Friday, August 17, 2012

Growing Pains

Yesterday Chris was being a pain around the house, and I took him out for some "Mommy - Christopher Time" which is what we call it when just he and I go out without Norah and Ben. Right now he is going through some challenges because his body and his emotions are very much appropriate for his age, but his brain is leaping ahead of both of them, analyzing, finding patterns, experimenting, and taking on frightening amounts of vocabulary and scientific principles. There is a mismatch there, and while it has always been there in one way or another, now it is becoming more noticeable to him, and he hates the fact that his brain is somewhat "held back" by his age and size.

He has articulated as much to me, which is another sign that his brain is jumping wildly into the future -- he says things like "I am a big boy, but I am still smaller than some big kids, but I am NOT a baby, and I want to be in charge of the things that I do, and grown-ups always tell me what to do. I am frustrated at being a kid." Yesterday, Norah was having a 2 year-old temper tantrum because she wanted to do something her way, but her way was dangerous. Chris came up and patted her on the back and said, "I know what it's like to be frustrated at being a kid, Norah." So, at least we have empathy on lock-down?

I totally get it. I had almost the exact same frustrations, although I remember it hitting me when I was more like 8 or 9 rather than 4. I hated things that were meant for kids, and I never wanted the same things that other people my age wanted. Chris wants (needs?) desperately to be in charge of something, but he just doesn't have quite enough experience for me to really let him loose on anything major. So I let him be in charge of little things wherever I can, and I am always trying to think of new ways to let him "take the reins." I basically need the 4 year-old equivalent of that thing when you are 14 or 15 and your dad lets you drive the car for a few hundred feet down an empty country road. But what might that 4 year-old equivalent be? I have no idea.

When we arrived home after our field trip (unhurried trip through the ice cream shop/toy store), I had a moment of momgrief. Not long ago at all -- just a few months -- every time we went out for Mommy - Christopher time, Chris would say, "Since it's Mommy - Christopher time, you can carry me!" When he was younger he loved this aspect of M-C time, because Norah spent her first 18 months pretty much in my arms, so he loved having some of that space to himself. Today, almost-five and so much taller than he was even at the beginning of the summer, he didn't say that, and the fresh, baby-bright quality to his voice was gone as well, flown off in the wind. He is taller and gangly, and moody, feeling the corners of his ever-expanding self bumping against the edges of the space the world has hollowed out for him. He is chafing at its boundaries.

My mom-heart aches because I can't fix it all by carrying him to and from the car on an errand anymore, and because I know that feeling, of knowing that everyone around you just sees a child when they look at you, but inside your mind and heart you are twenty feet tall, an invincible universal spirit. They don't understand it, and they won't, for at least fifteen or twenty more years. Being Chris's mom shifts from being his protector and nurturer to being his advocate, like a lawyer for his spirit, making my arguments and presenting evidence, but in the end it is not up to me who wins the case. The force is strong with this one, though. It delights and terrifies me as I see him now in his nascent stage, this seething, electrical ball of potential, shooting off sparks in every direction, sulking in the backseat as we pull up into the driveway.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I watched Jane Eyre today

Okay, so I admit that I bought it for Fassbender, who broods appropriately as Rochester and also bears a resemblance to my own beautiful husband, which makes him even more compelling on the screen. But in the end I was won over again by Mia Wasikowska’s Jane, who is the best Jane I have ever seen, and is the closest in spirit to the Jane that you read when you read the real novel. Jane in the book feels something for Rochester and yet fights it, gives herself sort of “anti-pep talks” in which she teaches herself not to hope, not to be attached, not to expect anything. It is the way she has lived her whole life, and she keeps herself in check even in a very compromising situation.
So why, sitting back at naptime and enjoying the lovely Blu-Ray version of this great film, did I find myself 


as Jane runs back to Thornfield from the tiny church, ripping off her wedding dress, buttoning up in her greys again and putting her impassive face back on?

Rome has been tugging at my heart lately, in that same old siren-ish way that she has, the little mental land mines she has planted in the past 30 years exploding like tiny fireworks in my head at key moments, keeping me tied to her no matter how far I run over the windblown moors, my name echoing across the hills as she calls out for me from her burned out castle.

I still love her, but it’s the muted love of old love, the way you care for someone who you never see anymore. As I climb out of the pit of illness and exhaustion brought on by clinging closely to her, as I see how much healthier I am each day since the last day that I saw her, how being far away makes me healthier, I feel a new wave of grief for the woman that I wanted to be, and more than that, the woman that I vowed to be, on my knees, kneeling in front of the altar as the blessing was pronounced over me:

Father, by your plan man and woman are united,
and married life has been established
as the one blessing that was not forfeited by original sin
or washed away in the flood.
Look with love upon this woman, your daughter,
now joined to her husband in marriage.
She asks your blessing.
Give her the grace of love and peace.
May she always follow the example of the holy women
whose praises are sung in the scriptures.

It is a strange blessing because it was only for me, not for Ben; the priest explained it in his tiny office full of fish tanks as he said it was an anachronism; a prayer left over from the times when a married woman’s life was hard, when she could very well die, when she would have a child every year and become old and tired quickly from scrubbing floors and nursing ten or twelve children, half of whom would live and half of whom would die. Looking at my own decline in health as I answered the call of my vocation I cannot help but think the prayer was not only appropriate but desperately needed.

I was crying on the wingback chair in front of this film because this blessing which very well may have sustained me through two bouts of postpartum darkness, a premature child, and the gaining and losing of fifty pounds over and over again, this is a blessing that I have to turn my back on as I walk away from the church. She helped to cause my illness but she gave me the salve to smooth over it as well; is that not love? It is not.

My love for my husband is deeper now than it was on that day when we married. It is true when they say that love deepens over time; it is not a separate thing anymore, it is part of my body. It’s in my bones. It is my bones. I dare to see it as a thing separate from the priest’s hands held over us, Rome’s hard-won benediction.

I look back over my shoulder like Lot’s wife and it confounds me, this thing I left behind. It is a beautiful angel and a monster all at once. It tried to kill me, and it tried to save me. I wanted to be that wife, the one that knelt down and took the blessing that would make me invincible through life’s danger. I wanted to be her with all my heart. But Ben never wanted me to be her; he only wants me, happy, healthy, and together with him for the rest of our lives. Unlike Jane I have this to lean into as I walk away.

When I decided to save myself and cut the cord, to decide that I had individual worth, that my health mattered to me not just because I was needed by others but because I was needed by myself, the first wire popped like a violin string wound too tight, and the rest rose and fell and broke as well, like the old grainy movie of a suspension bridge collapsing. The water rushes over it but the wreckage is still there. My heart is at the bottom of the river.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Adrenal Fatigue Update!

I thought I would take a minute to post an update on the Adrenal Fatigue recovery which has been going on for almost a year now. I think I have finally turned a corner toward steadily improving. Of course, there are supposed to be lots of setbacks, so I am not going to overdo anything right now, but for this moment, and for a few solid weeks now, I have the following good news to talk about:

-I have done yard work without collapsing afterwards
-I have been doing some strength training
-I have had a more steady positive mood overall (takes less time to get out of the dumps if I get in them)
-Good afternoon energy levels (although I need a break sometimes)
-Being nicer to the kids (I think?) Less overwhelm, less frustration, less of that awful panicky feeling when the house is a mess and both of them are screaming, etc.

I think that these things are due to lifestyle changes:

-Sleeping at night (who knew??)
-Limiting my work to certain hours so that I have time for other things (this is super hard. More on this later.)
-Hacking my to-do lists down to almost nothing, on purpose
-Cutting back on energy-draining things
-Asking for help when the problem arises instead of when I have exhausted myself from trying to fix things without any help
-Going on vacation (ok so this isn't really a "lifestyle," although it would be awesome if it were, but the mental state of being on vacation -- being very much away from work at times -- is getting more important to me)
-Avoiding all wheat and dairy, always. Whenever I try to bend the rule, I end up feeling awful. Not worth it.

Some bonus effects are that now that I have limited my work hours, I get to hang out on the sofa with husband more often, which I like! I hired someone to come and clean my house a few times, which felt very strange and aristocratic and weird at first -- I was raised that you basically don't hire anyone to do *anything* you could do yourself -- but after seeing the results, I think it's worth it to have someone come as often as possible, when I can afford it. And it's really not that extravagantly expensive. About the cost of a night out with Ben.

I have discovered that I have some traits in common with workaholics (as in, I am probably a workaholic, although I am pretty ready to let it go, so maybe I'm not quite a *raging* workaholic... we'll see how it plays out. Anyway. Hush. I can quit whenever I want to... I totally have it under control...)

Overall, I feel cautiously positive about these changes. I know how quickly things can turn around, either for better or for worse, so I know I have to stick with my lifestyle changes and prioritize health and sanity.

It's hard to end a positive post with a kicky punch, but hey. It's nice to be able to do things without being constantly worried about running out of energy. So yay! :D