Monday Musings on Writing and on Being

I have been writing since I was a child; I can’t remember a time I didn’t have a notebook next to my bed. I’d wake up in the middle of the night to record my dreams. I wrote plays and forced my friends to perform them (I was a very demanding director, I hear…). When I wanted to learn Spanish, I started writing short stories in Spanish. I learn by writing things down. I think in written words. Writing is who I am, or who I should be.

Why is it, then, that I stopped? I still have a notebook by my bed (albeit an empty one). I still think in words and revel at the sound of them, at the glorious way they are spelled: that two or three or four sounds come together in just such a way. I love imagining what different people understand as they hear words, and trying to fashion them in such a way as to create a replica of my image in their head, however difficult and futile an intention. When I meet new people, I create elaborate background stories about difficulties they might have faced or the unique lives they’ve led up until this point or imagine in depth characters and dream about the stories I could insert them into. Yet I never write them down anymore. I never go beyond the dreaming phase.

My father has always imagined me his child of action. He tells me I’m the business mind in our family, whereas my brother is the artist and the creative spirit (the latter is true). He tells me I’m strong and determined and can do anything I set my mind to. All of this may be true of my character, my real character, hidden deep inside. However, I haven’t actuated many of my true goals. I don’t commit 100% to anything that I do. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t even committed myself fully to my family and my life.

Don’t get me wrong; I love my children – and my husband – with the depth and breadth of my very being. I would (and do) live and die for them. But those are the easy things. They came out of my body, small, needing me, pure souls with eyes that could break right through me. The hard part is committing day to day to be there for them 100%. To get up in the morning the way (and at the time – meaning, early) that is best for them, to set my husband up for success in his day and to give all of them my full attention and being when we are together.

Of course in this modern world of mobile phones, iPads and constant news chatter, there are few that even think of being so mindful in their daily interactions. But this is where suffering comes from (at least, according to that Buddhist CD my mom gave me…). The days, even the small moments, I choose to give my all – to anything, even cleaning (without the TV on or the news or anything else), that’s where joy lives. That’s where I feel connected to my children, my husband, my friends, my neighbors and more importantly, to myself.

And in those moments, it flashes back to me. No matter what I’m doing, even if it has nothing to do with that moment, my soul whispers, “I want to write. I want to be a writer. I am a writer.”

Of course, that scares the crap out of my head and my heart and I instantly start to think about all the ways I’d do it wrong (as if that’s a thing – writing wrong?), all the ways I’d fail, all the ways people would judge what I wrote and all of the ways I’d be lacking, always lacking. Why is it that our consciousness believes that in order to protect our tender souls, it must push us away from being who we truly are? From what we truly desire?

It is a lie that one can fail. There is no such thing as failure, or success. There is only doing. There is only joy and fear.

I am always, constantly, daily tired of living in fear and I am always, constantly, daily afraid of letting go of my fear. Yet this too is because I’m afraid I’ll fail. I’m afraid I won’t let go of my fear properly. I’m afraid it will come back (it will) and that this will mean I can’t do it (it doesn’t). When in fact, I did do it, it just came back and I must do it again. Constantly. Every moment. I must do it again, until it too, just like living in fear is now, becomes habit.

“Yet,” my brain says, “how tiring it will be to be so vigilant, to constantly be aware and mindful of your thoughts. To have to stop yourself and reprogram your mind. Aren’t you tired already, just thinking about it?” However, I’m already doing that. My mind is so vigilant that even when I’m asleep, if I try to let go, it grasps ahold of me, sometimes even waking me up to make sure that I don’t let go of my anxiety and my fear. To ensure that I am always aware of it. That is tiring already. So, why does it matter if this would be tiring also? Exhausted with a purpose and all that jazz.

I have a home now. A beautiful home, surrounded by trees and covered in their fallen leaves. My children pick them up and excitedly show me the colors, in awe of what they’ve just created by their finding. In the morning, we wake up and gaze out the window to see deer wandering through the leaves, eating the grass underneath.

I have friends. I have kindred spirits who make my heart burst with happiness just to think of them. People that truly love me and want me in their lives because of the unique joy I bring.

I have a husband who loves me and chose to live his future with me, combining our lives into one family, one shared experience. Yet I doubt this. Constantly. I fight with him to make him prove how he loves me, as if our life isn’t daily proof. As if his going to work in a job he doesn’t like in order to support our family isn’t proof. As if his living in America and always making the best choices for our family isn’t proof. As if his care and love for his children isn’t somehow connected to me always and isn’t proof. I committed to him, yet I didn’t accept that commitment, either by him or by myself. I am still holding back in order not to get hurt. But were anything to happen to our relationship, to our family, to our love, I would be devastated. So it didn’t work; I haven’t protected myself at all.

Years ago, after I was hospitalized for an overdose, I made the tentative decision to choose life. I asked for help. I “got better”. Now, and ever since, I grow. I change. I better myself. I strive. I take my medication. I want to live. Yet, I never committed fully to that choice either. I chose to live, but I didn’t choose to live in joy. I didn’t chose to let go of everything that was holding me back. I’m striving and seeking to better myself blind, with my hands tied behind my back. Of course it feels hard. Of course it’s a daily struggle. If I just release my binds, my life would soar, I would soar.

A therapist I came to trust once told me it was like flipping a switch. I didn’t believe him at the time because if it were that easy, why wasn’t I already doing it? Why wasn’t everyone doing it? I don’t really know how to continue the metaphor, but I believe there is some truth to it being that easy in theory, it just must be done over and over again in every moment until it’s habit. Because my thinking now, my deliberately turning the switch off the moment any glimmer of hope creeps in, is a habit. One that is harder to break than the drugs, harder to quit than cigarettes.

“Live mindfully” has become as common an expression as any (at least in the circles I run in), but it’s rarely talked about what that actually means. Or how hard it actually is to start. Imagine how hard it is to quiet your mind the first time you try to meditate? That’s what living mindfully is like, except every second of the day. Every second you must silence the chatter that your brain is feeding you and calling your own voice. Yet you must do it without a struggle, or else it is just your brain fighting with itself, and that is not actually being mindful at all.

So, here I am. Sitting by my window with a cup of coffee on this cold, dreary, rainy Monday morning and I’m writing. I’m not thinking. I’m just writing. So, that’s a start.

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The Battery Saga Continues

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After all was fine and he was waking up from the anesthesia

When my son was nine months old, he swallowed a disc battery. I had seen it the day before, sitting menacingly towards the back of the cabinet under the bathroom sink and thought to myself, “I must remember to get that”. Of course, we had child locks on the cabinet, but my son was some sort of super baby and could open them (He could also open the baby gate that was guaranteed until two years old…). That morning, having completely forgotten about the battery, I was washing my face and turned for about two seconds to dry my face on the towel hanging on the back of the door. I turned around and slow motion ensued: I could hear myself shouting “no” for far too long and it felt like it took a year to take the two steps necessary to get to where he sat, happily staring me straight in the eye as the battery slipped into his mouth.

For a split second, I was relieved. “Phew,” I thought, “He didn’t choke. He swallowed it”. Then, realization. He swallowed a battery. That can’t be good. Then I did the worst thing a mother can do in any situation ever: I Googled it. If you are reading this and you are a new mother, please, take this advice: Never. Google. Anything. Ever. Seriously, get someone else to do it. I’ve since had my mom look things up for me, or my husband even. It’s not worth the stress. Within two entries, I was sobbing on the floor and holding him, imagining the battery turning on and electrocuting him from the inside (which, apparently is a real thing) or it having gotten stuck on its way down and burning a hole in his esophagus (also, real).

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Baby boy drugged after procedure

In the end, neither of those things happened. But we did have to go to the hospital, where they drugged him, gave him an endoscopy and we had to stay the night. Looking back on it, it was the best possible way to end that scenario. The top endoscopist in the country even happened to be at the hospital that day, so he was able to perform the procedure. At the time, however, it seemed the scariest thing in the entire world. My husband and I clung to each other sobbing the entire day. I will never in my life forget the X-ray that showed us just how pressing of a procedure it was: the battery took up most of his stomach and looked monstrous in there.

So we obviously have gotten completely overly-protective and paranoid about batteries, right?

Ha.

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As he starts to get loopy from drugs

Fast forward two and a half years (more or less) to yesterday. I decide that it’s okay to go to the bathroom and leave my eight month old and three year old (the battery survivor) in their room just up the hall. I leave the door open and instruct the boy to come get me if she was bothering him, etc, thinking the worst thing that could happen would be the little one would grab his trains, he would scream and cry, possibly push her and they would both be crying upon my return. I was half right. He was playing trains and she did try to grab them.

The boy comes running into the bathroom saying, “Look! Thomas is broken!” and sure enough, his motorized Thomas the Tank Engine was broken. Not surprising, as the day before he had a few friends over and they discovered this lovely game of running up and down the hall shrieking as loudly as possible and throwing his trains. Then I noticed the battery was missing. “Oh no! Thomas IS broken,” I say, calmly, “But where is the battery?”. “Izzy’s eating it!” he exclaims, obviously finding it funny.

Panic. “Go get it from her!” I scream, “Go get the battery!”. The little genius runs to the kitchen and attempts to open the cupboard where we keep the new batteries (one of the last cupboards with a working child lock, thankfully). So I jump up (pants around my ankles, of course, because everything has to happen while mom is in the bathroom, right?!) and run to her. She’s happily crawling around at the end of the hall with no battery in sight. I search all around: nothing.

“Impossible”, I think to myself. After all, this isn’t a disc battery. This is a AA battery. She can’t have swallowed it. Especially without making any noise or gagging and throwing up. “Impossible”, I think again.

After repeatedly quizzing my son about what actually happened (who had lost all interest and was not even answering my questions in any coherent way), I promptly forget all about it until my husband comes home and I double check with him. “Impossible”, he says. I text my mom. “Impossible”, she says.

I relax on the sofa and forget about it. Until about 10:00 PM when she suddenly wakes up screaming, obviously uncomfortable. She is straightening her legs, kicking them out, screaming in pain and not nursing. All I can hear, besides her screams, is my little boy’s voice: “Izzy’s eating it!”.

And of course, I lose it. My husband is asking me what we should do and what I think, still declaring it impossible, and all I can think of is never seeing this little girl again. So I find out exactly how I handle a worst-case-scenario: horribly.

Still thinking it impossible, we call an ambulance (which seemed a bit much, but as we don’t have a car and taking the train seemed a bit too relaxed, it was our only option). At this point, of course, she stops screaming. And from the moment we call, through the entire ambulance ride, the check-up, the X-ray, and the taxi back home, she is happy as a clam, chatting away with the “hunky” EMTs (my husband’s word, though they truly were) and “dadada”ing her way around the hospital, waving to all and sundry. I’m pretty sure they all thought I was mental.

But I could still hear my son’s voice and so I just had to know for sure.

In the end, of course, it was nothing. We still cannot find this battery, but it isn’t inside her. At one point, though, when I told the doctor that my son had swallowed a battery before, I immediately regretted it, thinking he would instantly initiate an investigation with the German CPS and they would take my children from me because I was inept, incompetent – who has TWO children swallow batteries?

Well, thankfully, not me.

Like she just don't care...
Like she just don’t care…

Postpartum

I really didn’t think postpartum depression would be an issue for me – mainly because I’m already depressed. How could you have two forms of depression? Well, it turns out, you can. Postpartum, it seems, is much more physical. Or perhaps that’s just because it’s anxiety? Really, I don’t even know how to write about this because I don’t even know how to feel about it. Frankly, I don’t understand how to even feel it, let alone analyze or describe it. It’s new, and different. And with my history of depression and anxiety, I wasn’t expecting that. I was completely sidelined.

People keep saying to me that I’m just being too hard on myself and expecting perfection and having two kids is supposed to be hard. I know that it is. But, even though the boy is in Kita, I still can’t seem to function. Even though the girl sleeps pretty well at night, I still don’t seem rested and up to the task of caring for them. My nerves are on edge. Just a little whine or cry sets me off and I am horrified to find myself thinking about shaking her or throwing her or punching him or just leaving them on the train platform and walking away. Now, scary as that may sound (and believe me, it scares me), I know that I’m still “together” enough not to actually do those things. But it is still pretty scary. And horrible. I look at their little faces and my heart breaks because I love them so much that I just can’t.

I wake up and try to prepare myself to have a good day. After all, I’m pretty lucky. My husband takes the wild child to school every morning so that I can sleep in with the baby. I have a cleaner that comes once a week. My husband will also pick up the slack in the evenings: he makes dinner, he cleans the kitchen, and takes over caring for the boy. Literally ALL I have to do is get out of the house around midday to pick up the boy, get home, put him down for a nap and put on a movie when he wakes up (or better yet, actually play with him, but that’s another level entirely). That’s it. I should be able to handle that. And some days I can. Occasionally I can even do it without breaking down and crying.

But most days, she doesn’t cooperate. Or he doesn’t. She would usually fall asleep on the way to pick him up – Great! Then, there is something about his school that wakes her up. Always. So I try to put his coat on and get him out the door as quickly as possible so that the movement of the stroller/carrier (I’m willing to try anything) will lull her back to sleep quickly so that I can give some attention to poor little boy who I love so much I start crying just thinking about it. However, said beautiful little boy rarely cooperated. He would lag. He would stop to look at sticks. He would try and run in puddles. It would be raining and of course he won’t carry his umbrella or keep his hood up. It would end in her screaming and then him screaming as well, seemingly trying to match her in volume, all to get my attention.

I bought a double stroller. That solved the problem with him, yet she still wakes up and cries and then he cries. And then I cry. On the train. In public. In the rain.

Often, she falls asleep again before we get home and I put him to bed fine and honestly, the rest of the day could proceed well. But it doesn’t. Because that in and of itself is enough to completely destroy me. I’m shattered for the rest of the day. So that when, during our movie (AKA my minimal parenting time), she wakes up and I have to feed her, I sob when he looks at her and moves slightly away. Then of course, he starts crying and saying, “Stop, mommy. Stop. It’s OK. Stop, mommy.”, which just makes me cry all the more.

Those are good days. When she sleeps. When it isn’t raining or snowing so much that taking her out isn’t just ridiculous.

I’m so tired. My body feels slack, like there is nothing holding my shoulders up above my back and head up on my neck. I have actually body aches like flu symptoms and searing headaches.The instant the baby cries, I start having a panic attack. Yet I try my best to smile at my boy and tell him it’ll be fine and that his baby sister just cries sometimes and that that is OK. And it is in that trying that I lose it. It is somehow that trying that is too much for my heart.

Apparently my husband, who doesn’t understand at all and who is getting more and more frustrated with me and with whom I have resorted to communicating with in either passive aggressive or defensive snaps and snarls, was worried enough to call my mom. So she flew out. Which helps, in that I now have time to sit here and drink tea and write this while someone else tries to put my two beautiful children to sleep. And I’m eating much better. But I’m still crying. And I the baby crying or fussing still makes me so anxious, my stomach hurts. And my little boy’s face still breaks my heart.

I have called my midwife and emailed a therapist. I am going to call my doctor tomorrow, but I don’t have a lot of hope that this will be cleared up. And I really worry about what it’s doing to my marriage.

But then, I worry about everything.

First Personal Mommy War

So, it happened. My child had a (very small) altercation with another child at a ‘Mommy & Me’ event and it’s turned into an issue.

We were at the home of a little girl whom the boy absolutely adores. They play really well together and he’s there quite often. Not that that makes a difference. We’ll call the other little girl (the girl in question), GIRL and her mom, MOM. Because, yeah, that’s how creative I’m feeling right about now.

So, all the kids (under 3, mind) are all running around and playing – not quite together, but you know. Well enough. Now, this little wild child of mine may be tall for his age and quite a sturdy boy, but he’s actually oddly protective of his own space and of being touched. This includes touching other children, which he doesn’t often do. So, pushing and hitting? Not so much an issue. Throwing toys that hit other kids? Yeah, if someone accused him of that, I’d believe it in a heartbeat. But pushing? Climbing on another child? Hasn’t ever happened.

So, there were a couple of incidents I noticed where the boy was trying to pass and this GIRL put up her hand in his face. She didn’t push him or physically harm him in any way, but her actions still felt aggressive to me, as his mom. He, of course, instantly ran up to me sort of half crying and I said something along the lines of: It’s okay, sweet boy. If someone does something you don’t like or pushes you, you say ‘No, thank you’ and walk away.

He ran off again happily. I didn’t say this because I thought she pushed him. I said it because it’s how he reacts to any child that comes near ‘his area’. I want him to learn to use his words to express what he needs from those around him. In his case, that’s his space. Though, I suppose, like I said, I do find her behavior in general, and specifically regarding this situation, to be aggressive, even though she didn’t push.

This had already happened twice when both of them shifted more towards the area where the MOM was sitting (I was in the living room and she was sitting at the dining room table – though it’s an open floor plan and we could see each other easily, she hadn’t been able to see the children in the corner of the room where they were before). Again, GIRL was attempting to push two baby strollers filled with stuff , which she was obviously struggling with (it was actually funny and cute) and she was taking up a lot of space. The boy again tried to go around her and she again turned on him and put her hand up right in his face. He ran back to me and I said the same thing. MOM came right over and said, ‘She wasn’t pushing. It’s what I taught her to do when boys climb all over her back. She doesn’t like that.’ I responded, which maybe I shouldn’t have done at all, saying that he wasn’t climbing on her, he was just trying to get by.

And that was that. Or so I thought. We went outside and everything was fine. I even helped GIRL up into the big trampoline and gave MOM her socks so they wouldn’t get wet. I thought everything was fine, though if I’m honest, I suppose I was still annoyed with the situation also. And I knew that MOM had some other issues with me that have to do with co organizing mommy events (and no one wants to hear about that).

GIRL continued to use this strategy with any and all children who did anything she didn’t like throughout the morning. One boy WAS sort of jumping on the other children on the trampoline, though not in an aggressive/mean way, but in a very excited ‘how much fun are WE having’ sort of way. My boy obviously hated it and, crying, asked to get off a few times. But this boy’s mom was right there, telling him to stop. Everything was fine. Until he did it to GIRL, who of course instantly put her hand straight in his face and started pushing until he fell down. MOM did nothing. My boy started crying and wanted out just being around that sort of thing and the other boy (who has a big sister and beyond yelling, didn’t seem phased too much) was taken out as well.

Now, do I think GIRL is some sort of horrible child? No. She’s almost 3. She’s young, she’s learning, she’s doing her best. Do I think her mom is the worst? No. She spoils her and doesn’t give her enough discipline, in my opinion. But she does her best and she loves her.

However, I’m pretty sure she thinks my sweet precious little boy is a monster. And granted, he is. But I think she thinks so in a bad way. She sent me an email saying that not only did he push her into a door handle so hard that she has a cut and a bruise under her eye (They were no where near any door), but that she’s seen him pushing before and I’ve done nothing about it.

Like I said, if she had accused him of throwing toys that accidentally hit kids – or even throwing toys AT other kids, I’d probably believe her (Though I DO discipline him for this and he’s gotten MUCH better – He just likes throwing.) but he’s not a pusher.

Beyond the fact that this incident sort of made me question myself as a mother, the worst thing was when they left. MOM instructed her daughter to say goodbye to the other two children there and turned around and left, leaving my sweet boy standing next to me, waving desperately and saying, “Bye, GIRL, bye!” to no response.

Ugh. Mothers.