Four Years and Ten Months

Four years and ten months ago we moved to Syracuse. Our sweet little house just became the dwelling I have lived in longer than any other in my life.

Before I left home for college I lived in 9 places. I attended 8 schools before graduating from high school. I did live in the NYC area from 95-06. In 99 I moved to Brooklyn and we stayed, albeit in 3 apartments, for 7 years. Over three stints from 1981-1995, I lived in Farifax County, VA for a little more than 8 years cumulatively.

But Syracuse now holds my personal record for longest stretch at one address.

The funny thing is it feels like we moved here just last year. It also feels like we’ve been here forever. There are so many firsts tied to this place. We closed on our house a week before T was born. Z truly loved his job for the first time here. I became a stay at home mom. We weathered a heartbreaking miscarriage. I got pregnant with C and we welcomed him into our family. T started preschool. C started preschool. We navigated early intervention and speech therapy. I started taking graduate classes. I started running. In a few short months T will go to kindergarten.

Syracuse was supposed to be a pit stop of sorts, a resume builder as we looked for teaching opportunities for Z closer to family.  At some point along the way it has become home.

We love it here. We are happy. We have a wonderful circle of friends. We imagine our boys growing up with this built in peer group. The kids they hang with have become important to us, we really care about them and love watching them grow.

There is so much to do in the summer that we can’t make it to every event we want to attend. Z plays music in three bands. He makes amazing stringed instruments from cigar boxes or cans or pie plates or salvaged wood from old pianos. He loves teaching. He’s involved with community outreach. He is too busy and always behind on projects and that is exactly how he is happiest.

This is not some perfect life. We struggle to pay the bills. C is entering the evil 3s and T is anxious about his transition to kindergarten. My anxiety colors everything, often rearing her ugly head to interrupt plans. The winters are brutal, there isn’t any way around it, they suck. And we do hate being so far from family. That is the hardest part. We miss our parents and our siblings.

But we have made a life here. More than that, we have made a home. One with continuity and comfort.

My upbringing was unusual and it provided me with fantastic opportunities to see so much of America and the world. I wouldn’t change it for anything. Hell, I became a teenager while we were in Phuket, Thailand. We spent New Year’s Eve of ’99 into ’00 in Doha, Qatar. I learned to ski on the South Island of New Zealand. Between all the exotic stuff I went to suburban public schools outside DC and Boston and St. Louis. My sister and I are lucky as hell, beyond privileged to have had such an odd and interesting childhood.

But it turns out that the life Z and I are intentionally building for our family is in a small city in Central New York. It turns out we love being part of a community. We love relaxing in our backyard with a bunch of friends and a pork shoulder that hung out in the smoker for a long time. Also margaritas. If you come visit us request Z’s deadly margaritas. You won’t remember the evening, you’ll feel it the next morning, but you’ll have a really good time.

Who knows what will happen or where we will be in another 4 years and 10 months from now. My hope is that we will be here. Hanging out with the same folks. The kids playing in the backyard. The margaritas flowing.

our family

Here we are putting down roots.

t runs to base

T running to first base during his last T-Ball game of the season.

c wants to play

C was ready to play. I didn’t have the heart to tell him he needs to wait two more years.

rockers

It seems to be the summer of salvaged broken rockers for our backyard. Because we are classy like that.

backyard piano

Our life involves having a trailer with a piano take up residence in our driveway. Z is making a bunch of instruments out of it in collaboration with local artists. They will create graphics to silkscreen on the face of the instruments Z builds.

summer in syracuse

Our crew of kids living it up at the Funky Flea this morning.

z at the funky flea

Z making music at the Funky Flea.

 

The Bitch Loves Vacation

Anxiety disorders don’t just melt away when you go on vacation. My bitch climbed uninvited into the rental car when we left my parent’s house. Evidently she also booked a seat on the flight down to Miami. She snuggled into the king size bed in our hotel room, pushing her way past me to settle in next to Z for the night.

It was pretty naive to think she’d stay at my folk’s house.

Z finished with his work event at 3pm this afternoon. He has been looking forward to checking out the Ai Weiwei exhibit at the Perez for weeks and he was pretty close to the museum already. The traffic in Miami is fierce. Four and a half years of Syracuse living has made us soft. Instead of killing an hour and a half by coming to pick me up just to drive back across town he suggested I take a cab.

I begged off because there was school work I needed to attend to that was time sensitive. Which was the truth. But I was also relieved I had an excuse.

After he enjoyed the exhibit he called to see if I’d cab it out there for dinner-there were some restaurants on the water. And the one thing I’ve said I want to do here was make it to the beach, just to look out at the Atlantic for a bit. I couldn’t do it. My stomach was clenched, the fear made my mouth taste bitter. I just couldn’t.

What is it like? How does it feel to be able to move around in this world without fear? To not worry that your bowels will betray you? To drive in traffic without feeling panic at being surrounded by so many people?

Am I going to spoil every vacation for the rest of my life? Am I going to teach my boys that fear is natural? Am I ever going to relax and fucking enjoy myself?

That’s not quite fair. Wednesday was my day. Mostly because I didn’t leave the hotel room much. Z had a work event and was gone from before I woke until 5:30pm. I slept in. I fucked around on the computer. I goddamn ran the fastest mile of my life (8:35) and finished three miles in under 30 minutes for the first time. I fucked around on the computer. I napped. We went out for dinner at an excellent sushi joint. It was perfection. Except for the drive to the sushi joint. That was tense. But otherwise the day was glorious.

Tomorrow is our only day together. We are going to go look at the ocean and eat good food and nap. I am telling that bitch to back the fuck off and let me have a day with my husband. Here’s hoping she is in a listening mood….

fam hot tub

Family hot tub time during our last day at my folk’s. Holy shit, do I miss those boys. I have needed a break and am grateful for it, but I cannot wait to squeeze them tight on Sunday morning.

coconut

Z brought a coconut he found on the ground into the room.

fastest mile

After several weeks of struggling in the freezing cold and wind, after several weeks of tackling many hills doing a dead flat run in 60 degree weather basically guaranteed I’d beat any previous personal record. But I didn’t expect to beat my mile record by almost a full minute! Think I can now officially stop calling myself a jogger and start calling myself a runner.

Undermined By the Bitch

Sometimes I am jealous of bipolar people.

I know. That sounds insane. It sounds like I don’t understand what a terrible and serious disease bipolar is. I do understand. Really. And I promise I don’t have munchausen syndrome.

I have a chronic and pretty severe anxiety disorder.

If I’m stuck with a chronic mental illness seems reasonable that I’d fantasize what life would be like with some of the other mental illnesses out there. For the most part I think that many of us who wrestle with unrelenting crazy learn person specific coping mechanisms that make getting through the day a little bit less painful. Over a year ago there was an interesting thread on a friend’s fb wall about dealing with mental illness. People seemed happier that they had their own specific illness rather than some other variety-me included.

Kind of stands to reason.

I have had once severe depressive episode in my life. It sucked me into the nothingness, I wanted to escape this world, I was robbed of emotion, of feeling anything except profound self hatred. The depression lasted for about a year. The thought of another depressive episode scares the shit out of me, I have no idea if I’m strong enough to make it through again. Anxiety on the other hand has been my constant companion for over 20 years. Naturally my coping mechanisms are much more sophisticated in that arena.

It was comical in a rather macabre way to read this thread-the depression people saying they would much rather deal with that than anxiety, those like me grateful they didn’t have to deal with depression.

But. All day Friday I was sick to my stomach with anxiety.

On Friday night 9 (would have been 10, but someone was traveling-we missed you J) of us met at a local restaurant for dinner. Without kids. Ok, there was one kid. But she was barely a month old and as every parent knows that doesn’t count.

Please do not get me wrong, I wanted to go. I couldn’t be more thrilled that we have found a group of friends that we enjoy so damn much. The majority of the time we all hang out at our place. Our friends are always thanking us for hosting. But the deal is doing it at our place means I get to enjoy myself like a normal human. The anxiety is still there, but it is muted. I feel unencumbered by my sickness.

Of course we had a fantastic time. Of course I am glad I went. Hell, I can’t wait to do it again.

But I really fucking resent the anxiety for causing me so much discomfort on Friday. I am really sick of being hog tied by fear.

We are at my folk’s house right now. We flew down yesterday. On Tuesday morning Z and I will drive to the airport and fly to Miami. We’ll fly back and pick up the boys on Sunday. It’s our first chunk of time away from them since we became parents.

I’m so excited I don’t know what to do with myself.

I’m sick to my stomach with anxiety.

Am I going to ruin this amazing trip for myself? Is that bitch anxiety going to win? Will I ever get out from underneath her?

The bipolar thought occurred to me this morning as I was jogging. During our trip down south for the holidays I made fantastic strides with the jogging. I was also better rested than I’ve been in ages. Z let me sleep in almost every day. There were a lot of naps. Z went to work the day after we got back home and worked through the weekend as well. For the last two weeks I’ve been sleep deprived, which is my usual state. The jogging improvement evaporated. Today’s 5 miles were an exercise in frustration. Every step was a fight. I’m tired, compounded not just from lack of sleep, but because of the anxiety. Anxiety steals energy and leaves emptiness in its wake.

I got angrier and angrier at the anxiety for slowing me down. Why can’t I harness that energy into something worthwhile? Why can’t I be fucking manic for a bit? Why am I stuck with a condition that takes and takes and takes?

Ok, I don’t really want to be bipolar. Manic episodes are unpredictable and can cause terrible upheaval and hurt in the lives of those who suffer from bipolar. But the energy that I spend on the anxiety…I need that energy. I fucking want it back. I don’t want to fight this fight anymore. I want to be better. So I can enjoy the anticipation of a great night out with friends or a vacation with my husband. So I don’t have to move through the world encumbered by what feels like a 100lb coat made of my fears. I am pissed off at that bitch anxiety and how much she controls me.

But there isn’t a cure. She isn’t going anywhere. She is as much a part of me as my mousy brown hair and blue eyes. The only way I will ever get the best of her is to fight through her bullshit. To go out to dinner and have a fucking awesome time after a day of lightheadedness and diarrhea caused by the bitch. To enjoy Miami even though this morning I woke up with an anxiety attack so bad that I had to take a chill pill immediately. To continue my jog even though my body is screaming at me give up. To keep trying. For Z, for T, for C, for myself. I will live my life in spite of her, hell I will live my life to spite her.

sleepy travel companion

My adorable traveling companion.

plane nap time

Z quietly sang C right to sleep after we took off.

bad jog

Pissed off jogger. Sometimes we have bad days. Feels pretty honest to document them as well.

Missed Day

The whole time we were away visiting family over the holidays I didn’t miss a single jog. Timed my rest days as travel days, made it happen no matter what. Five days a week I was out there. And I had some big breakthroughs. Both my parents and in laws live in very hilly neighborhoods. The hills kicked my ass, but they also helped push me over the edge and under a 10 minute mile. Consistently. I’ve been chasing that goal since I did it once in October and it feels pretty damn terrific. One day I even jogged both miles under 10 minutes.

Now on to the next goal. Hopefully by spring I’ll get closer to breaking 9 minutes.

Because of obligations today, our first day home, I didn’t have a two hour window to get myself and the kids to the Y for a jog. The only time I had childcare coverage to go for a jog in our neighborhood the temp was 2 F with a windchill of god knows what, and call me a baby but I couldn’t hack it. I know it is a really small thing to complain about, but I’m pissed. I’m pissed that after two pretty difficult weeks of making the jog happen no matter what I failed on the first day home.

Of course it is bigger than than. I’m scared if I give myself permission to miss one day I’ll give myself permission to miss lots of days. I’m scared that the jogging is the only thing that is holding me together. My anxiety was pretty bad on the trip, traveling is always rough for me. The anxiety is under control when I stick to a routine. The chaos of figuring out sleeping arrangements for our growing families and siblings, the different routines all our kids adhere to in regular life tossed away, the decades of family…stuff. Well, frankly I’m historically a mess the week before we see family, during, and the week after.

(At this point I’d like to make clear that the travel is more than worth it. T is finally old enough to have meaningful relationships with the oldest cousins on each side of the family, and it is an indescribable joy to watch him and AG or him and G have fun with each other. Also all of our siblings are also playing the compromise game when it comes to the needs of their kids and they play it with an enormous amount of grace.)

This trip I felt like the jogging was a lifeline. It was a release and time just for me. It tempered the anxiety. Whenever I find anything that works against the evil bitch that rules my existence I clutch it in a death hold–yoga, pills, therapy, Z, jogging. Intellectually I know that I’m in there as well. I’m doing the work to get out from under her as she tries to suffocate me.

As we were pulling out of Z’s parent’s neighborhood yesterday morning I asked Z if he remembered a long car trip we took with his Mom and sister. He and I were probably recently married. It was well over a decade ago. Before we even left the boundaries of Winston-Salem I had to have them stop at a friends house so I could have horrific anxiety diarrhea (please, consider the humiliation of THAT little house call) and then right after we hit the highway I made my mother in law pull to the side of the road so I could scramble into the woods for another round. As Z and I (yup, he came with me) emerged some time later I saw a cop car pulling away-you are never supposed to stop on the side of a highway. I hated myself. It was an awful way to live. And it was absolutely normal for me. When I look back on that now I can queasily laugh at what a literal shit-show I was.

Sometimes the IBS is still terrible, but mostly I’m in a better place. I’ve done years of therapy, tried every drug under the sun, learned to trust that Z really does love me and doesn’t just stay with me out of obligation and pity.

The grip that I have on this life feels so fucking tenuous. Yes, I’ve done the work. Yes, I’m a mostly functioning member of society. But those who have suffered from a major depressive episode are statistically more likely to suffer from another. I mean dude, I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. I have the capacity to be actually fucking insane. The worst of it could come roaring back and there would be nothing I could ultimately do to stop it. Sure, we’d recognize the signs now. I have help already in place, I might not bottom out in such a spectacularly ruinous way. None of that means it won’t come back. I can’t prevent it. Z can’t prevent it. My shrink can’t. The love I have for my boys can’t. It is my most overwhelming fear.

Jogging has become a life preserver to me. I miss a day and in my addled mind I am a step away from a major psychotic episode. Um, how much better am I really? Don’t answer that. You better bet your ass I’m making it to the Y tomorrow, though.

last jog of vacation

The final jog of vacation.

leonard cousins

All the Leonard cousins.

cordano cousins

All the Cordano cousins.

skateboard

T was pretty excited about his Christmas skateboard.

From Sixty To Zero

It looked like I had a stomach bug. After dinner I apologized and told Z I needed to lie down.

Lately I’ve developed a stupid little habit. I play solitaire until I win on my phone and then I go to sleep. There was only an hour and a bit until the boy’s bath time when I retreated to our room. I was nauseous, my bowels were in an uproar, I was achy and exhausted.

For 45 minutes I played the damn game of solitaire, losing over and over, drifting off to sleep mid move only to jerk awake moments later. Finally, finally I completed a game and immediately fell asleep for 20 minutes.

Why didn’t I just stop? It was stupid. It was pointless. In the light of day I realize that. Hell, I realized it while I was playing last night. But the voice in my head was louder, the voice of the anxiety. The bitch that tells me I am worthless. Last night she told me if I didn’t finish the game something catastrophic would happen. It was life and death. I was not allowed to escape the terror of the anxiety–because I don’t have a stomach bug, it was a particularly violent and sudden panic attack–by slipping into sleep until I won the damn game. Something terrible would happen if I just let myself sleep. I don’t even want to type the thoughts that went through my head. I don’t want to make them that real. So I followed the bizarre and arbitrary and always changing rules set up by my anxiety. I played until I won. I robbed myself of the relief of sleep for three quarters of an hour.

It was the worst panic attack I’ve had for a while.

Z left this morning for a trip to Maine. The last time he did a trip with this particular group the boys and I got a stomach bug. My class is ramping up and I have two large assignments due next week. But I’m solo with the boys until Sunday night so I’m worried about getting the stuff done. My parents arrive on Monday. The house is a mess. I don’t know how I’m going to spend any time with my folks if I need to do schoolwork. C’s first speech therapy session is this afternoon. In the messy house. Do they report you to child services if your kids live in filth? I have class today. I am trying to figure out how to go running while Z is out of town. I just signed up for a 5K.

It’s all regular stuff. I just need to plod through deal with life like every other person on this planet does. And I’ve got it better than the vast majority of people. Which is why I find the anxiety so humiliating. My life is pretty easy. Why can’t I hack it?

Life is better than it used to be. I figured out I was having a panic attack last night before Z pointed it out to me. I understand why it happened. When the anxiety tells me I’m getting a bit too big for my britches, when she tries to bring me down a peg by informing me there is no way in hell I can do a 5K or get my homework done or survive without Z for 4 days I now know it isn’t the truth. I know she is trying to sabotage me. Still, it’s hard not to believe her.

—————————————————————–

Five years ago this kind of anxiety would send me to bed for a full day. Ten years ago I’d be in a tailspin that might last for weeks or a month. These days I figure out what is going on within the hour. I feel angry and scared and frustrated and weak. And then I take the boys to school. I write for a bit. I tidy the house. I pick them up. I go to class. I tidy some more. I do the therapy session with C. I make dinner. I take the boys to the bakery for dessert. I write a pissy status update on FB. I put the boys to bed. I finish writing this. For the most part I’m meeting my obligations. Not with grace or willingness or awesome parenting. But I’m meeting them.

photo (6)

Had to delete a bunch of photos from my phone to make room for the new ios today. How about a little #TBT from when I first got my phone? Jesus, do I ever miss this little baby.

photo (7)

And this toddler. Back when we were potty training. I can tell because kid is naked.

photo (8)

This guy has stayed pretty much the same for the last year and a half. Sorry to get sappy, but I find him to be completely delicious.

August in Pictures

charlie tattoos z

We started the month with a trip to Baltimore so Z could get his 40th birthday tattoo.

Z finished the boat treehouse. It’s pretty damn awesome.

fondant transformers

T turned 4 on August 13th. He asked for a Transformers cake.

chowing down

Chowing down.

kate visit

A dear friend visited. T couldn’t get enough of her.

best tshirt ever

She brought me the coolest shirt in the history of the universe.

brunswick stew

Z decided we had to make Brunswick stew over a fire in the backyard.

backyard party

The boys had a joint birthday party on a perfect late summer day.

transformer pinata

The Transformer piñata was a hit.

cupcakes harry potter ninja turtel

So were the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and Harry Potter cupcakes.

petting cow

We make it to the New York State Fair where the boys got to touch a beautiful cow.

T first roller coaster

T rode his first roller coaster.

ice cream at the fair

C indulged in some ice cream.

first day of school 2013

And yesterday Z had his first day of school.

I meant to write about all this stuff. This month has been filled with crazy and fun events, and it isn’t over yet. I have my first day of school today and C turns two on the 31st.

It has also been incredibly overwhelming. So my anxiety has gotten worse.

I meant to write about Baltimore, but I had an ugly anxiety episode at the hotel. I wanted to write about T’s birthday, his well visit at the pediatrician’s where he was such a grown up kid, I was proud of him. But I tormented myself over the damn fondant transformers. They kept falling apart, the proportions were wrong. I had to swallow my pride at making edible decorations and use toothpicks and superglue to get them to work. I wanted to write about our friend’s visit, our adventure with outdoor cooking. I went to bed early every night she was here. After getting the stew going I took meds and slept for several hours in the afternoon to escape the anxiety attack that was happening. And the boys party! I wanted to write about that. Evidently C said a sentence while Z and I were inside trying to calm T who had been stung by a bee. He was hysterical for an hour. Finally, as he cuddled on the sofa with Z, he said, “I’m just so embarrassed.” That child breaks my heart and cracks me up at the same time. But I spent much of the party inside, sure people weren’t having a good time, feeling paralyzed and dumb. At the state fair we walked by an exhibition of high school wrestlers. T was transfixed. He turned to me and said, “That is going to be me someday.” Oh man, I wanted to write about that. Last year at the fair I had a severe anxiety attack in front of the butter sculpture. It was awful, also admittedly really funny. I wasn’t sure I was going go this year until the last second-returning to the scene of an anxiety attack basically guarantees I’ll have another. I medicated before and during. I had some uncomfortable moments, but made it through.

That’s the thing. I made it through this month. And had some pretty damn terrific times as well. It isn’t all good or all bad. Last week I told my therapist that my rather naive hope had been that as I engaged more in life the anxiety would start to recede. That isn’t the case, she sits right next to me all the time. I understand now that she is never going to go away. I have to live with her. My therapist agreed. She pointed out that all the stuff I’d talked about doing for several years-taking a class, traveling with Z, doing more with the boys- it was all finally happening. I can avoid life and have an anxiety disorder and it will be painful and difficult. Or I can live life and have an anxiety disorder and it will be painful and difficult. But it will also be wonderful and fulfilling. The best I can do is choose to live. To take pictures of the good moments that might also be filled with doubt and fear and self loathing. To accept that it is complicated, that I have a husband who understands and will support me, that I have two terrific kids, that the anxiety disorder is never going away. But that doesn’t mean she wins.

Proud

It is hard to give myself credit for achieving goals because the anxiety, the stupid bitch who is making it so hard to reach those goals to begin with, whispers to me that they aren’t a big deal. She tells me that most people, normal people do the stuff I’m proud of without a second thought. She tells me I am sad and pathetic for feeling pride over such small steps. She explains that my feelings of excitement are further proof that I am a pathetic loser.

I fucking hate her so much.

And today I’m going to ignore her incessant whispering. I am proud of myself for a couple of things that have gone down lately. Proud enough to tell you about them.

Shortly after we got back to town from our trip south T started a summer school program. With Z’s encouragement I started fast walking every morning while T was at school. I didn’t own proper sneakers, so after a few days I bought a pair. I downloaded a GPS running app recommended by a friend who does exercise. I stretch before I start. I go two miles every morning. When I started three weeks ago I fast walked the whole time.  This morning I jogged the whole first mile and around .4 of the second. I logged my fastest time. I’m doing this, really doing it. Like for the first time in my life. I have an exercise routine. Evidently you can teach a 36 year old dog new tricks. The hope is that by the time T finishes summer school the 6 weeks of working out will have become habit. I want to continue doing this. I haven’t gotten regular cardiovascular exercise since elementary school. I’m not planning on running a marathon or anything, but I would like to be healthy for many years for my boys.

I’m doing something I’ve been too chicken to try, something I’ve wanted to do, something that is difficult for me and extremely physically uncomfortable. I’m so far out of my comfort zone I need a passport. After years of encouragement from therapists, doctors, family, and Z I have no idea why I’m doing it. Does the why really matter, though? The important thing is it is happening.

slow run

Some days the exercising doesn’t go that well.

happy run

And other days I manage to achieve personal bests. On all the days I have a cherry red face when I’m done. And for the next 90 minutes or so….

Now onto the second thing I’m proud of…this one is going to probably seem silly. One of the most oppressive side effects of my anxiety disorder is the mild agoraphobia. It prevented me from taking a class at SU for several years. I get extremely agitated in crowded places. Parties freak me the fuck out. I even get anxious when I’m preparing to go to a good friend’s home. We entertain a lot at our house. Because it is really the only comfortable way for me to hang out with people.

A couple of weeks ago friends of ours invited us to spend a weekend with them and several other families at a home on Lake Ontario. These people are my friends. I like every single one of them very much. We agreed to go. I was actually excited about it. But as the date came closer my anxiety grew more acute. I was sure I’d make a fool of myself, have a public anxiety attack, have explosive diarrhea. And then the day before the trip C spiked a fever. When he went to bed on Thursday night his temp was 101.9. Not terrible, but not great. By that point I had a migraine and was furious at myself for letting my anxiety manifest in such a shitty, physical, obvious way.

Z held down C’s arms as we took his temp. He saw the thermometer creep higher and higher and settle on 101.9. My anxiety was so out of control that I believed he thought I was making C’s fever up to get out of going to the lake. I’m well enough to know that makes no sense, but not well enough to stop thinking it was the truth.

I took a chill pill, took my migraine medication, and went to bed.

The next morning C still had a fever. We gave him ibuprofen and as the morning progressed he was much more chipper than he’d been the day before. I was sure I had my out, though. C and I would stay in Syracuse, T and Z would go and have a great time. But our hosts made it clear that it was cool with them that we brought a sick kid. Z really wanted us to be part of it. And I have no idea how I rallied, but I did. The whole family went. Of course we had a terrific time. Of course I had a terrific time. Ok, I went to bed hours before the rest of the adults, but that is what it is. When my anxiety is acute it exhausts me. And my children wake up hours before the magic children of our friends, so the extra sleep was a good thing.

Z T in the waves

Z slinging T over a big wave.

calm with cairn

The next morning the lake was like glass. Whenever there are rocks Z builds me cairns. He calls them cairns for Karen and it is one of the sweetest things he does for me. You know, besides putting up with the fact that I am batshit crazy. He’s a keeper.

***

Two seemingly little things. Exercise and a weekend away. It’s embarrassing to admit, but to me they feel like Mount Everest. I’m proud of myself for pushing past my comfort zone, for engaging in life. I’m learning that exposing myself to the anxiety is worth it a lot of the time. I’m learning that I like living life.

The boys split an ice cream sandwich for dessert last night. I think they liked it.

Z’s Back

The day before Z came home my body stopped behaving. I had a twitch in my left pointer finger and thumb that was unrelenting and terrifying. The anxiety made my throat close up. It was hard to breath, it was hard not to cry. And I was furious. At everyone and everything.

He’s been back for a week and a half. We had an awesome night in a bed and breakfast complete with a couple’s massage. We slept until 7:20am. If you don’t have kids I promise that ridiculous sentence actually means something significant. Five years ago I wouldn’t have believed it, but such is life. We’ve spent time with my folks, my Gram, his sister and her family, his folks. We’ve done a bunch of really cool stuff. The boys are so happy to have Z home they can’t see straight.

My anxiety, on the other hand, has gotten much much worse. When I’m in the middle of it, even when I should know better because none of this is new, I can’t articulate what is going on in my brain. I withdrawal. I have zero patience. Z wants to help, but I won’t let him. I won’t tell him what is going on.

The last few days at my parents were difficult because I didn’t want to leave. While Z was gone my parents had my back completely. I didn’t know how to thank them, to convince them that I understood how much they did for us. Every time I would try and tell them I’d end up crying. They made me feel safe when I was raw and vulnerable  I didn’t know how to say goodbye. No one knew what to do with me.

On the drive to Z’s parents the boys fell asleep. Z had been back in the country for a week and I was finally able to share with him the lies that the anxiety was telling me. The longer Z was gone the louder she got. She told me that he only missed the boys and not me. She told me that I was nothing more than a childcare provider, I had no other value in our marriage or in life. She told me that I will never have the opportunity to do something for myself like Z’s trip to Japan because I was tied to the boys. She told me to resent him, to be eaten alive with jealousy. She told me it was ok to be angry. She told me even when he got back it wouldn’t get better.

So I’m angry. Which makes me ashamed. I hate myself for being so small. For not being able to handle a month in which I have an enormous amount of help with any grace. I’m ashamed I need him so badly, that I still question if he loves me. I’m ashamed that my anxiety has been so acute that the one thing I’m supposed to be doing-being a Mom- isn’t going well. I spiral from fine to apoplectic with them in the blink of an eye. I’m yelling all the time.  I’m ashamed that I’m so lucky and have been given so much and am still shackled by the stupid voice in my head. I’m ashamed that none of this is new-hell I’ve written near identical posts numerous times-yet it feels new every single time.

But.

The moment still came when I was able to open up to Z. To find the words. To tell him the thoughts I had that scared me the most, the thoughts I can’t figure out how to write about yet. And he exhaled, “Oh, Karen…” while he was driving down the highway. He reached over and held on to my leg. He told me he loves me. That he knows I am having a hard time.

And I’m able to realize some important things. For the month he was gone we did a shitload of stuff. Saw family, went to the beach, went to a cool hotel/waterpark, the aquarium, swam, boated, walked, played. I participated in life.  I took my meds and let them help me. When I needed time away from the boys I asked my folks for help. I went to three yoga classes. I got two massages. I took my mom for a pedicure. My friend came and visited for a few days. From the outside I looked like a completely normal human. Just a few years ago I wouldn’t have been able to do any of that.

I’m still struggling. It’s hard on Z and the boys. Hard on whoever we are staying with at the moment. Hell, it’s hard on me. We are ready to be back home. I’m ready to go to therapy and talk about how to let this anger and fear go.

boys racing

Over on Instagram it certainly looks like we are having the time of our lives. We are having a good time. I am having a terrible time. What does that mean? What is the lie? I don’t think either of them are lies. Still rocking the honestly over here. I’m in love with my family. I think my boys and husband are beautiful and want to share their pictures. The happiness and excitement is sincere. The pain in sincere, too. It’s just harder to see. Harder to show.

raft

I’m proud of myself for this. I hate boats. I hate rafts. But I did this for the boys and they really dug it.

heading out for date night

Our pre-date overnight picture. Now that was a good night.

playing in the waterfall

My boys in the bottom of my folk’s pool.

From One to Ten

Technology is a beautiful thing. Z has been able to facetime with us almost every single morning and night while he has been gone. He calls somewhere around 7 or 8 am for us and 8 or 9 pm for him. And then he calls again at around 7 or 8am for him and 6 or 7pm for us. We’ve been going out a lot for dinner, so I’ve been breaking my no-cell-at-restaurants rule. I accept the call and dart outside so we can chat for a moment.

Tonight I was already headed outside when the phone rang. Taking toddlers out for dinner is a major crap shoot and C was an absolute mess. We were at a restaurant on a golf course in my parent’s neighborhood and as soon as I’d shoveled a bunch of food down my throat I grabbed my little guy so he could shriek like a pterodactyl without disturbing any more diners.

While C ran around outside I explained to Z what what going on. “I’m at Defcon 10 with the anxiety. I feel like I’ve blown up and am clinically obese. It’s bad right now.” “Pfft.” he replied. “You are at a two tops. You are just being a little overdramatic. Ten is when you can’t leave the house and are suicidal. You are nowhere near 10.”

On the one hand it sort of sucks to be told your intense discomfort is small potatoes, but on the other hand he was totally right. And he made me laugh. He’s good at defusing my crazy. But the most important moment was when I was able to actually realize he was right.

Because here are the facts: I was out at a restaurant. This morning I took my kids to a toddler play event at the pool. Yes, the organizers spaced and didn’t show up, but the kids still had fun. We were there on time and that is pretty big for me. After dinner my dad wanted ice cream so we headed to the shop in a strip mall and found out that there is a free family movie even on Tuesday mornings at the Movie Theater. We are going to take T this week. After ice cream we headed to the Lake Club at the base of my parent’s street to grab a class schedule and so the boys could play pinball in the game room for a few minutes. Not to jinx anything, but I’m planning on taking a yoga class tomorrow at 8:30. Am I having a rough time? Yup. But I’m doing stuff, god damn it. A lot of stuff. It’s pretty fucking terrific.

So yes, yesterday’s post was pretty grim. And to borrow from Z it was a little overdramatic. The point was supposed to be that while I do suck as a Mom I always have the opportunity to not suck in the future. It was suppose to be kind of hopeful. And I’m fully aware it wasn’t. Oops.

toddler karen

This picture hangs in the room I stay in at my folks house. Man is T my kid.

bumblebee sunglasses

His Uncle A got him and his cousin amazing sunglasses for the beach. T’s are Bumblebee the Transformer who he is currently obsessed with.

Leonardo

Although Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are quickly replacing Autobots in his heart. His Grandma and he made four masks for the turtles today. Here he is as Leonardo.

Sun Hats

It would seem that I have a bit of the writers block. Not because I don’t have much to say, rather I have too much to write about but for once my impulse to be honest is stopping me because I feel guilty. You see, I’m struggling a bit with Z gone even though I have an incredible amount of support and help. And I feel terrible about it. I want to work through how I’m feeling by writing, but it feels just too indulgent even for me. I’m being an ungrateful ass. My parents have been amazing, they have planned tons of cool stuff for us to do. Right now we are at Myrtle Beach with my sister and her family and the Cordano cousins are having a blast. On top of the help I’m receiving from family I don’t want to make Z feel like shit during his trip of a lifetime by complaining about how I’m having a tough time stateside. My anxiety is pretty bad. And when it gets pretty bad I start to believe it isn’t real, instead I’m just a shitty person who should be able to just pull myself up by those old bootstraps.

So. Not a lot of writing.

Z is home in a week and a day. My parents have gotten us a night in a B&B including a couples massage (!!!!!) for the Wednesday he gets back. Yes, we are spoiled rotten. So there is a lot to look forward to.

In the meantime it is lovely to be with family at the beach.

Last night my sister and I decided that we needed hats for additional protection against the sun. The Cordanos really are pale enough that we glow and she and I have each gotten sunburn because we weren’t careful enough with sunblock application the first day-I have an unfortunate triangle of red on my back, she has two blobs behind her knees.

We went to one of the ubiquitous beach supply stores that line the main drag of every town on the shore. This one happened to be operated by a couple with strong Eastern European accents. I convinced my sister to forget the ball cap route after finding some Gilligan-like fishing hats. We arrived at the register and I stood behind her.

“I’m paying for both of them.” she told the man as she handed him her hat.

“No,” I said, “I’m paying for my own.”

“I’m paying for both of them,” she repeated.

“No. Nope.” I said. “She really isn’t. I’ve got mine.”

“Karen, let me pay. Please.”

“Barbara. You are being ridiculous. I’ve got mine.”

“But you bought me tea today.”

“What? That was like a buck!”

“Stop!” the man barked at us. “Stop fighting!” He held his hand out to me. “Give me the hat. What is wrong with you? Let her pay.”

I meekly handed it over as I bit my tongue so I wouldn’t start laughing. My sister and I studiously avoided eye contact with each other. He asked if I wanted him to cut the tag off the hat and I told him yes. After he handed it to me I noticed it was stained.

“Oh, I think I’d like to get a different one. This one has marks on it.”

“Yes.” he agreed. “It was $12.99. Now it is $5.99. The stains aren’t a problem. They all have stains.”

“Oh…..” I was having trouble processing his logic or coming up with a good retort.

“Does mine have stains?” my sister asked.

“Yes, yes! It is only $3.99! It is marked down because of the stains! If it is a problem you can wash them in the ocean! It’s fine! It’s a good price!”

We were speechless in the face of his forcefulness. He was just so sure that we were being unreasonable for wanting unstained merchandise. We are our father’s daughters. Usually we’d ask for MORE money off because of damage. But this man completely disarmed us.

My sister handed over her card and we managed to make it to the sidewalk before we collapsed into a fit of giggles. I sort of want to go back again tonight. I quite enjoyed being bossed around by a grumpy Eastern European dude.

new hats

Our new hats. You can’t even see the stains! And our heads felt much more protected this morning on the beach.

sand soul patch

Unsure how he managed to achieve this perfect sand soul patch.

too big swimtrunks

Little man is so skinny his swimtrunks won’t stay up.

beach sisters

Cordano sisters rocking the beach. My current favorite picture of the two of us.

view from our room

View from where we are staying. We are lucky ducks.