Category Archives: Uncategorized

Soothing the Monster

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As soon as I got in the car this morning, my anxiety monster shifted to my chest and poured itself over my sternum, changing into a cold, dull weight.

I reached up and pressed my warm palm into my chest, hoping pressure and heat would soothe it, help it release its tentacles from my lungs.

It felt like it was working… until I took my hand away.

Cold, it clung tighter, twining itself around, so I quickly put my hand back. I kneaded my chest with my fingertips, trying to release the tension.

Once at work, I tried to hide my anxiety, walking quickly to stow my lunch and get my day started. The little tasks helped, but it was still there, pressing, gripping. I wanted to tell someone, but I didn’t want to sound like I was whining. I just wanted someone I trusted to know I was having an attack, but I chickened out at the last minute.

Walking down the hall, the back of my ribs ached, just like I’d gotten punched in the kidneys. Each breath was torture.

All I felt was despair. Would I have to endure this all day just to get my job done? Was today another day I’d have to leave and burn a sick day?

And then, miraculously, the anxiety monster shrank and softened and crept back up to my shoulder when I saw a friend and coworker who wanted to collaborate on today’s activity.

The pain was gone. I could breathe. Nothing was pressing on my chest. I was a little fatigued from the attack, but I was able to get my day started and get through the first few trials with no hassles and no recurrence… yet.

My Anxiety Monster

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There’s this little ball of fluff, soft as sheep’s wool, a wisp of fur with sleepy eyes. It rides lightly on my shoulder, quietly watching, absorbing the world around it. It’s small, nearly weightless, but I feel it in the tenseness of my shoulders, the tendons in my neck. It’s riding there.

And then, for no good reason at all, it crawls around to my chest and sits, gently at first, gradually solidifying. It’s no longer soft and cuddly. It’s a rock, slightly pressing into my sternum, increasing its pressure down, down, down, now a solid weight on my chest.

I’m afraid to breathe deeply because I don’t want to feel its weight. I take shallow breaths so I don’t disturb it. Each lung-filling breath expands its reach, like pressing it into a pancake over my ribs, a rock-heavy pancake. Then each breath needs to be bigger and bigger just to push it up, just to give my lungs room to get air. So, if I don’t breathe deeply, I don’t feel it expand.

It stays there, pressing down. Big or small, it’s there, pushing against my chest.

The worst part is when it transforms again, growing long, spidery arms that envelop my chest, that grip with razor-sharp pain along my ribs, that seek a way in, ready to squeeze and puncture my beating heart. Now, in fear, my heart is racing, my face is flushed, my skin is overly sensitive, my palms are sweating, and I don’t feel as though any breath actually gives me oxygen; it’s all being squeezed out of me.

The anxiety monster, once a little harmless bit of fluff, is now a hard-shelled crab-like spider with gnashing knives for teeth, ripping, shredding, rending my chest, compressing my lungs, killing me, killing me.

And no one can see it. No one else can feel it.

They tell me to take deep breaths (Ha!).

They tell me to visualize something peaceful.

They tell me to use a catch-phrase.

They want me to appease it, to calm it, to shrink the anxiety monster back down, to stroke it and soothe it until it climbs back up to sit quiescent on my shoulder.

I know they’re right, but all I want to do is shoot it dead. I want to kill it so it doesn’t come back. I don’t want this invisible fiend to dictate my days.

But I listen. I take slow, easy, deep breaths and ignore the claws.

I visualize a painting with the tree of life and push away the picture of the gloating monster on my chest.

I tell myself, “Through God, all things are possible,” instead of listening to the monster’s chuckle.

Slowly, slowly, slowly.

It shrinks. It draws back its claws. It softens.

Finally, it leaves my chest.

It snuggles on my shoulder, curls up against my neck, and sleepily watches the world.

And I am left with the aftermath. I am left with a body worn out from the physical fight. My cheeks are still warm; my fingers are still frozen. I am exhausted by the mental gymnastics. I am sickened by the lingering throb in my chest.

I warm my hands on a cup of coffee.

I breathe, experimenting, looking to see if it’s painless yet.

I give myself a little pat on the back for having survived it once again.

The Capacity of Hurt

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It’s amazing how I can still be hurt.

The bizarre thing is that I can take the hits. I can take someone not liking me, someone being ugly to me.

Bring my kids into it? Yeah, it’s a whole ‘nother ballpark.

So I thought I was pretty immune to being hurt by the ex. Really, I just am numb toward him.

It’s just that I feel hurt when I realize he does nothing to meet the needs of the children – my children. Well, perhaps “nothing” is too strong. But it’s when I think about what  would do for my children and I build any expectation for what they should be getting from him, I open myself up to being hurt.

It’s stupid.

I know it’s stupid.

I still do it.

I think I would have gotten a second job to be able to send child support and gifts. I would have stayed in touch, writing letters or emails as well as calling. I would have pursued a relationship with my children if I were separated from them. I would send them stickers and books and cards and Skyped and done everything I could to be present in their lives if I were living in another state.

Basically, I would fight for my children.

And seeing that they are just not that important to their own biological father hurts me.

What has he done?

  • He sent a couple letters.
  • He sent a few emails.
  • He sent a couple of birthday presents.
  • He sent a couple of Christmas presents.
  • He said he wanted to call on Christmas last year.
  • He sent the paperwork for the girls to get their passports.
  • He flew in for his mother’s birthday party and saw the girls three times over the weekend.
  • His paycheck gets docked automatically for about 1/4 of the child support he owes each month.

So, it’s not as though he’s truly done nothing; it’s that he doesn’t do enough.

I need to let go of expectation. I need to free myself from thinking about his actions as any reflection of my own value system. I need to pray. I need to continue to facilitate any reasonable interaction the girls want to have with him. And I need to put this all out of my mind and focus on the good things in my life. It’s just hard to keep it out of your mind when the time rolls around to inform him about medical support reimbursements that he owes. So I need to just quickly do it and then put it out of my mind again. Like a colonoscopy.

An Open Letter to My Ex

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Dear Failure as a Father,

No, it’s not my fault.

I didn’t take my car keys and my wallet and my phone and drive you off 1248 miles to Utah, walking away from my job, my kids, and my spouse.

I didn’t

  • ignore texts, Facebook messages, emails, and phone calls
  • ignore voice messages from my daughters
  • fail to contact my children even after the police notified me that I was the subject of a missing persons report
  • take off with my paycheck and fail to pay the bills to help my two little girls
  • withhold any contact information from my daughters
  • go for weeks without even attempting to initiate contact with my daughters

I didn’t

  • completely change my profile on Facebook, creating a new name for myself and trying to have a porn star lifestyle
  • fail to communicate with my two little girls for months
  • default and fail to appear in court for the proceedings for my divorce to have any say in the support of or access to my children
  • ignore any child support mandated by the courts
  • limit Christmas for my daughters to a greeting card and a magazine subscription – from a new nickname they’d never heard of before

I didn’t

  • limit my birthday gift to my oldest daughter to $20 cash and a card
  • fail to appear in court for my final divorce proceedings
  • completely and wholly default in the matter of my divorce, including any say in access to my children

I didn’t

  • neglect to try to see my children in March when I was back in the state
  • go for months without trying to communicate to my daughters
  • fail to try to negotiate a time to see my children in June when I was back in the state
  • limit my younger daughter’s birthday gift to a greeting card and a $25 gift card
  • again fail to contact my children for months

I didn’t

  • give excuses about why I couldn’t provide child support when I finally got a job
  • oh, and whine about it on Facebook
  • provide even more excuses why I couldn’t pay anything to help when my younger daughter had to go into braces
  • fail to bring anything for my daughters when I finally saw them in October, nearly a year after I’d left
  • fail to purchase anything for my girls at McDonald’s when I “went out to lunch” with them
  • take stalker-esque photos of my daughters and my ex instead of asking them to be in a photograph
  • tell my children that I was inventing a flying car and a flying suit and a flying bicycle
  • start the most psycho email barrage ever, accusing my ex of neglecting the children
  • email old neighbors, asking them to go behind my ex’s back to email me
  • fail to attempt to communicate directly with my children before acting like a sociopath

I didn’t

  • tell my children I’d write to them every week, only to have it peter off to an occasional email
  • fail to provide a working phone number to my children for 14 months
  • write emails that do not focus on my daughters but instead on me
  • fail to respond to what my daughters write to me
  • write to my children that I’m now developing suits for firefighters
  • send my older daughter a birthday message on the wrong day
  • cop out of sending my daughter a birthday present by asking her to tell me what she didn’t get – not even up front asking “What would you like for your birthday?” but “What didn’t you get that you wanted?”
  • record and send a video that had sound quality so poor my daughter couldn’t understand what I was saying – oh, and have it saved sideways, too
  • blame my ex for sharing the birthday message the day it was sent

Therefore, I fail to see how any of the quagmire you’ve created can legitimately be placed on my shoulders.

You walked away.

You continued to walk away.

You failed to treat the girls and me with respect.

And yet it is my fault? Yet you blame me for it all? You take no responsibility for any of the hurt or pain or hardship; you fail even to acknowledge that your leaving caused turmoil. Instead, in all things, you place the blame squarely on my shoulders.

Fine.

Because I got the better end of the deal.

I got the kids.

I don’t accept responsibility for your actions, but I claim full responsibility for my daughters. I am their parent. I am their guide, their role model, their influence.

I am their MOM.

Insanely productive

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I’ve been insanely productive today – and pretty much all this week. I’m not really sure what’s bringing it about, but I’d like to think it was the adherence to eating clean. I’d add working out, but I intentionally ditched the gym this morning to laze about and drink coffee and eat a leisurely breakfast and read tucked up in a warm blanket before starting my day.

I think it’s that my survival instincts have realized that I need to kick it in gear if I want to keep my job. There has just been so much that I let pile up in this work-related depressive funk when my boss got removed. Looking at it from the other side, it was the same sort of mindset I fell into when I was going through my divorce. The bare minimum got done, but no big projects could be accomplished, and I drowned under extra tasks.

Whatever the cause, the result has been awesome. I’ve enjoyed getting my work life back together and clearing out the gunk.

The best part is that when I am on top of my job, I feel like it’s a good occupation for me to have, like work is a good fit. Perhaps a lot of my general distaste for my job in the past few months has originated from knowing that I wasn’t doing it to its fullest.

As a side note, I’m looking into other ways to augment my income. I’m going to need to do something if I want to be able to afford any extravagances this year, and I’ve got this thing called a wedding coming up in six months.

Finances have been weighing on my mind this week as I get ready to write over thousands of dollars in property taxes and school taxes. The problem is that, while I saved to pay for them and can afford them, it will drain my cash cushion. Granted, I didn’t have a cushion at all this time last year and wound up waiting until the middle of the summer to finish paying my taxes. So I don’t really know what I’m whining about. I’m in a better place financially than I’ve been in years, but I wish I was doing even better – and that would have meant scrimping on Christmas, which I didn’t do. So, okay, I get to live with my decisions and make the best ones moving forward that I can with the information I have at the time.

And I suppose that’s all we can ever really do.

Day 2 Progress

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It’s sad but good to say that on only the second day, I feel 100% better.

Yesterday I was still miserable. I felt fevered, sore, lethargic, and basically sick through and through. I left work “early” – which is on-time – got fuel and actually felt hungry. I allowed myself a packet of sunflower seeds from the gas station.

I got home on a mission – go to bed. First, I knew I was running basically dehydrated, but the idea of water left me (literally) cold. So instead I made a “green” smoothie, though mine turned out a really awful puce color. Banana, apple, spinach, a couple raspberries, a couple blackberries, and almond milk.

And then bed.

I crashed from 5-7, and it was one of the best decisions of 2015.

I awoke to an empty house and went to make dinner: ground beef, grilled onions, cabbage, and celery. I settled down with a cup of hot tea and a good book about the time everyone got back. I was still feeling pretty punk, so I ate on the sofa in approved “Mommy is sick” formation.

We opened some leftover Christmas presents (yes, it’s the middle of January, and we still had a stack of presents – mostly books – left to open) and then scooted everyone off to their respective beds by 8:30. Snuggled under the heating blanket, we watched the rest of our movie and collapsed into slumber by 10pm.

And then this morning? Oh my goodness! This morning, I felt like myself again! I was energetic! I was excited about making breakfast for people! I was ready to go to work! Granted, I did skip my yoga class for extra shut-eye, but I rationalized it that the sleep was what my body needed MOST.

And today I have felt capable. I have felt able to be on my game and do what needs doing. I have been cheerful and responsive and quick-thinking. I have been motivated and a problem-solver.

This is the me I expect to see, not the person who steals a nap over lunch, not the person who hibernates at her desk, hiding from work.

I’ve got to see this through and see what happens. I am (again) keeping a food journal, but this time I’ve added a new column – Body Check – to it to see how my body is feeling at any given time in response to food and drink.

Now my next goal is to convince myself to start drinking straight water again. I fell off the bandwagon with that one when simply drinking water made me cold inside. I started helping myself out by making pitchers of that lime-infused water again, and the bonus is that my older daughter also was cheerfully drinking from that.

(I’ve gotta brag – I’ve almost entirely eliminated sodas, sweet tea, sugary drinks, and juices from my kids’ daily diet. Yes, if we are at a restaurant or going out to eat, they usually choose sodas, but I’m not purchasing them for the house, and we’re not making pitchers of sweet tea. Milk, water, and hot tea – with the occasional hot chocolate – are the most common beverages for the girls now, and I have no problem with that at all!)

Weigh-In

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Did the weigh-in today for the 90 Day Challenge (90DC). Today is full of numbers, plans, and theories.

It was both better and worse than I’d expected. 

Let’s start with the worse: My weight was 156.3 

Yikes.

Admittedly, last year I would have jumped for joy to be at 156. This year, I had a taste of being under 140, if only for a couple of days. It was a heady experience. One I’d like to repeat sooner rather than later.

My lean body mass is 120.6 

O-kay. I guess that means that I could conceivably reduce my overall weight by reducing the amount of water 88.6 lbs (any bloating or inflammation or just excess water retention) but that it would not be particularly reasonable for me to expect to get much below 135 total body weight.

My body fat is 35.7 lbs

That’s good news because that is something I can target and reduce with strength training, menu control, and exercise.  It gives me a good target for transformation.

My percentage body fat is 22.8%

That’s the number that’s going to be crucial for the transformation challenge. Looking at the body fat weight and the percentage body fat, my goal needs to be to transform about 16 lbs fat into something else – muscle, etc. That would be a 45% transformation, bringing my percentage body fat to 12.54%.  I don’t know how realistic that is for me, so I think I should aim for 16% as my happy goal, or 25.05 lbs fat, unless my math is fuzzy.

So ideally, my twin goals are to reduce total body weight and cut my total body fat by one third.

The path right now looks like trying to figure out which zone I should aim for when working out to burn fat instead of sugar, to pay attention to incorporating good Omega 3 fats, and to increase muscle with strength training and increased time under tension.

And then the “MyPlan” part of the program recommended this:

  • Focus on getting ample protein at every meal
  • Fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables for every meal
  • If not used to preparing food, use more pre-packaged foods (frozen or pre-cut veggies, etc.) for convenience
  • Stop eating when satisfied or approximately 80% full
  • Choose only main dishes with fewer than 5 ingredients
  • Consume at least a half-plate full of colorful vegetables, every day
  • Eat protein every 3-5 hours while awake, depending on hunger
  • Emphasize healthy fats to help control training-induced inflammation
  • Drink at least 3 liters of water per day (about 100oz)
  • Limit caffeine to 1 cup of coffee per day
  • Limit alcohol to fewer than 3 drinks per week
  • Take specific supplements determined by your metabolic chemistry (lab work)

I had to put the blasphemy in bold. Limit my coffee? Are you people FREAKING NUTS? I was so totally on board with the whole thing until then. But this plan attacked my coffee. It’s the one thing that keeps me from drinking soda.

Protein? Check.

Non-starchy vegetables? No problem.

Stop eating sooner? Yeah, I need to work on that, especially after a night like tonight when I ate WAY too much watermelon. I am now the bloated gaseous queen of noxiousness. Too much watermelon = BAD.

Simple main dishes? Dude, my middle name is Simple.

Colorful veggies and protein? Didn’t we already address those? Check and check.

Healthy fats? Going to work on more Omega 3s.

Water? Eh, I have a love/hate relationship with water. Every now and then I hate drinking water; the rest of the time I love it. There are some times when I can guarantee I’ll drink the requisite amount of water – in the hot tub, in the bath tub, in the car on the way home, and apparently late night blogging.

Coffee limit? Grumble grumble grumble. I’m going to see about that. I think I can do this without giving up that vice.

Alcohol limit? No problem, really. I enjoy drinking, but I am going to go Whole30, and that takes out alcohol anyway.

Supplements? Well, I’d need to do those tests. That gets pricey. I’m not sure I’m going to put the money aside for that this time. 

So basically it’s got good ideas.  

And I really started my plan today. I tricked out my breakfast with eggs, El Salvadoran coleslaw, picante sauce, blueberries, and coffee – 250-300 calories. Morning snack was a Granny Smith apple and coffee – 100-150 calories. Lunch was a Market Salad from Chick-Fil-A and coffee – 200 calories. Post-work-out snack was a protein bar – 170 calories. Dinner was eggs, cabbage, cauliflower – 250 calories, and watermelon – yikes calories.  I think I did okay, probably staying in the realm of 1500 calories for the day.

 

Sharing

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I want to share my blog with my fiancé.  I just don’t know if this would be a monumentally bad idea.  It’s not a secret.  It’s not as though he doesn’t know I’ve been spending time updating and writing and “testing out my voice” through my blog.  

But here’s the thing: do I want him to see the part of my thoughts I write down?  Would he have a hard time understanding what I’m trying to say?

A Wedding?

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It kind of hit me today:

I’m actually getting married!

It never occurred to me that this would really happen again.  I mean, once seemed like an amazing thing – and something I would never, ever want to repeat.  And here I am, engaged.  Engaged to be married.  With an actual wedding.  

And so now I have permission to actually look at wedding things.  To dream about a wedding.  To plan for a wedding.  To think about… gasp… myself

Don’t get me wrong – I think about myself pretty often nowadays.  I make time for yoga.  I drink coffee.  I eat mostly healthy foods.  I practice a lot of positive self-talk.  But to think about an event to celebrate me being united with someone else?  My head is still reeling.  

So the past couple of days, I have even let myself look at wedding bands.  I’ve looked at diamond rings.

And this weird morning?  I dug online to try to find the dress I wanted.  And I kind of did.  It was very nearly the dress I had seen a month or so ago – a simple, white gauze dress with a ruffle tier on the bodice.  And I have to admit, I loved that the dress was on clearance for less than $20.  Seriously.  I spent well over an hour agonizing over purchasing this dress, which very well may actually wind up being my actual wedding dress. 

Wedding Dress

And then I bought it.  Just now.  I went ahead and clicked “check out” and bought it – and accompanying bridesmaid dresses for my daughters, also in white gauze, also on clearance, also less than $20 (combined!)  Wow.  And they’re going to be shipped in the next 4-7 business days and arrive at my fiancé’s house.

Bridesmaid Dresses

I rationalized the purchase by telling myself that I had liked the dress even before I got engaged and that I would want to wear it even if the whole “getting married/wedding thing” fell through.  Ok, I may not believe the last part, but the first part is completely true.  And who knows?  I may just like it well enough as a cover-up that I do wear it all the time and have it be my little “in” joke.  At the very least, I can toodle around town – or the beach – or whatever – in a little dress that matches my daughters.  

And I realized that I’m not expensive.  I don’t want to be expensive.  I don’t want to be miserly or cheap, but I do like the idea of being economical.  I like the idea of having nice things and maybe even some expensive things, but I much prefer the idea of being smart and getting exactly what I want – even if what I want is the least expensive thing out there.  

Take my engagement ring, for example.  I have what is probably the cheapest knock-off ring, but I love it.  It’s probably cubic zirconia and some kind of fake opal, but it’s beautiful.  It looks like the colors of the ocean in Cozumel, and it was purchased in Cozumel, and I paid more than half its cost.  I wanted it for its own beauty, not its value to anyone else.  

If it were real black opals and real tanzanite, it would have been a $1000 ring.  You know what?  I’d rather than $1000 be spent paying off debt or investing in the future  I would actually feel guilty about someone spending a lot of money on me – on a trinket, a bauble.  As it is, I have a beautiful ring that strangers ooh and aah over.  And I don’t have to worry about insurance or loss or damage, except as a keepsake of a special moment in my life.  Heck, I would have taken a piece of twine – anything – as a symbol that I was spoken for, that I had been asked and had accepted a proposal of marriage.

So I may be setting a trend here with this wedding.  I may be finding ways to be economical and yet fulfilling my dreams.  

My dream is to have a simple wedding, a celebration that does not create unnecessary headaches, stress, or expenses, but instead creates a beautiful memory I can hold and cherish for many years to come.

New Beginnings

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I laughed out loud when I read my last post. 

It was written in November of last year, about two weeks after my life took the biggest plot twist I’ve yet to experience.  

Then, in the midst of blogging, my computer kicked me off, and I couldn’t post.  

And then I didn’t want to.

Oh, sure, I wrote.  I kept a journal.  I spilled my spleen in words.

But I didn’t blog.

I don’t think I wanted all of it out there, out where anyone could see it.

And now I’m ready.

So, I’m going to work to get the pieces of my story together.  I’m going to work to put all the weird things that happened in some sort of logical *snort*cough* order, and then I’m going to look back at all of it and laugh.  

And I can laugh, now.  

Well, to be sure, I could laugh at the absurdity of it at the time, but now I can laugh without rancor.  I can laugh with good humor.  But that’s because I know the “end.”  I know how it all works out – for now.  

So now I’m ready.