Thursday, June 21, 2012

Black Hole

Well, here I am again..struggling with the idea of talking about something pretty personal here.  In some moments I feel in my heart that I should keep it all private this time but in others I hear my own voice reminding me that two of the main reasons I keep coming back here to write and share are #1) to help in my healing process and #2) to reach out to others who may feel the same things I'm feeling and think they are alone.  In the past, it's taken me a couple of hours of contemplation at most before finally deciding I need/want to share but this time has felt different.  A few things have held me back..for one thing, I've only talked to 3 people about it and not one of those 3 people are my Mom or my siblings.  I'm a little nervous to post this because I'm afraid at least one of them will feel hurt that I didn't open up sooner or that they will be insulted that I chose to share with so many people before confiding in them first.  I'm also afraid it will seem tacky or strange...I'm afraid that after the people I care about most in the world read this, I will get sympathetic phone calls and emails that I can't really field right now without getting weepy and I'm working really hard at NOT getting weepy.  I'm also embarrassed.  I have been avoiding talking too much about it because I'm worried I'll come across as weak, fragile or incapable and I base my whole self worth on being strong, resilient and reliable.

So I've remained silent and stuck in my own head...and then I came across this quote today and knew my first step had to be to take a deep breath, stop being so hard on myself and share:

"The only reason we don't open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don't feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else's eyes."
-Pema Chodron

 We had a lovely vacation with Nathan's side of the family last week.  We spent time in the Vail area and we all made the most of the beautiful mountain towns and the off-season stuff the ski resorts have going on.  I found myself on more than a couple of occasions thinking about how content I was and how lucky I felt to be able to spend time in such a great area and get to know our family even better.  Then a day or so before the end of vacation, I started feeling a little bluesy.  Between that time and the day after we got home my mood dropped so quickly that looking back it almost feels like my brain crashed like a plane and I spent the next few days paralyzed in my seat, trying to figure out how badly I'd been hurt.  I fell into a pit of self-loathing (I came across an article that described this feeling as a "black hole" and I nodded in agreement) and found myself watching the kids play one day, wondering if they might be better off without me.  I spent about a minute weighing the options and luckily realized there's no way they would have a better life if I wasn't in it.  In that moment I came to that decision not in a way that was compassionate towards myself but only that I believed having a mother like me was the lesser of two evils.  Remembering that I even had that thought brings me to tears.  It's scary of course, but it's mostly just sad and false and I can't believe I let myself go there.  I promised myself I would never tell anyone I'd thought it because I don't want people to think they need to worry about me...that is NOT how I'm feeling at all and it really was in hindsight just a fleeting thought and I would never seriously consider it.  BUT, I did think it and knowing that has finally pushed me to seek counseling.  I know these feelings are very common...for mothers, yes but I think it goes deeper than that.  I think being a mom tires me out and tests my limits for sure, but it is also my saving grace.  For instance, I was coming in from a run the other day and Owen's smiling face came running up to the screen door yelling "Moooooommmmy!!!" and I could only smile and love and hug and kiss...and feel lucky and safe and happy in that moment.  Also, on the worst day of my stint in the "black hole", I was helping Zoe figure out how to use her rollerblades..awkwardly holding her up and laughing with her every time she unexpectedly one point, as she stared at the cement just in front of her feet, concentrating on not falling, she quietly said "You're a great mom" and I felt so grateful and valuable.

So, I made an appointment and will start counseling.  Despite my complete faith in counseling and my readiness to suggest it to others I feel nervous and weird (a bit relieved too, though)...Since I'm on my way back up and feeling much better, I almost decided not to go. Thinking back on this last week, I realize that although it felt like I was in the hole for a really long time, in reality it was only a few days.  Many people live like that all. the. time. and I almost feel silly and selfish for thinking I'm suffering too.  When I'm feeling good (which is most of the time) I'm honestly feeling masking, no pretending, no overcompensating...just honestly content and good.  It's normal to have ups and downs even if the downs are pretty low but something about these last couple of "crashes" (remember how I was feeling at the end of the winter?)  makes me feel like I need to get an objective opinion and some professional advice about how to prevent going quite so low.

So, there you have it.  Once again, after awkwardly telling Nathan, confiding in a couple of girlfriends and now putting my thoughts into words I'm starting to feel like myself again.  Maybe now I can stop tearfully brooding and avoiding my friends and get back to living each moment and enjoying this life I'm totally blessed to have.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ada's Demise

Hey, so remember Ada the Beta?  The fish we got when I was jogging myself out of the winter blues?  Yeah, she died.  In fact I'm positive the poor thing was killed.  Let me explain:

We were having a fun and friend filled Friday and at one point Nathan and I were sitting outside with our friends Mariah and Pete (who were visiting for just a few short hours) sipping sangria and watching our two little guys, Finn (1 year) and Owen.  We had a little chuckle because it was so quiet and peaceful with the big kids up in Zoe's room playing their favorite game, "Goodnight to Baybah" (don't ask, because we don't know either--all we do know is that they quietly play it for a really long time together without asking for our help at all, so we don't ask either) that it was almost as if we each just had one kid ("Like the good old days." Nathan lamented--no, no joked).  It came time for our friends to head off to their next adventure and we almost immediately welcomed more friends for dinner.  It was a packed day and we didn't really have time to regroup until bedtime.

I was helping Zoe get ready for bed when I looked at Ada's fishbowl.  As I began to notice Ada was looking a little funny, Zoe started telling me that she and one of her friends had held her earlier on.  I gave Ada a little nudge with the fish net, which confirmed that she was most definitely dead.  I took a deep breath and braced myself.  This was the moment I had been dreading since we got the fish.  I knew it would happen and had warned her that it would happen but I knew that it was going to be hard on her as well as a difficult thing for me to try and explain (2 big reasons why I actually thought it was a good idea for us to get a fish in the first place).  I decided not to pussyfoot around and just said it: "Okay, Zo.  You know what?  Ada is dead."  She took it shockingly well in the first moments.  She even cheerfully told me she wanted to hold her one last time so she could say goodbye.  I told her she couldn't but that she could look at her and say something before we flushed her down the toilet.  She looked at her and just kind of said "Oh" and we all said a quick goodbye as I quickly plopped her in the toilet (Owen from the bathtub:  "BYE!!").  As soon as I flushed, I saw Zoe bow her head and could tell she was starting to cry.  I walked with her into her bedroom to hug her (Owen was being far too silly and unsympathetic in the moment, as you would expect from a baby brother in such a situation).  She proceeded to go through a bunch of mixed emotions but whenever she was able to collect herself she would inevitably lose it again when she saw the toilet or the empty space on her dresser where Ada's bowl once sat ("It just doesn't look the same without Ada there, Mommy").  I felt bad for her because I  knew she was realizing it was kind of her fault but of course, I didn't want to  say that.  She at one point told me she thought it had happened because she and her friend were holding her, and she broke down again as she asked me if I also thought that was why she died.  I just said "Well, yes it could have been but she was a fish and fish sometimes just die and you don't know why.  She actually lived a really long time for a fish."  I just couldn't tell her that it was most definitely because they had taken her out of her bowl for too long.

At one point, she asked me THE QUESTION:  "Mommy, where is Ada now?".  Now, if you want to see someone squirm, be present when an agnostic like me is asked a question like that by their sweet, innocent (tearful) child.  Immediately I saw 3 choices I could make in that moment:

1)  Tell her the hard truth:  "She is in the sewage system.  You know, the same place all our poop and pee goes, but she's dead so it's okay.".  I immediately ruled that one out

2)  Tell her something I don't believe to be true but know to be more comforting than my truth:  "She is in fishy heaven."  In my need to find a way to comfort my daughter, I saw part of the appeal in this belief system and came really close to giving in as I said "Well, maybe she's swimmin' around somewhere...." but she kept me within my comfort zone by cutting me off, saying "But--she's dead, Mommy."

3)  Tell her a half truth and omit the hard stuff:  I thankfully, finally settled on this after stumbling a bit.  I said "I don't know where she is right now but what I DO know is that when she was HERE, you took really great care of her and loved her so much.  I could tell she was happy living in your room with you and that's what's important."

Gah!  Like I said, as nightmarish as this kind of thing is for me, part of me knew it was a really good reason to start getting and taking care of a fish.  I figured I'd be forced to face the conversation at some point soon, but I hoped it would  be fairly easy for her to get past the sadness of losing a pet fish (turns out I was right about that.  She's already 98% over it today).  I have a terrible time talking about death with her because it terrifies me and I don't have any answers.  I don't believe in God or Heaven but I also know I could be wrong about that.  Since I won't know until I actually die, I try not to dwell on it and concentrate on living life the best way I can in the moment.  I don't want to say these things to my rosy cheeked children but I don't want to lie to them either.  I struggle with the thought a lot, so this felt like a practice run of sorts.  I know now, the next time we lose a fish she won't feel as shocked (and she will KNOW not to hold it with her friends) and I feel like I have the beginnings of my "Death Conversation" which makes me feel a lot less wiggy at the mere thought.

Not to make this all into a bigger thing than it was, though.  Honestly, I did feel horrible for her and squirmed a bit at the questions it raised but mostly it was sweet and kind of funny.  After I put them to bed, Nathan told me he'd had this conversation with Zoe earlier that day:

Zoe:  "Daddy, DON'T TELL MOMMY and don't be disappointed but if you ARE disappointed, just know that I won't do it again. (pause) Sophie and I held Ada.

Nathan:  "I'm not disappointed, but just know that if you take a fish out of water, it can't breath and could get hurt."

Zoe:  "Yeah, like when they bounce on the floor."

Nathan:  "Oh, did she bounce on the floor?"

Zoe:  "Yeah, but only like 2 or 3 times.  Then I held her really tight so she wouldn't fall again."

Lesson learned.

Anyway, we had a great day today too.  Zoe had her big race in Louisville (I've been there a handful of times, but oddly had the most powerful "I want to live in this town" feelings today) and had such a blast!  Nathan and I weren't convinced she'd actually do it.  I worried that she would feel intimidated by all the people there and would change her mind and then regret it later.  She totally rocked it though and it was so darn cute and fun:

I wasn't sure if they would have race numbers for the kids, so I made this shirt for her.  I asked her what number she wanted to be and she said "Either 96 or 99, but you can choose, Mommy.".  I used heat transfer paper for the actual number and her name, and she wanted me to add the appliques.

She said this was how she was going to start the race (she forgot to but was okay with that)

They did have numbers for them after all and after thinking about it for a bit she decided she wanted to wear it over the one I'd made.  I was totally cool with that and happy she wanted to wear the bib.  She can wear the shirt again when she finishes my half with me in August--if she wants to, of course.

Waiting at the start

She was way in back, but these kids just killed me!  So, so cute!!

Inspiration happens anywhere, anytime.


Crossing the finish line

So proud

Water for the runners

She wanted to hang out near the finish line for a while and recap, relive and just soak it all up.  I could totally relate so we sat there as long as she wanted to.

Nice job, big girl.

Owen was really cranky the whole time but he had little glimmers of silliness.  Here, he's doing his signature worm dance.  Lasted about 10 seconds and he was crying and yelling at us again.
Afterwards we had a celebration brunch and headed home.  She passed out in the car, totally exhausted from all of the excitement.  Good day, good day.