Not Enough.

I have an appointment with my general practitioner next week. I say that like I see her regularly, when the truth is: I’ve only visited her office once, and it was a “new patient” visit like…maybe 7 years ago? When I called to make an appointment for a “yearly checkup” they said, “Um…if you don’t come to see her in 3 years we assume you’ve found another doctor and she is not currently accepting new patients.”

WHAT? You mean I get PUNISHED for not coming in? I assumed there would be smiley-face stickers all over my chart for all of the years passed without a visit!

Anyway – she’s “accepting” me again since Donnie goes a bit more regularly than I do.

I’m going to talk to her about medicating my anxiety/depression and recommending me to a psychiatrist (I was seeing a non-prescribing therapist) which is a big step at this point because I haven’t considered medication in over a decade.

You see, I’m a pragmatic kind of girl and I like to quantify things, and it’s hard to measure that point when, “Okay. Time to medicate.” But lately I found a way.

I don’t enjoy the things I should be enjoying. The things I used to look forward to are no longer a priority. The things that raise my spirits have become a chore.

The last several months things I love, trail runs with my friends, book clubs, date night, time with the kids, family dinners…all of those things have become things I either skip, forget about, or I have to force myself to do. I FORGOT ABOUT BOOK CLUB LAST NIGHT. Book Club is my favorite night of the month. I go even if I don’t read the book because the women there build me up spiritually and fill my cup so I can go on with my life and GUESS WHAT? I FORGOT.

If I hadn’t already been considering medication before last night? I would be now.

But it’s not just that. I have to drag myself to social gatherings to hang with people I love. There was a big part of me actually kinda relieved this past Sunday was our last trail run group of the season because it’s such a chore to get myself out of bed to do that thing. AND THAT THING IS THE BEST THING. Logically? I know I love these people and they always renew my soul but I’m stuck in such a fog lately I don’t even like doing the things that I know I actually love doing.

I don’t read as much. I don’t color as much. I just kinda push myself through the fog every day and this is all very quantifiable and when you add it all up it says: SELF CARE IS NOT ENOUGH ANY MORE. I’m exercising, I’m eating better, I’m not drinking, I’ve been to therapy (not in awhile, but still), I’m doing all the things they tell you to do to care for yourself and I’m still dreading the things I love. DREADING. There’s a thing going on this morning that Stable Kim would have woken up SO EXCITED ABOUT. But instead? I had to convince myself to go. I had to tell myself that this is for someone I adore and they deserve me to GET OUT OF THE DAMN BED and GO, DAMMIT. YOU OWE THIS PERSON! GET OVER YOURSELF!

So I’ll talk to her next week because now I can quantify my fog and evaluate it pragmatically and determine: Yes. When the things that are supposed to sooth my broken spirit become chores, I can quantify my anxiety and depression and conclude that what I’m doing is NOT ENOUGH.

Parenting In The Age Of The Duck Face

“I don’t know about all of the duck face, Kim. It’s killing me.”

This was something my husband said about my daughter’s instagram feed awhile back. Right now it’s private and we have to approve everyone who follows her, but yeah…there’s a ton of duck face selfies.

You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones often done with a peace sign thrown in and always done at an interesting angle.

THE ONES WE ALL HATE.

And by “we all” I mean, “anyone who didn’t go through puberty with social media to help them document it.”

If I’m honest, her feed has been bugging me too. The duck face selfies are PERPETUAL. If she’s bored she has an instagram story feed full of them, but there’s at least 1-2 a day if she hasn’t had her iPod taken away. And every one of them has me saying to myself, “This is not my daughter.”

I wanted to figure out how to make it stop. How do I talk to her in a way that lets her see this is not a good thing to do – to make your “public” persona so different from your “real” persona.

But there was always this voice…this voice who said to me, “You are just old. You don’t understand. Trust your parenting. Let her do her thing.”

I posed the question first to Twitter about how to deal with your child’s social media presence when it doesn’t reflect who they are in your mind. Was this something I needed to address? Or was this the same as when my Dad got SO MAD to hear me talk with that Valley Girl tone when I was around my friends? Is the perpetual duck face selfie just today’s version of putting on purple eyeshadow when I got to school and washing it off before my Dad picked me up in the afternoon? Is this just how today’s generation shows a different side to their friends than to their parents?

Twitter said: It’s the same.

It still bugged me though. (I mean, I’m SUPES old.) (Definitely too old to be using the word “supes.”) So, I brought it up with other friends over breakfast this weekend. And then my friend Chelsea, who is young enough that she has actually grown up with digital photography to document all of her awkward phases, said that she and her friends would spend hours getting fancy and taking pictures of themselves when they were in middle school. “Selfies” weren’t a thing – but they definitely spent an annoying amount of hours prepping their digital persona.

So now I’m swinging more to the, “You are just old. You don’t understand. Trust your parenting. Let her do her thing.” side of the response spectrum now.

And then today there’s an article being shared around Twitter talking about how people who take too many selfies have mental health problems. And I’m back to being worried again.

But here’s the thing I keep remembering: I dropped F-bombs all the time when I was around my friends. I smoked. I did drugs. I was flirty and promiscuous. I did a lot of things to seem “cool” that I look back on and question their authenticity. I wore giant t-shirts and long flowing skirts with Birkenstocks even though I wasn’t really sure I liked that style. I did like the anklet with the bells on it, but I stopped wearing it when someone said that’s what “Fake Deadheads” wore. I made a lot of decisions about how I presented myself to the world based on how I wanted to be viewed…sexy…interesting…fun…bold…adventurous…

But was that me deep down? Who knows. Can anyone between the ages of 12-20 really be authentic? Aren’t we all still learning who we are during those years? Hell…some days I think I was in my 30s before I could truly be authentic because I had no idea who the hell I was until then.

So I’m going to continue teaching what I want her to learn and let her keep expressing herself how she sees fit. I’ll periodically point out other “cool” people on social media that maybe have a VARIETY in their photos and maybe she’ll be inspired in other ways…but you know what? She’s beautiful. And I’m glad she sees her face as something worth sharing with the world. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and try to encourage her to remember that these platforms will be all some people know of her when we decide she’s old enough to stop policing her account. I’ll always remind her to spice things up, to show more of herself than just the duck face selfies. But I won’t judge her mental health or post articles snarking on the same behavior because the girls behind all of those selfies that annoy us so much…they could all be my daughter…and I refuse to judge them based on this small window into their lives.

I don’t want to force her to hide a side of herself from me because I don’t approve.

I don’t want her waiting to put the purple eyeshadow on after I’m gone.

The Pressure of Success

I’m getting back into running slowly but surely. I’ve got a big stage race this weekend which will have me running 43 miles on my favorite trails over 3 days. I’m really not well trained and I don’t have the base I used to have as I slacked off SO MUCH since November, but I’ll survive and I’m looking forward to the confidence boost it will give me as I start to ramp up even more for my race in September.

But it’s hard. And you know why it’s hard? Because so many people celebrated my success with me before. So many people cheered me along as I got stronger and ran longer distances and beat PRs and conquered goals that I never even knew existed. Friends and family liked all of my race reports and congratulated me whenever I bragged on another hurdle jumped. I HAD SUCCEEDED and I had done it in front of an audience of people who I loved.

And then I faltered and my running faded and there were no more successes to boast about or goals to check off a list. And just in case no one noticed me missing at long runs and races, or maybe they just thought I was training privately instead of publicly – I put on 27lbs to act as proof that I had stopped training at the level previously. So now when those people who cheered me on see me, there’s no question where I’ve been…I’ve been medicating my depression and anxiety with donuts and beer while everyone pushed forward.

A friend of my recently discussed the pressure of being the “Fitness Story” – she too is struggling to get back what she had lost. You use those accolades, “Look at you! I can’t believe you went from Point A to Point B! You’re amazing!” to power you through continued success, but then you misstep. And the shame you feel over disappointing all of those people (Yes, we all know the disappointment is internal, but it feels external.) makes it really hard to get back up after that first stumble. And the next thing you know, you weigh more than you did when you started the journey back in 2009.

I always tell the story, “After my Dad died I weighed more than I ever had not pregnant…” and I discuss joining boot camp and getting fit which made me want to try running again and so one and so forth and look! I’m 20lbs lighter and I just ran a 100K!

That’s my story. But when I finally started trying to get back on track a few weeks ago,I was 10lbs heaver than I was at the beginning of that story. And while I’m chipping away at that slowly, I’m still heavier than I was when I started getting fit in 2010. And it’s hard to push every day when you’re realizing you’re starting further back than you were the last time. It’s like going to run a marathon – which you’ve run before and it wasn’t easy – only to find out at the start line that it’s actually a 50K.

But that marathon was so hard! And now I have run even further?!

But I trying to push past all of that. I’m trying to not compare this journey to the last one. I’m trying to recognize this as an entirely different journey with entirely different hurdles. I’m trying to look at past successes as proof I can do it, not reminders that I failed. I’m trying to separate the two journeys so that I can celebrate the past successes and then celebrate any future successes without connecting them with some months of missteps.

Because I need to allow myself missteps and not let them dissolve my successes. I have much to be proud of. Hell…the last couple months have been really hard mentally and I’m not out of the woods by any means…So while I’m not crossing finish lines, I’m fighting demons and those are more important battles to win than any medal from any race…no matter what the distance.

I mean, it’s like my brother’s #storypin says, The Journey Is The Reward.

The Confession Prepping Demon

The other day I summed up 2017 as “The Year Zoot Learns How Terrible She Is At Adulting”, and it is no joke y’all. None of my errors have been catastrophic, but I’ve screwed made some Adult Sized errors lately and it’s sent me into non-stop shame spirals where I just beat myself up until I’m hiding in a parking lot inhaling donuts before I pick up the kids from school.

You know, because I need to look in the mirror, see the almost 30lbs I’ve gained in the last year and remember, “Oh yeah – I cope with shame by eating! This is the corporeal evidence of my failures.”

Now…the thing is…I do have the voice of Kind Zoot also in my head who tries to temper the negative with some positive. It’s not always enough to prevent a spiral and lately it’s not even enough to keep me above “stable” some days, but the voice is there reminding me of the good I do in the lives of my friends and family to counterbalance the failures.

And it hit me this weekend as I was trying to drown out the self-hate and listen to the voice of Kind Zoot…This is how the Catholic Church broke me.

Everyone talks about Catholics and guilt issues and I definitely have those to spare…but I’ve never really felt like that summarized the scarring in my soul from growing up Catholic. And this weekend it hit me: It’s not the guilt…it’s the focus on failures.

You see…I loved going to Confession as a child because it gave me a clean slate and as soon as I walked away, I was pure again and I could do my best to stay pure indefinitely. Of course, that never worked because – you know – we’re all human. But I always tried to go “X” amount of time without sinning. And the fact that I could barely last a day without telling a white lie or gossiping, always shattered my soul. And since I would have another Confession to attend at some point, I would keep track of all of these sins so I could make sure to get them all absolved in the future.

At some point I learned that you could ask God for forgiveness for your sins in your prayers and it would almost give you a clean slate so I started doing that in middle school. I started praying every night for forgiveness by listing my sins and failures and then try my best to go all day without gossiping or telling white lies or coveting or lusting and DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD THAT IS IN MIDDLE SCHOOL? It’s terrible. So every night I would contemplate my sins and work the next day to do better.

I remember this feeling SO VIVIDLY – the incredible desire to NOT FAIL. I would start “fresh” after I prayed, or after confession, or after Mass (there’s an absolution prayer during Mass) or after a church retreat or event – I always loved that feeling: NOW! Now I start with a clean slate and NOW! Now I will do better. NOW I will live without sin. And then part of my brain would be saved for keeping a tally of my sins since that last absolution.

This even continued into my adult non-Catholic years. When I studied Buddhism for awhile I tried to let go of the wants and needs of my ego and I would tally up the failures. (Which, ironically, is also a failure of ego.) In the late 90s, I found myself answering an alter call at a Baptist church revival where I begged for forgiveness of my serious sins (I had advanced much further than white lies and gossiping) and felt the cleansing power of that forgiveness again…only to still allocate part of my brain for remembering sins thereafter.

In my head I was always tallying my sins for my next Confession. Even if I knew there was no Confession in my future.

Do you know what I never ever did? I never trained myself to tally good. I never focused on the positive I put into the universe. There was no part of my brain set aside for tallying the kindness I spread or the joy or the love. There was no part of my brain keeping track of charitable actions or forgiveness. There was never a voice saying, “Yes…Kim…you gossiped just then, but you also helped your teacher clean erasers. That was nice.”

It was just me keeping track of failures so that I’d have my list for the next Confession.

And this…THIS is the demon I fight every day. The Confession Prepping Demon. I can forget wrongs done to me over the years much easier than I can forget my own failures. I can forgive hurt caused by people in my life much sooner than I can forgive myself. There’s a part of me constantly logging all of my mistakes, as though I can’t let go of them lest I forget how truly sinful I am.

Yesterday. This hit me yesterday. I’m 41-years old and I just realized that the darkest part of my soul, the one that I’m constantly trying to rescue, is the one in perpetual preparation of Confessing her sins.

But the other voice is there. The one that tallies the good. I tried to listen to her a little bit yesterday…and I even encouraged her to maybe talk about some good from my Childhood. I often jokingly tell the horrible stories of joining clubs centered around hating specific girls in our class, and about how I ditched my Dad at a movie theater one time because I was embarrassed, and about how I used to hide behind the bushes at recess to make out with my boyfriend in 7th grade…I have permanently engraved those stories into the solid folds of my long-term memory.

But wasn’t I also sometimes kind? And helpful? I tried to get the Kind Zoot voice to reflect on my childhood and teen years and it was hard. Every time I thought of something good, I remembered ulterior motives, selfish motivations or sought after rewards tainting the memories of good. I have evidently chronicled every moment in my past – even the good ones – by also logging how they were sinful. I used to go to church with my maternal Grandmother and I thought about how much she must have enjoyed that, but then I reminded myself that I started doing it because she went to the later service where that boy I had a crush on would sometimes show up.

I can’t seem to let myself remember the nice without also remembering the thing I would have called a sin when I was Chronicling my actions for Confession. I mean, I lusted after that boy, so that totally counterbalanced the good I was doing attending Mass with my Grandmother, right?

Thank you Catholicism, for teaching me how to remember all of my sins and to never allow myself pure moments of self love not tainted in reminders of sins.

Today, that changes.

Today I’m going to burn new habits into the recesses of my brain. It’s not going to be easy because there’s a lot of instinctive behavior I’m fighting against, but I am no longer of the belief that I need to confess my sins to a higher power, why am I still logging them? Why am I letting the moments of kindness and charity fade in my memories while I crystalize the failures for eternity?

I think I’m going to start today by physically writing down the good things I do. I mean, even the mundane stuff like…so far today I’ve made my kids lunches and I’ve walked the dog. THESE ARE GOOD THINGS. I don’t deserve a ticker tape parade or anything, but they are actions that deserve attention and focus more so than the screw-up with my taxes or the credit cards or the missed deadline or incorrect print order. I can do nothing to fix the mistakes from my past but I can try to let go of them and celebrate the good that I do instead.

Today, I stop prepping for Confession and start chronically the beauty I create with love and kindness.

Lessons In Decluttering

We are finalizing the details of HOPEFULLY buying a house (location is PERFECT, it just hasn’t been updated in 60 years so there’s lots of repairs needed) and I find that discussing decluttering and downsizing is one of my favorite topics. We’ve learned a lot in the 3’ish years to get us to the point where we’re trying to buy a 1500 sq ft house after selling a 4100 sq ft home. The most important takeaway so far is that there are TWO reactions to decluttering. One negative, and one positive, and how you (and the people who share your home) fall on the spectrums of those two reactions will determine your success from day 01.

Positive Reaction

Let’s say you’ve gotten rid of a bunch of clothes. Or maybe books. Or maybe you cleaned out that cupboard. And now? NOW YOU HAVE SPACE. There is space where there wasn’t space before and whenever you see it or think about it you are overcome by a feeling of calm. Suddenly – the absence of clutter in that one location, and the addition of empty space – you feel peace. You feel like you can breathe again.

Negative Reaction

Let’s think about that same space in your closet. Or that empty book shelf. Now, think about how your friend wants to read that book you gave away…You could have given it to her if you still had it! Or maybe you finally lost the weight you had been struggling to lose for a few years and you have a wedding coming up and Why did you give away that one dress? That dress would have been perfect! And now you can’t stop thinking about that one book or that dress and you are MAD. You are feeling regret and frustration. YOU HAD THE STUFF. And now your friend has to deal with buying that book or you have to buy a dress. WHY DID YOU GET RID OF THAT STUFF?

Weighing The Two Reactions

We are all going to experience both if we take a big step to declutter. Now, the trick is, you have to weigh the two against each other. I still, after 3 years of decluttering, feel the peace and the calm of the freedom and the space WAY MORE than I feel the negative reaction to not having that thing I needed that one time. That negative reaction in my mind…that regret and frustration…it fades quickly because it is nothing compared to the peaceful feeling of not feeling burdened by ALL OF THAT CRAP.

HOWEVER – I’m not sure Donnie feels the same way. He still has the most stuff to go through in storage because he can’t quite embrace the peace the space brings as he knows the regret will hang so heavy in his heart. He’s been able to weigh in favor of “decluttering” most of the time as he was excited about lessening the burden of the home we would own. But when it comes to specific items, and realizing they’re gone? He does experience regret much more than I do, so the majority of the final stage of “decluttering” will be on his shoulders as he’s had the harder time letting go of things.

This is a very important balance to understand if you have a person you’re sharing a home with. Because we all know how regret works, it eats at you and burdens your soul. We don’t want to push anyone into the “regret” zone simply because our feeling of peace in decluttering is so strong. You have to find a balance. Luckily, Donnie also feels incredible peace with the lack of clutter, so he often leans more to that side and even understands the appeal of things like “tiny houses” – if he didn’t experience any of the positive benefit of decluttering, we’d have bigger problems.

Consider The Generations After You

This is also something to think about when deciding what to keep of your children’s, or for your children. Because everything you store for them “when they have kids” becomes a burden for them in adulthood. Now, maybe it won’t be too big of a burden, BUT THAT IS UP TO YOU. When we sold my Dad’s house I left with two boxes of stuff from my childhood – AND THAT WAS PLENTY. Especially since he was gone, I’m not sure I would have let myself get rid of things. I’m very VERY happy he got rid of things for me over the years so that I did not have to deal with the burden.

We have to really consider how “value” translates over generations. This little dress is special to me because I remember Nikki wearing it. But will it be special to her? No. Probably not.

UNLESS – there are pictures of her in it. Then she might want to do the mother/daughter photo thing and that is a fun little homage to an article of clothing. So I keep clothes I have photos of my kids in. Of course, it also works for sibling photos too:

A friend of mine joked one time that he and his wife were going through boxes of their son’s stuff, “To help their future daughter-in-law.” Oh, man. Do I get that. Because it is hard as a kid to have a burden of stuff from your childhood you might not even remember, but that you don’t want to get rid of because your parents saved it for you. But it’s really hard to be the spouse of that person because all you have is the clutter and NO SENTIMENTALITY. I kept a lot of stuff of Dads for no real reason and – luckily – Donnie knew he only had to be patient and I would eventually see there was no purpose and would get rid of it. He trusts my purging skills to win out in the end. He wishes I wasn’t so good a purging most days.

But often he had to gently remind me the stuff was still in the garage. And when it came time to finally move out? He was patient with me as I went through the inner turmoil and he was sitting there thinking, “OH MY GOD, JUST GET RID OF IT, WOMAN.”

So, yeah. For the future spouses of your children – don’t keep stuff that your child won’t also appreciate. Are there photos of them with the item? Did they use it to a point where they actually have memories of it? Be aware that you are putting that burden on them with everything you keep. I still have weird dishes of Dads I’m not sure why I’m keeping. I don’t even remember him having them! But they are weirdly sentimental because they were mysterious. And they go on the walls so I can justify they won’t take up space anywhere!

Just don’t lose sight of the cycle of burden you could be starting, or perpetuating. You have memories with the dishes that belonged to your grandmother because you ate Christmas at her house ON THOSE DISHES every year. But will your daughter have the same affection for those dishes? Probably not if you never used them with her. But she will feel obligated to keep them because they were special to you. Do you see what happens in that moment? She is burdened by your sentimentality. And then her daughter won’t even have that and she’ll probably ditch the dishes.

It’s something we’re trying to do – consider future generations – when deciding what is important to us. We don’t want to burden them. And hopefully we won’t, now. If we successfully move into this home we will have to do one final purge and then it will be time to enforce the rule: NOTHING COMES IN UNLESS SOMETHING GOES OUT. And nothing comes in unless we can really justify it by NEED or WANT. We aren’t giving up consumerism, we’re not that brave. We still like stuff. New stuff especially. But we’re trying to weigh that.

EXAMPLE: We don’t have a full set of dishes and sometimes I consider ditching the ones we have and starting over with a new full set. But why? Why can’t I just buy some to replace the missing pieces? Because there’s a weird pressure to have 8 matching place settings? WHY? It doesn’t make sense. So when it comes time? I’ll just buy a few more plates. That’s it. And they won’t match and that will be part of our charm. Instead of burdening some thrift store with my incomplete set of dishes just so I can fulfill some weird burden society has imposed on me.

Anyway – these are lessons we’ve learned in the last 3 years and things we consider every step of the way. Do you have anything useful to share?