Striving for Self Care at the End of the World
It's a full moon night. If you have werewolf babies like me, you have been in the absolute trenches today. It was the kind of day where the tantrums stacked one on top of the other until both my toddler and I lost track of what was a new tantrum and what was simply a continuation of the previous tantrum.
It was the kind of day where you as a parent have to choose between shitting with your three year old banging on the door and screaming at you to let them in or shitting while they sit on the floor at your feet and ask you what your favorite animal's favorite color is.
Olive green. An elephant's favorite color is olive green.
She's 3.5, so she has all of the attitude and opinions of a typical thirteen year old but absolutely none of the fine motor skills, rational capacity, or ability to wipe her own ass.
And then there's the baby who refuses to sit up even though I know she can and I swear to god has been growing these first two teeth for four months now without them erupting.
Times is hard, friends.
I had my second therapy session this afternoon. We got talking about parenting in a pandemic and I told my therapist about my grandmother, who grew up during the Great Depression and how she and her sister were famous for saving wrapping paper, ziploc bags, butter tubs, and literally any other garbage that could be fathomably reused for any possible purpose. The woman would make macaroni and cheese for us kids every day for lunch in the summer and just dump the leftover mac from the day before into the new batch. I can guaran-damn-tee that by the end of the summer, there was one noodle in the batch from the beginning.
And then I made a joke about how my grandkids will say, "Oh, that's just Grandma. She was alive during the Great Pandemic. That's why she's using hand sanitizer on the outside of that watermelon and crying loudly every time someone suggests video chatting."
"Well, that's your trauma speaking."
I asked, "What? About sanitizing the fruit?"
She said, "Well, yes. But also joking about it."
My instinct was to fight her and say that she couldn't possibly know that about me after two sessions, but let's be honest. I'm a millennial. An elder millennial, but a millennial nevertheless. Meaning I watched the twin towers fall on a box tv on a cart in gym class freshman year of high school. We've been at war basically since puberty for me. I graduated college during one of the worst economic recessions in history. My mature life has been dominated by one crisis after another after another and that doesn't even include 2016 - the year life as I knew it seemed to collapse.
We elected a madman as president.
And my dad died.
Turns out, I am just damaged enough to use humor as a deflection but not so damaged that I don't realize it.
My therapist hasn't asked me much about my dad yet. It's like she's waiting for me to bring him up. It's like she wants to "fix" my easy stuff. You know, my sometimes crippling anxiety and undiagnosed but almost certain ADD. My existential crisis from losing myself in motherhood. My feelings of inadequacy. My battle with self esteem.
Real easy stuff. And yet, compared to the gaping, ragged hole in my life left by my dad's death, yea, I guess it is easy.
I was excited for therapy today. I was. It's part of my 2021 resolution, which is to be kind to myself. Being kind to myself means taking care of myself which means going to therapy so I don't force feed my anxiety to my children. (You are responsible for helping to heal your own generational trauma, my loves. If you don't, you're just passing it on to your own babies.)
I expected catharsis. I expected to brush up against things that make me uncomfortable but to perhaps gain some insight.
What I got was a flashlight shone onto the fact that I am acting out trauma responses.
I won't lie. I felt about a thousand times worse after therapy than before. And I turned on Alison Kraus and Union Station (because it makes me think of my Dad) and had a bit of a cry while my kid held my leg and screamed because I wouldn't let her build build a snowman in the living room.
I am not the same person I was before this pandemic. I am not the same person I would have been if this pandemic had never happened. And today, as I sat in the middle of my kitchen floor and cried while my kid wailed in the background, I mourned a little bit for who that version of me might have been.
I can't even picture her. I cannot even picture her. Because I'm so lost in the person this pandemic has turned me into. I cannot see the forest for the trees. And I make all the jokes about it because the truth - the damage - is worse.
The truth is that I have completely lost myself in pandemic parenthood because I have found myself in some awful Truman Show sort of reality where every single fucking day is exactly the same with no end in sight.
And there is no end in sight, friends. The virus is mutating. The vaccine is not the golden egg that everyone is pretending it is. Important, yes, but it't not going to fix this. The expert article I read today said that we have AT LEAST another year of this.
What will be left of me in a year? Obviously thats a hyperbolic hypothetical. And yet I worry.
And with that one sentence, "Well, that's your trauma speaking," it's like Pandora's box opened and I don't know how to shove everything else back in. To top it off, I was so frazzled and distracted after an afternoon of wallowing in these thoughts that I burned the shit out of my entire hand with boiling hot soup.
I ran my hand under the tap while the baby sat in her high chair and screamed because her gums hurt and her dinner wasn't on her tray and the three year old screamed in her chair because I wouldn't let her play with her rainbow rice while she ate dinner and I cried again.
It's a full moon, friends. Tomorrow is a new day. Maybe I'll wake up with answers. With a new way to "relate" to this situation I can't change. Or maybe the cocktail of my hormones will decide to give me a break tomorrow and I won't feel so unhinged.
Maybe I won't. But writing is as much therapy as anything ever has been and so I came here to clear my brain.
I'll be alright. I've crawled on my belly through difficult times before. I've survived to have the damage. to have the trauma. And I'll come out the other side of this, too. I'm not giving myself other options.
And in the meantime, I'll keep going to therapy. I'll keep writing into the void here. But for today, it's okay to not be okay I think. It's okay to grieve for the people we might have been. But I am here for you if you worry about who you're going to become instead.
We're gonna come out the other side, even if we are traumatized. And we'll be so fucking funny. Imagine the jokes we'll tell in 20 years as we spray grain alcohol onto the outside of watermelons like it's not an absolutely batshit thing to do.