Sunday, July 29, 2012

Busy Busy Busy, Yet Nothing Gets Done!

I wrote an essay the other day.  Actually, I wrote 3, but the one I'm referring to was written while the kids were splashing around in the pool.  I got to thinking about why our culture so undervalues parenting. And I believe it's because of the lack of instant gratification: There's not a lot to show for parenting on a day in, day out basis.  If the kids are very young, then chances are good your home will be a mess, you might not shower for days, and food, while available, will be either very basic or made somewhere else and delivered.  Often in a big, square, cardboard box.
Parenting young kids is a combination of catch-up and damage control.  You are trying to prevent your child from committing grievous bodily harm (to him/herself or others) and/or property damage. At the same time, you need to try and Teach Them Things, get the laundry done so everyone will be covered when (IF) you venture out of the house, feed them, often from your own body, put them down for naps, console them when they cry, kiss the inevitable boo-boos, and maybe, at some point, fit in a workout or a nap. (Good luck!)
The thing is, when raising kids, the biggest accomplishment is that, at the end of the day, everyone is still alive.

All of this must be done on little or no sleep.  Add to that the CONSTANT "helpful hints" (aka criticism) from other moms, family, friends, and complete strangers, and it can be a recipe for madness.  On top of it all, when you tell someone who doesn't have kids that you are a stay-at-home parent, their eyes immediately glaze over and they search desperately for someone else to talk to. They seem to believe that once you become a parent, you cease to be a person. That all you are able to focus on/talk about are feedings, poopy diapers, and spit-up.

Because the kids are on summer vacation, it feels like they are toddlers again.  I spend my days keeping them busy, entertained, out of trouble, and trying to read to them/do some basic math/etc. Our part of the house, yes, is a mess. I take them to the park, for walks, to our little pool.  I cook, do laundry, wash endless dishes, yet nothing ever seems to get done.
And then I go to my actual paying job.

I LOVE Summer.  It's my favorite time of year.  Except for the lack of school. They both have 4 weeks of summer school, but it's only in the mornings.  And it's only 4 weeks.
I'm freakin' exhausted, lol!
And there are still 4 more weeks to go.


I also recently realized that the last time I had any kind of vacation sans kids was a Yosemite trip when LG was a year old.
10 years ago.

Trying to find ways to remedy that.
There's a production of "King Lear" at the Shakespeare company I used to work for going on this summer. It's been 10 years in the making, and some of my favorite people are in it.  However, it's 3,000 miles away and closes in 3 weeks.  Plus I'd need transport and a lodging.
Can I get it done?  Hmmmm......

Finally, getting caught up in the Olympics (I LOVE the Olympics) but not so fond of the network coverage.  Instead of showing the (very moving) tribute to the victims of the '05 London attacks, they showed Michael Phelps being interviewed by Ryan Seecrest.  And instead of showing the VERY COOL, pre-filmed opening with Benedict Cumberbatch, they showed a different one highlighting American athletes. (Both un-shown clips are on YouTube, thankfully.)  It's almost as if they don't want to show ANYTHING that isn't 100% American, and it pisses me off.  We wonder why we're being dumbed down!  G-d forbid we should see/hear/LEARN something about a culture other than our own!
And don't even get me started on the glut of campaign ads they're running, or the fact that they'd rather focus on an American athlete tying their shoes than, say, a Russian actually performing their sport!


Finally, I am, once again, Ms. Crankypants.  Partly because of PMS, partly of having the kids home 24/7 (Hubby's been rehearsing for a reading, and barely home.  I DID however, get to read stage directions for a show last week: my first time on stage in 9 years!!!!!! It felt great to work those muscles again!) It's also living with 8 other people (and the 2 dogs), and the fact that LG gets VERY upset if I'm not here.  Still adjusting, obviously.

I'll need to learn to adjust, as well.  It'll certainly be easier once the kids are back in school.  At that time I'll be treating myself to some swimming lessons to work on my freestyle stroke.  I love to swim, but my freestyle leaves much to be desired.  A little birthday gift to myself.  I'll also go back to my yoga class, and look into some improv opportunities (finally!).
And I'm still thinking about Krav Maga.  So I'll be a busy bee.

And maybe actually get some stuff done.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Desperate Housewife

OK, so I haven't had (nor am I planning to have) an affair.  I haven't killed anyone and buried them in dead of night, pumped anyone full of drugs, locked either of my children in a basement (not that we HAVE one, but still!) or done any of the things I suppose the ladies of Wisteria Lane have done.  (I actually only watched the pilot because a friend of ours was on it.  When it turned out that that was her only episode, I admit I stopped watching.  But I read about it in a couple of magazines, does that count?)
But the other night I woke up in a cold sweat fearing I've become a horrible stereotype: The fat, frumpy, pill-popping (occasionally, for anxiety), life-revolves-around-the-kids, invisible suburban mom.

I'd been looking at photos earlier.  Taken about 7 years ago, when the kids were itty-bitties. I was marveling at how much they've grown and missing their toddlerhood a little bit when it hit me:  I've aged A LOT in 7 years!
Aside from the weight gain, I have many more gray hairs than I did, some deeper-set lines on my face, and I just look and feel...schlumpier.  I know that's not a word, but it's a perfect description.
I've always said I would age gracefully.  Of course, that's before my age began actually SHOWING.
Not to worry, I'm not considering plastic surgery or *shudder* Botox or anything like that.  I'm just wondering if any of those over-the-counter anti-wrinkle creams actually work.  Or will they just make me break out more?  Because, joy of joys, after a number of years where my skin was relatively clear, I am once again hosting a semi-permanent mini-constellation on the right side of my face.

So, yeah, I woke up in a cold sweat, turned the light on to grab my journal, and that woke Hubby up.  When he asked if I was OK, I started crying and pouring everything out: My fears of what I'm turning into, my need to be creative, and the fact that 10 years ago, after a particularly bad fight between us, I gave up myself. My. Self.  Through no fault of his, and entirely due to my tendency to completely overreact and believe that I don't deserve anything (and certainly not anything good), I gave up my career, my dreams, and my voice. I told myself I was content.  And when I didn't believe that, I told myself not to make waves, or I'd find myself alone with 2 young kids with autism and no support.  Which was entirely untrue, BTW, but try telling ME that!

I have no regrets about taking a break from performing while I was pregnant with WG.  And, truthfully, trying to go on auditions, let alone do actual performances, while the kids were little would have been extremely difficult.  But I wish I could have at least been honest with myself.  I DID miss performing, and I REALLY missed having a creative outlet!
Let's face it, I'm not the crafty type.  I don't have the patience for knitting, scrapbooking is too organized, and a hot glue gun anywhere in my vicinity is a disaster waiting to happen. I don't play an instrument, my singing voice is just OK, and, at that time, trying to write anything more complicated than a grocery list was completely out of the question. I'm an actor.  I have been since I was 8 years old.  It's a big part of who I am, even if I haven't been on stage in nearly a decade.

So there I was, feeling old and ugly and useless. Hubby was wonderful and sweet, as usual, and supportive and complimentary.  The problem is, I have a problem believing the nice things people say to me.
  Then the next day, something very interesting happened:  A friend of my S-I-L's, whom I haven't seen in those same 7 years, stopped by to see her.  And he told me "You look exactly the same!"
Whaddaya know?!?!?!?!
Good ol' Universe, stepping in yet again

I focus on my weight and, more recently, on politics because I need a place for my attention to go. Because when it's not focused on Shakespeare, or figuring out a scene or even learning my lines, it has to go somewhere.  Trouble is, those two places are NOT healthy, happy ones for me, lol!

So, enough.  I will focus on my kids, of course, and on my marriage, but I will also find ways to be creative and not worry so much about the outcome. To dream without telling myself "That twill NEVER happen, because of x, y, and z!"
Who CARES if it will never happen?   It's MY fantasy, and I can play it out however I want, including imagining my Tony acceptance speech!  :)
Besides, it'll DEFINITELY never happen if I shoot it down before it can even take off!

Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Well, it's time to change that prophecy.

Time to go for what I want!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What is Strength? What is Fragility?

Questions I've been thinking about the past couple of days, as I deal with a higher level of anxiety than I've had in a very long time.  The same levels I dealt with for the first 32 years of my life, except for a brief period in my early 20's. And since those levels are no longer my "normal," I wonder how the hell I lived with them for so long, day after day, minute after minute.
 I think the stress is partly a delayed reaction to the move/LG graduating & switching schools/worries about WG's school placement/simply getting used to a VERY different living situation. One in which we have a lot less privacy, and less security.  It's easier for the kids to get into things they shouldn't, and to get outside, for example. And because the house is so large and we live on the 3rd floor, I'm constantly running up and down the stairs to check on them both.
There's also the fact that I have to have my keys and phone with me constantly.  We  lock the doors out of habit and the doorbell doesn't work.  Add to that there are certain parties who simply refuse to answer the door.  Why?  I REALLY don't know.  Bu it pisses me off.  However, they refuse to change, so I carry my keys.

The fact is, there are 9 people living in this house, including 2 young kids with special needs AND a baby.  As well as 2 dogs.  Adjustments have to be made, and not ONLY on my part. Over the past few weeks I've found myself slipping into the "It's their house, I am a guest, and I must be perfect" mindset.
Which is a)Wrong, b)Wrong and c) Ah, WRONG!  I live here now!  I bust my ass taking care of my kids, working, cooking,. cleaning, washing dishes, etc.  If you want something done a certain way, how about telling me beforehand instead of criticizing me after the fact?

Honestly, is it any wonder I'm stressed?!?!?!

I try to do my thing and stay out of the way. Truth be told, it's not always so bad.  And I'm glad to be out of the old place; paying rent instead of a hefty mortgage, and no homeowner's association fees. As I've mentioned before, I love the neighborhood, the kids are happy, and we can always escape to our little pool in the backyard.

(It's also hard having one or both kids underfoot all day.  I always forget, when they're in school, just how difficult it is when they're NOT in school, lol!)

I'm also realizing that what I've looked on as weakness is actually huge reserves of strength.  The fact that I can not only function but function WELL when I'm feeling so debilitated and overwhelmed is, I think, a testament to that strength. That I can work and take, if I do say so myself, very good care of my kids speaks not of frailty, but of power.
I have forgotten that no one else can give this to me.  I already have it.  Just as no one else can give me confidence, esteem, and the ability to work hard, use my (not insignificant) talents and Be Who I Am Meant To Be.
It's all already inside me.

Again,I go back to that feeling I had in my early-mid 20's, before I let grad school and living in L.A take it away from me.
Or so I thought.  Because it was never taken away.  It's been there all along.
And just because my strengths are different from other people's, people who don't understand them, doesn't make them any less valid.  Just because I do things differently doesn't mean I'm WRONG!

It's time for me to stop moving out of everyone else's way, and to create my own path again.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

We're Walking. We're Walking...

Well, I'M walking.  Almost every day.  Along with Pilates, yoga, and Spin.  We live in a beautiful area with lots of hills and nice breezes.  I end up walking at least an hour, listening to Pandora on my phone.
I also walk my son to and from school, which is literally behind the house.  (We have to walk around the corner, however, rather than scale the 40-foot gate separating our yard from the schoolyard...) In he fall I'll be walking him to 10 minutes to school.  20 minutes round trip, twice a day, adds up.

I'd forgotten how much I LOVE to walk.  How much I NEED to walk!  I clears my head, gives me time to myself, and gets me moving.  I feel SO much better afterwards: ready to be a mom and wife again, and leave Ms. Cranky Pans in the dust.
Everybody wins.

I'm also eating less.  I don't think about food as much and, let's face it, when one has to walk down 3 flights of stairs to get to the fridge, it's just not worth it unless one is TRULY hungry, lol! And, honestly, I am up and down those stairs about 427 times a day already!

After my walk I always take a nice soak in our jacuzzi tub.  And, yes, I probably WILL mention that tub in every post for he foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, we're all adjusting to the new living arrangements.  I's not always easy, but it's worth it.  I am (still) learning to take things with a grain of salt, and (still) realizing that other people's reactions are not my problem.  Unless I've done something truly awful.  Which I haven't.

Tomorrow Hubby is off, so after I drop LG at school I'm going to my yoga class.  The one I haven't been able to get to in nearly a month and, after tomorrow, probably won't get to again until September.  So I'm looking for a nice Sunday morning class for the summer, and Monday will be my rest day.

It's all about adjusting.