why should moms have to wait until the kids are out or sleeping to take a little time for themselves?  They shouldn’t, of course. 

So from now on, in the daylight hours, I will try to relax and do something not Mommy-related, something just for me — like tackle the enormous pile of waiting-to-be-read books on my nightstand.

Waiting for the rain

One of the reasons I haven’t been blogging lately is I feel as though were I to say half of the things on my mind, you’d think I was nuts.

But here’s the truth:  some days I’m too much in my own head to write.  Some days, anxiety chokes me until I can’t breathe, until I want to throw up.  It makes my skin hot and crawly, and steals my voice.  On those days all I can do is power through, be the best parent I can under the circumstances, and hope to ride it out.

And yes, I take medication, but some days it’s not enough.

To stop the shakiness and nausea I clean.  I can’t sit still.  I wander from room to room, picking up toys and shoes and balls of lint, things that on normal days would be invisible to me.  I scrub the floorboards in the kitchen and scan the ceilings for cobwebs.  I let the kids watch too much TV and help themselves to snacks.

I first began to suffer this debilitating anxiety when I discovered the lump in my breast.  Getting a clean bill of health, getting a prescription, starting a new routine of exercise and yoga and meditation all helped.  But as life went on, those things went by the wayside.   Slowly, old habits and fears crept back in — I started smoking again.  I worried that a chest pain was a heart attack, a hemorrhoid was cancer.  Since Mitzi’s diagnosis I’ve been too focused on what to do for her to think about how I felt about it all.

So here I am today.  Hands shaking, heart thumping.  Phantom worries swirl around me and I have to remind myself to breathe.  The only thing that keeps me from crawling into a dark closet is my children.  For them, I’ll stand up and breathe and help them make play dough and splash them in pool and do the best I can, all the while hoping that tomorrow will bring rain, and peace.