Monday, June 25, 2012

A Little Hope

This might be jinxing things big time, but I'm going to write it anyway. I've really enjoyed this whole doing stuff thing. And I want to continue. We've been home since Saturday night and I've managed to hold it together. Maybe the anxiety won't make me pay for the activity on the trip. In fact, I want to do more. Yesterday I told Z I wanted to go to the farmers market in Ithaca next Saturday. We've lived here for almost 3 years and I've never gone to Ithaca. Not surprising, but frustrating. We lived in Rhode Island for 3 years and I never made it to the beach there, only was in Newport once or twice. My agoraphobic tendencies might keep me feeling secure, but they prevent me from doing so much. But I really forced myself to engage in the last few weeks, and while it was extremely difficult, while at some points I cried in frustration or got mad as hell at how hard it was for me, I fucking did it anyway.   

The question is how do I keep the momentum going now that I'm home? Over the last three years Z and I have built a comfortable life in Syracuse in which I am both pretty damn happy and not required to do the shit that scares me most of the time. I go through periods where I almost forget that I have an anxiety problem because my days are structured in a way that I don't have to challenge myself. Yes, I think about making changes, but six months go by until I make something happen. Or six months go by and nothing happens at all. I want to open myself up to engaging more, but I'll also be opening myself up to failure and a lot of emotional discomfort. It exhilarates me and scares the shit out of me at the same time. Who will I be then? I so strongly identify as someone who struggles with mental illness, as someone who is unable to participate much of the time that I'm scared not to be that person anymore. Just writing that sentence, well, it's a brutally honest admission even for me. 

The second summer session at SU begins next week, and earlier today I was looking at what classes are still available online. Not much is left that interests me. I did go ahead and request additional info for fall classes. I want to make the school thing happen. I want to go hiking with my family. I want to take a trip down to the city. When people invite us over I want to say, "Yes!" instead of staying at home while Z and the boys go have fun. In a huge and nutty stretch I want Z and me to start writing and performing music together. I want to write a novel. I want to open a dessert place. I want to make enameled jewelry. Suddenly I want to be living life all the way. And I understand wanting these things means I'll be in physical and emotional discomfort. But the anxiety doesn't go away when I manage my symptoms. I'm just fooling myself into believing it has. I'm scared to welcome the fear back into my life, but the thing is I'm also scared not to do it-to continue to live the unchallenged life I have been settling for. 

Do you want a tattoo? Can you get to Baltimore? Go see Charlie Foos, proprietor of Read Street Tattoo and all around swell guy.

13 for T and 31 for C. I couldn't be happier with it. Took this picture while I was nursing C in the front seat of the car during a stop on the way home. I love how you can see a sliver of the top of his head in the bottom left corner. Occasionally I am a multi-tasker. 

My fellas in their matching shirts. T is still having trouble keeping that tongue in his mouth. He licked the pole he was holding in the DC Metro and it made me think of the New York City episode of the Simpsons (tied with the Lisa-becomes-a-vegetarian episode as my all time favorite) when Bart is panhandling and claims he doesn't have any taste buds so he licks a subway pole. I have a feeling T will regularly remind me of Bart Simpson over the next decade or so....

My mom wanted a nice picture of the four Cordano cousins. Right before I left my sister's house I realized we hadn't taken one. Of course, one of the cousins was napping. And I couldn't get the other three to take me seriously. Story of my life.  

*I have no idea why the font is bigger. I'm a computer idiot and have no troubleshooting abilities. Sorry.* 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Holding On

Yesterday I told Z that I was pretty sure things were going to fall apart with me pretty soon. The last week has been non-stop action. Over several days I drove the boys from GA to DC on my own and in our stick shift car. I think that I finally have the hang of it, especially after over an hour stuck in mostly stop and go and then stop again traffic on the beltway. We spent a full day with my sister and her family, a bonus day with Z's parents, who spoiled me rotten. We drove to a friend's home outside of DC and she helped navigate to Takoma Park where we joined Z. Later that night we met up with some high school friends at a bar, the next day the boys and I met another high school friend at the Air and Space Museum. And last night I took the Metro back to VA and had drinks with another group of high school friends. Tomorrow we will spend the night with a wonderful guy I went to high school with and his fantastic family. Saturday I get tattooed. 

Holy fucking shit, that is a lot of stuff. And I did it all. I mean, I've taken obscene amounts of Imodium. I've freaked out inside and sworn to myself that I couldn't go to whatever activity was next a million times. But I fucking did it all. And I did not shit myself in public, or make a fool of myself in any other way (that I'm aware of, friends that I saw could address that issue better than me). Pretty incredible.

One of my friends even commented that I seemed to be handling all the activity really well. It made me think of a dear old friend who suffers from chronic depression. When it all came out that I was having a pretty significant breakdown she commented to Z, "Nice Game Face!" I was so proud of that, I had cultivated being the picture of normalcy for so long, the fact I'd fooled someone who had pretty excellent mental illness radar somehow meant I was winning. Even when things are going really badly, when I need a bathroom urgently or my heart is pounding or I think I'm going to faint, if someone asks how I'm doing I'll probably reply, "Oh! Just fine, thanks!"

But now I'm scared I'm going to crash and burn when we get home. It has been so hard (and wonderful) keeping it together. So hard to push myself to get out the door and fucking live life. And so incredibly worth it. I'm scared my crazy isn't going to let me get away with this whole doing things situation for much longer. Fingers crossed I make it though getting tattooed. Losing my shit there among the cool kids would be beyond humiliating...

So as soon as Z left this kid started liking me again. Today he even asked for kisses. 
And this kid got a fever in NC and fell asleep while eating pizza.
This is what Z is doing this week. He's taken apart an antique piano and it recording music and making other instruments out of it for Dance Exchange, a modern dance company in DC. How fucking cool is his life?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

No Matter What

One of my constant refrains to T is, "I will always love you, no matter what." Sometimes I say it out of the blue, often I say it when I am disciplining him so he knows that even if I'm really pissed at him the fact that I love him will never change. A couple of days ago I posted this status on facebook:

I was telling C that I love him. T was watching and with the casual cruelty that is the specialty of an almost 3 year old he told me that he does NOT love me. What a turd.

That moment was sort of a kick-off of a string of really hurtful incidents by my little guy. Z has been spending a ton of time with him because we are on vacation, and T couldn't be happier-his dad has been his favorite person on the planet for as long as T has understood what people are. A bonus is I've been free to give C some rare individual attention. Tomorrow Z is getting on a plane and we won't meet up with him for almost a week. So his being on T duty is killing two birds with one stone-they won't see each other for a while so they need the together time and it's giving me a break before I am traveling alone with the two boys while driving stick shift (which I'm still not confident doing) for long distances. But the less time I spend with T, the more he couldn't give a crap about me.

Mom, C, and I took a rather grueling one day there-and-back jaunt to Charleston to see my Grandma, who will be 91 this week. It was worth it to watch my Gram laughing with the baby we named after her late husband. On the drive home my Mom said that she bet T missed me a lot. I laughed and told her I'd bet $5 he didn't ask after me once. We questioned Z when we got back, turns out Mom owes me the money.

The next morning I went into T's room when he woke up. I asked him if he missed me the day before and he told me, "No." I asked if he missed C and he said, "No." I asked if he missed his Grandma and he said, "I did." Ouch. Later that day he wouldn't touch me. No hugs, no cuddles, no kisses. We are huge physical affection people. He was still touching his dad, he just wanted nothing to do with me. And he was really mean about it. I had to fight back the tears as Z yelled at him to hug and kiss me. Which is kind of funny when you think about it. The answer to him withdrawing from me is obviously not to force him into unwanted affection that he'll only grow to resent. But damnit, when he did finally and reluctantly hug me it felt good.

My unfortunate impulse when it comes to T's behavior is to blame myself for messing up somehow. I'm too strict and it's making him hate me. I'm not strict enough and he's walking all over me. We are those crazy over-physically affectionate people and though he can happily cuddle all day with Z, I creep him out. He simply doesn't like who I fundamentally am as a human being. But the reality is I cannot afford to indulge the crazy when it comes to parenting. And that is the biggest gift of this whole motherhood gig. It's not like becoming a mom instantly cured me, more like I feel compelled to try harder for the boys. Sometimes it works, sometimes I fail miserably. But mental illness isn't something one can conquer just by trying hard enough. Good lord, were it only that simple. And for once I am clear headed enough to understand the failure isn't what matters, it really is the effort. I will lose the battle with that ugly voice in my head over and over, yet as long as I'm trying to fight back it's ok. This time I was able to overcome the voice and convince myself that it really isn't me. It is T. He's testing to see what he can get away with. He's pushing hard. And even though it hurts, even though it makes me cry, I still need to tell him over and over that I love him. No matter what.

 Watching this was more than worth 9 uncomfortable hours in a car.
 Man, do I love this lady.
 My little turd enjoying a butterscotch krimpet. Tastykakes are required eating in our family. My folks are from PA.
Amazing, blissful vacation. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Travel Update

Saturday was one of the best days I've had in a long while. We woke up in the home of one of our best friends, Kevin. My Uncle, my cousin, and his wife and kids joined us for a leisurely walk to the farmer's market in Charlottesville where we ate delicious things for breakfast and caught up with each other. In the afternoon we went to the home of a gal I went to high school with a million years ago. She and I were very close back then, in fact, we bankrupted the theater school honor society when we were officers. I know, a lot to be proud of. Because the world is truly a small place my cousin knows her through his eldest daughter so he came along. Kev brought his girlfriend Rebecca, who we were so excited to meet. And another friend from high school happened to be driving through on his way to vacation and he stopped by with his family. I've been friends with his wife on facebook for years, and it was so incredibly cool to meet her in person. He is one of my favorite people ever, so seeing him after 17 years was amazing. Watching all of our kids play together was simply lovely. In the evening Kev, Rebecca, Zeke, and my cousin went to see Steve Marin's bluegrass band while I watched some Food Network while the boys slept.
 If you ever are in Charlottesville and have kids or a husband like Z, this is one awesome carousel. 
 Robinson Ram progeny play together.
I love these people. This picture brought to you by the wonders of Facebook.

I'm not trying to sell you guys a bill of good here, the day wasn't perfect. T had an accident in Kev's spare room during nap. Rather than call out so we could help, he smeared poop all over the carpet, himself, and the wall. Kev was a trooper about it. I was humiliated. In other pooptastic news, my anxiety reared her ugly head big time. I managed the farmer's market portion of events quite well. I was feeling extremely proud of myself for just leaving the house with a group and socializing. It really helped that we walked. Not involving cars makes me feel less trapped. But as soon as we arrived back at Kev's the anxiety diarrhea started. On the upside, we were at Kevin's. He really is as close as family, so I'm not embarrassed at all to have uncontrollable diarrhea mere feet from him. I know he'll just hold his nose and still love me. In fact, my son rubbing shit into his carpet is one of the few remaining ways I could feel embarrassment around him. Kudos to T for finding that one thing....

I took some imodium. After half an hour it wasn't working so I took a bonus pill. And I was freaking out as we got into the car to go get beer to bring along. Heart racing, sweaty palms, dry mouth, the works. But the absolutely awesome news is the anticipatory anxiety didn't get in the way of me having a rockin' time with my friends. And that is the really important thing. Did I need a chill pill on Saturday night? Yes. But whatever, it was a really big day for me. I did things. In public. With other people. And had fun.

Sunday morning we were on our way down to Winston-Salem to see Z's parents by 9:15am. And a few minutes into the trip my stomach was upset again, despite the 3 imodium on Saturday. Not only that, I had a full on panic attack. We had 5 hours to drive so I was able to do some thinking. You know, in between listening to the children cry from the backseat. Saturday was full of awesome, but it was emotionally exhausting. I didn't feel like I was putting on a show or pretending to be someone I wasn't at either social event. It was easy to be myself in front of my family, who I adore, but also in front of the friends I hadn't seen for many years. The anticipation was shattering to me, but the revelation is the events themselves were more than worth the anxiety. 

That said, I was pissed on Sunday. Pissed that I had to deal with anxiety both before and after. Pissed because I know the whole week we are in DC will be an anxiety roller coaster and I won't be staying at Kevin's where I can safely have diarrhea to my hearts content. Pissed because I'm still shaky when it comes to driving stick, which is adding to the anxiety. DC traffic is hideous. I'm not going to know where I'm going. I'm going to have two of the most important things in the world to me in the backseat. And I'm going to be praying that we don't have to drive on a single hill. I'm scared and I'm still pissed all this is so hard for me. But. But. But, Saturday was a taste of putting myself out into the world. It was hard, it was awesome, and the main thing I need to keep reminding myself was it was worth it. 
The lovely Rebecca got the boys the coolest sunglasses ever!
Of course, Kev and I needed to try them out.
Dave photobomb!
What a fantastic group of people.