Sunday, December 31, 2006

A perfect new year

For reasons I can only partially understand, I am easily sucked into the romanticism of the ideal. It is surely chemical, since I have spent my life since puberty trying to be perfect, a feat I have only recently realized and accepted is beyond my capabilities. As my psychiatrist noted when I told her that I wish I'd known Laurie Berkner's song I'm Not Perfect when I was young: "You could have sang it but it wouldn't have been with feeling."

My book club recently read Little Women. Despite knowing full well that a poor mother of 4 daughters with her husband away fighting a war cannot possibly be as light and cheery as Marmee, I got sucked into all of that "la-la-la, rose-colored glass life" where everything works out wonderfully. While there may be some hard times, some squabbles, everyone comes through it all just smashing (or if not smashing it is only alluded to in brief). So not real life, but I am naive enough to wonder why I am not as good a mother as Marmee because I'm not chipper and wise and forever patient. I am naive enough to dream of having 4 daughters of my own and imagine what an astounding life we would all have loving each other. And my life could be all these things if only I weren't REAL. God is a more ambitious author than Louisa May.

And then there is this whole New Year's business. Tomorrow when I awaken, the air will feel no different than it does right now in 20o6. My cells will have only aged 12 hours or so. Provided an asteroid doesn't set off the end of days, I will still have my same house, same family, same head, same life. But there is this stupid little part of me that thinks maybe, just maybe tomorrow will be different. My mood disorders will start getting alot better. I will get pregnant in January. D will get a really good bonus.

I guess most people would just call this hope, but I find it scary. I don't know what to do with hope because I don't know what to do or how to feel when hope turns into disappointment.

The other day it really hit me that I don't get what I want in life. I don't mean my life isn't excellent because I would be an idiot to think I've got it hard, but somewhere along the line, and maybe this is a problem of modern American life that everyone experiences and not just me, I got the idea that I'm supposed to get what I want in life. Things are supposed to go my way. If I work hard and do the "right" things, I will get what I want. If I go to college, get a decent job, marry a decent guy, have a nice house... life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and happiness means getting whatever you want, right? Happiness means things don't go caterwompuss.

I'm starting to understand that happiness is having life go caterwompuss and dealing with it as best you can and understanding that you are only 1 person and sometimes life sucks and sometimes life rocks and you don't know how your world will shift in the next 15 minutes. Life is inherently about survival, period. Modern life gives me the time and luxury to fret about happiness and expecting to get what I want.

Somewhere along the line I began subscribing to a notion of a perfect life so I fall prey to idealism where I find it. So it will take me a couple weeks to work through this and by then I'll be writing 2007 on my checks without hesitation and finding that things are going a little caterwompuss but I'm doing alright.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Getting reorganized

I get the creepy-crawlies after Christmas. I don't know if my OCD kicks in high gear or what, but I find the urge to purge and buy thousands of dollars worth of organizing gear. Manufacturers don't produce enough linen baskets to satisfy this deep-seated desire.

And it isn't something new to mothering and finding myself drowning in a sea of toys. For as long as I can remember, I've never been able to keep my stuff under the tree for longer than a day or two, at the most. I'm a little astounded that it is 4 days post-holiday, and I am just now finding homes for my items (and hoping to find new homes for many other items).

I am not at the point where I can get rid of N's things. I'm hoping I will be able to part with some of it before she is able to vote, but I just don't know. As she is nearing 3, I am feeling weird. She is not a baby. D has been working to transfer our home videos from tape to CD format, so we've been watching what we all call "The N Show," since it is all her from start to finish (all 6 volumes of it, and we're only at 18 months).

I love watching her. It fills me with an endless sense of joy and a pit of despair because I cannot relive those times. In the Ender's Game series, one of the characters in the later books has these weird metal eyes and he is able to videotape experiences and play them back for himself (and for others in certain situations). Seeing her on video is good, but I want to feel what I felt at that moment, although I guess in truth the joy I feel now at seeing her on video is due to that "time has passed, my memory is foggy, isn't life sweet" sensation.

Isn't that funny about life? When I was in college, I traveled through England, Ireland and Wales for 10 weeks. I was drunk for most of it, thankfully, because our professor was a complete ass, and we had the privilege of not just traveling with him but living with him in thatched cottages and the like. When I wasn't drunk on Guinness, I was doped up on Dramamine because we took the scenic backroads over there. No highway driving for us. Anyway, upon returning home, I had the most miserable memories of this trip. For years, I thought about that experience with disdain. Now, some 14 years later, I remember only the fun things about that trip. I look back at pictures and get warm fuzzies, although that punk professor gave me a C (I don't think excessive drinking and occasional pot-smoking were listed in the syllabus).

I fear N growing up for all sorts of reasons but mostly because I want to savor now. I wish I had savored her first year and second year more (although damned postpartum anxiety and depression made that a little difficult). No matter how difficult it is for me sometimes to stay at home, the mantra "I can't get this time back" never leaves my head.

I have no idea what this thought has to do with linen baskets and reorganizing my living room, but hey, this is the way my old brain works (or doesn't work as the case often is).

Tuesday, December 19, 2006 a funny way

Yep....that is my world-view. Sometimes I don't know how I manage to have a friend in the world. But I do. So I am either not as bad as I think I am, or the people who have opted to be my friends are throwing exceptionally long pity-parties for me (lasting years and years).

I guess 2 things have contributed to this post: One was Garrison Keillor's essay "The Season of Perfect Families," and the other was my friend G's sweet post about her family and how she is doing exactly what she wants to be doing (as in being a stay-at-home mom).

So what I have determined is that if I were to write an essay about my family, it wouldn't be sweet like G's. As much as I'd like to have G's attitude and outlook, it alludes me. Nor would it be as subdued as Keillor's.

I've determined that the reason most people think I am funny is not that I am actually funny. It is because I tell the nasty truth a lot of the time. The blatant, honest truth, and that can often be shocking....and hence, result in laughter.

So what would my essay or holiday newsletter about my family look like? A little something like this....

Dear Friends,

What can I can about 2006?

It went by fast, except on days when N and I were home all day... that seriously drives mommy to distraction, especially if N refuses to venture outside to play or take a walk. Staying at home ain't all its cracked up to be for a gal with OCD, but I don't trust anyone else in the world to take as good of care of my girl as I do. Despite my imperfections, I am way better than a daycare worker (no offense to daycare workers, but it's a job to you; N is my life).

D has been at the same job for 6 years, which amazes me because for the first 6 years of our relationship I thought he was destined to switch jobs every 2 years. Our new high deductible health insurance plan drains a nice chunk of our change, but you gotta be covered, right? He had his gallbladder removed in August, so that was interesting. Boy, did we ever meet our $4,000 limit, and quick! Between my antidepressants every month, his allergy tests in the summer, and this surgery, we depleted our HSA account.

Overall, he likes his job, and his job seems to like him. I wonder though how he can hold such an important position when he can't remember to stop for milk after work even with a note I've attached to his lunch pail? And he can never seem to find the ketchup in the fridge. But after living with me and my mood swings, you can understand why his brain maybe doesn't function as well as it used to. He is pushing 40, after all, too.

D got his big screen tv, although I haven't conceived yet, and that was the deal. He wanted a tv; I wanted another baby. Damn it that Circuit City doesn't have newborns on the showroom floor. I don't know if it's the anxiety, my insane hormones, or God just being difficult, but this whole baby-making thing needs to be more cut and dry. You do it, you get pregnant, end of story.

N will be 3 in February, which makes my heart ache, especially if I am unable to have anymore kids because she is growing up entirely too quickly. It astounds me that I can love her so the deepest core of my being...and yet have moments of really not wanting to be around her. I cannot reconcile the 2 drastically different feelings, and so I continue to see my therapist regularly.

In general, I don't like being told what to do by a toddler. It is often hard to be polite when she yells at me that I have to turn on the Beauty and the Beast song RIGHT NOW. And on days when she says, "Mom," 3,000 times but then doesn't respond when I answer, I nearly put my head through the wall. I never suspected that having a kid would be this much work...but I guess it feels like work because I'm trying to do a good job. If you ignore your kid and pop 'em in front of the tv all day, it probably doesn't feel like too much of a stretch.

We may be going to DisneyWorld in 2007 but that depends on if D gets a bonus at work, if we get a decent tax return, and if I can figure out how in the hell to plan such a complicated venture on the Disney web site. We're hoping for the best. We've got our tickets to see the Doodlebops in April, so that should be a little slice of heaven right there (at least for 1 of the 3 of us).

Let's hope 2007 is as much of blast as this year has been.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I can find the funny

People with healthy ways of adapting to life find the humor in things (or at least that is what I've read in Prevention). People with unhealthy ways of adapting to life, those of us who kick and scream and throw little tantrums on the floor when life is it's usual taciturn self, have a little trouble with finding the funny in some of the big wads of crapola that life shoots at us through a straw.

Now bear in mind, when I say crapola, I don't necessarily mean cancer or death or divorce or anything really traumatic. Crapola is anything that doesn't go as I'd like. And sometimes I've found, life enjoys pummeling me with little tiny spit wads of crapola for months and months at a time. And just when I think they have ended and I can enjoy a "peak" in life, I find it is merely a molehill I have stepped upon and not a mountain.

So let's review. Pretty much N's birth was the best thing that has happened in the past 3 years. After her birth, unfortunately, alot has been downhill. Her torticollis, my nervous breakdown, D's dad dying suddenly. There was a slight molehill, possibly a tiny hill, but then since August of this year, it has been D's gallbladder surgery, my ovarian problems, and N's illness marathon.

I had already written off December as sucking, but I had never designated it as sucking anything in particular. This afternoon I determined that it is "sucking ass."

I woke N from her nap because she was wheezing in her sleep. She then proceeded to run a fever, have a coughing jag, and spit up copious amounts of mucus all over herself and me. I called the after-hours service for advice. The lady, who could hear N wheezing and barking like a seal with emphysema, told me to go the pediatric emergency center. Of course, by the time we arrived N's wheezing had slightly improved. So we signed in and sat with all 11,000,000 other people there. Finally, I decided since she was not turning blue, I'd be better off to take her to our neighborhood urgent care where I might not have to wait until she is of legal drinking age to get someone to look at her. All of this, mind you, is coupled with the discomfort I am having in my lower abdominal region from this damned cyst as a result of lugging my baby around the city of L trying to find someone to get her to breathe normally.

Now before getting to the nearby clinic, I have to run home because 1. D doesn't know where we are since I left in such a rush, 2. I left the oven on with our tortellini in it, and 3. I think there is a candle burning somewhere in my house. I have to listen to a short lecture about how worried D was, and that I need a cell phone again, but we are momentarily on our way.

And that is where I finally get a glimpse of the funny. N was such a big girl with Dr. Bird, so brave and good. And not once, but twice she said, "Mommy, I love you" and gave me a kiss. So aside from feeling tremendously proud of her, I was also feeling gushy and over the moon in love with my kiddo. Maybe because I was so at ease that I was able to get a glimpse.

We had told N that we would stop at McDonald's for a Happy Meal, so she was talking about that with her little raspy voice. The nurse was about ready to give her a steroid by mouth and handed her a bedpan since many kids yak it up within a short period of time. It was at this point that my brilliant little girl said, "I'll put some fries in my bowl."

So fast forward 45 minutes or so and there we were: N eating her fries out of a bedpan, D and I eating a very disgusting, overcooked and dry tortellini, and me hoping that we will soon be on our way out of this short-lived valley.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Don't try this at home

Most people would say I'm not a half-ass person, as in, I give things my 110% effort. I have generally agreed with this assessment, but lately I'm discovering that I have a secret half-assed life that I keep hidden from everyone, including myself.

It occurred to me today that the reason my half-assed efforts aren't well-known is because I simply give up if I don't succeed immediately. I become easily bored and frustrated with actually having to work at something, and so I quit. Sewing is one good example of this. I would never be a great seamstress; probably not even middling, and so due to lack of greatness, I don't sew.

It's just another wrestling match between me and life for control. If I can't be outstanding at sewing or playing guitar, well then piss on it. If it takes the least bit of practice or challenge....forget it.

Because I didn't rock out like Kim Gordon after completing a 6-week guitar class, I have dropped it. I haven't practiced in weeks. The guitar and tuner are sitting in my basement, waiting patiently, but I bypass them on my way to doing other things that come easily, like scrapbooking or blathering on about my psychological gymnastics on this blog.

Because D and I haven't conceived yet, I am starting to think I'll just go back on the pill. Well's not coming easily. This is requiring effort. Chuck the whole idea, then.

I think what brought about this self-revelation was my efforts just an hour or so ago to bake cookies. I rarely bake cookies, and I know why. You see, I am a wing it kind of cook. If I don't have an ingredient, I wing it with something else (perhaps similar to what was called for, perhaps not). A friend gave me a salad recipe and we've had it a million times, but only recently have I actually made it with all the ingredients called for on the recipe card.

But cookies, you see, are something with which a person really can't or shouldn't wing it. So I was making Jello cookies, where you add 2 packets of Jello to the flour, butter, egg, sugar, etc. I added lime and strawberry....thinking "How pretty they will be...Christmas colors." It didn't dawn on me until after I had tasted them how lime and strawberry FLAVORS might blend. So these cookies have a weird wang about them (and the color doesn't look Christmas-y; it looks like vomit). And so, because they are not a smashing culinary success, I shall not bake anymore until next year when I want to attend a cookie exchange and am too embarrassed to purchase cookies at Kroger.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

I am a wuss

Yep, I said it. Not that anyone is surprised by this statement, although sometimes I dupe myself into thinking I am stronger than I am. Of course, a little winter illness invades my abode, and reality hits home.

Let's see N had the vomiting episode about 2 weeks ago. Then last week I was sick...on the sleeper sofa, achy, feverish, followed by disgusting congestion. Then N started up with the same thing. After 4 days of fever, I took her to the doctor. So now we are treating an ear infection (her first) and a touch of pneumonia. Yesterday, D started with diarrhea. And N's antibiotics are kicking in so she's a little "loose" too. Furthermore, my lovely little ovarian cyst, which seemed to go away, has returned. Why, at age 33, after 23 years of menstruation, do my ovaries suddenly decide to weird out on me?

Anyway, I've written December off as "totally sucking" and am going to try to move on. I was pretty down until I read today's advice column about the man who's father died suddenly, who's life partner was killed in Iraq and who's mother has breast cancer. And I think of N's gym teacher who's son died this past summer at age 3.

It is at this point that I want to knock myself in the head with a frying pan for being such a.... say it with me now, WUSS.

Part of cognitive behavioral therapy is retraining one's brain to think rationally, and in my case rational is usually more positive than how I normally think. So over the past 2 years I've tried to learn to think "I can cope" with whatever life throws my way. But, sometimes, it becomes ever so clear that while I might cope, the truth is that I cope badly (and that is with benefit of medication).

So aside from being depressed about all the bugs my little family seems to be harboring, I am also depressed because 1. I can't cope with 2. all the little tiny minutiae of my life when other people have much more serious problems. Ahhh, is it almost January?

Friday, December 1, 2006

My inner dog

I used to like dogs until D and I, early in our marriage, "catsat" my SIL's 2 boys, Jasper & Sunny. I was surprised by how much I totally enjoyed the cats. God, they were easy. They didn't require any effort....clean the litterbox, food once a day, stroke their heads if they decided to deign me with their presence.

And that began a years-in-the-making realization that I am a psychological dog. As much as I have tried to change my inner puppy, my instinctive drive is toward canine behavior.

Dogs are needy creatures. They bark and yip and yap and growl. They require taking outside or walkings around the neighborhood. They enjoy meeting other dogs and the requisite butt-sniffing that ensues. And when they want your attention, they paw, scratch, jump up, chase their tails, run around like mad. And while this certainly doesn't sound like anything Carrie does on the outside (particularly the butt-sniffing), it is so me on the inside. And that is where all of reality is anyway, right?

I never had a cat as a child, so my automatic assumption was that I preferred dogs. But strangely enough, the people I chose to spend time with as I got into college and beyond were cats. Quiet, reserved, preferred to keep to themselves. My dearest friend K is a "cat." So is D. I love the cat in them, and am a little envious too.

I envy the satisfaction of their being content alone. The easiness of them. The seeming easiness of just being themselves. Not like me....not spastically arffing over every little event. Not needing someone to walk me or talk to me (there's a good widdle Carrie-girl) or petting my head and providing me my day's comfort and love.

So for years, I've been trying to find my inner cat. Or perform transgender reassignment of the canine soul of me. I have spent a large chunk of my adult life trying to not be something I instinctively am (and no, this isn't some roundabout way of saying I'm gay. I think I would have an easier time accepting myself as gay.) Being a psychological dog is being weak and needy and obnoxious, while psychological cats are cool, sheik and strong.

Is there any logic behind this? Of course not! When has logic or reason or rationality ever informed any of my views about myself or the world?

So now I am somewhere between a cat and a dog. Isn't there some freakish cartoon with that premise? And I am having to try to accept what I am inherently and what I am due to changes I have brought about.

The truth is both sides have their merits and disadvantages. Dogs aren't all bad. Despite all the slobbering and licking they do, they are damn loyal. And dogs are very sensitive to the moods of others. And they are certainly more enthusiastic about anything than cats.

So there it is. I am really a cog or a dat or a fenine or a caline. Or I'm just me.