Announcement: I Need A Boob-Sweat Induced Do-Over

I kinda accidentally went several days in a row without showering a few weeks ago. I find that’s easier to do when you don’t exercise daily. You see, we’re living in this apartment and the water heater is smaller than we’re used to so we can’t all four get hot water in the mornings. I try to bathe at night but some nights I just don’t get around to it and, well, the next I know I’m sitting there on a Friday thinking, Um…was the last time I bathed…MONDAY? I’ll be honest, I have an inherent irritation with beauty and cosmetics and clothing so part of me was like: HELL YEAH! STICK IT TO THE MAN!

But then the other part of me thought, Yeah…that makes sense…I thought my boobs smelled bad.

My point? I’ve been frazzled.

There’s a scale of 1-10 when I measure my level of “Frazzled” in my life. 1 is “almost forgot to grab my headphones on the way out the door” and 10 is “Accidentally ignored my funky smelling boobs.”

It’s maximum frazzled territory here, people.

This has been the case since November, really. Once the election was over I started dedicating more time to keeping up with current events (I didn’t stress out so much with a Democrat in office) and to trying to manage some level of resistance. And then in December we got a contract on our house and while we’ve moved, the house still hasn’t sold. That doesn’t affect my schedule (apartment living is actually much easier) but it does affect my level of “calm” because I can’t check that box off until the house sells.

But, as we’re settled into some sort of “New Presidency” routine and “Tiny Apartment Living” cycle, I’m trying to re-grasp the threads in my life again. It was chaos during moving and resisting and OH MY GOD I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR ANYTHING ANYMORE. And now I’m trying to settle into my new routine and figure out, “Okay. What ball did I drop where?”

And y’all? I dropped a lot of balls. Not just the “BATHE” ball but a shit ton of other ones and those are just the ones I’m remembering! I’m certain there are many I’ve forgotten.

So I’m trying to sort things out and I kinda just want a do-over. Can I just make a public announcement that says something like:

ATTENTION: It turns out I’ve neglected a lot of shit over the last 6 months. Not the least of which was my own hygiene. My stanky boobs finally woke me up and I’d like a Do-Over please. Instead of trying to remember all of the things I’ve forgotten, I’d like to start over from this moment. Also? I’m going to have to contact some of you guys and tell you I can’t actually do the thing I told you I’d do because – well – I forgot to shower and no one wants my stinky boobs helping them with anything. And I might not contact you and tell you because I probably forgot I told you I’d do that thing anyway. It turns out as my boob sweat increases, my memory decreases. It’s an inverse relationship and my stank got real bad, y’all. Please forgive me all I have forgotten, and allow me a chance to start over and try to sort out what I really need to be doing with my time so that I don’t forget to shower again.

Like, ever. That can’t ever happen again. NEVER.

Love, Zoot.

Faith.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Faith. When I was privately suffering from depression as a teen, I had Faith that God still loved me even though I didn’t love myself. That Faith saved my life and prayer saved my life. No one else knew the pain I was in because I gave it all to God and I’m not sure I would have survived without that Faith.

Oh, and I had a terrible fear of Hell if I had killed myself, but that fear doesn’t really provide the nice narrative I need about Faith right now so let’s push that aside until a later date.

But Faith! It saved me.

As I have been without Faith in a God for many, many years now, I’ve been thinking a lot about Faith in humanity. I live in a pretty fantastic bubble of kind and compassionate people. Even if we disagree politically or spiritually, I’m 100% certain I would have friends who would come feed me if I was starving or clothe me if I was cold. I have Faith in those people to help me if I truly needed it.

I also have Faith that they’ll check on me if they think I need it. I’m trying to return the favor and let people know when I’m thinking of them as well, and I just feel like I have created this wonderful cocoon of love in my life.

But then shit happens.

Sometimes it’s a mean thing posted on Facebook about how all Liberals are evil. (I mean, some of us are, I’ve unfollowed many, but not ALL of us.) Other times it’s something global like and act of terror or a celebration of hate. Or sometimes it’s just stupid gossip and drama in my local life. The there’s basic shitty attitudes or bigoted opinions. Other times it’s just my own insecurity. But these things have me question my Faith in humanity and I start to ask myself, “Are we conditioned for evil? Can we truly spread kindness or is evil too strong?”

But I refuse to believe that. I refuse to lose my Faith. I’m taking time today (after seeing a lot of shit this weekend, I’ll be honest) to notice the good in people. The love and kindness. I’m not going to let a few bad things this weekend desecrate my Faith. Because while I saw a bunch of crappy stuff, I also so great strengths of friendship and love and I can’t forget the good underneath the bad. I can’t lose my Faith.

Let’s be kind to each other today, my friends.

Teaching My Daughter The Worst-Case-Scenario Game.

There are many coping strategies with anxiety. One of the simplest ideas is to look at the thing causing you anxiety and see if there’s anything right now you can do about it, and then do it. If there’s not anything you can do, you try to recognize that and let go.

That’s the first basic approach, and it’s one I’ve taught Nikki.

But it’s really not a “cure-all” by any means. Those of us with anxiety disorders know that just saying, Welp, nothing I can do so I guess I won’t worry… doesn’t do anything at all 99% of the time. I mean, I stress out some days about the driving I might have to do in cities I might travel to in the future. Obviously there’s nothing I can do about those things yet still…NIGHTMARE INDUCING.

So I was working with Nikki last night using a “game” my therapist taught me. The Worst-Case-Scenario Game. Where you literally talk out the Worst Thing that could happen and just keep following it through and then dissect each of those moments to see if you can remove the fear from them. You have to talk it out, you can’t just think about it because it still sounds scary in your head. But if you say it out loud, it often sounds ridiculous: I’ll ask my husband to drive while we’re in that city and he says, “No!” I mean, my husband never says, “No!” when I ask him to drive. HE WANTS TO DRIVE. Or how about: There are no Taxis to drive me. What? NO TAXIS? THERE ARE ALWAYS UBERS. Or LYFTS. Or SOMETHING.

So – say it out loud so you can talk through the thing you fear.

Now, back to my daughter. Nikki is about 5 days away from the final stage of an application process to get herself into a magnet school here in Huntsville that she’s been wanting to attend since she first learned about it last year.

Let me make this clear: THIS IS ALL HER.

This is an academic program and so there are a lot of parents that are pushing their kids to apply, but not us. It’s going to really complicate our lives if she gets in and we’re a bit worried about how it will affect her anxiety so we’ve just let her drive this car. And we’re on the home stretch and next Tuesday she has to go to the school board office to write an essay on-sight as the final step and she is FREAKING THE EFF OUT.

So last night we went through the Worst-Case Scenario.

Nikki, what’s the WORST thing that can happen?
I don’t get into the school.
Okay, so then what happens?
I go to my regular middle school.
Yeah, and what’s that like?
Well…my friends go there. And I’ll have dances and stuff.
Okay, so if you totally bomb this essay and don’t get into that school, then it won’t really be that bad, will it?

Not all anxiety can be helped by the Worst-Case-Scenario Game, but I knew this one would because I knew that going to this “new” school comes with it’s own challenges. And not going to the “regular” school means missing out on a lot of “regular” things so I knew that in this case – the Worse Case was not actually that bad.

Once we had the Worst-Case analyzed and realized it wasn’t too big of a deal, we talked a bit about the essay. How she needs to take her time, but keep her eye on the clock. How she needs to just breathe and stay focused because we all know anxiety can make you brain jump around and that is NOT ideal when it comes to writing. We talked about writing from your heart (this seems to be a “personal” type essay) and how if you are sincere and true in your voice, that’s the best you can do.

She’s still super-stressed. I’m not sure the timeline of when we’ll find out if she’s been accepted after this essay, but I really hope it’s soon. We’re really lucky our school system has started this program (if she gets in, she’ll be the second class to go through it) and we’d love to take advantage of it. BUT! If she doesn’t get in, it will be her first major life disappointment AND I AM NOT GOOD AT HELPING MY KIDS THROUGH THOSE. All I can usually do is offer to cry with them indefinitely and then eat all the ice cream.

Anyway – no real point to this other than kinda walking you guys through how A Mom With An Anxiety Disorder Helps Her Daughter With An Anxiety Disorder.

It’s a circus, people.

Lessons I’m Still Learning…

…And Wishing I Had Started Much Earlier.

I’ve been fighting my social anxiety demons for my entire life. But they didn’t really negatively impact my life until I graduated from college and I just started retreating more into my home and started doing all of my socializing online. After Dad died, I realized I need to get out more and started pushing outside my comfort zone and these are some of the lessons I’ve been learning along the way. Some I’m further into learning than others. Some are more of a natural habit now and others are still awkward and new. Either way – they’re things I wish I had started trying to apply to my life to conquer my social anxieties much earlier!

Questions Are The Key To Good Conversation

If I’m feeling awkward in a conversation asking questions to the other person/people will always save the day. First of all it takes the weight off of me to do the talking, and second of all it helps the other person relax too if they’re feeling awkward as well. Finally? It helps me get to know the person I’m talking with and that’s never a wrong move – to try to get to know someone better.

Listen to Learn, Not To Talk

This one I’m still on the “novice” side of things. I’m good at asking the questions but sometimes, especially if I’m learning how much I have in common with someone, I am excitedly waiting for my turn in the conversation. To keep from doing this (Like I said, this is a lesson I’m still learning) I try to challenge myself to go back to that first lesson and find a NEW question to ask based on the answer the person is giving me. I try to shut down the voice that says, “My turn to talk!” because then I’ll just be thinking about what I’m going to say.

Unless You Can Praise Their Contribution To The Conversation…then Talk Away!

I have found it’s okay to Listen to Talk if the other person’s experiences or insight is enlightening you. I love running conversations with my friends because they often totally blow my mind with things and then? Then I have to tell them. And I’ve found that when you can say: “That thing you said is spot on!” and explain why? It truly helps nurture a good conversation because then the other person feels invigorated to keep engaging.

Reach Out

I have always been terrible about trying to be there for people who are suffering. I’ve been better since losing Dad because I was so grateful for the people who reached out to me during his final weeks and after he died, but I still truly suck at it. I tend to just get wrapped up in my own head and just talk myself out of it. However, I try to apply the “Ask Questions” rule to these moments and sometimes that helps. Asking someone specifics of how they’re doing, or how their loved one is doing. Or maybe asking specifics about things like sleep. If someone is going through a challenging time, they’re probably not sleeping so checking in and saying, “Are able to sleep at all?” Is a sincere question that really seems to help show you’re really thinking about a person. I know when I’m suffering sleep is the first to go, so I tend to start off on that foot. But otherwise? I try to at least just let the person know I’ve been thinking about them. But like I said, I probably don’t reach out much more often than I do.

When You Do Reach Out, It’s Not About You

I am super self-absorbed when it comes to social awkwardness. I always assume everyone is thinking about how I’m the worst. So, when I do reach out, I often get worried when the person never responds back. Did I say the wrong thing? Are they not appreciative of my efforts? And dude…THAT IS THE WORST. I get so angry at myself when I catch myself doing that. I think it’s because I’m still so new at “conquering” social awkwardness that I’m always worried I’m not doing it right. But also it’s because I’m human and tend to just always make it about me.

Awkwardness Only Disintegrates With Familiarity

It’s a hard lesson to learn, but you can only lose your awkwardness the more you get to know someone. I no longer worry about being awkward around a lot of my friends, they expect it and love it about me. So social anxieties can only be conquered by getting out and socializing. It sucks, but it does prove to be worth it when you discover that in the end? We all feel like we are THE WORST at socializing.

And Ode To That One Spider Plant

I texted my brother yesterday to ask him if he remembered where it came from…the spider plant that weirdly thrived in the bathroom at Dad’s house.

He wasn’t positive, but I have this vague memory of the plant living in the cold part of the house for awhile and Dad had forgotten it was there. I had wondered if my brother left it behind when he moved, but he thought it might have arrived in the house years earlier. Either way – I do remember one year Dad forgetting to move it to the warm part of the house when the seasons changed.

You see, our house was only about 1,000 square feet and had no central heat or a/c. In the winter, we kept the door closed between the “common” area and the “back bedrooms” so that the tiny floorboard heater could almost keep the common areas livable in the winter.

The bedrooms didn’t need heat, you see, because they had electric blankets. Nothing should have survived in the cold part of the house without an electric blanket. Ask my husband who bravely suffered visits with me in the winter when I taught him how you build a tent over yourself with blankets and BREATHE and BREATHE and BREATHE, filling the area up with your own hot breath.

So, I have this vague memory of Dad going to the cold part of the house in the middle of winter (his bedroom was off the living room in the warm part of the house) and discovering the spider plant was still back there in the arctic and hanging on to life by a very frozen thread. He was so amazed and immediately moved it to the warm part of the house and see if he could perk it up a little bit.

He hung it by the window in the only bathroom. That room was in the warm half of the house, but that half of the house was still probably only 60 degrees at it warmest in the winter. That room did get direct sunlight through a window so Dad thought the plant might do best there. And of course – like my brother and I often joked due to the fact that the house had no central heat to circulate and filter air – that room was always filled with poop air.

And it thrived, which was weird considering it was cold as shit (no pun intended) in that room (I still have nightmares about taking lukewarm showers and exiting to the freezing air in a room with no heat) and – oh yeah – Dad would go out of town for WEEKS at a time with work.

He would water the hell out of that plant before he left, of course. And then just hope for the best.

And it just kept growing those baby shoots like it thrived on poop air and neglect.

It’s just a hilarious thing all around because Dad was not a green thumb. Well, who knows, maybe he was. But he never showed any signs of caring about plants or grass or landscaping or anything even remotely connected to chlorophyll.

But that spider plant, it suddenly became quite a source of pride that he couldn’t kill it, not with a cold house, and not with extended trips out of town.

I remember winter after winter it still survived, even if neglected for weeks at a time while Dad traveled, and I remember it always cracking me up.

There’s a plant at my office, not a spider plant, but some sort of generic ivy potted plant and it’s not doing well. It caught my eye the other day and I momentarily wondered if I should move it. And then I remembered the poop air loving spider plant and stopped for a moment to think about Dad.

Some days, man. I just still miss him so damn much. Especially this time of year which is the same time he was in hospice in 2009. I don’t remember if the spider plant was still alive in the end, I feel like one of us would have kept it if it had been. But there were so many emotions surrounding so many items during those clean-up weeks…who really knows.

Maybe it had already died. Dad really did travel a lot and maybe it was just one extended trip too many.

But I have this weird vivid memory of throwing the ball with Dad in the living room (you threw ball to keep warm in the winter) and glancing over to see the spider plant and laughing about it looking like it belonged in a jungle. It was SOOO full and green and lush. He insisted that it should have died a long time ago and credited the early weeks suffering in the “cold” part of the house as making it sturdy so that the “warm” part of the house was like a tropical climate.

I just wish everyone could have known my Dad, the spider plant whisperer.

I stumbled upon an email Dad sent in response to the ultrasound pictures when emailed him when we learned Nikki was a girl. He asked, “Do anyone of us know anything about raising a girl?”

He was funny and self-deprecating. He was the smartest guy I knew, or have known since. He was humble and giving. He bullet journaled before it had a cool name and he took notes in one of those journals after my wedding to help him remember the names of my friends. Something like: Betsy: Anastasia’s Mom. Black Dress.

And he learned the secret to spider plants was arctic poop air and periodic abandonment.

I miss him.