Wishful pausing?

I’m beginning to wonder if I really am in perimenopause, or if my body is simply confused by all this breastfeeding. I haven’t had much in the way of hot flashes these past few weeks, and the rest of my symptoms could simply be related to breastfeeding. Or stress. Or endometriosis.

Let’s be honest: My body never did figure this menstruation thing out, and it’s far too late to worry about that now.

I’ve always assumed, based on my mother’s experience, that I would go through menopause early. There’s no firm basis for this belief; my maternal grandmother died at the age of 49 without having gone through The Change. But as my menstrual experience has closely mirrored my mother’s (we even started at the same age — 4 months before our 14th birthdays), I figured my end would also come at roughly the same age as hers.

But then I threw a curve: Two late pregnancies, and one extended breastfeeding experience. Even if I were close to menopause, I might have altered the end date by continuing to nurse Kai.

It also occurs to me that my interpretation of my symptoms might all be so much wishful thinking. I want to go through menopause. I love being a mom, don’t get me wrong, and it wouldn’t be awful (thought it would be rather inconvenient at this point) to have another child. But I am done with endometriosis. Done with the pain. Done with the swelling, the bloating, the mood swings. Done with wearing a panty liner day after day for months on end, just in case I might start, for fear of ruining my clothing. (Also done with ruining my clothing.) Done with periods that last 10-14 days, draining me emotionally as well as physically. Done with scheduling my life around a natural bodily function. But really — it’s the pain. The constant, unrelievable, never-ending pain. The pain that, at best, makes my entire abdomen feel like a hand that’s been slammed in a car door. The pain that feels like a spike in my tailbone. The pain that makes it hard to bathe, dress, walk, hold my children, think, breathe, be. The pain steals my hours, days, weeks.

I’m ready for the next stage. The stage in which I can produce something other than children and blood and pain.

The media bombards us with women who fight time. Who resist aging both inside and out. Women who turn to science to produce children when their bodies are past the age at which they can do so naturally. The women who nip this and tuck that. What of the women who accept it, embrace it, and move into their new role with grace — with enthusiasm?

Because there is a place for women who can’t reproduce. In the animal world, and in the human world, too. (What, you didn’t think animals went through menopause? Honestly, neither did I.)

I want the time and space to create. I find myself brimming with more creative energy than I’ve had in years, and I want to feel well enough to use it. I want to write, make jewelry, paint, garden. This morning, as I lay awake in the predawn hours, I found myself planning sewing projects — me, who barely knows how to use my own sewing machine. I want to try my hand at cooking new dishes, take up new hobbies, learn. I want to put more time and effort into the Etsy store I created with my daughter.

If I weren’t laid up in agonizing pain for great portions of my life, just think of what I could do with all that time. It could be the start of a whole new life for me.

Is it any wonder I’m ready to begin?

Oh Discardia!

For the longest time, I’ve thought of Discardia as a method of simplification. The less stuff I have, the less I have to take care of. I’ve been thinking of possessions in terms of tenants, and determining whether they were good roommates who paid their rent on time and helped with their share of the housework. (All figuratively speaking, of course. I’m not that far gone.)

However, I’m noticing some areas where this mindset fails me, and nowhere is it more evident than my bathroom cabinet. There lies the Gallery of Makeup Missteps. The stuff I bought, tried once, and decided didn’t suit me. The stuff I wore for a while, lost interest in, and tucked away “for later.” The cheap stuff I bought to wear for Halloween. The stuff that makes my eyes burn. I keep it all.

Why? Well, probably because I feel they were frivolous purchases to begin with, and it makes me feel twice as guilty to toss them out barely used.

I tried to get into Sephora; at least I could return that stuff. And I may yet go back to shopping there, when I have more time and money. But I can never carve out enough kidless time to shop there, and don’t know enough about makeup to shop online. Also, the prices intimidate the heck out of me. Big box it is.

I am, at this moment, wearing a gorgeous navy eyeliner that stings my eyes. Last week, I determined that my greige eyeliner does the same. Both are still sitting in my makeup bin, along with half a dozen eye shadows that do nada for me. Earlier this month, I struck a compromise: I gave my daughter a palette of four lovely purple eyeshadows that don’t really work for me. She was overjoyed at the prospect of her very own makeup, and I could rest easy knowing the purchase hadn’t been “wasted.” But I can’t do that with everything. She’d never wear brown eyeshadow, for instance. And we are not entering eyeliner territory just yet. I just need to suck it up and toss that stuff.

Makeup isn’t my only issue. I’m scratching like I’m lice infested after one washing with Neutrogena shampoo. I swore by it in the 90s to degoop my hair, and was thrilled to find a bottle recently. But apparently my skin has decided in the intervening decades that this stuff includes poison ivy as an ingredient. Toss it? I know I will; it’s too harsh for R and the kids, and using it for handwashing (what I usually do with shampoos that don’t work for me) is out given the itch factor. But it galls me to do so.

And don’t even get me started on the nail polish. I could paint a car with that crap.

I don’t mind tossing expired health and beauty products. In fact, my former method of dealing with unsuitable products was to tuck it away in the depths of my bathroom cabinet until they expire, at which point I would happily throw them out. Now I’d like to move that time frame up a bit. Allow myself to make mistakes. Forgive myself when I do. And let go of what doesn’t work for me.

Good advice for all areas of my life, but especially for my poor overcrowded cabinet.


Hashtag momfilter

Change is the watchword.

And me, being me, am packing as many changes as I can into a short period of time. Like how I went through college — signing up for summer classes almost every year so that even though I changed my major in the second semester of my junior year, I still graduated on time.

I kind of regret that now. I wish I’d taken a little more time, explored a bit more, not pushed myself to burnout at the age of 22. But it’s my nature, I guess.

After looking pretty much exactly the same from the age of 20 onward, sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder who the hell is looking back. I’ve given birth to two children, breastfed one of them for an extended period of time, and plunged into perimenopause in little more than 5 years. Most women spread these events out over 10 or 20 years, but like everything else, I’m doing this on the fast track.

The person in the mirror is a bit more recognizable now that I’m back to my normal weight, but life has edited my body into something both familiar and all together foreign. The obvious changes — how I dress, how I wear my hair and makeup — were brought about by the fact that instead of working in an office, I spend a great deal of time wrangling squirmy, tantrumy, gooey children. I’m down two moles, but have picked up more freckles and a tan. If I tighten my abs, my belly looks as it always did, but if I relax, it becomes a mom pooch even on my thinnest days. My face, hands, and arms are more lined than they used to be — partly age, partly sun damage.

All of this is to be expected, I know. It’s the speed with which it’s all come about that is sometimes disconcerting.

I see my mother, my grandmother, and other women in my body. Plus my advancing years. Fat has left the places it used to hang out and shacked up with other body parts; my boobs now think my lower back is a great place to be, for instance. My calves and arms, once slender sticks, bear the small but sculpted muscles I failed to build with 15 years of concerted exercise.

But I’m still in here, you know? I see me, beneath all these alterations. Me at 20, 25, 30, 35. It’s like someone slapped a Snapchat filter on me — a Mom filter. All I need to complete the image is a pair of mom jeans. (Which, I’m old enough to know, used to be just jeans until the people who wore them became mothers).

An exchange that took place between me and my offspring this weekend:

Kai: Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!

Me: Why are you chanting my name? Am I a rock star?

Anya: No, you not been a rock star in 20 years.

Me: I’m not a rock star?

Anya: No.

Me: I’m a has-been?

Anya: No, you cool.

Me: What am I, then?

Anya: A mom!

Too right.

Blink and you miss it

The paint splatters on the floor, the ones that won’t come off — those are Anya’s childhood.

As are the scuffs and scrapes on my particleboard kitchen furniture, the stuff I bought with my ex-husband. On the particleboard everything in this house, to be honest. (Which is pretty much all the furniture, save the kitchen table and chairs.) I have already started mentally planning painting and mosaic projects for when they stop being so destructive.  The walls, the carpets, my clothes, my car…everything they touch bears marks from both kids.

Or I suppose I could just buy all new stuff.

But in just a few years — 20? 10? 5? — there will be no evidence that they were ever here in this house.

When I was a child, we moved from Illinois to Tennessee. Before we left my childhood home, I wrote my name and the date inside the closet: black Sharpie on powder pink paint. (And probably something about that being my room FOREVER, because I was 14.) That was nearly 30 years ago; someone has surely painted over the words by now. Probably more than once. No marks are forever, even Sharpie.

This morning, as I sit here PMSing and also hot-flashing (which is a really bizarre mix, let me tell you), I’m getting all misty thinking that these marks last no longer than they do. That childhood lasts such a short time. That in a few brief, brilliant moments, these tiny, beautiful creatures who depend on me for everything are going to turn into adults and move on.

I know it’s ridiculous, but I just wish I could hold on to these years for a while. Even the bad moments, where Kai throws toys at the other kids in the library, when Anya lays claim to every toy in the house and won’t let her brother play with so much as a half-deflated ball.

But I am also so looking forward to getting to know the adults they will become. So I cannot wish to keep them small forever. I’ll just have to compromise by taking 13.4 million photos of them, so when I’m old I can look back and remember these days. Unfortunately, photos and videos can’t capture the smell of their hair, the feel of their skin. So hopefully they will provide me with grandchildren, and thus allow me to recapture a little of these days.

How did I ever think life moved slowly? It goes by so brutally fast.

Settling into the new normal

House listings are my porn. I have accounts on Trulia, Zillow, and RedFin, and visit HotPads from time to time. I have saved hundreds, perhaps thousands, of listings. Any time I see a for-sale sign in a neighborhood I’m interested in, I grab my phone and search for the realtor listing. How many bedrooms? Is there a garage? Separate laundry room? What unfortunate color scheme would I have to paint over?

I’m not buying a house anytime soon. I’m too far in debt to even consider it. Nor are we moving away in the foreseeable future; my parents’ health is waning, and they are beginning to truly need our help. Even if that were not the case, my kids enjoy living close to them too much to leave right now.

No, my house shopping is just a dream. But it’s pretty much a harmless one, so I indulge myself.

The other day, I learned that I did get one of the jobs I’d applied for, a part-time contract gig. It’s flexible enough that I can do most of my work before the kids even wake up in the morning, and squeeze in my other freelancing while Kai naps and after R gets home from work. Which leaves me the rest of the day to take care of the kids and help my parents out.

This is not how I’d pictured my days. I was anticipating having to decide between a daycare and a babysitter — a decision I’ve fought since I became pregnant with Anya. Now I’m the daycare. It’s the goal I aspired to before I had kids. I didn’t expect it to feel this scary, though.

If I bust my hump and the work stays steady, with this new job I will be making close to what I made when I was laid off…but without benefits. If we manage to get married later this year, come tax time next year R’s tax return will offset my tax payment…but we may just barely break even. The security of the job I didn’t get was so great that I admit I’m having trouble seeing the bright spots in how things turned out.

But if I am to be honest about it, I think things turned out just as they needed to.

My mother, while not as bad off as we had feared this time last week, is very ill, and recovery is going to take at least a year. My father has health issues of his own that he’s been putting off treating until Mom gets well — and the time has come that he can no longer do that. They need me to help them out.

My kids need me, too. My daughter, while she thinks she is grown, is still little enough to want to spend time with me. And I’d be a fool to regret having the time with my son that I missed with her because I was working so much.

My debt is at times utterly overwhelming to me. Because we had to rely on credit during both of my maternity leaves, my current debt is roughly half my annual income. The first thing I’d intended to do once I started receiving a steady paycheck was to use my freelancing income (because of course I’d intended to continue freelancing, at least for a while) to start paying down my debt. So I could eventually pay back what I took from the kids’ savings accounts and our down payment savings account.

Now it’s going to be a while before all that happens. Years, perhaps. And unless I do return to work full time, the down payment account may never come back at all. My house hunting will remain a pretty dream.

But I’ll hang on to that dream just a little while longer.


Bring on the Pop

I dunno what rock I’ve been living under, but until I saw this article, I didn’t realize that listening to songs on repeat in order to focus your attention was a thing. I read once that Stephen King does it (he subjected his poor wife to Mambo Number 5 until she nearly lost her mind, as I recall), but I didn’t know of anyone else who employs such an annoying (without earbuds, anyway) habit. Turns out I’m not as unique as I thought I was. But when am I ever?

However, I’m guessing that, while I may not be the only one who uses musical repetition as white noise, it’s certainly not a common practice. Recently, someone posed the question to a Facebook editor’s group I’m a part of: What do you do when you can’t concentrate? The responses were pretty standard: Listen to white noise. Or classical music. Or nature sounds. Treat myself (sweets, reading time, video games, what have you). Go for a walk. Sip hot tea. Do yoga. Meditate. Power nap. Of all the answers I read, nobody else said “Listen to Maroon 5’s Payphone on repeat for 6 hours straight.”

Thing is, I don’t even like Maroon 5.

I’m also not a fan of Kesha, or Lady Gaga. In fact, many of the songs I listen to in these binges aren’t songs I particularly care for. But they get the job done.

Maybe it’s because I don’t care for them. Could it be that listening to music that repulses me causes my attention to retreat screaming into whatever is handy — say, the task before me? It’s an interesting hypothesis. And if I’m right, how fortunate for me: Annoying pop abounds. I will never run out of concentration juice.

But I should probably stock up on earbuds. My kids love pop music. Their father? Not so much.

Rethinking how I manage my goals

I’ve been putting some thought into how I want to manage my goals. I keep seeing posts (usually written by young white dudes in startups, so grab the salt shaker) about how important it is to stop thinking and just do, but thinking is my thing. When I get impulsive, I make mistakes. Carefully thought-out steps towards a well-considered goal serve me much better.

There was a time when I did all my goal work on 43t. At one point I even had two accounts because I was doing more than 43 things, but I eventually pared it down. Then 43t closed and I moved to Popclogs, which offers an unlimited list. And now 43t is back and I have too much stuff to fit in one list again. I might have enough for three lists at this point.

For now, I will continue to use both sites. (And post touch-base updates here, because I sense a shift in how I approach goal work taking place and I want to document it.) Since I’m doing the “43 things” goal, I’ll track those items on 43t. But I have other goals I want to keep, on both sites, so anything I’ve put on 43t that’s not one of my 43 things will need to move to Popclogs.

I see myself using Popclogs for three types of goals:

  1. Immediate/housekeeping/bootcamp goals: Things like clutter purges and spring cleans, as well as working out the logistics of balancing my fledgling routines.
  2. Long-range, wish-listy goals: My “someday” list
  3. Diary-type goals: Gratitudes, rants, and everything in between.

Once this year is up, I’ll re-evaluate and see if I want to continue maintaining these lists in this way.

I’ve thought a lot about productivity in the past few years, and I’ve come to realize two things:

  1. I don’t want to limit my goals list to to-do lists and basic housekeeping tasks; I want to push myself to accomplish more.
  2. That doesn’t mean I don’t need somewhere to track my to-do lists and basic housekeeping tasks.

Also, I should add a third item: I don’t want to disregard my someday list, because while my focus is on the here and now, I think it’s good to keep some long-range goals in your peripheral vision.

So. Yes, I did just post a post about what I’m thinking I’ll post at some (as-yet-determined) point. Forgive me. Sometimes I need to think about thinking.