Pick Up The Phone: Being Responsible For Your Own Happiness

My platform is rooted in honesty.

Lately I’ve felt like a liar because I used to be a humor writer, I think. But then a lot of bad things happened in my life, and I couldn’t find humor as much anymore. But you guys stick with me anyway, even when I write about things like my mom having cancer and about my need for anxiety medication and my uncle getting murdered in my childhood home, and my head injury which, let’s face it, COMPLETELY KNOCKED ME OFF MY GAME.

Here is the truth: I got very depressed in February. Maybe I was depressed in January, and December, and November, and October. I don’t know because I’m in the thick of life right now. I’m swallowed up. I’m in the weeds, you guys. It’s disorienting and I have claustrophobia and I hate how this feels. I hate how it makes me anxious, and my anxiety manifests in anger, so I find myself yelling at my family a lot when they are just doing normal family things like smearing toothpaste on clean hand towels and leaving crumbs all over the floor.

They deserve a better me. I deserve a better me.

So I started therapy — for myself and for my oldest child. It turns out that I am not crazy, it’s just that the anxiety medication I was on was making me depressed and also I have a lot on my plate and my brain was bruised.

Maybe the knock to the head changed my brain chemistry, or maybe I just didn’t need that particular medication anymore, but either way I flushed all those tiny white pills down the toilet and breathed a sigh of relief.

I breathed another sigh of relief when we were told that our child isn’t crazy — in fact, he is quite the opposite. Extremely bright and polite to everyone except for his parents, so we can rule out Oppositional Defiant Disorder (thank God).

Maverick has ADHD. And I’ve long suspected it and I knew it, deep in my soul, but I just didn’t want it to be so. I knew he was hard to parent. So, so hard. He never has been much of a sleeper; he stopped napping at 18 months old. He’s extremely defiant and stubborn and loud and messy, more so than other boys. But he’s also brilliant and charming, just like his Daddy.

OMG … his Daddy.

His Daddy has ADHD, too.

THAT MUST BE WHY I FELL IN LOVE WITH HIM, BECAUSE HE WAS SO QUIRKY AND BRILLIANT AND UNPREDICTABLE AND NOW WE HAVE BEEN TOGETHER FOR 13 YEARS AND SOMETIMES HE MAKES ME WANT TO SMOTHER HIM WITH A PILLOW BUT I DON’T BECAUSE I REALLY DO LOVE HIM.

I married the right man for me, but it doesn’t mean that we are without our struggles. When we come out on the other side of this difficult phase, I’d maybe like to just forget it ever happened. It’s hard. Marriage is hard. But would I want to tough it out with anyone else?

No.

Mommy and Mav

Back to Maverick, all of the parenting tactics that work for other people? None of them were working for us. We have very low lows and very high highs and as much as I struggled, I fought for my son because I believe in him.

But then I reached a point where I was out of ideas. I needed help.

The day I sat in that dark gray chair decorated with silver studs and the counselor said, “You have done a fantastic job for the past 7 years, but you must be emotionally exhausted,” I burst into tears.

Yes. I am emotionally exhausted.

“Parenting is supposed to be exhausting,” she said. “In fact, if you aren’t exhausted, you probably aren’t doing it right.” She went on to say a whole bunch of other validating, complimentary things that gave me hope and let me know that I did a good thing by seeking help.

People say all the time that it takes a village to raise our children, and lament the modern loss of the village. I say that we have to make our own damn village. My village consists of a therapist for myself, a therapist for my child, teachers for all three of my children, and a handful of extraordinary friends.

Extraordinary friends get a phone call halfway through getting hair extensions put in and head over right away to drive you to the hospital because you’re feeling weird 6 weeks after a concussion and need to have your head scanned again.

Extraordinary friends learn your actual weight — which is not the weight on your driver’s license — because you have to say it out loud in the E.R. triage.

They also understand that they are never speak of it. Ever.

Part of being a grown up is knowing what you need and then going out and getting it, because grown ups are responsible for their own happiness and well-being. So today, my friends, I ask you to take stock of your own lives and make sure you have what you need.

And if you don’t, then WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING READING THIS?! Pick up the phone and make shit happen.

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The Biggest Sin.

My mother, who I had not talked to in several days, called me.

I was just starting dinner when the phone rang. She had surgery this week, and the last time I saw her, she was still in the recovery room. I was happy that she was calling; I wanted to find out how she was feeling.

I turned off the stove as I strained to hear her. She sounded weak — just tired, she assured me — and right on cue, my toddler poured a cup of water all over the floor while my back was turned. My mom was still talking, but I couldn’t hear a word: all three of my kids were running around in the widening pool of water as the tile grew more and more slippery.

“I know this probably isn’t a good time to call,” she said, likely because she could hear muffled sounds of distress as I rummaged for towels and herded my wet children out of the kitchen.

If we’re being honest, no time is a good time to call me.

“I have it under control,” I told her. “Just hang on a minute.”

That is when I saw my 23-month-old daughter get down on all fours and lap up puddles of water like a puppy.

This is an example of what my days have been like lately. As open as I am about many parts of my life, there are some things I don’t talk about at all. I think most people are like that. Being a woman is complicated, right? I’ll wait while you nod your head in agreement.

I have been stewing for awhile over how quickly women jump to tear each other apart, because quite frankly I am over it.

Judgy look.

We all bear an insanely heavy load; each one of us wade through life loaded down with stuff. It doesn’t matter how “together” or “perfect” a woman seems — good or bad, SHE’S GOT STUFF.

Yet, for reasons I am unable to fully comprehend, even though we are all doing the best we can, even though we are all struggling with our stuff, even though we are supposed to build each other up instead of tear each other down, even though ALL OF THIS, women still get shredded up over absolutely anything and it’s generally at the hand of other women.

I know because it happened to me recently. Want to know why?

Because I’m a good housekeeper.

Let me explain: I cope with the chaos of my life by following behind my family and cleaning up their mess (or asking them to clean up after themselves). Yes, it’s exhausting. Yes, it’s pointless, because the messes never cease. I don’t do it because it makes sense. I do it because if my house was a wreck to match my wreck of a life, then I would have a nervous breakdown.

Everyone who knows and loves me accepts this. They are all aboard the OCD train, because no one wants to see me lose my shit. Keeping order makes me feel like things aren’t so terrifying. I can’t stop someone I love from getting sick, but I CAN keep the bathroom from smelling like pee.

I can do that.

It makes me feel better.

Recently, a friend came to my house. Later on, she posted something on Facebook about how clean it is over here. She didn’t name me — she just said, in jest, that her friend who claimed to have a messy house in fact has an abnormally clean one. AND her kid’s beds were made. AND she answered the door in an apron. Triple sin.

My friend probably didn’t realize that every person in her friend list seemed to be sitting around on social media on a Saturday night with nothing better to do than to tear apart an unnamed woman for keeping a clean home. She did not intend for it to be a bash-fest at all — she was actually trying to poke fun at herself for having a messy home — but that’s what happened, because people suck. Women are criticized and judged for having a messy home, a clean home, for their parenting choices and their career choices, and for how they spend their time — which is no one else’s to spend.

We are blasted for being too fat, too thin, too vain, or for “letting ourselves go.” We are judged from the time we get up until the time we go to bed. There is never a time, ever, when everyone is happy with what I’m doing. My children, husband, mother, neighbors, and self are never all happy at the same time for a choice I make at any given time. Even when I do something like drink that third cup of coffee, I do so knowing that if my mother was there she would say “That’s not good for you.” My husband would say “That’s why you can’t sleep at night.”

But my kids don’t care if I do it. None of them will throw a fit … so it’s a win. I’m having that third cup.

Displeased.While I accept that this is how the world works, that you really and truly cannot make everyone happy, it is still wearing on the spirit. And even when you don’t know the people who are criticizing you, as was the case with the Facebook situation, it still hurts. I stood in my clean kitchen wearing my clean apron reading the comments from total strangers who don’t know me or my situation, and I swear … if I could have reached into my phone and bitch slapped some of them, I would have.

I have opinions. I am guilty of making snap judgments of others. There are things I totally disagree with, and things that make me uncomfortable.

I have stuff. You have stuff. We’re all struggling. So why can’t we cut each other some slack?

By far, the biggest sin is tearing another woman down.

The truth is, I’m not a good housekeeper. I have a stressful life and I cope with it by cleaning. I’m sure there is a name for my disorder, which you only know about because I took the time to tell you.

I recently wrote a letter to my daughter telling her that other women will try to tear her apart. I dread that day. In the meantime, at 35 years old, I had to look at myself in the mirror and command myself to SHAKE IT OFF BECAUSE I AM AWESOME AND I DO NOT HAVE TO APOLOGIZE FOR MY AWESOMENESS.

Now go forth and be awesome … and cut a bitch some slack.

(If you liked this post, then you will LOVE I Still Just Want To Pee Alone! Click here to find out more!)

Making Bitterness My Bitch.

Today I took my 3-year-old and my 1-year-old into a public bathroom, not because I wanted to, but because I weighed the options and public bathroom won out over let’s roll the dice and see if we can make it home.

Ironically, because I was so valiant in my effort to keep them from touching every surface within reach, my little girl tripped over my foot and belly-flopped onto the floor of the bathroom stall. Her face may have actually made contact with the tile … it’s unclear because I have already stricken the details from memory.

While I worked to lift her upright and mentally checked into my safe place, my son busied himself with touching every single part of the toilet. Apparently he saw the opportunity to send me over the edge and ran with it.

20150315_161351 20150315_161331

After almost four years of being a full-time stay-at-home-mom, I’m tired. My nerves are raw. I feel frayed, just like the green blanket that my child has rubbed and loved on until there is nothing left but a mangled, nubby wad of material. A friend told me when I first quit working that there would be a honeymoon period, followed by an adjustment period and settling in. And then, I would either love it or I would hate it.

I feel like maybe I’m in a transitional time where I’m not sure how I feel about it. I do know that I need to do a better job of being grateful for the privilege of being home. At the beginning of all this, I told Robbie on a daily basis how grateful I was to him for working so hard and allowing me to focus solely on raising our children. Somehow, over time, that has shifted to bitterness. Four years of cooking, shopping, and cleaning — all things that I used to enjoy — changed me.

What happened?

I have allowed myself to get bogged down in responsibilities, and I have lost sight of the reasons why I wanted to do this job in the first place. And remembering WHY I AM DOING THIS is where I find my peace and my joy.

So, you know what? Screw bitterness. I’m going to make bitterness my bitch.

I am grateful that I am the one who gets to wrangle my children in bathrooms outside of our home … because no one else could scrub their little hands as thoroughly, and with as much love.

I am grateful that I am the one who wipes their noses a million times a day, because someone else might not notice, or worse — let it run freely (shudder).

I am grateful that I oversee everything that happens in this house, because while that may be an exhausting endeavor, I know things are done well here. No one will get Salmonella on my watch.

I am grateful. I am grateful. I am grateful.

When I take the time to think those words, roll them over in my mind, and write them, I realize they are true. I really am grateful. I just don’t take the time to say it enough.

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Joy.

Daddies, daughters, and pigtails. These are a few of my favorite things.

10615468_10155562442005508_85748497890528073_nNot pictured, but also my favorite:

1. When my 3-year-old quietly listens to me read “Llama Llama Mad At Mama” and then says Mommy, I’m happy at you. It makes me happy when you read to me.

2. When my oldest and I go for a long walk and we have time just to chat about whatever, without interruption.

3. When my children are sleeping.

4. Boxed wine.

I’ve struggled lately to find the joy in my life. I’ve found that happens when I get super busy and overwhelmed with things that do not pertain directly to motherhood, and then my kids are all, “WTF, Mother — pay attention to us,” and so they go lick a bunch of toys at the gym nursery and get sick so I will have no choice but to focus on them.

Yeah.

I don’t have a specific answer to the question of “how can mothers find their joy?” But I know that after a good night’s sleep, a strong cup of coffee — okay, maybe two cups — and a close to this hellish week of sick children, seeing their dimpled faces smiling sure did help.

A lot.

It also helped to feed them 4 meals in a row that required zero effort or preparation on my part, the last of which was a trip to our local Burger King, where we allowed them to mash their faces on every possible surface as I prayed for deliverance from whatever germs resided there.

And wine. Always wine.