Sunday, October 12, 2014

I've crawled out of my hole. Now what?

Wow it's been a butt of a year. Here it is October and it seems like just 10 months ago I was pissing and moaning about 2013.

Something's gotta change. And apparently it's up to me.

Granted, some of the crap that went down this year was out of my control. But really. I'm ready for some good stuff. Anytime. Aaaaanytiiiime.

I told a friend that I felt like I had been in a hole for a good long time. And when I came out, everybody was gone. But what I think happened was that I crawled out of that hole a little more bitter; a little more jaded. And that's not good. I crawled out of that hole and saw people around me getting on with their lives and having good things happen to them, and instead of being happy for them, it made me sink a little further into myself. Not cool. Not cool at all.

So I'm realizing this and trying to do something about it. But what to do? I'm nearly 48 years old and have one teenager living at home who needs me only for the basics - ya know, food, clothing, shelter, some spending money and maybe a ride now and then. Time to figure out what to do with myself since "full court press" parenting has turned into "second string, I'll call you when I need you" parenting.

I should get involved in something. But what? I'm not gonna lie - I'm lousy at taking chances. Like walking into a new group of people and introducing myself and not feeling so self conscious that I want to either run out of the room or hide under my chair. If neither is a viable option I end up going to my happy place in my mind which pretty much defeats the purpose of trying something new. Church groups intimidate me because although I consider myself a religious and spiritual person, I couldn't quote the Bible any more than I could quote Shakespeare. Actually, I could probably quote Shakespeare better. And as much as I'm pro-God and all, I just don't know if that's a place where someone with my "personality" would really shine, if you know what I mean.

I keep seeing these Meetup groups, and some of them look interesting. But again, it's so incredibly intimidating to me to walk into a group, make small talk and get over that "I'm out of my comfort zone" feeling enough to actually give it a chance. Apparently living in a hole for so long has done absolutely nothing for my self-esteem and sense of adventure.

I am looking at volunteering, which I have always wanted to do but figured my role as a parent sufficed, at least during the early years. Now, I'm not sure where my "talents" would be best utilized. Most of my past volunteering efforts have involve writing, which, as you know, isn't exactly a group activity. But I am investigating places that might be a good fit. Then I'll just have to muster up the courage to actually show up.

And I love it when people say, "I'm ready to date." Like there's a text that goes out to the single masses that says, "OPEN THE FLOODGATES! SHE'S READY TO DATE!" It just doesn't work that way. "Ready to date" doesn't mean "get a date." Well, unless your standards are really, really low. And mine are stupidly high, probably to the extent that I am looking for the man who shall never exist. So just because someone says, "Hey! You should date!" doesn't mean I automatically have a full dance card. It just means that I have made the effort to put on makeup on days that I don't normally put on makeup in the hopes that someone nice and single will notice me. But again, when you live in a hole, you don't look up to the sky much. And a bitchy resting face doesn't help matters. Item #247 on my list of things to work on.

I think what most discourages me is that I figured that by my late 40s, I'd be in my groove. I'd have my mate, my group of friends, my hobbies and my kids. I didn't plan on a relationship ending, a move out of the area from where my friends resided, hobbies that went by the wayside and kids who demand my attention one day and want nothing to do with me the next. I didn't plan on big life changes that would rock my world more than I could have ever anticipated. I didn't realize that the older you get, the harder it is to bounce back and find that groove. I didn't think I'd not know what my groove even was. I'd call this a mid-life crisis if I thought I'd live to be 94 (which I hope I don't.)

I'm guessing the best thing I can do is just take baby steps. Maybe try one new thing a week until I realize that "putting myself out there" doesn't have to be paralyzing. There's 11-1/2 weeks left in this year. By my calculations, that's 11.5 new things I could try by year's end. Surely one of those things will stick. Right?

If not, you'll know where to find me on New Year's Eve.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Blame Game

I have a hard time not pointing fingers. The thing is, it’s usually at myself.

Maybe it’s my Catholic upbringing – all those years of intimidating priests preaching that I’m going to burn in hell and how unworthy I am to even be on this earth may have had something to do with my unending and pervasive guilt. And that started even before I was responsible for anyone else but myself. 

Throw two kids into the mix and you have a recipe for beating yourself up for pretty much the rest of your life. 

It’s not a martyr complex, I assure you. Lack of confidence maybe? Playing without a rule book? I don’t know. But I can’t help but look at any downfall my child has as a reflecting on my ability to parent. Wait a minute – what’d I do? Teach them the wrong thing? Not give them the skills they needed? Skipped a chapter in the parenting manual? Did I misinterpret Dr. Spock AGAIN? 

My son asked me the other night if my mom was a strict parent, and I really had to think about it. Growing up, I’m sure I would have said “HELL YES SHE WAS STRICT!” but looking back, I don’t think so. I was probably more timid than my kids are. And more respectful for sure. I don’t know how many times they’ve sassed me and I’ve thought to myself, “Oh, man, if I would have said that to MY mom I would have been slapped to Timbuktu!” (That was one of her threats  and one day I looked up to see if there was indeed a Timbuktu and decided that no, I did NOT want to be slapped all the way there.) I used to wonder what she did that I didn’t do. Did we respect my mom out of fear? If so, I gotta say that’s not really a bad thing. I think parents today get too “into” their kids’ lives and try to be that buddy, that friend, and to coin that amazing Esurance commercial, “That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works.” 

Yet I did it to an extent. I mean, I didn’t intentionally try to be a friend or a buddy. In fact, I tried NOT to be. But I did want to have a dialogue with them. Growing up, I don’t think it really occurred to me to talk to my mom about stuff. (As I got older, absolutely. But growing up? No.) But wanted my kid to know he could talk to me about ANYTHING. 

Um, LOL, right? My fault. Kids don’t want to talk to their parents about ANYTHING. They’d rather talk to the snarky cashier at Wal-Mart about their problems than talk to me. 

So maybe my kids were confused as to what their mom really WAS. The role I played. Sometimes I was the nurturing, “let’s talk this out and solve this problem” mom, and other times I was the “it’s my way or the highway” mom. So when they were in a bind, maybe they were confused as to which mom was on call that night. 

I tried; I really tried. I breastfed because I was told it would keep them from getting too many ear infections. Both kids had ear tubes. I made my own baby food. They preferred the jar. I sent them to school when they complained of the sniffles. They were sent home with pinkeye. I helped them with their homework. It was wrong. I wanted to make sure they were safe. They told me I was hovering. I wanted them to have their freedom. They made poor choices that I couldn’t fix. I never seemed to make the right decisions.

OK, before you tell me what I know you’re going to say, let me say it first. “They’re their own persons. They make their own choices. You raised them with good morals and values and you need to let them make their own decisions, good or bad.”

I get it. In my head I get it. I attend a weekly support group that is based on that very philosophy. I understand the model. 

But in my heart of hearts, I blame myself. I wonder what I missed. What I could have done differently. Because parenting is an ugly beast. It’s one of the few times in your life when you truly don’t have an answer and you just kind of close your eyes and pick one and hope for the best. Do I let you have that sleepover with that kid who I have a bad feeling about? Do I trust you will make good choices? Or do I shield you from him and say no? Is that my job? Is that where I come in? Or is this where I let go? I’m never, EVER sure. 

My kids are inherently good kids. I love them to the moon and back, and I’m proud of them even further than that. I really, truly am. And probably the worst thing in the world is to see them hurt, disappointed, upset or dejected. I have come to realize that they HAVE to have these feelings, though. That’s how they develop coping mechanisms for life. But I feel like I have failed them in giving them what they need figure those out. I feel like I didn’t give them the right tools they need for their toolbox. Instead of a socket wrench, a hammer and a pair of pliers, I gave them a ladle, a turkey baster and a pair of tweezers. 

If I could do it again would I make different choices? Hell yes, in some respects. But again, I don’t have the answers. I never have. I’m a regular person raising two regular people with not a clue how to do it, even after 17 years. 

I hope they never blame me. I really do. I hope they know I shoulder enough blame without them adding to it. But if they DO blame me, I won’t blame them, you know? Because the Catholics are right. I’m not worthy to parent – no one is. We just do our best and hope for the best. 

To quote the illustrious 80s song by Howard Jones, “Some break the rules and live to count the cost; the insecurity is the thing that won't get lost … no one is to blame.” But I bet we think we are anyway.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Does this blog make me look fat?

It does, doesn't it? Don't lie.

Yep. Not me.
Sigh. The neverending quest continues. You know the one, Ladies. And when I say "ladies," I don't mean you "naturally skinny" bitches, nor do I mean you completely buff babes who live and breathe Zumba, Insanity, Ripped, Shredded, Sculpted, Trimmed, Toned and Taut workouts and an organic-vegan, gluten-free, fat-free, carb-free, calorie-free, food-free diet. (I don't hate you, I'm just incredibly envious.) YOU Ladies, like me. The ones who don't even like to shower naked. (Like me.) The ones who exercise for an hour only to eat an entire box of Cheez-its in half that time. (Maybe like me.) The ones with menopause breathing down their wrinkly necks.YOU LADIES. LIKE ME.

It's a losing battle. I was a scrawny kid growing up. Long and leggy was my claim to fame; unfortunately from the waist up I was all boy. College confirmed that yes, you do in fact gain the "freshman 15," which I did consistently throughout my four year reign. "Exercise" was running down the dorm hall to let the Domino's pizza guy in.

From there on out it was a seesaw of poundage proportions depending on what was going on in my life. I started taking long walks daily in my early 20's. That, combined with near poverty wages and a grocery list that made a bachelor's fridge look plentiful kept my weight in check. Throughout my 20s I stayed active, and before marriage and kids, worked out with weights, played volleyball and tennis. On my wedding day, I was a size 4.

I gained the recommended 25 - 30 pounds with my first baby, and shed the weight quickly after, even though I found myself almost pleased with my new found curves. Even after kid number two I don't remember weight being an issue. Yeah, I was a little more hippy, but hey, you need some place to balance the kid, right?

I'm not gonna lie. 40 hit me like a lead balloon. I thought I was cruising right along in my size 6 low rise jeans and my tucked in shirts. Yep, that's right. TUCKED IN. WITH A BELT. It never even occurred to me to turn to the side or put my hand on my hip or stand in the back row for pictures.

Somehow, someway, my body hit 40 and my metabolism came to a screeching halt. No more could I park in front of the TV with a bag of chips and "work it off" the next day. Nope. That bag of chips hung around like, well, a bag of effing chips. Half a bag on each thigh. Just hangin' there.

I have a love/hate relationship  with this photo.

It's funny how you see yourself and how you really are. There are days when I actually feel OK, like the day I ran a 5K with a much younger friend of mine. Someone took our picture - triumphant at the finish. I looked at it later and thought, "WAS I MOVING? WHY ARE MY LEGS MOVING???" Nope. They weren't. That was cellulite. Here in my head I thought I was badass when in fact I was really just f&*^ing cottage cheese.

The only time in my 40s I've been at a weight I considered OK was after a major breakup. I couldn't eat at all. The thought of food literally made me sick to my stomach. For WEEKS. I swear I dropped over 10 pounds in 10 days. My clothes hung on me. I looked FANTASTIC. Yet I was miserable. People would even tell me, "Wow - have you lost weight? You look so skinny!" and I'd say, "Thanks," and promptly burst into tears and crawl back under the covers to lament my broken heart.

That doesn't happen anymore. I've had more stress and heartbreak in the past year than I've had in my entire life. Am I repulsed by food? No, dammit. Food is my comfort. Food is my friend. Food is something to do when I'm bored, depressed, lonely, sad, happy ....

Sitting kills. See me? I'm dead.
Oh, AND! AND I sit ALL DAY. All day! Have you seen the reports? Sitting KILLS! Sitting is a DEATH TRAP! And I do it eight hours a day. Every once in awhile I try to take a walk down at the Riverfront at lunch (of course the last time I did that I came upon a lovely couple exiting a port-a-potty looking a little guilty - GROSS.) I could get one of those standing desks, but I'd have to buy it myself, and a guy in my office has one, and they make fun of him. No one likes to be made fun of. Especially when you're fat.

But here's the other thing. I still exercise. Well, I try. But evidently someone like me has to exercise like 17 hours a day to lose one pound or something like that. Because that's what it seems. And the other thing is that my body is slowly going in the shitter, one bone and joint at a time. I tried running, but my knees doth protest too much. My knees also prevent me from doing burpees, those cross-country things, and anything else that requires going quickly from a squatting position to, well, any other position. I gauge how far down I can go on my lunges as to how many times my knee has popped. Usually after four I know I'd better be on the way up.

Lie. It's not 7. It's 21.
I discovered this great 7-minute workout. Even the New York Times wrote about it, so it must be good, right? Who doesn't have seven minutes? So I sweat and swear for seven whole minutes, only to realize that I'm supposed to do it THREE TIMES. Holy &*(&! I can barely do it once! If you wonder why I don't join a gym, come over and take a gander at me during this 21 minute torture test. You'll hear more grunts and groans and see more grimaces than the day your mother birthed you. Not to mention the random sounds that may or may not come out of me during that 30 seconds of "high knees."

I went to the doctor to complain. "Test my thyroid," I said. "Welcome to menopause," she said. I punched her.

You would think that, at 47 years old, I would finally be at peace with my body. That I would be comforted knowing that all those beauties in the magazines were completely photoshopped. That even though I'm single and may have to change my online dating profile body type stat from "slender" to "average," I will somehow attract the attention of someone looking for more than just a kinda pretty, middle-aged face. They just may never get a strip tease. From me, anyway.

I know, I know. "Strong is the new skinny." I don't want to be skinny, necessarily. Strong would be good. "Proportional" would be nice. "Comfortable in my own skin" would be a win.

What do you say we lobby for a worldwide mandatory exercise time between like 12 and 2? Followed by a complimentary salad and a tall glass of ice water.

And maybe a box of Cheez-its.