Anxiety Vignettes: #3

Z stayed downstairs and had a quesadilla when I went to bed last night. He came upstairs 20 minutes later. I was still up, reading in bed.

Me, “Hey.”

Z, “Hey.”

Me, “Do you know how I know I’m really anxious?”

Z, “How?”

Me, “I’ve decided that you left the stove on after making your quesadilla.”

Z, “Huh. I didn’t leave the stove on.”

Me, “I know.”

Long pause.

Me, “But I really think you left it on.”

Z, “Wow. It must take a lot of energy to be as crazy as you are.”

Me, “Dude. I said I knew it was the anxiety. I am acknowledging it is the anxiety. I know deep down that you didn’t leave the stove on. I’m just upset that you left the stove on.”

Z, “If you are so upset about it you can go down and check.”

Me, “Well, since you are the one that left it on I really think you should go check.”

Z, “I cannot handle how insane you are.”

Me, “I cannot handle how you left the stove on.”

He read for a while and I read for a while.

Z, “Shit.”

Me, “What?”

Z, “I forgot to put the whites in the dryer.”

Me, “Oh….that probably shouldn’t wait until the morning.”

Z, “I know. I’m going down.”

Me, “Will you just pop your head around the corner in the kitchen and check that the stove is off?”

 my guy

Alligator beard.

sick t 2

T had a stomach bug on Halloween and he missed the parade at school.

typical c

This captures exactly who C is right now.

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.

 

Flu

Tuesday morning I went to the doctor’s hoping I had caught strep from the boys. Why was I hoping for strep? It is treatable. I’d be back on my feet pretty quickly. Nope, not strep. Not an ear infection. Not the common cod. She told me I had the flu and that I needed to go to bed for the week. She offered to write me a note for work. I laughed before I started crying. “I’m a stay at home Mom! Sick days aren’t part of the benefit package!”

“Oh, so you won’t need a note.” She was missing the point.

“I cannot stay in bed for a week.”

“You’ll just have to let them watch a lot of movies. How old are they?”

“Four and a half and two and a half.”

“Oh…..well…….good luck.”

Before you go feeling too sorry for me you should know that Z went into full-on Super Dad mode, getting the boys from school, putting C down for nap, all that jazz. We started to line up sitters for the rest of the week. And then my Parents called. Mom would arrive at 10:15pm that night.

I might have the flu, but I’m beyond lucky.

Yesterday I felt so much better. If I stayed still. The minute I started moving around the coughing that makes my lungs feel bruised and my head ache started. The fever and chills seemed more pronounced. The soreness that enveloped my skin returned. But my Mommy was here. Taking care of the boys, making dinner, checking on me.

The truth is I thought I’d wake up this morning feeling better still. How long could I really feel extremely bad? I was probably overreacting to this whole thing, after all overreacting is what I do best. Mom probably didn’t need to rush up here after all.

I feel awful.

Clearly the high of knowing I get to rest for several days has dissipated. I am not going to magically be better tomorrow. The flu sucks. Having C sidle up to me and tug on my blanket while saying, ” Mama! Cuddle me! Please!” sucks balls big time. Z sleeping on the sofa sucks and makes me feel lonely. I don’t want him to get this. And I’m glad that my wheezing and snoring and hacking is not keeping him awake. But I hate reaching out with my leg in the middle of the night only to connect with nothing rather than the reassuring bulk of my husband.

And yes. I did get the flu shoot. We all did.

And yes. I still think it was the right choice. Am I pissed I got the flu anyway? Sure. It impacts the whole family negatively and frankly it feels terrible. But I am not shocked. (Ok, I am feeling too shitty to verify at the moment, so this is from memory and I might get some stuff wrong-let me know in the comments and I apologize in advance for bad info) The flu vaccine varies in efficacy from year to year. This year’s shot was a pretty good match to the strains out there right now-think it was about 70%. Which means there is a 30% chance the recipient of the shot will catch the flu. Decent odds, but not fantastic.

Why am I not angry the vaccine didn’t protect me?

Who says it didn’t protect me? Who knows how many time I or a member of my family has been exposed to the flu this season and didn’t get sick? Also, having the vaccine might protect my family even though I am contagious. It might shorten the duration of the virus for me.

I’m sick. I’m pissed. I’m exhausted and need to wrap this thing up so I can rest. But the flu has not changed my mind about vaccinations. Z and I got educated before we got vaccinated. We understood the risks and benefits. I believe we made the right choice for our family.

someone found his halloween costume

T found his Halloween costume the other day. He’s been wearing it a lot.

love his sweet face

This kid’s sweet face melts me. So hard not to cuddle with him. Not touching my family is definitely the worst part of being contagious.

flu no filter

This is what the flu looks like. Scary. I know.

Back in the Saddle

If you’ve been kind enough to read here for a long time you’ve basically read this before. If you are my friend you have heard this before. I’m bored with this subject even before I begin writing…

The anxiety is really bad.

I’m having a hard time.

I hate myself.

I’m ashamed that I need drugs to function as a human being.

I feel like a bad example for my boys.

I feel guilty for occupying space in this world.

Someone as privileged as I am does not deserve to have a mental illness.

I’m trying a new drug.

Are you yawning yet?

I’m not doing very well. But the flipside is I’m kind of fine.

I’m taking care of the boys. I’m keeping up with my schoolwork. I make dinner. We host gatherings at our place regularly. When Z was part of a demonstration with Kronos Quartet I went and then went out to dinner with them all. I sat next to David Harrington and made small talk. I went to a fucking conference at the UN. I spent an evening with one of my best friends in the world and laughed and talked and felt….happy. Ok, so the jogging hasn’t been going well for about a month and a half. Last week I was only out once and this week twice. But god fucking damn it is March 23rd and right now it is 21 degrees with a biting wind. There was an inch of fresh snow on the roads this morning. And twice this week I took my kids to the doc’s (strep) instead of going for my jog. Life happens. And this weather is…well come on.

It would be easy to just wallow in how awful this disorder makes me feel without giving myself credit for progress. But I’m a Mom now, I cannot afford to be that self indulgent. I have worked hard and I am fighting back. It would be easy to stay in the place where I just hate myself and berate myself. Self loathing is one of the most comfortable states of being for me. I believe it with my whole heart, I’ve had years of practice.

This anxiety disorder isn’t something that I can fix or cure. It’s as much a part of me as my brown hair and freakishly pale and moley skin. That doesn’t mean I give up. In fact, I don’t give up anymore. I am in a really bad place, but I am fucking getting shit done. Do I cry a twenty times a day? Yup. Do I go to Z and tell him I can’t I can’t I can’t do it? Yup. Do I spend evenings after Z comes home in bed sure that I have strep myself, or a stomach bug, or cancer? All the time.

Do I finish my readings for class? I do. Do I turn in work late? I do not. Do I pay our bills? Mostly on time even! Do I make sure my boys feel loved and cared for? You bet your ass I do.

Things are not great. Z has to bear the brunt of it and I feel awful, guilty, ashamed. But I am also getting shit done.

The anxiety disorder didn’t just happened to me one day. It’s something that has always been. T has recently learned to say “Excuse me” after he burps or farts. I remember learning the same thing when I was his age. I also remember feeling terrible guilt and dread about all the times I burped and farted before I knew about the excuse me thing. After my parents tucked me in at night I would whisper “Excuse me” over and over and over to make up for those times I didn’t. I thought something terrible would happen unless I made up for my unknowing rudeness.

So it is a chronic condition. It kicks my ass over and over and over. It’s been kicking my ass since I was a little girl. And now I’m kicking ass right back.

The drug thing is the hardest part right now. Historically trying new drugs increases my anxiety. Ironic, huh? SSRIs, the class of drug most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression list increased anxiety as a common side effect. That’s how crazy people meds work. It is a guessing game and what is supposed to help you can make you much much worse. Abilify might have augmented the SSRI you were taking beautifully. It made me think I was losing my mind.

I was supposed to try a new drug after last winter’s experiment didn’t work. There was excuse after excuse-C wasn’t weaned, we were traveling, the fall is a really stressful time, the winter is a really stressful time, the spring is a really stressful time. Well, I put my big girl pants back on. New class of drugs, increased anxiety not a common side effect. In scary side effect world there just might be a rash that lands me in the hospital. I know one person who has taken this drug. After a couple of months that person’s hair started to fall out in clumps. But if this one works bald and crazy might be better than a nutjob with a full head of hair. And my Mom told me she’d buy me a wig.

The drug crapshoot began three days ago. If it doesn’t work we will figure something else out. Because even though I’m not doing alright I’m doing alright.

cheese

This little stinker. When he saw me grab my phone he shouted, “Cheese!”

hiding

My poor guy was hiding in the closet because he didn’t want to take his medicine after we got home from the doc’s office. I feel him. That violently pink “bubble gum” stuff smells disgusting.

boys better

Enough meds in both boys so they are no longer contagious or in pain. Strep sucks.

un pass

My UN pass!

1998

Last Thursday a phone call in which I actually had to hear the person on the other line chased me into my father’s office. A house filled with four boys all four years old or younger is never a quiet house. Unless something is terribly wrong. The photos behind his desk took me on a stroll down memory lane until the one below stopped me cold.

k z 1998

Rockefeller Center, December 1998.

Took me a second to be sure it was from 1998, but my long hair was the giveaway. The spring of my senior year of college I chopped it at chin level. The details aren’t clear-was my best friend T visiting? Did she take the picture? What else did we do that day?

1998. Bile rose in my throat as I considered myself as an almost-22 year old. Z and I had been dating for 6 months or so. We already had decided we would be getting married. I looked at that girl, that child and felt disgust at her stupidity. Who the hell did I think I was? Where did I get off thinking I knew how to be a partner in a marriage? I didn’t even know how to take care of myself.

I looked at myself and saw everything that has happened in the last 15 years-September 11th, my mental breakdown, the near loss of our marriage, clawing our way back, moving to Providence and trying to figure out an identity that didn’t include living in New York, getting pregnant, moving to Syracuse, T, the miscarriage, C. I looked at myself and was repulsed by that girl who had no idea what the future held.

Then I looked at Z.

And thought, “Damn, he was hot.”

I could look at him and simply feel nostalgia. Why does remembering who I used to be cause me such blinding anger? Why do I have no compassion for my former self?

I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think I’m the only one. I think a lot of us are unkind to the young women we used to be. Why do we do it? What does it achieve?

Am I really angry at the girl I used to be because she did not predict a catastrophic terrorist attack that surprised the entire nation? Am I mad at her because she was unaware that she suffered from a mental illness?

Because that is ridiculous. And unhelpful. And frankly, really very unkind.

So I tried to let go of my feelings about baby me. I tried to look at the picture and remember the heady days of our early courtship. We were in love, we were having fun, we were enjoying the hell out of being young. What the hell is wrong with all that? I remembered it was Thursday. I looked at the two kids in love and I snapped a picture with my phone for instagram– #TBT, baby.

Hey friends? I think you should be nicer to yourselves as well.

cordano leonard family

Our family 15 years later. Hopefully when I look at this in another 15 years it will be with much more kindness.

new years cousins

Cousins watching crazy folks go down the waterslide on January first.

Wegman’s Mystery Solved

Do you guys have feelings about numbers? Even numbers feel safe and cuddly and warm to me. Odd numbers feel dangerous. Multiples of 12 are friendly. Prime numbers are lonely and sad. I wasn’t thrilled to be turning 37, not because I’m worried about getting older (hell of a lot better than the alternative!) but because the number makes me uncomfortable. Especially after the warm fuzzies of the soft and gentle number 36.

While I’m not crazy about the number 37, life as a 37 year old has started off splendidly. Z let me sleep in again. He made me coffee and brought it and presents up to the bedroom. The boys and I cuddled while we waited for him.

I couldn’t wait to open T’s present. What did he get at Wegmans? I was burning with curiosity.

birthday bumblebee

Bumblebee the Transformer.

T got me a Transformer! Because he knew that is what I, um I mean he, wanted more than anything else in the world. I cracked up as I opened it. And as soon as it was out of the packaging I passed it right over to him.

It was kind of confusing. Wegmans is not known for its Transformer section. I looked at Z. “It was all T’s idea. He wanted to get you a Transformer the whole time. But if we said we were going to Target he thought you’d know what the present was. So he suggested we tell you we were going to Wegmans to trick you.”

Dude is four years old. Can I be all annoyingly parent-proud and say that his sophisticated thought process was actually a hugely gratifying birthday present? Even if he will use that trickery for evil soon enough? I was so impressed I couldn’t stop grinning.

Z passed me his present. Which was an awesome scarf I picked out at a craft fair last weekend. I dramatically wrapped it around my neck and told him I loved it. He told me there was something else in the bag. Surprised, I peeked inside.

It was an iPad mini.

I started to cry. Z told me that he’d had some money squirreled away. Definitely not the most responsible course of action. But some days it is pretty fucking fantastic to feel spoiled rotten and loved really hard.

37

Z’s card. There are 37 growth rings on it. Lovely, right?

It was a perfect day. Our friend came over to watch our boys so we could go to dinner. The restaurant scene in Syracuse is pretty grim. There are some “fine dining” places, but I always leave seething with anger. I don’t mind paying for excellent food, but New York City prices for mediocre? That actually offends me. Z warily asked where I wanted to go a couple of days ago. He hates going out to eat with me in this town because he knows I’ll tear the meal apart and sulk on the drive home. Yup, I’m a real prize. Aren’t you sad I’m not your wife? I suggested Lemon Grass, a Syracuse institution, because I hadn’t been yet.

Best meal I’ve eaten in this town.

The steak was awesome, the bacon app was divine, but the desserts were where the fun was.

raspberry balloon

Red Balloon. It’s raspberry puree frozen with liquid nitrogen on top of an almond sponge cake and some lovely Creme Anglaise.

chocolate pyramid

Chocolate Pyramid. The pyramid was filled with chocolate mousse (ok, it was gritty, but the taste was good). The vanilla ice cream was made in house.

Again, it was a perfect day. Now I can’t wait for Z’s birthday in May. I hope I make his 41st as special as he made me 37th.

grandma's coat

For the first time I wore my Grandma’s old winter coat. My Mom has had it in her closet for decades and she gave it to me a few years ago. I loved it, but just didn’t have the balls to wear it. The best part about getting older? I care less and less what people think. Z pointed out that 25 year old me wouldn’t have been able to handle leaving the house is something so attention grabbing. Man, am I happy not to be 25 anymore. 37 in a fabulous coat feels a million times better.

Resolution

Saturday was supposed to be my long run. It was 9 degrees when I got up, the forecasted high was 18. Z suggested I wait until the afternoon and I had no trouble agreeing with him. Problem was the snow began by the time it was a balmy 14 degrees and I was ready to go.

pre Saturday

Suited up.

It was stupid and dangerous and terrifying and slow. I did 2.3 miles yelling at myself the whole way that if I got hit by a car it would be my own damn fault. That bitch Anxiety was back. She told me if I didn’t run something terrible would happen. The sane part of me told myself if I did run something terrible might happen. Crazy won.

post Saturday

And I was a fucking mess by the time I finished.

Over the weekend one of my smartest friends told me if I increased the the incline a bit on the treadmill that I’d get closer to my natural stride. I took her advice to the Y on Monday (thanks J) and managed to jog two very slow miles. Damn, is it hard to jog on a treadmill. But they were safe and snow free miles.

SU does a great job keeping the campus plowed, so today I tried South Campus for the jog. It was early enough that the roads were still a mess. I basically chased snowplows, or they chased me. It was 10 degrees and snowing. It felt good to be out there even if one of the miles was more than 12 minutes. Running in snow is like running in sand. It is a whole body workout.

Jogging in winter. I’m figuring it out. I want to figure it out. Mostly I’m biding my time till spring. But I’m sticking with this thing even if it scares me to say it.

I’ve been thinking about jogging a lot. How if I’m going at a slow pace I feel like I can just keep on going forever. How I haven’t stopped to walk since the first time I did 5 miles on November 16th. I learned when I feel like I can’t go on now to just slow down a bit. I’m figuring out these little tricks. Coming up with a training routine on my own that changes things up, speed, hills, medium run, long run.

It is still hard. I have to force myself out of the door. I get disappointed when the snow or the treadmill affects my time in such a major way. I beat myself up when I have a bad run. But I’m going to try and stay healthy. I’m going to keep at it.

I’ve been thinking about jogging and time and my birthday and the fact that I’m 37 on Wednesday and that 40 nearly has me surrounded. A year ago right now I couldn’t jog for two blocks. Now I can go for 5.3 miles. This time of year is naturally a time for reflection. Every year I turn to Z and ask what he thinks we will be doing and where we will be in a year.  Life is full of surprises, wonderful and heartbreaking. This year I am focusing on the good- I learned that the impossible is possible. I learned no matter how many times I swore up and down that I could never exercise regularly that it was a big lie. I can make myself do hard stuff.

The other night we were sitting on the sofa after dinner. “I’ve been having a tiny little thought.” I told Z. “Hmm?” he replied. “Now, I get that this is crazy. But what if I were to try and run a marathon before I turned 40?”

Z looked at me like I was an injured bird he found on the sidewalk. He clearly didn’t want to spook me. “I think that is an excellent idea.” he said very soothingly. “I think you can do it.” He paused, terrified he was going to say the wrong thing. “Maybe this summer you could do a half marathon first and then do a full one.”

“Um. Totally. I’d have to start with a half.” He was visibly relieved that I wasn’t going to try and force my way through 26.2 miles in March.

Starting tomorrow I have three years. Before December 18th of 2016 I will run a marathon. There. I’m being bold and outrageous and reckless. I will run a marathon. And you can hold me to it.

bye daddy

Waving goodbye to Daddy on a snowy morning.

snow boat treehouse

The boat treehouse looked lovely dressed up in snow this morning.