Jun 26 2017

Today I Forgot How to Be Tough

Today I Forgot How to Be Tough

It’s been a long time since I let myself cry. Months, maybe. I’m not talking about the welling up that happens when your baby does something magical, or the occasional wobbly chin because that sneaky-sad P&G commercial caught you by surprise. I mean a heaving, hearty cry that lasts way longer than a single sob, the kind that makes your eyes puff up by morning.

I cried a lot more often in the beginning, when we first moved — but I was pregnant then, and I got to blame it on hormones, and after the baby was born I told myself to toughen up, sister. Most of the time, I am moderately successful at this: I try to end every day (and every post) with a glimmer of hope; I’m a fanatic about practicing daily gratitude; I never go to sleep without counting my blessings, and there are so many — so, so many. An immeasurable amount. I am deeply, guiltily aware of how much worse things could be, and for that reason I sometimes pretend to have no problems at all.

But here’s the uncomfortable truth: Sometimes, living so far away still feels kind of awful. A general sense of being lost and alone still permeates everything, punctuated by hopeful highs whenever I connect with a new friend or manage to achieve a writing goal.

It’s not the place that’s awful, not really. It’s the physical distance between me and every single person of my past. Not to get all Holden Caulfield on you, but I miss everybody. I’ve met some of my favorite people in the world out here, but at times I just cannot shake the loneliness. Whether that’s something that comes along with stay-at-home mothering or with moving so far away from home, I’m not sure — probably both, and this double whammy sometimes makes me feel as though I’m trapped inside an inexplicable cave of isolation.

When things are fine, they’re not bad. When things are bad, I am desperate to move home immediately, back to the place where my parents are twenty minutes away, back to a life where I was important to people other than my babies. I’m definitely not supposed to say that, though. My babies are supposed to be the only things I need — and a lot of the time, that feels true.

Today I cried.

It’s been an emotional last month-ish. We found out that one of the most important people in our lives will likely need surgery soon — which is, believe it or not, the good news — and we are 3,000 miles away. We’ve also been trying to patch together a trip home, but traveling anywhere with a family of four is mind-blowingly expensive.

And last week, I was alone with the kids while my husband flew away on a business trip. This is a situation I know I need to get used to, but it always causes me immense stress: all the pressure and responsibility you regularly feel as a mom is magnified when you’re the only parent within a thousand-mile radius, and I wind up averaging 1-2 hours of very broken sleep a night, because thanks, anxiety.

What if one of the kids has an emergency? Will I need to rip the other one out of a sound sleep and drag them both to the ER? What if I have an emergency? What if I have a heart attack and die in the middle of the night and no one knows because I’m all alone and the baby is trapped in his crib for three days and my daughter starves to death?

I need to just pause here to kneel at the aching feet of single parents everywhere. That this is your every day (and every night) — not to mention the thousands of things you do and feel that no one ever sees — is beyond my comprehension. I don’t have enough hands to salute you the way you deserve it.

After a little while, I couldn’t wait for him to get home, because I really, really missed sleep companionship. But when he returned, he brought a 104-degree fever and influenza A with him — and shortly afterward, despite my most obsessive hand-washing/quarantining/disinfecting efforts, my daughter had it, too. I have never seen a thermometer read numbers that high.

So today I woke up and found myself responsible for both children, a husband who could barely move or speak, and a dog who snuck into our room while Al was sleeping and gobbled up the chicken soup by his bedside and gave herself diarrhea. Today I was responsible for business-trip laundry and also sick laundry. Today, someone else’s needs were always first, and it was 7 PM before I realized I’d barely eaten.

If you could watch a fast-motion video of today, you would see a frazzled woman running up and down stairs and back and forth between babies — add “Flight of the Bumblebee” for background music, and it would almost be a comedy.

Some days I look around at my life and I think, like a terrified 3-year-old, I just want my mom.

If I were at home, I could have scooped up the kids and taken them to my parents’ for a while, removing them from all the virus particles that have surely settled into every crevice of our home by now. I could have refilled Al’s Gatorade one more time and let him sleep in silence while I had help bathing the children.

Instead I made breakfast for everyone but me in an infected kitchen and leaned over the sink and cried for the first time in months. My son — who has literally never seen me do this, ever — said sadly, “Sowwy, Mommy,” which completely broke my heart, and I hugged him and hugged him even while he smeared peanut butter in my hair.

The weight of all this responsibility is crushing sometimes, the impossible heaviness of it, and I forgot how to be tough today.

What will happen if I go down? Who will be responsible for me?

My mother says I need a mantra — something to repeat over and over when it feels like things are not all right — and I’m trying. I borrowed some of her own words to me from a text she sent: You don’t give yourself enough credit. You are stronger than you think. All of this, too, shall pass.

It will (I hope), although for now it feels like a never-ending cycle of wait-and-see contagion. But even when it passes, l’ll still be all the way out here, far away from so many people I love, and I’m not sure if I’m okay with that anymore. I’m tired of pretending that I am.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just…tired. I haven’t slept in six nights. This is probably my exhaustion hangover talking, and I might legit regret posting this in a haze of sleep deprivation, but for tonight, here I am. If a mom breaks in California, and no one is around to see her, did it ever really happen?

May 1 2017

To the Heroes Who Love Me When I Am Anxious

To the Heroes Who Love Me When I Am Anxious

Most of the time, I’m fine.

Or, more accurately, I’m “fine.” Most days, I function just like everyone else appears to function: I grocery shop, I play outside with my children, I laugh easily. I seem relaxed and comfortable and carefree. There is a soundtrack always playing in the background of my mind that is filled with worries and what-ifs, but on these days the music is low. Controlled. Almost muted.

And then there are days like the one last week. My husband was out of town, I was alone with the kids for several days and nights, and a few new-ish friends popped over for a couple hours to have some wine and watch a show. After a little while, I went upstairs to put my daughter to bed; and by the time I rejoined my company, I was drowning under the first crushing wave of a phobia-related panic attack. Continue reading

Feb 23 2017

9 Times I Wish I Had a Sanitation Chamber

9 Times I Wish I Had a Sanitation Chamber

When I taught high school, my students always joked that they were going to get me a sanitation chamber for my classroom. “We’ll install it just inside the door right there,” they teased, “so no one can come in without using it first.”

Someone said this every single year, because apparently I am not shy about my aversion to germs. Each time, my first reaction was to laugh with them because teenagers are hella funny. And then my second reaction was to get really, really, unbearably depressed because human-sized sanitation chambers are probably super expensive, and anyway how exactly would one go about getting something like that approved by the Board?

Then I had children of my own. Forget school — I need a sanitation chamber for my HOUSE. Like, yesterday. Yes, yes, I know: exposure to germs builds immunity, blahbity blah blah, but a person can dream. There are so many instances when it would totally come in handy: Continue reading

Oct 15 2015

Pumpkin Patch Redux

Pumpkin Patch Redux

So we tried again.

This past weekend, we drove alllll the way back to the pumpkin patch for a redo. It was important to me that P be able to replace her “yucky” memories with new ones — and I needed to do the same. Part of phobics’ irrationality is that we tend to associate completely unrelated things with the sick event, even though we know they don’t really have anything to do with anything. (i.e. “I wore this outfit the last time someone threw up. Better not wear this outfit anymore.” Or we might remember the exact date of the last time we got sick and then become uneasy around that same date every year. Ridiculous, right? We know.) Anyway, since the pumpkin patch threatened to become a semi-scary place, I forced myself to go back ASAP.

What a relief to see the happy, non-feverish version of P! First stop: the face-painting clowns. She chose the glittery rainbow option and sat exceptionally still. Continue reading

Oct 8 2015

Confessions of an Emetophobic Parent Pumpkin Patch Fail

<span class="entry-title-primary">Confessions of an Emetophobic Parent</span> <span class="entry-subtitle">Pumpkin Patch Fail</span>

It’s October, which means it’s almost Halloween, which means I’m allowed to tell you a horror story.

For most of you, this will not be a horror story at all. This will sound like a standard, Duh-You-Have-A-Toddler-What-Did-You-Expect? story, and if you have kids, no doubt you will have been there, done that. But I am a parent who has an irrational fear of throwing up, and I can only see this experience through that lens. Continue reading