Category Archives: stress

Hello, world!

Hello, world!

….If anyone is still out there.

It’s been a busy, exciting, and sometimes stressful few month behind this blog. I’ve been taking an unintended, but much-needed break, and once I got into the non-momentum of not-posting, no post seemed worthy of being the first post…of the new year. After a 2….3….4….month hiatus. Or what-have-you.

But I miss the blog (I don’t miss the columns, as I never quit them, of course) and the only way to pick up again is to just do it, eh? So here we go–easing back in with some good advice from Carolyn’s chat today. She’s stated this philosophy in various forms many times, and I think it’s important, so for today will just share it with you:

You know, it’s okay to choose not to do something just because you don’t feel like it. I don’t advise making a habit of choosing this option, but if you’ve baked for the last three bake sales, for example, it’s okay to say you’re sorry, this isn’t a good time, and you’ll be happy to make something next time. And your unspoken definition of “isn’t a good time” could really, justifiably, be that you’ve been looking forward all week to sitting on your butt and watching a movie.

I see getting comfortable with the word “no” as a multi-step process, especially if you’re starting from a point where there’s a sense of personal risk attached to every “no”–as if everyone will hate you or think ill of you for letting them down. The first step is paying attention to when your feelings turn resentful–that’s the advice you’re referring to, I assume–and recognizing that’s your body’s way of telling you that you’re giving to the point of giving yourself away. Accordingly, you start to step back gently from there.

Once you get comfortable with that process, I think you’ll start to make out patterns–of things you like to give and don’t, of people you like to give to and don’t, or situations when it’s okay to extend yourself and when it isn’t. The second step is to put those patterns together: You’ll see the beginnings of an outline of who you are. You’ll see which are your healthy relationships, which are your passions, which are your vulnerabilities, and what just drains the life out of you. Seeing these clearly will help you say “yes” and “no” to things based on anticipation of how you’ll feel, instead of just reacting to how you feel in the moment. That means you’ll be able to make plans–and decline them–with a growing sense of confidence.

Sometimes you’ll mess up, sure, and overextend yourself here or blow off a worthy cause there. But even those aren’t the end of the world, they’re just life.  One lazy /selfish/entitled decision does not a lazy /selfish/entitled person make. That’s step three, fine-tuning your ability to recognize when to offer help and when to look at the ceiling and whistle and hope nobody spots you. As long as you’re at peace with the cumulative result, you’re fine.

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bad flashbacks

….also from the CHLC:

Washington, DC: Hi Carolyn, I find myself feeling increasingly angry lately. I find myself resenting my co-workers for asking stupid/seemingly simple questions and acting like they can’t something small done without panicking. I find myself wanting to hide from the world. I find myself resenting my roommate. I find myself annoyed with my parents, and ready to snap at my close friends for almost no reason. I find myself worrying about things that are out of my control. Rationally, I know there is nothing I can do, but I still let the emotional side take over and worry me a lot. I haven’t been sleeping well. I feel this urge just to snap/scream at someone. I’m tired of getting attitude from people. I’m tired of having to worry about what I say to people and how it will come off to them. I’m tired of having to be diplomatic. I’m tired of worrying in general. What is wrong with me?

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Feminism: Not a get-out-of-planning free card.

Disclaimer: this post is just barely within the scope of this blog.  Namely, it features no advice columns whatsoever.  But it has to do with etiquette, social norms, and wedding planning so….close enough. Here we go….

Earlier this week, I stumbled across the blog Bitch Ph.D. totally by accident…a friend posted a link to a post there…I’d never read it before, so stuck around for a bit, reading samples, when I happened upon this post, Feminist Weddingblogging Update.

The post is a 5-month check in from the blogger to her readers, updating them on her wedding plans (or lack thereof).  Key quotes include:

I know you guys are like, freaking out, right? Okay, you’re not. I’m getting married in about 5 months now. Am I FREAKING OUT?!?!

No.

Since then, things are moving along swimmingly, with me doing shockingly little. I was worried that everything everyone said would turn out to be true, and I would be FREAKING OUT. And OHMYGOD is everything going to be perfect for MY?! SPECIAL?! DAY?!

I actually would kind of love to not decorate at all but if I don’t someone else will and I hate things that are cheesy. Which is, anything involving flowers, anything “romantic”, and basically anything thought up by someone who is not me. Of course, I may just end up not caring and not doing anything.

There will be three live bands. There will be a smorgasbord of food from local restaurants. I will not have to do anything on either of these fronts, which is awesome. I hope that no one will ask me about place settings. Because I hope people use paper plates. I want it to be that kind of shindig.

I think my dude’s sister has volunteered to make cake. But there might end up being a ton of people who show up so maybe that would be too much cake for one non-pro to handle. I plan to leave cake ministrations to others

Here are the things I care about: I want my family to be happy and comfortable. I want everyone I love dearly to be there. I want to not develop any strong opinions about things that don’t matter, because that will make me lose my mind

And I like well-done photography. I like it a lot. But at the same time, it seems like people just end up living for the photos. Like you have to lose weight have the perfect dress get the perfect accessories decorate it just right have your hair done makeup done have a photo session on the beach….FOR THE PHOTOS.

There are several things that strike me about this post.  I’ll start with where I can get behind her: the photos.  I totally agree that photography, which is supposed to be capturing the day, often becomes the event itself.  That drives me nuts, and it’s something I strove to avoid at our wedding (and hey, guess what, we had great pictures anyway!) So I’m with her here.

But….that’s about it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a simple wedding.  Our wedding was big, but many aspects of it were pre-packaged…I didn’t think too hard or face many difficult decisions about food, booze, music, decorations, etc.  It was largely out of the box (although a pretty kick-ass box, if I do say so myself).  So my criticism is not because I think she should be obsessing more about a “dream wedding.”  Want a backyard party with burgers and paper plates?  Awesome.  Go for it.  Don’t want the hassle of hosting hundreds?  Great–have a private ceremony and go out for a special dinner with your parents and 2 best friends.

But…that’s not what she’s doing.  It only FEELS like that’s what she’s doing to her, because everyone else is doing all the work.  Three live bands?  Catering from multiple local restaurants?  Her SIL making cake for an unknown multitude?  This wedding sounds like a blast.  It does not, however, sound like a simple affair.

The crux of what really bothers me here is that the blogger criticizes, or at least pokes fun at, others who would put time and effort into planning their wedding–probably the biggest party they’ll ever throw.  What she doesn’t seem to realize is that her own wedding doesn’t actually require any less time or effort….she’s just letting other people pick up the slack.

Now, some people really, truly don’t care about any of this stuff, and their moms and sisters do, and are happy and excited to do all the planning.  If that’s the case here, fine.  But she has already sayid that, aesthetically speaking, she hates  “basically anything thought up by someone who is not me.” You can pawn off all of the planning on loved ones–and let them do what they want–or you can be involved and work on things yourself.  But you can’t insist you don’t care and don’t want to do anything while holding the threat of “but I’ll hate whatever you come up with” over your family members’ heads.

I can totally get behind her claim that the only thing she cares about is having everyone she loves there, and that they’re all happy and comfortable and have a good time.  That is what it should be about.  But she seems totally naive about the fact that this takes a lot. of. damn. work.  Really.  I didn’t care so much about cake, place settings, bridesmaid dresses, etc.  I wanted to focus on making my family and friends happy and comfortable–and I think we succeeded.  But getting there was incredibly stressful and exhausting–and our family is pretty nice, as families go!  It turns out that making other people happy, and helping them feel at ease, is way more difficult than picking out napkins.  It’s also way more worthwhile than picking out napkins.  But it’s not easy.

I’m not sure how she thinks everyone’s going to magically show up and have a good time, if she can’t be bothered to book a hotel for them to stay at, or be sure there will be enough food for them to eat.

And what I really, really don’t get is how any of this has anything to do with feminism.  This is a “feminist wedding” because….she doesn’t care about place settings?  (Let me emphasize…I think it’s GOOD to not obsess about place settings.  I just don’t think it has anything to do with feminism).  Or is this a “feminist wedding” because she doesn’t care where her nearest and dearest sit, eat, or stay, when they’ve traveled hundreds of miles bearing gifts and good wishes?

It’s great that she’s trying to stay grounded, and not get wrapped up in the insanity that can truly turn your brain to mush if you let it.  But there’s still a major event to be planned.  Maybe she should just think of it as a family reunion instead of a wedding, if that will help her focus on the important things…like reuniting the family.  But there’s still plenty of work to be done, and when the hostess/guest of honor totally checks out of that work claiming she’s too feminist to be bothered, well…I can’t help but roll my eyes.

Moms in Misery?

I hope that someday I’ll have a family of my own and be a good mom. In the meantime, Carolyn makes me feel both more and less freaked out by the whole idea:

Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Hi, Carolyn:
The March 15 column about “Maryland,” the miserable mom of an 8-month-old, makes me wonder: Is that the reality of parenting? Are all mothers sworn to secrecy that it actually sucks, and this whole “I’ve never been so exhausted OR happy in my life” position is just a facade? I’ve always wanted kids and feel like I have maternal instincts, but I’ve also always had this deep-seated fear I would be one of “those” mothers who secretly hated it. Tell me the truth — what is it really like? Is there a way to know how you’ll respond?
Washington

It’s a much longer story than I can cover here, so I’ll aim for the highlights.
Newborns aren’t all bubbles and bliss. Babies are hard work in the sense that they’re relentless. They can’t get their own food, they can’t keep themselves clean, they can’t tell you they’re hungry or hurting or sad. All they have is flailing and crying, at least in the beginning. And so you have this flailing, crying thing with you 24-7, who can’t even smile yet for the early months, and the buck stops with you.

Now, some people have an easier time with this than others, and just about every variable comes to bear on how easy or difficult it is. The parents’ health and temperament factor in. The quality of their relationship factors in. Their ties to community factor in (family, friends, neighbors, access to hired help). Their expectations are a huge factor.
Possibly the most influential factor (that I think gets overlooked) is the difficulty of the baby. Some babies fuss less than others, sleep more, nurse better, digest food better, have more fully developed nervous systems than others, you name it.

If you’re a parent of a fusser/crier, and your only exposure to babies has been to the even-tempered ones, then you’re going to second-guess yourself, hate your child, hate your mate for getting you into this mess, and hate everybody who offers opinions on what you can do to get your baby to stop crying. Exaggerating, maybe, but in some cases it’s just this bad.
The saving grace in these situations can be even one key person who can help you see that it’s not you, you’re not crazy, it will pass, and there are things you can do.
It’s quite possible that “Maryland,” of the past column, just needs that friend who can provide some perspective. Or, the baby could have health problems (reflux, autism — there are a bunch of known culprits, from common to rare). Or, Maryland’s baby is just fine and Maryland needs sleep, better nutrition, counseling and whatever other treatment for postpartum depression is indicated. In any of these cases, a respite caregiver can be a lifesaver.

Finally, some of “those” parents just aren’t baby people/toddler people/tween people/teenager people. In other words, typical parents have ages they like better than others. The ones who aren’t baby people can get a real scare, since their bad phase comes first, when they don’t have proof that they can be happy and good at this. In so many cases, it’s a matter of hanging in until the phase passes — and the phases do pass quickly, as does childhood itself.