Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Baby Steps

This week has been a flat out failure. On the one hand, I am getting the laundry and dishes done (kind of), kids are getting dressed and fed and I am usually showered before noon. However, I have been in a rotten mood. I have been a less than present mom and haven't been able to seem to pull out of it. Junior has been on an extra 'dad-kick' for the last few weeks, which is great except that all we get to talk about is what day it is and how many more days, hours, minutes etc. until he can be with dad. I know where it is coming from and I know he misses J, but to be honest, I'm having a harder time competing with the "all dad, all the time" attention they get when they are with him. I'm grateful that he is so focused on them on his visitation days, but it makes normal parenting at home so much harder. Following every visit is some amount of 'behavior boot camp.' To be fair, J doesn't let the kids get away with anything discipline-wise, but being with him is still such a weekly novelty to them, home just doesn't compare and Junior has done his best to make sure I know it. This week, I have had a hard time not being irritated at having to be "no fun." Last night I received a strongly worded (phonetically spelled) letter on my pillow from Junior that informed me that when I got after him earlier in the day, it hurt his feelings. It about broke my heart as well as my resolve to get out of bed this morning. Bubba, in an extreme shift to the opposite direction, has gotten very clingy with me and worries if he has to be away from me for long. I made all his worst nightmares come true last night when I accidentally left him in the dark garage. I thought he went into the house with Junior when he had actually climbed into the front seat and I didn't see him. I closed the car doors, carried the baby in and turned off the light. A few minutes later, I heard terrified screams coming from the garage. He had finally found the door handle in the dark and made his way out of the car, but was too scared to go further. He was inconsolable for quite awhile and quick to point out that it was just like his dreams, which all involve being left alone by me or J in the dark. I felt like mother of the year. It has really been a 'mom-fail' week and I feel so much extra guilt now when I know they are getting less than my best. I know about the statistics that in the long run I am more likely to have a healthy relationship with my kids, but the short run stuff really bites sometimes. It's easy to feel like a failure all around.

Another particular struggle for me this week is my tendency to worry about things that are way too far ahead (something I have been strongly encouraged not to do in therapy) and freaking myself out. I'm angry that when J walked out the door he took with him the one chance I had at having a marriage and children that were not fragmented by custody issues and visitation schedules. He promised me forever and only gave me eight years. Eight years and three children and enough baggage to make moving on incredibly difficult. Over the last decade, I have been grateful more than once that I was through with dating. Now, I either have the choice to be alone, or sort through the amazing amount of emotional garbage involved in trusting anyone again. It sounds hard and exhausting and I can't seem to quit worrying about it even when I tell myself that it is pointless. It's weeks like this that make me feel like I am going to be some level of miserable forever because I have already forgotten how it felt to have the 'normal' problems of life. Eight years ago, I took a chance on a man I loved to always put our family first. It backfired and now I am facing being "back out there" and I'm really angry about that. So, this whole week has been a mental hissy fit and I have taken lots of naps just to try to turn my brain off. Somewhere out there, I imagine God is rubbing his forehead and muttering "I really wish she would grow out of this phase." (Incidentally, I think terrible twos/threes just might be a divine form of payback, but that's another post for another time...)

We had a speaker on Sunday who told a story about a wife whose husband fell critically ill shortly after they were married. As he became terminal and the end was close, she spent one night at his bedside crying out loud to God to fix this, to give her a miracle, to heal her husband. It was her barely conscious, pain wracked husband who stopped her and asked her to "just pray that he could sleep through the night." I noted this story but it didn't particularly speak to me at the time. That might have been because I was pinning down a newly mobile Sis, while threatening Bubba with a time out if he didn't stop the fit he was throwing (knowing very well I couldn't back up that threat unless I dragged the other two kids out of Sacrament meeting as well). But I remembered the story tonight as I was on the treadmill. I had taken a running hiatus for the last month or two, but got back on it tonight hoping that exercise would lift some of my extra depression this week. I forgot how good running has been for me. It reminds me to breathe deeply. I spend so much of my time mentally crouching down and waiting for the next blow to fall, that I find myself forgetting to do many of the basics like taking full breaths.

I told myself I would just start with a mile. A mile was something I knew I could do and I gave myself permission to stop there if I needed to. As I ran, I found I could go a little further and a little further. One mile stretched into three and I feel certain that setting the small goal and going further did more for me than if I had overwhelmed myself by determining to go that far and knowing that I would feel like a failure if I didn't hit my goal. Around mile #2, Sunday's story popped into my mind and it felt like being mentally smacked upside the head. Sometimes it is enough just to hope to get through the night. It's ok to start with just a mile. If you can go further, great. If not, it is still a step along the road. Shooting for the stars is well and good when you are in a healthy mental state, but when you are scared, sad, tired, frustrated or broken, baby steps are not only ok, they are a triumph. I won't get credit for getting out of bed and showered before noon forever, but I need to try to give myself credit for what I CAN do right now, not what I think I SHOULD do (or used to do).

My world was an ordered place and now it is not. I am not a neat freak, but I really like to plan. I like to know what is coming up and what to expect. So, this situation is harder for me than I could ever imagine. My future is a blank. I have already seen so much 'worst case scenario' that I have a hard time being confident in anything except that there are more trials ahead. I don't trust the good stuff yet. Anything could happen and that terrifies me. But I know I can't waste my limited energy worrying about what is five years ahead. I thought I knew five years ago where I would (basically) be today and look how my plans have changed. Losing control is terrifying but there is something comforting in feeling like I can let the scary future go and just concentrate on that next step. Concentrate on getting through one more night. I have to worry less about the road I have been put on and just focus on which way I'm going, what the next step is and how I am going to go about taking it.

So, getting through tonight is the next thing on my agenda. If I can stay asleep the whole night, I will see that for the triumph it is. If not, I will know my feet are still pointed in the right direction and I am only ever required to take it one step at a time.


  1. I think we both inherited the love of planning and a sense of "control" over our futures. While that can be good thing to motivate you and help you move forward, it is also what made me crazy- particularly when I try to apply that love of planning and the security it gives you to a situation that you have 0 control over.

    I know it isn't quite the same magnatude as your situation, but DMP's anxiety taught me the hard (i.e. crazy) way that trying to plan (actually control) things that you can't will just lead to misery. I still struggle with it, but the first step is realizing when you are feeling anxiety because you are out of control of things and then sorting out what and if you can control anything about the situation. Then take deep breaths and let go of what you can't control or plan for (like future dating!)

    Sounds like you are doing all that perfectly- good job! It is hard and it sucks. Call/email me if you want to talk about it :)

  2. Thank you Cyndi, I love the analogy of baby steps and I think we all need to take them in whatever it is we are struggling with.

    (I will always sit with you/by you in sacrament meeting)