Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Staying Sane Through the Summer

My goal for the summer is to have fun with my boys and let them experience summer in all its glory but mostly I just want to stay sane.  I want to keep on laughing and stay relaxed and not be counting down the days until it's over.  I don't want to hate summer, and I don't wish for my boys to hate me 10 days into it all.

If sanity is my goal, how am I going to accomplish it?


First, I sat down, when my children were tucked into bed and sound asleep, and made a list of possible activities or ideas for the summer, things we can do.  I probably came up with 20 to 25 items, ranging from taking walks to going to the movies or swimming at the pool to traveling to a nearby town to see a museum.  I keep this list close to my special chair, where I keep the latest book I'm reading and my laptop, a place where I frequent.  By keeping it there, I can check it periodically to refresh my brain for those times, which are inevitable, when it is no longer working, and I don't know what to do with my children.  It's already come in handy.


In the morning, before I jump into the day with my boys at my side, I remind myself I'm not doing the whole summer right now.  I'm only doing today and even then if I need to break the day up into sections, I can do that.  I don't know how other parents are with their children, maybe there are those of you out there that just can't wait to spend 24/7 with your children, always with a broad smile on your face, but I'm not one of those.

Instinctually, I settle into a book and read or write and listen to music or go for quiet walks with my dog or drink coffee with a friend, which tells me I'm very much a loner to a certain degree on this thing called life and would much rather take care of my needs instead of anyone else's.  But being with my boys requires me to be outside my comfort zone and to stop thinking and reading and writing and just be, here in the now where they want to play tag and soccer and laugh at who farted and burped and "Hey Mom, look at the beetle I found" and the constant interchange of who did what and why it's not fair and so on.  I have to remember to not be so serious about it all and that it's okay to laugh with them and look at the beetle that creeps me out and say "Wow, that's a cool beetle."


But I also have to be realistic in knowing my limitations and even though I'm outside my comfort zone, and I'm doing all this fun stuff with my kids, and it's fabulous in trying to be a Great Mom, I do need to interact with other adults.  I need to remember there's a whole other world out there, where linear conversations exist for longer than three seconds, and I'm not the boss, telling others to close their mouth when eating or to cover their mouths if they need to burp or stop hitting their brother.  A world where the responsibility of keeping an eye or having an answer or knowing what we're going to do next is not solely mine.  Plus, I need those other adults and parents to help me laugh at what my children are doing or to remind me I'm not alone on this parental journey and mistakes are common and almost a right of passage.


I also know for myself I need to make sure I have some downtime, where I'm not with the boys or with anyone else, where I'm alone.  Time where I can nurture those parts of me that need to read and write and relax or practice yoga or close my eyes for a few seconds or watch a movie.  I need time where I exist on my own without boy appendages because those experiences will give me the relief I need to show up for my boys when I'm with them. They will rejuvenate me, just like the contact with other parents and adults will remind me I'm not alone.  Of course, the time available for this kind of nurturing is limited for me because my husband works out of town, so I find it when I can, like early in the morning before they wake or later after they go to bed.


It has taken time and experience to know what works best for my personality.  I used to think, time and again, that getting up on Saturday morning and watching a movie was something I deserved and wouldn't slant my mood in any negative way, but it does.  When I begin my day with escapism, because that's really what it is for me, I'm already in a state of not wanting to begin my day, and I jump right into ignoring it or putting it on hold, which never mixes well with my boys and myself later on.

I know now if sanity is my goal, starting my day well is one of the best things I can do for me and my boys and anyone else I come in contact with.  I need to get in the shower and get on with getting ready for the day.  Me taking a shower and getting dressed is like a miracle worker on my mood and my ability to be available to my boys and others.  I also need to have a general idea of what I'm going to do after I'm ready, at least one thing to begin with, even if I don't know how the rest of the day will go and even if it's something minor like making breakfast.  It's best for me to have my next step in view, though I know with my children things change and the view can get quite different, but that's where I can get back to not having to do the whole day at once just this moment, until I have more information, which is bound to come.

This list has been helpful to me, and I'm sure, as I go along, I will find other tools and tricks that will help me along the path of maintaining sanity or for those times when it's lost, finding it again.

1. Make a list
2. Take one thing at a time
3. Keep in contact with other adults
4. Have some quiet time
5. Figure out what works with my personality

Simple, right?  Not always, but gratefully I have something to work with, and most days I lay my head on my pillow at night with some sanity left and a light heart of knowing I loved my children and showed up for them with laughter and tolerance in the best way I could for that day, and if I made a mistake or got messy in my interactions with them, I can look at doing better the next day.

And probably something that needs to be added to the list, that I can use as a mantra in my head, is not to be so darn serious about everything, whether it's the traffic or the heat or the boys yelling at each other or the dirty house or the creepy beetle that is now scurrying across the couch or the fact I didn't get any quiet time for the day or the dog pooped in my compost pile, which really did happen.  Darn dog.

Life is sometimes very funny, especially when I'm not so serious about it.

If you have any other tools or tricks in keeping your sanity, please tell us in the comment section.  It would be great to hear what works for you.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Great Persuasive Lie

She cornered me at the front door.  Her words slithered over my skin and into my mind, but the alcohol fumbled their intent, and she stormed off.  I stumbled down the hall, my shoulders absorbing the walls’ sturdiness with each wayward step, until I reached the bedroom door.  Hands on hips, she yelled at me to take the couch.  My body trembled at the idea of walking a few steps more then I collapsed face first onto the embroidered, couch pillows, blackness descended.

Kitchen cupboards slammed again and again, and for a moment I knew not what sounded, only that my head pounded with every bang. 

“Stop all that goddamn noise,” I said and pulled a pillow over my head.

The banging continued and then the clang of pots and pans joined the symphony of anger I knew was my wife's, another morning of hate and reproach.  I rolled off the couch and worked my way to the kitchen.  I poured hot coffee in a mug and two fingers of whiskey and leaned against the counter’s edge for my inevitable talking to.

She watched me, so intent I thought if she could manifest fire I’d be a goner.  I almost wished she could.

 “I’m leaving you.”

“What?” I said.

“I’m leaving you.”

“I’ve heard it before, and you never left.”

“This time is different.”

“How’s that?”

“I’m already packed and loaded, Dan.  This is just me saying good-bye.”

“Good-bye then,” I said.  I swiped the whiskey bottle from the counter and headed to the couch.

Time slowed.  The whiskey bottle sat on the coffee table; I watched it watching me.  My mind struggled over her leaving, so silent in the house now, and her anger and why she left.

I loved her.  I hated her.  I wanted her.
The bottle felt cool in my hand and smooth to the touch.  I set it back on the coffee table, pushed it further from me.  When was it going to end?  Lost my job, my wife, my family, no one would have anything to do with me.

“What the hell happened to me?” I yelled.  Desperation filled my gut, my heart.  My head lolled on my chest and the house's silence darkened and tangled its tentacles around my limbs.  I felt hopeless.

The bottle shimmered with light like it held its own inner source.  I didn’t need any of them anyway, right?  But I wanted them.  I felt lonely, at a loss.  My eyes edged back to the bottle, so inviting.  Naw, I'm better off without them.  My hand wrapped around the glass, and I tilted the brown liquid back and swallowed.
Yeah, I didn’t need any of them or that stupid job.  I was fine.  I was good.
Another swallow.  Complete oblivion.