Excitement and Melancholy

Yesterday T started walking exclusively.  Walking has come slow to him.  He’s been taking steps for almost two months, but he’s been pretty tentative and he clearly preferred crawling.  He was quite the speed crawler, it worked for him, he just didn’t care to concentrate on the walking no matter how much I encouraged him.  Over the last few weeks he’s been walking more and more, taking 7 or 8 steps frequently, rather than 2 or 3 steps a few times a day.  But yesterday afternoon he suddenly decided crawling was no longer for him, end of story, he’s a walker. 
My sister and her family began the post holiday exodus from my parent’s home in Georgia yesterday morning and drove back to Charlotte.   In the afternoon my father got on a plane for Barcelona, and early this morning Z left for Syracuse.  Mom and I got on the road to Charlotte later in the morning because my flight is out of here on Wednesday.  When we arrived my sister greeted us at the door and although she had seen him the day before she was astounded by T’s walking. 
The funny thing was even though we were barely 24 hours into his newfound skill and I was very blasé about the whole thing.  I’d simply gotten used to it.   In fact, the idea of him only crawling seemed foreign.  That is how this parenting thing goes.  The changes are fast and furious and we adapt to what is suddenly normal with lightning speed. 
The thing is I have been dying for him to walk.  The average for walking is 13 months, my guy is over 15.  His cousin is six weeks younger, yet he has been walking since just before his first birthday back in September.  My sister and I have worked really hard not to make our boy’s developmental milestones into a competition, and I think we have been successful.  I’m honestly not jealous or resentful that Gabe has been exclusively walking; I just wanted T to join him.  And now he has, and of course, it rocks. 
So I’m thrilled he is walking.  Yet that joy is not perfect, it is marred by a touch of melancholy.  And this time I don’t think the emotion has anything to do with my crazy.  I suspect that all mothers, all parents really, feel it when their child makes a great developmental leap.  I’m cringing as I write it, but it’s true, everything does go so damn fast when you are a parent.  My sweet baby really isn’t a baby anymore.  His face is losing that wonderful chub and roundness, he has 17 teeth for Christ’s sake, he’s even started growing a bit of hair at long last.  I am delighted by my toddler and I wouldn’t want him any other way, but I miss my baby.  And next year when he is doing all sorts of fabulous things I’ll be excited, but I’m sure I’ll miss so much about who he is right now.  
Last night Z and I were looking at old videos of T and I came across this one.
Watching it again has only added to my sense of melancholy, yet I’ve been playing it over and over.  I know it’s dull and annoying when parents say how cute their kid is, but I can’t help it.  He is fucking adorable.  I can’t believe I got to hold him and love him back in April when he was that tiny little person.  I still can’t believe I get to hold him and love him now, not to get all mushy but he makes my life better every day.  But I can’t help mourn the loss of his babyhood as I celebrate and revel in his toddlerhood. 
   
And here is my sweet boy two days ago.  Still fucking adorable, if I do say so myself.  

Dread

Routine is necessary for my mental health.  It makes predictability possible; it provides me with a sense of calm.  Whenever I am faced with a change in my daily pattern my anxiety skyrockets.  A few days before my big November trip to the south I became convinced it was a terrible idea.  I experienced severe separation anxiety from Z, and I am ashamed to say I was pretty unpleasant to him.  I had been excited about the trip for months.  Who in Syracuse doesn’t want to skip town in November?  After the miscarriage I looked forward to it even more.  It seemed like a convenient way to escape the sadness in our house.  But as the travel day approached I knew in my gut that I wouldn’t be able to handle such a huge change in my routine. 
Of course, my gut was wrong.  The trip has been wonderful.  I wouldn’t have missed the Simonson family reunion or the look on my Grandmother’s face when she was surrounded by her kids and grandkids and great grandkids for anything.  T and his cousin have both benefited tremendously from time spent with each other over the last month.  T now walks everywhere and Gabe is more verbal.  Maybe those developments would have happened without the two guys being together almost every day, but I think the changes were expedited by each other’s influence.  I got to see my Aunt and Uncle, my cousin and his family, and old friends.  We spent a day with Z’s parents, and I got several days with my awesome sister-in-law and family.  I was able to be at my parent’s new home on their move in day, and we had a wonderful Thanksgiving complete with my sister’s best friend. 
But the day after that wonderful Thanksgiving dread started creeping into my body.  I could feel it in the back of my throat, in my belly, in my lower back.  Since then it has been a constant presence tainting every bit of fun I’ve had with my family.  I don’t want to go back home.  I’ve gotten used to being down here.  Traveling has become my routine.  Z has been with us for almost a week, so the huge hole that his absence created has been filled.  This is my reality now, and home seems completely foreign and frankly frightening.  Z is going home tomorrow morning and my sadness at saying goodbye to him, even for just over 48 hours is making things worse.  Because of course I’m going to be happy to be home on Wednesday.  Of course I’ll quickly slip back into our routine there.  Of course I can’t wait to see my friends and our newly renovated bathroom and my two bat shit crazy cats. 
But for some reason I can’t imagine that happiness right now as I sit in Georgia.  We only are going to be home for a few weeks before we head back down south for Christmas in Winston-Salem followed by another trip down to my parent’s house in Georgia.  A month from this moment I will be back in this house surrounded by family.  And I’ll surely be dreading going home again.  That dread will not be completely irrational, though.  I learned last winter that January through March is the hardest part of the year in Syracuse.  My sister will be having her baby in May, and that will probably be what I use to get me through those months, the thought of visiting her when the baby arrives. 
And then I’ll dread that trip down south when I am days away from it.  Like always, the hope is that by seeing the pattern I’ll be able to break it at some point, but I don’t feel close to escaping the cycle right now.  
 Dad heated up the hot tube a bit so Z and T could take a dip.  It is unbelievably beautiful here.

The cousins took a boat ride on the lake.

Mom and Dad enjoying their lovely new home.   

T hasn’t had a favorite stuffed toy yet.  My dad got this one as swag somewhere and handed it to T while unpacking.  T hasn’t wanted to let it go since.  Of course he would choose to love an orange toy.  He rubbed it on my face today and I had shivers running down my spine, but I didn’t visibly freak out.  Motherhood has make me very strong…

In Which I Write About Diarrhea…Oh Yes, I Am Going There

One more HP thing and I’ll stop…it drove me nuts that Harry started saying You Know Who without an explanation.  Even in the movies it has been clear that he doesn’t fear saying the name.  I think it was a bad detail to skip.  Or did it happen and I missed it?  Will have to watch carefully the next time to find out…
Now if you don’t care to read about my bathroom habits this post is not for you.  Please consider yourself warned. 
An acquaintance from high school who has turned into a friend all these years later and I have been on a similar wavelength lately.  She wrote this a couple of days ago and it cracked me up, but it was a cool surprise because it is similar in bathroom theme to the post I have been trying to screw up the courage to write. 
Recently I wrote about not being completely comfortable at my sister-in-law’s house.  Why shouldn’t I be comfortable there?  I love her and my brother-in-law very much, and I like them to boot.  She is a lot of fun, and we can be snarky together.  He really has a good heart and I wish I was more like him in terms of how kind he can be.  The problem is the location of their guest bathroom.  It just isn’t far enough from their living room for my comfort. (And to my dear sister-in-law: this is my problem not yours.  You have a lovely home and I love visiting.)
Because the number one way my anxiety manifests itself is…just bite the bullet and do it, Karen…diarrhea.  Or, fear of diarrhea.  Or, fear I will not be able to control my bowels in front of others.   Um, I laughed as I wrote that sentence so please feel free to laugh yourselves.  I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, like officially diagnosed and everything.  But my IBS is completely brought on by my anxiety, there isn’t any physical thing like eating dairy that triggers it.  Just good old fashion stress and fear.  It started about 20 years ago and there are periods that are much worse than others.  I feel I have single handedly kept Imodium AD in business.  I never leave the house without some on me, it is more important than having a chill pill close by.  

This is my deepest shame.    As someone who struggles with self loathing it is interesting to me that my body would choose the most humiliating way to manifest my anxiety.  I even hate myself subconsciously. 
I’ve been better since my first pregnancy, which is great.  And by better I mean it hasn’t been an every day issue like is often is.   After T was born I was sure it would come back, but then I developed the anal fissures.  And I believe my body recognized that it simply could not deal with the pain of anal fissures and diarrhea, it was literally impossible.  Taking a regular crap was torture enough.  It was fascinating how the anxiety was able to shift to nausea.  As much as I don’t love being nauseous, for once my body was kind to me.    
But when I travel it gets bad again.  I always need to know where the nearest bathroom is.  I am at my best when I feel like I’m in a “safe” place, which often means one filled with people who know about my issue along with a very private bathroom I can use.  Over the years I’ve had to miss many events because of this problem.  I am thinking of a wedding ceremony I continue to regret missing.  I’ve left many functions early.  And if I had a bad experience at a location I have one hell of a time rallying to get myself there again.  I have prayed that people never figure out what is going on.  So why write about it now?  Well, it’s pretty damn uncomfortable and completely honest.  And as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized a couple of things.  First, everyone shits.  Everyone.  OK. Maybe most people don’t have alarming diarrhea regularly, but everyone does, in fact poop.  And, maybe if I put it out there publicly I’ll stop being anxious about it.  A stretch, I know.  But Z pointed out to me once that I never actually have shit myself. 
OK, I did shit myself once.  But it was back in the late 70s.  The electricity went off one night, and I was a scaredy cat to begin with.  It was the one time in my life post potty training that I had the shit scared out of me. I was 3.
I remember having one of the people who is closest to me in the world call me and tell me she was sick with a stomach bug and had diarrhea.  “Karen,” she said, “I have no idea how you do this every single day.”  I laughed my ass off, but later I thought about it.  I really think you can get used to anything.  And it has made me develop a huge appreciation for bathroom humor.  Because if you can’t laugh at this shit (pun intended) it really would be unbearable.  That scene in American Pie where the kid is tricked into having diarrhea in the girl’s bathroom?  I literally laughed for hours.  Z thought there was something wrong with me.  But if you’d spent hours in the filthy girl’s room in high school trying to quietly have diarrhea as you were burning with shame you’d have laughed for hours, too. 
Tonight we went to a tree lighting ceremony in the town my parents just moved to.  I was anxious because we were going to a new place, I was anxious because we would be out past T’s bedtime, I was anxious because I was in the middle of writing this.  I’m really nervous to post such a personal thing that I’ve been tortured by and kept hidden for so long.    My stomach cramps were terrible and I warned the family I might have to be rushed home.  But once we got there I really started to enjoy myself.  And T was enjoying himself, which is always a pleasure to watch.  Z is now with us, my folks and sister and her boy where there and we were all having a great time together.  There wasn’t anything to worry about.  Small victory. 
This is what I woke up to this morning.  T was so excited to see his dad.  Pure bliss.

HP Recap

Finally we have internet at my parent’s new abode in Georgia.  And now that I can post something I find I’ve got a case of writer’s block.  Well, that isn’t quite right.  I know what I want to write about, but it’s almost 11pm, we have been unpacking boxes for the last 4 days, I took NyQuil a few minutes ago, I’m just too overwhelmed. 
So I’ll save what I want to write about for another time (maybe tomorrow?  Probably not because I’m going to be cooking my father’s birthday meal for most of the day and planning Thanksgiving dinner for the rest of it).  A friend asked for a Harry Potter review, and while I can’t write a proper review because I’m so in love with the series I cannot be dispassionate, I can write a jumble of sleep deprived, non-sequential impressions.    
If you haven’t seen the movie don’t read on.  Spoilers ahead!
Going to the midnight showing was completely worth it.  The next day the moving van arrived, so there was no sleeping the morning away.  I got 3.5 hours of sleep, and I don’t do well without a full 8 hours.  I mean, all through college I never pulled an all nighter.  The two times I had to spend the night working in a bakery I was able to sleep through the next day, so it does mean something when I say it was worth it. 
In my mind the HP movies and books are two different entities and it doesn’t kill me that all the detail of the books are lost in the movies. 
I started crying when Hermione modified her parent’s memories.  I thought it summed up the feeling of the scene in the book where she and Ron explain to Harry that they will be accompanying him on his quest beautifully.  I cried on and off for the whole movie.  Usually the subpar acting doesn’t bug me that much in the series, but when Bill announced Mad Eye was dead I was squirming in my seat.  I thought Daniel Radcliff did a great job playing the 7 Harrys.  I particularly loved the way he rested his head on Bill’s back after mounting the thestral.  The casting of Xenophilius Lovegood was inspired.  I didn’t like that Snape betrayed sympathy in his gaze toward Charity Burbage before Voldemort killed her.  The kid that plays Draco really is terrific.  When he told his Aunt he didn’t know if Harry was Harry my heart was full of sympathy for him.  And of course, the Doby stuff made my heart break into a million pieces.  As did the horribly awkward dance between Harry and Hermione.  It was so bad it was good for me.  Ron was outstanding.  His dangerous anger was perfect.  It was quite a bit more graphic than any of the others.  George covered in blood, and later Ron’s unfortunate splinching kind of turned my stomach.  I was sad that Kreacher’s stuff was cut.  I was looking forward to seeing him in a gleaming white towel, happily caring for the trio.  Neville’s one sentence made me love him even more.  I can’t wait to see him in the battle in part two.  The Bathilda scene was beyond creepy.  I could say a million more things.  I can’t wait to see it again.  But right now I really need to get in bed. 
In other news Z is coming tomorrow night.  I am so excited I don’t know what to do with myself.  

This may be a repeat, but I’m too tired to check.  It’s my phone wallpaper.  Back when T didn’t have any hair at all.  I can’t wait to hug my wonderful husband tomorrow. 

My sweet boy helping his Grandma unpack in the kitchen.  

Safe Places

A couple things about agoraphobia: First, although I wrote a post about it I technically am not an agoraphobic, rather I have agoraphobic tenancies.  Second, I’ve learned from my shrinks the proper pronunciation is more like ag-ra-foh-bee-uh.  There’s my annoying little lesson for the day.  The way my current shrink explained it to me was the true agoraphobic experiences anxiety because of the location rather than any social component.  Here is another really terrific explanation.  Clearly, my anxiety attached to my agoraphobic tendencies can be accounted for by social anxiety and generalized anxiety, which are my current diagnoses.  And here’s something truly spectacular about mental illness, after a shitload of hard work your diagnosis can change.  I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder by the psychiatrist who I feel saved my life.  My current shrink was surprised that was my diagnosis, she told me it just doesn’t fit anymore.  Which made me so happy I didn’t know what to do with myself.  The description is that of a person so broken that no one would want to know them.  I feel sorry for everyone who was in my life at that time, and I can’t believe it used to be me.  It also scares the piss out of me to remember that time.  I want to do everything I can to never ever go back to that place.  But here’s something truly shitty about mental illness: those who have experienced it have a much higher chance of recurring episodes down the line. 
A comment from the last post prompted this one.  The mystery person (it’s so weird to me when I can’t identify a commenter) was noting I’d been out and about a lot.  Which is absolutely true, and I’m very happy about it.  But it got me thinking about the different ways I view the world outside my home.  Places are either safe or they are not.  The safe places feel like extensions of my home.  When I see it in my head it is like looking at a map.  My home has sort of a glow to it and there are tentacles that also softly glow extending from it to the safe places which are like little glowing satellites.  As soon as a location is deemed safe by me it is added to the map.  Occasionally safe places are removed from the map if something really bad happens while I am visiting one. 
In Syracuse the safe places are Wegmans, Target, the Pediatrician’s office, the magic office building that houses my shrink, my Ob-Gyn, and the place I get blood drawn, my GP’s office, and that is about it.  Down south the places include my sister’s house which is like home base, my in law’s house, the Whole Foods in Winston Salem, and the mall I visited and wrote about in the last post.  When I visit the safe places it is definitely a good thing, but it feels like much less of a victory than say visiting Charlottesville overnight where there isn’t a safe place in sight and I won’t be able to get back to one until the next day. 
There is a third category of places, those that are becoming safe.  On this visit they include my Gram’s place and my sister in law’s place.  Within a visit or two I’m hoping both will be added to the completely safe list, I just need a little more time in them.  It is strange to me that the mall by my sister’s house was so easily added to the safe list.  I visited it for the first time last December.  It was a particularly successful shopping trip-I was able to score some great presents for my family.  Christmas is my favorite holiday because picking out presents for people I love is one of my favorite things ever.  When I pick out a gift that someone clearly adores it creates a high for me like nothing else.  Even though I usually take longer to warm up to a place the success of the single trip made the mall safe in one go. 

So there it is, a little peek into the inner workings of my crazy.  I think I’ll write about how going to the unsafe places makes me feel soon.  Yesterday we went to see my in laws.  Unfortunately my mother in law was really ill, so she didn’t even get to give T a hug.  I was really bummed for her.  But my father in law got some good playing time in.  And we will be at their home for a week in December, so they will get plenty of time with T then.  My wonderful sister in law was visiting with her two girls.  She made us a terrific lunch, how she juggled the newborn, the toddler, and cooking I still don’t totally understand.  She is a better woman than I am.

T playing with his Granddad. 

  My wonderful sister in law and her brand new baby.  As we were getting ready to leave I mentioned to her that when we first met I had no idea we would get so close.  Man, am I grateful that we have.  She is a terrific friend and I couldn’t have picked out a better sister in law.  

 

Shopping

Last week I dragged my sister to the mall to get her some new clothes.  She may be the worst shopper in the history of the universe.  I’ve mentioned before that she is slender.  And I mean super slender, like size 0-2 slender.  Though only a fraction of the population has a body like hers, her figure is exactly what clothing manufacturers design for.  She should be the best shopper in the world.  But she won’t buy anything unless it is just like something she already owns.  Yet she constantly complains about how much she hates her wardrobe.  Therefore, I have very little sympathy for her.  On this shopping trip I used the tough love approach.  I picked out everything she tried on and I told her what she was going to buy.  It was rather refreshing to be the in charge person, and I have a pretty good eye for fashion, if I do say so myself.  I don’t really use that eye on myself, my wardrobe is pretty much the same as it was in high school.  But it was fun for me to have a victim to dress.
I found some really great stuff for my sister.  We were shopping for things that would get her through her pregnancy, she is already showing.  When you are super skinny you start showing faster because there isn’t anywhere for that growing uterus to go except out.  Most of the stuff came from regular stores; we only hit one maternity location.  Looking through that store was the only part of the excursion that was difficult for me.  I found a maternity dress that I really loved and it made me think about how far along I should be.  If I hadn’t lost the baby I’d know what sex it was by now.  I’d almost be half way through the pregnancy and I’d probably be past the morning sickness.  I’d certainly be showing.  My heart absolutely ached with the loss.
But it actually felt pretty good to feel so bad.  It made me realize that in the last almost two weeks since I got the all clear from the doctor’s I have let go of so much of my bitterness.  I feel genuinely happy for my sister.  I’ve been able to show an interest in other people’s pregnancies.  A couple of former colleagues from Whole Foods have become parents in the last few weeks and I have felt real joy for them that wasn’t tarnished by my jealousy.  A few weeks ago I believed the only way the ugly feelings that were eating me alive would disappear was to get pregnant again.  But it turns out that wasn’t the case, I just needed to be physically done with the whole business.  Crazy as it sounds, I was the one that initiated the shopping trip, I knew exactly what I was doing and it didn’t bother me in the least.
In fact the harder part of the trip was dealing with my jealousy over her size.  When we started the trip I wasn’t thinking that much about my physicality, but even though I wasn’t trying on stuff myself after a few minutes in the dressing room with her I felt more and more awkward.  I had to stop looking in the mirror because I was ballooning to morbidly obese proportions every time I caught sight of myself.  I told her a little about how I was feeling, and in the next breath I suggested we head to Chick-fil-a for lunch.  It’s so easy to complain about how I look, but doing something constructive about it?  No way.  I think part of the reason I talk about how gross I am physically so much is because I don’t want people to think I’m stupid.  I don’t want them to look at me and feel sorry for how I look and think I’m not in on the secret.  I’m in on it.  I get that I’m heavy.  I get that I’m not pretty.  And I want you to know that I know so you don’t feel so sorry for me. 
Hmm, that tangent about my size was not part of the original plan for this post.  Sometimes the writing gets away from me a little.  Bringing it back around to the positive…I TOOK MY PREGNANT SISTER MATERNITY CLOTHS SHOPPING!  ON PURPOSE!  NOT TO TOURTURE MYSELF, BUT BECAUSE I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE FUN!  AND IT MOSTLY WAS!  Oh progress, you really are a wonderful thing. 
The boys playing in the super awesome playroom at my sister’s house.  A second after this photo T sadly ran Gabe over.  But Gabe quickly rebounded and pushed the car off causing T to fall under the car himself.  

 And a moment after this shot they managed to go down the slide at the same time.  

A Good Day

Mom, T, and I traveled to Charlottesville, VA yesterday to visit my Aunt who is convalescing in a hospital there.  My cousin and his wife and two adorable daughters live in town, and they were kind enough to watch T while Mom and I were with my Aunt.  Later in the evening we went back to their home for dinner.  A million years ago my cousin and his wife lived in the East Village.  Z and I developed a friendship with them that moved well beyond family obligations.  We loved hanging out with them and their friends because they were so different from our circle.  They both graduated from the engineering program at UVA and they had real jobs in offices.  The closest we got to that was when I was temping.   Our friends were all in theater at that point, because Z was still doing the set design thing and I was still doing the pretending I was going to try and be an actress thing.  So they seemed impossibly together and responsible and grown up to us.  But they were also a hell of a lot of fun.  We were really crushed when they moved to Charlottesville several years before we left the city ourselves. 
I haven’t seen them in years and I don’t think I’m overreaching to say we were all excited for the opportunity to hang out and catch up.  But this whole parenting gig can really put a cramp in our style.  Their girls were sick.  The baby had an ear infection and the toddler developed a stomach bug when we sat down to dinner.  The yummy meal my cousin’s wife prepared (she went to culinary school in NYC, she can really cook) became a comedy of sick kiddo errors.  She and I exchanged maybe 20 words before circumstances beyond anyone’s control took over and we decamped to my Uncle’s house.  I doubt she got to enjoy any of the meal she made last night.  I was really sad to miss the opportunity to catch up, but the cool thing about becoming a mom is you just get that stuff is out of your control sometimes.  Hopefully we won’t wait so long to see each other again, and the good news is the girls were right as rain this morning. 
And this morning was magical.  Two Robinson Rams from the good old Class of 95 live in the area.  Two gals who were fellow “drama fags” (yes, that is what they called us…not only offensive, but as most of us were girls it didn’t even make sense!) met up with this old drama fag at the Charlottesville Farmers Market.  After yummy donuts we headed to a playground and watched our kids play while we tried to catch up on the last 15 years.  My cousin, his wife, and the girls came by and I had a chance to up the word exchange count with both of them.  It went too fast, I wanted to talk to all of them more, but it was amazing.  I’d been looking forward to it all week, but during the drive to the market my mom asked me what was wrong.  I’d been rendered mute by the unavoidable anxiety that accompanies any social interaction, especially one where the stakes seemed so high-I only had a few short hours with friends I haven’t seen in years.   It was such a victory, though.  I didn’t give in to the anxiety and had a wonderful time.  Hopefully it will help me remember next time that social interactions are worth the effort. 
So a good day.  A happy post.  The end.  

My beautiful boy actually napping on the way back to my sister’s house.  He isn’t a good car sleeper, so this was big.  He is 15 months old today. 

This is exactly how I felt today.