Self-care, modern and ancient

Some things of note in this time, during which I have been grieving the loss of an important relationship, my engagement to my ex-fiancé R.

The other day I was feeling quite uncomfortable in my body, walking home, feeling swollen and blistered and heavy in that self-hating way. So, I started enumerating out loud my body parts and sending them love: “I love my nose, I love my toes,” etc. When I said, “I love,” I meant, “I am sending love to”, and thus making the distinction between “I love = I feel good about”, which is not always possible for me, versus, “I love = I am treating myself with love”, which I can do even when I’m feeling self-disgust or self-hatred.

After several minutes of this, I started feeling better, more comfortable in my body, more at ease. I have to note this for the record so I remember to do it again later.

My friend Z showed me an app last night called, “Habitica”. It is meant to help you stick to your tasks by turning the whole thing into a game where you can go on a quest and get points for carrying out your list. It seems super fun, and has already helped me get this morning’s stuff done more completely than usual. You can also go on joint quests with other people, and we are going to do that. Therefore, you get community and mutual support, communication about your day, etc.

One of the things that I need and want to do, but with which I have been having a hard time getting into the rhythm of consistent practice, is my meditation/breath class homework. This class is based in Sufi traditions, and the homework includes saying repetitions of mantras. It is amazing to me what doing so brings up. This morning I actually did my homework, and it brought up for me the alienation and othering, and the sense of permanent inferiority due to my gender I feel in any context that has a religious element. “God” is portrayed as being masculine in fundamental nature. Therefore, being female, I am other, and I am lesser. This ties in with family of origin stuff. It affects me deeply. As I repeated the mantras, however, I was able to sink beneath the level of gender and access the meaning of what I was saying differently. By the end I was feeling more connected. Like any significant practice, it’s all about the long-game, and not my current mood-reaction, but I appreciate when it helps me in the moment, too.

I have been to a degree not aligned with improving my health and well-being, because getting better means (to that part of me) that it’s really over with the man who has been the love of my life. So I’m trying to treat all parts of me and my heart with compassion. And I know that no matter whether I ever get to have a powerful and mutual romantic relationship again, I am responsible for my own life and well-being, including how I approach things like food and sleep, as well as remembering to reach out and stay connected to my friends & family and wider community.

Now I am going to go buy a printer cartridge so I can print out the music for my next concert (after first tackling my intimidation and figuring out how to install said cartridge in said printer).

One step at a time.

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Listening to anger

I get angry a lot. Sometimes the anger is apparent externally, and sometimes it is just simmering within me. Its arrival, regardless of its appearance, demands an instant response. And for me, most of the time that response shows up as criticism. Especially with my kids and my partners, people close to me.

Very, very often, shame follows on anger’s heels, and even mixes itself into my response, twisting it and shutting off the exits, making it hard for me to back down or change course. Because of the shame, part of me feels compelled to emotionally justify my feeling and my response to that feeling.

I get to where I feel pretty disgusted with myself. And then I wish for the impossible: if only I were a nicer person, a better person; if only I didn’t get angry, or I only got angry in a measured way in entirely morally justifiable circumstances.

But what if anger doesn’t truly demand instant action? What if anger is a messenger from within, a demand to pay attention not to the people in my external environment, but to myself? What if it is a clarion call for self-care? What if it takes anger to get my attention, because I’m so used to devaluing what I actually need in the moment?

Suppressed anger toxifies. Instead of flashing like lightning, it rises like gasses in a swamp, coalesces in the gut and drips down as a rain of bile.

I think of myself as an angry person, but I am coming to suspect that isn’t true: the anger speaks, over and over, attempting to get me to hear the message, but instead I react and then choke it (and myself) with shame.

So often the advice given about anger is to stop, count to ten, and then continue talking in a more calm way. This misses the effing point by about a mile. The stopping should be a chance to communicate with oneself, NOT to suppress one’s feelings.

Here is my goal for the month: a) notice when anger shows up; b) stop and ask anger what its message is, telling my kids that’s what I’m doing: “Hang on a minute, I have to listen to myself”; c) determine my self-care steps; d) ask for (or say) what I want (if that’s part of the self-care steps) and/or let my kids know what I need to do.

And in that communication with my kids, remember to give them the reason first and the request second. They respond (as do I) so much better when things are presented in that order.

I don’t want that acid to burn me, or my kids. Anger is necessary. But weaponized anger really hurts people. So I’m going to try to do a better job of listening.

A better day, new routine, productivity and fun

Today was a better day. I took some Benadryl again last night, and though I didn’t sleep perfectly well (got up to go the bathroom, to get ice packs for my arm, etc) it was enough so that this morning I was more functional. I played with the twins, read to them, and also had a productive morning, which always helps my general outlook. As well as doing dishes and making calls, I practiced. Yippee! I am making my way through the repertoire for our next concert, including Honegger’s second symphony, which I’ve never played.

And then I had a massage, oh joy. Later this week I’m also going to get back to Pilates, from which I have had a sad absence from over the past several months.

When I got home from the massage the twins were asleep, having been put down for their nap by our nanny. That enabled me to have a second practice session, which ended when Emily woke up. I went up to get them, and found them both fairly groggy. Joanna climbed into my lap, and then out of it, and then circled round to get back on her bed. I asked, “Are you still tired? Do you want to go back to sleep?” She nodded and made a sad face. We had to go get Hazel, though, so I took them downstairs and plopped them into the stroller. By the time I reached the end of the block they weren’t crying any more. They must have still been sleepy, though, because they didn’t protest staying in the stroller all through the walk there, picking Hazel up, and walking home.

When Hazel came to meet me at the doorway of her classroom, she said she wanted to wait for her friend C, who is “my best friend”. There have been a variety of those these last several days. I take that to mean that she likes a number of the people in her class, which is good. We did wait for her, and then I chatted with her mom while Hazel and C got up an impromptu game of catch, which made me happy.

Ted’s coming home a bit earlier on Mondays so I can start teaching a bit earlier. We began our new routine today, in which we went over to the park to meet my first student’s family. Then I walked D over to the house to do the lesson while our families stayed at the park to play. Between our family and his there are six kids and three adults home (including D and me). This means a fair amount of noise upstairs, which makes it hard for him to concentrate. This way the other kids got to play and we got to have a quiet house, a win-win.

After I finished teaching tonight I practiced for another hour. So here I am writing my blog, it’s not too late, and I am feeling more relaxed than I have in a while. A good day.

Overload, self-help, helping others, Parenting class, meeting our needs

I am rather seriously overloaded right now. There’s the whole increasing intensity of parenting, the upcoming kindergarten experience for Hazel in which we don’t know if we’ll be transferring her to another school after the school year has begun, various personal and internal things that have come up for me that I’m having a hard time processing, and a significant amount of stress in the lives of people I love, as well as enormous global stress that’s hard to contemplate (Israeli/Palestinian conflict, abductions in Nigeria, etc.) One thing that’s going on is that one of my college friends is in jail. Finding the right balance between taking care of myself and offering support to him has been quite challenging. It is terribly difficult to see people you love in pain, in awful circumstances, struggling.

I have been in what I call “the red zone” for a few days now. I keep wanting to get in the car and drive away, or get in bed under the covers, or spend every waking moment on the computer, escaping into the Internet.

Tonight Ted and I did two things: first, we attended the first in a series of six classes on breath; it’s tied into emotional/energetic work, and spirituality, and was wonderful. I am so, so glad that we’re doing this together. I feel it will benefit both of us, individually and in terms of our relationship. The second was the third in our Positive Discipline parenting class series. That also was profoundly wonderful. Tonight’s session was about power struggles. This class is one of the best things I’ve ever done. It occurred to me during class that I would like to teach Positive Discipline, much, much later, when I’m conversant with it, have years of experience teaching with it. It’d be a stretch for me, since I’m more comfortable one-on-one, but it would be something I could teach with joy, a sense of service, and would also help me.

Tonight after the class I spoke to another college friend about the situation I noted above. She and I have gained, over the years of friendship and joint work, a wonderful ability to speak honestly to each other while not taking each other’s feelings personally. I celebrate such friendships.

Talking to Ted about it later, telling him how overloaded I am feeling, it came to me that I really need a long weekend away. I need a few days when I’m not responsible for anyone but myself. I need water I can swim in, sand to walk on, and peace and quiet. I said so, and he immediately agreed that we should put it on the calendar. I am grateful to have a partner who deeply and personally understands that need, and supports my having it met.

And now I need to meet my need for sleep, and go to bed.

Wishing everyone who needs it peace.

“Be Our Guest”, gardening, self-care, twins

Tonight I was chatting via FB with a friend, and mentioned the fact that the kids are down. Except that what came into my head was, “They are down, they are down, they are ….” to the tune of “Be Our Guest”, from the Disney flick “Beauty and the Beast”. I am not sure what that means in terms of my mental stability, but it prompted me to listen to the song and that is making me smile (“The flatware’s entertaining”), so I am grateful.

This afternoon I planted the marigolds Hazel gave me for Mother’s Day, and got some weeding done too. I am looking forward to more this weekend, when Ted and I can do it together. It takes a long time! But the roses are starting to bloom, the woolly thyme is spreading, the red creeping thyme is blooming, and it is lovely to be outside working in the garden.

This morning I had a session with the person who has helped me with my left hand and arm before, and I felt an improvement. I’ll go back in if/when I need to.

Emily was wound up like a top this evening. She ran back and forth across the room, jumping into or across Ted’s lap and laughing like a loon. She didn’t want to nurse, just wanted to play. But she went to sleep without a peep, miraculously, as soon as the light went out. Joanna, on the other hand, fell asleep nursing and then rolled off the nursing pillow like a seal, landing on the mattress with a plop, eyes totally closed and breathing even. It really is fun to watch twins growing up in parallel but contrasting ways.

A challenging day, with bright spots

This afternoon, Emily rolled off the nursing pillow when she was done, asleep. She and Joanna often do that. I hadn’t gotten a sleep sack on her before I’d nursed her, and I thought, not rationally, that Ted would be irritated that I was putting her down without one. So I picked her up to remedy that error. Doing so was, of course, an error in judgment of epic proportions. She went stiff as a board and started screaming, top volume, irremediably. No nap for Emily. This was a day when I was looking forward with a fixed intensity to that moment when, kids asleep, Ted and I crept out of their room and went downstairs. We had plans for that time, which all went out the door when Emily blew her gasket.

*big sigh*

It was a day during which nothing was going right. You know those days. For me, they have a depressive quality, because I feel weepy and sad, frustrated, lacking in motivation. The current weather isn’t helping. This often happens in these parts in the spring: we’ll get a few nice spring/early summer days, and then the rain returns, and you know it’s here to stay for weeks, until July. I have a hard time with this season’s rain. I just want it to be warm and sunny, and rain like we’ve been having lately, all day and heavy, can put me in a foul mood.

Anyway, I’ll spare the rest of the details of the various things that went wrong today and skip to the better parts. Those were: running into the violinist from my trio and talking about a quartet concert next season; an enjoyable rehearsal; and coming home to fold laundry (really) and watch the first part of a movie (Thor) by myself in my bedroom. After a bit I put on headphones, because Hazel was throwing a Class A fit at our nanny downstairs, and I wanted to a) prevent myself from going down and getting involved, and b) not hear it. So that way I got much better sound quality and could feel myself gradually relaxing.

Oh, and Hazel scored a goal in her scrimmage in soccer today. That was a pleasure to see.

So now I’m going to watch the rest of the movie, and go to bed. And, hopefully, sleep!

hard day

It’s been a bad day, but I don’t feel like detailing it. Suffice it to say, there was a lot of screaming, crying, stamping of feet, and general unpleasantness.

This evening Ted gave me the gift of some time to myself while he folded a part of our Mt. Everest of laundry. I went and bought potting soil and burgers, and then came home to eat, have a beer, and plant some ground covers. I am sure it would have been better in some ways, certainly more efficient, to use that time packing or cleaning or some such. But I was very glad to get the plants in the ground, and to do something productive, by myself (until Hazel came outside).

Parenting is hard. This statement brought to you by the Obvious Newletter of the Duh Metropolis.

On the other hand, Joanna said, “fish” tonight for the first time.