October 2008


My anesthetist told me the new gym is really great.  

And that pretty much sums up my life right now as it relates to training.  Right there.  In that one sentence.

The wedding has taken over.  Moved in and managed to eat the last slice of cake I was saving for just the right moment.  Left the toilet seat up kind of way.

Reality is, we have about three weeks to get four big projects done and keep up with all the usual stuff.  Oh…and my work is kind of kicking my butt.  

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not complaining — I’m a lucky chick.  But getting to the gym…even the one in the basement…is just so alien to me right now.  It’s not just on the back burner.  It’s in somebody else’s kitchen because mine has the makings for 700 cookies taking up all the room.

I’m okay with it.  Totally cool with it.  Training can wait, so long as I’m not unhappy.  But I kind of miss it.  You know…the regular life of regular training and the regular successes and failures and Fridays that have nothing to do with rsvp’s and worries about getting it all done.

All in due time.

But I do have next season on the brain.  And I’ve been known in this last week to put my pre-race disk in the car and daydream of racing again.  

That’s all.  Nothing dramatic.  Just miss it a little, but I’m happy to have this for the moment.

T-minus thirty days.

The real countdown has begun for us. Four more weeks of glue guns and moss. Four more weeks of florist decisions, rsvp’s, and worrying about the right “foundation garments.” Four more weeks of lists and evenings full of projects and distractions.

All for Our Big Day.

Wow.

So many of the details have pulled together nicely. The site coordinator was switched out from Mrs. Magoo to a 110% competent and available coordinator who could easily out-coordinate me. Normally I would throw down to see who made a better spreadsheet, but I’m glad to have her on my team. She made me sigh with relief and stop worrying about last minute “snafu” debacles. After our last meeting, Michael and I wanted to take her home in our back pocket and let her get to work on our lives. That good.

I had my second to last dress fitting. Seems I needed to have FOUR FREAKING INCHES taken in from the hip area because, even though my milkshake does bring them all to the yard, it’s a little smaller these days. I blame time away from my bike.

Incidentally, my seamstress stopped halfway through the fitting and looked at me strangely. She said I was unusually calm for this whole thing. Said most brides are a bundle of nerves and stressed out.

Therapy is clearly helping.

I’ve also managed to finalize all the florist needs and flower arrangements. I don’t have the full cost yet (eap!), but it will be beautiful and personal and unforgettable. Kind of like me.  wink

Of all the 200+ guests, we have all but 35 rsvp’s received. Quite possibly a record somewhere.

We also finally have the ring pillow, my jewelry, ‘maid’s gifts, groomsmen gifts, travel plans, and rehearsal plans. A personalized monogram designed by Michael, all the favor and candy table supplies, and a logistics sheet the length Michael’s ape arms.  The wedding has vomited in our dining room and consumed half of our basement.  Flameless candles, bags of preserved moss, and dozens of spools of the perfect “chocolate brown” ribbon.  Sixty of the ideal hurricanes, dozens of votive candles, and too many picture frames to count.  Vellum, doublesided tape, glue sticks, adhesive spray, and a neverending supply of brown boxes.

And all the while, we’ve managed to retain (a) our sanity, and (b) our relationship.

Unbelievable. Seriously.

Last week I turned a corner. I realized I really wanted this to be fun for me, and remotely relaxing. I forced myself to get a facial. It was fabulous and worth every penny. I got my nails done and stopped worrying about stress for long enough to go to spend some quality time to myself, even with a huge pile of laundry taunting me from the corner.

Don’t get me wrong — these next two weeks will be busy.  Very busy.  I have lots of really big things to get through, but I also have a fabulous future husband and his phenomenal family to help.  And I have my amazing sister, who is going to drop everything and come up to make 750 cookies.  That’s love, my friends.

So, when people ask, I can actually say that I really am enjoying life right now.  It’s all good, even the bad.  I’m very, very lucky.

I’ve been leaving someone out of this whole wedding planning thing. I’ve remembered to have nice gifts and thank you’s for all my hostesses. I’ve remembered to have thoughtful, personalized gifts for all my family to thank them for putting up with me all they have done this past year to support our wedding plans. I have included music to honor my mom and music to let my Dad hold his head high. I’ve picked dresses my ‘maids can wear again (seriously!) and added special touches to honor my family.

But I kind of (oops) forgot about myself.

I haven’t really been taking care of myself, and it took my best friend to smack me up side the head last night in a phone conversation.

She asked if I was getting my highlights done before or after the hair trial.  I said I didn’t really have the cash for something like that, so I was just going to skip it.

She dropped the phone.

For the next 15 minutes, she carefully and kindly explained to me that I was missing out on part of the experience.  If I wait to think about caring for myself until the week of, or forbid the morning of the wedding, I would miss the opportunity to feel exceptional.

And this should be an exceptional day.

Anyway, if I was trying to be practical, it makes no sense to show up that day and make them “correct two weeks of ugly.”  That, my friends, is an A+ bridesmaid for ya.

She’s right.  I need to check my cheap side at the door and actually do special things for myself this coming month.  I can’t just skid into my wedding week stressed, pale, drab, and generally untended.  It’s not just any other day.  And as much as I resist the syrupy approach people always seem to take with brides, I do have to remember that in order for me to be completely comfortable and feel absolutely exceptional that day, I need to take care of myself now.

Self care.  Incidentally another indicator of mental health.  Just saying.

On deck this week: a facial and brow wax (separately, of course).

Next week: a hair trial and discussion of highlights with my stylist.  Also a makeup trial, where I will actually spend money on products.  Me.  Spending money.

Two weeks: highlights, lowlights, and a trim (can you believe it’s been about 8 months since I saw a stylist?).

Self care.  Nice to meetcha.

I’m up late (for me).  I’m conflicted.

Some backstory first.  

Our neighborhood is working class to (on our better days) middle class.  It’s a long, one way street next to a pretty field owned by the local Catholic church.  Post WWII brick row houses, three at a time repeat down the length of the street, each with a short drive and concrete sidewalks.  

The houses are modest, but we all do our best to make the neighborhood livable.  We plant and tend, keep our paint updated and cars maintained.  Some better than others.  

But there are many kids.  My neighbor has 4 of her own, with another guardianship from a family tragedy.  And in the past years, as the teens have aged and discovered what pop culture infused bravado feels like, our street has become the destination for a group of troubled teens.  

I know, from my work, how this combination happens.  Best parental intentions can be quashed by a tough economy, alcoholism, and the cycle of abuse.  These teens are lost and bored.  I know that.  I wish I could help them.

But sometimes my pity turns to anger.  When they bring drugs here and mouth off about gansta this and fucking that in front of the toddlers.  When broken bottles and trash are left behind after their 1 am weekday visits.  

And recently, it got more serious.  And I’ve been worried for our safety.  Not every moment of the day, but there are times.  Tonight was one.

Knowing our growing problem and new addition of drug dealing and guns, the neighborhood gathered to talk with the police chief about due diligence.  When do you call 911?  When it is appropriate to worry?  When do you step in and say get off our property?  When do you close the blinds and bite your nails?

The message was clear, but hard to swallow.  Never intervene (that’s easy for me…I’m not inclined to stare down a brassy teen, although I have when it made sense).  Always call the cops.  You don’t have to see illegal behavior, just suspect.  Leave the policing up to us, but be our eyes and ears.

So, tonight I called.  Actually first I walked back and forth to the phone, shaking and undecided, about five times.  I feared (and fear) retaliation.  A few weeks ago the woman across the street dealt with petty vandalism and human feces left on her stoop.  Feces.  On her stairs.

She stepped in it.  I kid not.

I worry about slashed tires and glass behind my parked car.  I fear the same vandalism we had two years ago, with ripped up plants thrown at our door.  But what was I going to do?  Just sit here, watching from behind the curtain in a shadow?

It was only a car full of teens.  They were waiting for the boy who lives two doors down, I have no doubt.  Careful listening has proven that he is the local source for all things weed related.  I doubt his parents realize how involved he is in this.  I doubt they would allow such leeway if they knew.  Of course, they may not care.  Sometimes parents don’t.

I saw them throw their empty McDonalds bags in front of my house, that I would need to pick up tomorrow.  I watched them text and wait for the score.  On my curb.  In front of my house.

So I called.  Within minutes, four cars had arrived and questioning began.  One boy was taken with the first unit, likely on a curfew violation.  I hope for him, that’s all it was.

And I stood there in the shadows of the stark police spotlights shining in my windows and I felt so very sorry for them.  Sorry they didn’t have a parent or two telling them to be home before 9 on a school night.  That they didn’t have soccer or football or band to fill their time and exhaust them before curfew anyway.  I felt sorry that the risk of being jammed up by the cops was more appealing than being home.

And even feeling all of that, I don’t feel it’s okay for me to not call.  I need to do my part to make sure our homes are not the destination of choice for dealers and violent thugs.  I can’t just be okay with letting strangers in our driveway to wait for the drugs, while I flip through evening news programs on mute.

But it leaves me conflicted.  I wonder how I would feel if indeed my brand new car is vandalized tomorrow or over the weekend.  I know I don’t have the money for the deductible if it is.  Frugality and practicality would direct me back to bed without a second thought.  Don’t get involved.  

But I can’t complain about my neighborhood if I don’t do the clear steps it would take to make it a little better.  And I truly hate people who sit and complain about circumstance and external influences when they are unwilling to step up and do the difficult thing.  

It’s okay to be uncomfortable sometimes, I guess.  When it matters.

Time for bed.

For someone who is otherwise rather smart and informed, I’m terrible at help seeking.

It’s supposed to be an indicator for maturity and strong mental health, blah, blah, blah. If I were tested on my help seeking behavior, I’d fail miserably. Bygones.

Ownership of my life and my projects is so important to me that I fail to reach out and share the responsibility. Case in point: my wedding. I have such a hard time passing off full responsibility of any of it to even Michael. But I have to, otherwise I get buried.

I do this at work, as well. It’s better to just work longer hours and stress under a heavy work load than accept assistance. Partially it’s about the investment of time to teach someone else how to do it, but mainly it’s about ownership. I need to own my successes and failures. I use it as a yardstick by which I measure my worth.

It can be, as you would imagine, counterproductive, especially when you think in terms of my emotional life. So after weeks months of high anxiety and minimal relief, I finally decided I needed help.

I gots me a therapist.

Oh yes.  I did.

I resisted for many reasons. First of all, I know it’s hard work. Really, really hard work. Therapy done right is a life altering process that requires you to truly consider and reconsider (and reconsider) how you relate to the world. Trying new and scary approaches. Forcing yourself out of your own comfort zone. If it’s weren’t for the health at the end of the tunnel, it would royally suck.

I also resisted because I’m just plain tired of being broken.  I’ve paid my therapy dues.  I’ve done the hard work of changing my life, turning it around and finding the right path.  I did a lot of work to get here and I’m so resistant to admitting that “here” isn’t quite where I want to be yet.  Close, but not spot on.

But, I’m tired of feeling like this and I’m no longer an island.  My moods and behaviors affect Michael, too.  So off to the therapist I went.

My first appointment was kind of an eye opener for me.  It was, as you would expect, a little get-to-know-ya session.  So she asked me to tell her about me.  Easy, right?

So I started the list.  And kept going, and going.  Seems I’m involved in a lot.  I work full time in a demanding job.  I’m in a relationship, planning a wedding, and have an extended family I’m intimately involved with.  I train for and compete in triathlons.  When I can, I train with a coach.  I do needlepoint (currently 2 projects in the hopper) and crochet (only one for this).  I cook homemade meals about four days a week.  I do all the grocery shopping.  I write a blog and now I want to write a book.  I mentor my next door neighbor’s girls.

I’m busy.

And it’s had me thinking…why?  Why do I fill every moment with projects and goals and deadlines?

Know why?  I’m afraid of life without all of this.  I don’t know what it would look like.  I don’t know what it’s like to be like every other normal person in the world who comes home from a full day of work and decides to sit down and watch television.  And that’s it.  Just watch tv.  For hours.

My typical day is getting home late because I went to the store for veggies for that night’s dinner.  Then I listen to NPR when I cook homemade turkey meatballs for us.  While they’re cooking, I’ll try to run and lift in the basement.  Then dinner.  Then laundry.  Then I’ll try to fix this crochet project I started over the weekend, blog, read online sites about weddings, write my florist, and balance our wedding budget.

Today is Monday and I just described my day to you.

It’s no wonder I need a therapist.

Not because of my daily “stuff,” but why I need that level of activity in my life.  Why I can’t seem to slow it down without feeling guilty or worried I’ll lose control over my own sanity.  It’s all counterintuitive and completely entrenched.

So, I’m seeking a little help with this all.  Someone who can help me figure out what is reasonable to place on my plate.  Someone to help me develop tools to get the most out of my own life while being present for every single moment.  And someone who may help me get to sleep before midnight without meds.

I’m getting better at help seeking, it seems.

(This was written last week and I never pressed publish.  I knew it would pass, and it has.  I’ve made some progress recently with this, and I’ll share soon the hows and whys.  But no sense in letting the experience remain in draft form.)

I’m anxious. Anxious to the core. I feel it hiding behind my sternum, pressing on my heart. It keeps me awake at night, every night. It stops me from focusing on anything for more than a few moments at a time. My mind whips from one topic to the next. I can’t manage maintaining feeling happy for longer than a few hours at a time.

The constant worry erodes my energy. I worry about things I have, things I need to do, things I want in the future, things I’ve said in the past, things I should be doing right now. I’m on the verge of snapping at everyone, and placate myself with spitting nasty sentances out at nobody when alone in the car. I cry often.

I feel lonely and overwhelmed. I feel unable to connect with peace. I feel wound like a top at all times, only falling to sleep with the help of sleep aids and the flicker of a television. I lose patience with people I love. I wish away happy experiences because I know I’ll be tapped when they happen. I want desperately to crawl into a ball and, when I do, it doesn’t help.

There are very few times in my life since booze that I have actually wanted it back. Now is one of those times. I want the absolute release that comes in the form of a box of stale red with a spout. I want to sleep that soundly and relax that completely.

But most of all, I want the exquisite release that comes with The Drunk. When every dopamine receptor floods with tannins and my toes tingle with anticipation of a fresh glass. The liquid equivalent of a hall pass from my own life.

It’s hard to describe what The Drunk feels like to the alcoholic. It’s more than just getting drunk, slurring your way through a dinner and handing keys over on your way home. It’s more than just that. It’s an orgasm for your mind. Consuming, pervasive, complete.

I can’t return, ever again. But my body remembers. It remembers what works in times of stress. Biology is a funny thing — all too willing to favor immediate assuagement over survival. Fickle, it abandons you at the first trigger, unapologetically.

So, instead I’m left with my body and mind being twisted up into knots and being forced to pick them apart one by one. It’s tedious and takes my breath away. It distracts me and leaves me with a racing heart, staring at a blank ceiling until late into the evening.

I am overwhelmed and I have no hall passes left.

Michael speaks in Pantone and paper stock, not prose.  So when he does write, I listen closely.  This was waiting for me when I pressed the power key.

 

Hello J,

I’m your new Mac. : )

You’re probably familiar with the way I work but Michael can help you customize me to suit your needs. He’s also agreed to get you any software you might need. There’s even a wireless router at home so you can play on the internet ANYWHERE in the house! Just promise to take care of me and Michael. But unlike Michael I only eat energy, not meatball sandwiches.

 I would really like to be used along with one of your special talents, writing. I’ve heard you would like to write a book. Perfect, I can go anywhere with you. Michael thinks you really have the skills of the written word to touch people. So use me to chronicle your adventures, track your training, or even stay in touch with old friends of Facebook. But most importantly use me to make your dreams come true. Write your heart out.

Michael would like to say that he loves you very much. He even said he was getting VERY excited for the big day. 

Happy Birthday + Happy Wedding (soon to come).

Mac (and Michael)

How often does someone allow you to unwrap your dreams?  Not often, indeed.

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