Yesterday was…not optimal. One furious vexation followed another, and by the end of the day I was just about ready to scream. To add to it, my fingers were stuttering all day, which made for two intensely frustrating piano sessions. The transcription was full of random noise–recording in a pub is NOT optimal, for God’s sake–and the dogs were both acting up because of the Change and New People and OMG THINGS CHANGED over the weekend. (Odd Trundles is still barking at random balloons and searching for bits of dropped party food.) Miss B’s bad behavior was fairly mild, but Odd was in fine form, between not wanting breakfast and the consequent risk of vomiting seizures (yes, this is a thing for him) and constant startles all. damn. day.
“Don’t worry, Mum,” both kids said at bedtime. “Tomorrow will be better.” Which is exactly what I used to say to them, when they had Terrible Horrible No-Good Very-Bad days. Already, I suppose today is looking up, because I haven’t hit my head on anything and I’m not planning on doing any transcription. Don’t get me wrong, I like transcription work, but yesterday’s piece was intensely aggravating.
Recovery from the Weekend of March Birthdays Party proceeds apace. We might even get some of the decorations down today. (Aim high, Lili. Aim high.) I suppose I can’t call the Princess and the Little Prince “children” anymore, and the Little Prince is not so little. The river just keeps going. (Thanks, Heraclitus.)
…yeah, I don’t think I’m quite recovered. A fairly intense run is in order to sweat out all the stress chemicals, then there’s wordcount to be achieved. Odd has eaten his breakfast and retired to my bed, where he will sleep off all the NEWFRIENDS NEWTHINGS BARK *snortwhistle*. (Hopefully.) And maybe Bandit (the cavy, for those of you just joining us) will stop bitching at me about how he was lonely when I wasn’t in the office all weekend.
Of course, I have a backlog of email, I don’t think I’m going to get the CEs in on time, and a couple electronic devices are still randomly fuzzing out. That las is how I can tell I’m still on the whipsaw-edge of irritated, frustrated exhaustion.
We had OMG a houseful this weekend. Five teenagers (including mine) on Saturday night, and that was just for starters. As a result, I’m wandering around like a ragged survivor, surveying the decorations that survived and mumbling things like got to get the dishwasher going, so many plates…wash the sheets, wash the sheeeeeeets… It was fun, and Those What Have March Birthdays Chez Nous were petted, filled with cake, and made much of.
Everything went well, for which I credit my sisters, who worked overtime with party prep and cleanup. Things get so much easier when everyone has worked together for years, and is capable of seeing something that needs to be done and just doing it without fuss. I’m going to have to find a couple of thank-you gifts. How exactly does one say “DEAR GOD YOU SAVED ME FROM HAIR LOSS AND SCREAMING” with a present?
Now, of course, the kids are off to school and the house is throbbing-empty. I keep going from room to room, wondering why it’s so quiet and realizing, oh yeah, it’s Monday, everyone went home. Time to catch up with both writing projects, see if I can get the copyedits turned around in the time required or if I need an extension, transcription work, and…
Christ. As usual, I need a couple days to recover from the weekend. I’d weep and gnash my teeth, but I don’t have time. First order of business is to get out the door for a run, and the second is figuring out how the smartmouth genie and his unwitting sidekick get out of the current imbroglio. Then I get to kill a few characters in the other book.
Spring has come early, indeed. They hyacinths are blooming, the crocuses have already sprung forth and begun to fade, daffodils are everywhere, and the few cherry trees that are usually the first of their kind to bloom have been joined by quite a few others. The snails have begun their slow munching march, and the garden teems with earthworms. I know most of the rest of the country is under ice right now, and I am very sorry for it. Soon, though, I think spring will spread.
This is, however, an amaryllis, given to me by a close friend. A little bit of spring brought inside, a quiet exuberance. Every time I see it, I smile, and take a deep breath.
No matter how old they get, they still want Mum when they get sick. Today the Princess is laid low by an extremely vicious cold. She insisted on going to school yesterday, but this morning I overrode her objections and put her back in bed. Today I will be playing Flo Nightingale, fetching ice water and Benadryl, making easy-to-digest snackies, and just generally doing all those things mums (hopefully) do.
She’s eighteen this year. My God. I would say I feel old, but I actually just feel…grateful. She is an amazing human being, almost fully an adult, and if something happened to me tomorrow she’d make it in the world. She has the tools and the drive. (Not that I’m planning on exiting, I still have deadlines. Har har.) Which is really comforting, but the most comforting thing of all is that I did not do what I feared most–I seem to have avoided messing her–or her brother–up irreparably.
I had to build my parenting philosophy from the ground up, since I knew I didn’t want to do what had been done to me. It was hard. When you are working against the things acid-etched into you since childhood, it can seem insurmountable. I was forced to think very deeply about unspoken assumptions about parenting, about what exactly my responsibilities to tiny squalling bundles I’d calved were, and what rights I did and did not have to or over them. I did not like being beaten, threatened, emotionally abused, or terrified during my own childhood, I should not ever inflict that on anyone else. That’s pretty straightforward, but when you’re near a psychotic break from lack of sleep, suddenly responsible for a small thing that can’t feed, clothe, or wipe itself, and essentially abandoned in favor of drugs by the guy you married because everyone said you should–being knocked up and all–well, things get a little muddled.
I am extremely thankful they did not get muddled enough that I did what my childhood “caregivers” did. Instead, the first (and only) time I was tempted to commit a physical act of frustrated cruelty, I had one of the few incidents in my life I would outright call “religious”, where a voice I’d heard only twice before–both times warning and protecting me–spoke up in no uncertain terms, telling me to just walk away, shut the bedroom door, and let the baby cry for a few moments while I got a goddamn hold on myself. Whether it was simply my own conscience forced to radical neurological measures or a guardian spirit is academic, because the end effect was the same and I don’t give a damn anyway.
After that particular incident, I never again felt an overwhelming temptation to be an asshole to my kids. Sure, there were smaller moments of frustration, but those were normal and somewhat easily clamped down upon. I admitted to myself that I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but as long as I remembered this tiny squalling bundle was a person, things would more than likely work out in the end.
They seem to have.
I hear a lot of bad shit about teenagers and parenting them. I hear it’s supposed to be a conflict-laden time, what with hormones and negotiating the passage into adulthood. Certainly my own teen years were a life-or-death struggle on my part, trying to preserve some psychic integrity and emotional wholeness in the face of overwhelming odds. I sometimes ask my kids, “So…are we supposed to fight, with you being a teenager and all?”
The Prince just widens his eyes and says “Let’s not, okay?” The Princess normally gives me a baffled look and says, “What on earth is there to fight about?” Or they come home after school and say some version of, “X was talking about their parents today, and oh my God I am so glad you’re my mother.”
Of course there have been times when they’ve thought I was crooooool and unjust. (Especially during their toddler years.) There have been periodic cases of them needing to bump their noses against a boundary or two just to make sure the safety net is still there and though things may be changing rapidly in their lives and bodies, Mum is still on watch and ready. There have been Consequences For Your Damn Actions, usually arrived at with input from the consequence-sufferer. (They often suggest much harsher punishments than I end up giving. But not always.)
In a way, I’m glad my own childhood forced me to consciously think about and decide what kind of parent I wanted to be. Not much of a silver lining, but there it is. The whole point of parenting is to get one’s offspring to reasonably ethical and compassionate adulthood, to a stage where they can take care of themselves and won’t be dickwads. I think a lot of people get so used to being The Authority in their children’s early years, they forget that the endpoint is a rational, independent adult. Consequently, when Being The Authority starts to take a backseat, they do what other challenged dictators do–tighten the iron fist.
And that rarely ends well.
So. I am reasonably confident that should Miss B succeed in putting me in my grave during a morning run, or if an airplane part falls out of the sky onto my head, both my spawn have a better-than-fighting chance of surviving in the harsh world. (Yes, my will is up-to-date. Just because I have no intention of shuffling off the mortal coil yet doesn’t mean I’m stupid or unaware.) I am also reasonably confident that when my children reach my age, I will not be such a toxic influence they have to cut off contact with me just to survive emotionally.
I am, finally, pretty sure that both of them know I love them more than anything else in my life or on earth, and that no matter how old they get, they can still count on me to bring ice water and Benadryl and smooth their foreheads and say, “it’s all right, baby bear. Mum is here.”
Even if I’ve accomplished nothing else, I can be proud when Ma’at weighs my heart at the end.
Ever have one of those days where the sheer amount of things needing to be done in the upcoming weeks produces vapor-lock, and you are paralyzed by overwhelming anxiety?
Yeah. That was (sort of) yesterday, and is shaping up to be today. The only cure is putting my head down and performing small manageable chunks of larger tasks, but even then it feels like moving a mountain with a fork. Self-care becomes of primary importance in situations like this–because without it, the anxiety can eat you alive.
It has, after all, happened before.
I don’t talk a great deal about my anxiety disorder. (Or the goddamn depression.) One reason is that other people speak about it far more eloquently than I can. Another is the stigma of “mental illness”–though one way to break the stigma is to speak openly, sometimes I don’t have the fucking spoons. Then there’s the inevitable response that I need to “grow a thicker skin” or “get over it”. If I could “get over it” with sheer willpower, I would have done so. Lack of willpower is never something I’ve suffered. (I am, after all, still in publishing after a decade, not to mention still alive.) I tried the willpower route for years, and even when I was seeing Calm Therapist I resisted any suggestion that perhaps I might need a little more help. I’ve tried going off the meds, with Frau Doktor’s careful help, but the side effects of that have been…well, let’s just say there’s a reason I’m still on them and never miss a dose, though I loathe the very thought of taking pills for various reasons.
I am familiar with people who go off their meds regularly and use the occasion to spiral into an orgy of emotional (and physical) destruction of everyone around them–then go back on and blame the pills for the whole thing to escape responsibility for their actions. This is, in part, why I resisted taking pills at all; I do not ever want to even get close to being That Person. I am terrified of missing a dose; this makes me, I am told, one of the patients Frau Doktor worries about the least. (Which is nice.)
I still struggle with the feeling of being “weak” or “lesser” because the pharmaceutical help is necessary if I want not to wear my body out with its wonky over-response to stress. Life involves discomfort (thank you, Gautama Buddha) but, as Frau Doktor points out often, there’s regular discomfort and then there’s your body trying to hurt itself because of genetics and upbringing, and it only makes sense to treat the latter.
Even if you don’t have brain chemistry that actively tries to do you in, self-care is important. Yes, that voice in your head will always say “people are depending on me, I have to, I have to!” That’s all well and good, but one must care for oneself so one has the resources to care for everyone else.
So I’m off for a run, despite the anxiety screaming at me that I shouldn’t waste time on that when there’s so much work to be done. And I continue, day after day, holding my nose and taking the pills I don’t want to, because doing what’s necessary even when distasteful is what a responsible adult does. There is no room for the comforts of martyrdom when one has kids and dogs to feed, not to mention a house to keep from sliding into chaos.
The rain seems a little dispirited today. Maybe it’s tired of February too. (This is where I say “I could never get the hang of Februarys” again.) Or it could just be me blinking and asking myself, huh, what’s that smell? Must be morning again.
Today is for a short run, much wordcount, and maybe a transcription job if I can squeeze one in. Cormorant Run is burning a hole in me, the genie story isn’t far behind. We’re heading for the long slow slog on the former, and some fun double-dealing and shootouts on the latter. At least, fun for me to write. Not very fun for the characters involved. Perhaps they’ll get the brunt of my Monday.
Not that I dislike this Monday. Not at all. I’m just…floating slightly outside of my myself, and getting ready to dive into a long week. At least the little distance helps me ignore the spatters and bruises from moving so fast.
Related: I’m off for a run. Here’s hoping for no bruises from that particular speed, but miss B has a gleam in her eye and a spring in her step that makes me fear a little.