Monday, December 10, 2012

In Which I Behave Badly

I take a deep breath and try to calm myself.

It's one of those Sundays where everything seems to collide in just the wrong way. Both my husband and I are very busy with work. The kids are full of holiday craziness and visions of sugarplums and dancing about asking to decorate the tree, go shopping for presents, make a gingerbread house, play a game.

Our internet crashed. Actually it crashed right in the beginning of a movie date my husband and I desperately needed on Saturday night. We were all snuggled up under a blanket in front of a roaring fire and - ziiiiiiiip.  No more Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones working on their marriage in Hope Springs.

It was only 8pm, but it was the final straw for me, and I went to bed. Sometimes that's the only way to end a day that is two steps forward and three steps back.

I have a confession to make (Mom - I'm sorry), but I can't stand decorating for Christmas. I love the end result, of course I do, but I'm not at my best schlepping boxes up from the cellar and wrangling with lights and my "is the tree straight" obsessed husband.  I simply don't enjoy it.  I don't  know how this happened, because my Mom is, hands down, the best Christmas decorator ever. No joke.

There, I got that off my chest. Feel free to criticize me all you want; it's just my truth.

Having to decorate becomes especially difficult when we're all so busy.  I think about priorities, how we're always going to be busy, and try to wrench myself back into the moment, but then I sneak off to finish a few orders and my printer breaks.

How do I handle this?

I have a complete and total foot-stomping tear streaked tantrum.  We're talking Toddler Tantrum.

Steve calmly steers me upstairs and tells me to lie down, take a few breaths, and come back down when I have composed myself, like I'm some kind of child.  Oh. Wait. Yeah.

I lie in my bed and stare angrily at the ceiling. It's too much, I think.  All the little details and permission slips and school performances and activities and play dates and homework and running a small business, and... and ... and ......

I close my eyes, stubborn tears still squeezing out from behind my squinched up eyelids.

One year ago I was gearing up to start chemotherapy and radiation. One year ago I would have done ANYTHING to have these petty little problems that aren't even problems.  I just have a terrible attitude because I want attention. I've been working my you-know-what off lately and the hamster wheel never stops and I just want someone to say "GREAT JOB, MOMMA!".

Now I know how Finn feels.  Sometimes bad attention is still attention.

I place my hands over my heart and count its beats; a trick I learned in my cancer support group, and in yoga.  I feel my life blood pulse through my fingers, and with each beat I say a little tiny prayer:  thank you.

Once my tears have dried and my heart and mind are back in the moment - this moment right here - I head downstairs, feeling blessed. Finally.


  1. So nice to hear someone say a version of what you're feeling. This is actually the first year that I'm feeling SO much pressure about the holidays. My son being in Kindergarten is likely a large part of it - that and the plethora of volunteering I signed up to do.

    Thank you for sharing the counting heartbeats coping method - it sounds like a great way to remember that most peaks of stress - most - will slow down if we take a few deep breaths. I could have used that last night!

  2. You pulled back into the moment -that takes a lot of focus and being aware of yourself. A very good job to you :) (Plus, I think we'd all benefit from a little lay down and rest.)

  3. Love this Ellie. Especially this part: "Now I know how Finn feels. Sometimes bad attention is still attention." I soooo relate. Thanks for telling your truth! To your mom and all of us!

  4. I hate the pressure to decorate. And why MUST it be done so freaking close to Thanksgiving? Why cannot I wait until I am geared up to do it, like the week before Christmas, which is when I'm finally in the spirit?
    I also have this thing about manically cleaning my house because Santa doesn't come to a dirty house. Thankfully I am learning to let that one go and finding it's much easier to decorate if I only clean the surfaces I'm decorating.

  5. Ah yes, I've felt this way this year too. I broke down and cried at work when my hubby ordered things for me from Amazon and the email came to me. I've yelled and stomped and hidden the stockings so the kids would stop arguing over them. It took me all weekend long to get myself to hang the lights on the front porch, but when I finally got them hung and saw them twinkling back at me reflected in my son's eyes, I remembered what it was all about.

  6. I have tantrums. Not as many as before, but they still happen. They happen when things pile up and I run on autopilot, fielding pitches not even thrown in my direction, feeling I have to do it all, fix it all, be the perfect (fill in the blank) ... the pressure builds and I forget to remember to let go of the if onlys and the what ifs - forget to set and keep boundaries around how much I take on - forget to let others have the joy of helping me - and I lose touch with "today." I end up resentful, overwhelmed, self-pitying: a perfect recipe for a full-blown tantrum...just like my kids used to have after being to too many stores with me while I tried to cram all my errands into one day. Sometimes it is just too much!

    I've said it before (because I need to remind myself - often -) that emotions are God-given, transitory states which are designed to alert us to what's going on inside, that are supposed to make us stop and figure out why. Why am I reacting this way? what's really going on? what's being triggered here? Once recognized and experienced, expressed in safe ways, and worked through, they can be released, I can let go, and I can move on. Even the tantrums serve the purpose of alerting me to my inner life, my attitudes, my spiritual health. They're temporary, fleeting. They pass; they're supposed to pass. It's when I hang onto those emotions that I get into trouble. I get stuck. Getting "unstuck" is sometimes a challenge.

    Thank you for showing how that works, for showing that it's okay to be human and to have limits; it's possible to feel what you feel and then unhook from that despair-spiral and step into the light - the light of Today.

  7. thank you momma, great job!

  8. Great job, momma! Especially taking the time to write about it so we can all snort out loud at the temper tantrum.

    I usually try to wait until everyone's out of the house for mine, but some days... :)

  9. I always love reading your post. Thanks for sharing your ways of calming down. I will do that when a bad day comes along. I read a book recently about how to be happy. It says that we should smile always, even though we don't feel like smiling but when u do only good thoughts appear in the brain. So now I practise to smile before I fall asleep at night and after a while the smile jst appear naturally

  10. Smile always, happy blogging and Merry Christmas to you and family in advance

  11. Please may I introduce my friend Hannah...

    Meet Hannah...

    Oh, yes, we are all in this together.

    Making cute chocolates with my son resulted in tears, stress and a meltdown - instead of the picture perfect loving time I imagined!!

  12. I read this post and then look at the sidebar at your shiningstones link with the bracelot that says..."there is a crack in everything, that is how the light get's in." Ahhhh...crooked trees and burned out bulbs and crashed internet and broken printers...and temper tantrums...this season gives us so much room for light to get in! So much light, it's almost overwhelming.