Treading Water in a Riptide

Have you ever felt like you can’t get a handle on things? No matter what you do, you’ll be underwater?

Every day I face the impossible task of deciding which three or four things I can do out of a list of ten or more things I really should do.

Every day I have to redefine “necessary.” It all feels necessary but what is actually necessary? Washing the cloth diapers, it turns out, is almost always necessary.

When there is so little time, each choice carries greater ramifications. I am determining what is more important to me with every choice that I make. It can be enlightening. And humbling.

And frustrating. Some days my goals are completely at odds with each other. I want to streamline my life, and make things easier, but I also want to save money and be environmentally conscious. I have a certain level of professionalism at school that I have to uphold, not only to keep my job but to maintain the respect of my students. Without their respect, I can’t accomplish anything. I care deeply about fulfilling commitments, some I made before I realized how hard all this would be. I want to invest in my marriage but I also want to invest in myself. Most days my kids make it impossible to do either.

Continually, my own wants and needs come last, or I can only focus on one facet of myself at a time, leaving other areas of my life to languish. Between the stress and emotional turmoil I’ve been wading through, exercise is a top priority right now; the benefits to my mental wellbeing are just too great to stop dedicating time to working out. Which means that other things I love, mainly writing, are falling by the way side.

It’s frustrating and I’m still making mistakes, daily. I’m still letting silly whims hijack my time, like how I decided we NEEDED to have magnetic dry erase board for the fridge so we can plan our meals and maintain a shared shopping list. I just spent 20 minutes looking for one online. TWENTY MINUTES!!!!

But most days I’m doing better. Slowly but surely. Some things have to give. My new blog is still not ready to be unveiled. I’m realizing I might have to start writing there before it’s ready. It will be like inviting you all over to sit around a bare living room in lawn chairs and drink wine from red plastic cups, but if that’s the case, so be it. The most important things are my words, not my widgets.

I’m figuring it all out. At least I think I am. Some days are better than others and the really difficult days are becoming fewer and farther between.

If any of you super-charged, making-it-work mamas have any advice for a woman who is struggling just to keep it all together with a very busy, bordering on unmanageable schedule, I’d very much appreciate it. At this point, I can use all the help I can get.

How do you keep your head above water? Are there ever times when you feel like you’re drowning in it all?

Toxic Stress Bomb

Sorry to drop all this on you. You may want to click away…

I forgot to thank everyone who weighed in on my whether or not I should go to the OT appointment with Monito. I will admit I wanted to but felt kind of guilty, like I would be wasting their time. And perhaps I will, but I do have a few questions and will appreciate hearing what they have to say. Knowing that so many of you would do the same makes me feel better about my choice.

And a big thank you to everyone who commented on Friday’s post. I’m still kind of reeling from that whole…thing. I think Jjiraffe is right, that I put friendship on a pedestal. I see bits and pieces of people’s friendships and I fill in the blanks, always assuming the best. Recognizing that though, I KNOW that many people have really wonderful friendships, ones that enrich their lives in both obvious and subtle ways, and I’m quite sure that I’m missing out on something pretty profound by not having many friends to fall back on in my own life. Of course, a lot people are lacking in meaningful friendships, just like me. I never assumed I was the sole person out there wandering around wishing she had more friends, but it’s important to remember that. Finding, and keeping, friends is hard, especially when you are a full time WOHM. There is just so little time to make the connections that foster a friendship. And if you’re lucky enough to find a friend, it’s hard to see her enough to maintain the connection.

The truth is I’m not looking for someone who knows me to my very core. I’m not even sure I know me to my very core. And honestly, I don’t even need one friend who can be my everything. All I’m looking for is someone (or various someones) I can see once a week (or every two weeks), I can meet up with on the occasional weekend, I can see movies with or go shopping with (window shopping of course, as I never have any money), or just grab a quick coffee with, that I can actually, physically BE WITH a few times a month so that I don’t feel like every meaningful interaction I have takes place over technology of some kind. I mean, I love technology, I really, really do. It’s the only think keeping me sane right now, and I absolutely recognize that, but it can’t take the place of sharing the same physical space with someone. That piece is so important, and I don’t have that, really at all in my life.

The sad truth is I’m almost positive it’s not going to happen anytime soon. School starts in two weeks and in many ways these next fourteen days are the calm before the storm. Except, they aren’t calm, not at all. I have way too much to do. I’m stretched entirely too thin. It’s not all going to get done, I’m already putting things on the chopping block, except a lot of these things just can’t get chopped.

The biggest burden right now is packing and then unpacking my classroom. I was informed, on the last day of the last school year–that I would be switching rooms with someone this summer. It’s the SIXTH time in ten years I’ve had to pack up my classroom and recreate it somewhere else. I’m just so done doing it. I don’t know how to give a shit enough to make it look nice anymore. Which I guess is good because I’m not even moving into a real classroom, but a modular, which is much smaller, with super low ceilings and no bulletin boards. There is almost no storage space so I have to get rid of a ton of stuff (this is hard when I teach so many different subjects throughout the day). Anyway, I’ve already said too much about a super boring subject but needless to say, it’s going to suck. A lot. I start on Tuesday. I have next week to pack it and the week after (when Osita isn’t in school) to unpack it. Yeah. Don’t ask me how it’s going to happen, especially since I don’t really have any childcare to fall back on.

Then there is the baby proofing. Also boring so I won’t go into it much. I have a bit more leeway on this one, but I want to get the BIG things done before I start school, as I can tell Monito is weeks away from crawling. I ordered a gate for the top of the stairs and straps to anchor the TV to the wall behind it. I’m going to anchor the DVD stand too, and rig some netting in front of the TV stand to make the electronics there inaccessible. The rest of it will have to wait until he’s actually crawling.

Of course there has been some copywriting stuff that blew up in my face and has required a ton of my time. Again, boring, but it’s what I get for asking for more responsibility. Lesson learned.

I haven’t even let myself start thinking about actually planning for the school year because honestly? It’s probably not going to happen. Not until the weekend before school starts anyway.

The final piece of this stressbomb is that I will be teaching zero period this coming year. Which means my first class will start at 7:10am. I asked for this, because with this class I can teach five classes before lunch (with one ten minute break) and get paid my full salary (instead of the 80% pay I got for teaching 4 classes last year) while still leaving at lunch to pick up Monito. This is an amazing opportunity, financially, and I’m thankful to have it. In practice it will most likely make me incredibly unhappy. But it’s what we need to do to pay off our credit card debt in a timely manner. Part of me is disappointed in myself, because instead of learning to really live on a really tight budget I just took on more responsibility so I could make more money, which is what I ALWAYS do. It almost always ends badly, and I never learn to live frugally. So yeah, I’m happy to have this opportunity but disappointed I had to take it. The reality is that even with this we still have to live frugally to pay off that credit card debt and save enough to cover some expenses that will come due this year. I hope I can pull this all off. Getting up at 5:30am, teaching a full five classes, rushing to pick up Monito during my lunch break, grading papers and planning while he naps, then picking up Osita and doing the whole afternoon/evening/dinner/bedtime routine with two kids is going to be a lot. A lot, a lot. I’ll need to go to bed really early, which means there won’t be much time for writing or anything else. I’m not sure when I’ll get laundry done or clean up the house (bwahaha, like I ever do that anyway). But I suppose a lot of women make this kind of stuff work, so I can figure it out too. I’ll have to.

Anyway, that is where I am right now. Just stewing in the stress of it all, wondering how I’m going to survive. I know I’ll get it done. I always do. Most of it will probably be pretty half assed. And I’ll probably end up pretty unhappy, but it’s just a year. I can do anything for a year, right?

I think right now is probably not the time to be looking for new friends…

What’s stressing you out right now?


I feel like the dust is still settling from BlogHer.

I don’t really believe in “meant to be” but I do believe in creating meaning out of what might otherwise be deemed coincidence. A few things happened in quick succession last weekend. Actually they all kind of happened at once, spinning me furiously so that when I slowed enough for the nausea to pass, I wasn’t sure what direction I was facing, or what I was even looking at.

I’m still trying to get my bearings.

The first thing was this: I wrote that post about how much it annoys me when bloggers ditch their blogs mid narrative, never to return. I used strong words. I wrote in all caps. Honestly, that was my angry voice, the one I use with friends in texts when we’re chatting about something that just really ruffles my feathers. I don’t usually use that voice on my blog. It was very much “me,” the “me” that I show only to some people. I don’t know how it snuck out of the basement rec room where it is normally relegated, or why it broke free, but it did. I guess I just feel really strongly about that particular topic, and so I said some shit and didn’t really think about the consequences when I scheduled it.

But there were consequences. And people came to my blog and one of them was quite frank in the dialogue that ensued. And it got me thinking.

So the whole time I was at BlogHer, surrounded by literally THOUSANDS of women who do the same thing I do (give or take)–in very different Internet spaces and with drastically varying results–I was thinking about what had transpired on my blog. As I watched women find their tribes and connect with their readers, I thought about how I knew almost no one there (at the conference) and I wanted so badly to meet the people I did know through blogging, but I’d probably never meet them, and I cared so much and I had no real way of knowing if anyone else felt the same. I spent the whole time at BlogHer listening, trying to figure out why ALL THE WOMEN write, realizing there are SO MANY OTHER PEOPLE, so many women who come to blogging to talk about other things besides not being able to get pregnant, and losing babies and feeling broken and alone. They come to write about all sorts of other shit and they find their tribes and it all just seems a lot simpler, and at the same time harder to understand.

The blogosphere is a big place. I used to think that when I’d fall down the rabbit hole of comment links or BlogRolls and found woman after woman writing about IF or RPL or adoption or parenting after all of those. But I had NO IDEA how much bigger the blogosphere actually is. How our little corner is a thousand times smaller than I ever could have imagined. I felt so small when I was at BlogHer. Our community felt small. I’m not quite sure what that means.

A couple of other things happened too. I watched Elizabeth with her best friend and I was struck, as the cracks in my heart deepened, by the fact that I don’t have a friend like that. I don’t have a friend who has walked with me through so many seasons of my life. I don’t have a friend who has known me for that long. Most of the friends I’ve ever felt close to are gone now. I could barely maintain a brief phone conversation with them today. I have no one in my life that knows me to my very core. And there is no one I know that well either. It feels like a gaping hole in my life, and there is absolutely no way to fill it. No one will ever be… enough.

Finally, there was a small mention on someone’s blog about getting together with blog friends and I thought, I will never do that. I will never spend a weekend away with women I know through blogging. It just won’t happen. I’m not close enough to anyone to do that, and even if I were, it would never come to pass. Maybe that woman was right, who wrote those things on my blog. Maybe I don’t have any real friends in the blogging world. Maybe it’s all just an elaborate facade. Maybe I need to get a real life.

Those things–the post and the responses it got, the things that were said, being among all those thousands of bloggers, seeing the physical proof of how large the blogosphere really is, and what a small percentage our community represents, witnessing a real, honest, true friendship, and being forced to recognize that I don’t have that, being forced to recognize what I actually have here, it kind of threw me into a tailspin. I honestly don’t think I’ve landed yet.

I’ve been making plans, because that is what I do when I get sent into a tailspin, I grasp desperately at something, anything, to ground me. When there is nothing in the present to hold on to, I grope desperately at the future. Except the future is only an illusion. It’s just smoke and mirrors, and I’m left with nothing in my hands but scratches.

I’ve made myself wait. I’ve held off on actually doing anything because I want the dust to settle and I want to get a handle on how I feel. The thing is, I might not know how I feel for a long time, so now I’m trying to decide how I can trust myself enough to make some decisions now, in the absence of accurate information. It’s hard to chose a direction when I’m not quite sure yet where I want to end up.

This posts makes almost no sense, but I’m going to press post anyway, because sometimes that is what we do.

Please forgive me.

What would you do?

I’ve written a couple times about how Monito has had a hard time eating. When he turned 9 months old (earlier this month) I emailed his pediatrician and told her that he still was only eating about an ounce (usually less) of purees at a sitting and would put a few foods (mostly just buttered toast) into his mouth and gum it around for a long time, but couldn’t seem to swallow it. Either he’d accidentally spit it out, or eventually I’d have to go in and get it.

She wrote back immediately, declaring it was “time to get some help,” and referred me to an OT. I now have an appointment on August 6th.

Except in the past week Monito seems to have turned a corner because suddenly, he can eat. He will take 2, sometimes even 3 ounces of purees at a sitting (only a few different purees, only fresh purees if I mix them with the store-bought stuff and only stuff with the smoothest textures). He can put cooked carrots, or beans, in his mouth, gum them around and eventually swallow them. He’s still pretty picky but he’s willing to put more than just two or three things in his mouth and he doesn’t automatically spit new stuff out the minute he tastes them. He went from a baby who seemed to have real eating difficulties to a baby who is just picky and a few months behind. I’m even phasing out two bottles he has been only somewhat interested in and “replacing them” with solids. (I quote “replacing them” because he was only taking 2 ounces for those bottles most of the time.)

So the question is, do I keep that appointment on August 6th, just to make sure he’s where he needs to be and I shouldn’t be doing any special work with him? Or do I just cancel it and assume he’ll be fine moving forward? What would you do?

To thank you in advance for your advice, here is a picture of Monito, gnawing at his first burrito. He actually got some rice and beans in his mouth! And swallowed them! (I had to fish out a ton of tortilla though, and he was NOT happy about that.)


What do I want to accomplish?

This morning I re-read my post and was struck by a realization: I have no idea what I want to accomplish. Well, I have some vague ideas but I don’t know if they are really what I want, and I’m not quite sure how I can ascertain what I really want. How do people figure these things out? It’s so daunting.

The way I see it, there are three basic kinds of accomplishments I could work toward. One is a tangible product I could point to and share, like a book, or articles, or photography or something else that exists outside of myself. If I were to create something like that, I’d then have to determine if that thing, or things, had to reach a certain level or recognition for me to feel like I had accomplished something, or if just completing them would be sufficient. Would just writing a book be enough? Or would it have to be published? Or would it have to reach a certain level of “success”? If so, what would that level be?

The second kind of accomplishment would be touching other people’s lives in a meaningful way. That is supposedly why people teach, right? So they can make a difference in the lives of others, shaping the youth of this country in some small way. I think that is a totally acceptable accomplishment at my job, I just have to figure out how I will know that I’ve achieved that. Do I just assume that by teaching I am giving something back? Do I need to have students come back and actually TELL me that I made a difference? I sometimes wonder if that is why I want to move to high school, because I think students at that age are more aware of what their teachers mean to them. Middle-schoolers are so self absorbed, they are pretty much oblivious to what their teachers are providing. I know some middle school teachers are told by their students that they made a difference in their lives, but in ten years I have never been on the receiving end of that sentiment. Will I be able to feel that I’ve touched the lives of my students in some meaningful way if none of them every tell me directly that I have?

The third kind of accomplishment would be more internal, a sense of personal satisfaction that I have lived the kind of life I want to live. This might look like living my life according to my ideals and beliefs: only supporting local business, reducing our carbon footprint by cloth diapering and aggressively saving water (among other things), cooking with organic foods, being a kind and supportive friend, living mindfully and with compassion. This kind of accomplishment is probably the easiest to achieve, in that my success depends completely on my own actions, but it also receives the least recognition. Only I will know if I’ve lived my life in the ways I’ve wanted, and even if living that way touches others, I may never hear from them that it was. This kind of accomplishment will most likely make my every day life feel more meaningful, but it might be harder to look back at point to it as a something that I have achieved. I don’t know, maybe not?

So I guess I have to figure out, what kind of accomplishment am I looking for in my life? Do I need my accomplishment to be recognizable? Do I need it to be acknowledged by others? I suppose in the end, what it comes down to is, do I need other people to see what I’ve done and appreciate it in some way? Or can I be happy just knowing that I’ve accomplished my goals in my own heart.

And I honestly don’t know. Maybe I need to give more back. It’s hard because my current job is all about giving to others, but that giving is not necessarily recognized or appreciated. And motherhood is all about self-sacrifice, but again, that giving is not appreciated much, at least not when kids are young. So already I spend most of my day giving of myself, I just don’t receive much appreciation for that. It makes the idea of giving more of myself during my “free time” even harder to get excited about. And yet… if that is the way to make my life feel more meaningful…

So all this comes back to one thing. At the end of my life, I want to feel like I DID something, like I accomplished something meaningful, that my life had a purpose greater than myself. I know motherhood is imbued with it’s own sense of purpose–and that raising productive members of society is an admirable goal, one I take seriously–but I don’t want to place my own personal feelings of self-worth on the shoulders of my children; that is a lot of for them to bear. I need to have an identity, and a feeling of sense worth, separate from my children. And I need to feel like I’m working toward something greater than myself in areas of my life that aren’t dedicated to my family. I assume that has to be my job, but maybe that is the mistake I’m making. Maybe I can find some time that is separate from job and removed from my family, to do something meaningful. It doesn’t seem like there is enough time in the day to do something really worthwhile in the scarce hours that are not already dedicated to work and family, but perhaps I can make it happen. If that were possible, I could keep teaching just to support my family, and find meaning in other parts of my life. The good part of that is that my goal wouldn’t have to support my family financially, so I’d have much greater freedom of choice in what I do. The bad news is I’d have to find time to do it and still honor all my other obligations, which would probably limit the scope of my goal.

No matter what I ultimately choose, I want to be doing something now so that I have I have an opportunity to do something significant. I just hope I can figure out what I want to accomplish, before it’s too late.

Which kind of accomplishments are most important to you?

What Am I Doing With My Life?

Sometimes I wonder what I am doing with my life. What is my desired end game? Where do I want to be at the end of this journey? What path do I want to have traveled to get there?

I know life is not a destination, and yet… all journeys end somewhere. I seem to make most of my choices with the journey, not the destination, in mind. I wanted kids because I hoped to raise them, not because I wanted grandchildren later in life (though I would really, really love me some grandbabies some day). I became a teacher because I thought it would be easier to parent with a teacher’s schedule–I’d be more available after school and have summers and other vacations off to be with them. What I didn’t think about was how being a teacher doesn’t lead to anything except, well, more teaching. If I don’t specifically leave my job, I will still be doing the exact same shit I’m doing now, when I retire. And I won’t even be making much more money doing it.

It’s sad to say, but I embarked on my marriage for the purpose of having children as well. I also didn’t want to be alone. I’m an extrovert, and the idea of being alone forever was terrifying for me. It still is. Maybe that is another reason I wanted to have kids, so I’d always have someone to hang out with.

{If that is the case, why am I always trying to get away? Perhaps I didn’t realize what being tied to someone 24/7 would actually feel like.}

Writing all that out makes it seem like my sole purpose in life, as I understood it, was to have children, and that I crafted my whole life around that goal. Perhaps that’s the truth, but if it is, shouldn’t I be sublimely fulfilled right now? Shouldn’t my life seem ultimately meaningful to me?

I’m not sure that it does. I’m not sure what the point is.

I am realizing this all sounds super morbid, but I don’t feel morbid about it all. It’s more of an odd feeling, like something is off. I feel like I have a tag I can’t cut all the way out of my shirt and the little part that is left keeps scratching me but if I try to cut it anymore I’ll catch the hem and the whole thing will start to unravel.

I think I worry that I lack aspiration. I don’t have any grandiose dreams. I mean, I have things I’d love to accomplish, but I highly doubt that I will. I am not currently working toward those goals. And they are as yet still amorphous, vague to the point of not really existing at all. I tell myself that now is not the time to work toward my own aspirations, not now, while my kids are young. But they will be young for a while longer yet. I’ll be almost 40 before they are both securely in grade school, and I’ve heard that that is when things really get tricky. Will that be the time to chase my dreams? Won’t it be too late?

They say it’s never too late, but I don’t know if I agree. Sometimes I think it is too late, to change directions, to start from scratch. We’re never going to have a lot of money laying around to finance any big upheavals, or even to support us as I take a substantial decrease in pay. When do I think I’m going to be able to just up end my life and do something new? I know there is a never a good time, but when will there ever be a time when it’s even feasible?

Teaching is a weird profession because it comes with ready-made cycles. There are beginnings and ends; every school year starts anew and then ten months later, it’s over. I live my life by the school year and August marks the “beginning” for me more than January ever has. June is also the end, and I suppose that is why I’m taking stock. I’m coming up on the final week of my my tenth year teaching. This is a decade-end of sorts for me. I suppose I should feel like I have more to say for the last ten years, more to point at while proudly exclaiming, Look, look what I’ve done. See what I’ve accomplished? With a not-so subtly implied, Aren’t you impressed? Except I don’t feel like that at all. I kind of feel like the opposite.

Is this really what I’m going to do for the rest of my professional life? In ten years will I be looking back on another decade of teaching without feeling much pride in what I’ve done? Will I feel like I’ve accomplished anything? Because I don’t really feel like I’ve accomplished anything yet.

It’s not so bothersome, at 33, to feel like I haven’t done much with my life, professionally speaking, especially when I took such giant steps toward my personal goals (and was lucky enough to achieve them). I can be happy with the last ten years of my life, even if work doesn’t factor into that happiness at all. But the next ten? Will raising two children and keeping a marriage together (assuming I can manage both) be enough to hang my hat on? Will I find contentment if that’s all I’ve done?

I honestly don’t know.

I try to keep some doors open. I’ve stayed with ggmg magazine for three years now because I want to be doing SOMETHING in another field, a field that interests me and I think I might be good at. It’s not enough to get me anywhere in that field, but it’s enough to give me an idea of whether or not I really like it, and it helps me slowly acquire skills I may be able to use later on. I don’t know if I’ll ever use those skills in another line of work, but it’s nice to know that I’m honing them, in some small way.

I don’t know quite where I’m going with this. I guess I’m just acknowledging an emptiness in my life, where I feel like professional aspirations should be. I almost wrote “job satisfaction” there, but it’s not that really. It’s not that I’m unhappy at my job, on a day to day basis. It’s more like I’m unhappy with the fact that my job isn’t taking me anywhere. I’m disappointed that I’ll mostly likely still be doing the same thing, or nearly the same thing, in 10 or 20 or 30 years. Is that where I want to be at the end of this journey, professionally in the same place I started in? Will the journey through 30+ years of teaching be worth the complete lack of a destination?

I honestly don’t know, and I’m worried that by the time I figure out the answer, it will be too late to change course.

Do you have personal or professional aspirations? Are you satisfied by them? Do you believe it’s ever too late to change course?