Have You Found Your Thing?

When Sunshine was less than a year old, a coworker stopped me in the hallway to comment on how quickly I had lost weight.

“I cannot believe how good you look for having an infant. I never looked that good again after having kids. But look at you!”

“Thanks,” I said. “I’ve been running again.”

She said, and I will never forget this comment, “I just don’t see how you can do it. You’re away from her all day. Don’t you think you should be spending that time with her instead?”

She had taken off from work when her children were little, she said. You cannot get that time back with them, she said. Maybe you should reconsider, she said. You have your whole life to get fit again, she said.

But for me, running is not just about fitness.

I was never fit growing up. I was the pudgy one of my parents’ older children. I was not athletic. I wore the same sizes as my older sister until we hit puberty, and then, I was a size or two larger. I did not enjoy sweating or being outside or sunshine. I was a homebody through and through.  In undergrad, I put on the freshman twenty-five without any issues. I loved food and sitting around watching reruns while I drank a Coke and ate salt and vinegar potato chips or graham crackers smothered in gobs of creamy Jif.

There was no shame in my emotional eating game.

I did not become active until sophomore year. I had a horrendous roommate, and the rec center on campus gave me somewhere to go. I worked out and discovered cottage cheese and egg white omelets and portion control.

Saint Daddy and I did not see each other for six weeks that spring because of how our spring breaks lined up and he did not have a car and I could not drive. He called me one afternoon, wanting to see my new room after I had finally convinced res life to let me move out of that situation, and when he walked into my room with a cherry gelati from Rita’s in his hand and his roommate trailing behind him, he thought I had given up eating altogether.

I did not. I was eating well and working out. Food was still delicious, but it was more fresh fruit than processed carbs.

My fitness level fluctuated a lot over the next few years.

I took up running about a year after Saint Daddy and I got married. My doctor prescribed me an antidepressant and told me that I should limit my caffeine intake and take up exercise and see if the combination of the three helped curtail my daily panic attacks. He said, “The trick with exercise is to find something that works for you. That something is not what works for everyone. But you have to find your thing and love it. Then it’ll become part of your life.”

One day, I had off from work and Saint Daddy did not. I put on my sneakers, a pair of New Balance that my dad had gotten me during a BOGO event four years before that day, and walked to the park near our home. I ran two laps on the path around the park, and I went home.

Two days later, I did it again. But I did it faster. Without even trying. I thought, “I wonder how fast I could do that…” Two days later, I did it as fast as I could. I impressed myself. I did not know how far I had run, but I knew I had run.

Shortly thereafter, I looked up a Couch to 5K program, and set out to impress myself some more.

I did give up caffeine. I have been caffeine free since 2010, no easy feat for a full-time working mom with multiples. If I have more caffeine than the amount in a small cup of decaf coffee, I suffer from heart palpitations, chest pains, and nausea. Another doctor said it is an intolerance. Sometimes, I call it an allergy because people understand that term better.

And I ran.

I have been running since 2010. I am pretty good at it. I cannot run very fast. I cannot run very far. But I run with heart. That is what makes me good at it. I am a runner. The kind of runner that gets irritated by the term “jogger.”  I have been properly fitted. I have opinions on running brands. I actually use the treadmill in my basement. I rarely miss a run.

When Sunshine was born in 2013, I went back to running.

It was not only to get my body back. It was to get myself back.

When I run, my only competition is the person I thought I was. The person I thought I was did not run at all or could only run for a quarter of a mile at a time or could not run better than a twelve minute mile or did not have the endurance for a 5K. She certainly could not run a half marathon.

But I am not the person that I thought I was.

And running has helped my mental health immensely. Because I am constantly beating that person that I thought I was, I know that I am strong and capable.

Is it perfect? No. I run three times a week. I used to run four times a week. But I still have panic attacks. I still wake up in the middle of the night with racing thoughts. We still sit on the aisle at the theater. I still hate driving. Running does not cure my anxiety.

But it helps me to remember that I am the one in control of it.

I often think about that conversation with my former coworker. I have since switched jobs. I have moved on. I will likely never see her again. We are not friends on any social media platforms.

But I think of her. I think of what she represents.

This is my love letter mommas everywhere.

Find your thing.

Run or dance or draw or take bubble baths or go out for a drink with your friends.

Find your thing that helps you feel like a person. Find your thing that allows you to feel strong and capable and brilliant. Find your thing that helps you to see the good in yourself and in the world.

No one asks Saint Daddy how he can stand to be away from our children for an hour or two each week so that he can go to the gym. No one wonders how he manages to stay in shape or read or write or tutor or sleep or eat.

Mommas of the world are not required to explain to anyone why they need time for themselves.

That coworker was right. Sunshine was only a baby for a little bit. She is very much a kid now. But giving up my thirty minutes of sanity three times a week was not going to slow down that time. It was also not going to make me a better mother.

I believed then, and I believe now, that I am a better mother because I know what my thing is. I am more present when I am with my children than I would be otherwise. I feel happier because I have taken care of me. Running is how I take care of me.

Never let naysayers tell you that you should not have something for yourself just because you have babies. You do not deserve that guilt or that anxiety.

And for me, comments like that do fuel my anxiety. Now, I can look back and see that giant grain of salt. But in the moment, with my infant at home and me missing her dreadfully all day, I allowed that thought to consume me. It was unfair of her to make something simple into something so sinister. Saint Daddy understood. I understood. Sunshine was thriving. That was all that mattered.

And, mommas and daddies, taking that time for you does not make you any less of a loving parent. If anything, it makes you that much more capable of being exactly what your children need.

Have you found your thing?

It Is All Sunshine’s Fault

Almost every mother I know will tell you that her first child was an angel. Her first child lulled her into complacency. Her first child somehow convinced her that parenting was easy. She could do anything. Her first child did not yell or climb or throw things.

There are exceptions, of course. My best friend’s first was difficult from birth. She has had plenty of rough moments with him.

But, for the most part, moms agree that baby number one was a breeze.

That is certainly the case here.

Sunshine arrived on the scene two weeks late after a rather uneventful pregnancy. She cried at night if she was not in her swing for the first six weeks, but once she overcame that six week growth spurt, she slept on her back in Saint Daddy’s grandmother’s cradle next to my side of the bed. I could easily reach her there for her middle of the night nursing sessions, which we were both pros at by six weeks. She nursed once or twice a night, and I placed her fresh diapered and full bellied into her cradle where she slept happily until her tummy told her it was time for more noms.

At three months old, I transferred her to her crib in the nursery, which adjoined our room. I expected a fight, but she accepted it beautifully. She hit all of her milestones at a delightfully average rate that caused me not even the slightest concern. She grew on her growth curve; she took to solids right at six months. I did not think too hard. It seemed natural and fitting and completely intuitive.

She did not require baby proofing. She was not a climber. Sunshine did not put random things in her mouth. We put a baby gate up to keep her in the living room and made sure she could not pull items out of the entertainment center, which would cause us more work. But she was not destructive. She did not like messes.

Sunshine was pure bliss.

I told people that Sunshine most assuredly was not completely human. She was too easy, too good-natured, too smart to be completely of this world. At least half of her was alien. It was the only explanation.

In deciding to have a second baby, Saint Daddy and I knew that we were pressing our luck. It seemed unlikely that our second child would be as calm as Sunshine. We referred to this hypothetical child as Sunshine’s Little Brother or even, sometimes, by the name we would eventually bestow upon Sleepy. We knew that Little Brother or Sleepy would rock our world.

When people would ask me if we planned a second child (a question I will always loathe), I would tell them that we were trying to decide if it was worth tempting fate. There was no way we could possibly get two little aliens, nature and nurture be damned.

But of course, I always knew that, if I was having one child, I would be having two. It is not that I see anything wrong with only children, but being raised with so many siblings, I knew that I wanted my children to always have each other in the way that I always have my siblings. We would press our luck. We would see what happened. We would try anyway.

And we did.

But then there were two flickering heartbeats inside two little seahorses.

We never would have had three children. No matter what, at the end of that second pregnancy, one of us was getting “fixed.” That was the agreement. But God wanted Saint Daddy and I to have three babies. That is why he sent us twins. We would not have had a third otherwise. He knew it.

Ideally, as Saint Daddy said, exactly one of them would be a boy. But if he had to choose two of the same sex, he wanted two girls. Saint Daddy makes such a wonderful little girl daddy. Worst case scenario, we would have two boys on our hands. Worst case.

And then, we did.

Our sons were nothing like Sunshine from the first day. We struggled in the hospital with nursing. Sleepy was too sleepy to care about eating. Grumpy was a gassy baby and needed extra care. They woke frequently and at random intervals. Saint Daddy and I separately considered running away. It was a very difficult time for us.

I turned to pumping, which strained us further at the beginning. I spent hours of each day with my breast pump. Saint Daddy took on a lot of the burden.

Then they needed solids earlier than I would have liked. Grumpy reacted poorly to foods, but I could not figure out which ones. Our world was a blur and time was meaningless, and it took too long to figure out. They did not sit up until almost the age that Sunshine was when she started to crawl. They crawled quickly enough after that, but they did not walk until much later than she did, late enough that the doctor began to worry me about it.

Their language development is right on target. But one thing the pediatrician does not measure is their capacity for destruction. Sunshine ripped exactly one book in her first two years of life. Grumpy and Sleepy destroyed two books this week. And by destroyed, I do not mean ripped a page. I mean that they bent them open and stomped on them until their spines cracked and their pages fell out.

They rip apart toys. They throw. They break. They slammed a toy into the television, destroying pixels in the lower left hand corner. Grumpy has been to the hospital for stitches. Sleepy terrorizes the dog.

They are watched, but they are sneaky and unstoppable sometimes.

My best friend often tells me that Sunshine did not prepare us for human children. Nope.

Sunshine might be part alien, but our sons are one hundred percent human.

They are destruction and danger and tears.

Sometimes, I feel incapable of knowing what they need or what they will do next. I love them and hug them and try to teach them, but I know that I have my work cut out for me. Sunshine gave me such a beautiful feeling of complacency. Nothing could get me down when I was only Sunshine’s mother.

But Grumpy and Sleepy are why we cannot have nice things. They are the reason that my China cabinet’s drawers are on the dining room table and why Saint Daddy had to put a lock on the sliding door that leads to his office. They are the reason why we own giant gates and hid our movie collection. Grumpy and Sleepy are why Sunshine’s crayons, which she draws with nearly daily, are put away in another room so they cannot eat them or break them or, now that they have the dexterity with which to do so, color on my walls with them. They are why I do not sit comfortably on my couch in the evenings so as not to tempt them to higher heights.

Right now, Sleepy and Grumpy are throwing toy cars at each other’s heads in the living room. I have already learned that there is not anything worth doing about it. One of them may get hurt, and I will comfort him if he does. But I will also say, “Maybe you will learn not to participate in those sorts of shenanigans in the future.”

Then again, what do I know? I thought parenting would be a breeze.

And it is all Sunshine’s fault.

I Will Get There

I had twin boys eighteen months ago. Sleepy and Grumpy are wonderful little terrors, constantly working to destroy our home and bring joy into our hearts.

During my pregnancy with Sleepy and Grumpy, I gave up on all forms of exercise. My high risk doctor told me to stop running at the end of my first trimester. At twenty weeks, he told me to stop lifting anything over ten pounds, including Sunshine. By twenty-four weeks, I weighed more than I did at forty-two weeks with Sunshine and most yoga poses were nearly impossible.

By the end of my thirty-eight week pregnancy with my sons, I had put on sixty-two pounds.

That is eight pounds more than the recommended amount for a twin pregnancy, but I was not concerned. My doctors were not either.

While pregnant with Sunshine, I ran 2-3 miles three days a week until my thirty-sixth week. I delivered six weeks later. I had gained thirty-five pounds, the upper limit of the recommendation.

I lost all but five of those pounds before returning to work at twelve weeks post partum. I returned to running at six weeks postpartum. I kept those extra five pounds until I stopped nursing Sunshine at eighteen months old, even during half marathon training. Then, they melted right off of me.

With Grumpy and Sleepy, my C-section meant not returning to running until ten weeks after delivery. Because I was so completely out of shape and thoroughly exhausted by newborn twins, it was slow and horrible.

When the boys were four months old, they entered the four month sleep regression. I lost sleep and precious ounces in milk output. I started eating my feelings and I stopped running. I needed to consume a minimum of 2500 calories and drink a gallon of water each day to maintain my supply.

I lost fifteen pounds between two and four months, and I gained every ounce of that back between four and six months as I ate more and exercised not at all.

I have been running again for ten months. Seven months ago, I cut my calorie intake back down to my pre-pregnancy levels.

I reached my goal weight three months ago.

But I am not happy with my body.

It will never be the same.

After Sunshine, I lost the weight and my body was only a little worse for the wear.

Now I am soft and doughy. There is extra skin that droops. I look like someone who lost weight too quickly and her skin did not get the memo until it was too late.

Which makes sense because I did and it did not.

It is demoralizing.

Because I am not happy with my body, I am having a hard time focusing on my fitness goals.

In my mind, I should be able to easily run six miles at this point. The boys are eighteen months old. Six miles is no big deal. I have done it countless times before. And I have done it a handful of times since the boys were born.

But I keep accepting excuses.

I often quote Wedding Crashers, saying, “No excuses. Play like a champion.”

But I am not playing like a champion.

I have a great long run. Hitting my six mile goal. I feel awesome. I know I can do it. I am proud of myself.

But the next weekend, it does not go nearly as well. And the following weekend, I convince myself that four miles is enough. That it is okay. I am still working on my comeback.

It is not until afterwards, when I am home again, that I realize that four miles is not enough. I could be better. I could do better.

The thing is, what sucks the most is that, no matter how hard I work or push or try, I am probably still going to be soft and doughy. I hit my goal weight and I do not look anything like what I think I should.

This is not a cry for compliments. I know I look good. About six months ago, people stopped adding “for having twins” to their comments about how good I look. I just look good.

But I do not feel good.

I am not happy with my body.

It is not just the running. I am not strength training because I do not feel strong. I am not eating well because I do not feel like it even matters at this point.

I have become incredibly cynical about my body, and it is being a twin mom that did that to me.

Now, while I have said before that there are experiences that are unique to being a MoM that non-MoMs cannot appreciate, this is not one of those things. I believe there are millions of moms who feel this disconnect with their own bodies. Women who love their bodies because of the babies that they brought into this world but hate them for what they look like afterwards.

For me, though, I believe I feel this way expressly because I am a MoM. Carrying Sunshine did not make me feel so uncomfortable in my own skin. My stretch marks never made me feel uncomfortable. I still only own bikinis. But I am afraid that I will never truly feel comfortable in one again.

For me, my journey to accepting my body has been rife with highs and lows. I first started questioning its value when I was very young.

My skin is pale. Very pale. It makes getting blood work easier because my blue veins stand out against my white skin. I am paler than all of my siblings. They pointed out my Irish skin frequently. How I burned and they tanned. How I needed my own beach umbrella.

I was always chubbier than my next older sister. She was athletic from a young age. I was not. And my mother pointed it out to me on more than a few occasions. Grandma took me to her TOPS meetings where she weighed in and women sat in a circle and discussed how disappointed they were with their bodies.

Dislike of our bodies is ingrained in the minds of young girls so thoroughly, and I was no exception.

I did not buy my first bikini until I was in my mid-twenties. I was “too fat” before that.

But I had taken up running to combat my anxiety at my doctor’s suggestion (exercise, he said, may help if medication was not something I wanted to stick with). And running did something for me that nothing else could have done.

Running showed me that my body was capable of amazing things. My body could run miles. My body could go farther than I could have ever imagined. My body is wonderful. It is spectacular.

I was proud of it.

I remained proud of it until about a year ago. It brought me three children. Two at once.

But then I was thoroughly post-partum, and it feels less mine than the one I used to have. I feel less capable and less amazing.

I want to love my body again. Sometimes, I am afraid that I never will.

I keep trying to.

One day, I will to write a love letter to my body. One day, this will merely be evidence of where we once were.

Today, though, I am feeling that disconnect from what I see and what I am. From what I did and what I can do.

I hope that I can find my pride again. No, I know that I will.

For any mommas reading this post who understand, I see you. Your body is amazing, but I know that it can be hard to see that when you spent so much time sharing it with other people. You will get there.

I will get there.

The Case of the Missing Library Book

I hate feeling like a nuisance.

My brain regularly tells me that I am a nuisance to people, and I go out of my way to not actually be one.

Yesterday, I had to be a nuisance.

Sunshine is doing really well at school. She loves going and she is learning so much already. She has been able to identify letters for a couple of years, but her ability to recognize letter sounds has exploded in the last month. Her teacher is going awesome things with her already.

She is a little overwhelmed by the long days. Sunshine’s only experience outside of our home were 2.5 hour days of preschool, three days a week, the year she was three. We allowed her a mental health day on Friday to reset and recharge. Kids need mental health days too.

But Sunshine has been flustered by one thing. She has not been permitted to take out a library book since the very first day that they visited the library.

Sunshine was really excited about library class. I took her to the public library for the first time when she was barely three and it became a regular event for us that summer.

When she climbed into her carseat at the end of that school day, she told me all about library. They got a tour, she picked a book, and she brought it home.

“I picked the Grinch, but they must’ve known I already have it, so they gave me a cat book instead. I like cats too.”

That’s wonderful, baby. You love cats! And you don’t need the Grinch book. We already have it.

That night, I read her library book with her. In it, a cat named Chester goes to the library and learns how to properly care for the books. I found it an apt choice for her first book from her school’s library.

After reading the book, I told Sunshine to put it in her backpack so that it was ready for the next day she had library class.

I saw that book in her bag every morning when I put her lunch into it and every afternoon when I checked her take-home folder. That was the case until library day rolled around again.

Then the book disappeared, but Sunshine did not have a new book.

Didn’t you want a new book today?

“They wouldn’t let me get a new book because I didn’t bring back my first one. It must’ve been lost.”

Did you take it out of your backpack sometime today?

“I gave it to the aide. She must’ve lost it. I couldn’t get a book.”

Sunshine’s disappointment was evident. She loves books. She loves libraries. And I know she could not have loved watching her new friends select books when she could not.

I told her that I was sure it would be figured out before next library day. Maybe the aide set it in the wrong pile. She had plenty of books at home.

I try to project a calm outlook about these sorts of things. I do not want to overreact, especially in front of Sunshine or her brothers.

It’ll be fine, baby. They’ll figure it out.

But on the next library day, Sunshine still did not come home with a book. This is when I talked to Saint Daddy about it.

It doesn’t make any sense, I said. She carried that book back and forth to school for two weeks. What do they mean that she never returned it?

“I’ll email her teacher.”

Here is where my nuisance idea comes in. Teachers are busy. I know how busy they are. They have hundreds of things to deal with every day. They make countless decisions. They are responsible for so much every single moment of their day. There is so much to think about. Their jobs are difficult.

The last thing I would want to do is give Sunshine’s teacher one more thing to think about.

But on the same token, Sunshine did return her book. She did not deserve to be punished for not doing so.

Thank you.

Sunshine’s teacher said that she had borrowed How the Grinch Stole Christmas and never returned it.

I picked Sunshine up from school a few days later, and her teacher met me in the office to discuss the case of the missing library book.

I told her that Sunshine had mentioned thinking she had borrowed “the Grinch,” but that the school must have known she already owned it and sent her home with another book instead. She did not bring home “the Grinch.”

Her teacher offered to email all of the parents to see if maybe their child accidentally brought home Sunshine’s book.

A week passed.

The librarian sent an email to Saint Daddy and me. Sunshine owes this book.

Saint Daddy said I would explain what I believed happened.

I became a little flustered. I felt like a nuisance. It is one book. Should I just offer to pay for it so Sunshine can get books again? Is that the right thing to do? But what if another kid does have Sunshine’s book? Can it be located?

I told the story, a little more briefly than I did above. I hit send.

My cheeks flushed.

I know this probably seems like such a small thing to become so agitated over. I sent that email at the end of my lunch hour, and when I went to my next meeting, someone asked me if I was having a bad day.

No. Not really. I was just nervous. What if I was accused of lying? What if what I said made no sense? What if it does not help? What if Sunshine never takes home another library book from school again? What if the mistakes of adults result in punishing my child?

I needed closure for that event.

With anxiety, even small things can incite large responses. And the best way for my responses to end quickly is closure. The wait for that closure is filled with a million what-ifs. Waiting means my brain begins to wander. My waiting brain has too much of an opportunity to destroy me.

I needed a response. I needed it quickly. I needed Saint Daddy to say something to me.

By the end of my meeting, the librarian let me know that the book Sunshine brought home was on the shelf. She said she knew who checked it out and that she would check with his family to see if they had Sunshine’s book. However, she was clearing Sunshine’s account. Sunshine would definitely be coming home with a book on her next library day.

Even now, writing this, more than twenty-four hours after it happened, I am realizing how minor this whole event was. It was a non-event. Emailing about this issue was entirely appropriate.

I know that.

However, anxiety often means putting more stock into an event than it deserves. Anxiety means that I think other people think about me in the same obsessive way I think about myself or in the exact opposite way.

Saint Daddy recently told me that I sometimes operate in extremes.

That is true. I do.

That is my anxiety. That is what anxiety does for me.

I do not imagine that it works exactly the same way for everyone, but that is how anxiety affects me.

I have begun working on my awareness of that. I am trying to find my equilibrium. I am trying to remind myself that sending an email is not that big of a deal. Not in the grand scheme of things.

I am glad that Saint Daddy and I solved the case of the Missing library book.

Sunshine deserves a library day. It was worth being a little bit of a nuisance to do that for her.

Fighting the Sunday Blues

This weekend was perfectly lovely.

Saturday was rainy, but Saint Daddy and I took our babies for ice cream at our favorite Creamery anyway. I spent much of the day organizing the kids’ clothes, pulling out summer clothes and washing sweaters and jackets that had been stored in boxes given to us by generous friends.

Sunday found us at the same farm where we got ice cream, enjoying a hay ride and pumpkin picking. Grumpy was surprisingly not the grumpy gus at the pumpkin patch. Sleepy screamed his head off every time Saint Daddy set him down. It all made sense when he promptly fell asleep in the car. Classic Sleepy. We bought butternut squash at the farm, and I can smell the delicious soup I am making with it simmering in the kitchen as I type this.

We are all coming down from colds that Sunshine picked up at school. Her cold took us to her pediatrician on Friday after school for a quick ear check after she complained of echos. It is hard to say how serious that complaint was as she is currently obsessed with the notion of being “absent.” Sunshine loves school, but she has never been absent and she is hoping that someday soon Saint Daddy or I will give her the go-ahead to stay home.

I spent the last week on a major project at work, and I needed this weekend. Not that I do not need most weekends, but between the cold and the stress at work, I needed this one.

I have enjoyed my weekend. Ice cream, pumpkin picking, family time, a six mile long run, and a half-nap this afternoon? What more could I ask for?

It is almost five o’clock on a Sunday, though, and I am feeling the Sunday Blues right now.

There is tension in the back of my neck. It is pulsing up through my head. My eyes hurt from the pressure. I feel a little nauseated. I am more tired than I should be.

I am anticipating the rise in pressure that will occur from the moment I walk out of my door tomorrow morning and will continue with small increases and decreases until the moment I walk back into it on Friday afternoon, toting Sunshine’s nap supplies and a another week worth of stories.

I hate the Sunday Blues.

I researched this one too. According to Monster, 76% of Americans say that they experience unusually high levels of anxiety as the day progresses on Sundays.

76%!

That means that I am in great company on Sundays as I focus more on what the upcoming week will bring my way instead of what I have in front of me.

It is unfair to today.

I have expressed that sentiment in my blog before. Anxiety is not fair to my present. I wish I could control it.

My family deserves a mother who can pay attention to today instead of sitting her wondering what will be in my email tomorrow morning.

I am not required to check my professional email at home. I stopped doing so shortly after Sunshine was born. I received an email from a client on Thanksgiving, which I responded to. The client emailed me again during dinner and I ignored it, clearing the notification. She emailed me again the following day, also not a work day, and her email was filled with hostility. She wanted to know why I was not prioritizing her and told me she would be contacting my boss.

I immediately removed the email app from my phone and decided to wait to see what other feelings she had on Monday when I returned to work. I knew my boss would not have demanded that I respond to her email on the holiday, and it was wrong of her to bully me.

That was five years ago. I have only occasionally checked my work email at home since then and I have often regretted it. Work is for work. Home is for my family.

I did not prioritize that client. Not at home.

At home, I prioritize motherhood.

Motherhood is one of the most important tasks I will ever undertake. Being a wife is as well. Saint Daddy, Sunshine, Grumpy, and Sleepy are vastly more important than anything that will happen at work. Everything at work can wait when it is their turn to have me.

Which is why I hate the Sunday Blues. Because the Sunday Blues take my brain away from them.

Anxiety is largely just fear of the future. I am afraid of what might happen this week. I have a plan in place for the week. I know what I will be doing, what my meetings are, what I need to accomplish. I know I am good at my job. I will have a great week. I almost always do, even if I am handling a particularly stressful project.

But, much like driving, I cannot predict everything. Sometimes, things fall apart without warning. Sometimes, I get so focused on my thing that I ignore the periphery and that periphery might be burning because I accidentally left a candle burning.

I do not have a solid solution to the Sunday Blues right now. I am working on it.

Some Sundays are better than others. Actually, some Sundays I do not feel it at all. Usually, Sundays are only particularly bad when the previous week was stressful. I believe it is my brain’s way of saying “I can’t go through all of that again.”

I am trying, though.

I am focusing on Grumpy and Sleepy running around the living room after their nap. I am enjoying Sunshine sitting next to me and watching a Halloween cooking show with me. She loves Halloween because she loves spooky stuff. “Except spiders. Those are yucky!”

I am thinking about how good that soup is going to taste after the garlic and apples and onions all had a chance to really mingle with the squash.

Tomorrow will come. I will face tomorrow then.

Right now, it is time to enjoy what remains of Sunday.

Behind the Wheel Fears (Part Two)

I learned to drive ten years ago. I had my accident ten years ago. I am afraid of driving.

Driving is one of those anxiety-inducing triggers that I must face every single day. I have to drive. I have to take myself to work five days a week. I have to pick Sunshine up from school five days a week. I have to run errands, go to ballet, and take my children to the doctor.

To be a functioning adult in suburbia, I need to drive.

I will always hate it. I will always be afraid of it. But I will always do it.

I know that everyone who battles anxiety must have a few triggers that they cannot avoid. That they must face every day. That they need to overcome in order to exist. I cannot avoid this trigger in the way that I avoid other ones.

Late last week, I was driving to pick up Sunshine from school. Her school is in a complex located just off one of those highways that run through commercial areas. The flow of traffic is steady, broken only by the occasional red light.

I was driving along, listening to Taylor Swift, Sunshine’s favorite artist, thinking about how much I did not like the book I was reading at the time. Maybe I should give that up and find something else. I was driving 40 miles per hour. A car waiting to turn right at the next light turned in front of me. There was plenty of space between our cars. She made a good decision. Without hesitation, the minivan behind her also made the same decision. This time, there was not enough space between us. I braked slightly, but the minivan did not speed up. My car rushed toward its rear bumper. I slammed my brakes, they squealed against the road, I hit my horn, my heart race, and I checked my options.

There was open space in the left lane, so I quickly pulled into it and passed the minivan.

My heart was in my throat when I pulled behind the last car in the parent pickup line, put my car in park, and picked up my phone.

I texted Saint Daddy.

“Driving seems like such an outmoded way to get around. There must be a better way to do it. Someone should get on that.”

I am always afraid that I will be in another accident. My accident was entirely my fault. Although, Saint Daddy did say that he had noticed that my Breeze did not maneuver turns well. He wished he would have warned me. Even if he had, though, I am sure the same thing would have happened. I did not think I was going too fast.

I am not worried about my driving, though. I know that my accident made me a hyper-aware driver. I check my mirrors, I pay attention to my blind spots, I wait my turn. I am not 100% sure if the opposite of an aggressive driver is a passive one. I do not even really know if I would consider myself to be the opposite of an aggressive driver, but I trust myself behind the wheel.

What I hate about driving is not me; it is them.

Driving is unpredictable because I do not know what other drivers might do. I was being perfectly safe and cautious in the right lane. Sunshine’s school was less than a half a mile away, so I would not have gone into the left lane of my own volition in case I had to be aggressive in getting over again. I am not interested in high emotion driving. The minivan, though, is something I could not predict.

I do not know what went on with the driver of the minivan. She made a dangerous choice, but I do not know how much thought went into it. The minivan turned out of a medical complex, the same one where I take my children to their pediatrician. Maybe she had received bad news. Maybe she was distracted and not thinking of the task at hand. There are a hundred maybes for that one driver.

And there are millions of drivers on the road.

I cannot even begin to imagine their maybes. I cannot even begin to fathom their what-ifs.

I hate driving because it is unpredictable. At any time, a white minivan could pull out in front of me. A red SUV could slam on its brakes. A black sedan could swerve into my lane.

I have to be hyper-vigilant, and I feel the weight of that bearing down on me every time I get behind the wheel. I cannot know, and that lack of knowledge threatens to throw me into a hurricane of thoughts I cannot control.

My children ride in the car with me. Recently, I drove Saint Daddy somewhere and dropped him off. I then drove our three children home with me. It was dark and raining. While we were near home, I was not very familiar with how to return to our safe little nest. Sunshine was telling me all about My Little Pony. Grumpy and Sleepy were taking turns shouting out nonsense and giggling. I missed a turn, and I tensed up.

It was early fall. 70°. And my brain told me to watch for black ice.

What if you’re in an accident with your babies in the car? What if you destroy part of them like you destroyed part of you? What if you give them scars to carry? What if you’re the problem?

Black ice!

The thought was absurd. I knew it at the time. “There’s not going to be black ice right now. What’s wrong with you?”

But how do you know?

I fought against my anxiety as I “uh-huh”-ed everything Sunshine said about Princess Celestia and Princess Cadence and their cutie marks. I told my anxiety about science as I found my way unto the bypass, a road that meant familiarity and increased speeds.

In the rain? You’re going to crash!

It meant more people around if there was a problem but also more headlights coming the other way.

Those bright lights are blinding, aren’t they? How are they even legal? You’re never going to see the turns in the road. You’re going to miss your exit. Look at that big puddle!

I hydroplaned a little bit. I always remember what Saint Daddy told me to do when that happens. I gripped the wheel, I let off the gas, I avoided my brake, and I felt traction come back under my wheels. Grumpy called for me “MA-MA!” Sleepy yelled, “DAD!” Sunshine kept prattling about the ponies.

I managed to make it to our exit and down the steep hill that led to home.

Sunshine began asking me about the reflective plastic in the middle of the road, and I explained to her that they helped drivers know where their lane ended to help everyone feel safe.

I wanted to make sure that Sunshine felt that safety, even though I rarely do in the car. Having the responsibility of three tiny souls while I drive only adds to that lack of security.

It is easier for me as a passenger. I can read or play on my phone and ignore the parts of being in a car that make me feel tension.

But I have to drive. I will always have to drive. It is a fact of my life that I cannot avoid.

I had thought that, by now, ten years later, a lot of my fears related to driving would have begun to disappear, but they have not. I am sure that is because of the unpredictable nature of my fellow drivers. I will never be able to control that variable.

So what can I do?

I make sure my babies are as safe as possible. The law says to rearface them until they are two, but science says to keep them that way until as close to four as possible. So that is what we do. Sunshine was three months shy of her fourth birthday when we switched her. Her brothers are still riding in the convertible carseats we strapped them into when we left the hospital with them right after birth. The law says to use a five point harness until four, but science says to keep them harnessed as long as possible. At the rate she is growing, Sunshine may fit in her convertible carseat until she is eight and she will be harnessed until she grows out of it. Grumpy and Sleepy will get the same seat Sunshine has when they are ready for an upgrade. Safety is worth inconvenience. Safety is worth the cost of a seat that will last longer. Safety protects my babies if something horrible does happen because of those variables that I cannot control.

For this reason, safety helps me handle my car anxiety.

I was not wearing my seatbelt when I crashed my car. Because of that, I lived and I walk. But I always wear it now.

Safety measures bring me traces of sanity when I feel powerless to overcome my thoughts.

There was no chance of black ice on that night, but my brain often tells me the impossible might be true.

I will drive, and I will be afraid. But at least I know some things that will help. And sometimes, that is the best I can hope for.

I Did It For Grumpy

I am not fascinated by the human body. When people share the intricacies of the human heart on social media, I block the page from which it originated. I am squeamish and squirmy about blood, cuts, wounds, holes in the body. I recognize that the human body is beautiful. A miracle. It is amazing what our bodies can do. I am the awe of the process of bringing new people into the world. Having twins made that even more pronounced. A single human being can create two lives simultaneously. Wow! Just… Wow!

But I do not want to watch it.

This squeamishness is why I waited until Sunshine asked me to before getting my ears pierced. The very idea of sticking pretty metal through holes in my body? No, thank you.

Hospitals make me uncomfortable. They smell of my anxiety. Something about the air in a hospital. It seems unnatural. I tense up as soon as I smell it.

Yesterday, I experienced both of these events together, and I did it all for Grumpy.

Grumpy and Sleepy recently learned how to climb onto the couch. Sunshine was not a climber. I recently told my best friend that Sunshine only learned to climb onto the couch six months ago. Slight hyperbole. But really, she was not a climber.

Sleepy is a climber, and Grumpy? He likes to do what Sleepy does.

The boys both love climbing onto the couch and sitting there like big boys. Saint Daddy and I say that they like being “Kings of the Castle.”

Yesterday, Grumpy climbed onto the couch while I watched America’s Got Talent on Hulu and painted Sunshine’s toes. I snapped a picture of him, looking adorable as King of the Castle. Saint Daddy came home from the gym. Sleepy was wandering around the dining room with a ball, saying, “ball, ball, ball.” Saint Daddy entered the kitchen, and Grumpy fell off the side of the couch.

He had fallen before, but this was different.

He screamed. Not cried. Screamed.

I jumped up. Saint Daddy called, “What was that?”

I picked up Grumpy, and there was blood dripping from near his mouth. I took him to Saint Daddy for a look. I knew me, and looking would make my woozy. I would have to sit down. I would need cold water and five minutes, and Grumpy needed love. He did not need to be patient.

Saint Daddy said there was too much blood. He did not know where it was coming from, so I took Grumpy to the entryway to assess him in better light.

The bleeding was coming from the bottom of his cheek, near his mouth, not his tongue. I worried he had bit off part of his tongue. But this was external.

Saint Daddy looked again.

There was a hole in Grumpy’s cheek and something was inside the hole. One of us needed to take Grumpy to the hospital.

And suddenly, I had Grumpy in the car, covered in blood, only half a water bottle of water, no dinner for either of us, my cell phone at less than 20%, and on our way to the hospital.

Two of my big stressors. Wounds and hospitals.

Motherhood.

I held Grumpy in the waiting room while a kind older woman asked solicitous questions about him. She hoped he was okay. She would pray for us.

When we went back to be admitted by a nurse, Grumpy panicked. He was in pain. He did not know what was going on, and I know he was starving. The oxygen monitor was a nuisance, he refused to settle long enough to be weighed, and he screamed bloody murder when the nurse put a hospital bracelet on his leg.

I tried to comfort him but he did not know how to hold his head. He wanted his thumb, but it hurt to put it in his mouth.

We went back to a room to wait. My cell battery drained, and I switched to power save mode, hoping it would last well enough to keep Saint Daddy updated. I texted my best friend and my oldest sister. I wished we had a book or a toy for Grumpy to focus on.

I tried to keep us both calm.

I was being calm for him.

Yesterday, I talked to a coworker about how it is easier to put my anxiety aside when I have to do it for someone else. Even something as simple as ordering garlic knots after we already ordered. I could do it for her, but I could not have done it for me. No worries, I’ll do it for you.

No worries, Grumpy, I will do it for you.

I sang to him. Twinkle, twinkle little star… I explained to him that we were in the hospital and that the people there all have one thing in common. They all want to help other people not feel pain. And they were going to help him not feel pain. I tried not to look at his injury. I tried not to cry.

The PA came in with an assistant. I laid Grumpy on the bed, and she cleaned his face. I had to hold his arms over his head while he screamed and cried and writhed. I felt helpless. I could not stop it. It had to be done, but I hated it. I saw his injury up close. Two clear punctures.

I began to feel light-headed. I quelled my nausea.

The PA said that there was something in the wound. She asked what did it, and I told her that he had a toy dinosaur in his hand when he fell. She was mystified that parts of the dinosaur could be in Grumpy’s face, but she would get it out.

She said she needed a scalpel to clean the wound better.

Here is another example of his need outweighing my anxiety.

I said, “I won’t be able to watch that.”

She said, “You can wait in the waiting room.”

I said, “No, I can’t do that either. He’s my baby, and I’m going to be here with him.”

Grumpy and I waited again. When the PA came back, she brought a nurse to help hold Grumpy and a papoose to secure his arms and legs.

She numbed his face and used a scalpel to clean his wound. I looked into his eyes the entire time.

“Mommy’s here, baby. I’m not going anywhere. I’m right here. I’m so sorry, baby. I wish I could stop it, but I can’t. I love you. You’re doing such a great job. You’re being so brave. Almost done.”

It felt like it lasted forever as the PA removed the dinosaur and stitched his two punctures. The nurse brought him a freeze pop and a stuffed cat, and he was discharged.

We stopped at CVS to pick up Grumpy’s antibiotic and something for Grumpy to eat, since we both missed dinner and I wanted him in bed as soon as possible. He saw a display of toy cars, and I let him choose one. A white convertible with blue stripes. I bought him Fruit Loops and let him munch on those as we waited for his prescription.

Grumpy became immediately attached to both the car and the Fruit Loops.

We arrived home to great fanfare. Everyone was still awake. I gave Grumpy a wipe down to remove any blood, got him changed, and put him in bed.

Saint Daddy and I decided to use the baby monitor for the first time in six months in case Grumpy needed us. He whimpered in his sleep a few times, but he did not need us.

Babies are strong and brave and resilient. Grumpy is a tough guy.

My mother’s heart was hurting. I am so glad Grumpy is okay. It could have been much worse. But I wish it had never happened. I wish I could have prevented it.

I am mad at me, and I will never get the sight of his tiny distressed eyes reaching out to me from that hospital bed while I stood feet away. They searched for me, they begged me, and I felt helpless to do anything for him.

My anxiety makes everything about last night the stuff of my nightmares. Blood and wounds and hospitals. Not enough water, being alone, nothing to occupy my brain.

But I did it for Grumpy.

My anxiety is no match for the love I have for my son.

I hope to never have to relive that experience again, but with three children that seems unlikely. However, I will do what I must for my babies, my own issues be damned!