Sunday, October 11, 2009

Big City Blues

This is a long couple of weeks and as I type this I am praying that my headache doesn't become a migraine.

It's ironic that life can be wonderful (it is!) but enough straws land on the camel's back that you're dragging through it. (See my old "Bananas" post.)

That's the case now. I have everything that I ever wanted in life, but there's a lot to handle and it gets us down around here. Pete has a chronic condition that flared up recently after all of the rain and flooding and the increased allergens that go along with it. (In life and death terms, it's not serious. No one has died from this condition in more than 50 years, but getting his medication straight is a PITA.) My work schedule is packed with one deadline right after another, with billing and meetings and political maneuvering on top of it all.

When you get stressed out, you lash out. Sometimes in a serious way, sometimes just by snipping at each other. That's what we've been doing here. Pete and I are biting each other's heads off over practically nothing and being really sensitive to any perceived slight.

On top of that, we have a built-in, 24/7 audience: the kids.

The infant isn't that big a deal. She's human so she can perceive stress and then get fussy. But as long as I can take a deep breath, give her a dry diaper, warm milk, and a gentle cuddle with smiles and cooing until she falls asleep, she's good to go.

The preschooler is another story. We believe that kids should not have to deal with adult problems or worries unless it's unavoidable and even then you have to make things real simple. She's constantly talking, wants to "help" and no matter what answer we give her, it's never enough. She'll keep asking. I think she just likes to hear the sound of her own voice and feel like she really knows what's going on when in fact we're keeping a lot from her.

When Pete and I are having a tough time - in this case, just not feeling well - the biggest help she can be is to just close her mouth, stop asking questions, and do what she's asked without having to repeat it 98987676 times. But no. She has to ask. And ask. And ask. And finally, we lose our patience and tell her TO JUST SHUT IT AND GO TO YOUR ROOM! We're not mad, just frustrated and tired about other things and we dont' have the energy to repeat ourselves. Plus, there are some things we do NOT want to explain to her. Of course, when that happens, she gets upset and cries and whimpers and thinks we're mad. Then needs reassurance that she's still loved. So I have to pull it together at a time when I can't and give her the reassurance she needs. Then I need to take care of myself.

But it's still not just myself. I have another half - Pete. He's not feeling well either. He needs the same reassurance and support that I do. And we can't give each other much when we're both running on empty.

I am the luckiest woman alive because I have a husband who is gentle, thoughtful, selfless, and doesn't believe in divorce. But when I'm about to take him for granted, I imagine what life would be without him. It wouldn't be a life at all. It is still frightening because I've seen what I thought were strong marriages fall apart when times got tough. Even after being together for 20 years or so. Pete and I have been married for 9 1/2. This is a tough time. I don't want him to second-guess our life together. I don't want to take him for granted, either.

So how are we getting through it?

To begin with, we alternate with the kids, our "built-in audience". Whichever of us is feeling stronger at the time plays with the eldest. I get the youngest most of the time because she has to be nursed, but that's not a problem. Even though it's effort to care for the eldest, it's a boost too. You never know when she'll say just the right thing to rejuvenate our spirits when we need it most.

When the kids are getting their usually scheduled "quiet time" or naps, that's when we both look to take care of ourselves. In the current situation, that's sleep or other kinds of rest. I plan on sleeping off the headache this afternoon. Pete is resting too, to get through his symptoms.
We also make sure there's time to just be alone and do what we want. For me, that involves cranking the iPod with a headset, writing on the blog ( :-) ) "retail therapy" and sometimes, just a good, serious, long crying fit. Crying is good for you in tough times.

Bottom line is, stress hurts. You can't heal if you don't take the time to do so. And if you don't heal, you won't be able to give of yourself to the people who depend on you in life.

I have friends whose relationships broke up recently. In the midst of feeling lost, they only start to recover when they focus on themselves. Sometimes the relationship can be repaired, sometimes not and they have to re-start their lives with a new direction. It's not being selfish; it's preparing yourself and gathering the resources you need so you can start contributing to others again. Every person in the world has to do this, no matter what they are relied on for. For me, it's my husband and kids. Thank God I have them.

Most of all, spend some time in your faith. It doesn't matter what you have faith in whether it's God, or gods, or goddesses, or the universe, or The Force. "Thou shalt sustain thy faith, for the day will come when it shall sustain thee."

Wow, when did I write all of this? I just noticed that my headache is fading. A quick nap and it should be gone. And the sun is finally coming out. Pete is out with TLF and he looks like he's feeling lots better. Maybe I'll play with the kids instead.

Even though your heart is breaking
In time, the sun will shine
And you'll begin again

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