Pauvre De Moi

I’m not so good with handling The Stress.

Seriously, is anyone good at absorbing 50 things that are happening all at once with increasing degrees of involvement required from them?  Without pharmaceutical assistance?  And I’m not talking about catastrophic Oklahoma Tornado kind of stuff.  I’m talking about normal life stuff, that ebbs and flows and usually you can just handle it because not all of it flows in at the same time.

In the past month, I’ve felt like the tide’s coming in, and it’s just kept coming.  And coming.  And holy crap still coming.  And usually it’s just “Eh, lots going on, it will slow down” but this time I couldn’t get a grip (HA!) on the “it will slow down” part.  I didn’t really let on that I was on edge about everything.  I figured that the old adage of “fake it till you make it” would apply and shit would just work itself out as it so often does.

So what did I do?  Well, I drank all the wine and ate all the carbs.  And that has helped me feel IMMENSELY more in control, because now everything that was freaking me out has paled in comparison to the fact that now I can’t fit into my pants.

This weekend, this Wine and Carbs Method of Handling It finally expired, and my stress manifested in a glorious eruption of hives and acne.  I saw my dermatologist today, because all things can be fixed with ointment.  He looked at me and said “Tell me about this stress…”

I’m so unusual, I know, with my Many Major Obligations.  I work full time!  I have a child!  My husband is also busy!  My relatives drive me nuts!  Yeah, I’m the only one sitting at that table, I know. I do have pharmaceutical assistance, and I’ll be the first to laud the merits of getting a little help in that manner.   I’m explaining this to my dermatologist and I just feel like an idiot, because you’d think by now at my age, I could handle my Suburban White Lady problems.

I now have some prescriptions (ointment! yay!) and a confirmation of something that I already knew, that perhaps Talking To Someone About It might help.  Oh lord.  Really?  Ugh.  I’m not a big believer in therapy, because I have a BA in Psychology so obviously I already know all about what they’re going to tell me.

Also?  I’m going to pay someone to listen to me talk about stuff that I’ve been talking to people about for the past 25 years?  The same stuff?  Has that stuff not been talked about ubi omnes recessit vinum?  Why is talking to someone who isn’t part of the problem going to help?  I can’t imagine.

And also again?  Have I discussed how Very Busy I am?  Because I am.  I have responsibilities and obligations, and I spend my days talking to people and then at the end of the day I’m tired of talking.  Why on earth do I want to actively seek out more opportunities to talk?  I’m an introvert.  Talking, especially about myself, is just an effort.  Pauvre de moi.

There are a ton of reasons why Talking To Someone About It just seems like a bad bad bad idea.  These reasons are overshadowed by the good reasons, though.  I’m setting a horrible example for Boo.  Do I want her to go on Oprah when she’s 30 (there will always be Oprah, I believe) to talk about how the coping skills she learned as a child include wine, carbs, and just letting the laundry simmer in the dryer for a week (true story…).  Well that’s just embarrassing.  I can’t have her telling Oprah that.

I also cannot have my husband telling whoever’s hosting Divorce Court (maybe someone fabulously flawed, like Lindsay Lohan) that he cannot take another day of my sad yoga pants and overall indifference that is only interrupted by the aforementioned hives and acne.

My house is organized, and I am a total mess.  This is my deepest darkest secret, and I’m putting it on the internets, and intentionally sharing the link with people who know me.

Get A Grip is going to go through some changes, because I’ve got to get my shit handled before I can say another word about how anyone else should handle theirs.

An Embarrassment Of Movie Riches

Movies are our thing.  As a family and individually, if we’re home, we’re watching a flick.  On my first date with Mr. Incredible, we went out for lunch and then came back to my house and watched National Lampoon’s Vacation (true story!).  My paradise is a trip to the Sundance Film Festival with a few friends and a backpack full of foldover sandwiches and six movies back to back (this has happened, and it raised the standard for movie awesomeness).

We cancelled our cable almost a year ago, and in the interest of filling that void, we upped our internet speed and loaded our Roku Box with Netflix and Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime.  We also have a shelf full of the movies that we love and must own, as well as Boo’s other shelf of all of the Disneys.  We are loaded to the gills with movies.  It’s becoming a problem.

On any given Friday or Saturday afternoon, we’ll say “Hey tonight let’s watch a movie.”  Fantastic.  We put Boo to bed by 8:30 with high hopes to start a movie by 9.  And then we start clicking through the Netflix queue (184 titles as of this morning, after a 10% purge).  Then we move on to Hulu in case there’s something they’ve added that we don’t know about.  Then we go to Amazon Prime, in case there’s something they’ve added that we don’t know about.  We’ve likely added a dozen or so movies that garner an “oh that’s a good one but not for tonight” response along the way.

An hour later, we still haven’t picked a movie, and now we’re drowsy because we’ve spent an hour slackjawed doing basically nothing.  And we end up just turning the TV off.  There’s just too much from which to choose.  We are paralyzed by the sheer size of the available selection (poor us!).

One of the reasons we cancelled cable was that we spent so much time surfing past crap (there’s really too much to link to…) to end up on one of the dozen channels we always watched.  Truth be told, a year later, all I really miss is Food Network and Turner Classic Movies.  Mr Incredible misses the ESPN genre.  Boo doesn’t really care because she still gets all her same stuff, to the point where she has skewed my Netflix recommendations firmly into Children & Family.

So what do we do?  I mean, it’s totally a First World Problem, I know.  But it’s everywhere.  We shop at Costco, and while I love what they have, I hate how much of it you have to get.  There’s just so much.  It’s like we’ve forgotten what it’s like to have enough of something.  We were watching Mary Poppins (for the billionth time) (because it’s a movie and that’s what we do) and she says in her inimitable way, “Enough is as good as a feast”.

Enough is as good as a feast.  Whoa.  Mary Poppins, you just blew my mind.

I’ve talked about my love of “galore“.  In my world, galore is when you have enough to share.  A hundred thousand available movies is not galore.  A hundred thousand movies is overwhelming to the point where I just go get a book (or I download one to my just-acquired Kindle, which has opened up a whole new world of overwhelming…).  It never ends.  It’s not a feast.  It’s gluttony.

Even though everything that is available may not take up actual physical space in our home, it’s still clutter.  It’s a mess in my head, and that’s just as bad as a mess in my house.  Worse, in fact, because it’s not like you can just un-know something and get that brainspace back.

I’m not sure what my solution is for this one.  What’s your solution?  What do you do when there are just too many options?  Are you like me and you just check out?  Or do you pick something just for the sake of picking something and settle and it’s FINE.  This is probably not the last time I’ll write about this topic.  It’s ongoing for me.

Out of the (very very organized) closet.

I have previously alluded to the day I would inform my father (with whom I have a solid, albeit occasionally tricky) relationship about this whole Get A Grip thing.  That day? was Friday.

It needed to happen, because the next day we were all going to a party, and people would be there who knew about Get A Grip, and I could not run the risk of him finding out from someone besides me.  People were going to talk about it.  Lots of people know about it, but it was time for my father to know the truth about my life and how I was spending my time.

It was time to come out of the closet to my folks.

It started as most of our visits do.  “So,” my stepmom asked,  “What’s new?”  I took a deep breath and I told them that we needed to have a conversation about work.  Dad asked if I was having problems with work again?

“No, not again.  It’s ongoing.  It’s not going to get better, I don’t think.”  I went on to describe the environment, which isn’t a bad environment, necessarily, it’s just not the right place for me.  I’m not my true self at work, and the stress of it is causing problems in other areas of my life.  I’m not happy, and I deserve to be.  So a few months ago, I started exploring my options.  Experimenting, if you will, with alternatives to the mainstream life I was leading.  And I have discovered a new path that really is putting some joy back into my life.

It was my father’s worst-case scenario for my career choices.  One of his children wanting to leave the fold and be something else?  And leave a pension and benefits?  Our people don’t work for ourselves.  We are hard workers, yes, but we work for somebody. Not “clients”, and by the way, what sort of people will you be dealing with?  Who doesn’t know how to clean a house?  Who will hire you?  Your friends?  What happens when you run out of friends?  You might as well be a goddamn insurance salesman.

Le sigh.

Trying to explain internet marketing to my father is like….. trying to explain internet marketing to my father.  He is of the generation that still writes a check at the grocery store, and prefers to do business in person, face to face.  The internet is for email and tracking down classic cars and evidently people also put dirty pictures on it (such a funny story, the day my father became aware of this phenomenon), but to depend on it for your livelihood?  Does not compute (HA! Compute. That’s a joke, son.).

In the end, and as it stands now, he’s supportive of this new alternative lifestyle I’m trying to put together.  I’m pretty sure he thinks it’s just a phase, and I’ll grow out of it, but he’s on board.  He’s got my back unconditionally, as ever. He knows that I’m not going to do anything that puts our ability to keep a roof over our heads at risk. He wants me to be happy, and he knows that when I stand my ground on a big decision that I know he doesn’t like, I mean business.

This is me, out of my very organized closet, standing my ground.  I mean business.

What’s my motivation?

I think the hardest part about making a change is remaining positive about where you are while being excited about where you want to go.  This week has been a big one for Get A Grip, while I’m stoked to be taking big steps to make this happen, it’s so easy to get negative about my actual, income-providing job.  I do realize that I’m fortunate to even have a job at all, and it’s not a bad gig.  Not really.  I’ve been with the organization for over 10 years, and it has led me in some very surprising directions.  I’m grateful for all of the professional and personal opportunities that I’ve gotten from working there.  Hell, I was introduced to Mr. Incredible and some of our dearest friends because of a co-worker from my first assignment.  Working there has been an amazing foundation for the rest of my professional development.  Seriously.  Not even being a little sarcastic there.

But sometimes, it’s just time to go.  Regardless of how the last year has played out, I’ve reached the point where I’m ready to move on.  I could go on and on about how the environment has changed, and how the people in charge are doing it wrong blah blah blah.  But it’s no longer about them and their environment.  It’s about me and my environment.  My primary motivator is based upon the environment in which I want to be.

I’ve touched on this a couple of months ago and a couple of months before that.  My dream job revolves around being in charge of my own time. That’s where this began. I have always been more of a “work until the work is done and then figure out how you can go home” kinda girl.  And that’s not a popular approach to work in the modern office.  In the bigger picture, the work is never done.  There is always one more batch of forms to process.  So I get why the expectation of  8:00-on-the-dot until 5:00-on-the-dot is in place.  I honestly feel like I’m in a place where that expectation no longer needs to apply to me.  So much more of my life could happen during those hours.

The scariest thing about all of this is the realization that if this happens, it will be up to me to fill those hours.  Full disclosure:  I’ve developed some rather, um, lackadaisical work habits in the past year.  It would be easy to point fingers and say “It’s their fault!  Upheaval!  Half-assed training!  Scorn and disregard!” but I have to own this one.  I spent so much time being pissed off that I let it affect my own diligence.  I hate that.  I need to get back to how I was so long ago, when I didn’t take “mental health” days at least once a week and I had a good deal of pride in my work.  I had control over how I reacted to things at work, and I reacted poorly.

One of my most significant anxieties about this whole thing stems from when I think about the day I tell my dad that I’m going to quit my job.  It’s not going to happen anytime in the immediate future (unless we hit Megabucks and then SEE ya!) but when it does, I’ll be giving up a pretty good benefits package, including a pension.  I’m already vested, but if I could stay for 30 years (omg kill me….) I’d get a decent retirement.  My dad is of the opinion that the only way to win, and winning is important, is to outlast the sonsabitches.  I can’t do that.  I can’t be the wife and mother and friend and person that I need to be if I spend all my energy outlasting the sonsabitches. I don’t need his permission to proceed, but things are a lot easier when he doesn’t make that Dad Face that means he’s puckering up to give some advice (not telling me what to do just advice and suggestions so don’t take it like he’s being bossy he’s just trying to help) every time I see him.

Dammit, I just want to enjoy my time.  I want to be able to incorporate new choices into my life, and it’s hard to do that right now.  The environment I create for myself and my family needs to be one that works for all of us.  It’s like any other system or process that I have (and I have so damn many…) in that it needs to flow in such a manner that it doesn’t get in the way of what we want to do.

Does that make sense?

Unexpected Peacefulness

Sometimes it’s just hard for me to relax.  Isn’t that weird?  It’s frustrating.  I feel like this guy sometimes.

That’s some very intense thinking going on right there.  If you look closely, really study him, all you see is tension.  He’s not sitting comfortably.  He’s not chillaxing there on his plinth.  Every muscle is tight.  His brow is furrowed.  Even the way he’s sitting is not how you sit when you’re just hanging out.  He’s twisted so that his right elbow is on his left leg.  His center of gravity is off-center, if that makes sense.  Rodin made him that way on purpose, I once learned.  He’s dwelling on something significant, and there’s effort in that.

Once, I was getting a massage at one of those fancy-schmancy places, the lady said “You don’t relax, do you?”  Ouch.  No, Helga, I don’t.  I dwell like Mr Thinker up there, and I get all bent out of shape, literally, because of the things I don’t let go of.  Most nights, before I can go to sleep, I work hard at relaxing starting at my head and working my way down to my toes.  Sometimes I have to do it more than once.

I’ve started seeking out sources of restfulness.  It’s funny, but when you’re looking for it, you find it.  One of my friends on Facebook bakes these lovely cookies as a home business and someone emailed her and said that she must be a patient and loving soul to make such peaceful cookies.  Isn’t that nice?  Peaceful cookies. And they totally are peaceful cookies (I’d post a link, but I think she’s taking a break…).  I love the idea of seeing a quality of peace in something so ordinary like a cookie.

One night on my way to pick up Boo from daycare, I saw this:

Everybody stopped to look at it.  People were pulled over to the side of the road, taking in the wonder of this sunset.  Strangers took a moment to look at each other and say, Do you see this?  Do you see this amazing thing that’s happening in the sky?  It’s so beautiful!  Yes it is.

And it was.  It lasted about 10 minutes, and people are still talking about that one night with the amazing sunset a couple of months ago.  For an entire city filled with jaded souls like this place often seems to be (have I ever mentioned that I’m in Las Vegas? yeah, born and raised.) we were moved by this moment of unexpected peacefulness.

(As I write this, I’m laughing, reminded of the Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror episode where Homer is lured by the smell of Unexplained Bacon.  It’s kind of the same thing, isn’t it?  🙂 //end tangent)

Every night before we shut off the last lights (and before I go through my Relaxation Workout) I go into Boo’s room to tuck her in.  She usually falls over asleep mid-action, and tucking her in generally involves flipping her over, pulling blankets out from around her legs, unraveling her from her last adventure of the day.  I set her to rights, smooth the blankets over her, and then I watch her snuggle into this new space and relax into the coolness of the pillow.  I carry that moment with me to bed, and when I feel the other stuff creeping in the next day, I go back to it.

In with the good, out with the bad.

Everyone Has A Grip But You

Doesn’t it just feel that way sometimes?  Your colleagues, your family, your friends, they just seem to be the center of it all.  Sometimes it even feels like it’s at your expense; your priorities take a back seat because of circumstances beyond your control.  And it happens.  We have obligations outside of our own little universes that take over.  We don’t live in a vacuum, and as nice as it would be to be able to say, “You need to drop everything and work your situation out on your own, because I’m quite occupied with getting my grip,” the world just doesn’t work that way.  As much as you need help from other people, they need help from you.  Our friends go through transitions that drastically affect them, and in turn there is an impact on us as well.

That said, there comes a time when it’s necessary to step away from Other People’s Drama (oh, that’s not nice, is it….) Priorities and re-center around your own.  Sometimes, you may choose to rearrange yours to make room for theirs for a time, and that’s valid.  There are certainly situations where Of Course I Will Drop Everything! is the only right answer.  Take the occasional inventory of how many Drop Everything situations you’re dealing with.  Everything simply cannot be the top priority.

It’s hard to say no when someone asks for help.  Maybe because we know it’s so hard to ask for help.  I’m not talking about committees at work, or that person who regularly drags your attention and energy to what is important only to them (oh, right now you’re picturing that person, aren’t you?  yes you are.  it’s OK.).  These people?  File them under “To Be Let Go”.  The ones who genuinely need you, when you make room in your priorities for them, that’s getting a grip on what really matters.