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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New Year, New Me?

So, it’s been awhile. What’s new, you ask? Well, we moved to the US. Finally! I’ve now been through all the stages that a move like that brings with it, starting with absolute joy, spiraling through rage and depression (mostly surrounding health care frustrations and costs) and ending up with a bit of reality: confused, trepidatious and mostly, content.

We are here, in New Jersey and I’ve actually had to turn in my California drivers license to get a New Jersey one, which I think may be where most of the anger has come from.

We’ve been through quite a bit, actually. I wouldn’t really recommend moving across the world with a one year old and a three year old. It’s pretty stressful. I think my husband and I have taken the brunt of that stress, both individually but mainly as a couple. I’m not quite sure how that will play out, but I imagine it will take some work on our part.

But all that aside, like everyone else, I’m really just posting here to write out my resolutions. I think that not only do I need to focus on myself, but really, it just might be the best way to help my relationship with my husband as well.

So, here we go:

  1. Go to yoga at least twice a week (thanks to my mother, who is paying for Bikram as a Christmas present)
  2. Hit my step goal at least four days a week (10,000 steps a day)
  3. Kiss my husband intentionally at least once a day
  4. Blog once a week – hopefully with more care and attention than right now (I’m watching Notting Hill – it’s been a long holiday and an even longer weekend).

I shall write again next week – or hey, maybe sooner – and update on my progress. I’m starting yoga tomorrow and am very excited about that.

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.

Little Boy Blue

photo 4

My little boy is now 26 1/2 months, though I usually do just say he’s “just turned 2” (Mostly because I can’t do math or figure out what month it is that quickly in my head, not because I’m not that annoying mom, because I am…). He’s of course growing so quickly and learning so much every day that I’m astounded. Literally. I find I don’t know what to do with him half the time. He’s somehow right at that point between baby and little boy where he can talk and understand what I’m saying, but not enough. 

His favorite toys right now are cars and trains, which are slightly annoying only because that means setting up and dismantling tracks and car routes approximately a thousand times a day. He also likes to talk about cars on our walks, which means for ten minutes all I hear or think is: “blue car, red car, black car, big blue car, red car go, big black car…” as he points ecstatically from his stroller. 

His favorite words are “big”, “muddy puddle”, “Dankeschöne”, “oops-a-nanny”, “poop” (usually in conjunction with big), “train”, “jump” and his own name.

His favorite film is A Bug’s Life, which he calls “The Anties” and his favorite scene is where they build the “big bird”. He acts out a good portion of the film, especially the part where the children put on a play for the warrior bugs, which ends with the last grasshopper dying: the ant falls over saying “die, die, die”. He acted this scene out on the train the other day, which left me praying that no one around us understood English. 

He is also quite fond of Peppa Pig, which is part of where his love for “jumping big muddy puddles” comes from. 

His favorite color is, of course, blue. While he’s gotten much better recently, for a while there, any time we asked the color of any object (regardless of its actual color), he would happily respond “blue”.

My favorite recent moment? Oddly enough, it involves a poop explosion. We were at our mommy & me meeting, which was held at a Kindercafé, and one of the other moms sort of grabbed him and yelled to me because he had poop coming up out of his pants. I, of course, ran right over, pausing only to grab a clean diaper and wipes out of my bag. The changing table at this particular establishment is out in the open right by the play area so he was standing on this, while I took off his pants and shirt and cleaned off his back and what not (Ah, the joys of children, right?). The other children (all more or less his age) were LOVING IT: pointing at him and saying poop over and over; everyone was totally enthralled. He was standing so very proudly, smiling down at them all and puffing out his chest, pointing to himself repeatedly saying, “Lucas big poop. Lucas big, stinky poop.” Boys. 

Current struggles include: getting him to do anything he doesn’t want to do (most particularly getting dressed or taking off his pajamas, especially if they are his Thomas the Tank pjs), getting him to brush his teeth (which he used to love), getting him to stop when we say stop, finding something for him to do that doesn’t involve jumping off of EVERYTHING and perhaps most importantly, though not his fault at all, finding a new school for him. His school is closing in October (just before the baby comes – perfect) and all of the schools around us are full. It is one of those horrible constantly-at-the-back-of-your-mind stresses. 

Current loves include: his eagerness to give kisses when saying goodbye, his desire to do things for himself and to help, his enthusiasm, his growing fondness for (or acceptance of) cuddles, when he wakes up in the middle of the night and comes into our room to sleep with us and cuddles right up next to my face on the pillow, stares intently into my eyes, smiles and then goes to sleep, his love of counting (which sometimes is very accurate and impressive and others is more just saying all the numbers in any order up to twelve and pointing at random things), his mischievous face (which his father says resembles mine) and his newfound delight in singing and dancing. 

He’s pretty much the bestest. 

 

It’s all someone else’s fault… (1)

It’s all someone else’s fault and I’m grateful for that! It really takes the stress off…

(photo taken from laughingwithlizzie.blogspot.com)
(photo taken from laughingwithlizzie.blogspot.com)

1. Mr. Darcy

I’ll start with one that’s quite common. I hereby acknowledge that Mr. Darcy (or, really, I suppose, Jane Austen) is responsible for all my past failings in romance and also for the ridiculous expectations I continue to place on my wonderful, loving husband.

I grew up sighing and dreaming of the day my prince would come (you have to sing that like Snow White) – and no, technically, Mr. Darcy is not a prince, but he has that accent… Because of him (and Disney in general), I expected: tingling looks across crowded rooms, casual brushings of hands sending shocks through my veins, and of course, in the end, the absolute certainty that the man I chose to marry absolutely adored me to the depth and breadth of his very being. What did I get? Well, my husband does have the accent… And he sure is a prideful jerk sometimes…

Before my husband, I dated boys that stirred that Capital-R-Romantic vision in me: they wrote me poetry and stood below my window and sang me songs through their drunken tears. Keyword there: drunken. Yeah, I don’t need to talk about why those relationships didn’t work. Like I said, I blame Mr. Darcy.

I’ve been married now for 2 years to a man who has never contemplated writing me poetry in his life and who absolutely does not consider standing outside in the rain waiting for a glimpse of me, to be romantic in any way. To be honest, he’s got a point (Hello, stalker.). My husband is content, but he is rarely ecstatic. I’m pretty sure he would actually say that the entire concept of being ecstatic was made up by Americans. He might have a point there as well.

So, he’s never gloriously happy or joyful, but he’s also never in “the depths of despair”, to quote a girl who would know exactly what I’m talking about. He’s rarely moody, he never wakes up unable to get out of bed and he’s rarely unsure of himself, me or us.

What does that leave? Contentment. Day-to-day, it’s a wonderful concept. However, it’s also an emotion that I had never even conceived of before, as I gravitated between horribly depressed and deliriously happy both in my own life and in the relationships I chose. So here I am, with this amazing man and wonderful father who gives me something I’ve never had before: an easy (relatively speaking), drama-free, contended life. And what do I do with it? I pick him apart for not being like all those idiots I dated before; it’s as if while missing the adventure, I have forgotten all about the screaming and the fighting.

Here’s the thing I never noticed about the book, the film or the man himself: Mr. Darcy was exactly like that, too. It’s what drove Elizabeth crazy about him at the beginning, besides his generally being insufferable, a word one must use at least once when discussing Pride & Prejudice. What the story shows is that Elizabeth realizes she’s been silly and desires the substance over the image and then all is changed and they are happy. The end. In real life, I have to have this realization every day. Sometimes multiple times every day. Sometimes I don’t have the realization, and that leads to a fight, in which I scream, stomp about and gesticulate like a mad woman all the while my husband stays calm and collected and… content. 

So maybe I’ve disproved my point? Hm… It’s still Mr. Darcy’s fault. 

And just because, the final marriage proposal (Note: mine was in french toast):

Happy Birthday to Me

While I am writing this, it is not only pouring down rain, it is storming. I mean a full-on thunder, lightening, dark grey sky sort of storm. I should be happily cuddled up watching Harry Potter (I don’t care how many times I watch those movies, whenever the weather turns stormy, it’s like the first time all over again). Instead, I am staring at the computer, which never makes me happy or grateful. I am reading horrible drama-filled posts on Baby Center (Yes, I know. I should get a life. Thank you.), playing Candy Crush and once again, eating cheese in my pajamas. Seriously, do I have a protein deficiency or something (or is cheese just awesome – note to self: I am very grateful for cheese)??

I don’t know why I’ve been so negative lately. My husband took me out to dinner on Saturday for my birthday (his sister is visiting and stayed home to watch the wild one, who was a very good boy) and instead of being grateful (Damn it! Missed opportunity!), we got in an argument on the way home which basically boils down to me feeling angry at him and down on myself but most of all, confused and overwhelmed. I’m overwhelmed by my sadness and negativity, if that makes sense. I’m overwhelmed at the amount of things there are to do and overwhelmed by how difficult even the simplest thing is because we don’t speak the language of the country in which we live. I’m confused about whether or not my husband is being a jerk or I’m just being über sensitive.

It seems that not a day goes by without some little argument with him. Are they serious? Not really. But are they troubling? Yes. I told him on Saturday that I was thinking about counseling. Of course, he thinks that is something that the Americans invented just to be more self-involved nancies.

I am worried, though, because the last time I felt angry like this was because I was severely depressed. We lived in Barcelona and I wanted to leave. I was done with it there, I wanted to be home with my family and friends and I couldn’t because I didn’t want to leave this man that I was dating. I loved him and wanted to give us a chance. I’m very grateful that I did, because now we are married with an amazing little boy. However, we didn’t move home. We moved to Germany. And here I am again, three years later, desperately wanting to be home with my family and friends.

We are in the process of finding out what it takes to get us home (well, to my home) – but of course moving countries without a job and a plan in place at the other end is stupid, so it is going to take some time. But in the meantime, how do I deal with this huge amount of negativity that is just crushing me? How do I hold on for another year?