Dec 4, 2012

Is Menopause Some Kind of Crazy Cocoon or WHAT?

Last week was really stressful for me. It felt like Chinese water torture, trouble just kept dripping on my forehead until I thought I was going to go crazy.

Shadow had jumped up and broken a double paned thermal window in the basement, which I had to get out and take to be fixed.

I had a tooth dying and had suffered through that for about 10 days before I could get to the dentist.  Because of the pounding from my dying tooth, I was sleeping with my head so high that my back was starting to give me problems, causing me to take aspirin and antibiotics, when I have this thing about hating to take pills.  I have the best dentist in the world, and he gave me pain meds that worked for both problems beautifully.  The bad news was that I was little slower than usual.  The good news was that I didn't feel like crying or killing anyone.

I had a note on my door that I needed to have my gas meter replaced.  And of course I would have to be there when they came.  So the guy who changed it told me I needed to get it cleaned.  It occurred to me that I had not had that done in 11 years.  Thank God my ex-husband's uncle could do it that day, because it turned out the valve that keeps the gas from leaking out was broke and by some miracle my house had not blown up. Yet.  Seriously.  It cost me much less than it is actually worth, but then that cost cannot be calculated.

The car had to be inspected and had a bunch of stuff wrong with it and I had been trying to remember to schedule an appointment for that.  I figured it would cost me hundreds of dollars.  I was half right.

It's the end of the year and taxes are due.  More hundreds of dollars!

Christmas is coming.  Decided I had to spend too many hundreds of dollars and decided to do mostly homemade gifts this year.  HA!  We even got the crappy tree up once again, leaning it into the corner.  Go ahead and fall, Christmas tree.  WE do care, in fact, we designed you fall over this year.  Bring it.

We all need to get our eyes examined again.  Etc.  Sigh.

*Melinda looks off into space, wilts in her chair, distantly wishes she still drank.  Tells herself she still could.  Realizes this would mean going upstairs and rooting through her closet for her last hidden bottle of Kahlua, and thinks it not worth the trouble.*

I was down, you know?  In fact, I have been down for, like, quite a while now.  I've been sick and tired of being sick and tired.  I started to think that I was going to be like Weezy, in Steel Magnolias.  You know the one who's "been in a very bad mood for 40 years"?  With the big dog?  Who hates the only man who's really in the picture?  Ok, maybe she doesn't hate him, maybe they just have a mutual love of hurling verbal abuse at each other, but by now you remember Weezy, right?  Frankly, I was with this.

Then I got on Facebook Saturday night and the friends who were as depressed as me were almost equal to the friends who still wanted to kill somebody.  I did a blog post and cried like a baby and thought that would make me feel better.  It usually does.  But it didn't do the trick this time.

So I sat down after a slowly, emotionally draining period of time (6 weeks, 6 months, 6 years, depending on where you want to start counting.  But that's not the point) and I gave myself a talking to.

If adolescence is the cocoon before we "bloom" into the "butterfly" of full fledged womanhood, what would that make menopause (because it is VERY SIMILAR to adolescence, if I'm remembering correctly) and what comes next?  And while we're at it, will me face EVER stop breaking out?????  Can we just quit worrying about accomplishments after a certain age?  Is figuring out how to make your noodles and custard pie supposed to be a life accomplishment?  Should I have some awards for being able to quiet a fussy baby or help a teenager make a good decision?  Should there be a gold statue awarded for canning tomatoes?  Should I have been awarded big bonuses for going without in order to buy basketball shoes?   Is there actually anything more important in life than these things anyway?  Maybe I'm just supposed to keep being the me I am, but this new, improved version.  Why can't this be the answer?  Girls, brace yourselves and get ready to relax, because I think maybe it is, I really do.

What else are we here for anyway?  We are here to love, and learn, and pass what we learn on.  Our only hope is the hope of future generations.  Our work is right in front of us and has been all along.  We just had to slow down long enough to see it.

So I told myself that I got to decide what my life was going to be from here on out, and while I am extremely happy with some parts, there are other parts that need to be torn down.  I have to rebuild my life into what I want it to be, and I have to pay attention.  Because while I am caught up in my own misery and frantically trying to stop all the drips, in truth the house can blow up at any time.  

I told myself to quit worrying about the world ending so much.  If it does end, there is nothing we can do about it.  Besides, if it does, my troubles will be over!  If it doesn't, I won't go down without a fight and we'll just cross that road when we come to it.  I told myself to quit worrying about Israel getting attacked and be glad instead that at least Israel is a country where they are all on the same side.  I even shut myself up when the person in my head made remarks about how :"nothing would put you on the same side as quickly as having rockets attacking you ceaselessly", and they shut up!

I told myself to be more grateful for the drudgery of my life, because I am healthy and able to take care of myself.  It's part of my job as a mother and a woman.  I vowed that I would view the drudgery of my life as a testament to sacrifice and find a way to enjoy it - even the dishes!  In fact, I have dish soap that smells very wonderful.  I'll just try to hold that thought longer.

Then, because I was stuck in my house supervising teenagers (for the last few years of my life, probably)  I picked up the phone and called some of my friends.  I spend the whole weekend visiting with old friends.  Some are doing great, some not so great, but they are all still here and isn't that all that matters anyway?  These are people that I do not have to explain anything to because they were there.  They already know.  It was so uncomplicated and wonderful!  I even got to know some of my favorite cyber friends even better and was not disappointed.  I realized that I actually know a lot of really great people and they are all around me.  I just have make the time to talk to them once in a while.

I had lunch with a one of my other-mother's (people who are not your physical mother but are your spiritual mother) and she made me feel so relieved when she said "You are just stepping back and finally seeing the big picture.  It's not all about you anymore."  In short, I am officially a grown up.  For real.  I'm coming out of this last cocoon and becoming me again, but improved.  Smarter, more wrinkled, and braver.  It's not a bad trade off, in my humble opinion.

Guess what?  Monday morning I realized when I woke up that I felt happy.  I felt happy!  I felt like me again.  I felt that old effervescent happiness that kept me bubbling along for so long that I took it completely for granted--until it was gone for so long.  I felt hopeful, and I smiled a lot.  Without having to think about it, I mean.  I felt........happy.  I am back!

Now, this could just be a hormone surge or something, but I think it's more.  I think that sometimes we get in a place where God kind of makes us slow down and pay attention. We will try to keep going but the drips just keep piling up until He gets our full attention. Sometimes, when your back is about to go out, you realize how grateful you should be for just getting up and moving without thinking about it.  Sometimes you just have to make some decisions, even though you don't want to.  I was lucky in that I got to do a lot of this in my fluffy wonderful bed with a sweet dog or two beside me.  If it turns out to be nothing more than a hormonal surge, I will not forget the lesson and I will still be grateful I had it.

We are supposed to tell our troubles to God and then leave them with him.  The "leaving them with him" part is hard, no?  I have struggled with this for a long time, but it's time to take the next step.  I'm taking this bull by the horns, turning this train around, and getting my house in order.  I really mean it this time.  Anybody who doesn't like that can find another train.  This time I"m laughing instead of crying when I blog!  Why?  Because I'm happy.  Such a simple thing that I have missed for so long.

I just needed to realize that I have everything I need, nothing is perfect, and everything is still fine.

Just in case you needed a reminder, because sometimes we do.  I did.

I don't know what I'm supposed to be next, but I'm going to be the best whatever it is that I can, and I'm going to be more grateful.  I'm going to take more time and go more slowly, and I'm not going to worry about meeting a schedule.  I'm going to keep an open mind and see what God wants me there at that moment for, and act accordingly, from my heart.  I'm going to speak my mind respectfully, but I'm not going to spend time on people who do not cherish me, because there are simply too many who do.  I'm going to let more people figure stuff out on their own because that's the only way we ever figure anything out for good.  There will be less whining from here on out, both from me and at me.  There will be more laughter, both from me and at me, too.

Instead of missing people who are gone from this earth, I'm going to picture my life as a soap opera in Heaven, and live my life in a way that will make them proud and hopefully make them laugh.  We could all use more comic relief, don't you think?

I'm going to be happy and I'm going to be what I'm going to be and that's it.

I'm simply not going to worry about it, anymore.

Dec 1, 2012

To The Rock Star, On His 23rd Birthday

23 years ago tonight, I had my first child, my own Rock Star.

About a year ago I spent the weekend with one of my best friends, and we were talking about the night he was born.  We were reminiscing about my mother, who is now in heaven, and I got to hear the story from her point of view for the first time.  She said I screamed a lot.  A LOT!  During this time, she kept looking at my mother, who poo-poo'd the idea that anything was wrong.  My mother just kept telling her that this was childbirth and there was nothing to do but get through it.  Later, my mom said at one point she just wanted to jump up and scream "Just let me do it!!" but of course, that was not an option.  I think having my friend there to comfort actually helped her hold it together.

We laughed until we cried, that night, and then had a little trouble stopping crying.  It was so good to see her and realize how many things we had gone through, not just with each other but with each other's mothers.  The hardest times to go through often are the most cherished memories.  To realize that we were now middle-aged was a little easier to take knowing that we still had each other.  There truly is no friend like an old friend.

So The Rock Star was born, he was perfect, and everyone was fine, and my mother came home with us for the first few days.

I was, like most first-time mothers, very nervous and lacking in self- confidence, not to mention still trying to process the trauma of giving birth and what that left me to deal with.  Whew.  Remembering those days still makes me cry (and laugh) to this day.  I spent a lot of time with sitz baths and sat on a donut pillow for way longer than was recommended, even by my mother.
Totally worth it all.

My mom stood guard over The Rock Star at night, as every time he made the slightest noise I was convinced that he needed to be picked up, nursed, etc. and consequently no one in the house was getting any sleep.  My husband took this pretty much like a champ, even though I know there were probably moments that he considered throwing me and/or my mom or maybe even The Rock Star out a window.  Such is life with a new baby for a first-time parent.

Mom stayed for 3 days and on the 3rd night, without any discussion, she simply walked to the door and said she was going home.  My eyes flew open wide and I said "Can't you stay one more night?"  She smiled sadly and said "Honey, I have to get home.  You are doing fine, he is fine, and you guys can handle it.  If something happens, you just call and I will come back."  Then she walked out our front door and left us there to figure out the parenting thing on our own. Later, much later, after she was safe from having to come back and live with me, she told me she cried all the way home.  There she cried more and prayed for us constantly, giving up voluntarily the sleep she had been deprived of by necessity for the three previous nights.

After the she shut the door, I turned wide eyed to my husband, whose own eyes were wide. We did not speak a single word.  We just stared at each other for a full minute as the realization sunk in that we were on our own.  We knew in our minds that we were responsible and grown up now, and that this was life when you were a parent.  On the other hand, if there was any way possible to get out of this, we were willing to take it.  It was not to be.  We both swallowed hard and faced the fact that we were the parents now.  We were in charge.  I think we were both thinking that no one in their right mind should have left us in charge, but there was nothing to be done but to just do what came next.  This is a very important step in growing up, if not a popular one.  But that is life.  You manage.  You do not manage with grace all of the time, but you get through it.

You know what?  We did pretty good.  It wasn't long before The Rock Star got on a regular schedule.  The schedule was not one that we would have picked, as  he never in his whole life wanted to sleep before 11 pm.  This would prove to be a bone of contention for several years, but if you've ever had a new baby you know that as a parent, you conform.  New babies usually rule their worlds, and ours was no exception.

We went through all the usual things.  I cried a lot and railed about how "I felt like a cow, literally, and HIS life hadn't changed at all."  After all, he got to leave the house every day and, and, and TALK to people! He got to take a shower every morning, and go out in the world every single day. This was often followed by words like "Damn him!"  Needless to say, this leaves the poor new father, who has worries of his own, saying "What? What did I do?  What in the holy hell is wrong with you anyway?  Are you saying you want me to quit my job?  Isn't there some kind of pill you should be taking for this?"  You can see that it is a tough period of adjustment for everyone involved. If you think you understand this and have not yet become a parent, all I can say is "Just you wait."  Muahahahahahha.  All will be revealed in time, and if you think you're prepared, just wait!

Who did I rail to?  My mother of course.  She would sigh (heavier each time she had to listen to this) and try to point out that I was missing the best part of my life.  She would point out that I was the mother, I was the one who took care of the child.  It logically followed that he was the father, he was the one to support the family, and I probably should be grateful not only that he had a job, but that he got up and went to it every single day.  So gently did she chide me, and so crazy was she about her first grandchild, that it sometimes made me feel ashamed of myself.  As it should have, but that only added to what I saw as my misery.  It is hard to adjust from everything being about you (pre-parenthood) to nothing about you really mattering anymore (parenthood).

Being a new mother is an emotional roller coaster.  To this day I don't know any way of preparing women for this time.  Until it happens you are floating around on all these great hormones of happiness, and cannot believe anything could bring you down.  Then you have the baby, which makes you the happiest of all, and then you get home and you look in the mirror and you realize that you are no longer the you you have always been before.  Not physically, not spiritually, and least of all mentally.  All those warm, fuzzy hormones go away, and you find yourself in what feels like free fall. Instead of floating on the cloud you have been on, you find yourself plunging down into the depths of despair, worrying about everything from your babie's cord drying properly to the world at large not being safe for him to ever walk around in.  Nothing is as it was, even yourself, and you have a cold certainty in your heart that it never will be again.  Add to that the fact that there is nothing you can do about it and you have a recipe for a panic attack.  I must point out that the phrase "panic attack" is relatively new to our culture, while the period of adjustment after a new baby is decidedly not.  But if it makes you feel better, hey man, grab onto it and just try to keep afloat.  You will reach the shore, or at least a quiet eddy in the river of life, before long.  Whatever you do, don't give up hope.  This too, shall pass, and before long you will miss these days.

It's an intense trip, but one that you must make.  You can't get over it, under it, or around it.  You just have to go through it.  Hard as it is to go through, this is what makes you brave and gives you strength.  It's your training for facing the unknown, which is exactly what parenthood is, in a nutshell.  I can promise you that in 5 years, you will look back on this time and laugh.  At yourself.  And it won't even bother you at all.  As if that weren't enough, because of this time you will have such strength that you will be able to face scary circumstances in the future with grace and (seeming) calm.  You will be able to bring calm and comfort to others even when you are quaking in your boots inside, all because you have gone through this and come out the other side.  It's the same process as basic training for the armed forces.  It tears you down in order to build you up stronger.

Because in between the paralyzing terror and burning rages, there will be moments of quiet and humbleness and pure joy. Lots of them.  In time, these moments will outnumber the scary times 1,000 to 1.  I swear it's true.   In the quiet of the night, when it's just your little family together and your are safe and warm (and the baby/new mom is not screaming), you will know that nothing is ever going to be the same again, and that's ok.  Everything is changing and even though you are scared because you don't feel like you are in control, you have never been in control anyway, and everything is changing into something better.

I'd do it all again 1,000 times

The Rock Star made me a mother, and in a sense saved my life.  If not for him I would have continued to be an irresponsible, scatterbrained, shallow, selfish person.  If not for him, I would have never learned patience, gratitude, or what sacrifice is really about.  Before him, I did not really know what it was to love anyone else enough to actually be willing to give my life for them.  He changed all of that the minute he slid out of my body and into this world.  He made me into what I am today, and I can only thank God for him being such a funny, witty, smart and good person.  

I love him so much that I cannot leave him to this day without crying like a baby.  Even though he is 23, and The Beautiful Redhead almost 21, it seems so wrong to leave them after we have been together that I spend the first 10 minutes or so trying to see through tears well enough to maneuver through traffic without getting us all killed.  The twins don't even worry about this anymore.  They think it's normal. For us, it is.  Try as I might, I don't think this is ever going to change.

So I write this to you, my first baby, on your 23rd birthday, sobbing in the basement at my computer, with the twins explaining to their company that nothing is wrong with their mom, this is just what happens when she writes, (I suspect Stephen King has a different process), knowing and happy that you are out having a great time and living it up in Kansas City.  I hope you have the best birthday that you ever dreamed of.  I hope all your dreams come true. I always have, I always will, and that will never change.

On a lighter note, I would also point out that I was your exact age when I got pregnant with you.  No pressure, but you just rest assured that there will not be any happier person on earth than myself on the day that we find out you are going to become a parent.  I so look forward to that day, because I know I have the strength and grace to guide you through the hard times that it will assuredly bring. 

Of course I do, that is just the first thing in a long line that you taught me.

Happy 23rd, Taylor-boy.  You are so loved, have always been, will always, always be.

Daaayammm, that is one good looking man!