As I’ve had occasion to write before, I struggle with depression and anxiety. Since we’ve been steadily moving into a period of more and more light in the day, and in the home, the depression has lifted considerably – is seeming to lift, anyway – and my physical energy and capacity for joy have increased accordingly. I am very grateful for this, an improved (and temporary, as all things are) state of affairs.
But anxiety is still a very troubling presence in my life. This morning after only a handful of hours of sleep I’m awake again. For a few minutes my mind jumps in a scattered fashion and frets on scenarios unresolved, situations I certainly can’t do anything about at six AM, and for that matter nor are my energies productive. In this case, it’s about the food enterprise with my boy. We had a wonderful time cooking yesterday (palak paneer, vegetarian korma with carrots, potatoes, and cauliflower, basmati rice in ghee with cardamom and cinnamon, double-coconut muffins), and now that we’ve satisfied a handful of people and the dishes are done my mind is free to punish me. I begin to worry. I worry I’m wondering how I’m going to handle the takeout dishes aspect. I worry, since Nels is our CFO, people will take advantage of his inexperience and we’ll be giving out food at a net loss after my hours of work. I worry some ass will shut down our wee little thing, even before Nels tires of it, accusing us of running a business. I worry if I cook for the downtown lot, that I’m being a foolish asshole to spend our grocery money on strangers, even though four out of four Hogabooms want to do so. (Yesterday I worried about the food while I cooked it, but one thing that sticks with me now is our competence in this endeavor: last evening I was left smiling as I tasted each hard-earned dish before packing it up – really, we did well!).
I worry about Nels and I: I’m worried that in my impatience with my son yesterday while busy in the kitchen I took his beautiful idea and made it into something shitty. I worry in general about my relationship with Nels, because lately I’ve been letting him down and I’ve found myself not only resenting him, but being unable to give up the resentment; of having some hardness set in. Then I berate myself because I think This is supposed to be fun, and the sad truth is it is my anxiety that stands to corrupt a lovely experience. Nels and I have been working so well in concert but my mind threatens to destroy it all (fortunately my son is too strong and joyful to let this be entirely up to me). My anxiety feeds on itself and becomes an amorphous mass of discontent and fidgety, jumpy fear; soon I am responding far too harshly to myself and family.
And this leads me to one of the hardest realities, one of the most debilitating aspects that I struggle with: the poor self-worth that develops or threatens to. When I am having trouble my mind turns on me and begins to berate my character. I’m a shallow human being / I’m overthinking things; I am too pinched / I am too open and naive; I am too trusting / I am too suspicious. I was stupid to embark on a new adventure / I don’t take up adventures enough. Really, writing it out is a bit of a relief (isn’t it always?) because it illustrates there is no way for me to avoid these criticisms. There’s no code of conduct I can tightrope-walk and avoid character attacks. Last night, just before we fell asleep with our arms around one another, my daughter said, “Mom, I’m struggling with the pressure of needing to be perfect.” I held her even closer and said, “Oh, I’m so sad to hear that. I understand. I know what that feels like. I feel it too.” After a beat she asked, “Why do we do this?” and I had no answer; for now I am merely a pilgrim with her on this journey.
I think often how parents aloud devalue or put down their kids, not because they don’t love them or anything, but because they don’t pursue mindfulness and they are consumed with fear. The other day my twitterstream was clotted with people talking about their children “whining”; I notice words like “brat”, “monster”, “tyrant”, “pitching a fit”, the most dehumanizing language used so often (when I responded to one twitterite – who’d asked for advice – and postulated that concepts like “brat” only serve us to alienate ourselves from our children and obfuscate solutions, she wrote back and said, “‘Whiny’ & ‘brattish’ are describing [my child’s] behavior, not her,” then went on to talk about working on “manners” with her child). Then I think of how many parents see so little of their children by choice, years going on like this, and that’s sad enough but okay, fine, but then at the end of the day they come home and find family life so draining, so busy, scheduled, hectic, dissatisfying, scary. A perfectly lovely man, partner and father admitted this to me the other day, that sometimes he would get home and want to hide from his own child. I responded I didn’t think he was alone. I admire him he admitted this to me, that he trusted I was his friend enough to tell me this. He had room to share with me and I appreciate it; I am sad to reflect the scenario is hardly an atypical one.
At the end of the day – or now, the beginning of the day – it is my children and partner’s presence and company I look forward to and treasure most. Time with them has the potential to be so incredibly restorative. My day, my journal, is filled with our memories together. Yesterday: my daughter, playing Hangman with Nels in the living room while we waited for guests, putting up the phrase “Super-Snooka” (in quotes and everything, a family joke for the grabassery our kitties partake in) and Nels diligently solving the puzzle, and both kids do this thing where they arrange the discarded letter clues into other words, if posible words that relate to the puzzle itself; last night watching an action film and then Phoenix said, “You’re right, mom – I do smell a training montage,” and a few minutes later one was delivered with epic rock guitar accompaniment and we snickered into our blankets. Or how late last night I walked into the kitchen and Nels put down his spoon and said, “How are you doing Mama?” right away, with genuine concern, he’d been with me all day but he thinks of me often and loves me so much.
And when I’m ill-slept and careworn I need to hold myself in that gentle levity and light and joy they bring me every day. I am not a bad person for struggling. I am still the Mama the children love so much. I should take care of her as best I can.
Nels, working on concepts of earning, wearing his Tinkerbell apron. He stacked the money, counted it, moved it around, handed out twenties to Phoenix, Ralph, and I. Eventually he decided instead of using a jar-based system he’d take Ralph up on his offer to open a bank account.
I love everything about this post. Including how it showed up in my feed reader as (title unknown). I’m especially thankful to hear you process these thoughts real time and to see where it brings you toward the end.
Sometimes I have parenting struggles over issues that I know I have helped other parents with in the past (especially during my decade and a half spent as an early childhood educator). So I think, well then, what helpful information would I tell myself, if I were a friend or client? Fortunately, instead of having the dreaded realization that my years spent “helping” parents as a teacher before I had joined their ranks were full of useless suggestions that don’t appreciate the reality of day to day 21st century parenthood… Ok- fortunately instead of that, I often find that I can help myself as I have helped others. For whatever reason, I actually have to think of it as-if I am helping someone else for the true wisdom to kick in.
I guess that way I circumnavigate my own distress at not having it all together and figured out in the first place.
The quest for Perfection. It’s so awesome that it drives me into the ground, subsidizes angry fits at the cat, my kid, my spouse or whoever gets in the way of that utterly straight and amazingly level line that I’m drawing in the sand.
Speaking of lines, this morning it finds the lines under my eyes and brings up a thought about how I’ve caused them by not doing X, Y and Z. Some Self-love lights up a little bit in the back of the room and comments that these lines came from years of study, hard-work and energy put into caring for my family. Regardless, it’s Perfectionism that trumps and I walk away from the mirror, not an amazing being of wisdom but instead, someone who should have tried harder, who could have done better, who could have smoother eyes…because, as we all know, that’s what this life is about.
Thanks for the pilgrim on this journey action…so true. Perfectionism always gets the upper foot when we think we’re alone with it.
And that last sentence sums it all up.