Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Relearned Art

I have always been a good multi-tasker. I have always been able to find balance and have exceptional time management skills in order to accomplish everything. The last time I was in grad school, I was taking classes, teaching classes, doing research, working about 30 hours a week, planning my wedding that would take place across the country, and maintaining a house (or sardine can, since we are talking about San Francisco). My planner was color coordinated with assignments, appointments, bills, due dates, meetings, schedules. I had discovered a whole new array of highlighters and type A OCD.

And let's face it, being a mother requires a high level of multi-tasking ability.

In my last job, I had many roles and responsibilities, all of which were possible simply because I could multi-task like no other. However, somewhere along the way, between deadlines and play dates and emails and phone calls and shopping and cleaning...something went awry.

There have been times when I started one task, like folding laundry. Then Isaac would call me into the other room and somehow, I was cooking dinner, folding laundry, typing an email, talking on the phone, paying bills, and fixing a toy and picture frame at the same time. This is a mild example, It only escalated from there.

I would start 17 tasks at once. Oddly (snort) none of them would get done, and then at the end of the day, I would be in stressed out tears because I hadn't accomplished anything and the next day, I had even more to do.

I moved across the country this summer. I quit my job and started my PhD. I'm taking classes again and teaching again. I'm starting research. All things I have done before.

However, this time I have a husband and toddler and a puppy and two cats. Oh, and I MOVED ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

Multi-tasking has taken on new meaning. Somehow my old methods just aren't cutting it.

I realized this when I was trying to download something off a course website, trying to pay a bill, calling to verify an address had been changed, sending an email, and chatting with a friend on Facebook. I wasn't accomplishing anything. I was having issues among the various tasks. And a fellow grad student was listening to my expletives and trying desperately to follow what I was doing. A few times she commented that she had thought I was still working on one of the other tasks rather than the one I was actually working on.

My stress level has been increasing and it was only the first week of school.

I realized that I had to slow down and retrain myself. I could still multi-task, but I needed to finish things. Now, I don't have time to not get my stuff done. I don't have time to have to redo things or bump tasks until the next day, because the next day is already full. I have decided that going back to school is not going to take more away from Isaac than it needs to. That means I need my weekends. I want to leave as much on campus as I can.

So...I have taken a step back. I am starting one task and seeing it all the way through. If I get interrupted and notice distractions or other things that need to get done, I force myself to finish the first task.

It's working very well. I AM GETTING STUFF DONE.It's taking a bit of time. And a llllllooooootttt of retraining and forcing myself to follow through.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Everybody Hurts

It's true. Everyone has their own pain, be it quiet or publicly known. And everyone has their own ways of dealing with the pain, some healthy and some not so healthy.

Those near and dear to me know that I have had 2 people very important to me take their own lives, one being my birth father and the other a close friend. Being that this is National Suicide Awareness and Prevention Week, I thought I would share some things.

Suicide never makes sense, at least not to me. I have had low times in my life, but never so low that I would think of acting this way. I can't imagine being in so much pain and anguish that I saw no other way to solve my problems. I know that people who take their own lives are often the victims of mental illness and are not in the "right state of mind" when they commit suicide. My father's suicide, while painful and haunting, made more sense to me than that of my friend. My father had his own issues, including those with anger and alcohol. I wouldn't say that I condone his actions or that it still doesn't sting every single day, but I understand to a certain extent.  The signs were there.

With Patrick, it was different.

During my orientation week at graduate school, we attended a seminar called "Flashpoint." It outlined warning signs of potentially violent and harmful behavior. While most people laughed this session off, it struck chords close to home for me. I watched the video, mentally running through the last day, week, even month that Patrick was alive, scrutinizing everything that I could recall, looking for any of those signs. I just can't find any. They just weren't there to the point that unless every single person in his life compared very detailed notes could have had an inkling that he was hurting in that way.

My last conversation with Patrick was over Instant Messanger, the most impersonal form of communication. He told me how miserable he was, because of me. And I missed it. I didn't think it was anything more than a fight, than an "I don't feel how you feel" conversation. I didn't think that it was anything to be considered a sign, because there were no others. I had experienced one suicide and I was about to experience another.

My life was forever impacted by the suicides of my father and Patrick. I am who I am today because of choices that they made. While their pain and suffering is over, mine is still there. The scars are still apparent. And I don't try to hide them.

For a while, I was paranoid. I clung desperately to everyone that I loved thinking that every conversation that I had with them could be the last. Every argument had to be resolved immediately. I couldn't live through something like that again. Then I started pushing away to accomplish the same thing.

And then I ended up here, where I am now, both physically and emotionally. After a very long time I feel happy, content, not paranoid, and full of hope and potential.

So, I guess my point is this. You never know how someone is dealing with their pain. You never know what they are hiding and exactly how much they are showing. It is never a bad time to ask how someone is doing. It is never the wrong time to say that you love and care about someone. NEVER EVER.

This week, like every other type of awareness week is just that. Promoting awareness of something that impacts the lives of the people it touches. It's about letting people know the resources and education. It's about reaching out.

And if anyone you know or even yourself has or is considering taking their life, or if you aren't sure...please reach out. Be aware.

Friday, September 2, 2011

It's Only 8AM and I Feel Like I Should Have Been Drinking for At Least 2 Hours Already...

I get up at 6AM every morning, regardless of when I actually have to be on campus. This is really the only time that works for our family in terms of showering, etc. I need the time before I wake Isaac up to get ready uninterrupted. I need the time to walk Luna. I need the time to prepare for the day.

And it is not enough time. By far. But I am unwilling to get up any earlier unless absolutely necessary.

By 8AM, sometimes sooner, I am ready to tear out my freshly washed hair, lock myself in the closet with a bottle of wine, and rock back and forth in the fetal position (although that may be counterproductive to the drinking...never really tried it except in my mind).

As you may recall, I recently uprooted and moved across the country, took massive paycuts and started new lives. He got a new job. I started graduate school as a PhD student and TA. Isaac is 2 1/2 and potty training and starting his new life with a new school, new room, and new friends. New everything. That's alot to deal with. To make things more complicated, we got a puppy. Before I say anything more, I will say that I love my life. I am happy. We made the  best decisions that we ever could have made. But those decisions came with an elevated stress level that I am still trying to figure out how to deal with and balance.

Let's back up. Isaac has not been sleeping well. This is in part because his crib broke. IT WAS THE ONLY THING THAT BROKE DURING THE 2700+ MILE MOVE. Of all the things packed into that moving truck, I would have rather it been the TV...or my leg. I had already ordered him a toddler bed for when he was ready for it, but had planned on keeping him in his familiar bed until he was adjusted. I could justify buying a new TV. I can't justify buying a new crib for a few weeks or month.

I should have shelled out the cash. In all fairness, people have offered theirs up for us to borrow. But at that point we had been trying to get Isaac into the toddler bed for about 3 weeks and the idea of backtracking was blaring warning sirens and red lights. All signs point to keep working on it.


In addition to him not staying in bed, he now had a 3 hour time difference to get used to. I didn't know that small children had such circadian rhythms that needed a massive overall to adjust to living in a new time zone. Even though we drove and adjusted time over a period of days, he still believed that 12am or later was perfectly suitable for a bedtime, since he was still operating on PST.

If I wasn't up with him, I was up with Luna. God help us if there is a massive thunderstorm. No one is sleeping then.

Anyway, the point of this is that Isaac isn't sleeping well, I am not sleeping well...and waking up is a pain. Isaac wakes up like his father...a grizzly bear coming out of an exorcism. That brightens my day. After I finally convince him to change his diaper and put on clothes, I have to haul him kicking and screaming down stairs. Some days, I get really lucky and get to tell jokes and make funny noise and sing songs to keep the whining and crying a bay. It's short lived though.

You know what's fun before you have had enough caffeine in the morning? Trying to referee a puppy and a toddler. One whom does not seem to understand that when he runs and screams across the house, the puppy thinks he is playing. Luna is a Siberian Husky. She's a puppy, but she's massive. She weighs more than him. And she nips. Try explaining to a Husky puppy that she can't body check and bite my son's arms and legs like she would a puppy brother or sister. No one outside her species thinks that is affectionate. At least not in this house.

Once I can get Isaac set up on the couch with Mickey Mouse and Luna chewing a frozen carrot, my hair has frizzed out and I have to restyle it. Most times I have to change my shirt because it's all sweaty. I have now figured out to just keep my AC on full blast and put on a ratty Tshirt. If my husband comments on the amount of laundry I create in one day, he better think the couch is comfier than our Cal King. Then comes the task of breakfast.

Did I mention Isaac is 2 1/2? The independent age that requires him to do everything for himself and make his own decisions? Oh, sorry. My bad.

He likes to eat his breakfast on the couch 4 days out of 5. Sometimes he will sit at the breakfast nook. Those are blessed days. He carries his food around. He leaves it laying and wanders away....see where I am going with this?

This morning for example, I made him a waffle. I made myself one too. I cut it in half and put it on his plate. I walked him to the couch and gave him the plate. All was quiet.

Now, given his mood, Isaac has the tendency to scream if Luna looks at him wrong. Like, looks at him at all or even walks in front of him. The screaming...oh, the scream. After a few times of checking on pointless screams, I hear him offer Luna his waffle. Like, he put it in her MOUTH. Then he realizes he doesn't have more and Luna won't give it back. So I give him mine and explain that puppies don't eat waffles and Luna has her own breakfast. Back to restyling my frizz.

I then hear a scream that Luna, who now thinks Isaac shares waffles, has taken her half of the new waffle. And now I am forced to put Luna, who really has done nothing wrong, back into her crate only to have her splash water all over so when Isaac runs into the kitchen, he will slip and fall. Meanwhile, since I haven't been able to take her out again, she has gone potty somewhere in the house. I know she has, because I can smell it. The carrots keep her from chewing anything of value...but they don't do wonders for her digestive system some days.

By the time I am able to take Luna for her final walk, I have to keep Isaac distracted because Lord help me, I cannot walk a toddler and a puppy at the same time. And we are running late. When I get back in the house, Isaac has spilled milk that he tried to get out of the fridge all over himself and somehow there are 14 soggy dog bone treats in Luna's cage. The cats have appeared and are demanding food. Isaac is screaming that he doesn't want to see his friends today and that Luna is not allowed to stand near Buddy, the blue bunny.

I stare longing at my stone cold coffee, mentally check my bank balance to ensure adequate Starbucks funds, and can't help but wish that I had a mimosa thermos. These are just my mornings before I get to school. I go a full day with meetings, classes, seminars, research...and then pick up Isaac, make dinner, and finish up what I didn't get done for the day. The house is messy. I am messy.

It's ok that my hair is frizzy because I probably will pull it all out soon.