Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Stress Of It All

I feel comfortable saying that everyone has these periods in their lives where the stress of it all feels overwhelming. And I happen to be there now. In fact, it's making me sick. And I can't really eat. But I actually do, choking down whatever I can.

There is one thing I've written about, the mugging. And the fact that I have to face this bastard when I really want to forget about it. And as much as I would like to think that this hasn't been a big deal, I can't avoid the reality of the emotions it is stirring in me. I am more affected than I want to be. I am angry. I am angry because I feel vulnerable. And that sucks.

There are things I haven't written about yet. I can't because the distress runs too deep. Know that it's huge. I can't think about it let alone write about it. It's buried for now, but it will rear its ugly head one day.

Then there's the fact that my babysitter abandoned me with no notice two weeks before school started. Keep in mind I work full-time. I, of course, immediately put an ad in at the local college, my usual reliable source. Unfortunately it hasn't panned out this time. Only two responses, and they're not available until next week. Their school year doesn't begin until after Labor Day so most of the students aren't on campus yet.

I am in uncharted waters. I've never been without a babysitter. This means a huge amount of stress for me. I have to be on and I mean ON one hundred percent. There is no room for the unexpected, like last week when the CTO called a meeting at 5:00 pm. Everything is planned to the Nth degree. Dinners have to be planned, lunches prepared. Three kids in three different schools lends itself to a whole new game when you are only two parents, and no babysitter. So now I have to figure out how I'm going to be at one Back To School Night at 6:30 and pick up a kid at his soccer practice at 6:45. Anybody have a way to replicate a body?

All this and my big, no make that huge, project at work is launching this week. The demo went well and it's time to open the flood gates. You see, it's counter-intuitive. The launch of this particular project just means that the volume of work is going to increase.

The irony of it all is that I have to plan and be prepared. I say it's ironic because the way to avoid feeling overwhelmed would be to just take it one step at a time, one day at a time. But I can't. If I don't have a menu for the week, and the food for it, dinner just won't get made. That'll mean cranky kids and cranky mom and result in trips to Burger King. Burger King, yuck, a place where I won't even eat anything on the menu. I guess that's okay. I can't really eat anyway.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Should I Let Them Sleep?

These past seven days or so have been busy with all those back-to-school tasks. Go through clothing and toss that which no longer fits or simply is not presentable, throw out old markers run dry through use or time and, of course, get new stuff for the new year.

These tasks and to-do's as a parent are so easy and clear. There's no questioning, no debate. However, there's been this one back-to-school item that's been nagging at me for a few weeks now and that's the schedule and being on a schedule.

As an aside, any parent out there can tell you all the advice they rain down on you about getting your kid on a schedule. I am a very scheduled person. I like schedules. I like knowing what to expect and when to expect it. The concept, while appealing, doesn't necessarily hold true for all kids, but there was a time in my kids' lives where we were pretty darned scheduled. While it was good when they complied, it was nerve-racking when they didn't. No one ever told you what to do when your kid wouldn't stick to the schedule.

Anyway, now that my kids are getting older, they are naturally staying up later. No more 8:00 pm bedtimes. Even the six-year-old has been staying up late, well past 10:00 pm almost regularly. That's what you get with the third kid. And who cares? He can sleep as late as he wants. I like that. I like that a lot because that means on weekends, I get to sleep late. Win-win if you ask me.

But that all needs to change, starting tonight. And hence my dilemma for the past week. I kept saying, the kids need to go to bed earlier and get up earlier so the start of school is not a shock. My husband and I agreed, but secretly I struggled. I mean, hey, it's their summer vacation. Shouldn't they be allowed to stay up late and sleep in late, especially the teenager? It is particularly difficult for me because I remember being that age and I remember sleeping until noon, until my mom came in and made some wisecrack about sleeping the day away. It was wonderful and I still enjoy long mornings snuggled under the covers.

And so I've waffled and indecisive. And husband was no help. He doesn't care. And guess what? The kids really haven't been going to be earlier. Well, I've had them shutdown the computers and stop the TV and get in bed. But the sleep-time is still basically the same - way late, especially when I think that school starts tomorrow.

So last night, as I'm laying in bed trying to fall asleep, I convinced myself that I needed to wake the boys up before I left for work. Wake them up at roughly the same time they need to be up tomorrow, so it isn't such a shock. But then as I was going through my motions in the morning, I somehow convinced myself that they didn't need to wake up. That depriving them of sleep for an additional day in the week would only make them more tired tomorrow. After all, the adrenaline of the first day of school will take care of any residual tiredness, right? And I let them sleep.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I Feel Like I'm Gonna Puke

I had this little incident last week. It definitely knocked me off balance but I think I did a good job of maintaining. I held it together, likely because Mike was out of town and I had the two youngest at home with me. I had to keep it together.

I thought for sure when Mike came home I would fall apart. I would finally be able to release. But it didn't happen like that. I was pretty matter-of-fact about the whole thing. Everyone was wondering what his reaction would be and I really couldn't predict. Turns out he was "worried". His word, not mine.

Over the past week, the memory and fear of the whole incident has faded, just like the bruises on my arm. They're barely even noticeable at this point. And I like it like that. It seems so distant, so unreal.

But then I got this letter yesterday. From the District Attorney. Demanding me to appear (and yes, it says demanding) in court. I've been subpoenaed. I am a witness. I need to testify. It came with this one-page pamphlet explaining the process - the subpoena and what it means, the preliminary examination, the trial.

I read it. I re-read it. My heart started thumping. My palms were sweating. Tears tried to sprout from my eyes but I held them back. Can't I just pretend like this never happened? Can't I just crawl back under my rock? I feel like I'm gonna puke.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Will I Ever Shine?

Yesterday was a nice, relaxing Sunday. My husband just returned from a High Sierra adventure with our oldest; 50 miles backpacking. He was gone, unreachable at a time when I needed him most. But I hung in there and the sweetness of his return allowed me to fully breathe again enveloped in a blanket of security and safety.

We immediately fell into our routines and that meant a quick round of golf, this time taking the two youngest. Golf is so frustrating even though I love it. Sick sense of humor? The need to torture myself? I don't know what keeps drawing me back to that game, but I go every time.

On one particular horrible shot I cried out, "why can't I ever be good at anything?!". And my husband was great, attempting to provide consolation with the gentle reminder that we hadn't played in over a month. While he did have a point, I still sulked. The horrible shot was a sharp slap in the face about how I'm simply not "great" at anything.

My life of mediocrity is so glaring I found myself stewing, dwelling and keeping me awake last night. It is particularly frustrating for me because I have this sense about myself that I am destined to do something great, to shine at something and yet there is nothing.

Growing up I was always in the shadow of my sister - prettier, more petite, better at every sport, a natural ear for music...blah, blah, blah. Whatever it was, she was better. The only thing I excelled at was school. I could get good grades, and even that started to pale when I moved on to high school with a larger set of folks to compare myself against. Still, high school and college were easy. I didn't have to try to get good grades, but they weren't great either.

And, that's pretty much where I stand in my adult life too. Good, but not great. And there definitely is no shine.

I'm okay as a parent - I wouldn't even say good. I have times like this and this. Clearly I don't shine there.

I'm not the primary breadwinner in my family. As a consequence, I'm the one with primary childcare duties so I am not great at my job. Constantly interrupted and distracted, my working world is often rocked by flaky babysitters, routine doctors' appointments and the not-so-occasional emergencies. I frequently wonder how other women manage in an environment much less flexible than my own. I'm sure they're just better at it than me.

For awhile I wanted to be a great pool player. I'm good, but not great. Our team often finishes in first or second place, but the fact is, I'm more of the weak link than an asset. Out of our five man team, three are in spots one, two and three on the top shooter list. But not me.

It makes me wonder, why do I even try? All I end up with is disappointment. I am never as good as I want to be. I am tired of trying and not getting great, of not shining in ONE single thing. There are so many things that I have and want to do, that I wonder if it isn't an impossible objective. But still, I just want to shine at something, one thing, anything.

Friday, August 13, 2010

An Inconvenient Experience

I preface this with a note that I am not writing this for sympathy or accolades. I am writing this to process my feelings.

The other night I had the unfortunate experience of being mugged. Take a minute and think about what it is to be mugged and I will tell you my story. You can see how it matches up.

I work in a sketchy area. It's part professional, part drug-infested, part homeless. On any given day, you'll see the range. You'll see the lawyers - mostly dodgy women in their mid-calf skirt suits; men with their briefcases and cheap shoes. You'll see the homeless begging you for change, most of whom stand themselves on opportune corners calling out as you pass by. You'll even counter the random hostile who'll shout "'Po-Ass-Bitch!" when you reply that you don't have a quarter to spare. Whatever, all in a day, right?

I left work on Tuesday and headed to the BART, just like every other night. The sun was bright but the air was cool with the onset of the fog. I ran the gauntlet - that stretch of sidewalk from my office building to the BART station - that section where I am never quite sure what I might encounter. I made it to the BART entrance and descended the stairs into the station and, upon reaching the flat, opened up my purse to grab my BART ticket. I remember thinking how convenient it was that the ticket was right on top; I didn't have to dig and fish around in my purse to find that dark blue envelope. I noticed the guy walking towards me but didn't think twice about it. He was headed for the escalator next to the stairs I just went down. This is a BART station. People come and go all the time. That's the nature of public transportation. And as I took that five seconds to look down and grab my BART cards, this punk decided to try grab my purse.

Let me be a little more precise. That punk tried to rip my purse right off my arm. Unfortunately for him, I had a firm grip on it myself and my feisty instinct took over. There was no way in hell I was going to allow this punk to steal my purse. I don't know why. I know what they say - let the guy have whatever and just get away to be safe. But, in that instant, that never even crossed my mind.

I saw red. There was no way I was going to let this punk steal my purse if I could help it and I grabbed on. I grabbed on to whatever I could of him and I refused to let go. I don't know how it all went down specifically. All I know is that I was pissed and I wasn't going to let him go if I could help it. I heard a rip of his sweatshirt. And then I heard another. He was trying to break free and dragging me around in the process. My shoes went flying off and I'm sure it must've been a spectacular sight. But but I still held on. Eventually he escaped my grasp and fled up the stairs.

Immediately the tears started flowing. I didn't mean to. I'm not sure I even realized it. It was one of those weird experiences where instinct prevailed on all accounts. The fighting back. The crying.

Just as the dirtbag fled, the station agent came out of the break room, lunch sack in hand, probably from eating his dinner. My belongings were scattered and I sobbed as I crawled around to gather them up.

One of my co-workers, one of my cube-mates actually, came down the stairs just in time to witness the chaos, to see me crying, crawling around picking up my things. He's this young, fresh out of college Indian guy. He was so sweet. He offered to stay with me and refused to leave when I insisted I was "fine". But the thing that I think about was how he kept asking me to "please stop crying". Three times I think he asked. And I kept telling him that I was trying, but the tears just wouldn't stop.

The cops came. I gave them a description. I told them what was missing from my wallet. Thankfully it was only the cash and my commuter checks. The dirtbag dropped my wallet and he didn't get my license (which of course has my home address), or any of my credit cards. I recounted the incident and just wanted to go home. Could I please go home now? My kids were there without a babysitter - I had called her to say I was on my way and she could head out.

No - I couldn't go home. The cops thought they might have caught the guy, so I had to stick around to ID him. At first I thought I couldn't. I had a description; felt super confident in it. But ID the guy? Not sure I could, much less have the strength in me. But it wasn't up to me. They drove me over a few blocks to where they apprehended a "suspect". Cops were everywhere. They had this guy, were holding him and made me look at him. And, FLASH, it was him. They sealed it when they searched him and he had my commuter checks and cash, but also receipts from things I'd purchased since last I cleaned out my wallet.

From there I finally got home. The cops were so nice. I thought they'd drop me off at the nearest BART station, but instead they drove me all the way to my car.

My neighbor, the sweetest person ever, came over to hang with the kids after I realized that I was going to be seriously delayed in getting home. We enjoyed a few glasses of wine once I put the kids to bed which was exactly what I needed.

All things considered, this really was an inconvenient experience. I could've been knived, shot or beaten in my attempt to save my purse. My wallet could've ended up in the hands of a dirtbad who would then know my name and address from my driver's license. I could've spent days trying to recover lost credit cards, driver's license and whatever other personal stuff I carry around day-in and day-out. But it didn't happen and I am lucky for that.

Now I just have to deal with that sense of insecurity. Can I walk to BART by myself? Is that person walking quickly towards me going to try to attack me? Am I going to have to testify against this guy, or will he plead out? I don't know, but I know that I am lucky and this really was just an inconvenient experience.