July 30, 2008

Proof of Life

Any talk about my girls being in school has turned into a sort of mantra. "It's important for their socialization. They are learning the skills of interaction and team work."

Oi vey. This, for the children of Queen Hermit, Mrs. Haven't-Spoken-To-Anyone-Outside-My-Dance-Space-In-97-Days. Perhaps I need to go to preschool?

It's been a weird summer. I've evened out and enjoyed the comforts of our local psychiatric establishments. I have absorbed, through sheer force of will, ways to cope with what ails me. Mostly, in boils down to simple preparation and avoidance of over-stimulation. I'm starting to wonder, though, if I haven't taken it a bit too far. My whole existence now revolves around The Schedule. I work on The Schedule every Sunday night and stick to it like ketchup in Silvia's hair.

Planning out my week is part of my overall stress mitigation. First, I set up my workout routine. Sometimes I get all flustered trying to figure out if The Schedule balances working upper body against lower body with enough rest between each muscle group. My exercise routine is the entire foundation of my week, a key factor for peace of mind. Following closely behind that are planned activities with the girls. I now passionately avoid watching the carpet in the living room grow all afternoon.

Dinner is easy since I started with the fabulous frozen dinner extravaganza. What really sets me to a flurry of erasing (I do the whole Schedule in pencil, of course) is the quantity of events entered each day. Is it too much? What if I have a workout AND a walk AND a play date? Will it be fun or will all my hair turn white and my eyeballs pop out? Deviations from The Schedule after Sunday Planning are rare and nerve-wracking.

By the end of every day, I often feel like I've reached capacity. The days are pleasantly but sufficiently full. While this is a happy change from overwhelmed and incapacitated, it does have a social drawback. I find myself each night ensconced somewhere, reading or watch TV with Kurt. I entertain not even a thought of anything outside my cocoon. To whit, I do not go out. I have, on occasion, even declined a trip to the ice cream shop(pe).

(Side note: I just scoffed at the very concept of turning down ice cream and accidentally spit coffee ALL OVER my laptop.)

I know all this sounds extreme, especially for a housewife with no other job. But consider my sudden burst of anxiety last night when all my planning went astray for over AN HOUR. We were playing outside and the older girl across the street came over to play with Anna. On a whim, holding Anna's little hand in her own, they headed down the street to visit another girl. All of a sudden, I was whirling in an impromptu play date at the house of a woman I hardly know who already had company. She was about to run out the door with her friend, the two other 6-year-olds were ignoring Anna, and I stood like a fidgety statue in an unknown kitchen with two near-strangers.

All I could do was take my shoes on and off, four times, aghast at the pristine white carpets (how do people DO that?). Anna, not ready to be alone but unwilling to leave, followed the older girls around like a puppy. Silvia, covered in bubble solution and potting soil (don't ask), crawled all over the buttery soft leather couch and delightedly wrestled the spotless silk pillows.

While this situation would have been only mildly awkward for some, I was near panic. After about 10 minutes, I corralled two whining and teary-eyed children out, pleading that Kurt was probably home (it wasn't even 5 P.M.) and I had to make dinner. My heart pounded and a nearly painful tightness squeezed the air from my lungs.

All I could do was backtrack and plop myself back down, weepy children and all, into the framework of The Schedule. Then my breath returned and I was safe.

I am a balanced person, on the whole, seriously. My equilibrium, both through hard work and medication, has returned in ways that never existed before. I have confidence in myself and the strength of my little family. But, from time to time, someone's snowy white carpets can throw all that to hell. Planning against this is what keeps me on an even keel.

Still, while all this proactive living and whatnot is effective at keeping me level, perhaps, only perhaps, I should find a way to leave a tiny, itty bitty portion of it up to chance. See my friends for an evening of adult interaction. Make a phone call or two. Attend a local function. Maybe.

Or, and now I think I've hit on it: I could schedule the opportunities for chance! Brilliant! Barring of course, any future possibilities of landing myself again in the house of Older Children and Weekly Steamed Carpets. A woman can only take so much.

July 23, 2008

Instinct

This morning, after snapping at my husband, rushing my kids and pounding down my coffee like a saki bomb (with about the same amount of mess, sadly), I decided to skip the discipline of the gym and just go for a walk. You know- stepping out the front door, putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward. While I love the gym and all it has to offer, there's something demoralizing about those treadmills and stair-steppers, like I'm a gerbil on my wheel: I never get anywhere.

Anyway. So, here I am, walking uphill, soaking in the sun, calming down, breathing, all that good stuff. My mind starts to clear the farther I walk. At at hearty pace (Ha! Get it, hearty? I'm so clever.), I begin to feel restored as I reach the top of the neighborhood. Finally, I start to look around.

Everywhere, there are flowers. Pots and pots of them all around people's houses, bushes and plants in every bit of landscaping, wildflowers taking over empty lots. At first, I just enjoyed the view and scent of this summer cornucopia. Then I noticed a phenomenon, a kindred vitality to each and every bloom.

They were all, down to the last daisy, turned toward the sun. Even the trees seemed to be leaning every so slightly, branches and leaves straining upwards. I later learned, they follow the sun across the sky every day, drooping slightly and closing their petals in the darkness until it returns.

Amazing. It got me thinking about all the time we, in the most general terms, spend inside. There always seems to be something more to do, some comfort or bit of responsibility that requires attention.

Here are these flowers, though; basic, simple life, valued more for decoration than any other quality. Yet a genetic yearning toward an enigma of vital light fills each and every one, while we stay in our cars and buildings- windows up, curtains drawn.

Makes me wonder.

July 16, 2008

Things to remember

I almost always think things are going to be more difficult than they really are. Picking up the girls this afternoon raised my spirits like a bounce from hard rock to a trampoline. Silvia was dozing when I got to her classroom, and she blinked her eyes open and started smiling with her tongue sticking out even before she was fully awake. "Mama! Hi-llo Mama!", and then big big hugs. After I picked her up, she waved bye to her teacher and started patting my arm comfortingly with more, "Mama, hi!".

Anna came dashing across the room, hitting me at knee level and nearly knocking me over with her exuberance. As we walked to the car, she quizzed me for what we were going to do, what to do, what, Mama? What are we going to do? As always, slowed her down with our shared mantra, "One thing at a time, sweetie. Let's get to the car first."

I realized, at that moment, that my pulse had slowed and with it, my mist of constant tears. One thing at a time, indeed. Perspective is an amazing thing. It is so sweetly humbling when my little carefree children adjust mine with no effort at all. As we settled into our afternoon, I switched from lacking and low to grateful and guided. What would we do? Walks, parks, library, playdates, sprinklers, baking, stories, coloring... there were so many things. Good things.

I need to remember that.

P.S. By the way, I finally figured out how to get the comments link to show up for my posts. I used my amazing powers of technical savvy-tude. That's why it took me months. Leave a note if you like.

July 15, 2008

What's a girl to do?

I'm sitting here and the countdown to pick-up time is eating away at the clock. I've been crying on and off all morning, whenever I stop for a moment from whatever distraction I've filled with my purpose.

But now the laundry is finished and put away. The kitchen is spotless. There's no real point in scrubbing the floors since the cleaning lady did it just yesterday. I've changed my clothes three times, given up on my hair entirely and finished my book on tape. And I'm still crying, little fits that last a moment and then pass. I know that keeping busy is my solution, but there's not much left to physically do around the house. If I could go to the gym I would, but the daycare there is closed from 1 to 4, so I can't take my girls with me.

I'm tempted to call and have the daycare keep them the rest of the day, but I know I won't. For one thing, I promised Anna that she wouldn't be taking any more naps at school. It's very important to me to keep promises I make to my kids. Mostly, though, I know that I'll feel terrible the whole time they are there, just as I feel terrible now that I left Silvia for the morning when today she is supposed to be home, having mommy all to herself.

Having them with me certainly gives me a thing to do, there is no question about that. But I hate these little cloud bursts of tears and hate even more for the girls to see me in the midst of them. So, here I sit, amorphously weepy in a sparkling clean house. The minutes are past and it's time to go gather my children, tears or not. We'll take to the fresh air, water the plants until they drown and blow bubbles until I pass out. Staying busy is not a problem with two toddlers. Keeping my mind busy, though, is another matter entirely.

July 03, 2008

Excitement and a fully stocked freezer

I'm easy. (scrub out your dirty minds, I didn't mean that. Heck, I don't even remember what that looks like!) It takes very little for me to get excited about something new and when it happens, I tend to jump in with both feet and little concern for where I land. Some may say that's part of my "diagnosis", but I say it's just my touch-a-wacky personality.

Right now, I am very excited. VERY. I just purchased 12 dinners, prepped fresh, frozen and ready to go for the cost of less than one week's meals. By that, I mean the cost of one week of frantically running at the last minute to the store, or the pizza place, or the Chinese food joint. It gets pricey when you have no idea what's for dinner and the hour of doom approaches.

But, now my freezer is stocked, FULL, with dinner. Yummy sounding dinner. Easy to prepare dinner. But, most importantly, dinner I didn't have to make myself. Ah! Feel the sigh of relief circle the world! I went to a local place that I really like, What About Dinner?. I know there are establishments like it, however, all around should you care to look.

Aside from fabulous dinner excitement, I am also very thrilled with Revlon's new Beyond Natural Lip Tint. My favorite color is Neutral Pink. I know, it's shallow and ridiculous to find joy in glorified lip balm, but there it is. Sometimes it really is the tiny, little, fits-neatly-in-your-purse things for which I'm most grateful.

To redeem myself from the image that I am just a greedy tummy and shiny lips, there's one more item to add to my excitement bonanza. Jack McDevitt. OK, actually, I do not even know this guy, so don't worry that I'm having an affair with him or anything (remember, I don't even recall how to do that). However, I am having a love affair right now with everything he's ever written. He writes totally enthralling and completely escapist Sci Fi (science fiction for those of you not in the cult of fandom). It's all, or mostly all, set in the very distant, deep future. I love that it is full of everything and anything that is NOT my day-to-day life. Plus, bonus, he's a prolific writer; I get to keep on reading as soon as I finish a book!

Therein lies my happiness for the day. Let's all offer up a moment of thanks that I have finally put aside the stack of totally overwhelming self-help books for the moment. Bring on the future in a distant galaxy with a tasty cheap dinner that I can enjoy through my pretty pink and moisturized lips. Ahhhh.... now that's what I call REAL self-help.

Heck, maybe I'll even give that a try while I'm on such a roll. (Once again, every is welcome to send Kurt emails of sympathy and commiseration.)

July 02, 2008

Living Out Loud

A friend asked me once why I keep an online journal. She has a daughter close to my age who also keeps a blog and she just doesn't understand the concept. At the time, I couldn't really explain my reasoning, but I thought I'd give it another try here.

Basically, it's a process of living out loud. I first came across this idea when reading other people's blogs, most notably Crazy Aunt Purl. For so many aspects of life these days, and maybe for the history of civilized society, we are required to put up a front, maintain a facade of polite behavior and situationally correct expression. Since I am neither always polite nor hardly ever situationally correct, I often find myself stifled, with no acceptable outlet.

Then was born the blog. Cue the angelic chorus. This blog, this online journal, is my link to sanity, especially as I've faced some of the difficult and necessary hurdles of growing up and getting a grip. In the past year, and even longer than that, I've begun to embrace the idea of living out loud. Perhaps not in the middle of a dinner party, but certainly here in this virtual place. It has simply become too hard to keep up all the facades of polite society all the time without having a way to let them all go, too.

It's a place to think, to vent, to belly-ache and belly-laugh, whenever and for whatever reason I need. As I've grown more reclusive in the past months, it's a way for me to still communicate without the weight of social niceties. In this place, too, I am free to say what I please and how I feel without worrying what anyone else thinks. That doesn't mean that I go out of my way to be offensive and obnoxious, just that I find a freedom of expression online that does not always exist in the real world. If someone doesn't like it? Then the way out is just a click away.

Mostly, though, I keep a blog because I like to write and sometimes I want people to read what I write, for any vast number of reasons. I also have a private journal, handwritten purges of thought that are not meant for public consumption. But this journal is my way of sharing, communicating and reaching out.

In a lot of ways, it's simply a way of saying, "Hey, I'm still here."

July 01, 2008

Hey, wait a minute... this place looks familiar

The walls of this room lean slightly in and that feeling of mild hypoxia pushes on my head and chest. A headache starts to bloom in my temples like a rampant and vile weed. The color has been leached from the surroundings. Everywhere I look is pale or dark, like something out of the Twilight Zone. It's as if some idiot invented a spray-painter vacuum that works in reverse. Then he went around like a jackass and sucked up all the brightness. You know, just because he could. And of course, in this room and in this place, gravity is not the same. There is, at every moment, the heavy constant weight of my own flesh against my bones. My eyes are burning and there is a scream struggling to get out just behind my lungs.

Oh, I've been here before, that's for certain. And you know what? I really have to say, with all my heart and with no reservations; fuck this place. I mean, really. Someone needs to come in here with a huge yellow bulldozer and tear all this bullshit down and put up a nice park.