A couple months back I received a text. David Bazan was playing in the background and adding to my moodiness. I was tired and overwhelmed, working night shift and trying to figure out a way to cut back on work and get Owen in preschool instead of daycare. Then I received this text from my new mom friend, “Oh Man! It would be so awesome to have you in preschool. I can always help with pick ups and stuff, you know it takes a village.”
Well poke me in the eye and call me an idiot. Tears are streaming down my face. For the first time in my parenting life it has dawned on me; I am on an island, and I am drowning. Obviously we have chosen to live away from some pretty terrific grandparents, but it is not an intention to be far from them; we just love the city we live in. It’s not that we don’t have great friends, we do. It’s not that they aren’t helpful, they are. It has absolutely nothing to do with them. Except, come on people, can you please make some babies by now?
Truthfully, I think it has been me all along; afraid of asking for help and seeking out other mothers. I was afraid, or judgmental or proud or something that is difficult to name. Maybe it was just the fatigue and exhaustion of raising small kids, kids that are now growing up and thankfully, the fog is lifting. I am getting involved in school. I am cutting back my hours at work, and most importantly, I am making myself talk to other mothers and make a connection. Fuck shyness. I’ll leave that for the birds. Notably, not even the birds are shy here in Seattle. Touche birds, touche.
Overwhelmed with gratitude and thankfulness, I sat and cried for awhile. So this is what it feels like to have support. Like you heart could burst with gratitude. Like you can manage all twelvehundredandfiftytwothousandtasksbeforeyou. At the time this happened Addy had a weekly soccer practice, but we couldn’t take her there, so our friends did. They are taking my kid home afterward, after a long day and letting her hang out there for over an hour, every single week. Maybe that’s not a big deal to some people, but it is a HUGE deal to me. I struggle with it every week; I feel guilty and I get anxious if I am 5 minutes late, which I always am. But really, I don’t think they mind, and they would do it for any kid. Because IT TAKES A VILLAGE. There is a saying for a reason. We need community in life and we need support and I am learning how to accept that and welcome it.
Let me just greet you by saying, hello.
Also, I hope I can be this lady someday. Awesome pantsuit.
I have been gone awhile, I know, but now I return. Where was I? Well, that answer is long and complicated, but I will give you the abridged version. I was tangled up in one of the hardest years of my life. One reason: last year was a year where my back and neck hurt almost constantly; sleep was difficult, work made it worse, along with standing, walking, running and a myriad of other tasks. I talked about it a lot, I got sick of myself talking about it. My first problem was, I was in denial. It’s just a little twingey, I would tell myself. Or, it only hurts sometimes. It’s not chronic.
But it was.
Sometime in 2011, while I was living in Portland, I awoke in the middle of the night. I love the image from Madeline, “In the middle of the night Miss Clavel turned on the light and said, Something is not right!”
I awoke violently to intractable back pain. I could not sit up. I could not get out of bed. It was as if I could see the cool silence of the nighttime and then hear myself crying and yelling. I was scaring the shit out of Andy. The only task before me was to get out of bed, I had to get out of bed because laying there was torture. Slowly inch by inch, I shifted to the edge. I forced Andy to help pull me up to standing, screaming as it happened. Once upright, the pain was better, but I was still unable to stand straight.
I made it through that night, barely. I hobbled around the for the next few days and thankfully, didn’t have to work for a little bit. But, I didn’t figure out the why. I chalked it up to just some random event. But really, there was something to it. I just didn’t want to admit that there was a problem. So like any good avoider, I avoided, but complained while I avoided. (that’s the other essential component to being an avoider). Also, I kept working and lifting patients and bending and stooping and shifting and turning. I also kept running. I ran regularly, pushing myself to be faster and better, running half marathons and training for hours in the rain. As if I could run my pain and problems away. But nobody can do that.
But like any good story, there was a climax. It was March of last year and the pain was getting worse. More constant, and less relief after running. I ran the Mercer Island Half Marathon and I did not feel good. Every mile was challenging. I could feel my lower back tense, like I was wearing an interanl spanx belt — in the worst possible way. Is there a good way to wear spanx? I don’t think so. I spent a few horrible days afterward in pain and unable to stand straight, deciding then and there that I had to deal with this, my pain was real. I was a 30 year old with chronic back pain.
So I did deal with it.
It took me twenty visits to the chiropractor, 8 months of physical therapy and two dozen massages later. But it worked. There was no magic pill and it isn’t perfectly better, sometimes it hurts after a long day. I still have to do my core workout, work on my posture and keep in shape, but I am most certainly, not in regular pain. I can run again. I can bend over and do chores, but don’t tell Andy that part.
The thing is, I learned so much about myself through it. I learned that I wait till the last possible moment to deal with things, and instead I let myself be afraid, building up the problem into a giant messy pile that feel insurmountable. I also learned that I can do it, I can work hard and set my mind to something – and it works. One exercise at a time, one bridge and plank and Pilates class at a time until I laid a new foundation and changed my life. It’s a simple as that, and as complicated as that. I’m not writing this for kudos, I am writing to be real and to explain part of my absence. I am also writing to say, you can do anything.
Not all days can be good, I guess. I went to bed last night and I wasn’t very tired. Or I should clarify my mind wasn’t tired. I was writing stories in my head, scripts that don’t exist and conversations that haven’t happened. I was speaking to my mother and my mother’s mother. Asking them the secrets of life. How did my grandma meet my grandpa? How long were they married before they had my mother? I need to know these things right now. I am haunted by them and kept awake at night because of it. Somehow when I do finally wrestle into sleep, it is fitful. Full of unspoken questions and I can feel my frustration as I sleep. So when Owen woke at 1am, I was annoyed. I had just fallen asleep. Earlier he resisted going to bed, asking me up to his room 6 or 7 times for small things: a drink, a bathroom break, a hug and a kiss and then another drink. I yelled at him. Telling him to just go to bed, I’m not coming up here another time. He burst into tears. “You made me cry.” I know I did, and I am so sorry. My anger fading into a pile of humiliation. Fast forward to 1am, and I can taste my frustration boiling up and over. I stop myself, shoving down my frustration like a piston in a shaft. Not this time, I say.
What do you need son? I need help with my blankets mom. Do you want the blue, white or both? Both. Mom, can I have a drink of water? Yes, of course you can.
His lithe 3 foot frame bounces out of bed and runs ahead of me. The night, making things seem ambiguous and secret, he is just a shadow in the dark house. Am I really seeing him? We finish and he climbs back into bed, snuggled under one too many blankets. He sighs, I kiss him, I sigh. I am aware of the finality of this, these moments will recede and in its stead will be aloofness and independence. Which is right and good and necessary. For now though I am sad, sad for these last moments of my small kids, and sad for my inability to have perspective.
Earlier at bedtime I was trying to change redirect Owen’s frustration. He’s mad that he can’t have the door open, but it’s not his turn and he knows it. You seem pretty mad that we can’t leave the door open tonight (validation, check). Yeah, he says in his amazingly high pitched voice. I wish we could leave the door open and closed every night, I say. Maybe we could make an invisible door, one door could be open and one closed. Wouldn’t that be amazing? YES, they both shout. And it could have invisible windows too, they say, so you could look in and see me when I am sleeping.
I would like that very much, I say. What about invisible glass around the earth, so you could see through the Earth? Addy says. Sounds interesting, I say, but if it was glass it would break. Not if it’s invisible, she says. That’s true, I say. [Insert a story I tried to tell her about the ozone layer. She wasn’t interested, surprise.]
What if we had invisible glasses? Owen suggests. Hmm, sounds fun. Then we could see through things. Yes, we could. Let’s make some, he says. I like where this is going, I tell him. Let’s make some tomorrow.
We’ve got a lot of projects tomorrow, he says.
Yes we do.
I haven’t taken a picture or uploaded one to my computer since last year. I have 2,388 photos on my phone (seriously!) that are the sole history of my kids last year in photos. I’m perpetually behind on laundry, bills and maintaining my house and cars. I know none of this matters, I know that. But this is why I don’t write. For the last 3 months I have been dealing with back pain and other ailments that have me feeling down and frustrated. See, my life’s not perfect. I read enough blogs that are sickeningly perfect and it bugs the shit out of me. I never wanted to be one of those, it’s just hard to know how to be honest and also be private.
The good thing about struggling, you learn a lot about yourself. Things like, it’s probably a bad idea to run another half marathon when your back is hurting. Funny thing that running doesn’t fix back pain. Shocking really. Also, writing, thinking and reflecting are good for the soul. Oh and here’s a good one. Eating wholesome food, getting enough sleep and drinking less alcohol really do make you feel better. I know! What I am trying to say is, I’m learning. I’m taking more time for myself and my wellness and it feels right.
I love this space. I miss it, but I am not sure what to write or how to write it. This photo of the sculpture park makes me feel so peaceful. I need to remember this in the hard times. There is peace, and there is hope and beauty all around me.
It’s March 4th you know, and I sort of want a dog. Did I mention that currently I am eating an entire bag of popcorn and a king size kit kat. I think this is a good thing, but I also think that it’s a very bad thing too. Either way. If you know me, which you do, you know that I don’t care for dogs much. I was raised in a strict cat household, so I learned that animals should stare at you with a slight look of disdain and contempt (maybe our cat was just mad that we didn’t name her. See I am a horrible pet owner, it’s genetic.) Back to the dogs. Really I kinda almost hate them (gasp!). The hair, the sniffing, the poop picking up, all of it. Obviously I was bit by a dog as a child, a great dane to boot. Nobody told me, on my 7th birthday, that you aren’t supposed to pet dogs while they eat. Where is the dog rule book?? I kinda like this idea of biting. Next time I’m eating and someone interrupts me I will just bite them. Sorry Addy and Owen, mama needs to eat. Chomp Chomp. I’ve never been one to like sharing food anyway. In some ways I can empathize with the dane. I would have done the same thing she did.
So WHY would I want a dog? I really have no idea.
But I do! Every run I go on, I think and sigh, “wouldn’t it be grand to be running with my dog?” I actually don’t use the word grand though. Then there’s the crumbs. My god the crumbs! Just imagine how much less sweeping I would do. We could cuddle up on the couch together, except he would never be allowed on the couch. See I’m crazy. Maybe its like a reverse baby fever. I know that I don’t want to have baby fever, so instead I have dog fever? Or maybe I just want one more thing to get pissed at, which even as I type that I am horrified at the small truth. Either way, I need help. Serious help. Or maybe I just need a dog. Or a therapist. OR a dog that is a therapist. Now we’re talking.
A couple questions.
How is it possible that I can eat an entire bag of popcorn so fast?
Why is the kit kat so good?
How is it that I cry at every episode of Parenthood?
Get back to me if you figure out any of these questions. Just follow the popcorn kernels to find me.
I wrote this two months ago and apparently forgot to publish. Figures.
Where does one start when one has taken months off from a blog? Well, I think that one would, first, stop talking in the first person, and then just simply, write. I’m ringing in the New Year by harboring an annoyingly clingy cold that is forcing me to sleep 14 hours a day and consume lots of green smoothies, without much effect. So now, I reside on the couch, hot toddy in hand and nibbling a pink cookie that I think was left by our recent houseguests (thanks Robinsons!).
I’m not really sure what to think of the new year. Except for, STOP doing that time. Just stop it right now. It can NOT be 2o12. I thought about doing a resolutions/look back post but honestly, I don’t have it in me. This month alone has been a whirlwind. Don’t even get me started on the last six months. This month alone, we spent 10 days in phoenix for my sisters wedding and then went straight to spokane for christmas. So now I am just plain tired.
But, it is a new year and with that I have hopes and plans. I think the hard part of life and working full time is just dealing with the sameness of life. Day in and day out things are relatively the same. SO this year I want to find the small joys and find inspiration where I wouldn’t normally.
Here’s where you will find me this year: You will find me running half marathons, reading good books and eating good food. Maybe I will do something interesting, maybe something new or unexpected, but its ok if I don’t.
So hey there! I’m alive! The thing about blogging is, it’s really easy to blog when life is going well and things are smooth and easy, but it’s tough as shit to do it when things aren’t as great. We’ve been back nearly 3 months now, but it feels like 6. Don’t get me wrong, we are LOVING being back. Totally loving it. We’ve even managed to get babysitters and get out fairly regularly. Score for Team Wakefield. But man, this working two jobs and balancing kids/social life/married life stuff is really hard. I’m grateful for the “extra” money that we haven’t even been paid yet, because helloooo teachers’ get paid once a month — at the end of the month. BOO (says the pumpkin too).
I guess what I’m saying is, we are all a little bit worn out. We just have to get used to our lives going in all sorts of directions and demanding a lot of us. And somehow we still have to love each other through that, which is easier said than done. One of my friends was saying the other night that her family doesn’t have “to do” lists on their fridge. All it says is “SURVIVE”. I think that about sums things up for me. Pull the weeds in the back yard? Survive. Fix the broken tile on the wall? Survive. Repaint our house? SURVIVE. But really that’s not all we have to do. We also have to pay our bills and remember the permission slips, the homework needs to get done and we actually need to send our kid to school every day WITH a lunch. Did I mention that I forgot to pay my car insurance for three months? Yep, moving is awesome. Did I also mention that our sewer bill wasn’t forwarding to our Portland address? Let’s just move again, now that will solve everything.
While it’s easy to complain about all the little things that are sucking the life out of us, I need to focus on the good stuff. Like good friends who will watch our kids in a pinch. THANK YOU. We have a safe home and car to drive, fabulous friends and good jobs to earn money. Often in life I find myself saying, “things will get better” or “it will all work out someday.” Someday I will take that vacation or do the things I am unable to do right now. But the hard reality is that it might not get better (I’m so uplifting!). Maybe I will take the vacation but who the hell knows what life will bring us even five minutes from now? So instead I am trying to find the silver lining now, the best in the current times. Are you with me? Then I read this and cried. There’s that too.
I’ve been missing writing here, but I also haven’t. I love what goes down here, when I am able, but sometime you just gotta LIVE life. You know what I mean? The recording is great, but it doesn’t make the experience any more valuable. So instead of writing I’ve been working, playing, boating and soaking up the precious hours of sunshine. We blueberry picked today and my dusty feet are so so happy.