August 27, 2010


yesterday evening i was a heap of messy messiness.

i should take my own advice based on the title of that very cheesy book i was recently discussing and, you know, don't sweat the small stuff. but sometimes it all feels like a very big deal. i'd like to say that i have grown so much as a person, that i'm proud of myself for all the coping skills i've amassed with age but i don't know that i deserve applause even if i'm not reaching for drugs, booze, or the nearest sharp object.

at this point in my life, i was looking forward to healthy, life-affirming forms of go-to stress relief (like yoga or meditation) but with the recent increase in stress levels has come a marked increase in junk food consumption. i had to stop buying cookies because i was polishing off the package in one day. oh and krispy kremes, too. you know, i could share a dozen with my two older kids. they'd maybe have two each and i'd eat the other eight. i'm not even overly concerned about gaining weight but i am obsessed with my risk of developing diabetes or cancer or some other potentially fatal diet-related disease.

on every level, this isn't healthy.

i attempt to nurse the baby to sleep but he would rather squirm around and scratch my eyeball. i lay in bed and remember that moving is considered one of the top three or five or whatever stressors in life. right up there with major illness or divorce. i know i've certainly been stressed before a move before but never like this. this isn't like anything i've ever felt before and it's compounded by so many factors that i try to identify each one, while mr. squirmbottom settles into bed.

i thought moving would be fun. moving should be fun. it could be fun. especially when moving on to "bigger and better" pastures. we're buying a house, this should be exciting. but. my husband isn't at all excited about this. he sees this as nothing more than a really big way to spend big money. he doesn't like spending money. it makes him grumpy. ignore anything i've said here previously, or anything i've said on facebook because we haven't found a house yet. i repeat. we have not found a house yet and we're no closer than when we started three months, and who knows how many houses, ago. i'm done counting but i have darn near exhausted the zip code we're restricted to so it's back to playing the waiting game. waiting to see what else comes on the market only puts us in a much more precarious position than we're already in since bank approvals are rocky these days and the housing market is near-stalled for pre-existing homes. even though we were hopeful, at the onset, that our home would sell because the market was still showing lots of movement in the price range of our home, anyone shopping around will quickly find out that they can buy a brand new house for less, so unless something about ours really, really appealed to them it might be a hard sell. it doesn't help that i thought this house would be a hard-sell, just in terms of the layout, when my husband initially put it on the market nearly six years ago (before i moved in and we decided to stay put) and now it's cluttered up with children and life. i also worry about how difficult it will be to stay in this home, maintain a yet-to-be-created model home appearance, and be available to show it whenever. this process has been described by more than one mother i know, as "hell."

i work through this one by kindly asking my preconceived notions to screw off. they won't mess this up for me - i have to let go of all the negative energy my head can conjure up. focus on what we need, what we want, what we could accept as a reasonable outcome and then i have to be open to all possibility. no more hampering this journey with a piss-poor attitude!

but before i get to that clear-headedness, i'm still in bed and now my four year old takes a detour on the way to his own bed and climbs in next to me for cuddles. it doesn't help that the last few hours were spent spiraling downward into old thought patterns and like i mentioned above, turning every little small thing into a big, significant indicator of why my life is like this and has always been like this and will always be like this (because even though i think it's pretty damn extraordinary 87% of the time and just so-so 10% of the time, there is that 3% like now when i think it sucks and will always suck and has always sucked) so now that the baby is even less interested in going to sleep than he was a few minutes ago and the four year old is moving around so much the blankets are rustling against my arm in the most obnoxiously annoying way, i just start crying.

i go over how this whole house hunting experience is just further proof that for everything my husband and i have in common, we are at complete odds about something of greater importance.

for instance, we have no spiritual connection and i don't mean that our spirits aren't attracted to one another or any hooey nonsense like that, but i mean he is very much a good, strong, moral protestant (read: religious) and i am very much a free-for-all universalist finding just as much value in christ as i do in buddha or john lennon (read: so very anti-religious it's not even funny). though i claim to be as tolerant (and non-pushy) as he is, this is still an issue of mine that comes up during times of crises such as this. certainly, i tell myself, not having this mutual foundation with which to base our marriage and the upbringing of our children upon is grounds for failure and and our future doom is further evidenced by the fact that we can't seem to agree upon a house that pleases us both.

what attracts me to a home doesn't interest him in the least and some of the things that matter to him really aren't on my radar. i am a visual person, drawn by aesthetic and design. he would live in a cardboard box if it provided adequate shelter. this might be because he is full of grace and humility and i'm, well, i'm not. i can appreciate function but not at the expense of beauty, whereas my husband couldn't care less how something looked, so long as it worked. this can be a big darn deal when house hunting. though, i do admit that we are trying to reach the same end and we do appreciate many of the same attributes in a home, i am beyond frustrated (and i wouldn't say i was angry or pissed off, just exhausted) with his practical nature. i'm all for being practical but there are extremes to everything and my husband is being extremely practical.

example: there is one home that has remained in my top five that my husband will hardly consider because it has an oversized foyer. he has estimated that the foyer itself is approximately 80 square feet. he would like this house better if only that 80 square feet had been used more wisely, like say, as another room, or part of another room. nevermind that it boasts a decent size coat closet and creates and open and inviting atmosphere upon entering the home. forget how it looks because, as he put it, "if i'm paying per square foot and i'm paying to heat and cool each square foot, it better darn well be useful."

well fuck.

i am feeling defeated and deflated, as i mentioned on facebook yesterday. i lay in bed and ask pea to stop squirming because the baby is doing enough of that on his own. i really start to sink further, knowing that sometimes i have to mentally hit rock bottom before i can climb my way out of the pit of depression but since i'm on that topic my mind starts racing again - is prozac safe for nursing mothers? (or more importantly, their nursing children?), did i have postpartum depression, is it still lingering? while i've never been officially diagnosed as depressed i could have been, if i'd only stayed in therapy long enough. i also know that i am strong and have weathered many storms in the past and believe that i operate on a balanced level where i am neither ever too happy and rarely ever too sad. i have worked for many, many years on the root causes of my (to steal a quote from eat, pray, love) "tendency toward melancholy" and, while this could be an entire chapter of my life unto it's own, i have much in common with melissa gilbert. after a terrible break-up, i was also on prozac for a very short period of time in 2003 and it, in conjunction with an introductory study of buddhism and some solid friendships, saved my life. i have been here before, a companion to sadness and self-pity and so it begins.

wondering if i had or have postpartum depression starts the ball rolling and before i know it i'm feeling sorry for myself because i have been depleted over the last five years in ways i never knew i could be depleted. from a basic, cellular level being pregnant twice and nursing for much longer than the average american woman has taken it's toll. this was exacerbated by the pain that i was in since i was four months pregnant with pea. i went to the gym and prenatal yoga classes regularly. i felt strong, despite the pain, and i had a lovely homebirth at the end which was reward enough.

the pain continued long after pea's birth. i no longer had time to visit the gym. i stopped doing yoga. i conducted most activities while wearing pea on my back or having him in my lap. he'd only nap on me. he nursed every two hours like a newborn until i started to wean him at age two. my body was twisted and tight and it wasn't until i wanted to get pregnant again that i finally saw a chiropractor.

pea was two and a half when i got pregnant with sprout and i was pretty much in pain from the beginning. i saw a chiropractor at about 10 weeks and felt so much worse afterward that i vowed never to see that particular chiropractor again and it wasn't until i was near 36 weeks that i felt up to getting another adjustment. i got a massage at twelve weeks and while it helped during, i was in so much pain immediately after, that it took me fifteen minutes to get off the table and put my clothes back on. the first time i tried to do anything resembling yoga, i found that i could not get up off the floor for thirty minutes, much less stretch into any helpful pose. my body stopped working the way i knew it could. i'm sure it was the SPD but i also think it was worsened by the fact that i wasn't being nourished in any sense of the word. i wasn't able to leave pea with anyone while i went to a restorative yoga class (though i quickly lost faith that this would even help, even though my midwife had offered to go with me, i didn't want to end up stuck on the floor in a room full of people). i wasn't able to get a massage. when i finally got approved for physical therapy (which often left me feeling worse) i had to take pea with me half of the time. there was no me time. i couldn't replenish any of my rapidly draining reserves. i had no nourishing friendships and i realized during this time that i did not have a nourishing partner, either. my pain was a burden and i couldn't squeeze an ounce of concern from him if i'd tried. i felt weak and sprout came four weeks early, in the hospital, instead of at home, as planned.

of course, this is a two-way street and i have no one to blame. i have asked myself many times over the course of the last few years, what i have done to nourish my husband and the answer is probably nothing. my excuse is always the same, too. i couldn't nourish him because i couldn't even nourish myself. that's the mother/wife conundrum isn't it? all self-help books directed at women with children or husbands or both make the easy claim that you must take care of yourself before taking care of others. i wonder how many people writing that bullshit have actually accomplished the task when most women i know often end up caring for everyone else at the expense of their own health and well-being.

before i board the train of thought that leads to "what did i do to deserve this much misery?" my four year old realizes that i'm crying. he places his little hand upon my shoulder and rubs it gently. i suddenly snap out of it and accept that i must be doing something right because he is such a tender soul. my mind starts wandering again and i hope that he can maintain such sympathy towards others as he grows older but then i stop and just enjoy the comfort of my sweet little boy.

he then asks, "why are you crying, mommy?" and i answer as truthfully as i can when i say, "i don't know."

now, i firmly believe that children should see their parents through a range of emotions in order to help them understand how to cope with their own, but i also believe that as a society we are so totally distorted and dysfunctional, seeking to medicate before seeking to heal, that i always have to question what healthy emotional boundaries might be. because i tend to over-think, i offer my son further explanation even though he was probably satisfied with my first answer. i tell him that i'm just sad because we haven't found a house yet and it's getting very tiring which is a more valid truth. i keep things age appropriate and leave out all the stuff about how i'm releasing pent up resentments and working out all my bitter kinks.

the baby is finally asleep, so pea and i transfer ourselves into his bed. i lay with him until he falls asleep. when i get up, i notice the old familiar knots in my back. i feel the lump in my throat, my voice being thwarted. i start to write. i even speak and point out all the reasons i think the home with the 80 square foot foyer is our best option. it may have fallen on deaf ears so i type all of this out instead of repeating myself.

and today is a new day. i am slightly grumpy at my husband still and i tell him this even if the reality is that i don't fault him for anything. i just wish things were easier.

we all need to nourish and be nourished and this often gets pushed aside for other, more pressing and tangible needs. like the need to have a roof over our heads or food on our table. or it feels too vulnerable that many of us live our entire lives ignoring this one vital need. i want to embrace it now.

i need a bath, alone, without the sound of crying, needy children. that is all.

but it's not just about me, so when my husband gets home i'm going to ask him to identify what he needs right now. we have tried this exercise before and he has met my reasonable goals of giving me some time away without the kids, every once in a great while but i usually have at least one of them with me. he generally looks at how i can nourish him in terms of time management. i could cook more or keep the house free from clutter which is generally in the form of toys or clothing. typical and reasonable requests that i cannot seem to meet. as soon as i do three loads of laundry, there are three more that need to be done. if there isn't a pile waiting to be folded and put away, there is a pile waiting to be washed. we don't have a laundry room and the little kids don't have their own bedrooms, therefore there is very limited space for keeping clothes hampers (and toys). i know that using this as an excuse is a very selfish, first-world thing to do, but i assure him that on top of the challenges of handling the day to day needs of two small children, i'm doing the best i can in cramped quarters and things will be better when we have enough space for our family.

it could become a typical cycle of "you scratch my back, i'll scratch yours" - give and take - but there is a near-invisible line between that and a "me vs. him" match that i want no part of. i need some me time, he wants a domestic wife. if i'm replenished i can give more. so say all those self-help books.

i just don't know how to go about replenishing myself, so all i ask for is a bath.

hopefully he doesn't ask that i make dinner in return because when he cooks, it just tastes better.

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