Thursday, March 22, 2012

Riding out A Bad Monday

Well, it's almost midnight on Thursday. . . four days since my last post and I feel compelled to update. The week has gone like this:

Tuesday: extreme fatigue and lots of snappishness, but I tried hard to keep it under wraps since I knew that it was the result of Saturday's mishaps and Monday's pathetic-ness. Met with some writer friends and acquire a little hope.

Wednesday: frustration and anger, in mass amounts. There was also lots of deep breathing. Until the soccer game that afternoon. At which point all the children set to whining and I decided to give them all extra chores while admonishing them for their brattiness. Did some Visiting Teaching that evening and it really improved my mood.

Thursday: Better. A lot. Pretty much normal. I also got a thank-you note from a bunch of parents (who weren't mad at me) and that made my day. A  simple thank-you can do so much! I even cleaned bathrooms and vacuumed and did laundry. If I'm doing housework, I must be feeling better.

I also came across an article tonight that explained why this whole Odyssey of the Mind might have been so deeply hurtful to me. Some of it is because I'm not the kind of person who is open to ambient touching, so when that parent grabbed me by the shoulder and spoke forcefully to me it crossed a really big line for me. Another reason is because I am a bit of a Highly Sensitive Person (it's a genetic/temperament thing) and, as this article explains, sometimes when an HSP perceives punishment they overreact. Sometimes by being too nice. This phenomenon is called pathological altruism and is described in very dramatic terms by this article.  While I think a lot of that was overblown and I didn't identify with it at all, this part really struck me:

Dr. Oakley couldn’t help doubting altruism’s exalted reputation. “I’m not looking at altruism as a sacred thing from on high,” she said. “I’m looking at it as an engineer.”

And by the first rule of engineering, she said, “there is no such thing as a free lunch; there are always trade-offs.” If you increase order in one place, you must decrease it somewhere else.

Moreover, the laws of thermodynamics dictate that the transfer of energy will itself exact a tax, which means that the overall disorder churned up by the transaction will be slightly greater than the new orderliness created. None of which is to argue against good deeds, Dr. Oakley said, but rather to adopt a bit of an engineer’s mind-set, and be prepared for energy losses and your own limitations.

Train nurses to be highly empathetic and, yes, their patients will love them. But studies show that empathetic nurses burn out and leave the profession more quickly than do their peers who remain aloof. Give generously to Child A, and Child B will immediately howl foul, while quiet Child C will grow up and write nasty novels about you. “Pathologies of altruism,” as Dr. Oakley put it, “are bound to arise.”
Now since the whole thing went down last Saturday, I don't think I've pulled any pathological altruism. But I think things were so painful because I was already acting in pathologically altruistic ways. I was already over-scheduled and stressed, but I kept bending over backwards to help out the kids, parents, and coaches because I thought it would be nice and because, well, I had a couple negative interactions with one coach and I was trying to fix things. I mean, this is the coach who yelled at me Saturday and then I went out and bought her a thank-you gift for all her help. Then she yelled at me some more. Something is backwards there.

This is hard for me to understand, though. I mean, aren't we always supposed to be kind and turn the other cheek? Aren't we supposed to be quick to forgive and quick to help? Isn't that what it means to be Christ-like?

This is the part where all you readers raise your hands and say, "Wait, Laura! Don't you remember the oxygen masks? Put yours on first!"

I know. I know. But sometimes there isn't time and sometimes I think I already have it on, but it turns out I don't. Sometimes regular life is more complicated than a crashing airplane--especially when life starts resembling said airplane.

Hmm. . . food for thought.

Anyway, the other thing I'm working on remembering: failure is part of the plan. Things aren't always supposed to work out. Failure is part of what Heavenly Father had in store for all of us. And it's okay.  Because of Jesus.

My goal for Friday: stop over-thinking-- at least for a little while :)

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Bad Monday.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised--it is Monday, after all--but today has been a bad day.

Actually, Saturday was the bad day. Today is the fall out day.

Long story short, I wanted to try Odyssey of the Mind with my kids and I've been working with the school since last autumn to get the program organized and rolling. I was hoping OM would be a good way to help my very (truly) creative kids apply their ideas and learn some life skills. I thought it would be a good way to make friends for them and begin to network with other parents. There was some good that came out of it, but mostly things have been slowly falling apart over the last month and then last Saturday (competition day) things blew up. I'm trying not to go into details because I know it's not Christlike and because I don't believe rehashing events is going to change how I feel about them. Some people did some things that really hurt me and hurt my kids because I made some mistakes that they felt jeopardized their chances of doing well in competition. One parent went so far as to grab me by a shoulder and question me as to why I would screw things up that way. Another parent left me a phone message with her yelling in to the phone. They also yelled at my children and said rude things to them.

It was humiliating. It was hurtful. And I can't shake it.

I'm really, really sad about it. I'm angry about it.

And, me being me, I turn it all on myself.

My kids have also been train wrecks today.  Lots of tantrums, screaming, crying. A complete mess.

All day my mind has been endlessly questioning my existential value. I'm such a failure; why should anyone ever bother with me or listen to me or believe me? I'm obviously a failure as a mother, too, so why do I have children? I'm pretty much a screwed up human being with no economic value, no true skills, and am therefore of no value to society. The world be a better place if I wasn't in it. (It is embarrassing to be this pathetic. Suicidal over angry parents? Sheesh I'm a loser.) There's a part of my brain that keeps saying if only I had a job, all of this would be different; that people like to crap on stay-at-home moms because they are obviously less than regular people. After all, why would you stay home and be jobless unless you were incapable of contributing to the greater world. One parent over the weekend passive-aggressively said to me, "Isn't it nice that you have the luxury of being at home and volunteering. That's just so, well, so nice for you." It's only a good thing to be a stay-at-home mom if your kids are perfectly groomed socially savvy over-achievers. And, by the way, as the mom you should be those things too. My kids aren't those things. I'm not those things.

The urge to self-harm is big. My brain keeps mapping out spots to cut and telling me I deserve the pain, that I should be punished. Of course I haven't done any of that--that's a line I have yet to cross and firmly plan not to. But I am spending a lot of energy reminding myself that the crazy is doing a heckuva lot today and I need to not get sucked in.

I really have been trying to let it go. I've been trying to distract myself. I keep telling myself that if I can choose to not stew over it then my brain will eventually let it go. There has been some good exercise (which helped). There has been prayer (was also helpful). There has been meditation and napping (also helpful). I keep hoping the hurt feelings will dispel or their intensity will lessen. But it keeps coming back--like the tide rolling in and out every 30 or 40 minutes.

It's just that I don't have a good response to the existential questions. I mean, seriously, what is the point? What am I doing? Everywhere I look I see half-finished projects and good intentions, but very few results. I have no way of proving that I'm not a complete waste of space.

That hurts.

*As an aside, I think that one reason I'm having trouble letting it go is because I know that those other people are right in some ways. I did screw up a couple times and they had every right to be angry at me. People have rights to their feelings.  I'm sure that in their hearts they feel their actions and words were perfectly justified. And I can't argue with that. They have every right to see the world  the way they see it. But feeling that way makes it very hard to defend myself.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

30 Things About Being Thirty

Well. It happened. I have officially left my twenties. GAH. What a decade of turbulence. It college, early marriage, and the diaper decade all rolled into one. All of which makes me happy to have left the New Adolescence behind. (That's 1 Thing)

But. . .

I have now officially joined the establishment. Seriously. For my birthday, I helped set up and pull off my ward's Cub Scout Blue and Gold Banquet. For fun I wash the dishes while watching Cake Boss. To unwind I scrapbook pictures of my kids. I have four kids and have been married for a decade--and both facts have ceased to amaze people. I am settled. (That's 2-9)

But. . .

This new settled state (my recent SSRI ups and downs aside; BTW, doing much better now) has given me something I never expected it to: a new ground from which to take off. Sure, I'm tied down to a husband and kids so I won't be backpacking around Europe or driving the length of Route 66 any time soon, but, well, I'm also not spending a heckuva lot of energy worry about if anyone will ever really love me. (The answer to that one is both yes and no.) And I'm not constantly worrying about what to do with a new baby or if the changing color of their poop means something. (The answer to that one is also both yes and no.) I'm in a new phase. New opportunities are appearing on the horizon. Not only do I think there's a light at the end of the tunnel, I can actually see it. And it's inspiring. (Things number 10-21 just happened there.)

A Few Remaining Things About Being Thirty:

*It's not that old.
*My husband, sister, and best friends will always be older.
*I don't have to keep up with pop culture because no one expects me to be hip anymore
* Lots of other awesome people are thirty like Jessica Biel and Brittany Spears (and the fact that I just referenced those two chicks really makes me sound old. . .)
*All my favorite songs are playing on the radio again--they just happen to be during the retrospective hours
*Fashion trends from my childhood are back. As soon as people start pegging their jeans and wearing multiple layers of sock again, I will be psyched.
* I actually know how to cook.
* I have read enough great books to enable me to find more of them
* I can eat chocolate for lunch and--as long as my kids don't see me--it absolutely doesn't matter!

And that, my friends, is true freedom.