Tag Archives: change

New Jobs Are Hard

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This week I started my new job…

I love it.

I love my office.  I love my coworkers.  I love the clients.  I love the new challenges.  It’s complex.  It stretches me beyond my comfortable, familiar zone.  It’s fast paced.  There’s an employee’s only restroom with a paper towel dispenser that actually works.  I get home earlier.  I am closer to home.  All of these things, I just love.

That said, I’ve also spent a lot of time crying this week.  I’ve felt homesick, lonely, confused.

It reminds me of when I first moved into my new house–  my family was with me, I was thrilled with my cozy, little home, but I felt really sad to leave my crowded, cramped, but familiar old apartment.

I’m very confident things will be okay in the long run.

Perspective is a good thing.

I’m sitting with the sad, hard, frustrating feelings.

At my old job, I was in a good position.  I’d been there forever and had seniority, experience, and a muscle memory of how things worked.  I could go through my days with my eyes closed.

It is really challenging for me to be the new kid on the block.  I’ve taken a step backwards so that I could be more available for my family in the long run, to possibly have less stress in my life.  I am somewhere strange and new where I do not have the ability to make my body instinctively do all the things it needs to do to get through the day.

It feels like being on another planet.  It feels like being someplace totally unfamiliar and exotic and a bit scary too.  It feels like I’ve gone someplace where I am scared to drink the water or venture too far off by myself.  Every motion I make requires focus and attention.  This is not necessarily a bad thing. . .  but. . .

It takes a lot of effort.

I come home a bit fraught and exhausted.

But it will be okay.

Perspective and all. . .

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Hearts

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IMG_7220The morning my son returned to school after February vacation, I opened up his backpack to clean it out.  Among the stale crumbs, random legos, and broken pencils, I found a handmade card.

It was a Valentine.  On the front there was a big heart, colored in a pastel rainbow.  It read “To Jayla”.

Puzzled, I opened up the card to find out how my seven-year-old son had mistakenly gotten this card.

Inside, in neat, red pen, it read:

Dear Jayla.  Will you be my Valentine?  I love you, but I now know you think I am a jerk.  I think you are butifull and prity.  You are the best girl in the world.  I love you.  Love, Jack.   

On the opposite side from the writing, there was a drawing of a blonde, little girl in a heart.  My own heart skipped a beat, as I realized Jack made this card.

For a girl!

Who he loves!

And who thinks he is a jerk?!?

WHAAAATTTT???!!!

Did I mention my kid is seven?

A mix of emotions flooded me.

The obvious work and care Jack had taken with this card initially impressed and touched me.  I was also a little annoyed and slightly jealous that his unsent card to Jayla was nicer than the card he made his own mother.

IMG_7137I felt a little sad for my little boy who had been rejected by this Jayla, whoever she was.

And why does this chick think my son is a jerk?  Can we talk about that?  I mean, he can be aggressive and obnoxious at home, but to my knowledge, he has never been anything other than well-behaved and “normal” outside our home.  Jack is almost always the youngest kid in his class at school, and as such, sometimes he struggles with knowing when enough is enough and we have gotten comments from his teachers that sometimes he is overly “social.”

But no one has ever accused my kid of being a jerk, except possibly his father and me, when Jack is well into his fourth hour of irascible behavior on the weekend.

So, again, why does this girl think Jack is a jerk?  Is he being crappy to people?  Do I need to have a talk with my seven-year-old about consent and how he treats women?  OK, I guess it is never too early for that, so I’ll put it on my list of things to do, right after sorting through the markers, cleaning out the crud on the bottom of the kitchen sink, and changing the sheets.

Or is My baby boy the victim of a bad relationship? Because let’s face it, girls can be pretty mean.

I stood holding the card, then placed it on the counter and finished cleaning out Jack’s backpack.

Jack was in the living room, putting on shoes for school, watching Yoda Chronicles, or some other Star Wars cartoon.  He needed his hair brushed.  He was wearing “cozy” sweatpants and one of his red shirts with a whimsical Christmas picture on it.  He just seemed so young, innocent, guileless.

Where the hell did the impetus for this poignant card come from?

Does my small boy have a private life about which I am totally clueless?

This query led to a sense of guilt for being a working mom, and for spending so much time away from my children.  As well as I think I know them, maybe I don’t know them at all.

“Jack,” I called.  “Who is Jayla?”

“I have no idea!” he screamed and covered his face with a pillow.  I fought between wanting to give my kid some dignified privacy, and the urge to know what the hell was going on in his life.  Aren’t responsible parents supposed to be involved?

I pushed forward.

“Well, it looks like you made a Valentine for her?”

He rushed at me, head butted me, and grabbed the card.  “Why would someone think you are a jerk, Jack?”  I asked, feeling every ounce the nosey, awkward mother, while also recognizing the irony in my question in light of his head butt.

“Because I am a jerk,” Jack said.  He disappeared the card into his room, then came back out.  Did he look sheepish?

“Jackie, you’re not a jerk.” I said.

“Yes I am.”

“Well do you want a hug?”

“Not really,” he said, but sidled up to me and leaned into me as I put my arms around him anyway.  We left it at that, and I took him to school.

When I was pregnant with Jack, someone told me that, as a mom, you grow another heart.

It is true, and pretty incredible, if you think of it.  You literally grow another person from scratch, with not only their heart, but all their other internal organs, and every hair on their head.  And while you are doing that, you grow this new heart of your own, inside of yourself.

As a mom, your new heart is enlarged, constantly working overtime, especially prone to attack and breakage.

As I drove off from Jack’s school, I began to worry about Jack’s sense of himself.  Does he really feel he is a jerk?  At seven years old?

What is the world coming to?  And how do I fix this?

Maybe in the end, this bothered me most.  My husband and I strive to raise our children to be independent, confident, and proud of good choices.  For the most part, I feel we have been successful, as evidenced by our children’s strong wills and creativity.

We also have structure and consequences for poor choices.  Jack gets “in trouble” at home almost daily for his surly temperament and typical sibling nastiness towards his little sister.  But I never thought of this as anything other than typical, or that our responses to his behavior could be affecting our son’s self esteem.

Jack is a highly sensitive child, there is no doubt in my mind about that.  He has always been sensitive to any change in his routine, textures, and the emotions of others.  But his words on the card to Jayla (whoever she may be) revealed a totally new, introspective, tender side of my kid.  At SEVEN!  As thankful as I am for that, it also makes me freak out a bit.  It scares me that he could be hurt, that at the young age of seven he already takes things so seriously.  It also worries me that as a working mom, as hard as I try to be involved in my children’s lives, it might not be enough.  And as innocent as I try to keep my kids, it may be futile in this world where they seem to be growing up way too quickly.

It also makes me realize how difficult it can be as a parent to communicate with my children about things I feel are really important–  self esteem, respect, kindness, and boundaries–  in a rational, relatable ways that aren’t going to freak them out or push them away.

I have to take a second and recognize I might be waaayyy overthinking an innocent and sweet gesture on Jack’s part.  This may be something about which I laugh hysterically at a later date (kind of like how I freaked out when Jack was three, and watched 101 Dalmatians for the first time, and I feared he had been scarred for life because I exposed him to a maniacal chain-smoker who constantly called people “idiots” and wanted to butcher puppies).

I realize I am also resorting to some primitive ego defenses of rationalization and intellectualization, or at least Freud would say so. But motherhood is nothing if not primal.  Maybe the most primitive thing we do on this earth.

You grow another heart.  

Then that heart leaps out of your body and learns how to draw and color hearts of his own.

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Throw Back Thursday. . . Remembering the “IT” Moments

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There’s this app called Timehop.  Have you used it?  You install it on your device, then authorize it to cull through your photos, Tweets, status updates, Instagrams, etc.

While staying mindfully present in the present usually helps me stay sane, sometimes it is a fun diversion to take a trip back in time.  We live in an era where we capture every good meal, each wacky moment, and any new make up trick or hair-do on digital devices, so there is no shortage of memories at our finger tips.  My Timehops take me back over the past six or so years I’ve been on social media, and treat me to photos and status updates regarding my children and family–  usually the highs and lows of parenting, but sometimes the perfectly mundane.

This morning, Emily and I are hanging out at home, waiting to leave for her well-child physical which for reasons I can’t recall, I scheduled in the middle of the morning on a work/school day.  Whatever.  It is nice to be able to take a few moments off from “life” to cuddle and play with my bubbly three year old doll.

My phone prompted me to check out my Timehop, and so I did, while Em watched Curious George operate a subway train.

Modern technology treated me to two of my all time favorite family photos and memories this morning, and they were of a couple of those perfectly mundane moments that are the exact stuff a good life is made of.

They were both “selfies”.  The first was one of my children, my husband, and me from a snow day last year.  We were all rolling around and playing on the floor, and I happened to hold up my phone at just the right moment.  I captured us all looking a bit wild and messy, smiling so hard we were all almost squinting at the camera.  It was just a perfect moment.  We were all so happy, cooped up in the house on a stormy day, but at that exact moment, getting along with one another.

For what it’s worth, life as a working mom in our society is far from perfect or ideal.  We do our best, but there are still so many moments of struggle, confusion, and a deep sense of inadequacy.  I never feel like I am doing anything right or “good enough,” or like my kids are growing up happy or well-adjusted.  I’m not around enough for them, and when I am, I am usually exhausted, overwhelmed, and frazzled.  But this. . .  this was such a sweet moment I caught with my stupid, distracting phone.

It only lasted a couple moments, and was most likely chased by moments of frustration with the children fighting, and me losing my cool.  Yeah, that happens often enough that I could break the internet if I posted about every single one of those moments.  I’m so glad I captured this moment because it was just pure love.  And in the end, that is the important stuff.

The other Timehop offering that delighted me this morning, was a picture from three years ago today that I snapped of me and Emily.  We had found a cozy moment after nursing and were taking a nap together.  I happened to hold up my phone and got a photo of our profiles, nuzzled together in repose.  It is actually a photo I keep on my desk at work, so I see it every day, but it never fails to make me smile and sigh.  It was one of the most peaceful and lovely moments of my life with my darling little daughter, snuggled safely in my arms, her tiny tummy warm and full with mama milk.

In the end, Timehop is really “the highlight reel.”  You know, the photos that reflect all of the great stuff and make our Facebook timelines look like we all have our shit together?  I have a weird resentment for highlight reels that tend to taunt us into thinking everyone else’s life is going so much better than ours, like everyone else is eating better sushi, enjoying bigger cocktails, getting better presents, and riding in nicer cars.  It is interesting to me how we chose to present ourselves on social media, and how we measure ourselves by the presentations of others. . .  but according to Timehop, I do it too.

And my highlights are pretty freaking sweet.

So, it kind of makes me feel like, hmmm, I guess I have it pretty good and should be happy with what I have, rather than envying the good stuff of others.  In a weird way, it brings me back to the present, and helps me to feel grounded and thankful with where I am.

It also makes me realize, shit, this time goes FAST!

I’m sure our obsession with our phones and snapping photos every two seconds will come back to bite us all on the ass.  I have a lot of photos that I wish I hadn’t taken because I wish I had just been more present in that moment, and actually LIVED it as opposed to merely RECORDING it.  You know what I mean?

But these two moments are ones I am glad I got physical proof of.

Do you use Timehop?  How do you feel it affects your sense of your life, and being mindful in the present?  

End Of The World– Getting Cozy With Dukkha

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The world is ending right now because there are dirty dishes in the sink and a bunch of moldering, half-eaten yogurt cups and tubes strewn throughout the house.

I just got home from the Urgent Care Center.  It is 8 p.m., and any mom who got up as early as I did this morning knows that 8 p.m. is the middle of the fucking night.

My husband is engaged in a power struggle with our seven year old son, Jack, over universe knows what.  My three year old, Emily, is wandering around like a lost lamb because she wants mama milk and cuddles before bed.

But first things first.

Since a huge vat of Purell or rubbing alcohol isn’t available, I hop in the shower.  It serves the dual purpose of warming my chilled, aching body, and cleansing off the filth of the walk in treatment place.  I had anxiety upon anxiety the entire time I was there as people coughed, hacked, wheezed, and made all sorts of moaning cacophony.  In the curtained area next to me, there was a woman chanting, “Germs, germs, germs, germs, germs,” over and over in a haunted whisper.  True story.  I can’t make this shit up.

The chest X-ray confirmed bronchitis and the doctor wrote me a script for antibiotic and a cough medicine, but then changed his mind when I told him I still breast feed twice a day.  He forgot to call the pharmacy and change the prescription, which resulted in an hour-long wait in the parking lot of the pharmacy, where I sat in my car, heat on full blast, shivering and crying.

Wait!  Before you stop reading because you hate me for bitching about First World Problems, please know it was pretty much the worst week of my life, followed by an exhausting weekend of poorly behaved children, and ending in body aches that rate waaaaayyyy at the grumpy and sad end of that smiley to grimace chart.

A client killed himself last week, and it left me reeling in confusion, guilt, panic, and fear.  While I have forced myself to accept there was nothing I could have done to prevent this tragedy, my heart has not caught up with my head on the matter, and being sick wears down the professional buffer I might have for such matters.

After spending the entire week in the aftermath of suicide, another employee of my program gave me her notice along with a few dozen clients to reassign.  Since my other clinician quit my program before the holidays, I have no one to reassign these clients to.  When I went, shaking and sobbing, to my supervisor for support, I was basically told to figure it out.

I came home looking for some solace, only to find my husband intended to work all weekend.  This is good news, in one way, because we need the money and he is freelance.  But it is bad news in terms of having the children, house duties, etc. ,and so on all to myself for the entire weekend.

So, contracting bronchitis was just the frosting on the crap cake I felt had been baked for me this week.  I feel like a jerk even writing that, while knowing I have access to better medical care and pharmaceuticals than 87% of the world.  (Note:  that is not a real statistic.  I’m making shit up because like I said, the world is fucking ending and who cares anyway.)

Sometimes I just need to vent.  Then I get sick of myself and get on with my life.

Some people have real problems.  I know this.  People like the family who lost their child in the most confounding, shocking, and traumatizing way last week.

After my shower, I hustle to put on PJ’s.  I ignore Jack’s tantrum and go straight to Emily, who is sleepy and sweet. She puts her hand on my heart as she snuggles into my breast, and touches my chin as light as a butterfly.

I’ve been contemplating the Buddhist concept of dukkha lately.  Dukkha roughly translates as “suffering,” and it is an important concept in Buddhism.  There has been ample dukkha in my life over the past few months. . .  the dukkha of motherhood; the dukkha of clinging to things during the process of our move last November; the dukkha of family issues at the holidays; the dukkha of yearning for things to be a certain way at work; the dukkha of physical illness; the dukkha of my anxiety and depression which has been rearing its ugly head over the past few weeks like a powerful and frightening dragon.

The dukkha of wanting to change the unchangeable, and to understand the incomprehensible.

And tonight, the dukkha of dishes left undone at the end of the night when I am sick and tired, and have already done dishes 17 times over the course of the weekend.

Basically, Buddha teaches that life is dukkha—  not that everything sucks, but that by its nature, our existence is flawed, impermanent, and difficult.  We can struggle against it and fight with it as something bad, or we can accept it for what it is and go from there.

What does that mean?

I don’t know.  And at the moment, I don’t really care.

I started writing a post last weekend about trying to sit with the grief and anxiety I felt in the light of my client’s death.  It was hard–  both to sit with and to write about–  because it made me fiercely restless.  I didn’t end up posting it.

Kuan Yin sat with the dragons and made friends with them.  What would it be like to do that?

I guess I could do the dishes.

Or I could not.

Maybe dukkha and I will cuddle up in bed with some Ceftin and Mucinex and try to get to know each other.  And maybe the world will keep ending, and I will lie in bed and hear things screeching and banging and popping outside my window.

To Do List

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In addition to my daughter’s Christmas gifts, I bought a tiny Minnie Mouse necklace.  It was on sale, and I knew she would love having a piece of real, “big girl” jewelry.

I set it aside from her other gifts.  Instead of putting it under the tree, I had plans to use it as an incentive to motivate her to work on some tasks.

There is this list in my head of stuff I want her to do.

1.  Poop in the big toilet instead of the little potty.  Somehow, my delicate three year old creates these man-sized poos that are a pain to clean out of her froggy potty.

2.  Go the the bathroom and pee in the appropriate urine receptacle of choice–  toilet or froggy potty–  instead of going in the pull up we put on her at night for “just in case.”  Emily has awesome bladder retention and usually stays dry all night, but then insists on peeing in her pull up in the morning, instead of using the bathroom.  Yuck.

3.  Sleep through the night in her own bed.  Until we moved, Emily wanted nothing to do with sleeping in bed with us.  She had her own little crib next to my side of the bed and she stayed in it all night.  This was partially due to the logistics of our two bedroom apartment, and also partially due to my separation anxiety.  When we moved, we did away with the little crib and presented our darling daughter with a pink, Hello Kitty ensconced bedroom of her very own.  She’s been a trooper about falling asleep in her own bed, but in the middle of the night, she is trooping up to our bed.

“I don’t yike being awone in my woom,” she says.  “I too scared and I want da mama.”  I get it.  As someone who has always struggled with the horrible, creepy fear of the dark, I would do almost anything to prevent my little girl from feeling terrified.  Buuutttt. . .  sharing our bed makes things tight and uncomfortable and my husband and I are back to sleep-deprivation-mode, which is really no fun.

4.  Don’t struggle so at nap and bed times.  This one is pretty self-explainatory.  Like any feisty toddler, Emily gives us a run for our money when it comes to getting into bed.

5.  Don’t be sneaky.  With our son, we could have wall papered our house in chocolate and he wouldn’t have ever dreamed of nipping any without permission.  Emily however feels perfectly entitled to helping herself to snacks of her choosing (usually candy first thing in the morning).  She knows it is not pleasing to us, so she will go into her room and hide in her closet to munch.  It is actually kind of funny, and it never makes us particularly angry (unless there are major crumbs involved).  She has the most expressive little face, so we can always tell when she has done something cheeky.

6.  Give up the damn bubby already.  The kid is three.  Enough with the pacifier already.  She mostly only uses it for sleep now, and sometimes in the car, but I hear her smacking away on it and visions of orthodontic bills dance before my eyes.

It crossed my mind to make a chart of some sort and make her earn stickers or smiley faces or stars, and when she filled up the chart for all her good, honest, cooperative, toilet-learning choices, she could have the necklace.

Sometimes I get it into my mommy-head that I need to be fine tuning my children to get ahead in the mommy-game.

I caught myself feeling a bit anxious to get these traits programmed into my toddler as quickly as possible.  Buuuttt. . .  on the other hand, things are flying by so quickly already.  I look at pictures from last Christmas when she had no hair and was still in diapers, and I marvel that the same child is streaking through my house in her Hello Kitty underpants, her curls a tangled halo around her face.

She’s turning into such a cool, little human.  She is tough as nails and not afraid to express her opinions, or speak up for herself, but she also has an amazingly tender heart and shows an aptitude for giving and caring.  The combination of these traits simply make me glow, and suggest I might be doing something right as a mom.

So what if my kid sneaks a chocolate now and then?  In the grand scheme of things, will it really matter much if she stays dry in her pull-up this week, or next week, or six months from now?  If parenthood has taught me one thing, it is that children do stuff sooner or later.  Then it is done, and I wonder why I made such a fuss over it in the first place.

Karma blessed me, anxious-rule-bound-control-freak-that-I-am, with two humans who are fiercely independent and strong-willed, and who complete my mental to-do lists on their own, sweet schedule, usually making a lot of noise, clutter, and chaos in the process.

My relationship with my children teaches me a lot about letting go. . .  of expectations, of rules, of my nearly obsessive needs for organization and predictability.

Emily won’t want to snuggle with me forever.  She won’t always need me to wipe her little tush.  Her worries and fears might not always be so easy to soothe with hugs and kisses alone, and my life will feel cavernous with all the spare time from not tending to a toddler’s every need.

When you become a parent, people tell you to cherish every moment because it goes by in the blink of an eye.  Truer words have never been spoken, however they do little to describe the breakneck pace to which life accelerates after having children.  It is a constant circle of joy and loss and joy and loss and joy.

I put the little necklace up on top of my desk.  I might still use it as an incentive for her.  But I wrote a new to do list.  It only had one item on it:

Catch that squishy, squirmy little imp who smells like honey and speaks with a lisp and hug her up like there is no tomorrow.

Because time waits for no mom.