Thursday, May 30, 2013

Begin Where You Are.

Alternative Title:  Jealousy (Part 1)

Disclaimer:  Do not let the alternative title fool you into believing that there is a guarantee of Part 2.

I'm sure you've all heard the advice to begin where you are.  It sounds simple, but for an over-achieving perfectionist like me, it's really hard to do.  I like to begin things at the expert level and not get bogged down by details like practicing or training or working at something.  It takes a great deal of mental strength for me to push through the beginnings of things.  It's all very frustrating.

Pardon the beating of a dead horse for a moment, but I'm not happy with my weight or the shape I'm in physically.  This is not new to anyone (unless it's your first time here, in which case, hi, I'm fat.).  I've been complaining about wanting to get in better shape for a long time now.  The problem, of course, is that complaining alone does not burn sufficient calories to lose 40-ish pounds.  If complaining burned calories, I assure you I'd disappear.

Now that I'm working from home primarily, I've been trying to get out and walk or run at lunch time. I'm having trouble with consistency, the weather, other obligations, etc.  Some of it is excuse making, some of it is legitimate.  For example, today I spent my lunchtime and then some renewing my driver's license.  Tomorrow, it's supposed to be very hot and I'm trying to psych myself up to not weasel out of my scheduled run/walk.

So what does any of this have to do with the title of this post or the alternative title?

I follow a lot of bloggers and people on Twitter who are really into fitness, eating well and living a healthy lifestyle.  The point of following them (in addition to some really great writing that some of them also do), is to serve as inspiration to continue to work towards the goals I've set for myself.

But a few weeks ago, or maybe it was months, who knows, something changed.  I was smack in the middle of a funk (or what a qualified therapist might have even called a depression) and everyone's successes were starting to get to me.  People running half and full marathons, people eating well, working out and just being who I want to be.

I want to be someone who exercises regularly.  I want to go to the track tomorrow and run 3 miles in less than 40 minutes, instead of jiggling and stumbling through Week 2 Day 1 of Couch to 5k where most of what I'm doing is walking.  I want to maintain a healthy weight, not try to reduce my weight in fits and starts.

I'm jealous.  I'm jealous of the skinny women, the athletic women, the women with resolve and determination and the ability to accomplish something.  I'm tired of just wanting things.

I am aware my jealousy is ridiculous because none of them, not one single one of the women whose healthy habits I admire got where they are by waking up one day and having it just happen.  All of them train and work towards their goals. They don't sit around and whine and cry about it, which is all I have been doing.

As I was running (and walking) yesterday at the track, I was thinking about beginning where I am.  I'm not where they are.  I have a long way to go before I'm where they are.  But I won't get there unless I begin where I am.  I have no choice but to start at the beginning, one day at a time, trying my best.

I just turned 37.  I have a goal to run a half marathon before I turn 40.  It's a doable goal, but only if I start right now, right where I am, and not look to the achievements of others as an indication of my failure.

Tomorrow's a new day.  Tomorrow I will just be where I am.

(PS - If you're wondering what the Part 2 bit is about, there's another thing that's been eating at me lately.  Writing this post was pretty cathartic, maybe writing about the other thing will be, too.  But not today.  One session of pouring my heart out is quite enough for today.)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Neglection of the Flour Baby.

My son's babysitter came barreling through the front door five minutes after her start time, as usual.  I'm not sure if it's her chronic tardiness, the way she stomps around like an elephant, or her atrocious manner of speaking that drives me insane.  I suspect it's all of the above.

"Yo, they gave me my flower-baby today," she offered up, 100% unsolicited.

"Your what?"  I never know what she's talking about.

"My flower-baby.  You know, a flower-baby.  They make you take care of it so you know how to take care of a real baby.  See, here's a picture."

She thrust her phone in my face.  There was a picture of a sack of Gold Medal flour, dressed in infant clothes, with a photo of a baby taped to it.

"Oh, a flour-baby.  OK.  I see," I said, rapidly losing interest.

"Yo, they make us do craaaaazy stuff.  And we have to take real care of it, too.  If you leave it in your locker?  That's neglection.  If you break it?  That's death."

I interjected a few uh-huhs and mmm-hmms in the appropriate places.  She kept talking.

"Yoooo, but some teachers, they're cool, right?  If your baby has death, you get to write an obituary and you still pass.  But some are straight up bad, man, because if your baby gets death and you write the obituary, you still fail.  That's not right, right?  They shouldn't be able to fail you like that for breaking your baby."

I considered pointing out that the assignment was probably to not break her baby.  Instead, I asked her where her baby was at that moment.  She explained that she left it with a friend since she didn't want to bring it to work.  I considered pointing out that her job is to babysit an actual child, but figured she wouldn't make the connection.

"Yo, so, like, maybe I'll bring it tomorrow.  But, like, that thing is legit heavy, so I'm all like whoa."  She shook her arms for dramatic effect.

I decided that was as good a time as any to get back to work and let her get to taking care of my son.

The next day, she bolted through my front door, five minutes late of course, with Flour-Baby in arms.  She complained a bit about how hard it was to take care of a fake child.  She figured I didn't really understand since I didn't have to do this assignment in high school.  I nodded in sarcastic agreement.  She didn't get it.

Once her shift was over, she went home.  It wasn't until I was serving my son dinner that I noticed someone looking at me.  It was Flour-Baby, sitting in Nathan's chair in my living room.

I had half a mind to call her teacher to report this... neglection.

Poor, poor neglected Flour-Baby.

Linking up with Yeah Write, my straight up legit favorite writing community.

Edited to add:  This post won crowd favorite AND the jury prize this week.  Thank you everyone who enjoyed and voted!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I Lied About the Beaters.

I have been living a lie for the last 25 years. It's time I come clean about something that happened the summer before 7th grade.

My mom worked, so when the public education system was done with me, I was left to my own devices.  Warned yet again not to have friends over, I called my friend Krista to join me for some pancakes. Krista was often at my house when I wasn't supposed to have company and our covert hangouts were old hat.

Our electric beater, long since caked over with batter and stained from a Jell-O mixing accident, had been a wedding gift to my parents.  The on-off switch was broken, so you had to put the beaters in before plugging it in or risk maiming yourself.  I issued a stern warning and started the appliance whirring.

I showed Krista this trick I knew.  I held out my hand, fingers spread, and put the spinning beaters on the middle of my palm.

It tickled!  It was so much fun!

I urged her to try it, which of course she did because, you know, kids...

I took the beaters back and tickled my own hand with it again.  She did something goofier than what I was doing, which caused me to laugh and turned my attention away from my hand.  That is until searing pain shot up my arm and I realized the middle finger of my left hand was jammed in between the two beaters.  It was all twisted up, the beaters pushing outward from one another, still attempting to knead my digit.  I screamed and tried to pull my finger back out, but it was impossible.  Because the on-off switch was broken, our attempts to stop the beaters from trying to spin were futile.

Finally, rational thought prevailed.  Krista remembered that one could stop an electrical appliance by pulling the cord from the wall.  The pressure pulling my finger deeper between the beaters lessened.  We pulled and tugged frantically, but I was stuck.  Pressing the release button that should have shot out the beaters, but they wouldn't budge.

I was starting to panic.  My mother was going to kill me.

Eventually we realized the way to get my finger out was to slide it down toward the handle while pushing the handle against my body.  After a few agonizing minutes, my finger dislodged.

We watched in horror as it turned red, then purple, and swelled up around the slit-like puncture wounds the beaters left. It seemed like I could bend it, sort of, except for the swelling.  I decided it was probably not broken.  I decided I should not seek medical attention.

I also decided we would not tell anyone what happened.  We would say that I accidentally plugged it in before inserting the beaters and that's how my finger got caught.  I didn't want anyone to know that I nearly broke my finger in an electric beater because I was stupidly tickling my own hand with it.

All through school, to the best of my knowledge, Krista kept my secret. But I can remain silent no more.  To every one who asked how I mangled my finger, I lied to you. I'm sorry.

The scar I bore for years?  The beaters.  The fact that I only have feeling in one half of that finger?  The beaters.  The reason I tend to flip people off with only my right hand?  The beaters.

It's all because of those beaters.

But it really did tickle...

Edited to add:  This post was selected as an Editor's Pick!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

On Being a Daughter and a Mother.

My relationship with my mother was atypical.

Long before she was sick with multiple sclerosis, she was sick emotionally.  She spent 15 years in an abusive marriage, 10 of which I witnessed.  The years following were difficult.  She was depressed and not without just cause.

She struggled with her role as a mother.

I struggled with my role as her daughter.  I struggled with acceptance of who she was.  I blamed her for not being the mother I wanted.  I couldn't put words to it back then, so I was just angry.  My anger fueled her depression, her guilt rising at every perceived and actual failure. Her expressions of guilt felt like judgement to me, perpetuating a cycle of blame between us.

Mother's Day was always hard.  There were no cards that summed up how I felt about her.

Thank you for giving birth to me.

Thank you for letting me take care of you.

Thank you for not losing the house and managing to feed me again this year.

Perhaps those sentiments weren't fair.  But teenagers, of all people, aren't always fair.  And as the teen years gave way to adulthood, more responsibility was pushed to me.

Thank you for letting me contribute my meager part-time paycheck to the mortgage.

Thank you for always reminding me how miserable you are.

Thank you for "understanding" my need to move out, get married, start a family of my own.

There was no card that said, "I resent you, but you are my mother, so Happy Mother's Day."  Believe me, I know.  I scoured Hallmark annually for some card that suited our situation.  I never found one.

After my son was born, I learned what it is to be a mother.  I learned how children can rip your heart to shreds in so many different ways, both happy and sad.  Children test the boundaries and they test them hard.

My son shows me he's angry at me so I may show him more that I love him.  He pulls me into him so much that he smothers me so that I may show him that I will never abandon him.  He loves me with all of his heart so that I may learn to accept that love from him, whether I feel like I deserve it or not.  He pulls away and demands his independence so that I may learn that he will always come back to me because I am his mother.

He showed me how to open my heart up in ways I never knew that I could.  He taught me that mothers are human, they are fallible.  He forced me to learn to forgive myself and others, and to love unconditionally, even when others are not how we would choose for them to be.

Slowly, I am forgiving my mother.  I am learning that she did the best she could, even if it's not what I wanted or needed.  I am learning to accept that doing the best she could was all I could ever really ask of her.  She loved me, I understand that now, even when I remember times where her actions felt contrary to that notion.

She loved me.  And I love her.

Mother's Day will always be hard for me.  I will never get a chance to tell my mother all that I've learned from my son.  I can't tell her that I understand her now better than I ever did before.

I can tell my son how much I love him, though.  I can thank him for teaching me things I never even knew I needed to learn.  It is because of him that I can be the mother I am.  I am not perfect.  I may not always be the person he wants me to be or even the person he needs at any given time.  We will have our struggles as he grows from a boy to a teenager to a man.

Because of him, I will keep learning.  I will keep loving.

Thank you, Nathan, for being the boy I needed to become the mother I am.

Mom, I love you.  Happy Mother's Day.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013


I can't write.  I've been trying. It's not that I don't have things to say.  The words won't come out.  They are lodged somewhere between my brain and my fingertips.

I have one-liners expanded into stories where the best part is something like, "And then I said, blah, blah, blah," and I imagine we all erupt into laughter.  But everything before it feels like stage direction.  This happened.  That happened.  And then, and then.  There's no actual story happening, just a bunch of details leading up to what I like to think is funny.

I had one such story in my mind yesterday.  The punch line was, "And then I said, 'Who are you, the Lord?'"  I wrote and I wrote until I finally got to that line. When I reread it, I realized that I sounded like a complete jerk. Worse yet, I was so bored I couldn't even edit it.  Plenty of people have laughed at this story before.  I started to wonder if it was just uncomfortable giggling all these years and I've just played it up.

I abandoned the post.  I have considered that I may never tell that story again.

I tried to think of something else to write about.  I considered a few topics, nothing stood out.  I was uninspired.

I found myself staring out my bedroom window at the neighbor's house.  They've been leaving their porch light on all night.  For some reason that I cannot put my finger on, this bothers me immensely.

I can't write a post and they won't turn off their light.  My mind begins to race.  What if they never turn off that light?  What if I never write anything worth anything ever again?  I realize, I mean I fully realize, that neither of these lines of thinking is logical.  And yet it goes on.

I snapped back to the present, the cursor blinking in the same spot where I'd left it.  I had gotten nowhere.

I am getting nowhere.

I closed the laptop and went to sleep. Another day has gone by.

All I've written is this and the neighbor's light is still on.

 I'm linking up with the wonderful Yeah Write community.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

He's Letting Me Go.

Leaving Nathan in the care of others has never been easy. We've struggled since the beginning. Each new setting sent him reeling.  Night terrors and fear of the dark created sleepless nights giving way to cranky mornings.  He would protest leaving the house and cry at drop off, my heart heavy from boatloads of mommy guilt.  Just as he would get used to one routine, a season or teacher would change.  It seemed endless.

By September, when he entered kindergarten, I was braced for the worst.  He was going to a new school, with a new teacher, with all new kids.  There was nothing familiar to grasp for comfort.  I talked up how great it would be, always careful not to say too much.  I'd walk the tightrope of building up anticipation without building up anxiety, constantly teetering to the wrong side.

Things went exactly how I thought they would.  He cried. He pulled on my arm and tried to drag me back home.  More night terrors, more fears, more difficult mornings. He began to have some degree of comfort by mid-October, then his classroom assignment was changed. After only two weeks with his new teacher, Superstorm Sandy knocked him out of school for a week.  November's on-again off-again schedule lacked the consistency we needed.  By the holiday break in December, I was ready to homeschool.

Winter was long. On good days, we'd arrive at the same time as a friend who would encourage him to walk in.  On a bad day, we'd stand outside huddled against the cold, with me gently but impatiently urging him to please, just go inside.

But spring has awakened something in this boy.  He is peppier, happier.  He is eager to see his friends or tell his teacher about his weekends.  He doesn't cry when I leave him.

On Monday, we walked to school in the rain.  I stopped a few feet from the door; he kept walking.

"Nathan, come say goodbye."

"Bye," he said with a half-hearted wave.

"Come here, please."

He sighed and came to me.

"Goodbye, I love you, have a great day!" I chirped as I leaned in to kiss him.

He turned his face.

"Nate, no kiss?"

"Mom."  It came out calmly and quietly, but you could hear it in his voice.  He was telling me to go away.

"I love you!" I called out desperately as he walked in the doors.

"OK!" he yelled back, more than a little irritated.

Maybe all the crying wasn't so bad now that I think about it.