Don’t Read the Comments

The last week has been really weird. Awesome. Overwhelming. Scary. Cool. Annoyingly Navel Gaze-y.

Through a friend of a friend of a friend of mine from high school my last post was put up on the Huffington Post on Tuesday. My friends on facebook were amazing about sharing it. After a couple of days it had a more than 1000 likes and 200 shares. It was crazy. It was definitely the widest audience any post of mine has ever received.

And then last night A Mighty Girl shared the post on their facebook page. Suddenly the piece had 15 thousand likes and more than 1700 shares on facebook.

Let’s be honest here. People don’t blog because they want their words to go into a vacuum. We want to be read. I’ve been very happy with my teeny tiny and very kind readership over the last 4 years. But I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t wondered what it would be like to have a post read by a shitload of people, if I hadn’t hoped for it.

It would be disingenuous to pretend it isn’t a head rush of an ego boost. Turns out the reality is also deeply unnerving. I do not have a thick skin. And I read the comments.

For some reason the ones that hurt the most were those that thought I’d made the interaction up. You guys know honesty is my deal. I’m a lot of shitty things, but liar is not one of them.

Hey, these problems are pretty good ones to have. The bottom line is I’m thrilled this has happened. Next to that joy is also some trepidation. I can’t explain to strangers that I really love my kids and try to be a good mom. They only see the little slice I’ve given them. And if I don’t explain myself clearly enough in that slice it is my own damn fault.

I’m scared to write another post. This note doesn’t feel real because it is just an extension of the last one. I’m scared the last post was a fluke. I’m scared I’ll be influenced by the larger audience, scared my writing will change because I’m trying to reach more people.

This is what I’ve wanted. This is really cool. I also sort of fear I bit off more than I can chew.

I know the endless self promotion is gross, but tomorrow morning at 10:35EST I’ll be doing an interview about the piece on HuffPost Live. Did I mention how surreal this has been?

In other good news (Why do I feel so guilty about all the good news? Oh yeah, because I’m crazy) that academic conference I was terrified of presenting at? It happened on Thursday. The panel I was on could not have gone better. And I only had horrifying diarrhea once during the whole trip. That actually might be the absolute best piece of news of this crazy damn week!

freaks geeks

Z’s Father’s Day present. Hand lettered by Syracuse artist Cayetano.

z and e play

Last weekend Z and our dear friend E rocking out at Art on the Porches.

leonard cousins farmers market

E and G are visiting for the week. Leonard cousin time!

Say Anything

You guys know  Say Anything? Man, that is one of my favorite movies of all time. Lloyd Dobler. Crush of my life, John Cusack. I love One Crazy Summer, Better Off Dead, Stand By Me, Grosse Pointe Blank. But Lloyd Dobler, he is the king of them all. As Cory says, “You’re not a guy” Lloyd: “I am” Cory: “No. The world is full of guys. Be a man. Don’t be a guy.”

Cory (Lili Taylor) is Lloyd’s best friend. She’s also obsessed with a dude named Joe.

Lloyd: “Joe. Joe. She’s written sixty-five songs. They’re all about you. They’re all about pain.” Joe: “So what’s up?” Lloyd: “Stop freaking with her head man. Just stop playing with her mind, you know? She’s a human being. She’s a person. She’s very talented, you know.”

Cory is Lloyd’s best friend. She’s also a bit of a punchline. The not-conventionally-beautiful girl who is obsessed with the-very-conventionally-attractive guy. Obsessed. Sixty-five songs written obsessed.

Listen, I love this movie. Hell, in the late 90s I fell deeply in love with the band The Bouncing Souls who put out an amazing song called Joe Lies.

But here’s the thing about Cory. Here’s the thing about how Hollywood represents female obsessive love. She turns any violence inward. She tried to kill herself over him.

Mystic Pizza is another one of my all time favorites. Lili Taylor’s in that one as well. She plays a feisty Portuguese gal who doesn’t want to marry her long time boyfriend. Her gorgeous boyfriend (a young Vincent D’Onofrio) who worships the ground she walks on. The take away is what the fuck is wrong with her? And of course she acquiesces and marries him in the end.

I’m not trying to rag on Lili Taylor here. I actually love watching her act. And those two movies are honestly in my top 10 best list. I want to talk about how our society pigeonholes women. It’s been almost two weeks since the shooting in Isla Vista, CA. So many have written much more eloquently and intelligently than I ever could on the subject. But here I am thinking about Say Anything and Mystic Pizza and what our society expects from women. I’ve been thinking about it since the shooting. And if I don’t write it down I feel like I’ll explode.

If we are rejected we turn our anger and violence inward. If we reject a “good man” there is something wrong with us and we will be worn down in the end.

(Um, what about Better Off Dead, Karen? He tried to kill himself over and over in that one. Yes, he did. But in the end Beth came grovelling to him to take her back. And he got the cathartic opportunity to reject her so he could move on to another women)

According to a Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University study that examined the 100 top grossing films in America 30% of speaking parts were filled by women. Major speaking roles were 29% female, and the percentage of female leads was 15. In 2013. IN 2013. A year in which 51% (ok, according to the US Census website 50.8% of Americans were women in 2012) of the population was female.

When you live life seeing only one woman in a group of superheros or office environments or high schools that are represented in film or television you start to believe only one woman should be in those spaces. I now know that was part of the reason I used to proclaim I’m not friends with a lot of women. Or I don’t like hanging out with women because they annoy me. Or that my best friends are all guys. Yeah, those statements are utter horse shit. What I was trying to say to men is “I”m not like those other girls! I won’t annoy you or put you out! I should be your token woman! Pick me! Pick me!”

Thankfully I grew the hell up.

There is room for women. We need to do the hard work of demanding it. I will not apologize for being a woman. I will not put up with being treated like a token female. I will not excuse men who treat women like objects. I will not believe that women are there to fulfill the sexual urges of men. We have our own sexual urges, damn it. And they do not make us “easy” or “sluts” and most of all they do not mean “we were asking for it”.

I do believe that everyone should be treated equally. I am a feminist. And that is not a dirty word.

snack mom

A feminist (and snack mom) who is raising two future feminists.

Who You Are

“So how do you feel?”

“Better. Good. I mean, I still cry a half dozen times a day…”

“What makes you cry?”

“Oh, you know. News stories. Stuff I read on the web. Every single time I watch Frozen.”

“But that is just who you are.”

It was a throwaway comment on the part of my therapist. At the moment I didn’t realize how much it would affect me. “That is just who you are.” The new medication is going well. And yet I am still who I am. What a tremendous relief.

One of the reasons the mentally ill are loathe to try drugs is because they don’t want to become someone else. They don’t avoid drugs because they think that their crazy defines them, or makes them unique, or gets them attention which are the reasons a lot of people assume are behind drug reticence. It is because they don’t want to lose who they have been at their core for their entire lives. I don’t want to lose who I am. It’s not like I’m so fabulous. But I’ve been me for 37 years. I’m used to myself.

With the right drug/s (and yes, finding the right drug/s can be a mighty struggle) you are still yourself. Just a functioning version of yourself.

Yesterday this post about a mother’s internal struggle with medicating her 10 year old who needed help showed up in my facebook feed. My heart ached for the anonymous author and for her son. As someone who needs drugs to function and sometimes to survive, as someone who worries I have passed my anxiety along to one of my sweet sons, I viscerally empathize with her.

At the same time I felt sick to my stomach by the time I finished the piece. I felt embarrassed and defensive and angry and hurt.

How do you give your child a controlled substance, addictive drugs, and act like it’s a normal thing to do?” she asks. She writes with brutal honesty about her struggle and I admire the hell out of her for it. But that question made me feel small and broken. I take an addictive controlled substance. I have every day for over a year. It is normal for me. I mean, what the fuck is normal anyway?

This mother. She is thoughtful, she is doing whatever needs to be done. “But on the other hand, how do you not try everything in your power to help your child who struggles every day of his life with demons you cannot beat down through sheer force of will and all the therapy money can buy?

Part of what hurts so deeply about the piece is she nailed it. All of it. How frightening and awful mental disorders can be. The fact that resorting to drugs makes you feel like a failure.

Psychotropic medication is a land mine of a topic. Controversy surrounding the over medication and diagnosis of kids with ADHD or adults with depression is well documented. And anecdotally who among those of us who went to college in the 90s or 00s didn’t know a dozen people who were given prozac at health services? The issue is real and a concern, but that isn’t what I’m talking about here.

I have mild asthma. When I occasionally have an asthma attack I use my inhaler and my attack stops. Every night I take a pill for my asthma/allergies. It effectively prevents attacks from happening the vast majority of the time. In fact, it is so effective that I started to believe I was taking it unnecessarily and let my prescription lapse. Two nights later I woke gasping for breath in the middle of an attack.

Brain drugs don’t work that way. Each brain responds differently to the type of drug, the amount, the time of day taken. And many drugs are prescribed off label, which means not for the use they were approved for originally. We just don’t know as much about the brain as we know about asthma.

Beyond the clusterfuck of finding the right drug is the fact that even if you have struggled with mental illness for years you have the nagging thought that you aren’t really unwell. You are just lazy and a coward. Progress is being made, but the idea that you should pull yourself up by your bootstraps and simply stop being sad or anxious or manic is prevalent in our society. Self loathing goes right along with many mental illnesses and it is hard not to buy into that, hard not to believe that you are making it all up.

And then there is the “what did I do wrong?” or “this is my fault” component.

During my lifetime I hope we get to the point where being treated with drugs for a mental illness is destigmatized and perceived as “normal” as using an inhaler for asthma. I hope it for the mother who wrote about her son, I hope it for that boy who is struggling, I hope it for myself.

mothers day

My sweet T and me on Mother’s Day.

c cow

Z took the boys to a big truck event at a local park yesterday.

t truck

T looks like a different kid with his short hair.

2 and 4

Two and Four for a little while longer. 2 wouldn’t look at the camera and 4 is doing all sorts of poses for the camera these days.

 

Kids Being Kids Part 2

The afternoon following T’s haircut I posted this on facebook: Quote of the day from T, “Um…I forgot to tell ya. I’m not a fan of short hair.” Oh dear. I told him he can grow it back if he wants….

After a bit of digging it became clear that he wasn’t a fan of short hair because someone told him his hair looked ugly.

Listen, it would be easy for me to be mad and defensive that T’s feelings were bruised. I love my kids so fiercely that anytime they are hurt I see red, it is a biological response.

I let myself have that pang of anger. And then I let it go.

Because as we were having our conversation I could imagine another family in that very moment having a similar discussion about something T said that hurt one of his classmates feelings. And I bet that those parents were seeing red and thinking all sorts of terrible things about my boy.

Kids are mean. Because they are trying to figure out what they can get away with. Because the concept of “social niceties” are way beyond their comprehension. Because they didn’t get enough sleep the night before or they are adjusting to a new sibling or they are having a growth spurt.

I’m more interested in talking to T about how he felt when his feelings were hurt than worrying about the other kid. I want him to remember how he felt the next time he decides to say something mean to anyone else. And people are going to be mean to him for the rest of his life. The sooner he develops some tools to deal with it the better.

We talked about how the person that said his hair was ugly might not have even meant it. S/he might have been having a bad day, or s/he might have been confused that T looked so different, or s/he might have not liked that T was getting a bunch of attention. We talked about how we need to feel bad for someone who is being mean because they are often unhappy themselves. We talked about how important it is not to be mean to people. And by “we talked” I mean I talked at him. Remember, dude is 4. We will probably have the same conversation a million times before it even begins to sink in.

T and this kid seem to bring out the worst in each other. I’ve watched them interact and been shaken by T’s behavior. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned to Z that at least they won’t be going to kindergarten together. Z pointed out that there will always be that kid in T’s class. Even if it isn’t the same kid. Hell, T will be the that kid for someone else’s family. Zeke was right.

And I was really ashamed of myself for wanting the easy way out.

Shouldn’t we face dealing with the realities of how kids treat each other (and again, T is culpable. His behavior in this relationship has been unacceptable at times) rather than hoping the problem will go away when the kids don’t spend time together anymore?

Smart parent friends: how have you handled this with your kids? Seems like I am lucky enough to know a ton of people with compassionate and loving children. How did you parents do it? You guys are my fucking heros, by the way.

short haired boys

All my boys watching a movie.

big kid legos

Does he look older with the short hair? Or does he look younger? I can’t seem to make up my mind.

hotel view

The view from our hotel patio last week. Man, do I miss being warm.

Kids Being Kids Part 1

Walking the tightrope between respecting my sons’ privacy, writing honestly about issues I’m grappling with, and respecting the privacy of friends and acquaintances is becoming more difficult.

The readership of this blog is tiny, not even a blip in the blogosphere. But over the last year or so I’ve connected with more local people on social media. It would be wrong to assume those people are now reading here, but it stands to reason they have at least seen a link to a post float by their feed on facebook.

If I want to write about an issue concerning a friend I ask. If the friend isn’t comfortable with it I don’t do it.

I am friends with some of the teachers and other parents at the boys’ school on facebook. So I’ve been going back and forth about writing about a particular issue all day. Here’s where I’m at: I am not friends with the parents of the kid in this story, but if his/her parents were to come across the post and were able to identify their kid I feel confident that I’m not writing anything hurtful or unkind. That said, I am nonspecific enough that I’m pretty sure the parents wouldn’t identify the kid in the first place.

The issue I want to discuss isn’t really about T and his classmate. It is about how we react when our kids face hard things. It is about recognizing that no child is an angel all the time, just as no kid is “bad” all the time. It is about coming to terms with the fact that your kid is going to be the one doing the hurting at times.

I’m trying to face that ugly fact. T (and C when he is gets a bit more language) will be (um, probably currently is) hurtful to other children. The sooner I accept that the sooner I can take steps to guide him towards being a kinder human.

Sweet Mary, raising another human being is hard.

Part 2 will be coming along tomorrow.

twins in tub

Today I asked T who was in this photo. “Two Charlies.” he said. I pointed to him and said, “No, who is this guy?” He pointed to C, “That is Charlie 1.” And he pointed to himself, “And that is Charlie 2.” I’m going to start calling him Charlie 2. It really is crazy how much they look alike now.

cute kid

This kid has plenty of personality not matter how long his hair is.

Privilege

About a decade ago Z’s friend informed us that in his mind women did not use the bathroom. Ever. I’d been recently diagnosed with IBS and this cracked me up and infuriated me equally. So I made it a point to fart in front of him as much as humanly possible. Because fuck you. I use the bathroom and it does not diminish me as a human.

I fart, I shit, I fantasize about strangers, I love sex, I swear, when I have an opinion I speak up.  

I don’t wear makeup. Or heals. Or skirts more than a couple times a year. I don’t blow dry my hair. I’ve never been waxed. I suck at flirting.

I shave my legs. I use moisturizer. I’m a sucker for face masks and ointments that promise to make me look younger. I get a couple of pedicures a year.

These choices make me who I am. They do not make me less of a woman. Or more of a woman.

The last post was a quick little sketch of a moment in my day. It was meant to be amusing (I hope) and honest and even though I was dealing with feminism and asking questions it was more of a superficial rumination.

But I’ve been thinking about the deeper implications ever since. Especially because of a valuable comment left by a friend of my sisters-in-law. Her comment would be familiar to anyone who has taken a women’s issues class, but how many of us is that really? And if I agree with what she said why was I so unsettled by it?

Privilege.

I was raised with white privilege. With socio-economic privilege. And I fooled myself into thinking gender privilege didn’t really exist because I was lucky enough to be raised by people who taught me there was no difference between me and my male counterparts. Yet at the same time the sexual politics in my house were….antiquated. Good girls wait, etc.

This dichotomy was confusing and ultimately infuriating to me. My self worth was impacted. I do not mean to throw my parents under the bus. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. We are all products of our generation. We are doing the best we can, now that I am a parent I understand that. I also understand I will make choices that will negatively impact my sons even though I will try my damndest not to. My parents gave me a huge gift by telling me I could be the President of the United States or an Astronaut or the first professional female baseball player.

Who I am is shaped by being privileged in all areas save gender. I am ashamed to admit this, I want that last bit of privilege. My objectification of males (and again I’m writing here about hetero interactions) is primarily for my enjoyment, but there is a fuck you in there, too. There is an “I get to do this, too” element.

To quote Ele: “I don’t think an average woman on the street ogling a man can so easily ignore his personhood, free will, or strength” I WANT to ignore a man I am objectifying’s personhood, his free will, and his strenght. Which is a shame. Which makes me a toddler throwing a tantrum. It is the easy way out-aspiring to the privilege that one population uses (subconsciously or not) to subjugate another population.

Because isn’t the goal to teach men that viewing women as “empty vessels” negates each woman’s personhood and free will? Isn’t the goal to raise a generation of men who are not squeamish about women taking a shit? Who do realize that women are sexual beings who fantasize right along with the best of them? Those two little things and a million others combine to form a picture of women who share much in common with and who are just as capable as men.

Z views me as his equal. He always has. He accepts the millions of contradictions that make me me. He does not care which traditional tenets of femininity I embrace and which I reject. Because he does not have a laundry list of what is required to be female. And it does not affect his ability to also see me as a sexual being or an object of desire.

He is constantly aware of gender politics in his day to day life-the fact that his students are nearly all women is hard to ignore. The other week he took part in an event on campus aimed at students. When I asked him how it was he said, “All dudes. The underlying message to the majority of participants-the women-is there is no room for you on the stage.”

As a woman who is scrambling for acceptance and validation from my male peers it is easy for me to have that sort of realization-there is only room for one woman in this movie or novel or workplace or there is no room for women at all. But for Z to get there? Z, a product of every privilege under the sun? I wish this wasn’t the case, but his views are extraordinary. It is no accident I married him. And I’m glad as hell that I get to raise our boys with him. Boys who will not grow to see attractive women as empty vessels who don’t shit and fart and love sex.

Let’s take a little dance break after the seriousness of that post. The fam went to the Halloween event at our zoo (the ZooBoo) on Sunday. C adored the dance party. T was a little more shy about the whole thing.

c doc office

C spiked a fever at the end of last week. By the time we made it to the doc’s office he was feeling much better.

T styles his shirt

T did some creative styling with his t-shirt.

You Guys Rock

Obviously this is a teeny tiny little blog. The readership is small and I’d guess that more than half the folks who stop by know me in real life. I am grateful for everyone who does read. It still surprises me that anyone would take time out of their busy day to check out my stuff. I realize what a raging narcissist you have to be in order to blog and I feel guilty about it. Besides the narcissism I really am motivated by the hope that writing about hard stuff (mental illness, parenting, struggling to exercise, poop, poop, and more poop) can be helpful to someone who is reading-I know, pretty narcissistic in itself, who the fuck do I think I am? Some self-help guru?

Since I started jogging I’ve been talking about it a lot here, on instagram, and on FB. The posts have been a mix of “I’m so proud of myself” and “If I can do it anyone can do it!” and “sometimes this sucks ass”. As a self-loathing narcissist (I know, I’m rolling my eyes, too) it has been weird to feel this much pride about an accomplishment. The friends who have commented or messaged me that they are working out because of the stupid selfies about my progress have helped me keep going. And made me feel better about the unflattering photos I’ve posted and stories I’ve told. I have a rule-when it comes to exercise pictures I don’t use filters. I’m doing hard stuff, it’s ok that I look like ass. It is certainly more honest.

The well wishes and support I got from you guys before the race actually helped get me through the 5K. I don’t feel like I’m doing a good job of explaining myself here, but I just wanted to thank you. I want you to know how much your kindness has meant to me. And I wanted to apologize. You guys were rooting me on, telling me I could do it. And I am embarrassed that I let you down. I’m embarrassed I didn’t run the whole thing. I’m embarrassed that my official time was even slower that I estimated at 38:01 minutes placing 311th out of 333. I wanted to let you know that I don’t take your presence or support or friendship for granted. So seriously, thank you. And next time I’ll try and do better.

The race humbled me. Usually I hate that word. It has been appropriated by the famous. When an actor wins an academy award and says he feels humbled I roll my eyes and think “I do not think that word means what you think it means.” According to the online dictionary it means “lower (someone) in dignity or importance.” Winning big doesn’t make you feel lower, it makes you feel like the king of the fucking world. Well, let me tell you what. I was big time humbled by the race. It was not a fun experience. But I guess the lesson is to pick myself back up and move on.

Usually I jog on Mondays, but being the weekend was so exhausting it seemed like a smart idea to take a rest day. Getting back out there this morning was almost as hard as the race itself. I didn’t want to go. What is the point? There isn’t anything to look forward to. Honestly, the race was such a shitshow for me running-wise that I was scared to go back out. On top of that it was cold. Yes, I’m a huge baby.

But I went. I put on the shirt I was given at the race and I went. I ran the whole two miles–mile 1 in 10:41 and mile 2 in 11:14. You know what? I was proud of myself. The accomplishments might not feel as “real” to me when they are not part of a timed race, but perhaps I need to get over myself. I am going to keep chipping away at this motherfucker.

T medal

Just past the finish line a guy handed all the runners medals. T is in love with mine. He keeps asking if I won the race. I keep laughing and telling him no. He says he thinks he would have won if he was running. There is a a family 3K after the women’s race and Z and I promised him we will do it with him next year.

c gold medal

Because T wants the metal C wants the metal. Oh brotherhood.

Gryffindor wins

About a year ago my folks went to Orlando and got me this awesome patch at Harry Potter World. Two nights ago Z sewed it onto a hoodie of mine. I’ll be rocking it everywhere from now on. Go Gryffindor!

How Not To Run A 5K

Let’s get this out of the way: I did not shit myself.

I did it. Mostly I did it wrong, but I finished. If you are planning on running your first 5K my advice is to don’t be like me. 

Don’t eat almost nothing the day before because you are grappling with horrendous diarrhea, and you know, you shit yourself that morning. You will get a migraine around bedtime. You will take your migraine medicine which will make you feel like garbage the next day.

Make yourself drink a ton of water if you have been having the shits, because duh, you are dehydrated.

Seriously, just don’t have an anxiety disorder. And if you do don’t have a multi-day anxiety event leading up to the race that emotionally and physically exhausts you.

If the race isn’t until 9:50am do not be an idiot. Force yourself to consume something other than 2/3rs of a cup of coffee and a few sips of water.

Marvel at your fucked up body’s ability to have diarrhea less than 24 hours after you took 3 imodium. Take 3 more. STILL HAVE THE SHITS. Take another one. (Ok. I totally nailed this one.)

Do not get to the race almost two hours early. You will be miserable. It is just another way that you will drain yourself of adrenaline before the god damned race begins.

Even if you are a huge introvert arrange to have someone there with you. You do not want to be alone. You do not want to have to take one of the free backpack thingies to carry your stuff with you during the race. It will make you super uncomfortable and not a single other woman you see running the race will be doing it.

If you don’t have someone there before the race you certainly will want someone there for you when you finish. Otherwise you sort of feel like an idiot.

Pick a day without a torrential downpour.

If you can’t have someone there figure out how to arrange a ride home so you don’t have a mile and a half walk in said downpour soaked to the bone and freezing cold to contend with at the end of the race.

Set yourself a reasonable goal, like just be ok with finishing because it is your first 5K! so you aren’t blinking back tears of disappointment when you don’t beat your best time and when you end up walking on and off for the second half due to being hungry and dehydrated and exhausted because you did such a shitty job prepping for the run.

There you have it. I finished with a pace somewhere a little under 11:49 a mile. Couldn’t shut off my phone app until I got undercover because of the rain, so it was turned off at 3.4 miles instead of 3.1. The whole race was a struggle. Mostly I’m disappointed I walked part of it. My body was so fatigued from the anxiety and hunger and dehydration. It gave me the finger when I told it to keep on running.

Long before I decided to do this race Z told me he had a work event on this date. When I signed up I knew he would not be there. I wanted to do it alone. I hate asking for help. And I enjoy doing stuff solo-going to movies or restaurants or shopping alone is my preference. It was a bad choice. I should have asked someone. It’s not like I don’t have friends here who would have come. So lesson learned. Act like a grown up and ask for some help.

Bottom line? I’m bummed. I wanted to kick the race’s ass and get under 35 minutes and feel super proud of myself. Through all the anxiety leading up to this morning I believed deep down that I’d be able to run the whole thing. Believed it fully. I wanted to write about it here and feel great about my achievement. So I’m pissed. I’m mad at myself. I’m frustrated. As I told Z about the race I had to stop several times because I was crying so hard. I know I can run 3.1 miles without stopping. But it doesn’t feel like it counts when I’m doing it alone. The official times will be posted on the website sometime in the next day and it makes me feel like a fraud for doing less than what I know is my best. I know that doesn’t make sense. Believe me, we cover my bizarre belief that the world thinks I’m a chronic liar at length in therapy.

So ugh. Yuck. Bleh. Not a great race. Not a great morning. I guess that I’ll just have to do another one.

pre race

Freaking out pre-race.

photo (16)

Back at home after what seemed like a never ending walk.

photo (17)

Seriously, I ran the race with that stupid yellow backpack flopping all over the place. The straps wouldn’t stay on.

photo (18)

Number 43.

Oh Shit

***WARNING: GRAPHIC POST AHEAD!***

The fear started when I was a toddler. I remember being terrified that something was coming for me in the dark. I bargained with the fear-if the blanket was tucked completely around me, save a tiny breathing hole, it couldn’t get me. Whatever it was.

Later the fear was tied to action. If I did X properly nothing bad would happen. I had an imaginary friend. Laura Ingalls Wilder. My Mom read the books to us when I was very young and I loved the TV show. Albert (a creation of the show-clearly I wasn’t a purist) and his friend-funny I can’t remember the friend’s name were also imaginary friends, rather they were imaginary nemeses. Laura and I were a team and the guys were a team. They were so real to me that my memories of them are some of the clearest from early childhood. Everything we did was timed. As long as Laura and I won we were safe. I was safe. My family was safe.

After I got my period the Irritable Bowel Syndrome started. The pain of cramps was somehow tied to taking a crap. I started to get diarrhea all the time. Thankfully that was when imodium started being available over the counter. You know that 5th pocket in jeans? The tiny one for coins on the upper part of the right front pocket? All through high school that pocket had two foil wrapped imodium in it. The diarrhea was my biggest shame. Anytime I horsed around with friends I’d be terrified they’d feel something in that little pocket and want to know what it was. I lived in fear that someone would discover my secret.

I’ve had IBS for well over 20 years. The whole time the driving force behind my anxiety was the fear that I’d shit myself in public even though that had never happened. Well, not until today.

Too much information, right? Totally inappropriate and gross that I’m declaring on the internet that I crapped myself today. What the hell am I getting out of writing about this? The old me, back when I was rocking borderline personality disorder, would have done it to punish myself. But I’m not that person anymore. I’m writing about it because it shouldn’t be a big deal. I am horribly upset and embarrassed by it, but I shouldn’t be. I have an anticipatory anxiety disorder. It’s pretty bad. I’ve been in therapy for many years because I’m trying to help myself, but it is a chronic disease that I will have to manage for the rest of my life. I’ve been a wreck for the last week because I’m so scared of this stupid 5K tomorrow morning. As my Mom would say my bowels have been in an uproar. I’m trying to challenge myself, do something good for myself, participate in life. The anxiety is trying to prevent that from happening. So shit happens. Literally and figuratively. I’m tired of being ashamed of my anxiety and what it does to my body.

This morning my stomach was upset, but it was my last chance to go for a jog before the race. Quarter of a mile from my house I thought I had to fart. Turns out I was incorrect. The quarter of a mile run back to my house was just about the longest of my life. Go ahead. You can laugh. I’m laughing as I type. It helps me not cry.

Z came into the bathroom as I was cleaning myself up. Seriously, no boundaries in our marriage. It works for us. He told me I needed to go back out and finish the run. I told him to go fuck himself. He told me if I didn’t do it I might not do the race tomorrow or go back out for a jog ever again. I hated him. Because he was right. Thankfully I now have two pair of running pants so I asked him to get me the other pair.

I took three imodium. I washed out my pants. I cried a little. I went to the bathroom two more times. And then I jogged two miles. Without shitting myself.

Listen, I’m a white hot fucking mess. Have set up residence in crazytown and I’m definitely not moving out until the race is over tomorrow. It’s so bad that I’m wondering if it was a mistake to sign up for the race at all. Why am I putting myself through this nonsense? I don’t know what the right answer is. Where the balance between challenging myself to take part in life and recognizing when something is too much for me to handle is.

But Z was right. If I didn’t go back out and finish the jog I’d let myself quit forever. Who the hell knows what is going to happen tomorrow. I mean, fingers crossed I do not shit myself again. I will definitely be taking way too many imodium. But I’m going to try and do this thing.

I’m tired of feeling ashamed. As I was jogging the second time I thought about if I wanted to write this post. Because if it is out there it is always out there in internet land. Future employers and all that jazz. But then I thought about the fact that this very thing has happened to several of my friends. Yup, my friends text me about their pooping disasters. I sort of love being that person. So if it has happened to my friends it stands to reason it has happened to a bunch of people. I’m writing about it to say that we shouldn’t feel bad. Shit happens, people. Shit. Happens.

The funny thing is this is something I’ve been dreading for more than two decades and it finally happened. You know what? I don’t feel any different. It didn’t change who I am as a human. In fact, it was rather anti-climactic. Yup. Shit happens. It is honest. It is uncomfortable. And I’m choosing to believe it just isn’t that big of a deal.

photo (15)

My boy and some lady who shat herself, cleaned up, and ran for another two miles.

the crew

My wonderful sisters-in-law and niece are in town. A couple of years ago they spent Thanksgiving here and got to know the couple that we are closest to in town. It’s fun when you introduce fantastic people to each other.

t photgraphs

T’s Aunt Ellie is an amazing photographer. She taught T how to take a picture with her super fancy camera.

Idyllic

A friend from high school jokingly called my little family idyllic during a comment exchange on FB this past winter. It’s kind of become a running gag between the two of us. But it also has been fodder for my overactive and anxious mind.

Listen, though I fear retribution from those mighty gods I don’t even believe in, I’m pretty happy in life right now. That isn’t to say that life is perfect. Or my marriage is perfect. Or my kids are perfect. Or that I am perfect. Yeah, I was laughing so hard as I typed the last sentence I almost fell off my chair. Happy means something different to me now than it did 20 years ago, or 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago. It has nothing to do with perfection. The edges of my expectations have softened, become less fanciful. There can be room for happy even though life also includes mental illness, and IBS, and being broke, and not enough time, and fights with Z, and kids who behave like wild animals.

Happy isn’t a constant state. It isn’t the fairy tale ending. It’s moments here and there. It’s looking across the room and being so attracted to Z that I feel tingly and lightheaded. It’s brushing T’s hair after his bath and smelling his little boy smell and loving him so hard tears spring to my eyes. It’s looking at the delight and surprise in C’s face when he manages to pee in the potty before bathtime. It’s having a group of friends over for a cookout and feeling full and content and a little buzzed as we laze around in the backyard while night falls.

But my family isn’t idyllic. I’m not trying to sell perfection here. Those moments of intense happiness happen a couple of times a day. The rest of the time we are just trying to make it through the muck of life.

Yesterday T called me stupid for the first time. Right after he accidentally smacked my face and knocked off my glasses because he was being wild. Between meals and prep for our little cook-out last night I cleaned our kitchen 5 times before 5pm. Z was annoyed that I got home a few minutes late from a pedicure (The day before I tried to paint my toes. My feet looked like a bloodbath. The poor woman had to scrub the deep crimson color from the skin around the nails before applying the polish even though I’d used tons of remover myself. I am 36 years old and I cannot apply nail polish.). I was annoyed he got home a few minutes late from taking a piano apart (Yes. That is the kind of stuff he does for fun.). Much of the day was far from idyllic.

Life isn’t all GREAT or AWFUL. While Z was on his errand T rested on the sofa (by which I mean he watched youtube videos about toy transformers-we are amazing parents.) C napped and I cooked. Cooking is soothing and fun for me. While Z mowed the lawn yesterday the boys and I were out front where we saw friends and neighbors as they walked by. We even got to talk to a woman whose grandparents had build the house next door to us. Her dad had been born in the house in the 1920s. How cool is that? That stuff was enjoyable, but also not quite idyllic.

When I was a kid…wait, if I’m being honest I need to admit when I was also an adult I thought happiness was a constant-like I live in the city of Syracuse and also in the warm fuzzy glow of happiness. So my definition of happiness has changed, but maybe I’ve also grown up a little. Happiness is dumb luck. It can also be the byproduct of a shit ton of work. That is certainly the case when it comes to my marriage. Same with raising the boys. We fuck up a lot, Z and I. With each other, with ourselves, with T and C. We get angry, we get frustrated, sometimes we give up for a little while. Then we dust ourselves off and try again.

The fear of sliding  back deep into mental illness is always with me. I have tools and help around me, but I will not be able to prevent another depressive episode. Hell, this time of year I worry about fall and winter. The anxiety is always worse when the sun goes away. And we don’t have sun from November to March in Syracuse. I know I’ll have weeks where I forget what happy is. When I’ll feel like the air is thick and heavy and it bruises my skin just to move through the day. I know we can work really hard and still find happiness elusive. Or that life can happen, tragedy can steal happiness away. But even during my miscarriage, one of the most terrible times of my life, I remember nursing T and feeling something other than horror and sadness, even if it was just for a few moments at a time. I know that next spring will come. The sun will return And I’m not being all flowery and metaphorical-having the sunlight really does help chase my mental illness away.

I’m happy. Tentatively. But I hope I am not self-satisfied. I don’t think happiness is something we deserve or we’ve earned. It is nebulous and can disappear in a moment. Still, I take it when it comes. I work for it. I don’t trust it to be there. I’m kind of scared of it. Happiness does not look like I thought it would when I was a 23 year old bride. But my life doesn’t look like I thought it would either. And that is just fine.

And idyllic? Oh Jeff, if my family was idyllic I wouldn’t have called my Mom yesterday to tell her that I have been fantasizing about getting a minor and non-life threatening illness that required 48 hours of hospitalization. I told her I certainly didn’t want to bring upon anything terrible with my flights of fancy, but I just wanted 48 hours to myself. In a bed. With someone else providing the meals. I asked her if she ever thought about something like that. She told me she fantasized about 48 hour solo hotel stays…because that was more comfortable. “Oh, I’m keeping it realistic.” I told her. “There is no way in hell I could go to a hotel alone for two days. But the hospital thing is totally within the realm of possibility.”

boat with sides

The building of the boat treehouse continues.

inside boat treehouse

My first trip inside. Z has starting laying the flooring. The boys are going to have a lot of fun up here.

beautiful boy T

This kid. He is beautiful.

early morning reading

Enjoying the Great American Novel, Quiet LOUD, very early on a Sunday morning. Only enriching and exceptional literature in our idyllic house.