Disappearing Act

I was rereading my most recent post, from almost six months ago, and if I had only known then how my life would change, on the very next day…..

The day after that post, I found out that was (very unexpectedly) pregnant with my third child, a “surprise.” I was terrified.

In addition to that, on that very same day, other more personal changes occurred, and everything I had planned in my life crumbled in my hands. My Plan A dissolved. We weren’t even on Plan B, or Plan C. We found ourselves on Plan Z.

Suddenly, I had to shift goals and priorities. I had to work harder to rebuild and strengthen what my husband and I readily admit was a struggling marriage. I lost individuals in my life that I loved dearly. My future, my dreams of happiness, of returning to graduate school…everything changed. Nothing was what it used to be, and it only took 24 hours.

But, you know what? Even the darkest, most terrifying storms in our life can lead to renewed ground to stand upon.

For a while, I lost myself in the tempest of that storm. I forgot who I was, where I belonged, that I mattered. I felt ashamed of past decisions, loathed myself, felt myself overcome with bitterness, hurt, and anger. I was overwhelmed. I simply didn’t feel good enough.

But, this is where I am now, after the storm….

My husband and I are making changes and accomplishing goals that we never thought we could tackle together, at least not easily. It’s a long road, but we’re taking that road step by step, solid.

I’ve learned to let go of those who treat me poorly, who don’t have my best interests at heart, who don’t love me, who hurt and use me.

I’ve embraced the third chance I’ve been given to be a mother, and I’m anxiously awaiting the birth of another wonderful daughter, and all of the cuddles, the bonding, the sweetness that a new baby will bring into our lives (I’m still not a fan of the idea of sleep deprivation, but we’ll manage).

I’ve refocused on new priorities, and have centered my life around my family and home, and less on selfish pursuits.

I am (slowly) learning to forgive myself.

I’m bonding with my children in ways I never expected as they grow and learn every day. My four year old tells me every day, “You are my friend,” and I feel so blessed, so humbled, so inadequate.

I very nearly lost myself to the disappearing act of guilt, depression, and pain, and yet, here I am, having weathered the storms in my life, still on the path, finding my way, one day at a time….

Here’s hoping I stay on said path, and that I can fully find myself again.

 

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

I am a creature of habit. I like routines. I need to-do lists and schedules. I generally order the same meals in restaurants, wear the same standard ensemble every day (jeans and a basic shirt, with a possible hoodie, and tennis shoes or Chucks), and I’m more comfortable with familiar friends instead of mingling with new people. I crave comfort foods in times of stress. I read before bed every single night. I don’t like change.

Yet, this aversion to the new and the unsettling has led to a lack of confidence within me, in many ways, and for many years. When you fear change, it’s easy to grow scared and nervous when encountered with something different or outside of your comfort zone. You lose out on chances to try something special, to meet great individuals, to make necessary (and potentially wonderful) changes in your life.

So, I’ve been on a mission to shake things up a bit.

I took a yoga class this week. I’m terrified of group athletic settings. It brings back memories of always being picked last in high school gym class (and middle school gym class, and elementary school gym class…..). I’m self-conscious about my post-baby body, and I’m definitely not in the physical shape that I want to be (though I am losing weight, which brings me some happiness). And you know what? Yes, I was exhausted after ten minutes, and yes, I might have knocked over a display rack while trying a difficult position (the class was held in a small local shop), and yes, I’m a bit sore two days later. But, I felt so exhilarated afterward, so proud of myself, and I’m desperate to go again.

I wore a dress to my grandfather’s funeral today. I haven’t had the confidence to wear a dress in years. YEARS. I wanted to make an effort, to break the “hoodie” cycle. Originally, I wanted to walk into the store, buy some jersey knit maxi skirt and a t-shirt, and call it good. But, I found myself gravitating toward the dress racks, and I ended up in the fitting room trying on “real” dresses. Dress shopping, and trying on clothes in general, is torture, absolute torture. But, by the end of it, I had a new dress, new pumps, and all of the “trimmings” that needed to go with them. And I want to buy more dresses after the reaction I received wearing it.

The thing is, these little things have boosted my confidence more than I can say. It’s like a chain reaction–one thing different and new leads to another, and another…… It is my hope that the small things can lead to bigger changes–the courage to conquer my financial situation, to do what makes me happy (even if it’s terrifying or stressful), the desire to live a simpler life, to broaden my horizons.

This isn’t high school gym class anymore. I can’t treat life like it still is.

What Falls By the Wayside

So, if you asked me what my goals were as of, say, a year ago, they would have sounded something like this:

–Get out of debt, and spend as little as possible.

–Eat healthier, consume more “real foods” and less processed junk.

–Eat in more and buy take out less often.

–Learn to fix, to mend, to do more from scratch.

–Figure out a cleaning routine and organize all of the chaos that is the clutter in my house.

–Be more patient with my little ones.

–Figure out what I truly believe in (I’m in a bit of a religious/spiritual crisis, if you will).

–Pottytrain my toddler.

Yeah, so these things aren’t going so well.

This wannabe homesteader, do-gooder, “simplify, simplify” sort of mama has gone off the rails a little bit between working more than I am used to with little ones in the home, plus trying to support a husband through a months-long job loss.

“Get out of debt?” Ha. I’m happy that we haven’t accumulated more than a small amount of new debt since the lay-off. In fact, I’m simply content to get the bills paid. And trust me, when we do have a little extra money, that shopping twitch that I have suffered from my whole life turns into a hellacious urge, and I then find myself knowing all of the cashiers at TJ Maxx on a first name basis.

Eating healthier and cooking more meals at home is a joke, too. On one hand, we keep a fair amount of fruits and veggies in house, but it’s simply finding the time, and the energy, to do anything with them. I mean, seriously, do I really want to make pesto from scratch, or slice countless veggies, or cook ANYTHING after a long day at work, when the pizza guy totally delivers?

Fixing things and learning how to do things from scratch? Again, time and energy.

My cleaning and organizational routine is still having our housekeeper on speed dial. That is another expense I have refused to cut.

My patience with my little ones has increased only because I have mastered the art of bribery. See, I’ve always been a big believer in bribes (“bwibery” was one of my son’s first words, and I am NOT kidding), but I find myself offering up Skittles and Peanut Butter M&Ms just to get the adorable little boogers into bed at a halfway decent hour. When in doubt, negotiate–that seems to be this #1 mom’s M.O. of late, and it’s worked, for the most part.

I don’t even know where to begin with spirituality and religion. It’s hard to even find faith in much of anything when your hard working husband was let go from a job he was devoted to for years because of some gluttonous, foolhardy corporation’s bottom line.

And pottytraining my toddler? Let’s just say that bribery doesn’t work with someone who thinks it’s AOK to play in cat litter, who only answers to the siren song of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and who is firmly convinced that the potty is a hat. NOT. GOING. WELL.

And I don’t even know what to say, really, about any of it. I don’t know whether to be frustrated with myself for basically starting our lives over again from scratch (because little in our lives right now is stable or totally secure), or whether to say the hell with it and that this is entirely normal. Someone, somewhere is going to read this and think that these things are just so easy, and even easier to do or learn when your family goes down to one part-time income (“Well, this is the perfect time to learn to do such and such, to figure out how to spend less, etc.”). The thing is, it’s not. Each of those little goals of mine has become all the more difficult. I thought a job loss would propel me to a more simple life by default, but it’s just made everything all that much harder. I’m too tired, too worn out, too stressed, and sometimes, honestly, too apathetic. Feeding the kids Crazy Bread with their pizza dinner, and calling a housekeeper once a week falls into the “pick my battles” realm–is it worth adding more stress to worry about each “mistake” I make, or is it better to eliminate what stress I can, even if it means diving into processed foods and putting aside goals?

One thing I’m doing well in is finding a workout routine. I’ve never been much into formal exercise, even if I have tried repeatedly and failed, but this summer, I’ve found a system, a routine, and a schedule that works for me, and I’m shedding pounds, between that and the lack of appetite (stress related, I’m sure). So there’s one thing I’m doing kinda okay with, in spite of myself.

Everyone’s gotta do one thing well, right?

 

Job Loss

Well, 48 hours ago, I didn’t have any idea or any inclination that my hubby would be losing his job. We’re definitely not where we ever remotely anticipated we would be. His company had been doing lay-offs here and there, but somehow, we always felt “safe,” because his department hadn’t experienced any and seemed viable. You just never know. But, it happened 24 hours ago–our main income, our insurance, everything disappeared. We have options, but when the floor is taken out from under your feet, it’s hard not to find yourself sobbing and shaking and asking why.

We’re starting to look at options, which has its good points (helps us to feel in control of our situation in some small measure, helps us to establish a game plan), but it’s difficult in others (trying to figure out insurance, realizing we might need unemployment or some sort of assistance for a while). I am terrified it will be months, even a year, before he finds another job. To be honest, I have heard from loved ones with good intentions who have told me, “Oh, it’s going to take such a long time for him to find work. There aren’t any jobs out there.” You know, that’s not what we need to hear. I need to look at this as our way out of our financial hole pre-job loss, and that it is our door to a better job and savings if we can find employment for him quickly. Maybe it’s false hope, but if we cave to “you’ll never find a job,” then we WON’T, you know? You don’t win by curling up in a ball in the fetal position on the playing field. 

I don’t know what will come of this. I’m angry. I’m scared. I’m still in shock. I never expected this, not really. At least we have my income from a brand new job, however small it is compared with the wages and the benefits from the job my husband lost. With this situation, we will be forced to change bad habits, will need to work together as a family, will need to assess wants/needs, and we will be wiser, less naive, less foolish. Maybe our family is just an expense that needed cut to a company, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let bad luck and numbers win. Something good has to come from this, somehow.

Fear Factor

More and more families are attempting to live simply, to become self sufficient. They are investigating what they are eating, what they clean with, where their goods and services come from. They are asking more questions, examining more labels, and becoming active consumers.

In many, many ways, this is a wonderful thing to see. Parents should know what they are feeding to their children. We should be able to say for sure that the cleansers and detergents we use are indeed safe. We should want to know that the earth and the future that we leave for our children will be a healthy and clean one. It is best to focus on sustainability and durability over having to have more, more, more, and all of the newest and greatest toys.

However, I find myself troubled by a trend I am seeing. It follows two patterns:

1) Well meaning parents, caregivers, activists, politicians, etc are becoming passionate about issues relating to sustainability and the environment, and thanks to the various forms of media we are blessed with, especially social media, that passion and that knowledge can be shared. However, sometimes, that internal fire for a cause becomes a dangerous thing to play with. These individuals, with originally good intentions, can become rabid crusaders to the point of alienating their listeners, resorting to cruelty and insults, and sometimes, simply incorrect knowledge. What do you MEAN you circumcised your son? Don’t you KNOW the mental turmoil HE WILL FACE because you ONLY CARED ABOUT HIS COSMETIC APPEARANCE? Why do you not buy a 100% organic diet? Don’t you know that the cost of organic food NOW is cheaper than cancer later? DON’T YOU CARE ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN? Why are you not prioritizing? You used formula to supplement your breast feeding? I know not all mothers choose to SACRIFICE ENOUGH to exclusively breastfeed, but I FOR ONE REFUSE TO FEED MY PRECIOUS CHILD POISON!! 

I bet you’ve seen this a time or two.

2) Businesses are using scare tactics to sell products. They are preying on the fears of loving parents, caregivers, families, and friends for their loved ones to sell goods. Buy OUR PRODUCT or ELSE! Otherwise, your child/loved one/significant other/family/friend will end up dying/injured/poisoned/a diabetic/with cancer. Use this or the earth will be destroyed/polluted/harmed/trashed. DON’T YOU CARE ABOUT YOUR BABIES AND FAMILIES? DON’T YOU LOVE THE PLANET??

See what the underlying theme here is? It’s fear.

I have been seeing these fear tactics A LOT lately, particularly in online settings or in stores. I have been doing a lot of reflection as to why this is occurring. I’m not sure I have all of the answers, but I’ll pose some possibilities.

1) With the advent of social media and the internet, everyone is now suddenly “an expert” (I saw it on Wikipedia or Facebook, so therefore it must be true). Arguments become significantly more heated when you can hide behind a computer screen to do your dirty work. And it’s also easier to become invested in a cause via the internet, as well. Passion + knowledge + social anonymity = a recipe for disaster.

2) Parents want the best for their children. And in an age where more of us are asking why, where, and what when it comes to caring for our kids, it is easier to fall victim to the “you must do X in order to prevent Y” scheme. Individuals do it to win arguments or to criticize or make others feel guilty. Businesses do it to sell a product.

3) We want answers, and sometimes, we simply don’t have them, or they are hidden from us, or it takes time to obtain them, which we don’t always have to give. We become nervous and scared, and either become victims in the fear quest or, sadly, the perpetrators.

I’m not saying that everything frightening that we read or hear isn’t true. The sad reality is that there are a lot of bad things in the world–there are people who want to hurt us, toxins in the air and food, and we are indeed losing many natural resources due to bad human decisions. But why are we fighting with each other? Why are we allowing businesses to prey on our fears? Quite honestly, it is better to do one or two small things in the pursuit for a more healthy and sustainable life, than it is to listen to every bad story, only to become overwhelmed and quit.

It’s wrong for us to do this to each other, and it’s unacceptable that businesses feed off of the fears and love of families and friends. It’s time to accept that we can’t win every war, that small acts are sometimes enough, and that we all WILL make mistakes, and that it is okay. Don’t play into the fear factor game.