Monday, August 26, 2013


What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient... highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it's almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed - fully understood - that sticks; right in there somewhere.  (Inception) 

(With so much love and gratitude to Lindsay who never stops listening, even when I'm not saying anything.)

An idea had been taking hold of my brain lately.  (And don't worry, I'm pretty sure I wasn't incepted.  I mean, I'm pretty sure I haven't even had any long enough stretches of sleep for that.)

The idea was this:

What if I'm not cut out to be a stay at home mom?

I know where it came from. I'd been feeling overwhelmed, peopled out, exhausted.  My kids hadn't been napping; they'd been on top of me constantly, and my big girl had been cranky and wanting to just sit and cuddle.  I'd been feeling frustrated, exhausted, and at the same time understimulated.

I have needs that aren't being met by my kids.  I need to do work that matters.  I need to do something intellectual sometimes. I'd been starting to really miss a life where I was smart, competent, appreciated.

And I'd been feeling like a failure.

All of these are normal feelings sometimes.

But here's where the trouble started.

Sometimes people say to me "Oh, I couldn't do what you do.  I could never be a SAHM.  I'd go crazy."

And I want to say "But I do go crazy.  I don't love it.  I do feel bored and cranky and resentful sometimes.  I do have a need for something more."

And one day in my head, I started to question if that meant I shouldn't be here, shouldn't be doing this.

Maybe stay at home moms are supposed to do it differently than I am.  They're supposed to be present and constantly on and enjoy every minute of being with their kids.  Maybe the fact that I prefer parenting when both of my kids are asleep means that I don't actually want to be here with them.  Maybe they'd be better off in daycare, I'd be better off in a classroom.  I should be leaning in instead of opting out.  All of this is a waste.

And this idea that had worked its way into my brain, it broke my heart.

But I couldn't tell anyone.

Because how could I say that?

Any which way I said it, it meant I was a failure.  Either I was a failure FOR being a stay at home mom or I was a failure AT being a stay at home mom.

What would people say?  I didn't want them to say anything.  I didn't want to hear that I was right and I should be working full time, and I didn't want to hear that I was wrong and this was as good as it was ever going to get.

So I didn't say it to anyone.  And that's where the trouble really started.

Because an idea like this, a simple doubt, when kept in silence, can fester.  Can start to define everything you say and do and are.

I am a failure and my choices are wrong and I am letting everyone down.  I need to fix it.

I had to do more, to do better, to find meaningful work outside myself, to make day to day motherhood more meaningful, to deconstruct my own brain and fix it.  I had to do all of this, and do it all myself, or nothing would ever be better.

But what it looked like was a whole lot of me flailing and getting sucked into the Internet for validation and then at the end of the day realizing I had done even less than what I had done before.

Finally on Friday, I just collapsed under the weight of it all and cried.  I was just so tired of failing, so tired of trying, so so tired.

And finally, I reached out to a friend.  I said, "It's just so disappointing."

And she?  Said, "It is."

It is.

And I told her the truth.  Poured out all the words that I thought would be like poison if I let them come out, but it turns out were only poisoning me if they stayed inside.

And it was okay.

And here's the truth, as I know it.

I don't know if I'm cut out to be a stay at home mom.

But to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure any of us are cut out for anything.

Things don't have to come naturally to be worth doing.  They don't have to be easy, and they don't always have to look meaningful or profound or perfect.

I am a stay at home mom because that's what I chose to be.  Not because I was made for it.  Not because it's more or less right or good than anything else I could have chosen.

But it's my choice.  And it's still my choice.  And that's okay.

Sometimes it's really freaking disappointing.  And uncomfortable.  But everything worth doing is sometimes.

And if I want to do more, do different, do better, I can.  I can do so many things.  But those are my choices.  They aren't me.  I'm not a failure.  I'm not letting anyone down.  I'm good enough and worthy, and I'm fine right where I am right now.

Sometimes, however much it hurts, you need to open the wound and let it drain.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How to take a break (kinda)

It's 5:21 PM on a Wednesday, and both of my children are asleep.

The baby was fussing and when I sat down to nurse her, she immediately fell asleep.  My brain immediately flooded with all kinds of feel good chemicals and I stared at her for a long time, not wanting to put her down.

My toddler was sitting at her tiny coloring table.  She'd been coloring quietly for a long time.  Longer than really made sense.

"Are you okay?"  I called out.  No answer.

I flipped the baby to my shoulder and popped up from the couch to see BG's head down on her table, her arms splayed to either side.

My sweet, sweet girl.

My husband, as far as I can tell, hasn't left work yet.  Dinner is mostly prepped and ready to go, since I expected to have to cook one handed. The house is relatively clean, and the laundry is caught up to date.

I think someone is trying to tell me to take a break.

Only I'm not really sure what that even means.

It's quiet in the house right now, so quiet, quieter than I can remember it ever being before.  That's a good thing, it's washing over me, and sweeping me up, and I can feel my shoulders dropping and my brow unfurrowing.  I'm not "on."  There's no potential crisis.  For a few minutes, I can just be.

That scares the shit out of me.

I've been trying so hard to be better, to do all the right things, to work on what I know are my issues.  I want to write, I want to have real friends, I want to have meaningful work, I want to stop feeling behind on the housework, I want to make a difference in the world, I want to learn, I want to feel more intellectually stimulated, I want to be a more loving wife and a more present and involved parent and a better friend, I want to have more fun, I want to make real authentic connections, I want to be stronger and braver and smarter.

But I don't even know what to do with five minutes of quiet.

I don't need to fill them.  I don't need to change.  I don't need to be better or different or to fix anything.

Right now, things aren't perfect.  I'm uncomfortable.  I'm not accomplishing anything or making any progress on anything (okay, of course that's a lie because you all caught on that I'm writing and therefore cheating, right?  I'll stop soon, I promise).

I'm not getting any "better."

And that's okay.  Because I don't need to be better.  I'm already good enough.  I just need to be.

I'll believe that for another thirty seconds at least.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Good moms

The past few days (weeks?) have been rough around here.  Neither of my kids has been napping, and I've been feeling like I was constantly on, like I couldn't get anything productive accomplished, like I didn't have a moment to myself to think or breathe.  My Big Girl and I have been at each other's throats.  I've been snapping a lot, and she's been either sulky and grumpy or absolutely wired.

I've been feeling burned out.  It's too much.  I was shutting off completely.

Today, after BG had a morning of throwing herself on the floor and crying that she didn't want to do anything, and about an hour of "quiet time," during which she mostly sang and yelled in her room, I went to get here, feeling as defeated as I usually do when I realize she hasn't napped again.

But today? I really didn't have much fight left in me.  I didn't have it in me to hustle, to try to come up with things that neither of us really wanted to do that would make me feel better about all of my faults as a mother.  I didn't have it in me to put up a wall between me and her to block out how bad I felt about being burned out and resentful of her. I put Tangled in my DVD player and curled up on the couch with her.

And she melted into my arms.

And my eyes filled up with tears and I couldn't breathe momentarily because I love her so much.

And in that moment I had a realization about my own strengths and gifts, one which I feel I need to share with you all.

I have magic hair that glows when I sing.

Wait, no, that's not it.

I'm a good mom.

Good moms watch movies sometimes.

Good moms take breaks.

Good moms get frustrated sometimes, and lose their patience sometimes, and feel burned out and frustrated and sad sometimes.

Good moms have kids who act insanopants sometimes.  Or more than sometimes.  Ahem.

Good moms have kids who cry in their rooms sometimes.  And good moms hold their babies too long because they don't want to fight over naptime again.

Good moms are allowed to feel all their feelings, even when those feelings are wanting to be somewhere else for a little while.

Good moms are uncomfortable sometimes, and they have kids who are uncomfortable sometimes.

Good moms do grow and change, but they also fight and resist and kick and scream first sometimes.

Good moms do what it takes to raise their kids, to love them and themselves.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

People pleasing

Hi, my name is Story, and I'm a people pleaser.

I've been wrestling with this a lot lately.  With not knowing who I am and what I want , with looking for meaning and comfort in ways that are ultimately unsatisfying.   (With recognizing that what I just wrote is a fragment and not a sentence and being willing to put it on the Internet anyway.  Ahem.)

I've been reading lots of Brene Brown and recognizing my own tendencies to please and perfect when faced with shame, to try to make up for my own sense of my own inadequacy by making everyone else happy.

And then today I read this breathtaking take on the lies depression tells you by Anne Theirault for the Huffington Post.

#7 felt like a punch in the stomach.

I've felt that way for a long time.  Probably my entire adult life.  Longer even.  That I needed to make everyone happy and take care of everyone in order to earn my place, to prove my worth, to make up for the fact that really, deep down inside, I kind of suck.  That everyone has to put up with me so at least I should make sure I have something to offer in return.

It sounds awful when I say it that way.  Jesus.

Have I really been saying that to myself for all these years?

But at the same time, even as it feels like such a relief to hear someone else say it, to realize that it's not just me that thinks this, that it's not really true, that it's just another lie that the depression tells, that it's just my brain chemistry talking, just a poorly conditioned cognitive response?

I hate it.  It feels scary and raw.  I feel stripped of everything.

Because this is who I am.  I make people happy.  I solve other people's problems, not my own.

I'm damn good at it.

Where is that line?  The line between "This is my meaningful work and my gift and my purpose and I feel really good about this" and "I need to do this because I don't have value without it and it stops me from feeling bad"?  Where is the line between constructive and destructive?

I know when it's getting out of control.  I can feel the wash of shame, sense the hustle, feel the desperation, the fear that I've gone too far or not far enough and I'm going to be rejected.

I want to learn how to give love and grace just to give love and grace.  I want to stop, as Brene Brown puts it, "hustling for worthiness."

Friday, August 16, 2013

Tell the truth

Last Friday, I was at the doctor for a physical.  I really like my GP, even though I rarely go see her.  She's my age and has kids the same age as mine.  Even though I don't feel comfortable with medical stuff in general, I feel okay around her.  Well, as okay as possible.

So when she asked me how I was doing since I had the baby?  I laughed a little bit of a nervous laugh and said "Well, uh, overwhelmed.  But I think it's just normal overwhelmed?"

And she put her stethoscope down.  And we talked.  For about 20 minutes.

And I walked out with a prescription.


I've been in a bit of a pit for a while.  I've been under a fog.  I've been having trouble being present.  I've been having trouble letting things go.  I've been snapping at everyone around me.  And the more I talked to her the more I realized that even though things really are hard, maybe my reactions have not always been appropriate.  Maybe it's not normal to feel this bad for this long.

I want to feel better.  I want to be okay with needing the meds.  And I don't want to need the meds at all.

I didn't want to talk about this out loud yet, I didn't think I was ready.  I have so many complicated feelings about it to work out.  I'm angry at myself, I'm doubting myself.  I'm wondering if I should have done more, if I did this to myself by not getting enough self care, if I'm blowing my problems out of proportion and I'm actually fine, if I'm ever going to get better, if admitting that this is my brain chemistry in some way totally invalidates everything I've been thinking and feeling.

If I do the work to feel better, to get better, to work through the things I need to work through, will it ever really be me doing the work, will it ever really be me getting better?

I know these thoughts are ridiculous.  Well the logical part of my brain that would have no problem saying that to anyone else knows it.  In my heart and in my gut, I don't know it.

I'm disappointed.  I'm frustrated.  I'm afraid.  I'm hoping that I'm on my way back to okay.

I didn't think I was ready to write about this.  But I need to write if I ever want to be me again, and until I said this, nothing else I said felt true.

When in doubt, tell the truth.  Even when it's messy and ridiculous and doesn't make any sense.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I want

I want to be seen as smart, competent, compassionate, talented, wise, funny, helpful, a good mother.

I want to be seen as laid back and at the same time as completely perfect in every way.

I want everything I do to seem effortless and graceful while at the seem time completely impressive and totally worth doing.

I want to give and accept help graciously without ever at any time actually needing help.

I want to be 100% devoted and dedicated to my kids and also to have an impeccable house without being the kind of woman who is defined solely in terms of her kids or her house.

I want to be open and authentic and vulnerable but not to expose any of my sore spots or weaknesses or to give anyone the chance to hurt me or reject me.

I want to please everyone all the time and never let anyone down without feeling resentful or like an overworked martyr.

I want to be appreciated for the work I do without feeling like people are blowing smoke or giving unearned praise.  But I don't want to want to be appreciated.

Y'know, that's all.

(Inspired by and spun off from an exercise from <i>I thought it was just me<i> by Brene Brown.  It wasn't funny when I started writing, I swear.)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


In the version of Sleeping Beauty that I read to BG, after Aurora pricks her finger and falls asleep, the vines grow immediately up around the castle and completely encase it.  It's not just the thorns and the challenges, it is completely impenetrable for the one hundred years she is fated to sleep.

That's how my brain has felt lately whenever I try to write.  Except I'm not sure a prince is coming to kiss me awake.

(Aside?  This may be a horrible story to read to children.  Why do we read these things?)

I've tried to hack my way through the vines.  Morning pages and free writing and my notebook.  I applied liberal amounts of coffee.  I tried a variety of magic words.

But whatever was trapped inside stayed stuck.  Maybe it just wasn't time yet.  Maybe at the right moment, the vines are just meant to open and everything inside will wake up.

There's a part of me that's been missing for a long time, and maybe I might as well continue the metaphor and say she's been asleep.  I don't remember a time when I had interests and things I cared about other than parenting.  I can't at the moment even remember a time when I parented in a way that was much more than going through the motions.

We've  had good moments and good days.  I took the girls to a play in the park in the sunshine, and BG was enraptured by it.  My sweet littlest girl looks at me and babbles and laughs and I can't stop kissing her.   

But none if it is really about me, or the girl who used to exist inside this body that now seems to belong to everyone but me.  I want people to see her and know her and love her, but I don't even know who she is anymore.

Maybe she's been asleep long enough.  Maybe it's time for the vines to open and the world to come in.