Threading the needle

I found this journal prompt and decided (as I often do) to make a list. When I liked the list I made, I decided to share it with you! 🙂

  1. Relax.
  2. Breathe.
  3. Slow down.
  4. Practice patience–the things you seek are already on their way to you.
  5. Your life is okay as it is.
  6. Don’t postpone happiness–it’s yours today, if you want it.
  7. You are so loved! More than you probably know.
  8. You can still do more of the things you love.
  9. It’s okay to say no sometimes. Give yourself a break.
  10. Do at least one thing today that will help your “future self.”

Then I found this image on Pinterest when I searched “patience art.”

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I was struck by its simplicity but also its message. Patience is threading the needle. You have to slow down! I drank too much coffee today–the caffeine is making me jittery and anxious. I can’t “thread my needle” when I’m like this! I’m going to practice 1-4 the rest of the day until I feel calm enough to try again.

Making friends with stress

Stress is bad. We hear this everywhere; our culture is filled with pressure to be productive and efficient and all kinds of obstacles that prohibit our success, but doctors are always telling us to “reduce stress.” I guess…get a massage, take a bath, take a long walk, say no more often, “unplug,” do aromatherapy, adult coloring…etc–the list of “stress” treatments goes on and on.

I envy people who can go with the flow, or who would describe themselves as “laid-back” (every guy on Match.com, if memory serves). But I’m a naturally high-strung person. I’m worried, reactive, and paranoid. My brain is a constant flurry of “what ifs.” Sleeping is hard because my brain wants to remember every incident in my life, however irrelevant to my current circumstances. I am always worried about what needs to be done. I’m a type A personality, but also an expert procrastinator. Being in college for four years has helped me somewhat with “time management,” and I’m used to functioning under high stress situations–my job, for one.

As graduation approaches, I’m tentatively taking steps into what my future holds. For the longest time, I assumed I would apply for grad school, not even pursuing teaching certification without a Master’s degree. Now, I’m not so sure. Having a Master’s can earn you more pay, but it can also price you out of a job when districts don’t want to pay that extra. Maybe I should go through the steps to get certified pre-grad school, and keep that on the back burner as an option? Part of me wants to keep the momentum going of being in school because I love it, and not that much in my life has to change–I can still work full-time and take my online classes, and I’m used to the routine of having homework all the time. I have no idea what I’m going to do, but I suppose I’m going to start by contacting the New Hampshire DOE to see what their process is for alternative certification. I wish SO hard that I had done the “normal” thing and gone to college right after high school…maybe things would be easier now and I would already be doing something rewarding/fulfilling. Alas, that was not my path.

uncertainty

The uncertainty of what comes next, combined with daily stressors (work, mid-March blizzards delivering 20+ inches of snow) has made me feel like I’m about to explode. Rather than eliminate all stress (unrealistic), I’m trying to make friends with my stress and help it help me achieve my goals. According to Psychology Today, moderate stress can be a good thing: it helps motivate you and prepares you to better handle other stressful live events better than those who experience little to no adversity. A study at UC Berkelely found that exposure to moderate stress actually increased brain activity.

Questions for you, reader: How are the stress levels in your life? What stresses you out the most? What tools do you use to deal with stress? Please share in the comments!

Dear uterus: please hold

I’m 31 years old, will be 32 this year. I’m still not entirely comfortable with being “in my 30s,” and my reproductive expiration date is rapidly approaching. I can practically feel my uterus drying out, giving up. Last night my mom texted me: “Don’t forget your ticking clock.” OMG–please stop with all the ticking, I just can’t. Believe me, I’m feeling the pressure. I have my annual OBGYN appointment today and while I do like my doctor, when I turned 30, the visits took on a more urgent tone. “Are you thinking of having children?” he would ask me. “You still have time, but you’ll want to do it sooner than later.”

Of all the things in life, the greatest uncertainty and source of most confusion, conflict, and internal anguish has been the question: “Will I ever become a mother?” I have many feelings about this subject, which I plan to explore in a book–someday. But for today, I need to get some thoughts out. I’m just not fucking ready to have a child. Being single for most of my 20s, having a baby was a distant abstract. I met my partner when I was 27, and time still seemed abundant. He wanted kids “someday;” I wasn’t sure, then we both traded positions and have never been on the same page at the same time. Now he is back to wanting them “someday,” and I am not so much wanting a baby as I am feeling intensely pressured to have one. The fear of infertility (for which I cannot afford treatment) plagues me. The term “geriatric uterus” makes me simultaneously roll my eyes and twinge with fear. Never having a child seems scarier than having one right now.

Many women get pregnant by accident and they do the parenting thing just fine. I like to think that could be me. Having chance and biology make the imperative decision for you, and deciding to continue the pregnancy in some ways, is the easiest way to come to terms with becoming a parent. I have no doubt that I would love any child I had to the moon and back. But I have committed and promised my partner to stay on my birth control, and only go off it with his full consent (entrapment is not a good plan). Life isn’t conducive to babies right now. I’m about to graduate with my Bachelor’s in English come May, and am actively seeking graduate programs for an education degree. To be honest, I’m not sure what I’ll end up doing. But what I do know is that I’ve worked too damn hard to give up my dreams for a screaming baby.

There are so many things I want to do–travel, write, teach, paint, create, explore–and a child would undoubtedly hamper all of the above. My partner and I live in a very modest (read: small, cramped) 2-bedroom apartment and while we are not “poor,” we lack the means to buy a house and have relatively little saved. Having a child is a huge money drain, and that scares me. What a shame to bring a child into a world of struggle and scrimping. I don’t want to do that.

Unlike most other things in life, a woman’s fertility has a deadline. 35 is the recognized age at which pregnancies become “high risk,” and while many women deliver healthy babies in their late 30s and even 40s, I want to avoid the social stigma of having a dangerous pregnancy. I also have a fear that even if I tried to have a child, I wouldn’t be able to conceive, or my treasured pregnancy would end in a bloody miscarriage (I had one when I was 18, result of an accidental pregnancy of course, and it was so fucking scary).

So who knows? I’m feeling a lot of things, but the biggest one is pressured. Society is strongly natalist. Everyone loves babies. The self-centered, attention seeking part of me (which is big, I’ll admit) wants to be a pregnant goddess, protecting the swollen moon of my belly which contains the most precious thing of all: life. But I’m not ready yet…and that’s what I’ll have to tell my doctor today.

Please comment and share your thoughts on this subject–women and men, childless or parents, I would greatly appreciate your advice/opinions on this most personal topic. Finally, this quote speaks to me:

motherhood_aniston

 

I don’t know if I want children.

I’ve never been a baby person. I do like little kids, especially little girls (pink, princesses, Barbies!), but babies never interested me. I didn’t go to college right after high school, so when I got my first real job at the age of 18, I noticed the celebration of mother and baby was like nothing I’d ever seen. Having a baby, it seemed, was the ultimate achievement in a woman’s life. I married far too young and divorced quickly, and when I went out into the world on my own at the age of 20, I was relieved to not have the burden of children. I spent most of my twenties partying, working way too hard just to (barely) scrape by, and dating around. I was heavily influenced by the “Carried Bradshaw” lifestyle, which centered around men, going out, shopping, and living on my own doing whatever I damn well pleased. I had a couple of meaningful relationships but none of them brought up the subject of a real future together, someone I wanted to be with until the end. Until last August, when I met the love of my life.

motherchild

I’m 27 now (28 in August). I just began taking college classes about a month ago, and am working full time at a job I don’t really like. The company is decent, the setting relaxed, and the pay is decent for what it is, although I still struggle to get by. My boyfriend and I are poised to move in together within the next few weeks or months, and with that come a lot of change-driven issues (about which I could write a whole other post), one being to have children, or not to have children. On my first date with my boyfriend, I texted my best friend from the bathroom “he’s so amazing. I want to have 1,000 of his babies.” And I really thought I did. (Not right away, of course!) We fell in love pretty quickly, and like all the cliches would tell you, when you meet the right person, you “just know.” I couldn’t imagine ever loving a human being more. He’s my best friend, my partner, my lover, my teacher. It isn’t perfect and lord knows I’m not, but I know he’s the best one I’ll ever hope to find. If there was ever a person to share a life and start a family with, it would be him. Without a shadow of a doubt.

But I’m having doubts. Serious doubts. We discussed this, and it started in jest – I tend to poke fun at other people our age and younger who have children. They don’t have the level of freedom that we do, financial or otherwise. It’s so fucking typical. Can’t they contribute something more meaningful to the world than carbon copies of themselves? They have to deal with diapers and daycare, soccer practice and PTA meetings, or making sure their babies/children don’t somehow hurt themselves. This may seem odd to some, but I really haven’t the faintest clue what being a parent would be like. I only know what I see on TV and secondhand from coworkers; as I’m an only child with no hands-on experience with kids. Ever. I don’t really have the biological “itch” to reproduce. I guess every now and then I’ll see some episode of a show or a movie that is touching, but I don’t know if it’s me being compelled to reproduce, or me just reacting to what I’m seeing at face-value.

While I know it’s not at all fair or kind to ridicule someone else’s choice to have a family, I think it may stem from my own fear of reproducing. I am literally TERRIFIED of having children for a host of reasons. I was born into dysfunctional family. My mother was pregnant at age 35; my father was 39. Neither of them planned on being parents. When I got old enough, my mom told me she and my father had never discussed having children. My father was abusive towards my mother, and very controlling. (I believe I’ve inherited my father’s anger and control issues. Thanks, Dad.) For most of my childhood, my life was my mother. She was a stay-at-home mom, and she doted on me like you wouldn’t believe. My parents split when I was seven, and things got really weird then. Shuffling between parents, getting caught in their divorce – needless to say, it was bad. I’ve been estranged from my father since age 20. My mother and I remain close to this day.

Add to this the fact that I just began college at age 27, ten years after most people do. I’m so happy I’m finally on my way to getting my education, but the time investment makes me wonder. I’m going to be working on school and career goals at the time when my biological clock begins ticking the loudest. I think the “best time” for me to have children will be around 31-33. (When I was younger, I thought if i had kids, I would have had them by now…but I digress. Life happened.) Does having children mean I’ll forfeit my professional goals and my pursuit of a higher self? All of this also creates some resentment towards my boyfriend, who chose the so-called “right path” and did college right out of high school, got his teaching certification and is pursuing his career as an English teacher. Something I always saw myself doing (maybe), only I dicked off for too long to make that a reality.

I don’t know why I don’t think I want to have kids. It isn’t just one reason. I’m terrified of the damage it will do to my career, my home, my body (weight/stretch marks/c section scars, tearing/pregnancy pain/labor pain), my relationship, my sex life. I also don’t know if I even believe in reproduction just for reproduction’s sake. How could I ever, even for a fleeting second, consider bringing a sentient being into the world if I didn’t want it with all of my heart and soul? There are so many children in this world that aren’t wanted, or treated right, or even given a fighting chance. It’s such a huge ethical dilemma. Most people don’t consider the overpopulation of the planet and its dwindling resources when considering their family. I’m sure those John and Kate Plus 8 people didn’t. But I do. On many levels, I feel that having natural-born children is narcissistic and selfish, especially in today’s environmental and economic climate. However, I understand the biological urge to do so: To have something to call your own, to create something larger than yourself, a piece of yourself that will last longer than you do. (Narcissism again? Maybe…)

So my boyfriend, the absolute love of my life – he wants children someday. Not even in the next few years, but someday. And while he sees the benefits of not having children, he has that deep, innate, biological desire to be a father. I love him so much. I wish I hungered for it the same way he did. We’ve discussed this at heartbreaking length and have yet to draw any concrete conclusions. I can’t promise him a child, but I can’t necessarily rule it out. Maybe, as so many people have told me over the years, I will change my mind. But maybe I won’t. Sometimes I’ll read or see something that pulls at my heart. I try to compartmentalize. “Do I want this? Or do I just think it’s sweet?” The image that compels me most of all is almost always the same. It’s me with my love in a big soft bed, with a baby in between us. Sunlight is pouring in through the window. No one is talking. Everything is still and perfect.

And that’s what keeps me from saying “no, never.”

coping with BPD in romantic relationships

lanawar

Romantic relationships have been a tremendous struggle for me my entire life. I was diagnosed with BPD (borderline personality disorder) at age 24, and that seemed to make sense for many of my failed relationships, especially the one I was in at the time. Emotional instability, chronic mood swings, fear of abandonment, impulsive tendencies – those traits all did their part to dismantle every attempt at a successful, long-term romantic relationship. With many mental illnesses, especially one as complicated as BPD, it’s hard to walk the line between “blaming” my actions on my illness and taking responsibility – especially when my impulses can be extremely hard to control. I’ve been in recovery for over three years now and it continues to be a battle. Though I am now in a loving, healthy, adult relationship for the first time ever, my BPD symptoms still come up quite often. Luckily, my partner is patient and understanding, which helps minimize my “outbursts” when they do occur.

Identity disturbance is listed as one of the 9 identifying traits when diagosing borderline personality disorder. That, above almost all else, is the most pronounced trait that I can identify within myself as a borderline.

“People with an identity disturbance may speak, think or act in ways which are contradictory to themselves. They may think the world of themselves one day and think nothing of themselves the next. Their actions or thoughts may seem self-serving one day and flip into self-effacing, or self-destructive patterns the next. They may excel in one activity and appear incompetent in another. They may have impressive energy and enthusiasm for a season and be lethargic and withdrawn in another…People who suffer from personality disorders are sometimes prone to think emotionally, rather than logically, and apply this kind of emotional shorthand or “splitting” to situations that ultimately hurt themselves and those around them. This can lead to extreme emotional highs and lows in response to the natural ebb and flow of life’s circumstances that can lead them to make unsubstantiated, grandiose claims of superiority one day and self-condemning statements of worthlessness the next.” (Source: outofthefog.net)

I really do feel like I have a war in my mind sometimes. I feel myself becoming purposely difficult, belligerent, even downright mean – and seem to have no control over what’s coming out of my mouth; I’m in my right mind. I feel like I’m always “testing” him and even though he always “passes,” I don’t want to put that stress on him. Being borderline is basically being the most difficult person to be with – I crave intimacy yet sometimes act in a way that pushes people away. No matter how loving, caring, supportive, and willing my romantic partner may be – BPD still continues to rear its ugly head. I’ve accepted that to some extent, I will always have to live with this inside of me. (Although many books and websites I’ve read say that the symptoms do lessen when the individual enters her thirties and forties.) It’s a part of who I am, and my partner has acknowledged this as well. I’m eternally grateful for his willingness and understanding, but in the end, I have to help myself.

savemyself

People don’t often realize that a seemingly “put-together” individual – with a job, a driver’s license, a 401k – can be “crazy.” The more intelligent and vibrant the individual, the more extreme the psychological effects of a mental disorder can be. I’ve been with my current beau for a little less than five months. While I’m trying desperately not to let often-crippling anxiety and BPD symptoms inform our relationship, I have to admit, I fear for its longevity. This is the love of my life. I don’t want my crazy to make it crumble.

Feel free to share your own experiences (if any) with BPD, mental illness, and how it has impacted your romantic relationships in the comments.

homemade chicken and dumpling soup

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Perfect for a chilly fall day when you’re feeling under the weather. There are lots of versions of this recipe out there, mine is a combination of some I read as well as my own.

Ingredients:
1 box chicken stock
1 12-oz can chicken breast (you can cook a whole or pieced chicken, I just added this)
3-4 stalks celery
1 medium yellow or white onion
4 medium sized carrots
Rosemary, thyme, basil, garlic powder, salt & pepper – all to taste
2 tbsp. cornstarch
Extra virgin olive oil

Dumplings:
1 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp melted butter
1 beaten egg
1 cup milk (I used 1%)
Salt, pepper, rosemary

In a small amount of olive oil and water, begin to cook the chopped vegetables until slightly tender. Then add the chicken stock, canned chicken and spices. Stir in cornstarch to thicken the soup, which should be on medium heat.

Next prepare the dumplings. In a bowl combine all ingredients until you make a sticky dough. Use a tablespoon to measure out even sized amounts of dough, then drop into the pot of soup one at a time. They should be imperfect. Turn heat down to low and cover. Simmer for about 20 minutes, then it’s ready to serve. Enjoy!

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lessons in letting go

Once I heard that your spiritual growth is like a class. Only if you keep failing the class, you keep repeating it over and over again until you pass. LETTING GO is what I’m doomed to repeat, it seems. Over and over. I fought to hold on to someone for years who I should have released immediately. Sometimes I’m certain we should never have been together, at least not as long as we were. It was damaged and hideous at the end. Life is such a balancing act. We fight to hold on to the people and things that matter to us, and we also fight to let them go. “Never letting go” is a painful and constrictive promise. The wise would know when to fight harder, and when to let go.

Recent times have presented me with another circumstance in which my heart is being pulled. It wants to hold on. It wants to make this person important. It wants to plant roses at his feet. On the contrary, this other man seems mired in his own pain/madness/sorrow/shackles. Far too much so to see me standing at the other end with my arms and heart wide open. And even though he said he didn’t want to disappear…that’s precisely what he did. My awakened self, the Spirit Junkie inside me says – be cool. Be okay that this is not part of the Universe’s plan right now for you. Marvel that you have the capacity to admire and care for someone that much. And then let him go.

Letting go is powerful. Liberating. Divine. If you can get there. 

“You probably think, in general, you could have done more. It was never about your doing more, it was always about trusting that it was out of your hands.”
— From Blue Jelly by Debby Bull

If he’s stupid enough to walk away, be smart enough to let him go.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about something like this. And it definitely won’t be the last. But it’s important for me to do. Every time I practice this I get a little stronger. A little better. A little closer to really, truly letting go.