I'm trying to identify and confront head-on sources of stress in my life. In the last week I've been able to, with some pretty deep introspection, narrow down a few of the daily nuances that make me absolutely batshit crazy:
1. Shoes. Not being able to find my shoes, not being able to find Geneva's shoes, only being able to find one of the shoes...and don't even let me get started on finding fucking socks that match each other. It's a Christmas Miracle in July if you can make that shit happen.
2. Food. Geneva's Lunch, my lunch, our breakfasts, snacks, morning coffee. Dinner - what are we having for dinner? All are very important. All are occasionally missed because I don't have my shit together.
3. Clothes. Knowing what I'm going to wear and being able to locate all of the pieces of said outfit. Wash, Rinse, Repeat for Geneva and Cora.
Sounds simple enough, right? Shut up.
I can recognize how silly and simple that list sounds, but I also know, from living in my daily reality, that those are legitimate, snakes-popping-out-of-my-head crazy-inducing triggers/challenges that can make or break my day before it's really even gotten started.
I also know how to solve my problems, at least in terms of identifying the solutions - shoes go back in the same place after they come off, food is prepped the night before, laundry is done on weekends and work-week outfits laid out Sunday night. I've tried. Oh, how I've tried. It's not easy being lazy, folks. When it was just me and Jimi, oh, the lazy times we had. G came along and required the discipline of every-other-day laundry and regular mealtimes, but she was settling into a pretty good lazy routine too. Then we added Cora into the mix, and, through no fault of hers, just the pure fact of four people living under one roof, logistics got complicated and started requiring some real planning and execution and follow-through. Things we're really bad at in the Fowler household.
I was doing great for a minute, though. When I first went back to work after my maternity leave this last time, I had meal plans planned and prepped Saturday afternoon for the coming week. Laundry was washed and folded and put away and laid out Sunday night. Lunches were packed the night before; there was time for breakfast in the mornings before we left the house, rather than grabbing a granola bar on the way out the door. We knew where our shoes were.
Those things happened. They did. I distinctly remember. And then we all got sick, and we passed some variety and level of funk around between us for the next few months and it just wasn't easy to keep on top of all of that neatness and organization - it makes everything run so smoothly, but man, it really requires work and staying on top of it. Or, well, not being completely lazy asses and doing nothing.
It made me feel better when I learned that there's an actual scientific theory out there that says chaos is the natural order of things - that no matter how nice and neat you organize things, the natural inclination is for those things to become disorganized and messy. It made me feel like maybe I'm not such a complete failure in life. Chaos is normal, and expected. That was long before kids. It's especially when you have little kids, though, right? That's what people keep telling me.
I called a family friend last week, a psychiatrist by trade, and told her that I was pretty sure I was going crazy, and asked her if she could refer me to someone I could talk to. I don't want any meds or anything, I told her, I just want someone to tell me how to stop being so fucking crazy. I'd cried the whole way to work that morning. I was sort of a basket case. She asked me to explain what was going on - what was my particular flavor of crazy, if you will. I'm anxious all the time, I feel like I'm constantly going to fuck something up, or like I've already fucked something up and it's going to bite me in the ass. I can't get my arms around anything, I feel completely overwhelmed and behind at work and at home and I fantasize about burning shit down or quitting my job because then I could start somewhere new and not be behind anymore. She laughed at me.
"Natalie! You're not crazy! You're just a woman!"
"That's what it is to be a woman in today's fucked up society. With two small kids and a full time job, of course you're a little crazy." We can't give enough of ourselves to any one thing to ever feel like we're doing enough or good enough, and then we've given so much of ourselves and our time to those two very important vocations that there's no time or energy left to give to ourselves. It's a nasty vicious cycle and it can make your brain and your body sick. She told me how for years she'd held out hope that women could come together, recognizing these truths we all experience every day, and help each other, or at the very least, band together to encourage some positive societal change wherein it was made easier for women to balance these roles. What she found instead was a bunch of backbiting and judgment.
Her advice to me was not to seek counsel of a local psychologist - she told me anyone I found locally to talk to would likely be a man, which no ability to understand the perfect storm of emotions i'm experiencing right now, and he'd want to throw a pill at the problem that wouldn't fix my problem. She told me to hire someone to clean my house, or quit my job, or work part time, or come home and light up a joint to relax after the kids are in bed.
So those aren't exactly the most feasible options for me, but she got me thinking - what are the sources of my stress? What makes my day hard?
I organized my pantry. I cut up one of those over-the-closet-door shoe holder thingies I never use and put half on the back of the pantry door and filled the pockets with easy-to-grab snacks for us and the kids - fruit, babyfood pouches, granola bars, pretzels, oatmeal packs, fruit snacks. Now I don't have to dig for nutritious things in the mornings when we're rushing to get out the door - we have things easily available. I made a meal plan for the week so we'd come home each night knowing what we're having for dinner and how we're getting it made. I dug out an old CD rack that is a perfect fit for Geneva's shoes - retraining ourselves to use it is another matter entirely. Jimi's been staying on top of the kitchen mess and the laundry so we've had things to wear and clean dishes to cook and eat with. We're off to a good start, I'd say.
Life is hard and messy and sometimes you just need a good cry and someone to tell you you're not alone, that you're not the only person who's ever gone through this or felt this way. That you're not crazy. Not in a "medicate me" sort of way - life is just hard. And messy. And chaotic. Exactly as it's supposed to be.