Thursday, September 29, 2011

Today is a Day...

It's a day to remember what's good.
And a day to redefine what is "bad."
It's a day to ask questions.
And a day to maybe not find the answers.
It's a day to be gentle
with yourself
and with others.
It's Thursday.
It's today.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Count 'Em Up

Want to know ten things that made me happy today?

1.  Autumn-ifying a summer skirt by adding tights, boots, and a sweater.
2.  Snuggles with Birdie, especially as she slooowly woke up from her long afternoon nap.
3.  Watching Rupert bound up the stairs to his best friend's apartment.  Coco is spending the night here and Rupert could not be happier.  He's bursting into wiggles about every ten minutes.
4.  My first sip of my first cup of coffee on this cool, gray morning.
5.  Talking to my mom four times in one day.  Especially happy is the fact that she doesn't get sick of me calling.
6.  Making plans to drink cheap wine with a new friend next week.
7.  Kind thoughts and words from blog readers.
8.  Not getting spit-up on, peed on, pooped on, or even excessively splashed by bathwater today.
9.  The faint citrus smell pervading my apartment.
10.  Knowing that tomorrow is a new day, full of possibilities, and ready for the taking.

Your turn.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Missing Her


'Cause then came you.
Then there's you.
I keep your picture
In my worn through shoes.

When I'm lost
In your eyes
I see the way for me.
"Someone Else's Life," by Joshua Radin

Monday, September 26, 2011

This is your brain on an eating disorder

"That girl is so skinny, she must be anorexic."
"Ugh, I can't believe I just ate that huge dinner.  Maybe I'll just go puke and feel better."
"I am so jealous of people who are anorexic!  I wish I could have that kind of control, just for a couple of weeks so I could lose this weight."
"She's been in the bathroom a long time.  Haha, I bet she's throwing up!"
"People with eating disorders are so stupid.  It's not that complicated: eat when you're hungry, don't eat when you're not."

How many times have you heard comments like these?  How many times have you said things like these (or thought them, but didn't say them out loud)?  Maybe while you read this blog, you think things like, She doesn't look anorexic..., or Really, Cait?  What is the big deal about food?  I'll be honest, I had a lot of hesitations about "coming out" with my eating disorder on this blog, and one of the biggest reasons was that I was afraid people would look at pictures of me and dismiss the whole idea; say I'm exaggerating, I'm faking it, I don't really have a problem because I'm not wasting away in a hospital bed at 66 pounds.  All I know is, I wouldn't wish my daily battles with food on my worst enemy.  I don't have all the answers to the endless array of questions you could ask, that's for sure.  But there is a lot of information out there that may help combat the confusion and misconceptions that surround eating disorders in our culture.  Allow me to elaborate.

1.  People with eating disorders do not choose to have them.  If you want to read a great blog entry about this very fact, go here.  In a nutshell:
A.  Anorexia is a phobia of food.  It's a dangerous phobia, because we need food to survive and we can't just avoid food like how someone with a phobia of spiders can stay out of musty basements and not go to see Spiderman on Broadway.  Telling someone with anorexia to Just eat, is like telling someone with a phobia of heights to Just get over it and climb the ladder.
B.  The compulsions behind bingeing and purging in bulimia and binge eating disorder are akin to the compulsions behind OCD.  It is not a choice we make, to eat compulsively, without stopping to breathe.  It is not a choice to then go and throw it up.  It is a compulsion that is as impossible to fight as the need for a person with OCD to wash their hands repeatedly, or count, or have certain rituals. 

2.  Eating disorders are based in genetics.  Genetics is the loaded gun, and environment pulls the trigger.  It's no use - and it trivializes the issue - to blame the media, or society, or celebrities for the presence of eating disorders in our culture.  This delegitimizes the struggle that everyone with an ED faces, because it insinuates that since we are all exposed to the same culture, those who have eating disorders must be weaker than others or more susceptible to those messages.  People with eating disorders have a genetic predisposition towards them.  Things like emotional trauma, the onset of puberty, mental illness, and a host of other things can be the spark that initiates the use of an ED behavior, and the use of these behaviors solidifies the existence of the eating disorder itself.  It's not my fault that I have an eating disorder.  It's not my parents' fault, it's not my friends' fault, and it's definitely not society's fault.  I got stuck with a genetic hand of cards that is chock full of mental illness.  That's just the way it is.

3. The use of eating disorder behaviors (restricting, bingeing, purging, and excessive exercise) are all coping mechanisms.  They help the body and mind deal with certain situations, stress, anxiety, and trauma to prevent a "system shutdown."  The use of them reinforces their own power, and in so doing, trains the brain to need them in order to cope with everyday life.

4.  There is endlessly complex biology behind how these behaviors function as coping mechanisms and here is the short version.  The important chemicals involved here are endorphins, the neurotransmitter serotonin, and the hormone vasopressin.
Endorphins are pretty well-known.  What releases endorphins?  Exercise!  (And lots of other things.)  Someone with an eating disorder who over-exercises does it as a means to flood their system with endorphins, again and again and again.

Serotonin is a fun guy.  Antidepressants work on serotonin, by preventing cells from sucking it back up, and instead making it hang out for longer in our synapses (the space between neurons) so it can do its thing.  Serotonin is kind of complicated, but when it comes to mood, suffice to say that it's good stuff.  It keeps us feeling good - balanced, not anxious, and generally even-keeled.  SSRI's (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, i.e., most antidepressants) are the most commonly prescribed drug in the US.  So you can see that serotonin is pretty crucial.
A.  Restricting works with serotonin in this way: when a person severely restricts their food intake, not only do they lose weight, but their brain actually shrinks.  As the brain shrinks, though, it doesn't alter the levels at which it is producing neurotransmitters.  So all of a sudden, an adult who is heavily restricting is flooding their smaller, shrunken brain with enough serotonin for a much larger brain.  Hello, feel-good stuff!  Hello, positive reinforcement to keep restricting in order to keep up the serotonin flood!  Your brain can actually compel you to continue restricting in order to maintain the serotonin flood that has begun.
B.  Bingeing works with serotonin quite differently: people who binge almost without exception report bingeing on carbohydrate-heavy foods.  There is a biological compulsion going on here.  The precursor to serotonin is an amino acid building block called tryptophan.  When we eat carbs, the insulin that is released causes the uptake and processing of everything except tryptophan.  Tryptophan hangs out in the blood and enters the brain where it gets made into gads and gads of serotonin, flooding the brain with feel-good stuff.

Vasopressin is a hormone that is crucial to the body's functioning, especially the heart.  Purging acts on vasopressin in a very compelling way.  When you vomit (self-induced or not), there is a huge release of vasopressin in the blood.  It does three very powerful things in regards to the brain: it acts as a sedative, an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) and an antidepressant.  This is why purging, the eating disorder behavior that is often the most difficult for anyone to understand, is so addictive.  Your brain experiences a huge rush of chemicals that calms it, lifts its mood, and decreases anxiety the instant you purge.  Now, because the brain is constantly adapting, as time goes on, it requires a higher and higher level of purging in order to get the same effects from the vasopressin (much the same way that an alcoholic must drink more and more in order to get drunk and feel better).

An eating disorder is based in biology.  It's an illness, just like diabetes or cancer is an illness.  It's also a hell of a ride.  Food is everywhere.  It's necessary for survival.  It permeates every social setting, every gathering, every aspect of our culture.  When you fight battles with food, every meal, every day, all day long, it's enough to make you want to be anywhere but here, doing anything but living life in your body that is alien to you, in your mind that has turned against you.  Please try and remember this and look with compassion on those who may be struggling around you.  We didn't choose this.  We're just fighting like hell to get though it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ready, Set...WTF

The Good...

The Bad...

...and The Ugly

Hope your Saturday is off to a better start than mine!

Parenting Gods...

...a humble list of requests:

Please let me remember, when I am naming my child, that while names like Timothy are fine, names like Thymmoethieyx (the x is silent) are not.  Kid's got two moms, alright?  Enough is enough.

Please let me never spend more on an outfit ensemble for my child than I spent on groceries that week.

Please let me never get hung up on what the other mommies at Circle Sing or Baby ASL think about my lack of eyebrow grooming.

Better yet, let me not feel guilty about asking Alix to take the kids to Circle Sing or Baby Sign so that I can shower and pee with the door closed.  (Or, heaven help us, maybe we just won't go one week.)

Please let me never ask a babysitter to cook a meal for my child(ren) that involves more than five ingredients or three steps.  The world will not end if they eat frozen pizza.

Please let me remember that things like pajamas, diapers, security blankets, and formula should be in OBVIOUS places that are easily accessible to anyone caring for my children.

Please let me also remember that things like menstrual cups, sex toys, lingerie, and porn should be in extremely UN-obvious places, difficult to access by children and caregivers alike.

Please let me never refer to my child's genitals by anything other than the words "penis" or "vagina."  A penis is not a "unit" and a vagina is not a "hoo-ha."  Really.

Please let me remember that dirt, sand, grass, pebbles, and fur, if ingested in small amounts, will not kill my child, nor even seriously maim them.

Please let me never fall victim to claims that IT IS ABSOLUTELY CRUCIALLY NECESSARY that I buy this newest contraption, guaranteed to soothe/feed/transport/clean my child for the LOW LOW PRICE of $XXX,XXX.  I've got hands, arms, and boobs.  Please let me remember that those are almost always enough.

Please let me never schedule my child's life so much that he/she requires his/her own Blackberry to keep track of it all.  

Please let me remember that I grew up fine without television and so will my children.

Please let me relax and let other people take a turn when it's too much for me.  It doesn't make me a bad mom if I need help sometimes.

Please let me remember, then, that the more people that love my child, the better.  Please help me not to be jealous or resentful when this happens, and instead remember how much fun it was to love on kids when was a nanny.

Please help me to never, ever criticize my body in front of my children.  If "Mommy's belly" was good enough for them to live in, it should be good enough for me to live with.

Please, above all else, help me to be calm, to carry on, to do some things right, to fuck other things up, to hug them, kiss them, cry over them, scold them, pull them close, and eventually, let them go.

**This list brought to you by myself and a friend.  Nannying will give you nothing if not ideas of what not to do with our own children!**

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lies My Mirror Tells Me

A few weeks ago, I was chatting on Facebook with a dear friend who is living in South America right now.  In case you need to brush up on your earth science, this means that she's surviving the dead of winter (that is slowly changing to spring) while we enjoy the shift from summer to fall.  Months of living in snow and ice have worn her down, as has the need to constantly be building, tending, and maintaining a fire in her woodstove, lest she freeze and go hungry for lack of cooked food.  I asked how she was doing and her weary reply, "Tired, cold, the usual," came all too quickly.  She returned the question, and I, with a similarly bleak outlook, answered honestly, "Tired, hungry, the usual."  Thousands of miles apart, we both laughed.  The truth is often ironic, sometimes a little crass, and always hard to wrap your head around.  Does being perpetually hungry or cold mean that neither of us can be happy too?  Certainly not.  But feeling like you're fighting a losing battle against a seemingly endless winter or a seemingly unrelenting eating disorder can be a bit disheartening.


On my flight home from California, I had the incredible fortune to become fast friends with my two seatmates, G. and K.  G. is an artist and teacher based in Brooklyn. His passion and aptitude for both were readily apparent as he talked about his students and his most recent paintings.  K. is a director of photography based in LA and similarly, her passion for portraits that catch a glimpse into the lives of those around us was inspiring to me, an amateur photographer.  Never have I enjoyed a flight so much as I did those five and a half hours it took to get from LA to Baltimore.  The three of us talked constantly, covering topics from childbirth, to html coding, to the pets and children in our respective lives.  While none of us were parents, it only took an hour or so for us all to whip out our cell phones and begin showing off pictures of the kids we knew and loved.  Admiring the sight of G.'s chunk of a nephew in his mother's lap, K. laughed at his Buddha belly so big that his t-shirt had ridden up to his armpits.  "I love when babies are so big and their mothers are your size!" she exclaimed, looking at me.
Stricken, I looked back with a mixture of confusion, incomprehension, and utter terror.  What did she mean, "my size"?  Size huge?  Why is that cute?  Why is she saying that?  What the hell is she doing, noticing my size?  
 Seeing my look of confusion, she continued, "You know, tiny.  It always makes me wonder how they managed to have such a big baby when they're so small."
The conversation moved on between G. and K. for a few minutes while I attempted to collect myself.  You are NOT, in the slightest, by any stretch of the imagination, tiny, my mind reminded me.  As I took deep breaths to combat the anxiety that had rushed through me, I tried to be calm.  Any comment, no matter how benign or well-intentioned about my body sends me into a panic.  I literally cannot handle the thought that other people look at, notice, or pay any attention to my body.  It terrifies me.  It floods my brain with the message, FAT.  It confuses, baffles, and overwhelms me to hear people contradict what I feel I know to be true about how I look.  How can it be possible that other people see something different than what I see when I look in the mirror?


During my trip to California, my friend and I did some outlet shopping.  Clothing shopping is as terrifying to me these days as jumping out of a plane without a parachute.  There are just far too many opportunities to fall apart.  I was doing okay though, even mildly enjoying myself as I tried on shoes and scarves.  Gathering my nerve, I tried on a few pairs of pants in a style I liked.  They were all too big.  I tried a size down.  Still too big.  Finally, I put on a size of pants that I've never been nor have I ever considered it possible for me to be.  They fit.  My mind reeling, I stood frozen in front of the mirror, seeing everything I hate and not understanding how it was possible for me to be wearing the size that I was.  Driven to desperate frustration by my lack of clothes that fit, I bought the pants.  As I got dressed yesterday, I dreaded pulling them on, convinced that this time, they would surely be too small.  Nope.  Still fit.  Far from making me feel good, this fact only serves to send me into a panic similar to that brought on by K.'s innocent comment on the plane.  Why, oh why, can I not see what others see or what the facts seem to show?

Some days, it takes an hour for me to get dressed.  I've very nearly been late to work because of it.  Near tears, I will try on literally hundreds of combinations of clothes, only to reject them all into a towering heap on my bed.
Then, there are days when I do better.  Days when I manage to resemble normalcy, when the food isn't as scary, when I cook something healthy, when I eat with a friend and keep it down.  Still, it's hard not to feel like it's constantly one step forward and three steps back.  The frustration, fear, and weariness of the whole shebang often bring me to tears.  I know that I can't fight this alone.  It grows more obvious to me by the day that this is a war whose battles I cannot always win by myself.  Seeking help for this will certainly be one of the hardest things I have yet to do, but I know it's necessary.  With the support of friends and family behind me, I can only hope for the best.  Because I would desperately, more that anything, like a day to come when this doesn't crowd my every thought.  When I don't feel like I'm fighting to hold my head above water.  Hopefully, that day will come.  Soon.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

All Fall Down

As I stepped through the doors of La Guardia and into the New York air last night, I detected the change instantly - it was fall.  When I left for California, it had still been the tail-end of summer.  But even through the exhaust of a thousand cabs and the smog of low-flying planes, the shift was unmistakable.  The air had changed, bringing with it my favorite season.  September has always felt like the harbinger of new beginnings to me far more than January, or even late March, the very beginning of spring here in New England.  If I made New Year’s resolutions, I would make them now, not in the middle of a seemingly endless winter that stretches ahead of January 1st for at least another three months.  Though autumn has always brought with it a fresh school year (well, until I graduated from college, that is), beginning in 2007, it has also been the time of heartbreak, sadness, and despair.  Why it’s still my favorite season is a question that deserves an answer: because, for as many times as fall has been the season of things that knocked me down, it has also been the season during which I inevitably get back up.

In the autumn of my sophomore year of college, my first serious relationship went up in flames.  It was a long, drawn-out, messy affair, the pain of which I refuse to trivialize, despite the temptation to dismiss it as the inevitability of first love and all that crap.  I was with a person with whom I believed I wanted to spend the rest of my life.  She felt the same way.  Until, one day, I realized with gut-wrenching finality that I didn’t love her anymore.  So, it ended, and it was awful, and it was sad, and then it got darker and more twisted as we got back together and fell apart again.  We stomped over each other’s hearts, both of us too scared of life without the other to realize we were killing what we were so desperate to save.  Winter turned to spring and spring to summer, and it seemed that things were better, that they were okay.

In the autumn of my junior year, I fell hard, headlong, and dangerously quickly into rapidly cycling mania and depression.  Frantically, I tried to dig my way up and out of the hole I was in, only to feel like the more frenetic my pace grew, the sicker and sicker I became.  Eventually, I collapsed, hollow-eyed and utterly hopeless into a bed behind the locked windows of the local hospital’s psychiatric ward.  Slowly, ever so slowly, I picked myself up and dusted myself off.  I had help, or it never would have happened.  Doctors who listened, nurses who gave me extra socks, mental health aides who woke me gently from my nightmares, fellow patients who knew without the need for words what an awful, overwhelming, and terrifying task it was to simply exist some days.  My friends and family stood by my side, until, finally, the day came when I walked through the doors of the hospital and cried as I breathed fresh air.  Three weeks later, my fragile world crashed in on itself once more when the doomed relationship from the previous fall ended again, this time for good.  Sickness like mine was too much for her to handle and she made her exit with haste.  Barely, I’m still not sure how, I hung on.  I went to therapy.  I cried.  I needed my mom.  I cried some more.  I went to class.  I clung to Tucker.  I cried.  I took my medication.  I watched mindless television, huddled under mountains of blankets.  Eventually, I cried the last of the tears that she could ever possibly deserve, and I got on with my life.  Winter turned to spring and spring to summer, and light shone through the clouds because then, I met Alix.

In the autumn of my senior year, an ugly drama arose in my idyllic Smith world that threatened to ruin my senior year.  It didn’t, thankfully, and I escaped as often as I could to the haven of Alix’s New York apartment.  I hated that something so petty and ugly could take from me the cautious hopes I’d had for a better fall than the previous two, but again, eventually, winter came, then spring, and finally, graduation.

Last fall, Alix and I were weathering a terrifying health scare (for her) that left us both shaken and all too aware of life's fragility.  The word "tumor" that rested so innocently on the printed page of a biopsy report was the same that crashed unceremoniously and unwelcomed into our young, young lives.  The tiny mass was removed with surgery and classified as benign after toxicology testing; a freak development that will almost definitely never return, thanks to the thorough removal performed by Alix's surgeon.  The first night she was home post-surgery, I was frozen, numbed by exhaustion and fear.  I sat at our kitchen table in the gleam of a weak bulb, listening to her breathe, and I finally broke down and cried.  It hit me all at once that I could have lost the person I love most in the world.  Granted, the mass was small and completely benign.  But the fear was real, alive, and pulsing that night and for many nights afterward until it gradually subsided.

And this year?  This year, this fall, I’m alone.  In some ways, it’s the hardest yet.  In other ways, it’s the year when I look back at all the pain of years past and I am damn grateful to be where I am now.  There are days when I can see that where I am now, right here, is exactly where I am supposed to be.  There’s a quote by George Santayana that I love:
The world is not respectable; it is mortal, tormented, confused, deluded forever; but it is shot through with beauty, with love, with glints of courage and laughter; and in these, the spirit blooms timidly, and struggles to the light amid the thorns.

 There are days when I feel like I’m running barefoot over those thorns, trying to get to the light shining through.  But I won’t stop running, this I know.  Those glints of beauty, love, and laughter are worth every sad autumn it took to get me to today.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Flying, Friends, and Pho

Months ago, Southwest had an amazing deal on plane tickets.  Guess who jumped on that deal right quick?  THIS GIRL.

September 15th finally rolled around, and after a 3 AM cab ride, two hours to Chicago, four hours to LA, one tearful reunion, five cups of coffee, and a dinner that reminded me that I am secretly Vietnamese (if only for my intense and undying love for the food...especially pho), I am finally here!

I can't begin to explain (at least, not without crying) how amazing this girl, this friend of mine, is.  She stuck by me through four years of college, holding me up when my world was falling apart and laughing along with me when it finally righted itself.  She's even vowed to host two bachelorette parties, bless her soul.  (Take two girls getting married to each other and multiply everything girly about a wedding by two.  Scary, right?  It doesn't faze her a bit.)

Here's the thing about me.  I don't have that many friends.  As I've gotten older, I'm more and more okay with this fact.  I had plenty of acquaintances in college, people that I lived with and ate with and had class with, but with whom ultimately I don't keep in touch.  I have a low tolerance for bullshit, and this includes bullshit friendships that don't have much beneath a shiny surface.  This can make for a pretty low friend density, I've found.  But - I could not be happier with the truly amazing, loyal, loving friends that I do have.  I can only count them on one hand and that's okay.  It leaves one hand free for holding on when we need each other.
Hiking in Hawaii post-graduation

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Songs for Her Sassiness

In light of the utter relief I felt when my job with the boys ended, it is safe to assume that I won't be returning to work for their family, even if/when my former boss finds another job.  That said, I couldn't be happier with my current situation.  A few days of work per week balances out my study/application time, not to mention, brings in some desperately needed cash.  So, since this little one will be playing the lead role in upcoming nanny-related posts, I'd say it's about time for a formal introduction:
Fuzzy and self-photographed - but check out the smiles!
Too cute, right?  Well, get this - today, September 14th, is her quarter-birthday!  Three months old today, and I get to spend it with her.  Heretofore (blog)named Birdie - Radish readers, meet Birdie; Birdie, meet Radish readers.  Okay, now you can all ogle her and tell me how freaking adorable she is. 

The cheeks!  The smile!  The chub!  Birdie girl has got it all figured out.  She's got her mama, her daddy, and me all waiting on her hand and (tiny) foot.  She loves nothing more than to be held and snuggled, and is generally easy-going - except when she's not.  Little baby, BIG lungs.  This sassy girl can reach some very impressive decibels when something isn't rocking her world.  But, bless her, she so stoically hams it up for the camera anyway:

I need to brush up on my song repertoire for this one.  Girl can't get enough of it (which is saying something, because um, yeah, I shouldn't quit my day job to become a professional singer, that's all).  I know very few "kid" songs, start to finish.  I tend to sing the same verse of Amazing Grace ad nauseum, or the bits and pieces of "This Land is Your Land," "Oh My Darling Clementine," and "The Wheels on the Bus" that I know.  Then, the other day, I had a realization: just because I don't remember the words to some inane children's song doesn't mean I can't sing to this music-craving girl.  So I promptly pulled out some Katy Perry.

You're so hypnotizing, could you be the devil, could you be an angel...

She loved it.  One rendition of bad pop music under my belt, and next I was belting out Lady GaGa, closely followed by a smattering of Ke$ha, P!nk, and Britney.   Lest she think I only listen to Top 40, I threw in some Tegan and Sara, The Weepies, and Jack Johnson.  She was transfixed.  I promised her that tomorrow, we'd move on to Dar Williams and Antje Duvekot, with a bit of Rihanna and the Black Eyed Peas - but only if she's good.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Three Going on Seventeen

Getting an invitation to a birthday party is always exciting.  Getting an invitation to a toddler's third birthday party - from the soon-to-be three-year-old herself - is even better.  Apparently, the soundtrack of the last few weeks in my former nannygirls' house was a constant repeat of this conversation:

June: Mommy, how many days until we see Caitlin?
June's mother: Well, one less day than yesterday, so __ more days!

When I walked into the ice cream parlor where June's third birthday party was being held, this is the face I was greeted with:
Talk about a self-esteem boost!  Nothing beats rocking a little one's world, purely by showing up.

Only after a truly astounding amount of ice cream was eaten did the party begin to wind down.  I wasn't quite ready to leave the girls, so I headed back to their house for an idyllic afternoon in the September sunshine.  Big sister Sage used to be so scared of the monkey bars that I had to hold onto her waist the entire time.  Not any more, that's for sure.

Girlfriend is almost eight, which, as we all know, might as well be twenty-five.  Good thing she'll never be too old for me to tickle these puppies.

Not to be outdone, Junebug wasted no time pulling out her best trick.
Did I mention she's three?

A lot changed in the transition from two to three for this one...

Sage: Mommy says that Juney is on the South Beach diet.
Me: Huh??
Sage: Because she doesn't like bread!
Me: Juney, you don't like bread?
June: Yes I do!  When I was two, I didn't like bread.  (Pause.)  But now I'm three.

She may have just turned three, but I know only too well that the next time I turn around, she'll be graduating high school.

So blessed to know them.  So happy to love them.  I don't care how many birthdays go by, they will always be my baby girls.

Friday, September 9, 2011

In Good Company

I crave the solidity and comfort of routine.  I thrive on predictability, stability, and a distinct shortage of shock and surprise.  I'm that person who truly does want to know what is in the package before I unwrap it so I can know how to react to what I'll find inside.  In the time since Alix left and I stopped working full-time, my life has been terrifyingly unstructured.  First, I was traveling, then, since I got home, I've been floundering through the days, trying to establish some sort of routine to help me get by without having a meltdown every five minutes.  It feels like it took forever, but this week has been a huge turning point for me.  I have structure!  I have consistency!  I am like a happy, well-adjusted three-year-old who has consistent nap-times and clear expectations for behavior.

These days, Rupert wakes me up around 7:30 AM by rattling the front of his crate, making abundantly clear his need for a walk and some breakfast.  I shake off my lassitude, and stumble into some sweats for our morning constitutional.  After Rupert is settled into his post-breakfast nap, I catch up on the internet world while sipping some coffee and begin to resemble a human after a shower and some clothes by about 9 AM.  My day thus begun, I arrange my GRE study schedule around whatever babysitting commitments I have lined up for the day.  Twice a week, I walk the two minutes to J.'s apartment and revel in eleven-pound, ten-week-old, bread-loaf-baby goodness for a blissful eight hours.  Other days, I'll do a short, 3-4 hour babysitting stint for various families in the area, but it's never too serious or stressful (or if it is, I don't ever have to do it again, so there).  When I'm not babysitting, I'm studying for the GRE.  In an effort to forestall a quick descent into self-pitying loneliness, I often take my studying out of the house and into one of the many surrounding Starbucks or local joints.  There, I'll read, underline, write essays, and review math facts that I haven't seen in six years or more.  My aptitude for words far outstrips my knowledge of exponents or algebra, but I'm working on them all.  When I tire of studying, I'll run errands and attempt to solidify an inchoate plan for dinner.  Food is still hard; there is no gainsaying the fact that my diet is distinctly abstemious.  That said, I'm trying.  Every day, I'm trying.  It's not perfect, but it's a work in progress (like me).  In the evening, I take Rupert for a long walk in Central Park, call my mom to chat, have Skype dates with friends, listen to music, and read for fun.  I'm often too tired to continue studying past sundown - a night owl I am not.  If I start to feel lonely or lachrymose, I check the time and often, it's time to call it a night.  One last walk for Rupert, and me and my boys, we head to bed.  The window fan hums, Tucker purrs into my ear and - wonder of all wonders - I usually fall asleep.

This?  Living alone?  I'm figuring it out.  I've found that it's not always lonely, it's not always scary (though often it can be both).  Sometimes, it's the most peaceful thing in the world.  In learning to live by myself, I'm learning to live with myself.  And you know what I've found?  I make for some decent company.  Me, myself, and I - we're figuring each other out.

Who says you can't study and procrastinate at the same time?  Not me, says the girl who just learned a stack of vocab words by using them in a blog post!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hail Seitan

White girl problem of the day:

SIGH...Whole Foods employee, when you're done stocking this shelf at tortoise-speed, I'd really like to peruse the selection of seitan more intently.  I need to examine the calorie content of the "smoky" flavor versus the plain in order to maximize my vegan food choices without pissing off my eating disorder...okay?  OKAY??

All together now!

"Hey Cait!  You are a walking cliche!"

Awesome, great, thanks you guys.  Over and out.

Running Out of Love

In the shitstorm that was my life at the end of July, I never really talked about my job with the boys ending except to mention it here.  Becoming suddenly unemployed wasn't exactly in the plan, given the new scope of my financial responsibilities, but its event was cruelly ironic, nonetheless.  You see, I had been slowly gearing myself up to quit, only to be unceremoniously dumped before I could leave of my own volition.  Don't get me wrong, I'd so much rather have a job like this end because of circumstances beyond my (or my boss's) control then have to go through the pain and awkwardness of quitting - let alone be fired because I wasn't up to snuff.  Shock and panic about finances aside, the overwhelming emotion I felt about the job ending was very simple: relief.  It is only in retrospect that I can look at my time working with LM, Bee, and Bean and see that for as much as I enjoyed the good times with them, mostly I felt stressed, saddened, and exhausted by the whole experience.  This isn't easy for me to admit.  After all, I pride myself on being good with kids just as much as I equate my self-worth with my ability to be spectacular at whatever I take on.  And the cold, hard truth of it is that I was not the best nanny I could be for those boys.  Yes, I worked my butt off.  Yes, I did a good job.  Better than good, in fact.  But not the best. 

Here's what's tough: being the best nanny you can be means giving of yourself to children as if they were your own.  It means opening your heart to loving them with a devotion and fierceness that transcends that of a normal caregiver, in order that you can weather the tough times, discipline fairly, be endlessly patient, and come back the next day ready to do it all again.  I did all of those things - with Monkey.  When I left him, something broke inside of me.  I couldn't love my new boys the way I loved Monkey.  I couldn't jump into their midst and deftly love, care, and nourish them the way I had been doing for my little guy only a week previously, and for ten months before that.  I tried, though.  Oh, how I tried.  I worked hard, I fought to love them, and I was harshly, bitingly critical of myself when I was impatient or abrupt or uninspired.  Despite all of that, I couldn't fix or overcome what had broken inside me and it was the slow descent into misery that made me desperate to quit, even as I frantically pushed myself to work harder and be better.

I wrote about the good times here.  I would allude to the hard times, because it's inevitable that things are not always rosy posy with three boys under the age of four.  But there were days when I would tell LM to play by himself during quiet time while I would retreat to the bathroom and cry, counting down the hours until the day would end.  When Bean wouldn't take his bottle, I'd sometimes stare at him helplessly, barely able to muster the energy and determination to wheedle him into finishing those last few ounces.  When Bee would have a tantrum, it was often all I could do to not start pitching a fit right beside him, as exhausted and frustrated as I was.

The fact of the matter is, what broke inside me when I left Monkey is still broken.  I didn't love the boys the way I loved him.  I wasn't able to give of myself so completely, knowing what it feels like to leave that behind.  The worry and fear I hold close to my heart right now is that I'll never be able to love like that again - even with my own babies.  I fear that what's broken won't ever be fixed, and that my own children will suffer because of it.  Did I play fast and loose with my ability to love?  Did I squander my chances?  I can't bear this, thinking that the answer is yes.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Procrastinate Now! Don't Put It Off!

In a highly uncharacteristic moment of procrastination the other day (Ha. Haha. HAHAHA.), I was reading a novel instead of studying from my GRE test prep book.  Not to get all dramatic and stuff, but that seemingly not-very-significant moment may have altered my entire future:
The book is called Delivery and it's about (what else?) a midwife.
The main character mentions, in passing, the Yale school of midwifery.
I ambled online and began to peruse the Yale School of Nursing's website.
I clicked on the Admissions tab and saw these three magical little words: no prerequisites required
Let me stop and explain.  As I've mentioned, when I was at Smith, I thought I wanted to go on to medical school.  Thus, I took all the prerequisites necessary to get into medical school.  These occupied all four years of my education there, demanded more brain cells than I've ever collectively possessed, and drove me to tears about once a day.  I also took the entrance exam for med school, the MCAT, which required eight months of studying, a Kaplan prep course, and again, more brain cells than I can ever hope to regain.  What Smith did not offer (nor was I interested in at the time), were the courses required for admission into nursing school.  Yes, the two sets of requirements are different.  So, around about the time I started backpedaling furiously on the pathway to medical school and started sneaking peeks over the fence into the land of nursing school and midwifery, I came crashing unceremoniously into the fact that I'd have to go back to school and take four to five more college courses before I could even apply to nursing school.  This was a real blow.  Months went by before I came to begrudgingly accept that it was just a reality I was going to have to swallow and that I'd still wind up happier in the long run.  I hadn't yet advanced to the "how will I pay for these classes/when will I take them/where will I take them" stage, except to acknowledge such questions' existence and then promptly look in the other direction and start whistling.  Loudly.

But there those three words were.  No. Prerequisites. Required.
I read faster.
The program is ranked seventh in the nation.
I'd be a midwife - a real, honest-to-goodness midwife - in three years.
The application deadline is November 1st.
And then, I came to a screeching halt.  I needed to find out if they would accept my October 6th GRE scores, even though the scores might not be released before November 1st.  I hung in suspended animation as the phone rang and a nice woman picked up.  Oh yes, she told me.  They're accepting scores well past the deadline this year since the GRE has an altered format and score release schedule.
I thanked her, and hung up the phone with shaking hands.
Today is September 1st.
I'm taking the GRE on October 6th.
My application to the Yale School of Nursing is due on November 1st.

Excuse me while I go jump up and down and squeal at decibels only Rupert can hear (poor guy).