Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lowering the Bar


Have I really only written three entires since going back to work...in April? Wow. Of course, that is more than I've gotten done at my actual job. It's not that I haven't been working hard, I have. But I now have the mental capacity of a manatee, which I am assuming is not that great, given that they keep getting run over by speedboats. You don't see any dolphins getting run over by speedboats. Like a manatee, I am getting run over by all kinds of speedboats these days--that is, faster, brighter, peppier, mostly childless humans. OK, poor mental function aside--comparing myself to a manatee is an even more brilliant metaphor than I first imagined! I just was trying to pick a dumb animal, then the speedboat thing came to me...perfection! I AM a manatee. Maybe there is hope after all! Hooray for me!

And that bit of self-congratulation, my friends, is called Following the Advice of One's Therapist. Yes, it's true, motherhood has driven me to counseling. Me, and many of my mom-friends. Mom-friends, by the way, are different from regular friends. Regular friends know the real you, the you that existed before you had kids. They know what you used to do, what your hobbies were, what education you have, who you are married to. Mom-friends don't know anything about each other other than what discipline method you subscribe to, where you got that awesome stroller, what curse word you screamed at your kids last week when they flushed a candle down the toilet, what you use for birth control, what anti-depressants you are on. I have been attending the mom's group at my church for 3 years now. I have poured my heart out to these women (which is a nicer way of saying I have completely melted down in front of them). And vice versa in some cases. But can I tell you what any of their husbands do? Nope. Can i tell you what careers any of them ever had or what degrees they have? Nada. They may have told me at one point, but my brain can only retain relevant information any more. I'm going to stick with information related to how they potty-trained their children.

So my mom-friends and I are apparently trekking to mental health professionals in hordes. One of my mom-friends has a theory that the expectations and pressures put on women these days basically necessitate anti-depressants. I am trying really hard to stay off the drugs myself, mainly because I am afraid they will make me gain weight. The weight thing is one of my things, admittedly, that's why pregnancy is like death for me. Like if I get diagnosed with cancer, my first thought would probably not be, What if I die? it would be What if the chemo makes me gain weight? Seriously messed up. So no drugs for me. Just some therapy, which by the way, I LOVE. I have been in therapy before, but this time it feels even better, seeing as I live life mostly as a slave these days. It is so indulgent, like getting a pedicure for your soul. An actual person, for a solid hour at a time, is completely fixated on seeing the world from your perspective, hearing your life story, listening intently to you, helping you understand yourself, without inserting themselves into it at all. Like it is ALL about you, you don't even have to pretend to be interested in the other person. Sure, you are paying them, but who cares? Assuming you are somewhat introspective and aren't going to be shocked by the revelation that you aren't perfect--it is AWESOME.

Beyond feeling awesome for an hour every couple of weeks--I am trying to understand why I struggle as a mom and to find ways of coping. One of her theories is a common one regarding the modern over-achiever women who become moms, especially stay-at-home moms, and that is we can no longer achieve at the level we are used to and we spend most of our time and energy on tasks that do not tap into our gifts and that makes us feel like crap. Having Charlotte was one thing--of course I didn't have as much time and energy, but after awhile I adjusted, and she is like a world-class Olympic champion sleeper, so I had her naptimes and the evenings to work with. You may recall that I listed all the things I wanted to accomplish and assigned them to one-hour blocks in a spreadsheet. yes, that is neurotic. more neurotic would have been to actually follow the spreadsheet schedule, which I mostly did not, but I did squeeze a lot into my free time and managed to feel decent about myself. Now--well, there ain't much use in plotting out your free time in a spreadsheet when you've got maybe 1 hour a day to do what you want, and that includes showering my friends. You may have noticed I am rather transfixed on the showering issue. that is because I consider it a basic human right to be able to shower daily in peace without having to sacrifice other activities. But this is now a luxury I cannot afford many days, unless I do not want to sit down. In any case, there is no time to do anything without major organizational skills that I do not have.

So the counselor suggests that instead of focusing on what I did NOT accomplish in a given day and how little I am doing that gives me any sense of accomplishment on a daily basis that I redefine what an accomplishment is and start celebrating those things. In other words, I need to lower the bar on my existence. Like by quite a lot. This actually sounds like a decent, if rather depressing, idea, so I've started trying to do it. Ideally, I would write out what i accomplished each day, but that takes energy away from perhaps flossing my teeth, which is more important, so I have mainly been making mental notes, which of course immediately get lost in the post-partum clutter. If my brain were a house, it would definitely show up on the hoarders shows on TLC.
Here is a sample list of accomplishments:
1) Not only did I shower, I shaved my leg. I forgot to shave the other one, but we are not going to focus on that. We are going to celebrate the one leg.
2) My children are still alive and appear to be fed. They are not clean, Charlotte still has red paint in her hair from a week ago, but we are not going to focus on that either.
3) I fed Charlotte something other than chicken nuggets. I also gave her a Flinstones vitamin, meaning that it doesn't really matter what she ate anyway. I am a genius for figuring that out.
4) I did not scream at anyone today. Not the children, not the husband, not the Verizon representative who informed me that even though the technician has missed 3 other arrival windows, he is going to be at my house between 8 and noon tomorrow.
This is a MAJOR accomplishment. I am AWESOME.
5) I read something. Sure, it was an US Weekly, but still--I AM STILL ABLE TO READ. This is a BIG DEAL.
6) I allowed the Roomba to vacuum my dining room. True, all I had to do was press the button, but there are actually like 3 whole buttons and I pressed the RIGHT one. So there.
7) I thought about my best friend. I did not call her or email her, but I talked to her in my head.
8) I think I may have eaten a vegetable. I have a vague memory of something vegetable-like entering my palate.
9) Charlotte only watched two hours of television, AND I had Lawson positioned so that he really had to strain hard to watch too.
10) I cleared a path through the toys so that no one would get injured. I am tidy AND considerate.

I think you'll agree--If the bar gets any lower, I'll be a Trinidadian limbo dancer. Which really would be an accomplishment.