“Again!”

I went through the combination once more, pivoting to put my weight behind my right hook.

“Again!” the coach yelled.  “Harder.”

I tried to swipe at the sweat running into my eyes while I took up my stance to start again.

I take a boxing class once a week.  That’s right, this suburban white girl goes to a hole-in-the-wall gym to work out with a bunch of sweaty, burly, tattooed boxers.  You might imagine this as awkward.  Me, standing at five-foot-nothing inches tall, dressed in my Target off-the-rack workout finest, squaring off with a six foot brick wall of a sweaty man (and ‘brick wall’ is a pretty fitting description for most of these dudes.  It’s a good thing they like me, because I wouldn’t want to be on anyone’s bad side).  But amazingly, it’s not awkward or weird.  I actually enjoy these workouts immensely – the challenge of speed, endurance, strength.  Well, I enjoy it when I can breathe.

“Again!”

This week, I was working on an intricate combination of hooks, jabs and upper cuts with ducking and sliding thrown in.  Coach kept repeating his mantra, “Again!  Harder!  Faster!”

On the verge of passing out, I finally had to stop.  While I was doubled over with my hands on my knees, sucking in air like I’d been deprived of oxygen for a decade, Coach said, “You have to breathe.”

Really?  What does it look like I’m doing, buddy?
(In reality, this was communicated by me barely turning my head in Coach’s direction and semi-grunting between gasps of air.)

“You have good form, you know the combination, but you’re still holding your breath.  You HAVE TO BREATHE with each punch.  Now come on.  Again.”

Having gotten enough oxygen to my brain, I checked the impulse to sucker punch Coach in the gut.  Instead, I nodded, stood up, and took my stance.  For the rest of the class, I struggled with the impulse to tense up and hold my breath, wanting to push through the rest of the workout with sheer force.

Driving home, I started wondering why it was so hard for me to keep breathing.  Isn’t my body supposed to know to just DO that?  I don’t consciously think about breathing when I’m working, cooking, sleeping.  My body just takes care of it.  Why, in this scenario, was I having such a hard time?

I finally realized that this scene exemplified how I deal with stress in life.  Whenever I’m faced with pressure and stress, I have a tendency to bear down, tense up and just push my way through a situation.  This can go on for weeks without me realizing it, my body so full of tension and stress as I try to move through a particularly stressful or busy time, not realizing that I’m not giving myself a chance to relax.  To breathe.  To find the rhythm and just go with it.  Brute strength and skill don’t always get you through every situation.  Sure, they’ll take you quite far, but you’ll be exhausted and worn out by the time you reach the finish line.  Breathing and relaxing into a situation, no matter how stressful, help give you that edge, that confidence, to weather anything.

And yes, I am proud of myself for making this parallel.  It was an aha! moment of realization about how I try to just “get through” life scenarios instead of embracing, learning, sustaining.  So maybe next week I’ll take on one of the burly, brick wall guys with neck tattoos… you know, since I’ve had this big revelation and all.  Or maybe I should keep practicing over in the corner since I kind of need my nose intact to breathe.

Whenever I complain about a situation where I feel like Big Dude has let me down, a good friend of mine says that we can’t look to our husbands to meet our every need.

Women need other women, the Wise One says. Did you read the Twilight saga? Bella’s and Edward’s romance sweeps you away because it’s such a romanticized fairytale. Edward meets every single one of Bella’s needs, from rescuing her every time she is in danger to watching over her while she sleeps. Real life and real relationships aren’t like that.  Sure, we need our spouses, our partners, but we also need friends to lean on and reach out to. Real life necessitates more of a
patchwork support system made up of a group of friends, not just one ‘perfect’ significant other who meets every single one of our needs.

This conversation made me think. I have made a lot of friends over the past six months, and I am definitely a happier person because of it. Now I’m starting to think about how to cultivate those friendships. Meaning, how do I become a better friend? If I want people to be there for me and to reach out to me, I have to reach out to them.

Of course, this invariably brings up all kinds of anxiety and guilt for me.
Anxiety over reaching out to friends:  What if I invite So&So out to lunch and she declines? Does that make me the nerdy grade school bookworm who eats by herself again?

And guilt when So&So actually accepts my invitation: I have to give up an hour of my workday and go relax over a meal with pleasant conversation, connecting with another human being, instead of absently eating my lunch in front of my computer screen while continuing to work?

Or, horror of horrors: I make plans with a friend on a weekend and Big Dude must spend an hour by himself with Little Dude while I grab coffee with a friend.

That guilty place inside of me naturally thinks about the impact my social time will have on those around me instead of thinking about how that social time will fulfill me and support me and make me happy.

Stupid, I know. But, I’m a work-in-progress. And I’ve got friends.

Big Dude has been helping out around the house more as of late. Instead of milking this phenomenon for all it’s worth, I am having my own guilty freak out reaction that goes something like this:


For more than 10 years, I have begged, pleaded, cajoled, shamed and/or threatened my husband into helping out around the house with chores such as taking out the trash.

(I despise taking out the trash, specifically dragging the cans to the curb on pickup day.  Don’t ask me why this particular chore annoys me so much because I have no answer.)

All of a sudden — and I can’t even pinpoint the day — Big Dude started doing things around the house.

On his own.

Without being asked.

He’s been doing dishes, putting dishes away, even folding laundry. Just this morning, I came down the hallway, made the right into the kitchen, and found Big Dude putting the finishing touches on Little Dude’s lunch.

Do I stand in the hallway and beam lovingly at my husband, giving thanks for him and the five extra minutes he just saved me (hey, which I can use to shave my legs!)? Nope, not me. I, in all of my Guilty Glory, feel guilty that I’m not the one that made Little Dude’s lunch. I feel guilty that I’m not the one who emptied the dishwasher.

After years of preaching equal participation in household duties, I should be throwing a party now that Big Dude seems to have heard my pleas. I should at least go shave my legs with those extra five minutes. But instead, I find myself wanting to pitch in and help with whatever task he is doing. If he’s emptying the dishwasher, then I help empty the dishwasher because even though he’s finally participating in chores around the house, when I seem him emptying the dishwasher, I feel like I am not pulling my own weight.

Crazy, I know.**

Why can’t I just sit back and appreciate this new helpful side of Big Dude? It could leave just as mysteriously as it came, so I better appreciate it while it’s here, right?

Here’s my lovable husband shuffling from sink to cupboard as he waits for his morning caffeine to kick in, putting away last night’s dinner dishes to help out his wife. Then his wife comes in, hairy legs and all, and rushes to put away the rest of the dishes before he can.

It’s a sickness, I tell you. A sickness!

My brain ping-pongs back and forth inside my head:

Guilt Goddess:  No, I won’t interfere. I should let him finish with the dishes.
Me:  I really should help out. It’s only fair.
GG:  What’s fair is you cooked dinner and washed the dishes last night, it’s his turn now to put away the clean dishes this morning.
Me:  But I can’t just stand here and watch him put them away while I sip my coffee.
GG:  Yes you can.
Me:  Well I can, but I feel guilty.
GG:  Is he complaining?
Me:  No.
GG:  Are you annoyed, angry or resentful that he’s helping out?
Me:  No, I’m ecstatic.
GG:  Then if you feel guilty watching, don’t watch. Take your coffee in your bedroom and go about your morning.
Me:  Yes, ma’am.

Sigh. I wish either of us was motivated to do laundry. I bet I wouldn’t feel guilty if he sorted his own underwear and socks.

**BD thinks this entire line of thought is beyond hilarious.  He said if him helping out causes this much anxiety, he will happily go back to sitting on the couch.  Um, I didn’t ask for THAT.  I just need some time to adjust.  I’m hoping in a few weeks I’ll be the one on the couch watching TV and he’ll be in the kitchen making dinner.

A girl can dream, right?

My Wordless Wenesday offer.

At 7 am this morning, it was 70 degrees outside, and this is what I saw out my car window. George Harrison was keeping me company, singing about love and devotion.

Sitting at my desk, writing notebook open, waiting for inspiration to strike.  After a weekend of errands and laundry and a birthday party and cleaning out the fridge, I have been looking forward to having some time to sit down and write.  Now I have the time.  And all I can think is damn, it’s hot.

I want a popsicle.

I want to swim in an icy pool.

Maybe I’ll go home and sit in the bathtub and have some ice cream because we don’t have a pool.

I wish we had a pool.

It’s so hot that my sundress is sticking to the back of my legs and I’m inside in the air conditioning.

Where are those cool nights and first hints of autumn?

I’m looking forward to a crispness in the air and leaves changing color and being able to use the oven without making the house so warm that we have to run around naked with ice packs strapped to us.

It’s 107 degrees outside and I want to make roasts in the oven and stews in my crock pot.

I want to make cornbread with the buttermilk that is in my fridge- warm, crusty cornbread to soak up the rich sauce from my stew.

Maybe I have some type of seasonal food displacement disorder.  When it finally feels like fall (some time in December, maybe) I will probably want to barbeque steaks to have with corn on the cob and peach cobbler.

Peach cobbler is kind of universal, though, isn’t it?  I could eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

When it’s this hot, I worry about power outages and making sure my dogs have enough water and brush fires and whether the tires on my car will melt when I’m on my way to pick up my child from school.

I worry about strange things.

I realize this is southern California and it’s technically a desert, but 107 degrees at the end of September?

I am seriously contemplating shaving my head.  No hair is cooler than lots of long hair, right?

Then I could wear hats when it gets cooler.  You know, to keep my head warm.

Oh, who am I kidding?  It will probably never get that cool.  I’ll just be the bald crazy lady eating ice cream in a bathtub of cold water with my child and my dogs tucked in next to me.

I have a big bathtub.

I am completely unmotivated to do anything more than sit right now because even that is requiring effort.

And yes, that causes me guilt on many levels.

Damn, it’s hot.

Now that Little Dude’s birthday has come and gone, and he’s enjoying all the new toys he received as gifts, I’m left with only one last thing to do.

Thank you notes.

Of course I bought the thank you notes that matched the birthday invitations I used.  At the party, I even passed around a spreadsheet I made for each guest to write down his or her address in order to mail out the thank-yous. (Since Little Dude changed schools, I need to mail the notes.)

Have I actually written the notes yet?  No.

Am I the least bit motivated to write the notes?  No.

I really don’t know what my hang up with this is. I feel like I just HAVE to send thank-yous.  It’s the only polite thing to do.  But I also hate having to do it.

A couple of the parents at Little Dude’s party commented, as they wrote down their addresses for me, that they had not sent out thank-yous for their kids’ birthday parties earlier in the year.  That got me thinking:
1)  I hadn’t even noticed or remembered whether or not these people had sent thank you notes.
2)  Further, I didn’t really care whether they had sent thank you notes.
3)  So why should I worry so much about sending out thank you notes?

Is sending written thank you notes an outdated social custom?  In today’s high-speed, technological world, do people still expect written thank you notes?  I mean, really, if you’re going to hate me just because I didn’t write a damn thank you note for a plastic helicopter that is currently in a million pieces all over my living room floor, then I don’t need to be your friend that badly.

I thank you all for coming to Little Dude’s birthday party.  I really do.  Little Dude thanks you, and he thanks you for the gifts.  Each of your kids went home with a goodie bag as a ‘thanks for coming’ gift.  Do I really have to still write thank you notes?  (Which, essentially, are notes to thank the parents for stopping by Target on their way to the party, aren’t they?)

So maybe I just won’t do them.  Maybe I’ll wait until nex year, or the year after, when Little Dude is big enough to understand the concept a bit more and can help write the notes and sign his name.  Because, right now, writing them myself would primarily be an exercise in alleviating my own guilt if I didn’t write the notes.

That’s it.  I’m taking a stand.  I’m not writing thank you notes this year.

Oh, who am I kidding?  Of course I’ll write the thank you notes.  I made an address spreadsheet for goodness sake.  I would be horribly guilty if I didn’t do it.  It’s like a chain letter — I don’t want to see what will happen if I don’t send out seven copies right away.  But I can still think it’s kinda silly, right?

Where do you stand on the great thank you debate?  People deserve gratitude when they give — that goes without saying.  But are written thank you notes for things like birthday or Christmas gifts truly necessary or an outdated social custom?

Four years ago today I sat in a hospital bed holding my newborn baby.

As I gazed at that wrinkled up little face and breathed in that newborn smell, I had no idea how much my life was going to change.

I don’t mean change as in no more spontaneous evening plans, much less sleep and smelling like spit up for days on end.  Those were changes, but I figure those kind of came with the territory, you know?

The change I mean is life altering change, things-ain’t-ever-going-back-to-the-way-they-were kind of change.

As I learned to take care of this tiny being and meet his needs, I learned about my needs.  As I learned to support and encourage this little human through babyhood into toddlerdom and beyond, I learned how to support and encourage my own spirit.

Four years ago today I was a very different person.  I never would have imagined that my child would show me just how much more life had to offer if I was willing to look beyond  and go beyond the life I had built up to that point.

Today, I am happier and healthier than I have ever been.  I have a wonderful, happy child and a strong, loving husband.  I have a world of possibilities before me that I would never have imagined possible.

Four years ago today my life changed for the better.  I won’t ever feel guilty about that.

A dear friend of mine, a woman stronger and more at peace with the world than I’ve ever known, is going through a rough patch.  A roughly, prickly patch that is starting to weigh her down.

When she realized she was wading through this patch alone, she reached out to her friends for support.

When I first listened to my friend’s troubles, I thought, my goodness, if this amazing woman can have her foundation rocked, what hope is there for me?  But then I realized, we all have the same troubles.  We all trip over the same pitfalls.  No one is immune.  This is a learning experience to understand how we can weather these kinds of storms together.

The following are my words I wrote to my friend:

Oh, my dearest! My heart goes out to you. You have such a beautiful outlook on life- I’m sorry that’s being challenged right now.

Stress is a bitch, isn’t it? With all the crap I’ve been through in the last few years, my immune system decided to wage war on my thyroid and my adrenal glands decided to shut down. After every blood test, all my doctor says is ‘you have to find a better way to manage your stress.’

But you know what? The power of the mind never ceases to amaze me.

Look at you.  Despite all the signals your physical body is sending to let you know it’s feeling the stress of your current circumstances, your mind is well and whole. Your mind is able to look at your life, identify the causes and triggers of the stress you are dealing with, and it’s able to make choices to pull you through. Your healthy and complete mind is also what has allowed you to reach out and seek the love and support that will pull you through this time. So, no matter what your body may do, take comfort in knowing the amazing power of your mind.

It’s so hard to stay connected to that self-confidence that allows you to just have trust in the universe. I find myself struggling with this constantly. We have to remember that everything in life is a cycle, though. (I’m wanting to sing The Byrds’ “Turn, Turn, Turn.”  For everything, there is a season…) There are upswings and downswings, and knowledge to be gleaned from every phase. But when you feel like life is just throwing you that downswing, it is so hard to keep your faith in the absolute trust of the universe.

Often, I liken myself and my stress to a boat out in the ocean that keeps getting hit by wave after wave that crashes onto the decks. I think, ‘How many more waves can I withstand before my boat starts to break apart?’ But really, when I step back and think about it, I should be saying to myself, ‘Hey, despite all these crashing waves, my boat is still in one piece, and I’m still sailing forward.’  I think it’s natural to focus on the grief and not realize how resilient we really are.

You, my dear, are the strongest, best built boat I have ever come across. (I know, I’m taking the boat analogy a little far.)  These waves don’t stand a chance against you. Plus, you have the whole Ya-Ya flotilla sailing out to surround you and be by your side through this storm, reminding you to trust in yourself, to trust in the universe, to trust that this is a cycle, a circle of life that is necessary for you to learn and grow and fully embrace your life. We won’t let you steer off course.

Love you, girl.

Yesterday was Little Dude’s first day at his new school.

After the last day at his old school Friday and a wonderful birthday party for his fourth birthday over the weekend, the big day was here.  Little Dude’s first day of pre-kindergarten.

I’ve been anxious about this for weeks, doing my best to prepare Little Dude (and myself) for this day.  LD has been very excited, counting down the days on the calendar with me and asking to drive by the new school each day.  Yesterday, first thing he did when he woke up was to climb in bed between me and Big Dude and proclaim with a big smile, “Today is my first day at my new school!”

It made me excited that he was so excited.  Maybe he is getting this more than I thought.  Maybe this transition really will be that easy.

I kept watching for signs of anxiety as we went about our morning routine.  He ate breakfast like normal, had hot cocoa like normal, played with toys like normal, got dressed like normal.  As I watched Little Dude breeze through the morning like it was any ol’ day, my anxiety was mounting like a thunderstorm.

Is he really going to be ok with this change?
Yes, of course he will.
What if the new school misplaced his paperwork and somehow he’s not on the list for the class?
You know they’re expecting him because you called on Friday to make sure.
What if —
Stop.  He’s fine.  It’s fine.

I didn’t want there to be any glitches, any extra issues to deal with in case Little Dude started to have a hard time.  I wanted to focus on being there for him and helping him any way I could.   I was wishing that there was a way I could absorb any difficult feelings he was having about change and leaving behind his old school.  While that is not rational or helpful in his development in any way, it’s that mom instinct to want to protect my baby from harm.

But Little Dude seemed to have embraced that he was starting a new journey.  He got dressed in his Buzz Lightyear shirt, put on his Buzz Lightyear backpack, picked up his Buzz Lightyear lunchbox (complete with new Buzz Lightyear thermos), grabbed his favorite purple sunglasses, and walked out the door.  When had my little boy become a big boy?

Once at the new school, he was happy and eager to go into his new classroom and start exploring.  We found his cubby, we found the hook for his backpack, we scouted out the bathroom.  He went right over to the toys and pulled out a microphone to sing into to.

I stood watching the other parents and kids filing in, checking in with the teacher, finding cubbies.  I wondered if any of the other parents were having the same internal debate as me, anxiety warring against common sense even though their child seemed perfectly at home already, zooming cars and piecing together Mr. Potatohead.  Realizing they were a parent to a Little Kid, not a baby, not a toddler.  A Kid.

Ok, now I was starting to get a little frustrated that I had all this anxiety and LD wasn’t needing any type of reassurance.  Can’t I get at least one ‘I’m gonna’ miss you, Mommy?’  Come on kid, throw me a bone.

And he did.  He turned to me, pulled me down for a kiss and a hug and a high five, and told me he would see me after school. So I gave him the biggest squinch ever, waited for Big Dude to repeat the same kiss/hug/high five ritual, and bravely walked out of the classroom.  Big Dude put his arm around my waist and held me tight as we walked out.  He even stayed next to me while I stopped at a spot around the corner where I was hidden but could still see into the classroom window.

Interestingly, Little Dude’s day actually ended up being a bit difficult.  He was shy and apprehensive about introducing himself and meeting new friends, but he loved recess and coloring with a yellow crayon.

This morning, on the second day at his new school, all of my anxiety was gone.  I was embracing this day as my big boy had the last.  Little Dude and I walked to his classromm hand-in-hand.  His little grip got tighter as we got closer to his classroom. “Momma?  I think I need to stay with you today.”  We kept walking.  “I have a fever.”

I stopped and bent down.  I felt his forehead, knowing before my hand ever touched his skin it would be cool as could be.  “Oh, baby, I’m sorry you’re having a difficult time this morning.”

He threw his arms around me.  “I’m gonna’ miss you.”

“I’m gonna’ miss you, too.”  I held onto him tight.  “But I’ll be right here after school to pick you up and to hear all about the fun things you do today.”

He took my hand and went into his classroom.  We put his lunch in his cubby and his backpack on his hook.  His bright blue eyes were a little shiny as he kissed me and hugged me goodbye.

“I’m so proud of you, my buddy.  You’re such a big boy.  You’ll have a wonderful day, I just know it.”  He high-fived me before slowly making his way over to two boys who were playing with cars.  I waited a minute, then got up to leave.  He ran back over for one last hug.

“You’ll be just fine, my baby.”  I put him down and left.

So my big boy really is still a little boy after all.  He’s ready and willing for new adventures, but he still needs his mom by his side.  And he still needs my hugs.

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The Guilt Goddess

Giving guilt a voice one post at a time.

I am your average guilt-ridden mother of one (or 2, if I'm being honest and including my husband), trying to balance running my own business, running my household and now writing a blog. Someday I hope to have vanquished all of my myriad pangs of guilt and be living blissfully free from moment-to-moment. But, until that time, my guilt will live here.

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