Live Lightly, Laugh Often

random thoughts: some deep, some not

(Not) Rollin’ on a River

I love to people watch. If I know I will be somewhere particularly crowded, even though I hate crowds, I get excited about the chance to watch people doing what they do.

One of my favorite places to watch people in is the small Georgia mountain town of Helen. In the summer, folks like to go tubing.

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You can learn a lot about a person by the way he or she deals with the tubing experience. You see the full range of human experience if you sit along the river and watch the folks tubing float by you.

The thrill seeker. This is the person who is going to aim for every rapid (even though there aren’t any in Helen) and try to make the experience as exciting as possible.

The stoic. This person is here to relax, not react. They will contemplate nature while drifting along.

The bundle of nerves. Each bump into rocks or other inter tubes will stress this person out. They also don’t actually want to be in their swimsuit in public.

The sleepyhead. This person will promptly fall asleep, oblivious to times they bump into others or get stuck.

The chatterbug. This person has to talk to everyone the whole time. Often at the front of a pack. Often trying to entertain the group.

The beautiful person. This is the tannest, fittest, most scantily clad person, propped up for all to see. Male or female, they want all eyes on them, not to say that they’ll show they care if you’re looking at them.

There are many other types, but these are the main ones that come to mind as I write. I think of how I’ve seen folks on the river deal with the issues the river presents — places where you’ll get stuck, where a rapid might be, where a lot of tubes might pile up in a bottleneck.

If it’s a fast moving part of the river, the thrill seeker is going to try to figure out how to make it more exciting, and might try to stand in their tube. The bundle of nerves is going to fret and possibly cry. The chatterbug will tell everyone it’s coming and get ready. The stoic will accept their fate and go along with the flow. The beautiful person will outwardly look unruffled and might even smile to show they are having fun, but inwardly worry about looking stupid if fall out of their tube. The sleepyhead will completely miss the event.

I think however we deal with things in life can say a lot about us. The issue is almost always neutral: traffic, an issue at work, a cancellation of an event. How we react and regroup is how we inherently deal with the issue.

I’m more of a stoic type on the river and in life. I tend to believe a lot of things work themselves out. If I fight a situation, I’ll be more likely to make a fool of myself. If I gather information, watch others go through the same thing, and wait, the answer will emerge. A lot of problems can’t be solved immediately. A lot of situations can’t be resolved quickly. So why force them to? And why look for any fun in them? My secondary type is either the bundle of nerves or the chatterbug.

Sometimes, though, I wonder what taking a thrillseeker position for do for me. Maybe I should throw myself at opportunities more, even though it scares me. I hope I have this thought each time a new challenge emerges.

Be a thrillseeker, Susan. See where it takes you.

“If you come down to the river
Bet you gonna find some people who live
You don’t have to worry ’cause you have no money
People on the river are happy to give” — Proud Mary (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

Thanks for reading.

helen-chattahoochee-river-tubers

 

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Achievement: Unlocked

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I did it! I completed my first half marathon. What started as a very COLD and windy day wound up being a lovely and warm day. I do feel very accomplished and I met so many kind people. Running is awesome and I hope I can keep going with it!

Want to know more about the race? Here are some visuals.

The route:

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My pace (which got slower as I progressed, ha!) and the elevation changes:

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I can’t wait to run some more. On the road. I’ll probably do this race again, but it was pretty difficult. I was well prepared for it though, mentally and physically. I’m so proud of myself!

In other achievement news, I have been wanting to make a felt Christmas tree for my son for quite some time. img_7223

It’s not the most beautiful tree, but I love it because my son helped make it and it’s going to get the job done. I have plenty of supplies to make fancier ornaments, but I love that he drew the biggest gingerbread man and decorated it and the smaller ones. I didn’t have the best scissors to cut out the shapes, either. I got embroidery thread to use, so maybe on my next road trip I can crank out some fancier ones. It’s so easy to make and we could make a new one or new ornaments for it each year. Love it!

In Bipolar News, I have been on some new meds to stabilize my mood, and I think they are helping. I have another check in tomorrow with the prescribing doctor, so I think he will be happy that he chose this course as figuring this stuff out can be really daunting and hit and miss. I’m glad I’ve kept up the running and resting I’ve needed to do, as that goes a lot way to keep things progressing in the right direction, too. I was worried that I’d grow lethargic. I will say I have been sleepier on the whole, so I will report that to him.

As always, thanks for reading.

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Congratulations: You’re Bipolar

Yes, that title is supposed to be in sarcasm font.

“I sometimes feel like I am on a ride, a roller coaster. And I get stuck on the point before the ride actually starts. Like I am anticipating fear of what is to come, so I can’t even get the ride to actually begin,” I said to my therapist last week. It was Wednesday. I’d reached out and she was able to see me the very next day due to a cancellation.

“Tell me more about that,” she said.

“Well, I have all these times where I feel really good about myself and abilities. I make all these great plans and have bursts of ideas of things I want to accomplish. But then my mood shifts and I have set myself up for complete failure. Because when I am in a low mood, I see all these things I had very much wanted to do, and I realize I am frozen by feelings of being overwhelmed and I just can’t even begin to get them all done. And this applies to every single area of my life.”

“Well, this is completely different than what you’ve told me before,” she said, as she headed over to the computer to look at the schedule for the center where I was evaluated for depression and anxiety. “You may have bipolar disorder. We need to get you in ASAP to be evaluated for that so we can change your treatment plan.”

I told her that I think I am finally getting better at naming my emotions and describing them better to her, and this particular description is nothing new to me and in fact has been going on for decades. I seldom finish what I start, I always feel like I’ve set myself up to fail, and it’s exhausting. I told her I’ve wondered if I had bipolar disorder.

So I went in Friday and the nurse practitioner I’ve been seeing there has now started me on mood stabilizing medicines. We’ll see how that goes over the next month as it takes a while for these things to really show whether or not they work.

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What Am I So Afraid Of?

The big bad wolf? Virginia Woolf?

Kind of sad, but I edit myself constantly as I decide how to present myself to others. No, not “kind of sad.” Actually sad.

I think a large part of who people think I am is wrong because when anyone gets to know me, they tell me how surprising I am, including my own therapist. The last time I saw her, we sat down and she joked, “I’m just going to get settled here with my box of popcorn, because I know I’m about to be entertained.”

I guess I am afraid I won’t be liked.

I won’t be loved.

I am afraid that I don’t really know who I am.

Maybe I am so detached from being able to be myself that I don’t know who I am.

Depression and anxiety make this even worse, of course, or perhaps inform it. Or maybe I’ve always had these mood problems along for the ride, and they are as ingrained in my persona as the part of me that loves glitter (even though it’s tacky) and the part of me that relates to the world via song lyrics rather than actual names of feelings.

I’ve been running a lot lately. Even if I don’t know who I am, I have a new persona of runner.

Last week, I ran 17+ miles across 3 different runs. This week, I am up to 12+ miles across 2 runs, but I took a day off yesterday because I read about new runners chasing that runner’s high and getting injured. I am only competing against myself, not even really training for anything, and I feel so good about having running in my life right now. I may suck at everything else, but dammit, I am good at running. I can’t afford to lose it.

Because I run right after work and start and end at my office, I often run into colleagues as I get on the elevator. It’s led to some good connections and conversations. One lady can’t believe I used to hate running as much as she does. She REALLY hates running. Another lady might run with me (and she wants us to sing together! This is awesome!). A man said I’ve inspired him to work out (sweet!), and another tells me he’s going swimming so now I ask him if he’s going swimming when I see him (he is). One man added me as a friend on FitBit and after an awkward week or so passed, I explained to him that I wasn’t going to accept his request because he has more steps per day than I do, and I like being in first place on my FitBit dashboard. Luckily he was not offended.

One man asked me what I was training for, and when I said, nothing, I just compete against myself, he said, “Geez, are you just that stressed out?”

Maybe, wise man. Maybe so.

Running is meditative for me. I don’t listen to music as I run, mostly because I like the ambient sounds around me and also because I’m on campus, I don’t want to block out the sounds of cars or other things I should avoid hitting or being hit by. I listen to the birds in the trees, someone who practices the trumpet time-to-time along my route (through the trees — I can’t see this person), and whatever else. I work on my musical compositions in my mind and also sort of zone out. There are some regulars on my running path, so it feels like a community. I’m trying to find others to run with right now as the days are getting shorter. I want sign up for a trail run the Saturday after Thanksgiving. (This one.) I can’t decide if I should do the 10K or the half marathon. Josef, always cautious — which is good — says I should stick to the 10K, but there is something in my mind that wants to go for the half. The first 3 or so miles are difficult, but then it’s game on and I feel like I could actually run forever.

I find it amusing that I like running so much given how much I really hated it in the past. I’m often thinking, who is this person who likes running? Even if I don’t know who I really am, then I guess I can just as easily be a runner, right? I will feel tired, but happy and accomplished (feeling words, friends).

Hmm. How much is that race?

(Be right back. Talk amongst yourselves.)

Okay, I just signed up for my first half marathon.

Eek.

It’s okay, I got this. It’s in a month.

Eek!

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It Ain’t Easy, Bein’ Three-sy

And that’s totally cheesy to write, but it’s true.

I’ve kept stories about child’s life off of this blog mainly because I’ve been a blogger ghost the last while. I don’t have the time to devote to this craft in the way I used to. See, in the past, I would have ruminated over a topic, formed some whammy points that felt profound in my mind, start writing said whammy points only to fail but then somehow cobble it all together anyway, add some pictures, and hit “publish.” About two years ago I had a great idea to start a series on mental health topics, all of which are sitting in my drafts.

Heh. If you’re a parent of a three year old, you live for times that just don’t exist anymore.

TV? Basically a thing of the past. I watched Gilmore Girls through my sleeping eyelids when I was out sick a few weeks back. That’s this mom’s version of “Netflix and Chill.”

Running by Walgreen’s to print a picture of my child for school (as the teacher suggested)  – yeah, no, thanks, I will just draw a picture of him on this thing I have to turn in for school about my son. (Josef was able to print one, but it’s a weird color as some of our ink cartridge colors were out, haha).

Hang out with friends? Great idea! Do they have kids and do they want to go get dinner before our kids have to be in bed? Because that’s socializing these days.

Alone time? Running is my alone time, and it’s been pretty meditative for me, to the point that I can run an hour. I finally got to run tonight, and am feeling better as a result. Riding in the car from daycare to work and from work to home are my other alone times.

The sweet child whose birth I posted about on this blog several years ago is now 3. He’s amazing and frustrating and sweet and totally sour, and a complete angelic imp. He’s the biggest challenge of my life but a great joy, too. When other people like him, it’s like Deb from Napoleon Dynamite, when Napoleon compliment’s Deb’s puff sleeves on her dress at the school dance. Not missing a beat, Deb replies, “thanks. I made them myself.” So yeah, he’s totally my puff sleeve. Other times, no one notices how cute he is, and my humility is kept in check.

He’s been frustrating me to no end lately as each tiny thing becomes a battle of wills, like invisible lasers are protecting the treasure chest called The Peaceful and Well Behaved Child. These invisible lasers can be tripped by many innocent-sounding things, like “Let’s try and go potty.” “It’s time for school.” “Let’s get dressed.” “It’s not 6:00 a.m. yet, so no you may not watch TV” (I know, I know, bad parent but guys, it helps to let him watch tv as I get ready for work). I’ve accepted that there is just no way to tell where the stinkin’ invisible lasers are.

As with all reactions from others I don’t understand, I try to put myself in his tiny shoes to see his perspective, but that’s still a complete mystery to me most of the time. And as he’s a bad sleeper, our whole household are bad sleepers, so we’re already starting each day very tired, the first line of defense against feeling like a bad parent already broken. Then the previously-mentioned invisible lasers are tripped and the fallout from activating the security system, so to speak, is BAD, you guys. I dealt with no less than 5 tantrums and general bad behavior before even getting out of the door this morning. There is zero doubt in my mind that he has developed independence that will serve him well later in life. Now, if he’d just go pee when I ask him to, and not throw a fit when I tell him it’s sports day at school, things would be far less stressful.

I rocked him to sleep tonight, after he shined his light up stuffed animal in my eyes and elbowed me in the face a few times as he played shadow puppets on the wall. He won’t be this little forever. So I have to do what every other parent does: suck it up, figure out what I can let go of for the sake of sanity, and appreciate what a gift it is to have a child.

Little man, I will try to understand when you’re coloring on yourself again with the markers you aren’t supposed to have, or when you’ve gotten a brand new stick of butter out of the refrigerator yet again to either have a bite or rub your hands and face all over it, or when you scare the crap out of me as you run away from me and out into a parking lot or climb on rickety furniture, that you’re just a little dude trying to make sense of the world that is full of rules you don’t understand and all sorts of things you want to try to do.

I’m sorry I get mad at you sometimes, like this morning. I try really hard to not show it, but it comes out in my voice. I guess that’s just part of the parent-child dance, and you’re learning what my voice sounds like when I am mad, storing that information for down the road for the times we won’t see eye to eye. You’ve already learned some techniques for trying to sweet talk me. You’ve called me out when I forgot about something I promised you. I’ve learned from times that I said one thing but you heard another, how to tell you something more clearly next time.

It’s been a long, long time since I was three, but I am trying to listen and understand.

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Won’t You Take Me (Out of) Funky Town?

Today is one of those days where everything feels heavy. Everything feels like a dream or like I am on one of those rides that takes you through the scenes (like “It’s a Small World”), and all I have to do is sit here and look at the world passing by. I just want to sit and look, but others need me to do things, so I can’t just sit here. I’m responsible.

I’ve slept plenty but I haven’t exercised enough.

Bad headache from yesterday has gone but I’m still reeling from it.

And I am still getting through the stuff I didn’t get done when I was sick a few weeks back.

What an exciting blog post, Susan! Please complain some more to me!

You’re right. I shouldn’t complain. I know I can get myself out of this the same way I always do, by working toward all my to-do items that have stacked up a mile high.

Oh, lord, that to-d0 list: Deadline early next week. Other pressing matters I haven’t addressed that are due. Things I’m pretending that don’t bug me, but do. Things I should have acted on already but only I know about my own internal deadlines on those things. Ongoing: Maintain normalcy on all fronts. Learn how to ask for help.

The days are getting shorter and my patience level is dwindling with the daylight. I’m irritated with myself.

Again: super engaging writing, Susan! Thanks for being so specific!

Okay, I am going to stop with the negative self-talk. I’m going to get over this funk.

I pray for patience, energy, gratitude, creativity. I pray that I can generate enthusiasm from these sources.

Thanks for reading.

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Perfection

“You’re so perfect.”

“How are you so perfect?”

“You do everything so well – you’re just so perfect!”

“I love your shoes. And your dress. And that scarf goes with both, ties them together, actually. It’s perfect!”

My whole life has been built around this theme. Why? Who even knows.

No one ever told me explicitly I had to be perfect. There was no sit down conversation with my parents where they said, “we won’t love you unless you’re perfect in all things.” Similarly, my two big sisters, who helped raise me, never told me, “you’re not good enough to be in our family unless you’re perfect. ‘Cause perfect is how we do things around here.”

And, God never said I had to be perfect, either.

When I was kid, I was very independent. I liked to figure things out for myself. Researched encyclopedia pages to answer the questions I could have asked parents or teachers. Taught myself how to ride a bike. Perfectly happy to read a book, create some artwork, write, whatever. I lived in my head. My imagination had a never ending supply of entertainment. I rarely gave into peer pressure, either. I think because of this, many people left me alone.

Looking back, I really could have used more input from an imprinting adult on how to express myself. Once I became interested in interaction, I think in order to feel interesting to others, I became both a chameleon and a comedian, becoming a source of blending in and enjoyment for others at the expense of my own happiness. That’s not to say I didn’t have many authentic, wonderful experiences — I did — but as a daily habit, I always tried to draw as little attention to my own feelings as possible because then everyone might realize how inept I was. The times I did express myself were some of the worst experiences in my formative years, as developmentally necessary and normal as that pain likely was.

We all do this. When someone says, “Hey, how are you?” the answer is always something like, “fine,” even when things are crappy and I’d rather not talk about it. Because I don’t even know how to talk about it.

I’ve been through counseling with different therapists in my lowest points. One of them, who was my least favorite (she literally spent every session talking about herself), actually finally gave me some useful information that none of the others had. This was our last scheduled session out of maybe 6 that I had to attend due to a self-initiated referral, and because I was weary of the idea of having to keep coming to see her, I told her I now felt much better and didn’t think I needed to continue these visits. She recognized my determination, and she must not have been too concerned for me otherwise to compel me to continue our sessions, because these were her parting words, showing me she actually had been observing me the whole time despite my lack of participation:

“You’re a perfectionist. You have some obsessive-compulsive tendencies. And, you squelch yourself.”

The first sentence made sense but I didn’t really focus on it at the time. The last sentence is what I reacted to at the time, as it was only too true. I’d rather be miserable than ever let on that I am unhappy. Others in my life never have any idea I’m enraged, depressed, or anything other than what I want them to see me be. This is generally because I don’t want others to worry about me. I’m the peacemaker, and I’ll try to distract others from their misery so they don’t even have time to notice I’m carrying a huge suitcase full of my own misery. And as a result of successful deflection of attention on me, others think I’m somehow perfect.

Perfectly happy. Perfectly content.

Perfectly furious at times, to be honest. And never comfortable enough to reveal how I really feel, and therefore who I really am.

Remember how I mentioned that I taught myself how to ride a bike? I actually can’t ride a bike. I was such a poor teacher to myself – ill equipped. My bike training regimen consisted of figuring out the balance of the small rusty used bike that was at our house. It didn’t even have brakes, but fortunately, our driveway was the perfect gradual U shape, allowing for a gentle downhill launch and an uphill natural braking mechanism. Over and over I went, down and up, a live physics lesson, until I reached equilibrium. I was such a poor teacher to myself that I also never learned to truly love riding the bike. Just checked the developmental box and moved on. I’m terrified to even try now. The last time I tried I shook so badly that my hands ached for days from gripping the handlebar with such ferocity.

I refused help with it, because I wanted to figure it out, but maybe there was something more to my rejection of help. I had trust issues as a child. I still do. And just like no one told me to be perfect, I can’t recall why I would have trust issues. But between these two areas, I have a placed a huge burden on myself. I have this weird belief that I am to be both perfect and 100% self reliant. Neither of which is possible. Neither of which is healthy. Neither of which feels good.

Even now, I am writing this and wondering if I should just delete it all, edit it to death, try to say all the things I left out. Reveal more. Reveal less. I hate dithering, but I do it all the time. Perpetual spin of yes, no, yes, no. Stop, go, stop, go. Don’t, do, don’t, do. Say something, no don’t, say something, no.

The major dithering episodes usually drive me crazy, keep me up at night, and end with decisive ultimatum action. I usually leave situations rather than try to make them better (jobs, singing group, relationships). I reject before I am rejected. I think the act of detaching gets the point across. Even when I give other plausible reasons for ending things, it’s usually because I have chosen not to fight for what I really want. I choose flight over fight.

I’m going to try to take a crack at being less perfect. I’m so used to putting everyone else’s needs in front of my own, and it’s very hard for me to be actively selfish enough.

In writing this post, I read an American Psychological Association article that said some really scary things about perfectionism, including these revealing highlights (emphasis mine):

“The PSPS rates three aspects of perfectionistic self-presentation: advertising one’s own perfection, avoiding situations in which one might appear to be imperfect and failing to disclose situations in which one has been imperfect.”

“‘”Those types of individuals [perfectionists] tend not to disclose anything that’s going to make them look imperfect… It’s difficult to keep them in treatment, because you’re asking them to do the thing they’ve been fighting against.”‘

I think the imperfections I choose not to disclose is what keeps me stuck in the Dithering Cycle. Why make someone unhappy with what I could say? Why make a big deal about something that maybe isn’t a big deal in the long run? Okay, I’ll just instead smile and say, “I’m fine.”

I’m always amazed at what people feel comfortable telling me. Whether it’s a compliment or something deeply personal, I am usually stunned at first. Sometimes I think I am a mirror, reflecting back how others want to see themselves, so I can see that I make them comfortable enough to share their thoughts with me. I’m going to work on saying what I mean. Maybe I’ll amaze someone else.

As I write this, I imagine myself on an elementary playground, standing before a swinging jump rope, and it’s my turn to jump in and keep up with its pace.

Encouraging Me: Jump in, Susan.

Dithering Me: No.

Encouraging Me: Jump in!!!!

Dithering Me: No.

Encouraging Me: Oh for the love of all things, just go do it! What can you possibly be waiting for?

Dithering Me: No.

Deciding not to decide is making a decision.

The lyrics to Lean On Me say, “no one can fill those of your needs that you won’t let show.”

I’m in a Dithering Cycle right now. How do I get out of it? How do I let my needs show?

My current therapist says I need to work on expressing how I am feeling. I’m going to start there. She says we can’t control other people, places, and things. And no matter where we take ourselves or surround ourselves with, we’ll still be stuck with our same unresolved issues. If I want to be all the things I want for others — to feel worthy of time and attention, to feel valued — then I’d better get to work on addressing my unresolved issues.

Here goes nothing. Well, not nothing. These feelings are going to be named.

I feel unfulfilled because there are a million things I want to do with my time that I am not doing. I feel like I am wasting precious time. I feel like I am 80 years old, looking back on my life, and am disappointed in myself for the things I’ve left undone. I feel worried about the many unknowns in life. I feel guilty for hurting others I’ve cared about by not expressing love to them. I feel overwhelmed with responsibility. I feel lonely a lot of the time. I feel disconnected from those I feel like I should be the most connected to. I feel sad over relationships I’m not enjoying that I used to. I feel lost. I feel frustrated. I feel terrified about sharing all of this. I feel vivacious though, doing so. I feel sad about not singing in an official group or recording. I feel my talents are invisible when I am ready to shine. I feel like I am missing out. I feel mature and childish at the same time. I feel stormy, like a teenager, which right now to me means the world is at once amazing and unfair. I feel confused about what all I am feeling. I feel like dancing. I feel like singing. I want to create. I want to leave a legacy. I’m tired of constantly retreating to the safety of my shell, like a turtle or a snail.

Me: Jump in. Let’s do this.

 

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Ohhh, let’s Lent again, like we did last Easter

Is this thing on?

Don’t you just hate awkward mic checks?

“Say something. Anything.”

“Test 1 2 3”

“Anything but that.”

Rent

Going to try this blog thing again. Might be a little rusty.

Folks, it is Lent again, and I love Lent. Someone on Facebook announced she was going to practice some sort of discipline during Lent for the first time, and I felt compelled to tell her all the ways I have observed it. My list of suggestions was rather long. I felt like I an expert or something. Dang, I love Lent. It’s like New Year’s all over for those who swing and miss on their failed resolution. At least there’s Lent. I might not have much self discipline to practice a New Year’s resolution, but I am disciplined at Lent because I can do it for Jesus.

That reminds me of a story I heard once, even though it’s not about Lent. A mother was in her son’s principal’s office, learning how her son, though bright and doing well on graded assignments and tests, was failing because he wasn’t doing his homework. Mom, being a devout Christian and fired up about her son’s bad attitude proclaimed to him, “if Jesus can get up there and die on the cross, then my son can do his $#%&$% homework!”  That is exactly why I am able to adopt discipline during Lent, but seriously, I ought to try a little harder the other 45.5 weeks of the year.

This year I thought I would be cool and give up Facebook for Lent.  I’ve been feeling a wee bit addicted to it, yet also annoyed with it.  Facebook to me had become like Cady Heron’s description of Regina George in Mean Girls:

“I was a woman possessed. I spent about 80% of my time talking about Regina, and the other 20% of the time, I was praying for someone else to bring her up so I could talk about her more. I could hear people getting bored with me, but I couldn’t stop. It just kept coming up like word vomit.”

Only my version was,

“Did you see on Facebook that so-and-so did such-and-such? Did you see ____ on Facebook? On Facebook I saw _____. Facebook, Facebook, Facebook!!”

I made that decision to drop it for Lent, only to find out in the days leading up to Lent that seemingly EVERYONE was giving up Facebook, with varying lengths of announcements about it, succinct to extended play length statuses.

“See you after Easter!”

“I will not be on here for a while. I am giving up Facebook for Lent.  If you need me I’m on email.”

“You guysssss I’ve given it a lot of thought and I’ve decided to give up Facebook for Lent!!!! OMG  I am going to miss you guys soo soo much! If you don’t have my email address or cell phone number, please please please let me know now because I won’t be checking messages on here, either! If anyone has a baby or announces they’re pregnant, please text me!!! If anyone gets engaged, please text me!!!! “

I felt so unoriginal!  I still gave up Facebook though.  My rationale was, I think, pretty thoughtful.  It probably annoyed some people, both the way I made my announcement as well as forcing people to email me or text me rather than message me on Facebook.  I didn’t think about blogging about it in time to be able to copy my status here on this post, but the idea about why I gave up Facebook is this (paraphrasing from what I remember from my status):

Jesus, after his baptism, left the community of his disciples and went away into the desert. Likewise, I am leaving this community during Lent to discern my next mission from the standpoint of being in the wilderness. Or getting more time to myself.

It’s been a good experience to not feel compelled to open this app on my phone or open the website on my computer.  There are still plenty of distractions online though, so I sort of feel like I wasn’t entirely faithful to the plan.  However, it has been interesting to feel separated from the online community this way.  I think when I return, at least I hope when I return, I won’t feel so sucked in.  I also think I’ll be able to read it with a more discerning eye.  I won’t be as easily drawn in to navel-gazing posts, displays of passive aggression, minute-by-minute accounts of the day, etc. I think I may even follow the practice of someone else I know who only checks Facebook on the weekends. We’ll see.

The other reason I gave up something virtual rather than actual is because of being a mom now.  Our baby is rapidly approaching the 1 year mark (HOW???) and I wanted to observe Lent but not over-commit myself during a time when I’m already so stretched thin. Even though I would have loved to have taken on something physical, like fasting or reading or something else to incorporate into my day, dropping something seemed more appropriate this year.

I know those post-Easter statuses from my friends who spent Lent sans Facebook will be just as funny, shallow, dramatic, and clever as the Fat Tuesday Facebook adieus were. But I’ll probably wait a while to scroll through and read them.  Because if Jesus can get up there and die on that cross, I can certainly control myself when it comes to my Facebook addiction, and more!

Obligatory cute baby picture before I go. It’s a few months old, but it’s been a while since I posted.  He’s a boy on the move now, has 6 teeth, eats solids, is a total chatterbox, flirt, and sweetheart.  He’s a delightful child, quick to smile and laugh. We’re completely smitten!

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Writing Stuff Down

When I was 7 months pregnant, my mom and sisters threw me a baby shower. That was last March. Weird to think of all that’s happened in almost a year.

Anyhow, one of my college friends was in attendance and she gave me a basket of travel size everything for baby in a nice basket, and included in it one of those 5 year diaries where you’re supposed to write one line each day.  (That’s the link to Amazon where you can buy it.) I am terrible at doing things like this and I kind of graciously smirked at her at the time – as in, she knew I was grateful, but I was also conveying “yeah, right!” at the same time. I had heard and seen how busy moms are.  How in the world was I going to have time to do this?

Knowing my thoughts, she gracefully replied, “just one line. Just one line each day.”

I know as the third child in my family that the first child is supposed to have the completed baby book.  I have worked on baby Henschen’s baby book some these last 8 months, and I imagine it’s further along than any future siblings’ will ever be.  It needs work though, and it holds priority over the One Line a Day book.

But the One Line a Day journal just nagged at me from its place on the shelf in the nursery, “write in me, lady! Do it! Do it!” I really wanted to do this for my child, but at the same time, what could I possibly write about each day? I imagined:

Bloopedymonth 5, 2013:  You are x months old and you pooped a lot today!

or

Blahbadeemonth 7, 2014: WHY WON’T YOU STOP CRYING?????

Which I just couldn’t think he’d find interesting. It certainly would be evidence that I had taken care of him when he was a baby.

I also wasn’t sure if I should write the tender things in my heart, the stuff of grotesque embarrassment later (even if it’s true, and exactly what I am thinking, what would he think if he read this at, oh, 14 years old?):

Boopdeeboopmonth 23, 2013:  You’re so sweet and tiny that it makes my heart burst!

Blergedymonth 15, 2014: I can’t help myself that every night before I go to bed, I check to make sure you’re still breathing.

At some point though, that book badgered me to the point that I finally gave in, and I tried to play catch up for missed time and then I faithfully wrote in for about three months. What I wrote included important events, like family birthdays, trips we took, him started daycare, getting his first tooth, etc.  I also took the leap and wrote down some tender thoughts that probably will embarrass him.

I really enjoyed the moment before I went to bed where I recorded my thoughts for the day.  I found that I actually could have written a page every day.  I had to think of how to squeeze everything I wanted to say into the small amount of space I was given.  I started formulating how to write the day’s entry whenever the notable thing happened so that it would fit on the page, editing it in my mind like it was a haiku or a tweet.

Then December 6 happened, and we rehomed our dog.

The day before is the last time I wrote in that book.

I just couldn’t write on the entry for December 6, 2013: “We gave up your first pet today. Please don’t hate us.”

And because I couldn’t write that entry, I just haven’t picked it back up since.  I know I could have just left that page blank, that he wouldn’t know the difference if I had written something else, but I just can’t. It was and still is a stumbling block for me. Maybe I will just write “ask me what happened this day” on a post it note so that I don’t write it in the book permanently. Maybe I’ll allude to it without saying it straight out: “The house is now a lot quieter.”

Small and good update, by the way: our dog is doing really, really well. He will likely live out his days with the rescue lady who is totally in love with him.  It turned out I know the rescue lady’s sister-in-law, and she provided this update.  She even gets to see him and says he’s really happy.  That really does make me so, so very happy to know.  She also says that we did the right thing.  I still feel horrible about it, and always will, but what a relief to know he’s with such a loving person.

Maybe I’ll go back to writing in the book each day after this 2 month break even though I’m now I am in the habit of not writing things down.  I do know what date his first top tooth broke through (January 19) and the second tooth broke through (January 21).  That somehow has stayed in my mind, such that it is these days that are so busy and punctuated with some sleepless nights still.

I used to keep a regular journal throughout my childhood and some in college. Then I got busy and transitioned into a digital world.  I think I also thought no one would possibly find my thoughts to be that interesting except for me, so I could just keep them to myself.  This blog is the closest thing I have to a journal now.

Does anyone actually successfully journal their life or their child’s life one line a day successfully?  Please tell me about your One Line A Day experience!

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It Takes a While for the Heart to Catch Up with the Head: Lessons Learned from Dog Ownership

8 years ago we made the decision to bring a new family member to our household. Newly married, renting a house with this future decision in mind, we adopted a then-6-year-old corgi.

He became our first child. We outfitted his every perceived need and want. This included a coat, even though he had plenty of corgi fur. We laughed over his antics and introduced him to all our friends. We took tons of pictures and basically our lives revolved around him for the next few years.

We moved houses a few times and landed at our present address a little over 6 years ago. One of the things we liked about our house was its large fenced back yard.  It was perfect for our dog, so we felt it was also perfect for us.

On Friday, unbelievably, our time with our beloved dog came to an end. It was by our choice, and he has not passed away.  We were able to return him to the rescue group that we adopted him from, which, given all the possible outcomes of this scenario, and because we loved him too much to continue on as we were, was the best possible solution.

So what all transpired between the time we got him and our painful decision to rehome him? I’m recording these thoughts to process it all and perhaps help others going through a similar situation to ours. Even though having a baby six months ago was the tipping point for us, there were lots of other factors that were present early on that we should have addressed. Also, I have to grieve over this loss, as if he did pass away, because I know I’ll be beating myself up for letting him down for a long time.

Lesson One: Even if your dog is 6 years old, if your dog needs training, pay time and money to get that training. And also pay huge attention to temperament matching the energy level needed in your particular home.

We had experience with corgis, and when we got our dog and got to know him, we thought, “Wow, he has a lot of energy. But he’ll calm down eventually like the other corgi we knew.”

Wrong. Plain wrong.

The loud barking whenever he felt like it? Never stopped.  He had something to say about everything!

Jumping up and moving whenever you did, even if it was just to run into the kitchen to then return to the living room? Also never stopped.  He could never relax, and he was determined to witness our every movement, because he didn’t know any other way to be.

Jumping up on us whenever he wanted? Nope, never stopped.  He was insistent on showing his interest.

Marking in the house, despite taking him out more? Did not improve with lots of trips outside.

We also noted early on that our dog was aggressive toward other dogs, which made walking him or having him in the yard next to other people’s dogs in their yards a stressful time for all involved.

His disposition was NOTHING like the other corgi we knew.  This dog was always athletic, always on high alert.  My heart breaks to think what a great joy obedience training would have brought him.  He would have been great at running through obstacle courses, too. He wanted to please, was smart, and could learn new tricks easily.

We fooled ourselves into thinking there was plenty of time to fix these things – he will chill out, we reasoned, as we turned our attentions to other things on a daily basis.  Instead, we should have nipped all this unfavorable behavior in the bud and gotten training for all of us.

Lesson 2: Make exercising the dog a priority, especially if that’s what it needs to become more balanced (most of the time this IS what your dog needs more than anything).

This partially ties back to Lesson 1, in training, only it’s for the owner.  We should have made it a habit to get the training needed AND work on that training in the setting of going on walks.  This would have kept his mind more active, created a bonding time for us, and it would have tired him out a bit.

But because he wasn’t trained, walks were, frankly, a pain.  Even anticipating the walk became a pain.  What if there are other dogs we’ll pass? He’ll go bonkers.  What if there are dogs off leash that try to meet him?  What if he wants to sniff everything? We’ll never get anywhere.

For the early years we had him, we’d walk maybe three to four times a week.  But recently, as his back legs started the telltale lowrider doggy slipping (due to back problems), along with lack of time and the aforementioned stress generated just by thinking of walking him, I can’t tell you the last time we went on a walk.  I know it was a pretty short walk though, as he really did have a noticeable limp now.

Plus, we used the excuse that we had that back yard.  “He can just go run around.” Sadly, that is just not the same thing, and not what was needed.

Inside, without exercise, our dog would pace around.  He’d lick the floor for hours. He’d lick his paws.  Maybe unrelated, he’d bark maniacally at any “intruder” outside the window – squirrel, dog, cat, etc. He damaged our blinds and window sashes with his rage as he nosed his barking muzzle as close as he could to the source of his distress. His nails scratched the floors. If we were home but not downstairs with him, he’d wait at the bottom of the stairs, dejected and whining. It broke my heart if I had the brain width to offer – I was upstairs to take care of the baby, which of course takes a lot of time and energy unto itself.

Lesson 3: Provide the best type of space to suit your dog’s needs.

Looking back, our dog’s hind legs would have been better served by not having to go up and down the back deck stairs. There are about 8 steps, so about half a flight, from our deck down to the yard.  True, we didn’t let him up our stairs inside the house for this reason, but he still need to use the stairs out back to get to the yard to go to the bathroom.  I tried as much as I could to carry him, but there were many a time when I was zonked with lack of sleep and holding a crying baby and just couldn’t do it. I knew this meant he had an awkward and possibly painful descent down the stairs to the yard. This was a sign of things to come: I couldn’t meet this dog’s basic need to go to the bathroom in the yard.

Looking back, our particular type of dog needed a flat entrance in and out of the yard.  It would have made the last few years or so a lot easier on him.

Lesson 4: Don’t Judge Others on the choices they’ve made with regard to pet ownership: You don’t know the whole story and it’s a personal matter anyway. 

Eight years ago when we adopted our dog, I remember being completely critical of those who gave their dogs up for adoption. I had all kind of comments to offer on the topic.  How could they do that? The dog didn’t deserve it! How selfish! What a sweet dog, and how awful those people must have been to give it up.  I held some strong opinions of our dog’s prior owners, even though by giving him up, we were able to get him. Pretty hypocritical, eh?

Speaking of hypocrisy, the thought of rehoming our dog starting creeping into our minds.  The cognitive dissonance created by that thought dragged on me over the last while.  How could we do this?  What will others say, knowing how much we love him? How can I be supportive of animal rescue if I am contributing to the problem?

An underlying lesson here is that by not making a decision, we had made a decision.  The tug of war between sucking it up and honoring our original commitment versus doing what was probably best for all involved was a heavy matter that played out its battles for us on daily basis.  When I  first returned to work post-baby, the conversation came up. Then we got busy, tolerated the situation a little longer and decided not to decide, at least at that time.

Lesson 5: Recognize the situation early on and actively make the realization it won’t get better on its own. See above lessons and address the situation. 

Guilty as charged.  The long and short of it is that we were no longer providing the best home for our dog. We could have done things in the past to prevent us from being where we found ourselves. Despite very strong feelings of attachment, a commitment to keep this animal the rest of his life, we were experiencing a vicious cycle of not being able to address the situation due to lack of time and then having unpleasant interactions with him due to our lack of time with him.  None of this was his fault, but he was getting the blame all the same.

With heavy hearts, we knew what we needed to do to alleviate the situation because we knew we would not be able to give him time.  Time is not what we have right now.

Lesson 6: Recognize and Appreciate Grace on a Daily Basis

We finally broke down and emailed the rescue group where we originally adopted our dog from.  I cried for days over the thought of us actually doing this.  We were totally sad.  It was hard to look at our dog, knowing he wouldn’t be with us anymore.

The lady from the rescue group wrote a gentle and understanding response and offered to come get our dog. No questions asked. She couldn’t have been less judgmental.  She understood the grief of our situation, said we’d done a good job with our dog and said he’d obviously been loved and had had a fabulous 8 years with us.

It was hard to hear her say these things.  Shouldn’t she be telling us we were awful? Shouldn’t she be saying that we had made a commitment to this creature and we ought to keep it? Instead, she hugged us tightly.

Her actions told me she saw our dog as having value.  So many surrendered animals don’t hold value to anyone, and sadly, we know their fate.

Lesson 7: Come back and read this if we ever decide it’s time to get a family pet.  Ask if we have the resources – time, money, patience, to undertake this huge responsibility again. 

Trite but true: he’s in a better place for him now. Even though our dog is still alive, it is as though he passed away.  Our house feels empty of his presence and we’re in mourning. We console ourselves knowing that in the corgi rescue place he is likely breathing easier knowing someone’s attending to his needs more quickly and frequently than we could.  He’s getting to be around other dogs.  Oddly enough, he actually got along with other dogs when he wasn’t around us!

Before he left, through my tears, I told him that I loved him and that he hadn’t done anything wrong. I told him what a good boy he was – for all the areas that needed addressing from training, he really was a delight.  He had been just fine with the baby – no worries there. I told him where he was going was the next best place to be if not with us, but if I am honest, I know where he’s going is actually better than being with us.

My mother-in-law told me in response to this situation that “it takes a while for the heart to catch up with the head.” This is definitely what I’m experiencing, so I am trusting that my heart will understand our decision eventually and stop aching so much.

Thanks for reading.  I don’t expect you to extend grace to me, but I appreciate you taking the time to read and possibly understand what we’ve been going through the last while. Maybe it will even serve as a resource to you to save yourself some heartache.

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