Not Worse

July 2, 2017 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

Here’s everything I know right now about how I am: I’m Not Worse.

Not Worse. HOORAY!

I feel like this might be confusing. Or discouraging to a Normal Person. Not Worse when you’re really Fairly Terrible and like you Can’t Breathe doesn’t seem particularly encouraging, after all. But if you’re sliding naked down a steep hill, and the hill is covered in brambles, and also shards of glass, and also razor blades, and you Stop Sliding so you’re only bare and bleeding, but not actively incurring more injury, you feel a little celebratory. A little jubulent. A little like, yes, I’m still bleeding out, but SLOWER NOW, so HOORAY!

I’ve been to the behavioral psychologist. I have assignments. So far, I haven’t done them. The problem with assignments is you have to have a brain that Remembers Things, and I don’t. We don’t meet again ’til mid-July, though, so I’m hopeful I can remember by then. Optimism springs eternal.

Because I don’t Remember Things, I blew off my doctor last week.  I had an appointment Monday. I reminded myself all day Sunday then forgot by Monday. A Brain That Works would perhaps have set an alarm. But nope. No alarms for this girl.

I remembered an hour after the appointment with a sudden gasp and an OH SHIT which of course my children heard. Three giggled. The one who’s the rule-following Pharisee was deeply offended. She also detests sarcasm, though, and thinks laundry should be folded, so we can’t take her too seriously, you know?

After I realized I ditched the doctor, I called her office and rescheduled like a grown-up. But because we live in a small town, and because she’s been my doctor for more than 20 years, and because our daughters have danced together, and because she’s been called to the hospital in the middle of the night to prep me for surgery after I suddenly miscarried babies — because we’ve scrapbooked together, and because we’ve adopted children from the same country, because she’s treated me for depression and identified it for me when I couldn’t — she texted me, too.

“Get your booty in here,” she wrote.

I wrote my List of Excuses. The usual ones People Who Aren’t Well use. I meant to. I tried. I wanted to. I’m sorry. I’ll see you next week, I swear. And, because I’m grateful, truly, that I’m not doing this alone, I said thank you. Thank you for riding my butt. 

I ran out to the liquor store later. On my bike because my college kid has claimed my car for the summer to get to work, and because the bike is a good mental health choice. Sunshine. Exercise. Flashing the neighbors because I wore a skirt. All bring me joy.

I bought my dad a bottle of Scotch. I bought my neighbor a bottle of Kraken. I bought my book group a bottle of vodka and prickly pear syrup with lime to make froofy, summer drinks.

Then I rode home.

With my doctor behind me.

Small town, I tell you. Small town.

She asked if I was riding a bike.

I said I was.

She said she really was riding my butt.

I sensed an opportunity to seize some Squandered Mental Health points from the morning.

REDEMPTION AT HAND.

“Do I get to make up any of my lost mental health points by getting out and exercising?” Because we all know we’re on a Points System, yes?

I mean, I can’t keep an appointment with my physician, so Demerits, obviously. But LOOK AT ME: dressed, outside, exercising!

And, you guys, she said YES! I DID get points back!

It was a really lovely 3 seconds.

‘Til she asked what I put in my bike baskets.

And I had to say liquor.

So much for credit.

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At least I tried.

Maybe I’ll accrue points next week.

Until then I’m Not Worse.

And I’m sending you love.

And waving in the dark,

An Actual List of Real Mental Illness Symptoms

June 18, 2017 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

I went to the doctor today.

I almost convinced myself not to go.

Again.

It’s the cycle of mental illness… Is something wrong?… Am I OK?… I’m not OK… I’m FINE… Everyone has ups and downs… This is normal… This is not even a little normal… and on and on and on.

I convinced myself to go to the doctor last night, after I spent the day with a tension headache from clenching my jaw. And clenching my back. And my shoulders and neck. Also, my legs. My heart hadn’t stopped hammering since noon — fight or flight adrenaline I was trying to turn into “freeze,” promising myself if I just stayed very still, took deep breaths, and practiced mindfulness, it would go away. I silently repeated “please don’t talk to me, please don’t talk to me, please don’t talk to me” every time someone walked in the room, but my internal monologue and external rigor mortis failed to dissuade them. They talked and talked and talked and talked. After all, a mommy and a wife who sits on the couch playing HayDay all day like it’s her job looks like one who can be interrupted.

I didn’t look like I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t look like I was trying to crawl out of my skin. I didn’t look like someone who should be taken to the hospital, just to check — just to be sure it wasn’t something Life Threatening — the way we take our kids to the emergency room in the middle of the night in case it’s appendicitis, even though we know it’s probably gas. When they’re in pain and it doesn’t stop, we take them anyway. Sometimes I wish I treated myself as kindly as I do my kids.

I stood in the bathroom last night, counters covered in scattered makeup, old bottles of lotion, someone’s $2 bill from Christmas, a sticky goo I choose to believe is toothpaste, and kids’ permission slips we failed to sign on time. I stood in the bathroom, and I held onto the counter, and I forced myself to say to Greg, “I’m not well. I’m going to the doctor tomorrow.”

It was a Herculean effort to say the words. Not because I was embarrassed or ashamed. Not because I wanted to hide it, either. It was, physically and literally, a feat of sheer will to move the words from my head, down to my mouth, and out of it. I know that sounds crazy. But it’s like being drunk; I may be able to form cogent words in my head, but there’s no conduit to push them out my mouth. I have the Thought, but then I have to figuratively get it dressed, brush its hair, find its damn shoes which are never by the front door where they’re supposed to be, dig through its purse for the car keys, drive it to the mental hardware store, decide what type of conduit will connect the Thought to my mouth, buy that pipe which is too big to fit in the car, take it home with it hanging out the trunk, unload it, and build the connection with whatever poor supplies I have on hand before I can force that Thought — “I’m not well” — from my lips.

“I’m not well,” I said to Greg. “I’m going to the doctor tomorrow.”

“K,” he said, but he looked at me quizzically, head tilted, eyebrow raised. “Soooooo,” he said, “what kind of not well? Liiiike, physically?”

“Mentally,” I said.

And then Greg began the Usual Litany because he’s kind and he loves me. “Let me know what you need.” “I’m here for you.” “What can I do?” “How can I help?” “Do you need me to have the kids?” “I can cancel my trip tomorrow.” And, of course, because we are us, “OH! SHOOT! Did you sign that permission slip yet?” And “Crap; I think the water bill is late.” And “But, really, what do you need?” A barrage of words. Machine gun, rapid fire style.

There were no more Thoughts, though. I’d built the conduit for the one I had. It was used, and Thought Conduits when I’m sick are only good once. So I had to say, “I can’t talk anymore right now,” which looked pissy and ungrateful and guarded and unkind, but was the real truth. I was unable. I’d already used All My Words. There weren’t any more available. Just none.

I was up until 2am last night, shaking, unable to sleep, even with the sleep aid I’m prescribed. I’ve had weeks now of failing to sleep, unless I sleep outside, which calms me and allows me to sleep by midnight which is a miracle. Unfortunately, the rain here in Oregon doesn’t always cooperate with my outdoor arrangement, so I’ve been back to shaking ’til the wee hours of the morning, sometimes until the sun comes up.

Still, by the time I pulled myself from bed this morning, I wasn’t sure it was all that bad. I thought, Maybe I don’t need to go to the doctor quite yet. And, Maybe I’m just being dramatic. And, Insomnia is temporary; I’ll sleep again eventually if I just give it time. Thus began the usual game — the one I’ve played daily, hourly, sometimes minute by minute, for weeks now — Which Me Do I Trust? The me in the night who promised myself I’d quit delaying to seek medical attention? Or the me in the daytime who assures myself the dark always exaggerates how bad it is? I decided this time to trust the night. Sometimes things are clearer in the dark.

The doctor couldn’t see me ’til this afternoon, so I spent the morning making a list of symptoms. I wanted to have Words when it was time. Even I could tell, when the list was done, I should’ve made the appointment long, long ago. I’m sharing it with you now, even though some of it feels Very Yucky. Maybe it will help someone else. Maybe it won’t. Either way, I choose no shame, yuckiness and all.

Here it is, a List of Real, Actual Symptoms of Mental Illness. You know, this time. Since depression symptoms always change.

  1. I have no margin right now. Zero. All human interaction makes me tense. I don’t feel worried or anxious, but I react as though every conversation may harm me. My breathing gets faster. My palms sweat. Heat runs in waves down my arms. My heart races. It doesn’t matter who the human is or what they need or how much I love them. All interaction causes my body to react in panic.
  2. Anyone walking into the room makes me tense.
  3. Phone rings? Tense, even though I know I don’t have to answer it.
  4. Greg answering the phone = tense.
  5. Greg laughing at TV shows and looking to me to see if I’m laughing too – not in the way one does when one is worried, simply wanting to share a laugh – makes me tense.
  6. Bedtime makes me tense. I shake. I’m jittery. It’s like I’m hopped up on caffeine all the time.
  7. I haven’t fallen asleep before 2am in a month. When I’m well, I fall sleep between 10:30-11:30pm. And the needle is moving further. Many nights lately it’s as late as 4am, 5am. Dawn is around 4:30 this time of year. I know from experience now.
  8. I want to spend all day in bed, but I don’t want my kids to have that as their childhood memory of their mom, so I force myself out of it at 10am, 11am, and we laugh at our family jokes about how much mom likes to sleep in. I like to sleep in; that part is true. But I’m lying to them when I pretend I like it every day.
  9. I pull out my hair, and I pick at my skin. I do it in places that aren’t noticeable the way an abuser tries to hit his victims so the bruises won’t show. I pick at the back of my head. The skin on my back. I’m scarred there, actually, from years of tearing my skin apart. I’m not embarrassed to wear a swimsuit because I’m overweight. I’m embarrassed to wear a swimsuit because my back is covered in the scars and scabs I created. I try to avoid pulling out my eyebrows, but I found a bald spot in one last week.
  10. I’m impatient with my family which I mostly don’t let them see because I don’t want them to suffer, but it’s been leaking out lately because it turns out there’s only so much you can shove deep down inside before it hits the saturation point and there’s no place left to shovel the emotional shit. It’s not rage like it was last time. I’m not explosively angry. Just irritated and annoyed at things I’m usually good at letting go. And still, not how I want to be.
  11. Despite #10, I keep nearly all of this secret. I look normal. I go to the grocery store. I have people over to my house. I host events. I wear make-up. I shower. I answer the “how are you questions” the usual way. Good. Fine. Busy. Eh – you know. Or, if I’m being terribly honest, I say I’m drowning a little, but, you know, that’s normal, and then I shrug, like, what’s a girl to do? This is not out of an intent to deceive anybody, including myself. This is simply because I lack both words and any emotional energy to deal with myself, much less other people’s questions about how I am, how we are, or what they can do to help.
  12. Shirts that touch my forearms bother me.
  13. I keep forgetting words. Easy ones like “laundry” and “couch.”
  14. I am constantly jittery. I can’t sit still or relax under any circumstances.
  15. I have eaten every Cheeto in the State of Oregon.

Yep. Somehow with those as my symptoms, I convinced myself I didn’t need to go to the doctor. <— THIS, friends. This is part of mental illness. The utter inability to assess and to know when I need help.

I walked into the doctor’s office this afternoon, list in hand. I told him I needed him to help me figure out if it’s time for a medication change. He had me fill out an assessment of his own:

Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you been bothered by any of the following:

  1. Little interest or pleasure in doing things? Nearly every day.
  2. Feeling down, depressed or hopeless? Nearly every day.
  3. Trouble falling or staying asleep or sleeping too much? HA! EVERY DAY.
  4. Feeling tired or having little energy? Nearly every day.
  5. Poor appetite or overeating? Overeating. Sure enough. See note re: No Cheeto Is Safe From Me.
  6. Feeling bad about yourself — that you are a failure or are letting your family down? Meh. Some. Not all the time, though. I mostly forgive myself for being human and for being sick. But I’m highly motivated to fix this so I don’t let my family down.
  7. Trouble concentrating on things such as reading or watching TV? Yep. Nearly every day.
  8. Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed? Or the opposite — being so fidgety or restless that you have been moving around a lot more than usual? Yes. I’m either inert on the couch or cleaning like a fiend. ME. CLEANING LIKE A FIEND. CLEARLY I NEED HELP, MAN.
  9. Thoughts that you would be better off dead or hurting yourself in some way? Nope. Other than the usual fantasies about being hospitalized so I can lay in bed all day and eat green Jello, I’m good on this one.

So. I’m giving myself mad props for making it to the doctor before the “Better Off Dead” lie asserted itself, but it turns out doctors don’t give you a clean bill of mental health when “I don’t want to off myself yet” is the best you can offer. In fact, it only took the doctor 10 minutes to call in a psychologist for back-up. Or because our local health system has better, multipronged protocols in place now for treating mental health. But probably for back-up.

I have additional meds and follow-up physical and psychological appointments next week. And probably more weeks after that because turning the mental health ship takes a while, and sometimes the med adjustment doesn’t work on the first go. In other words, here we go again. At least I’m at the Seeking Help part of the Deteriorate-Seek Help-Upswing-Health cycle. That’ll do for now.

My teeth chattered all the way home from the doctor’s office, another fun symptom of the adrenaline surge. I walked in the front door, and Greg asked how it went.

“Fine,” I said. “Good, I think.”

Maybe I’ll have more words later.

Until then, waving and waving and waving in the dark, friends,

 

 

P.S. None of this was today. All of it was last week now. Maybe two weeks by the time I manage to publish this. I’ve been writing this post since then, though, and it’s too hard to change it to reflect an accurate timeline. Add this to the list of Real Symptoms — everything takes an Eternity. I mean, FOREVER. Things that usually take me an hour take a day. Right now, I’m assigning myself Just One Thing every day, and I’m marking each one in the Hot Damn, I’m A Raging Success column on my internal score card.

P.P.S. I wish I didn’t have an internal score card. But I do. At this point, I’m just trying to learn to be more gentle about what I put on it.

P.P.P.S. I’ve missed you. More soon, I hope. <3

Is This Normal? Some Thoughts on Love. Also, Dogs. Also, Bodies.

February 23, 2017 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

I took my rings off the other night.

My wedding ring. My engagement ring. The two stackable rings I wear with them that I bought in a fit of extravagance for $12 at a fancy strip mall with immaculate sidewalks and enormous, Christmas-tree-lit palm trees in Southern California after an hour of agonizing over which to pick.

I took off the twisting ivy ring I bought to remind me that I grow fast and strong and have the power to break down huge barriers, at least eventually.

And I took off the filigreed silver ring with a riot of flowers and leaves; the one I bought in Mexico and wear on the middle finger of my right hand. I call it my flip-off ring, even though I’ve only ever flipped off Greg’s back with it, and, much more often, myself, usually in reproach for saying something Self decided was stupid. Self is all, “Stupid, stupid, stupid. JEEZ, Beth. WHY DO YOU SAY WORDS OUT LOUD? TO PEOPLE?” Then Self pulls out the flip-off ring, points it at me, and waves it around. In other words, Self can be a real asshole. Self and I are working on this.

I took my rings off the other night, but not because I didn’t want to wear them. I did. It’s just that my fingers felt jittery. Scritchy. Like they buzzed with constant, tiny electric currents. Bees under the skin. Restless Finger Syndrome? I don’t know. I just know the rings had to go away for my fingers to survive; strange sensory attacks that subsided when the rings came off. I took them off again just now, triggered, I suppose, by frantic finger memories.

Is this normal? Is this a thing the average person experiences? Or is this a symptom of mental illness? That’s a question to which I never know the answer. Not ever. About rings and other things. Does it make a difference that I also had to put on a tank top because my forearms turned scritchy, too? That the buzzing traveled through wrists and up my arms like something both alien and organic? Foreign and ingrained? Like the buzzing is the Borg and like resistance is futile? Does that make it more likely to be an illness issue? Or is this just part of having a body? I’ve never been particularly good at this part of being human — the How to Have a Body part. Why do some people seem to know how to have a body? And how to work a brain? Or are those myths, and it’s all a mystery to everyone? How is it possible to be past 40 and not know?

I took my rings off the other night.

I took the rings off, and then my shirt, and I wore a tank top and naked fingers and somewhat ugly panties which were lacy but worn, and I pulled my knees to my chin in my chair and stared at my computer screen and didn’t know what to say.

I didn’t have Writers’ Block. The opposite, maybe? Too many scritches and jitters and too many words pushing against the dam.

Too many thoughts about the state of the church and what it looks like to leave.

Too many thoughts about the state of our country and what it means to be both fierce and kind in the world right now.

Too many thoughts on why I can’t be silent these days, even though people tell me I’m complaining, or I am not respecting authority, or I should just “let it all sort itself out” and “see what happens” which appears to be something only privileged people say to each other because their lives aren’t on the line.

Too many thoughts about which wins when the choice must be made — ferocity or kindness — and which is the way of Love. Both, I bet; it’s just a matter of when to flip over the temple tables in a righteous rage because politics has married religion to make profits of gold, versus when to eschew the Sabbath rules to heal the sick, and give sight to the blind, and harvest food for the hungry, and to lift our neighbors’ oxen out of the ditch where they’ve fallen.

It’s rule breaking, either way — ferocity or kindness — to choose the side of the vulnerable. So often the way of Love, though. Over and over, the way of Love.

I stared at the screen the other night with too many words in my head, and no rings on my fingers, and I gave up quickly because I’m working these days on being gentle to Self even when Self isn’t gentle back.

Instead of writing, I put my computer to sleep, and I got in the bathtub and turned the water to hot.

I read a novel that was unedifying and captivating and perfect.

I listened to squabbling children whose arguments were repetitive and endless.

And I let the dog lick my toes and gaze at me with consuming adoration. I thought my dog should give Self lessons in Love, and lessons to the world, too, though the world will accuse her of being too affectionate, and too in-your-face, and too unable to understand the bigger issues at hand.

I took my rings off the other night. I don’t know if I did it because I’m ill or because I’m human. Probably both, though. Probably both.

Love to you, friends,

I Have a Kid Home From College: Here’s What I’ve Learned the First 3 Days

December 19, 2016 in Beth, Funny by Beth Woolsey

I have a kid home from college for the very first time. It’s been 3 days. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. The Freshman Fifteen is a real thing. Unfortunately, there’s a little known Freshman Fifteen sub-clause which states that if the freshman neglects to gain it herself, her mother has to do it for her, which I have dutifully done. (NOTE: She and I are not finished discussing the importance of her doing her own work in the future.)

2. Be grateful for ANY AND ALL COMMUNICATION, no matter how pathetic. Listen; she’s been away and on her own for several months. She’s used to doing what she wants when she wants to do it. She’s been putting up with your constant, helpful texts, reminding her, for example, NEVER TO DO CRACK. Now’s your chance to pay her back for her patience by not losing your ever-loving crap when you ask her for information and she says “unknown.”

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3. Set clear, but reasonable rules like NO DYING and NO GOING MISSING. 

 

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She will agree because you are being reasonable, and then — BONUS — you get to punish her if she ever does die or goes missing.

4. Admit when you’re being a freaking freaker who freaks. Like when you wake up gasping and sweating at 1:15am and wondering where the hell your kid — who told you she would be at “unknown” with “unknown” — is.

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5. Do not correct her grammar, even when she uses your instead of you’re. It’s petty and not worth it, and she’s a grown-up and can use the wrong form if she wants. Besides, 20 years from now, your and you’re will be interchangeable. Language is evolutionary, after all; it’s supposed to shift, and this is how it happens. IT’S OK.

6. Be open to learning new things; even if the new things are things you maybe should have known all along.

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And 7. When your kid ultimately responds with the inevitable, disdainful OMG, retaliate with that grammar thing.

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Sure, it’s totally immature, but it FEELS SO GOOD, and, as Debby Boone always says, it can’t be wrong when it feels so right. (That kid, though; she lights up my life.)

Sincerely yours,

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P.S. I COULD HAVE BEEN TRACKING HER ALL ALONG. Why is there no one guiding me through this mom thing?? I am clearly ill equipped to be making this up on my own. :/

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Have you read The Time Traveler’s Wife? If yes, HELP.

October 28, 2016 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

I keep waiting to write you until I have time to write something helpful or important or, at the very least, thoughtful, but that’s not happening this week, so I’m going to write to you to be needy. That’s what I seem to have right now. They always say, “Write what you know.” Well, being needy, friends; that’s what I know, so here we go.

I’m having a minor crisis at the moment, and it’s your fault. Not that I’m all about placing blame, but, seriously, you’re going to have to take responsibility for this one. ALSO, while my personal crisis may be minor, you’ve created a major crisis for someone else, and I thought you should know. Two someone elses, actually, and since it’s not OK to let major crises fester when you have the power to alleviate the harm you’ve (albeit unintentionally) caused, I say you get right on this situation. STAT.

Yes?

Yes. I’m glad we agree.

Here’s the situation:

You told me to read the Time Traveler’s Wife.

That’s the whole situation.

Let’s recap:

I TOLD you I can’t read things that are dark, tragic, sad, thoughtful or, God forbid, triumphant, and then you told me to read the Time Traveler’s Wife ANYWAY.

Trust us, you said.

You’ll be glad, you said.

I would not say it’s triumphant, Katie said.

You can do it; you are a Brave Girl, said Heidi.

But I am pretty sure I can NOT do it, and I am NOT a Brave Girl.

I’m pretty sure because I’ve sort of tried.

I bought the book, and then I read half of it. A WHOLE HALF of the Time Traveler’s Wife, and I’m starting to suspect it’s tragic and triumphant. There’s an orchard and a father and brother with guns, and a Henry who tells young Claire not to worry, and a later SIGNIFICANT LOOK between the men around the dinner table. GAH! It’s like a glowing neon sign at the 50% mark, flashing DANGER! DANGER! GO BACK!

I wrote to Katie and Heidi, and also Sarah who agreed with them, and I said, “The Time Traveler’s Wife was totally engaging. And then I quit halfway through, overcome with dread at the foreshadowing of Something Terrible to Come. You guys. Seriously. I AM BROKEN. Complete anxiety. I love the characters so I’ve left them suspended half way through the book LEST SOMETHING HORRIBLE OVERTAKE THEM. I wish I could just read the end of a book when I become fearful, but then, of course, the Awful Thing Still Befalls Them, and I can’t take that risk. Have you ever read the Sesame Street book The Monster at the End of the Book where Grover selflessly does everything in his power to prevent the end of the book from coming? I AM GROVER. I am tying and gluing and locking ALL THE PAGES together. And sticking my fingers in my ears singing LALALA. I just thought you should know…”

So here we are, in the middle of my minor crisis and Henry and Claire’s VERY MAJOR crisis; we are, all three, STUCK in the middle of this book, and there are people who might DIE. I can’t, you guys. And please do not try to tell me that Henry and Claire’s crisis doesn’t count simply because they’re fictional. Characters are only fictional until they become real. Anyone who’s read The Velveteen Rabbit knows that’s so. And Henry and Claire became real when you forcibly held me down, propped my eyes open with toothpicks, and compelled me to begin reading, thus caring about what happens to them.

Frankly, you were not all that helpful in your responses.

“My unsolicited advice is to leave it groverized until you are in need of a good, fugly cry. I could barely read the words through the tears and snooger bubbles. AND THEN it had the nerve to follow me around for a week-long emotional hangover. (But, really, it’s great),” wrote Jaime. <– NO. No. THESE THINGS DO NOT MATCH, JAIME. It’s like you think I’m a NORMAL HUMAN who feels feelings and doesn’t try to alternately shove them deep, deep down inside where they will rot and eventually explode or eat enormous amounts of sugar and salt to numb myself. Are you even American, Jaime? I suspect not.

And Sarah wrote, “YOU HAVE TO FINISH!! It is beautifully tragic and hopeful all at the same time! It’s seriously not all terrible.” I’m sorry, but WHAT? WHAT, Sarah? Beautifully tragic and hopeful is ALL OF LIFE. It is not, however, reading we do for FUN. No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

So I’m throwing this out there to ALL of you who’ve read The Time Traveler’s Wife with this one question:

Should I keep reading The Time Traveler’s Wife??

‘Cause I’m willing to allow for the teeny, tiny, remote possibility that you’re right and I’m wrong and that I might also be a freaking freaker who should calm the hell down and finish the damn book already. It’s just… I’m scared.

Leave me your recommendation — to read or not to read — in the comments, but no spoilers please, in case I do summon heretofore unknown reserves of reading courage.

Yours truly (and anxiously),

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P.S. I sort of misled you with my opening paragraph. I do, actually, have time to write one thing that may be helpful. My bathroom, as you may know, smells like boy humans use it. This week, I tried to mask the smell with a mulberry candle, and it worked, folks. It WORKED. Now instead of my bathroom smelling like pee, it smells like mulberry candle and pee, proving once again that we do not live a life of Either/Or, friends, but of Both/And. Both mulberry candle AND pee. #SmellsLikeLife #ForTheWin

P.P.S. I just realized the cover of the Time Traveler’s Wife says, “A soaring celebration of the victory of love over time.” OH MY WORD, you guys. That’s, like, textbook triumphant.

I don’t know what to say about this except maybe it’s a drug reaction.

September 20, 2016 in Beth by Beth Woolsey

I sat in my room at my desk this morning, and I tried to write to you but my brain was having none of it, so now we’re sitting outside in the sun in my backyard with its overgrown grass and fall breeze and a squirrel up in the Hawthorne tree high-grading the best red berries and teasing Zoey who wants simultaneously to be the squirrel’s BFF and commit squirrelcide. I feel like our Zoey dog is simply channeling what it means to be friends and family; I love you to the moon! and also I want to rip you in two and scatter tiny pieces of your flesh all over the lawn. I love you! I hate you! Both/And, friends; Both/And. As for the squirrel, she seems content to chitter at us from the tree top, eating half of each berry before spitting the rest on the ground. I’m pretty sure she learned to eat from my children.

I did something very out of character this weekend. Or maybe in character, but it would be the character I had before I had kids, and, honestly, I don’t remember that character very well, so it’s probably safe to stick with out of character.

img_1565I cleaned.

And organized.

And cleaned.

And organized.

And cleaned.

I think I’m having a personal crisis.

Or a drug reaction.

Or a mental break with reality.

I can’t think of anything else to explain this behaviour.

I mean, I’m VERY organized at work. Meticulous, actually. Annoyingly detailed. And I’m VERY unorganized at home. This way, there is balance in the universe and I don’t open a black hole or rip the space-time continuum or teach my children I can be trusted to remember their schedules. I am thinking of others, in other words, and teaching my children the life skill of managing their own time. Win/win, I say. Win/win.

But lately, I’ve been frenetically cleaning at home. And taking on projects at a totally unsustainable rate. And thinking thoughts like, “Maybe I CAN learn to keep things clean! Maybe I’m turning over a new leaf! Maybe someday my bathroom will smell like NOTHING instead of like Pee Invited All His Friends Over for a Rave.” <– These are undoubtedly LIES, friends. These are my brain on the campaign trail making promises it will never, ever be able to get through congress.

Still, my brain keeps telling me pretty, pretty things. Like that I can learn from my own history and change and not want to gouge out my own eyeballs when I walk into my dumpster fire of a living room and then spend the evening hiding in my bathtub which is decorated with decapitated Barbies, matchbox cars, and used socks. My brain is selling me the dream right now, and I am the fool who’s buying it.

But learning from history. Right?? Aren’t we suppose to learn from history so we can have pretty homes?

I think we’re technically supposed to learn from history so we’re not doomed to repeat it, but I’m not sure that’s a real thing, anyway. If this U.S. election is any indication, we may be destined to repeat history anyway, even if some of us have learned from it. You know why? Because of other people, that’s why. SOME of us can learn from history and clean out our cabinets and organize them beautifully, but then the OTHER people in the house will come along and shove a half-eaten candy bar, a pair of pliers, a Bandaid box the dog chewed on, two Lego people, an ice cube, and a half-dozen broken crayons in there, and pretty soon it’s another junk cabinet. History, repeating! I’m beginning to suspect the real reason we need to learn from history is so we can hunker down, knowing the damage is coming.

In conclusion, I believe I have ruined myself by buying Betty and thinking I can live the kind of elitist lifestyle where I not longer have to start my stove with an ice pick. I failed to recognize it, but I was at the top of a Slippery Slope, and I’m sliding down the hill now at an alarming rate. I have no idea where this is going to end, but I recently purchased Goo Gone and Magic Erasers, and I know where the Soft Scrub with Bleach is, so there’s no telling. No telling, friends.

You can pray for us.

With love,

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P.S. Don’t worry about us too much. Greg’s “shop” still looks like this:

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When I casually mentioned it’s impossible to walk through his shop area in a straight line without tripping on stuff and dying from a broken neck (because doing one weekend of cleaning has given me the right to be self-righteous and judgmental about Greg’s lack of cleaning, and, no, the fact that I’ve kept you busy building me shelves and crap does NOT excuse you for not magically ALSO cleaning your shop at the same time, GREG), Greg said you can, too, walk through the shop in a straight line. “You just have to step really high OVER things,” he said. Which… is a reasonable point and how I intend to justify the totally scalable mountains of laundry from now on.

P.P.S. I’ve done a TERRIBLE job of letting you know about the three retreats we have coming up — two Magic in the Mess writing retreats (January and May 2017) and one spiritual formation Grace and Grime retreat (November! TWO Months away). Despite me, the retreats are filling up; I would love (LOVE) to hang out with you in one of my favorite spots on earth so do check them out if you’d like to come, and email me if you have any questions. Click here for the Magic in the Mess Writing Retreat 101, here for the Magic in the Mess Writing Retreat 202, and here for the Grace and the Grime Spiritual Formation Retreat. These are my favorite! And you can read on those pages what previous participants have to say.

P.P.P.S. I recently discovered my friend Melissa keeps a House Notebook wherein she records things like what kind of paint she used in which rooms and all the paint details — store, brand, finish, pigment info, what kind of toothpaste it uses — so she can buy more of that paint. A HOUSE NOTEBOOK, you guys. PEOPLE HAVE THESE THINGS. I am afraid THIS is what may be at the bottom of the Slippery Slope. House Notebooks with paint information and no enormous, rusting, dried-up pile of dead paint cans in the garage with no discernible way to ever figure out exactly which paint was used for what so we have to start over from scratch and duplicate our efforts every time. Is it? Is this what’s at the bottom of the Slippery Slope??

 

This Is My Brain on Parenting

September 4, 2016 in Beth, Funny by Beth Woolsey

Listen; this doesn’t make me proud. It’s just true.

Here’s what you need to know, where “need to know” is used in the loosest possible sense along with my discretion and sense of decorum:

I just peed part way — like, a smattering — and then I stopped peeing and got up to do other things.

I was seriously standing up, buttoning my pants, before I realized I hadn’t actually finished. Like, I was in such a hurry that I ran into the bathroom, tossed a teeny, tiny bit of urine into the potty like I was throwing a fastball from a pitcher’s mound, my Subconscious said, “GOOD ENOUGH FOR NOW, BETH; NOW OFF TO DO OTHER ESSENTIAL THINGS — GO! GO! GO!,” and I listened and obeyed her.

Allow me to note… this is not OK, friends.

This is NOT RIGHT.

But this rushing and doing and never finishing is so deeply embedded in the mama brain that she runs to the restroom, pulls down her pants, pees halfway, clenches, stands, and is flushing and buttoning before she realizes she has the inalienable right to pee all the way.

DEAR SWEET JESUS ON A POGO STICK, friends.

I was Pants-Pulled-Up and Button-Fastened before I realized I should not only finish what I went to the bathroom for, but that it’s OK to use the additional 5 seconds it would take to fully empty my bladder. Like, I’m allowed to take that time. Pee Completion is an appropriate and wise use of the precious and few minutes in a day.

I realize there are people who say the internet is a wasteland of potty stories and people who share TMI, but THIS IS HOW FRENETIC THE LIFE OF A MOTHER IS, friends, and I don’t know a better way to illustrate the insanity than this.

 

This Life of a Parent thing? It is ridiculous. Also, it is an excellent excuse for being TOTALLY NUTS.

Solidarity, fellow parents. And fellow nut jobs. And fellow humans, because, let’s be honest, we’re all weird weirdos who are weird,

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P.S. I AM, however, totally rocking parenting on other fronts! I was feeling frazzled and frenetic making breakfast for my children without having had my morning cup of coffee. I was trying, man; I swear. But I was vacant-eyed and sluggish and said, “What? What?” forty-five times every time my children tried to talk to me because sans-coffee I cannot possibly be expected to understand words. Finally, one of the nine-year-olds, said, “Mom? MOM. Mom mom mom mom mom,” and I said, “What?” and he said, “LOOK ME IN THE EYES, MOM. ARE YOU LISTENING? This. Is Very. Important. HAVE YOU HAD COFFEE?” “NO, I HAVE NOT,” I said, and, “I AM DYING OVER HERE,” I said, and he replied very slowly, “MOM. HAVE YOU LEARNED NOTHING?? PUT ON YOUR OWN OXYGEN MASK BEFORE ASSISTING OTHERS.” Which is when I realized I am the Best Parent in the History of the World because I am raising a child who sees the needs of others and speaks Love into their lives. I WIN PARENTING!

P.P.S. Full disclosure, though: after I had coffee, the same child told me he watched a YouTube video on how to make tiny drinking glasses out of strawberries and fill them with jello shots. “Naturally, we’ll need a lot of vodka,” he said. So feel free to add or deduct Parenting Points as you will.