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Then and Now

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Mar 16, 2014 in Inner Workings, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl

Now

I am able to

be patient, persistent, logical, motivated, engaged, experience positive and negative feelings, productive

relax, focus, keep things in perspective, make note of things I need to work on without becoming obsessed by them and feeling frustrated overwhelmed annoyed defeated and worthless because of them

I feel

calm, peaceful, even, in control, resilient, hopeful, capable, worthy, significant, creative, joy, fun, meaning, like things are ok even if they aren’t perfect or are complex or require hard work

I know this won’t last.  I know I will wake up one day and as suddenly as something switched inside me and brought on this way of being without my input or control, I will be in a funk of anxiety and depression.  The physical feeling I have inside my core of being bolstered and held up and strengthened and able to withstand whatever is happening will be gone.  I will feel pummeled and waif like, as if anything can topple me, flatten me, hold me down.  I will feel hollow and flat and empty.  Unequal to every task.  Unable to focus.  My head will be filled with a jumble of whirling thoughts jumping from one to the next unable to follow one to its end.  Like my brain is one of those chambers with dollar bills being blown violently around and I desperately try to catch the thoughts and pull them in and contain them and even know what they all are, but they are all blowing around in the universe, floating like nebula, unable to be lassoed.  I am overwhelmed by all the possibilities in the world.  I don’t understand anything.  I can’t understand what life means, what anything means.  Everything irritates me.  I find those I care for repugnant and think of how I can disentangle myself from them because none of these relationships are working and I don’t know how to do them.  I don’t fit anywhere.  I am ruining everything.  I need to start over from scratch.  Build my life one element at a time, layer upon layer.  Everything is too complex.  I need simplicity and clarity.  I need everything organized and structured.  All I long for is sleep.  I am exhausted and feel like doing nothing.  Sleep is a sweet escape from the unease.  It is agonizing and debilitating.  I feel desperate.  I feel helpless.  I don’t know how to communicate what is happening inside me.  I don’t even understand it.   Everything I attempt to do will make me feel inside like someone is running their fingernails down a chalkboard.  It feels like my being is stuck in wet cement, weighted down.  Everything is so hard to do.  It takes such concerted effort.  There is no sense of satisfaction with anything I do accomplish.  I am only thinking of what is still to do.  I prefer to be alone.  Being with others is draining and unpleasant.  Being in the moment is difficult.  It seems unlikely that things will ever be different.  I am a failure.  I don’t want to try.  I feel alone and forgotten and worthless.  I will be in a fog.  Sad or hard things that have happened in the past or are happening currently will dominate my thinking.  Everything will seem poignant.

The exact circumstances experienced in these two distinct ways of being elicit completely different feelings, responses, outcomes.

And then I will be impulsive, impatient, feeling that I must take action now, everything must happen now.  I am tired of waiting.  I cannot remain calm and carry on.  I will make things happen.  I will push them even if the outcome is not what I am hoping for.  It is better than nothing happening like it always does in my life.  I’m tired of stagnating and waiting in limbo for all the right stars to align.  I’m weary of being patient, delaying gratification, being cautious.  Throw caution to the wind!  Do something, damn it, anything!  In fact the wilder and less advisable and predictable and safe and responsible and status quo the better.  Do something crazy and unexpected and pointless and fun and thrilling and unthought out and spontaneous.  Live in the moment.  Who cares about what happens next?  Just live for once, and enjoy it.

 
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Today

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Oct 1, 2013 in Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl

It is an exquisitely beautiful day.  Too much beauty to drink it all in.  The kind of day when one should lose track of time and live in the moment.  And that is just what I did.  The world seems bold and vivid and bursting with life and full of possibilities.  This day is a gift to us right now.  I graciously and gratefully accept it!

 
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The Art of Blank Space

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Sep 16, 2013 in Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

I have been more mindful about the time I spend with my children lately. It has helped to have the structure that back-to-school routines provide, even though I was sad to see the summer slip away. I find I am better able to enjoy and manage the time with my kids when I have some time for myself. All the stars have aligned to make this happen. The dark haired boy is in third grade, the blondie started kindergarten in the afternoons, and this happens to be when the little red haired girl takes her nap.

Most days I get about three hours of time alone. I am an introvert, and to me this is a precious gift.  I can accomplish practical tasks such as laundry, dishes, cleaning and organizing, phone calls, paperwork, planning ahead.  I can indulge in little things like enjoying a leisurely shower, taking a nap (gasp), or reading.  But most importantly I seize the opportunity to:  Think. Breathe. Be.

Knowing that I will have this time when no one is asking questions, needing me, making demands, depending on me is freeing. Having space for me is an enormous, amazing gift. It keeps me grounded and renews me. I am finding it is healing and restorative and necessary for my well-being.

Currently, my man is off being a great white hunter and enjoying some much needed downtime with friends. His travel schedule waxes and wanes, and he has not been on a long trip for a while. So, I am being stretched a bit this week, parenting solo. In the times when I begin to feel the weight of this, I stop and remember how fleeting this all is and how I want to be present and live it, not just try to survive and make it through. So I make a conscious effort to be here now and inhabit the moment and take note of the things that are mine today that I will miss and long for all too soon.

Here are a few of those little things I am trying to fully absorb and enjoy and remember. A blonde headed little boy wearing Batman footie pajamas with a cape. Making up stories about crazy things that could have happened to  lead to the Purell wipes dispenser being completely empty at the Chick-Fil-A playground.  (Which reminds me of the time my preschooler wept as we went through the drive thru, and after establishing the tears were not due to missing out on the playground or not getting a toy, we established that the root of all the emotional upheaval was his desire for a “wipey” from the dispenser by the playground).  The eruption of pure joy on my little boy’s face and the best, infectious giggle as I pushed him “as high as you can” on his glider swing.  And his baby sister swinging beside him in her orange car swing, laughing at him laughing. My older son’s strikingly dark eyes as he declares a staring contest to try to rid me of my hiccups.  I had never heard of this remedy.  How he tells me stories about what happened at school, and talks to me about the little girl he is in love with, and gives me his review of that day’s school lunch.  The ways he tries to be helpful.  How he can’t walk across a room without hurting himself, but carefully he rescues his sister from her crib, carries her downstairs, places her in her high chair, and starts feeding her some yogurt.  The sight of him carrying her, radiating pure love, her clinging to him like a little monkey.  A five year old who delights in gathering wildflowers and making bouquets for his teacher. A sweet baby girl who flits around the room gleefully, takes a break from discovering and playing to give a hug and snuggle with her brothers sprawled on the bean bag, playing video games.  How she cheers and celebrates along with them as they accomplish new things in their games, even though she has no idea what the excitement is about.

It’s interesting how when everything is all crammed together, it looks like chaos.  But, when there’s a little blank space interspersed, the beauty emerges.

 
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On Making the Most of the Moment

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Aug 13, 2013 in Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  Fool me a thousand times and I’m a parent who thinks this moment, this day, this season, this stage, this age, this child of mine…cradled in my arms, asleep on my shoulder, asking for one more goodnight hug and kiss, wrapped around my legs, shouting for me to watch, singing me a song, picking me flowers, drawing me pictures, writing me notes, dancing gleefully, learning to ride a bike, needing a ride to goalie camp and back every day this week and insisting I stay and watch, demanding I drop everything and push him on his swing, inviting me to play with him, hoping to have a picnic, twirling my hair, wanting only me for comfort, sitting in my lap, snuggled in my bed, eager for me to meet his friends, telling me long stories about his day, sharing her ice cream with me, smiling ear to and reaching out little arms for me when I get her out of bed, making me paintings everyday at preschool, asking for my help on a project, staring at me from the backseat as we drive here and there, demanding and delighting in my attention, sharing our time and space and hearts…..will last forever.

It seems like it will never end sometimes.  When I’m tired or alone or overwhelmed by all this responsibility.  It seems interminable.  Sometimes it seems permanent.  Like we were meant to be together and we will always be as we are now.  And sometimes, as you sort through preschool mementos and attend kindergarten meetings, it seems so fleeting.  It seems so precious.  And you realize the baby you just brought home from the hospital is walking and talking.  The tiny boy who picked out a red tricycle for his second birthday is zooming by on a two wheeler without training wheels.  The bright eyed boy you remember putting on the kindergarten bus is starting third grade.   The summer I anticipated sharing with them with such excitement is over.  And I realize that I have spent many days working, cleaning, cooking, washing, preparing, planning, researching, organizing, and surviving and not so much time playing, watching, listening, holding, cuddling, gazing, singing, reading, and taking it all in.  Caring for young children is a lot of work. It takes a lot of energy, physically, mentally, emotionally.  It is also a joy, a privilege, a gift, a life filled with wonder and amazement and so much love.  And it does not last forever.  So I will embrace it while it’s here.  My life and my heart are full.  It makes me sad to think I take it for granted.  It breaks my heart to imagine it changing.  And yet it does over and over.  And I am surprised over and over.  And I am bewildered over and over.  I love these kids with all my heart, and I will savor who they are and what we share every day.

 
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Getting Stronger: Day 3

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Jun 9, 2013 in Green-Eyed Machine, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

Today was busy.  As soon as I woke up, I was on a tight schedule.

Dark haired boy off to school.

Nurse baby girl, change diaper, get blondie and baby dressed and fed breakfast.

Get myself ready and get out the door.

Pick up 2nd grader from school.

Drive to dr. office for annual check ups.

Back in car to preschool drop off.

Grab lunch for 2nd grader and back to school.

Drive home to change a diaper, nurse baby, play on floor with puzzles and cars and trucks, feed baby lunch, quick clean up, and off to preschool pickup.

Back home, where I finally have a chance to breathe…ahhhh.  So I skipped breakfast and grabbed lunch on the go, but I still tried to make healthy choices.  Yes it was fast food, but it was a grilled chicken flatbread and an iced tea.  Could have been worse.  And, it’s just one day.  It could be easy to derail in the early days of forming a new habit, but I’m making it work.  Sticking with the program!

 
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Getting Stronger: Day 2

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Jun 9, 2013 in Green-Eyed Machine, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl

Another successful day!  I did day 2 of “Couch to 5k”.  I even managed to get a solo run in this time.  Alone time, running the path around a beautiful park in my neighborhood, perfect running weather, in the moonlight, with some high energy music.  It felt amazing.  My feet hurt and my calves were sore by the end, but it was worth it!  I made more healthy choices.  I am feeling stronger and healthier and thinner already.  I even lifted some weights.

 

A few things I am learning:

1. Get used to feeling hungry.  It’s gonna be ok.  At first I freaked out, but sometimes it’s not about feeding your stomach, it’s about nourishing your spirit.  Denying yourself sometimes can actually allow you to respond to your longing in a more productive way or just realize that sometimes it’s not best to gratify every desire.  It’s ok to feel negative feelings.  You will survive, and it will make you a stronger person.
2. Make a few compromises. I can drink sweet tea like I’m a southern girl.  Instead of a large with refills, I had just one small cup.   Instead of a regular caramel frappuccino with whipped cream, I had an iced caramel macchiato with nonfat milk.  Balanced with lots of nourishing, healthy foods throughout the day, I can live with that.
3. It’s not all or nothing. It’s about making better and better choices until there’s no room left for unhealthy ones. It’s not about being perfect. If I make a less than ideal choice, all that matters is that the next choice is a better one. It’s about taking such great care of myself, that I feel so good I don’t want to do things that make me feel bad.
4. Eat lots of filling healthy foods first. It doesn’t leave much space for unhealthy ones. Salads are my friend.

 
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Getting Stronger: Day 1

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on May 8, 2013 in Green-Eyed Machine, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl

A couple weeks ago I went to bed feeling defeated and miserable.  This was my predicament:

1. Eating healthy food in reasonable portions seems impossible, no matter how much I want to or how hard I try.
2. I don’t recognize my own reflection.
3. Clothes shopping is not how I enjoy spending time. I’m tired of buying bigger clothes, wearing maternity clothes 10 months later, not having anything to wear, or wearing clothes that are too small.
4. I want to take care of myself. I want to be strong and fit and healthy and feel good.

I finally reached a turning point.  The next morning I woke up early, startled by something. As I lay there in the dark, I found myself having a hard time breathing, my chest hurting, my heart racing. I realized that it was no longer just about looking good. If I didn’t make some changes, I was likely going to be unwell soon. My kids depend on me taking care of myself. It was time to do something.

This is where the rubber meets the road, and I became a woman of action.  I downloaded a “couch to 5k” app on my phone, and I used it. I did half the first day’s run/walk on the way to a park, pushing my kids in a stroller, and half on the way back.
I ate nutritious meals, drank some freshly juiced vegetables and fruits, and stuck with it all day. It was hard. In the afternoon I wanted to give up. I was so tired. But, somehow I didn’t. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have ready access to much junk food. Maybe it’s because I just kept trying. At the end of the day I felt so good and proud of myself… and stronger.

 

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Nappie Newby

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Apr 22, 2013 in Being Green, Parenthood

Day One of cloth diapering.  I have mixed feelings.  I was surprised when the supplies arrived at my front door, as I was expecting the first delivery in two days.  I had been anticipating this with just a little uncertainty, but mostly excitement.   I was getting ready to take the kids out for lunch, so I decided to wait until we returned to give it a try.  It was kind of a bright spot to my day.  Something to look forward to.

I reviewed the written instructions (with illustrations of a teddy bear) , decided to watch a video demonstration (on a teddy bear again, which my 4 year old found amusing), then viewed one with an actual human baby (we’ll deal with the whole teddy bear vs. real baby later).  Then I tried it.  It was late afternoon when I attempted the first cloth diapering, so I only got to try it out three times today.  However, I did experience both wet and poopy diapers.

Putting a cloth diaper on is a lot more time consuming than I expected.   Let’s talk about that teddy bear now.  I was a little unsure of being able to configure, fold, and fasten the diaper even after the teddy bear demonstration.  But substituting my baby for an inanimate object added another level of complexity to this whole situation.  My baby was a little tired and not really in the mood for a diaper change.  My baby was wiggly and squirmy and impatient and very open about her disapproval of this whole ordeal by the time her little bottom was swaddled in cloth and covered in a waterproof wrap.  I’m not very spatially adept, and although folding and applying a diaper is pretty straightforward, learning how to do it for the first time on my own was a little tricky.  Let alone, getting a baby to remain still and be patient as I stumble my way through it.  As soon as the diaper was on and she was in my arms, she was okay.  I changed the diaper two hours later.  It was wet, the cover was dry.

Round two was even more eventful.  There was poop.  The bad news is I had not gotten the diaper snug around the leg, and it leaked on the inside of the cover.  The good news is the cover contained it!   I set the cover aside to deal with later.  Little Miss Wiggle Pants was again not interested in being changed, which is not unusual lately.  I had planned on trying to remove and dispose of all the contents from the diaper.  I get a discount for doing so and it just seems like something that should be done.  However, doing so wasn’t as simple as I had expected, and after the drama of baby cleanup, I accepted my partial success with the diaper cleanup and tossed it in the pail.

That was just the diaper removal.  I decided to give the baby some time to calm down and wash my hands before  attempting another diaper application.  I also used the floor instead of the changing table so I wouldn’t have to worry about her trying to roll off.  This diapering session was an all out wrestling match.  She kept turning over on her tummy, twisting around to look at  and grab for things, and trying to get away.  I would get a good fold going on, get a snug fit and start to fasten it.  She would wiggle/roll/squirm and all was lost.  This is going to require more patience than I had envisioned.

So first impressions.  This is more time consuming than I imagined.  Just the actual putting on of the diaper.  But I’m wondering if I will get past the learning curve and it will be as routine as using disposables.    I am worried about how it will go overnight.  Will she feel wet and uncomfortable.  Will being wet for so long damage her skin.  Will it leak?  Will she wake because she needs changed?  Maybe we should use disposables at night.  Is that okay?  I mean it’s still better than using them all the time.  What about doublers or liners?  Ugh.  I didn’t expect to have to think so much about this.

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Metaphorically Speaking

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Feb 4, 2013 in Inner Workings, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

There is a scene in the Disney animated movie, Monsters, Inc., in which the lizard-like  villain monster Randall attacks the furry, lovable hero monster Sully.  Randall is strangling  Sully.  Sully is struggling and helpless and running out of time.  Sully’s best friend Mike, a goofy little round monster with one large eye, is standing right there with Sully.  But Mike doesn’t know what’s going on because Randall can blend into his surroundings like a chameleon, rendering himself  invisible.  So all Mike sees is Sully dancing around like a crazy person, shrieking and making strange faces.  Mike keeps talking, trying to have a serious conversation.  Sully is in trouble.  He is trying to fight, but he is losing.  He attempts to get Mike’s attention.  He calls for help.  But, Mike is focused on what he’s trying to say, and he  still can’t see what’s happening.  Mike starts getting frustrated with Sully, because he is trying to reach out and he’s in the middle of something important and Sully isn’t cooperating or paying attention or trying to do his part.  Sully is acting very strangely, but Mike just doesn’t get what’s going on.  Then finally Randall’s skin changes patterns and becomes visible and everyone grasps the reality of the situation.  And Mike comes to his aid.  And they  fight off the monster together.

It’s like that.  Depression and anxiety are like that.  I fight an invisible enemy.  So you think I’m fine.  You don’t see the monster threatening to squeeze the life out of me.  You miss the panic that is just underneath the surface.  The emptiness that fills me up.  You don’t know that when I drop my sweet boy off in your classroom I hug him tighter  because the thoughts I’m having of harming myself make me wonder if this is the last time I will see him.   That my heart is breaking because I can’t bear that thought, but I don’t know what to do with this desperation I feel.  That getting him to school late again, without the book he was supposed to return four days ago, wearing a sweatshirt and two jackets we found in the car because we left his coat at home, with signs of  lunch still on his handsome face,  and a backpack empty of the change of clothes it should be carrying, took every bit of the planning, timing, and energy resources I have and is a monumental accomplishment for me.

Or you wonder why I’m acting so strangely.  Why I’m so forgetful.  Why I can’t complete a simple task like making dinner.  Why I am impatient or irritable.  Why I always want to sleep.  Why I can’t keep my kids under control.  Why I don’t return your calls.  Why I can’t get off the couch.  Why I call my husband at work, wondering when he will be home.  Why I miss appointments.  Why I’m not making conversation.  Why I am gaining weight.  Why my appearance is disheveled.  Why I’m angry.  Why I am so needy.  Why I’m no fun.

Or you think because you don’t see it, it’s not there.  It’s in my head.  It’s an excuse.  Everyone has bad days.  Life is hard.  Stop whining and feeling sorry for yourself, buck up, pull yourself up by your bootstraps and deal with it.  Be grateful for what you have.  Count your blessings.  Think positively.  Be more optimistic.  Change your attitude.  Get up and do something.  If you don’t like your life, change it.  Happiness is a choice.   Put your head down and move forward.  Nobody’s perfect.  Don’t dwell on the negative.

If I were physically ill, in a way that is visible and understood, you might offer to take over child care for the day.  You would not question my need to stay in bed to get the rest I need.  Perhaps you would make meals for my family. You would urge me to see a doctor, take medication, go to the hospital if necessary, undergo therapy.  You would offer words of encouragement and hope.  You would help me complete tasks too great for me.  You would provide companionship and support.

But although my agony is palpable and very real to me, it is not visible or widely understood.  It is undetected, questioned, stigmatized, ignored, misunderstood, dismissed as a personal deficiency.  And so I push on in silence.  I fight my battle singlehandedly.  I daydream of having some obvious illness or injury so that someone might notice and take care of me. That the camouflage that hides this villain beating the life out of me might fail for just  a moment and  someone might come to my aid and we could fight off this monster together.

 

 
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My Knuffle Bunny and Me

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Sep 27, 2011 in Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

I get the dark haired boy on the bus.  Then it’s time to go get my blondie off to preschool.  I find him still in bed looking incredibly like the baby that he is no more.  I inhale his smell, the sweet scent of his skin and hair, of him.  I snuggle into his warmth and softness despite the fact that I know we should be getting ready to go.  How many more moments will I have like this one?  Where his cheeks are so squishy underneath my kiss?   Where he twirls my hair around his little fingers and puts his little boy arm around me?  These are the slippery moments that I must inhabit fully, even as they fall through my fingers.

I fear he will be hard to get going since last night’s sleep was restless and too short.  But as I move to get his clothes, his little voice says, “Get me.”  We go upstairs, me and my knuffle bunny, to pick out his outfit.  I reach for a t-shirt from the drawer, but he wants to check out the closet for “shirts with buttons”.

As he struggles to push and pull those tiny little buttons into tiny little holes with tiny little fingers, I remind myself to be patient and let him find his way.  I’ve been reading a parenting book that tells me I need to encourage autonomy and not step in to solve all his problems for him.   I give him some advice (which is allowed).  He works and persists until he has gotten that button into it’s hole.  Then we discover it was the wrong hole.  I wait for the frustration, but instead he gives me a big toothy grin and says, “Now what do we do?”  This surprises me and makes me smile.

He doesn’t want to wear undies.  But, when I offer him a blue pair, he decides to wear them because that’s his best friend’s favorite color.  Oh, the simplicity.  He doesn’t want to go to school.  He doesn’t like his teachers.  Then he remembers that his lost slug might be at school.  Suddenly his face brightens.  He loses the wilted flower look, sits upright and bounces up and down at this thought.  Now he is a man on a mission.

We grab an apple on the way out the door.  They are doing some projects and he needs to one today.  He picks the green one and tells me it’s cause it’s little and he likes little ones.  He says he’s going to eat it.  I grab the big red one, just in case.  As we get in the car he asks me, “Where will you be when I’m at school?  Where will you be when you leave?”  His question catches me off guard.  It hasn’t occurred to me that he might think about this.  I give him my answer and he is satisfied.  I ask him why he wants to know.  He tells me he just wondered where I would go.  Then he moves on.  No fuss.  No big deal.  But I am fascinated by this question and the thought behind it.  I am fascinated by this little boy.

When we arrive at school, he shows me the hole in the little green apple where he has dug his fingernail into the skin.  So I reach for the big, red, just-in-case apple.  But he says he wants to eat it.  We take both apples and he does indeed take a few bites out of the red one.  We end up leaving the green one.  Life is not perfect.  And I’m okay with that.

He is clingy.  He comes back for more hugs and kisses. Then he remembers his slug.  I tell him to go ask his teacher if she found it.  Off he goes.  Off I go.  Off time goes.  But this morning will remain in my memory.

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