Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Unintentional Almost-Bikini Wax

I have this pair of jeans I like a lot. So much so that I wore holes through them at the inner thigh (those of you who, ahem, have a bit of junk in the trunk - or at least the thighs - may have also experienced similar travesties). But I didn't want to get rid of the jeans, so I decided to patch them. Woo hoo! Problem solved! Except I don't like to iron. Hey, no biggie - I have some press-on patches here in the closet - no need for ironing, just trim to the right size, remove the backing, and you can fix your item in an instant! Yay!

Well, guess what? If you wear holes through your jeans the first time in certain areas, the patches placed in said certain areas may also rub. They may rub loose. They may rub loose and then ADHERE TO YOUR INNER THIGHS. You may not notice this until you try to remove said jeans to use the facilities, and suddenly feel as if you've ripped a bandaid off of a rather tender area.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

40 Going on 12

When I was 12, I used to tell myself that when I was 40, I would eat whatever I wanted and get as fat as I wanted because by then nobody would care what I looked like anyway. Apparently 40 was either the oldest age I could imagine, or, more likely, the youngest age at which I thought I'd be able to get away with it.

Did other kids think this way at 12? I have no idea. I would guess not. Maybe it was my way of dealing with the increasing pressure to be thin and beautiful that was making itself apparent as I muddled my way through middle school. I certainly didn't fit the ideal. My mom was painfully aware of that, as well, and she began the first of many attempts to manage my weight (well, the first one of which I was cognizant, at any rate). I was sent to see the dietician at the local hospital, who put me on my first (of what would become many) calorie-restricted diet. I followed it pretty well, being the people-pleaser that I am, although I also remember becoming aware that I COULD still eat that ham and cheese from Hardee's, as long as I didn't eat much of anything else that day. Oh well. I lost some weight and other people seemed happy.

(By the way, I don't blame my mom any more. She was fighting a far larger battle than she knew, with this compulsive eating/food addiction demon of mine, and I know she just wanted what was best for me and for me to be happy with myself.)

So I think that's why this fantasy must have first popped into my head at that time of finding a way to escape the pressure and the feelings of not being good enough. Those feelings followed me all the way through adolescence into adulthood, however. Through countless attempts at Weight Watchers, through crash dieting, and even through a brief but nasty dance with bulimia in college.

During those attempts, I would usually lose some weight. I would usually start garnering attention from boys, then men. Imagine that! And slowly - but surely, most surely - I would put all the weight back on. Or sometimes quickly: a 20 pound Weight Watchers loss in 11th grade was followed by a 30 pound gain as a senior in high school. A 40 pound drop in college, again through less-than-stellar eating behaviors and over-exercising, came back on fairly quickly the following year, as I gorged my way across campus and back into the size 20 jeans.

And it never ends. It never ends.

I turned 40 this year. I laughed as I recounted that 12-year-old fantasy to some friends, dismissing it as such. But over the past few months, I've gotten to wondering about it. IS that longing somehow playing itself out in my current life? Because I've gained back the 20 pounds I lost last year, plus a few more. And I find myself feeling rebellious and angry. I don't want to have to deal with this anymore. I don't want to have to worry about what I eat anymore. I don't want to have to care. I just want to bury myself in the food and be happy there.

Of course in reality I wouldn't be happy there, either. Oh, I would be for the half an hour or so that the food highs last, but then even if I managed to give up the guilt and self-loathing cycle that inevitably follows, I'd still be dealing with the physical realities of overeating. I already am, with all this extra weight and my droopy Batwing arms and aching knees. I don't like how I look in pictures (unless I can control the angle and hide that chin - thank you, iPhone camera). I can't do all the things I want to anymore, physically speaking, and age is now making itself felt alongside the ever-present weight reality.

The brain is a curious thing, isn't it? Because for as long as I can remember I have felt I at least OUGHT to be trying to lose weight and be fit, even if I weren't succeeding. I still do mostly feel that way. But at odd times, since I turned 40 in March, I've had that 12 year old whispering in my ear: "You don't need to exercise so much anymore. You're 40. No one expects you to." And, "It's O.K. to take the elevator at the library instead of the stairs. You have an achy knee, and besides, you're 40. It doesn't matter anymore what others think." Even, "Who cares if you haven't washed your hair in a few days? You're 40. Nobody's looking at you anymore anyway."

Excuse me? What kind of twisted thinking is that?

It's what's going on in this brain of mine, that's what. I'm rebellious and angry, and now battling the "It doesn't matter anymore!" devil sitting on my shoulder.  And frankly it's left me feeling like crap. Maybe even depressed. I feel like I haven't got a grip this fall, like I'm never doing what I'm supposed to be doing, not accomplishing what I'm expected to accomplish, not caring about things I used to care about. All I want to do is sleep. And eat. And sleep. Is that not the hallmark of depression?

So where to from here? Do I have to keep fighting the fight? Do I have to keep battling myself on these issues? I'm so tired. I'm so tired of it. Why can't I be a "normal" person when it comes to food? That 12 year old is pretty pissed off that 40 has come, but freedom from food and body obsession hasn't. And she's still telling me, "Give in. It doesn't matter any more. Give in. No one cares."

But they do. My husband does. Not only does he prefer a freshly showered wife, but surely a somewhat smaller, fitter one would be appreciated, as well. At least one who puts some effort into it. My friends and family do - not because they need me to be a certain size, but because they want me healthy and happy. My kids do. They may not care what I look like, but I'm pretty sure they want me around for a while. And also happy. And they need me to be a better role model for them when it comes to this stuff.

I'm trying. My son mentioned this week that the kids at school had made comments about his weight, and I went off on how he's a bigger-built kid and will ALWAYS be bigger and even weigh more than the other kids, because of the size and density of his bones - something I wish someone had explained to me before I was 20. And I said what matters most is that he eats healthfully in good portions and exercises regularly - and whatever his body size is he can leave up to God. Hopefully repeating that often while encouraging said habits will keep my kids from the poisonous self-talk that permeates my brain. And maybe I'll even come to believe it.

Where to from here? I don't know. I don't know. If I did, I wouldn't blog about it repeatedly. Do *I* care anymore? I don't know. That 12 year old me can be awfully loud. She's still mad about being forced on a diet, and I'm still mad today to be dealing with this issue constantly, day in and day out.

It's been all I can do this fall to stay on this gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free diet that we've adopted to see if it helps my son (and me). Even then, I've cheated at least once a week. But apparently that inner child, that spoiled little brat who wants no restrictions EVER, has just not been able to accept and act on the idea that I should be careful about what I'm eating even when limiting certain categories, because it's been a lot of potato chips and gummy bears these past two months.

I've been eating poorly. I haven't exercised hardly at all. I haven't written more on my book. I'm sure all of those are contributing to my great feelings of self-dissatisfaction as of late. Is it true depression? I don't know. I don't know. But I'm sad. Sad. And not sure how to dig myself out of this pit yet.

The 12 year old says, "That's O.K. You don't have the knees for digging anymore, anyway. You're 40."

Could someone please tell her to shut up?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Repeat Ad Nauseum.

Reading back through this blog, several themes jump out at me. Food. Anxiety. Writing. Guilt. Food. Kids. Anxiety. Weight. Worry. Anxiety.

These are the themes of my life. I'd like to write a new chapter, start over in a new book whose message is Courage. Hope. Confidence. Enthusiasm. Willingness. Confidence. Action. Writing.

But for now, I'm stuck in this chapter. And I have writer's block. How DO you effectively change the patterns of your life? How does one push past comfort into courage, inertia into action, anxiety into a willingness to challenge oneself? For me it's as if those are separated by a large gulf between two cliffs, the kind into which Wile E. Coyote was always falling down.

On the other hand, Mr. Coyote always got back up to chase the Road Runner another day. Falling down into fear doesn't have to be permanent. Ironically I've heard myself lately telling several friends who are going through tough times that "Feelings aren't facts." And they aren't. Yet I let them rule my life as if they were.

I promised myself I would work on my book this fall. I don't think I've touched it in over a month. I don't fully know why. Except that fear and anxiety are still lurking around the corner - that feeling of some big Boogie Monster standing over my shoulder with long, pointy teeth, laughing a purple laugh and exclaiming, "YOU? You can't write a book! That's for REAL authors. You're just a housewife with no official writing training. What makes you think YOU can write?"

And even though I tell myself over and over again, write it for me, write it as if you don't care if anyone else ever reads it, much less likes it, I balk. I chide myself, "Write the story I like, without regard as to whether or not anyone else ever thinks it's any good." And yet the pages go unwritten. I've thrown myself into Regency "research", pinning tons of images on Pinterest relating to Regency themes, watching Regency shows, ordering Regency books. Of course I haven't read them, much less sketched out my own Regency stories. It's far less scary to throw myself into the prep rather than the execution.

It's a theme of my life. Big ideas, big desires, big fears. It's much easier to stay in my comfort zone. My little bubble. The anxiety demons don't get me here as often. But I also don't get much done in here.

So, as a very small 'Kiss off!' gesture to the demons today, I wrote a blog post. In haste. Without editing. Or really coherence. It's just me vomiting feelings on the page, but it's more writing than I've done in weeks. Aside from those Facebook statuses which, while often amusing to myself and apparently to others, really don't comprise novel material.

Today, blogger. Tomorrow, Mr. Darcy? Perhaps. Perhaps.

Votes Like Jagger

Dinnertime at the Tjaden household on Election Day Eve:

Me: "Brett, you should have voted for Romney, because you've got 3 freeloaders sitting right here around you at the table!"
Brett: "That's not what Jesus taught us - we don't kick the less fortunate to the curb."
Jeff: "Unless they look like Mick Jagger!"

Can I just say I nearly fell off my chair laughing? Thank you, son, for injecting Kesha lyrics into the evening's political conversation...

Friday, October 19, 2012

And it wasn't even good.

Slippery slope. Yesterday I let myself eat Chinese food because a) I was really, really craving it, and b) I wanted to see if it affected me (because of the wheat and the MSG). I didn't notice anything major. Except today - today I've been super-cravy! And I haven't given a HOOT about avoiding gluten and dairy and all that stuff. I ate a bite of a cheeseburger at Costco. And tonight? Tonight I had such a strong craving for pizza as I was driving home from picking up a ladder from a friend that when I stopped at Sheetz for gas, I went in and bought 2 pieces. From Sheetz. I wanted it from Vito's - excellent pizza there - but bought it from Sheetz and ate it furtively because I knew I shouldn't be eating it at all. And guess what?

It wasn't even good. It wasn't good AT ALL.

Of course I finished eating it. Of course I'm wondering if I'm going to pay for it tonight with stomach issues.

But I have my answer regarding yesterday: SOMETHING triggered me. I don't know if it was the MSG and the wheat, or just the fact that I was like "What the heck" yesterday and continued that today... but it's not good! Not good!

True experimentation is coming up in a couple of months, when as a family we add eggs back in, then dairy, then eventually gluten. Of course B and E have been eating it here and there. And I manage to go about a week or a week and a half and then seem to cave and have something glutinous (last Friday it was chocolate and breadsticks). But THIS had cheese. And it wasn't good. And I feel bad. (Guilty bad, yes - but also just bad. I have a headache. I'm tired. So I'm thinking, yeah, maybe it's the wheat and dairy!)

I wish I could be a normal person with food. Even when I'm off this stuff I can find other junk. What would it be like to be normal with food? It's unlikely I'll ever know. But I guess it's still good to try to separate out what is psychological in terms of this food crap, and what is biological in terms of reactions to foods. Right?

And also - if I'm going to indulge in something, go for the good stuff. GET the Vito's pizza, not the Sheetz schlock. If I'm going to have chocolate, get a Milka bar, not a Hostess Ding Dong. Make it worth it.

Now if I could just figure out how to give up the potato chips and Hot Tamales. Geez.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Gluten for Punishment

So I did a little gluten experiment today (read: Binge City). Here's what I discovered: this morning I ate a Kit Kat and a Little Debbie ho ho thing. Neither tasted very good, although yes, I still managed to choke them down. An hour or so later I was dead tired. Now granted, I'm tired today anyway from staying up until 11:30 and not taking a nap, but this was whole body-eyes drooping tired. Related? Perhaps. This evening for some reason I wanted more - I guess the cravings set in, plus I was curious to see if something I really wanted that wasn't a sweet would taste better. So I got some Pizza Hut breadsticks with marinara sauce from Target. Normally I LOVE these - scrumptious bready perfection. Tonight? They tasted 'off'. The sauce tasted very salty and not sweet like I remembered, and the bread was just O.K. While roaming around Target after eating them, I felt slightly congested, and wondered if I felt that way before and if that were perhaps why the breadsticks didn't taste fantastic. By the time I got to Martin's 20 minutes later to pick up a few groceries, I had a sinusy headache. I figured "in for a penny, in for a pound," and decided to do some further testing by eating two of my favorite things from their bakery: a Boston creme donut and a strawberry cream cheese croissant. The croissant was the ONLY thing that tasted pretty good, but even IT had a much more artificial taste than I ever remembered before. I kind of craved more stuff, but by that point I think it was because I was so disappointed that some of these things I'd been fantasizing about didn't live up to the memory.

Now I'm home. Headache is a little better but still there. Still feel a bit sinusy. Still feel kind of tired, but not as much as this morning. But it's enough to make me think the wheat increased some of those things. Worst of all, the foods didn't taste good! Or maybe that's best of all. Maybe that will help me accept that wheat DOES seem to give me some physical symptoms, and I'll be able to stay away from it. Thinking about doing that forever makes me feel really freaky, so I won't promise that (hello, I've broken down about once every week or so since we started this back at the beginning of September anyway). Obviously I CAN eat it without dying. But if I continue, I know what will happen - I'll get right back up to the binge levels of before, I'll be a LOT more tired, and will have more frequent headaches. Just this amount showed me that.

Of course it's NOT as if I'm eating cleanly and healthfully even sans gluten and dairy and eggs. So that's the next step - if I embrace having to avoid most of those foods (and I haven't fully tested eggs or dairy, although I guess they were also in the foods I ate today), then the next goal is to expand my eating horizons and include much more healthy food than my current fairly steady diet of Hot Tamales, gummy bears, potato chips, and deli roast beef.

What can I say? I excel at finding the crappy food and at bingeing, even when on a restricted diet. But tomorrow I will stay away from gluten/dairy/eggs again. I will. Because I think even in spite of the junk I'm still eating, I feel better and have more consistent energy levels than when I'm downing the gluten like a glutton.

Yes, that was a terrible joke. I blame the donut.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Did you daydream when you were young of the children you would have when you grew up? Did you have fun imagining what they would be like and fantasize what great things they would accomplish? Maybe you hoped to raise a political activist, or the next Olympic champion, or an award-winning novelist. Maybe a lawyer or a doctor seemed like a good addition to your family.

I thought about what my kids would be like, too. Oh, not in great detail - I didn't often get much beyond the fact that I wanted two kids - a boy and a girl - and I would name them Nicholas and Felicity. Mostly I spent time imaging what they wouldn't be - fat like me. They'd be good at sports and popular and brilliant. Of course.

Those fantasies become more concrete when you actually get pregnant. Nine months you have to dream about your new little one - how perfect they will be. You're sure they'll get daddy's math ability and your gift with language. You want them to be kind and generous and happy. You want to give them everything you can. O.K., at least that's what I assume you want(ed), because it's what I want(ed).

When reality doesn't dovetail nicely with that fantasy, it can be traumatic. As we age, we learn so much more about what could go wrong. We hear about kids with cancer, we know people whose children have Down syndrome, we see children struggling with cerebral palsy or ADHD or what have you. Or do we? I am not even sure if I noticed that when I was in my 20's. I do now.

When our son was born, we were over the moon. But it quickly became a nightmare of my post-partum depression and anxiety coupled with a screaming infant who never slept, who had reflux, who was difficult to soothe, and who robbed us of the joy and peace we thought was coming. Don't get me wrong - we loved him fiercely then, we love him fiercely now, but it was a wake up call.

Yes, most new parents get that same call. This parenting stuff is SO much harder than we ever expected. Many of us gain newfound appreciation of our own parents and what they did for us. I sure did. But even from the start, it seemed as if Jeff was wired differently. Well, at the time I'm not sure we knew much better, because he was our first-born. But why did other parents seem to take to parenthood so easily? How come other babies seemed happy and content, slept in their strollers, slept through the night, and ours didn't?

In truth of course there were a lot of happy moments with Jeff as a baby. There are always lots of happy moments with him. But the hard moments came and came often. I could give more examples, but I won't.

When he was 4, the preschool noted he didn't always make good eye contact. What could that mean, Brett and I wondered - was he autistic? We had wondered that occasionally at other points based on his behavior, but were always reassured that wasn't the case.

When he was 5, he started sniffing and clearing his throat. Repeatedly. All the time. After umpteen trips to various ENTs, a chest exam, and all sorts of stuff like that, a developmental pediatrician confirmed what our own family doctor had begun to suspect: Tourette's. The same pediatrician, by the time Jeff was 7, added to that diagnosis an Asperger's diagnosis. Mild, she said. High-functioning. Whatever that meant.

I, the dutiful mom with academic training, bought a zillion books on Tourette's and Asperger syndrome. I read one or two on each topic. I carried and carry the guilt around of not having read them all, of not doing more to educate myself and know know know all there is to know, not trying more things, not doing....but after a while it's overwhelming. It's exhausting. It's terrifying and disheartening, and when your kid seems to mostly be doing O.K., it's easy to avoid it.

And he's mostly been O.K. Or at least I've been able to convince myself of that. I can give lots of examples of things he is and isn't doing. But I won't.

Because the truth is, I managed to convince myself for years of the short descriptions we've given to others and used for Jeff himself to understand what he's "got". We've said Tourette's just means his brain sends out extra signals to his body, so he has tics. And sometimes it means he's more emotional. Asperger's just means he's slightly less socially adept and maybe takes things too literally.  No big deal, right? And up until now, it hasn't been. I haven't cared that he's not the star athlete or doesn't have a kajillion friends, because he's been doing fine in school. Because he's smart.

And there falls my last fantasy, the one I've held on to more than any other. It was easy to let go of the idea of having the football captain or class heartthrob. I never was one of those things anyway. But I've always been smart. Always excelled in school. Always known, even in the midst of all my other self-doubts, that my brain is something upon which I've been able to rely. I can write fairly eloquently. I have strengths in smarts. My husband is brilliant. His memory astounds me, his vast knowledge set across a variety of topics amazes me. So wasn't it natural to assume, rather arrogantly I guess, that our kids would fare as well academically as we had? That they would excel, our little brilliant offspring?

This is not to say Jefferson isn't smart. He is. But he is struggling in school. Granted, this is the first year of middle school, and the first quarter at that. I know some things are likely to improve. But it has been so, so hard to watch him struggle and fail. He's flunked tests. He's disorganized and scatter-brained. Explaining concepts over and over again in different ways doesn't always seem to get the message through to him. We can tell him repeatedly, "Bring your homework notebook to every class. Write down right away what the homework is as the teacher is writing it. Bring the homework notebook home." But it often doesn't make it home. Sometimes he scribbles homework on a loose sheet of paper, which is better than not writing anything down at all, but what he does write often isn't complete. We discover after the fact that he had stuff due, that he had quizzes in class.

I'm doing my best to help him stay on top of it. Oh, who am I kidding? I'm doing my best to stay on top of it for him, as is my husband. We're in contact with the teachers and coming up with helps. We have our first conferences on Friday. We'll see what happens. In truth he's not doing poorly across the board, not at all - but his grades are lower than they ever have been. And in working with him, it's obvious that he's struggling with the learning. It doesn't come easily. His reading comprehension in particular is low, and to a mom who LOVES reading and books and excels in these areas, it's tough on me.

And here's the thing. I've picked up my books again. I promised the teachers I would read my book on academic success for kids with AS, and on teaching kids with TS. I'm not even done with the first one, and I'm catatonic. O.K., yes, maybe that's a little strong. But all I want to do is sleep. And eat. And deny.

Because the book is painting a broader picture of how much his AS wiring really affects him across the board. Of just how many things are affected by his different wiring, and how difficult school and learning may be because of it. I know the TS book will say the same. And so I can't nonchalantly shrug it off anymore, even as we try to get family and peers to do the same.

Lots of times you hear reference to Aspies as "little professors." As brilliant. Gifted. And I'm not even saying Jeff is or isn't, but it's been easy for my smarts-loving brain to latch on to that - to hold onto it as other fantasies about what he may or may not be have crumbled. I've had to watch my athletic, sports-loving husband accept that his boy is not the same way, but through that all I guess I was telling myself "At least he's smart. He'll excel academically. His parents both did."

And again, I feel compelled out of guilt to say he IS smart. Because he IS. But it's not translating into school success this year, and I find myself freaking out that it never will. If it's this bad in 6th grade, what can high school possibly be like? College? How can he do well in college if he is constantly losing stuff and can't stay organized without his mommy's help?

Yes, this is only 6th grade. He's only 11. I know logically, through maturing and yes, through lots of help from us, he will get better. But I don't know anymore whether or not he will be great academically. And I have to let go of that fantasy that he will, because it's not fair to him to put that pressure on him. I know that intellectually. I know even if he gets Cs instead of As he's still a great kid and it doesn't mean he can't be successful in life, blah blah blah.

But oh my heart aches for him. At how hard all of this is. His tics have been terrible - partly, I believe, because of the anxiety this school year has brought. And his other struggles are becoming more apparent.

I have 1/3 of the AS book to go and all of the TS one. And I know now why I've been avoiding them for so long, even as a responsible mother I know I owe it to him to read as much as I can.

Because they fill me with grief. They fill me with grief. I am grieving again over the loss of the son I thought I would have, and grieving for the pain and struggles and suffering he still faces from these two brain wiring issues.

Why him? Life is hard enough as it is. Why does HE have to face this? God, give ME the tics. Give ME the faulty wiring. Because it's hard enough to grow up as a relatively neurotypical person; he doesn't need extra crap thrown his way. But he's got it. He's got it.

Yes. I'm grateful he doesn't have cancer. I'm grateful he doesn't have something far more debilitating. I'm grateful he's alive and with us and the delightful kid he is (most of the time :)).

But this week? I am grieving. I feel so heavy. My heart aches. I've cried on several different mornings, once for about an hour. I don't want to go out. I want to eat crappy food. I want to sleep and sleep more.

Because it's a deep grief.

I need to get over it. I need to snap out of it. I need to focus on all the positives (and there are many). But this week it just feels too hard. Watching him slap himself in the head and take successive tries to get a sentence out, watching him not "get it" after multiple explanations and examples of a scientific principle, I just want to weep for him.

He is my beloved, he is my son.

And it's a deep grief.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Oh Work Ethic, Where Art Thou?

I lay awake for a while last night listening to my characters talk to me, posing different scenarios, different bits of conversation, new ideas and directions in which to take their stories. I jotted some down just now, but don't feel like writing more. 

This is my challenge - to write even when I don't want to. And I really don't want to today. 

Which got me to thinking about work ethic. See, one of the things that bothers me about many kids today is they don't seem to have much of a work ethic. It's like they expect to have the good life handed to them on a silver platter. Working hard seems unfair. They have a Sense of Entitlement. And I hate it. Now of course I know I'm generalizing here - many, many people a) still have a terrific work ethic and b) work hard for what they have. So I guess I'm talking about the people who appear at least on the surface to believe they don't have to work hard - the high schooler with the new car, the college kid with the latest smart phone living in an apartment paid for by parents, the people on "reality" TV. My own kids. 

And me. Me? Could it be that I've fallen into this, too? I don't want to admit it, if it's true. I've always prided myself on being a hard worker. And for much of my life, I have been. I worked my tail off at Golden Corral as their salad bar girl when I was 16 - so much so that I later discovered on the nights when I wasn't working, they had TWO people to do my job. When I was on duty, they just used me. I worked hard at Target, even developing a new way to organize the back stock room, which earned me "Employee of the Month" one month, and led the Target people to ask me fairly often didn't I want to try to move up the store ladder? Which I didn't, because I knew I was going to college, where I worked consistently and diligently to graduate with a 3.92 GPA - summa cum laude. My goal since freshman year had been to graduate summa cum laude. And I did it. 

I worked hard in grad school, always feeling as if I wasn't doing enough, but trying to keep up with the reading and research. Even on my own obsessions, I've been known to slave away, spending countless hours developing my once-world-known late 1990's website, "Elvis Lives In Evil Levis," - all while writing my master's thesis and doing course work. I received praise from my professors, and my advisor assured me that even though *I* didn't believe it, he thought I could be an excellent medievalist. Apparently the DAAD grant people did, too, because I even won a grant to study and do dissertation research for a year in Germany. (Which I only finished 3 months of, I admit, because as a newly wed, I simply missed my husband too much and needed to come home. Plus I knew I was losing interest in finishing that doctorate, anyway, having my eyes on a family.) 

Even once I quit my doctoral program, I took on a job as a technical writer at Ohio University, something I did without any official training, but in which apparently I performed well enough that I took on responsibilities like redesigning the departmental website to be more in league with the official University design, using web skills and Photoshop skills I'd mostly taught myself. When I left to have my son, the professor that most people found incredibly difficult to work with told me he had been planning to give me a big raise because he liked my work so much. 

I actually don't write all of this to brag. I write it to remind myself that once upon a time, I accomplished something. 

Fast forward to today. I'm a stay-at-home mom living a very comfortable life. Both of my kids are in school full-time now, which gives me more free time to myself than I've had in 10 years. And I'm left wondering what to do with it. I'm left not feeling driven to do much. I'm left spending untold hours on Facebook, playing online games, occasionally cleaning my house, sometimes napping, running errands, getting groceries, and all that stuff. 

But I feel guilty. I feel like it isn't enough. I assume everyone is working harder than I am. And maybe they are. After all, I have a lot of choices now I never HAD as a kid or young adult. I have a lot of options that weren't available to me then. I have a husband willing to let me still stay home even with the kids in school. I don't HAVE to work. I KNOW what a luxury that is. But am I appreciative enough of that? Or have I started to feel entitled? Because it's all too easy to put off whatever I don't feel like doing, and too often I am. 

On the other hand, I still do a lot. Don't I? Maybe it's just less easy to see the value and contribution in it, because my time and efforts are scattered across so many things. I'm not producing one thing - I'm not focused on solely keeping the lettuce stocked, or writing that one paper, or running a web site. But I'm still doing all the mom duties: trying to raise my kids right, talking about values and issues with them, teaching them right from wrong, getting them off to school in the morning, packing lunches, supervising piano and homework time, cleaning the kitchen, the dining room, the living room, the bathrooms, etc., ad nauseum (albeit I freely admit, not often enough), running all the errands, getting everyone to medical appointments, running carpool, getting the kids to and from their various activities, picking up the groceries, cooking the suppers, doing the dishes. 

I also am fairly active with my kids' school, drafting the school newsletter every two weeks, running various incentive and fundraising programs such as Labels for Education and selling Attractions books, supervising the stocking of the Teacher's Lounge, and updating their Facebook page regularly. 

So it's not as if I'm sitting on my duff every day, watching Oprah reruns and eating bon bons. But yet I feel I should be doing more. Because is it really fair for me to take half an hour to play SongPop in the middle of the day while my husband is at work? And he works hard for us - full-time as a professor, but also a part-time consultant to Carnegie Mellon, and he runs a Computer Science club at his university, coaches Ellie's soccer team on Saturdays, and frankly spends a lot more time actively playing with the kids and helping Jeff with his homework than I do.

How much free time is it O.K. to have (and/or expect)? It would be easier to measure my productivity, I guess, if I worked outside the home. Right? Because then I would have parameters, and I would have someone else's expectations which I would have to meet. At home now, I'm my own boss. When my kids were little, they were definitely The Boss, determining our schedules in so many ways, and I feel as if I gave a lot to them in terms of taking them to activities, playing with them, reading with them, doing all the things a mom does. But as they've gotten older, I've backed off some on that. Partly because I firmly believe my job is NOT to entertain them. But also partly because, frankly, I can. Now that they're 11 and 6, if I want to play CastleVille on FB for half an hour, usually I can get away with it. They can do a lot of stuff for themselves. I still do a lot for them, probably more than I should sometimes, but not nearly as much as I used to. 

And I feel guilty. I feel guilty that I'm sitting here right now, writing a blog post because I want to, not because I have to. I feel guilty because I assume everyone else is working harder than I am and that I should do more. And I certainly have more to do. I have an eBay business that's rather defunct at the moment, but not for lack of inventory. I have a book I'm writing that I should be writing on far more often than I do. I have other book ideas and a whole lot of research to get done for those. I have a son whose wiring is different and whose conditions I feel like I should be reading so much more about and doing so much more about than I do. So I have a lot to do. But often, like today, I just feel rebellious. I just don't want to have to work every minute of the day. Is that so wrong? 

Of course the reality is I'm NOT working every minute. This is clear. If I were, the house would be cleaner, our meals more fantastic, the yard would be well-maintained, the book would be written, eBay sales would be through the roof. Or at least that's the fantasy. Maybe my expectations are unrealistic. I don't know. I just know that I often feel so overwhelmed with everything I feel I should be doing that I just don't do any of it. Or at least very little of it. And it is easy to do that, to drop it all, when I'm not reporting to a boss. 

So is this a loss of work ethic? Am I just lazy now? 

I hate to think so. But maybe it's true. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Rebel With All the Guilt

Do you ever have days where you just don't feel like doing what you know you ought to do? Days where you feel rebellious for no reason at all?

I do. Today is one of them. I woke up feeling rebellious. I was "supposed" to go to the gym for water aerobics. I didn't feel like it. So I didn't. I was "supposed" to change out of my pajamas before the kids were picked up by school carpool. I didn't. I stayed in them until 11:00 a.m. I feel like I'm "supposed" to write on my book today, clean Ellie's room today, empty the dryer, do the dishes, run errands. And all I feel like doing is rebelling.

Now this isn't a full-flung rebellion, not like the few days last spring when I ignored everything and spent two days watching "Bones" on Netflix (shh, don't tell). We're talking like 5-6-7 episodes in one day. No, today I have done the newsletter for my kids' school, I've done some legitimate work for the school in other ways, I've listed a couple things on eBay, and I've put the laundry away. But I can just feel it in my bones, this antsy, defiant, disobedient spirit that raises its head all too often.

What is this? Do other people feel this way? Do they give in to it? I go along for periods of time, angsting and worrying about all I need to do, beating myself up when I don't do it, trying to please the people around me and do what I'm supposed to do, and then there comes a day when I Really. Don't. Care.

I skipped the gym. I haven't showered. I ate potato chips for breakfast (at 11:00 - so I guess for lunch, too). I'm looking around seeing all the housework and saying "Who cares?" I'm thinking I should write on my book, and I'm like, "Whatever! Like you're ever going to be able to publish it anyway!"

It's kind of fun sometimes, this free rebellious spirit. I revel in it. For a few hours.

Later the guilt will come. And that's the sucky part. If I'm gonna go AWOL on myself, can I do it without later beating myself up about it? And if I'm going to beat myself up about it, can I not do it in the first place?

It's such a strange thing, this brain of mine, these weird mood shifts of mine. Perhaps some of it is related to fatigue - I'm overtired today, and that definitely is a trigger for the F*ck Its.

I'm just wondering if I'm alone in this, these moods of defiance and disobedience - even if it's just defying my own inner To-Do list?

P.S. I wrote this blog post because I'm "supposed" to write every day. Ha ha, apparently in some ways I even rebel at rebelling!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Procrastinating Perfectionism

If there were a Procrastinators Anonymous, I would so join. Tomorrow. Or maybe the next day.

I am especially guilty of procrastinating not only unpleasant tasks, but also tasks which could be highly rewarding but which carry with them the possibility of failure (or success), and so it's easier to put them off than to deal with that.

Like writing. Writing is a luxury. It really is. Instead of having to work at a fast food restaurant to make money to pay rent, or even at a higher level position in which I could gain acclaim and make a decent living, I get to write. It's a total luxury. Sometimes that makes me feel guilty. Heck, OFTEN that makes me feel guilty. I'm not even a published writer and don't have deadlines to which I have to work, so I feel even MORE guilty that, for right now at least, this is a fun hobby. My husband is at work right now, probably doing stuff he doesn't necessarily enjoy so that he can support us, and I'm home taking care of a million things, but not making us any money.

Therefore I often feel as if the things that contribute most to the household, or the kids, or my kids' school, ought to come first. It's hard to put myself first. Last year I failed miserably in keeping up with working out, partly because it was always easy to cut that out, figuring other things were more important (and frankly, I don't enjoy sweating. Honest enough for you?). I also failed at writing, managing to find many other things to fill up my days than work on the novel I've started.

Even saying I've started a novel feels so pretentious!

But I have. I have started a book. And even if no one else likes it - heck, even if no one else ever READS it - I want to finish it. To prove I can. To challenge that rather loud voice in my head that keeps screaming, "YOU can't be an AUTHOR! You've never even taken writing classes! You weren't an English major! You don't work as a freelancer or anything! Who are YOU to think you could succeed in that? Only real GROWN-UPs higher/better than YOU do that!"

What can I say? It's a nasty voice.

This fall I promised myself I would put myself first in terms of a) working out, and b) writing. The former is going fairly well - missed two days last week, but have gone more days than not, so that's definitely progress. The writing? I keep SAYING I'm going to do it, and then... I don't. I even told myself at the beginning of the year even if it's "only a blog post" I was going to write. And yet have daily missives from me arrived here? Am I that much farther in my book? No.

What gives, Anne?

In all honesty, I DO have a lot of other things to do and responsibilities to take care of. There have been medical appointments and vet visits and grocery shopping for this new wheat-free/casein-free/egg-free diet we've suddenly adopted. There have been errands to run, dishes to do, school needs to fill. That's all true. I have a lot to do and may have even bitten off more than I can chew with some of the things I've taken on.

Still, no excuses. It is SO HARD for me to not feel like a failure if I "mess up" on whatever I've planned for myself. So even though I made an "easier" schedule for myself this fall, the fact that I didn't work out two days last week and haven't written a thing beyond slightly amusing Facebook status updates has me kicking myself and letting that nasty voice above run on repeat.

But guess what, Stinky Voice Monster? I just wrote a blog post. Sure, it's completely been stream-of-conscious spewing with little organization or editing, but I wrote it. So there.

Progress, not perfection. Progress, NOT procrastination. Procrastination is just perfectionism in sheep's clothing.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Mores of Hair

I've been thinking about the mores of hair for a few weeks. So much so that I decided maybe I'd just blog about it, to get those thoughts out of my head so I can go back to thinking of more important things, such as what's next for Walter White in "Breaking Bad." Although I could write a lot about the use of his hair or lack of it to convey character development, as well. But I won't.

See, I guess I've been thinking about hair because I'm aging. My once gloriously thick hair is thinning. I discover loose strands on my person all the time. And I find myself thinking more and more I should just cut it short. "Older women seem to always go for the short cut," I've been telling myself, "so maybe it's time to bite the bullet." Only I'm not ready to cut it that short again, even though I had the trendy short hair of the late 80's and 90's, because now in 2012, my face is much fatter and I hold on to the belief that my shoulder-length hair somehow helps detract from my double chin. (C'mon, people, let me keep believing that, will you?)

I've kept my hair this length for a few years now. I've been inching it up a little bit closer to chin level in the past few months to try to keep it short enough that I can't pull it back into a ponytail (because not only is that not the least bit flattering to my big face, but also I noticed that it was contributing to the hair loss, based on the huge number of hairs I would pull out daily after removing the pony tail holder), but long enough to still ameliorate said chin.

Some time ago, while looking through old Facebook photos, I found a snapshot of me when I had longer hair (yes, it's up there on the right). Granted, it's never been truly long - no Crystal Gayle floor-length locks, or even mid-back tresses for me. But in my early thirties I had let it grow down a few inches beyond the shoulders - mostly because I was so busy and exhausted by my challenging first-born that I had neither the time nor the energy to go a salon, so I just let it grow, let it grow, let it grow. And in the snapshot, I looked gorgeous. I tried to convince myself it was the hair. If I just let my hair grow longer like that, I would look like that again, right? Never mind that the photo was 7 years and 30 pounds ago. It's all about the hair.

So I mentioned this pic to my mom and said, "Maybe I'll grow my hair longer again." Her response was a quick and vehement "No!" She continued in a somewhat disgusted tone, "Long hair doesn't look good on women of a certain age!" It was a visceral reaction on her part, and it cracked me up, in part because I've always had that same belief and in part because when did I become a woman of a certain age?

But still, where did this belief come from? Apparently for me it came from my mom. My step dad was quick to say I should wear my hair however I want to and what other people think be damned (his common response to most questions or debates on social standards)! One other person to whom I mentioned this gut feeling that older women ought to have shorter hair quirked her eyebrow at me quizzically and said, "Really?" Clearly not everyone agrees with mom and me.

I'm sure there are academic treatises written on the mores of hair. Well, maybe - when I googled it, surprisingly I came up with no strong hits (beyond one blog in which a woman was speculating on how the length of a woman's hair often is seen as determining sexiness, which does actually kind of go to my point). Were I working here with my scholarly cap on, maybe I'd spend more time researching this question about "hair rules for women" in different societies throughout different historical periods. I actually like the idea of doing that, but I'm blogging, not professorializing - which is basically my excuse for being lazy and not investigating this beyond my own thoughts and experiences today. Sue me.

But it does seem the case, loosely said, that for much of western history, longer hair on women has been associated with youth, with vitality, with sexuality. As women age, we seem to be expected to put our hair up, as they did in the "olden days" in buns or braids around the head, what have you, or, in more modern times, to cut it off. To wear it more closely cropped to the head. Of course there are exceptions - I think immediately of flapper hairstyles of the 1920's and the short perms of the 1980's that many young women wore, but those seem to also be a statement, a representation of rebellion against social norms, and of times when women, in striving for more rights, often resorted to fashion which made them appear more masculine (straight-lined flapper dresses, the 80's pin-striped suits).

Longer hair on older woman is often perceived as not as attractive. I've heard some women say long hair on older females makes them look even older, not younger, because our faces have started to sag and the hair just emphasizes that. Maybe. Maybe older women are tired of dealing with longer hair and keeping it short is just easier, regardless of what pop culture may say? As we lose our high estrogen levels going through perimenopause and menopause itself, I know brain research has shown we tend, as women, to become a lot less concerned at a biochemical level (read The Female Brain, by Louann Brizendine) about what people think about us. Which I guess means we probably become less concerned about social expectations in general, although we still seem to follow the hair one. But is that because it's an expected custom for us to cut our hair off, or has it become one because we decided it was just easier to have it short?

I don't know. It seems a rite of passage, this permanent cutting off of the hair. Like admitting, I'm really older now. I'm done trying to be a sexy young thing. I'm past child-bearing age and don't need to project my sexuality in that way anymore. Is that true? Or is that just one more example of my warped thinking? You do still see some older Hollywood actresses holding on to their long manes, but then again, they're also trying to hold on to their youth because being an older woman apparently is the kiss of death in terms of desirability in Hollywood (yes, in both sexual and professional terms). To most of them I just want to say, "You're not fooling anyone! Madonna, we all KNOW you're in your 50's - stop trying to convince us you're not by dressing like a 20 year old and wearing gloves to cover up the old lady veins you now sport." (Um, no, I'm not always kind in my thoughts toward others. Something else to work on, I guess.)

I'm not ready to do it yet. I'm not ready to cut it off and step over into that post-estrogen phase. And that's O.K. I'm 40. Not 80. Many, many 40+ women look gorgeous with medium to long hair. They really do. They look younger than women of the same age from generations past - in part because life is generally physically easier, probably, but we're also armed with more knowledge on better nutrition, the importance of exercising, and a vast arsenal of chemicals we slather on our faces in hopes that they will minimize wrinkles and mitigate the reality that we are no longer the 20-somethings we still feel like on the inside. Women also wait longer to go grey now, meaning of course that they color their hair, and this seems socially acceptable right up through senior citizenship.

So I guess since I'm still standing on the threshhold of this new post-fertility stage of life, I can keep mine at shoulder length for a while longer yet. I just don't dare grow it longer, or mom will be after me with scissors.

Whew. Now I can move on to more important things. Like playing CastleVille.

(And as a last side note, when I was musing about this out loud to my husband, I asked him whether 'mores' was always plural, or if one could have a singular 'more'? I went on to say I thought hair length on women was an example of a social 'more', to which he replied, "No. When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, THAT's amore...")

Monday, August 27, 2012

Balancing Act

Do you ever have that feeling - even in the midst of being productive - that you should be doing something else? I do. All the time. It's multi-tasking in overdrive, a monster perhaps created from our current culture, in which doing one thing at a time no longer seems to be valued. Or perhaps it's a symptom of anxiety. It's definitely a fixture of my over-active, worrying brain. I never feel as if I'm doing enough. And it drives me nuts.

I can be standing in the kitchen loading the dryer, and be thinking I should be putting the dishes away, or answering that e-mail, or writing on my book, or running those errands. I can be sitting at the computer working on legitimate stuff (if blogging can be called legitimate?), feeling as if I should be cleaning out the basement or finally filling out Ellie's baby book, or any other number of things. 

Why is it so hard for me to focus on and be happy with the moment? To do one thing at a time? To be satisfied with doing one thing at a time, instead of constantly berating myself for what I'm NOT getting done? The stress I create for myself with this hand-wringing "You've got so much to do and you need to be doing it all RIGHT NOW" belief often leads me to just...check out. I paralyze myself with everything I feel I should be doing, and so I don't do any of it. Or at least not very much of it. I figure I'll just check Facebook, or eat some chocolate, or play CastleVille, and suddenly, whoosh, there's no time left. Not exactly helping the "You've got too much to do!" feelings.

I'm happier checking out. Maybe that's a clue to the problem. If I focus on one thing at a time, will I *gasp* actually have to do it? If I say I'm going to set aside one hour every day to work on my novel and not do anything else at that time, will I actually get something done? Horrors!

I do think partly that I, like most Americans, have too much to do, or at least too much I expect myself to do. I don't know what is realistic in terms of what most people can accomplish in a day. Not only do I have a lot of things I'm expected to do, I have a lot of things I WANT to do, and I can't seem to fit them in. Well, at least not when I'm frittering time on dumb things while freaking out over the bigger things. Duh, Anne.

The kids have gone back to school. My husband starts teaching today. And it's up to me to figure out how to spend this year learning how to FOCUS. One thing at a time. And not just time-wasting, mind-numbing things like Facebook or games.

I say all the time that I'm very task-oriented, and I am. So much so that I don't like to START a task that I can't FINISH at that time (or at least make reasonable progress on). Kids have inhibited that - I just have a hard time thinking I can start / get involved with some intense project, such as painting a room or writing or working on a photo album, etc, because I know I'll get interrupted and/or have to stop before I'm ready to in order to help the kids with something. That drives me nuts.

But in all honesty, I can't seem to focus on any task for more than 5 minutes. Is it my brain, so cluttered down with to-do's? Or is it my brain on modern technology, feeling as if I should check email or my phone or Facebook every 2 minutes? I certainly think that's part of it. Is it easier to get distracted now with all these electronic gadgets and the internet around? It is for me. Can one develop adult-onset ADD?

I'd like to stop beating myself up over all of this stuff, would like to unparalyze myself from inaction, and start DOING. In small steps. Baby steps. A little at a time. 15 minutes at a time. Whatever it takes. I've crafted a loose schedule for myself this fall, and I want to follow it: work out every week day (another area in which I feel like a complete failure, but that's another day's blog post), write, read/research. That's it.

I've been working on stuff for my kids' school this afternoon. I've been fairly productive, I think. But I've been telling myself the whole time, "You should be writing. You should be editing your book." Blah, blah blah.

So I took a few minutes and drafted this impulsive, not-so-well-written, stream-of-consciousness blog post.

And now I can cross writing off the list for today. I told myself I'd write something every day, even if "just a blog post." And I did. Take that, overactive anxiety-ridden, ueber-multi-tasking brain!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Rest Is Yet Unwritten...

Wow, I suck at keeping a blog! Maybe it's because I've chosen no overall focus - unlike other bloggers, who focus on organizing or dieting or product reviews or the like, I've kept this one kind of, well, random.

Hopefully this fall that will change. Not because you all are dying to read everything I write, and not because I'm suddenly clear on what I want to do here. But because come this fall, I am going to dedicate at least 1.5 hours a day to writing. It can be on my books - the one I've already started, or other ideas in my head -, it can be on a non-fiction topic, it can be a blog post (or several). But it's going to happen. I'm excited! I'm nervous! I'm still lacking in focus here!

So perhaps we will see this blog evolve into a chronicling of my attempts to write a "real" book. Perhaps it will be musings on my children, or ramblings from my head on various topics (deep and incredibly shallow) that interest me. But it's gonna happen. You've been warned. Hee hee hee.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Rejecting Rejection.

"So what did you do at the party, Ellie?"
"We played wif da parachute, and climbed on da rock wall."
"Oh, was that fun? Were you good at the rock wall?"
"Yeah," she said, and then paused. "But all the kids said I was too heavy," she added.
My heart broke. Again.
But then she went on..."But I didn't cry or whine or do anything, I just did it anyway. I thought about turning around and saying 'Don't say that!', but I just ignored it and did it anyway."

YES! YES, my beautiful Ellie girl. Don't let them defeat you before you even begin. Don't let them tell you you can't do something just because of your size - whatever that size is. Try it anyway. And most of all, don't let their negative comments influence your own feelings about yourself. Way to go!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

R-E-A-L-I-T-Y...Find Out What It Means to Me!

(This blog post is actually an e-mail response to a friend who had blogged about "consciousness" and wanted my response. Her original post is here.)

Thinking about "consciousness" is something I do often. Or sort of, in that what I often find myself ruminating on is what "reality" must feel like to other people. I mean, my husband is probably closer to me than any other person, and yet his life is so different from mine. He is so different from me. He has different thoughts, different expectations, different experiences, and yet we share more of our lives than I do with anyone else. It fascinates me to wonder what life feels like to my fundamentalist next-door neighbor. To the Islamic family across the street. To the elderly couple next door. To the alcoholic woman living nearby, struggling with her kids. These are all people right in my vicinity, but whose lives are vastly different from mine. 

Expand that. What's it like to be living right now in south central LA? In London, England? In China? In Africa? We're all living at the same time, in the same world, and yet our experiences of that world are so different at any given moment that it sometimes amazes me we have anything in common at all. And yet we do. When I read Facebook posts, I can relate to so much of what others say. Reading books, watching videos, experiencing all those forms of communication makes me realize we are so very different and yet not so different in terms of basic wants and needs, for the most part. I may be a flaming liberal and you (the general you) may be a conservative Republican, but I bet both of us want to be loved and cared about, etc. 

This is something that fascinates me. I'm not into philosophy. It feels beyond my reach. But I love to analyze in a pop psychology way. I may get my philosophers wrong from Western Civ recollections, but I believe it was Plato who postulated there were "ideals" beyond what we see - we see a million variety of cats, but there exists somewhere an "ideal" cat. I don't know if that's true, but what fascinates me is that for most of us, that "ideal" would be different, but yet would still kind of be the same. You may picture a certain kind of chair when you think of chair, I may think of another, but yet they are both chairs. Am I right and you wrong? 

So I often wonder if there is such a generic, general thing as reality, when reality is based so much in self. Our understanding of the world is colored, of course, by who we are. By the biochemical wiring of our brains, by our life experiences, by our values (learned or "innate"), by our expectations. I don't dabble in politics much, I don't care for the stress and anxiety it creates in that I don't think I'm going to change your mind, you're not going to change mine, so why argue? But thinking about how we all have our realities that necessarily conform to what we believe and feel to be true about the world helps me understand, somewhat, people who can be political or religious extremists. For them that IS what the world is. Extending that, however, to claim that EVERYONE must feel/experience the world in that way makes no sense to me. 

This is one of MY struggles with religion and politics. Just because *I* believe something to be true and valuable, does that mean I have the right to think YOU should believe it, too? Is it even realistic? I mean, I believe strongly in equal marriage rights whether one is gay or straight, but is it fair for me to demand everyone else believe that, too?

I know so much of my own religious and political views are influenced by my personality and how I relate to the world. I am an anxious person. I seem to have anxiety wired into my brain. Therefore I seek out things that make me feel safe. Is this "ideal"? Probably not. But it's what I do - and I think it explains, partly, why the idea of a protective government that provides social services and aims to care for the disenfranchised, the poor, the struggling, appeals so much to me. Because if I were in that situation I want to believe someone would help me, and not that I would be left to pull myself up by my bootstraps, so to speak. Perhaps if I were wired toward independence and self-reliance I would understand Republicans more. (Probably not. ;))

The same goes for religion. I was not raised in a religious household, my mom having decided for herself Christianity did not ring true. As a teenager, we started attending the Unitarian Universalist fellowship, in part because my mom felt she needed to provide some sort of spiritual education/outlet for her children, and partly because I think she needed one herself. I loved it and still do - but I became a Christian in 2004. I have dabbled in and danced with Christianity my whole life - WANTING to believe but knowing I couldn't just "say" I believed to "conform", I had to really believe, because doing otherwise would be a lie and disrespectful to practicing Christians. Do I know WHY I wanted to believe? I'm sure to a small degree to fit in better, but more than that, I craved the "safety", the feeling of being loved no matter what, the feeling that there was something else. Is this rational? No, probably not, in the strict sense of the world. But it fits with my anxious world view. Still, 
anxiety is not the only reason I sought something else out. It's looking for answers, it's wondering, it's reflecting on a tradition 2000 years old. But it was some personal experiences that cemented it for me, and those are in no way based in science or even logic. I'm O.K. with that. 

I'm smart enough to know if I'd been raised in an Islamic area I'd most likely be Islamic. Or Hindi. Or Jewish. So even though I call myself a Christian now, I agree that there's so much I don't know, and so much I feel none of us can know, that I don't make any claims that I'm right and anyone else is wrong. I'm living this life for ME, not for you. I'm open to all traditions and all faiths, and open to the idea that they could all be wrong. They could all be right. I don't know. But for my day-to-day sanity I find it more comforting to believe there is something out there. And I'm O.K. with that. 

Anyway, I do ruminate a lot on the idea of consciousness in terms of realizing that I will never truly know what life is like for anyone outside of myself, no matter how close or how removed from them I am. This fascinates me and freaks me out. I watch people turning the corner in cars when I sit at a stoplight and wonder where they're going, what they're thinking, what life is like for them, and these are just people in this town. I realize I will never really know what it's like to live as a black man, as a Latina woman, as part of the 1%, as a Jewish person. I will never know what it's like to be Chinese, to hail from Argentina, to be Russian. I will never know what it was like to live in the 1950's, the 1850's, the 1450's, the Roman Empire. This is partly why history fascinates me - and why I struggled with academe. Because as a historian, I was expected to speak authoritatively on what life in the past was like. But as we all know, history is written by the victors, or at least those with access to power to record, and not only that, but history is EDITED, as well. We can't possibly relate all the details about a time period even if we had them, because then we'd basically have to live the time period again. We necessarily edit history all the time. We write it, color it, interpret it, explain it, from our own perspectives. We CAN'T ever divorce ourselves from our own biases. This is what I struggled with in school, with my gender studies slant - what does that REALLY reveal about medieval history, beyond that that's what interests scholars RIGHT NOW in 21st century America?

Things can constantly be reinterpreted, changed, manipulated, edited, omitted. What does that mean for "reality"? I love historical information - but do I have to constantly worry about what is true? How do we really KNOW Charlemagne existed? Plato? Harriet Tubman? Are those people and their historical acts any more or less true than religious figures and experiences mentioned in religious texts?

We write about medieval history as if we really knew how they lived (I mention this period because it was my era of study), but we work from so few sources it's almost laughable. I'm amazed by how much we can know, sure, but also never forget how much we'll never know. It's like a never-ending jigsaw for which we have only a few pieces.

We read modern newspapers, magazine, even blog posts, and assume they tell us about our world, but I feel more and more the only world we ever really know is our own, the one we can immediately experience. You'd think that would make me better at living in the present, rather than worrying about the future or lamenting the past. It doesn't.

I kind of experience other people's realities through discussions 
with them, through day-to-day interactions, through reading, through Facebook posts. But I don't really know them and they don't really know me. By knowing I mean I don't really experience life as they do, and vice versa. I often look at Brett and wonder what it would be like to go through life with self-confidence, and having very little interest in other people. What would it be like to be male? What would it be like NOT to be anxious? And then I extend that to "What would it be like to be an extremist? Of a different race? Growing up under a different political system? In a different time period?" I love this question. Most people think I'm nuts, I think, when I talk about it.

The older I get, the more insular I get. I'm not sure this is good. But if the only reality I really have is mine, why not focus on it? If I can't escape the "I", I might as well embrace it.

But I still love the reminders that, even as I get caught up in ruminating on differences, amazingly there are many, many experiences that link we humans (and even animals) together.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Distracted. I feel so distracted lately. I haven't even blogged in nearly 6 months.

Lost. I feel lost lately. Not really sure where my life is going. Not really sure of my position in the world.

I'm certain part of this is because of the Big Change this year. No, not menopause. I'm not quite there yet. But my kids both are in school full-time this year. I'm still at home. I want to be at home. We really need me at home, with the carpooling and vacation days and errands to run and sick children to care for and laundry to do, etc. But it means I'm at a bit of a loss. What is my value when I'm not with kids? Do I really have to spend all my time cleaning and keeping house? How much free time is it O.K. for me to have?

I settled part of that, the desire to make us a little (and I mean little) money and feel as if I'm contributing, by relaunching my eBay business, only this time I'm also selling for other people. And I have plenty to do. Enough to work at it full-time, at least right now since 5-6 people have given me lots to sell. Only I'm NOT getting to it full-time. I'm not even getting to it half-time. So now I have a second area of guilt: not only is the house not clean (because really, it's just not something I enjoy doing so I don't prioritize it), but I'm not getting my job done, either. I'm getting maybe 8 hours in a week most weeks, I'm guessing.

Where does the rest of the time go? I do still waste too much time on Facebook. I've discovered Pinterest. I'm still trying to make it to the gym (oh yeah: third point of guilt is my falling off the fitness wagon and being too lazy and unfit to jump back on). I do laundry. I run errands. I play too much Words With Friends. I hang with my husband. I putter and clean and bake. I do the newsletter and other small fundraising things for my kids' school.

I haven't gone out of town on fun day trips like I thought I would. I only occasionally go out to lunch with friends. I'm not lying around watching Oprah and eating bon bons. And yet I feel so behind in every way.

Is it just a case of poor time management? Maybe. Lack of focus? Probably. The struggle between doing what I WANT to do and doing what I NEED to do? Certainly.

How do other women do it?