Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Winning at Parenting.

My three-year-old daughter and I have been taken out this past week by a nasty case of Bubonic Plague. Or Croup. Or RSV. Or Adenovirus. I don't know. Take your pick. We have both been sneezing, hacking and coughing like the tuberculosis wing of a hospital in an Irish short story.

So the other day,  my daughter walked into the kitchen. She looked pathetic and adorable in her pink jammies in the middle of the day. I looked less adorable in my sweats and my sicklady top-knot. We had matching red noses and chapped lips. We both looked slightly bleary eyed and confused. I was drinking hot tea. She was carrying her little pink doll, "Baby," the doll who goes everywhere with her. Her brow was furrowed and she was rubbing a spot on Baby's forehead.

"Oh shit," she said. "I sneezed on Baby's head."

I made a note to myself to talk to my husband about our language. But at that moment, I just wanted to douse that Baby with some Windex.

No more F-bombs and I mean it!

Parenting. I'm winning at it.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Recognizing Scars.

I went to get a massage from a rather New Age, Eastern spirituality-type lady. She's very nice. I went to her when I needed help fixing my running stride early last spring. I figured if she was a miracle worker who could fix the way I run, maybe she could take the permanent crick out of my neck and shoulders and make me look less like Quasimodo.

I remember when I went to the running sessions with her, it didn't seem like it was working while I was there. I'm not going to lie. There was a lot of New Age mumbo jumbo. And despite the fact that I am a Buddhist, I always have one foot in the eastern spirituality stuff and one foot way the eff out.

But I'll be damned. It worked. I haven't had any foot or hip pain since I went.

She done fixed me, people.

My neck and shoulder have been completely jacked for about a month. It's a chronic problem and I have a wonderful Polish massage therapist who manhandles me into an endorphin-riddled pulp once a week. I love her.

But she hasn't been enough. Even her Eastern European hands couldn't work out the knot in my shoulder. I began to suspect that the knot was deeper down inside me.

The running guru was the lady to see, I was sure of it. I knew she did stretching exercises for athletes and massage for the chronically damaged. Plus, I had the good luck of strange convergence when a friend suggested the guru masseuse to me, not knowing that this same woman had already cured my running stride. I called the guru right up and I made an appointment. I dragged my weary body with shoulders hunched up over my ears and jaw clenched as tight as a steal trap and I told this stranger that I hadn't worked out in a month.

She recognized me immediately, which surprised me, since I had drastically changed the color of my hair. I used to be blonde and now I am a very dark brunette.

"You're the Buddhist, right?"

"Yes," I said, twitching and tense, the most un-stereotypically Buddhist Buddhist you ever did see. Which makes me a perfect Buddhist of course. God, I'm so freaking zen. Your mind just exploded. Admit it.

All kidding aside, the massaging-running-stretching guru laid her hands on me and said I was tense. She felt my back muscles which were tight as a drum. I was ready to pound out a rousing rendition of Yankee Doodle Dandy and march through town. As she tried to work out the knots, she asked me questions. Asked me why I hadn't worked out in a month. Asked me why I was going to grad school. Asked me what the book I'm writing was about.

"I'm going to grad school and I'm writing a book so my life can be less stressful. Later on, of course. It's a long-term plan, you see. A career change, if you will. But right now...right now it's a bit much."

The guru seemed to understand. She asked me what I do to relax. I admitted that I'm not doing as much to relax these days. My usual sources of relaxation include running, lifting weights, having sex, meditating, going to temple, etc. You know, the usual. Oh, and shopping. I've stopped buying clothes in order to pay for grad school.


(Just kidding.)

"What's your book about?" she asked.

"My childhood," I said, feeling like a tool as I always do whenever someone asks me that question.

"Let me guess. You didn't have a perfect childhood?"

"No, I didn't," I laughed. "But I have a dark sense of humor! Besides, a bad childhood is a gift to a writer, right?"

She smiled and mentioned a woman who wrote a book about her bad childhood and how it was a gift to her spirituality. I totally get that.

Then she had me roll over from my stomach to my back and she pulled one of my arms out from under the sheet. The Polish massage therapist frequently works on my arms and shoulders in order to help me with the pain that leads all the way up to my neck. It's all connected, you see.

"What's this?" the guru said, immediately touching the scars on my wrists.

"You're the first person to ever ask me that question directly." I was surprised by how forthright she was. "Those are a part of that bad childhood I mentioned earlier."

"Self-inflicted?" she asked, without a trace of judgment. Just a statement of fact.


And it was so easy. So natural. So not a big deal. It's like we were talking about the weather or about our favorite books. We were just talking about a part of me, just like the writing, the studying, and the fact that I write advertising copy for a living.

"I'm actually writing that chapter right now," I added.

"Ah, see. It's no coincidence," she said and touched the scars again. "That's why you're here. Scars can hold a lot of power. Do you mind if I try something?"

"Sure, I'm game," I said, having no idea whether I was really game or not.

She applied some sort of metal Chinese star-looking tool and started scraping it over my scars.

"Sometimes all your energy gets caught up in this scar tissue," she said. "It's powerful. It can effect your entire body."

She ran the metal scraper, ninja death star tool, over my right forearm and then over my left arm.

"The scars are different on this arm. You got creative."

I laughed in reply.

"I have a dark sense of humor too," she said.

It's all new age mumbo jumbo, of course. These scars are almost 30 years old. I've dealt with them in therapy. I've dealt with them over the course of my life and they really don't mean much anymore. They are self-inflicted, yes. They once acted as catharsis for me, when I was in so much psychic pain that I had no other form of release. They are old and dead, or at least I thought they were.

When my session was over, I sat up, thinking I would still have the knot in my shoulder.

I did not.

It was gone.

And then I noticed my hands were trembling. In fact, my hands trembled the whole way home.
The pain in my neck is gone. My shoulder blade is loose. I can move in every direction. I don't know how she did it. I really don't. She didn't man handle me like the Polish lady. I don't know what she did. But the pain is gone.

It's kind of like the manuscript. Writing it all down. Recognizing the scars. It's very healing.

Turns out it's all connected after all.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I'm Always the Last to Know I'm Having a Nervous Breakdown.

I feel like this cat, but to be honest, the clutter in this picture is stressing me out.

I've never been very good at being in touch with my feelings. My feelings are a nebulous dark world that resides somewhere deep inside me. My feelings are supposed to stay buried there like good little obedient feelings that don't get the hose again.

I have been very busy lately just like everyone else is OMG so busy, I know. I'm not a special snowflake, I swear. In fact, I am so un-special that I my mantra is, "You're getting everything done so nothing is wrong!"

I tend to tamp things down. I tend to downplay. Yes, I am super busy just like everyone else. I'm meeting my deadlines. I'm turning in my papers. I'm writing this memoir. My children are bathed and clothed and fed. So all systems, go, right?

Except I'm clenching my jaw. Like constantly. So much so that my jaw aches.

And I have a permanent pain right under my shoulder blade. And I can't move my neck all the way to the right. And okay, maybe my right shoulder is higher than my left shoulder. So maybe I twitch occasionally and talk to myself.

But I'm getting everything done so everything is fine.

I also feel like biting everyone's heads off.

But I swear, everything's cool.

Until my therapist says, "But you don't look alright."

Realizing I am not alright is a slow dawning. There are several steps, a planning commission, strategy meetings and a full blown campaign before I decide that yes, in fact, I am not okay.

In fact, I might be a little stressed out. But just a little in the, "I think I'm going to grind my own teeth down to my jaw and snap my neck" kind of way.

So what do I do now that I realize I'm not okay?

I'm not quite sure. I need to figure out a way to exercise. I haven't exercised since I started taking a grad class. That is not okay. It affects me mentally. Maybe I just need to go run for 30 minutes? Even that would blow some steam off.

I gotta do something.

I've got that Xanax I'm always joking about but I never take it. I think it's like a talisman of sorts. I just like knowing it's there. Maybe I'll start carrying it around in my pocket and take it out and shake it or stroke it when I'm upset? Maybe I can whisper sweet nothings to it. When nobody's looking, of course.

I know all the carbo-loading I've been doing probably isn't going to help the stress. Eating my feelings has never worked out in the past. Or shoving my feelings down even deeper into the dark pit of my soul. Yeah. That doesn't work either.

Maybe I just need to go for a run or go work out? At least it's a step in the right direction. Because with the full-time job, the kids, the manuscript, the grad class ... I mean, I hate to say it, but it might not all be okay right at this exact minute. I know my M.O. is to insist that everything is fine. But maybe it's not.

I'll figure it out.

I always do.

But right now, at this moment, I haven't got it all figured out. And maybe that's okay too?

"Sun Arise" by Phosphorescent.