I decided - probably in November, I think - that I needed to make some changes to my life before I got mired down in unending disasters, both of the house and of the self.
My house was always a mess, and about once every three months, my husband would get really huffy and spend an entire weekend cleaning. I'd help, but we wouldn't talk to each other while we were doing it, and we were both angry about the whole thing; him because I wasn't really doing my job of cleaning the house and me because he was being sort of a dick about the fact that I wasn't doing my job, and because he was slamming things around and just being unpleasant.
Diabetes was looming in my future pretty loudly. My A1-C was "worrisome". I was expanding in all directions like some out of control roman army. I was in size 24s and a few 26s. I never looked good, I rarely felt good. I was sweating, all the time. Even sitting still in an air-conditioned room.
My daughter was having some late-development problems. Her language skills were basically non-existent. She was painfully shy around people she didn't know. She wasn't at all well-adapted to go on to school in the fall.
My husband and I were co-existing. We didn't talk as much as we used to. Our sex life was becoming infrequent. We weren't fighting more; but even that was worrisome. We weren't fighting at all, and for us, that's a problem. It usually means there are too many things we're not saying.
I just wasn't happy. Not with myself, not with my life, not with anything. I can't say I could complain of misery, because certainly it wasn't that. But little things just kept piling up and not being dealt with. I was ignoring things that needed attention. I was behind on bills. I was behind on everything. And I wasn't doing anything. I don't just mean not doing anything about the problems, I mean not doing anything AT ALL.
I'm a big fan of lists, as any of you who've read here for any length of time will know. I love lists.
Back in December, I took a tw0-week evaluation of my life. I wrote it down, every time I was angry or upset, why I was angry and upset and what I was doing at the time.
I didn't try to analyze it, or categorize anything. That was for later. What I wanted just then was a list.
Here's a sample, copied from those lists:
Monday, Dec 17
Tripped over Darcy's stool. Again. Bruise on leg, yelled at her. She cried. More frustrated. Was getting snack. Grrr.
Tuesday, Dec 18
Thomas & Darcy both complaining about dinner. Had to do dishes to find kitchen. Hand washed pot and broke nail. Dinner late, and not very good.
Ordered pizza. Annoyed at spending money. Moved money from savings to checking. Getting to under $500 there. Worried about Christmas presents.
I'm sure you can all see where this is going.
Because the house was a mess, it was taking longer to do things. In order to cook dinner, I was having to clean the kitchen first. That meant dinner was late. Often dinner wasn't even made; we ordered pizza, or got take out instead. When Thomas and I first got married, I cooked dinner 5 nights a week, we ate out once, and one night a week he was "on his own" for dinner, and I would have a bagel or something. I kept frozen snacks and whatnot on hand for him to eat.
As time progressed, I got to the point where I was cooking dinner no more than twice a week, and he was "on his own" for three or four nights, and we ate out once or twice a week.
We rarely had any "extra" money in case the car broke down, or there was an unexpected expense. Christmas was a major hassle for me, and one that often had me considering how, exactly, I could unload five or six friends, so that I didn't have to buy them presents; and more importantly, they wouldn't give me MORE STUFF that I didn't have a place for.
Some of these problems there were solutions for; go on a diet (OK, since I've been yelled at this a few times, I'm just going to say this one more time and then you're on your own, people. DIET is easier to type than "lifestyle change". Besides, in this culture, "lifestyle change" to me sounds like I've decided to divorce my husband and shack up with Leslie, the incredibly hot girl at my weight watcher's meetings, and while that's not entirely unappealing in fantasy, it's not going to happen. I recognize that I'm going to be on DIET for the rest of my life; that I can never go back to "eating like normal" because this IS my new normal. And if I said this doesn't depress the hell out of me sometimes, I'd be lying. I recognize the truth; putting a fancy multisyllabic label on it doesn't make it less depressing. Aside from that, I tend to say "lifestyle change" with heavy sarcasm and the finger quotes around it, which certainly isn't having the intended placebo vocabulatory effect. There. Enough lecture. And I don't want to hear about it again? Ok? OK.) clean the house and keep it clean, etc.
But it did seem to me that, looking things over carefully, the main problem was ME. Everything else was symptoms of that overwhelming single problem (Ok, so maybe not Darcy's development problems) in that I just wasn't happy with myself.
Quite a long time ago, a friend asked me "Is your problem with where you live, or is your problem something you're just going to take with you when you go?" I was wanting desperately to move away from Lynchburg and get back to the Williamsburg/Newport News/Hampton Roads area where all my friends were. (In this, we didn't quite succeed, because while we do see our friends slightly more living down here, it's still not entirely as much social life as I would like.) It's a question that's well worth the considering. Is the solution I see actually going to fix my problem, or is it like putting a band aid on an open arterial wound?
The core problem: I didn't like myself anymore. I was fat. I was lazy. I was not being a good parent. I was not being a good wife. I didn't have any sense of purpose. My writing had fallen by the wayside of not being able to concentrate while Darcy was constantly asking for attention. I had no... accomplishments.
The solution: Fix and Change what can be fixed and changed.
The Serenity PrayerI can't always - or even often - change the world around me. But I can change myself. And I can change how I react to things.
(edited for us godless heathens)
Grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking this world as it is,
not as I would have it;
Trusting that I may be
reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy
Forever in the next.
I'm not happy with the way I look, or feel: I can change my eating habits.
I'm not happy with the way the house looks: I can change my cleaning habits.
I'm not happy with my marriage: I can become more the partner that I think I should be.
Of course, once having defined the problems, and the solutions, one must come up with a plan to implement those solutions. On the other hand, these aren't entirely uncommon problems, therefore, why go through the effort of reinventing the wheel. Surely, someone out there has a plan for me?
Enter Weight Watchers. It has the tools I need to manage my eating. Journaling, the 8 Healthy Guidelines, Activity Points, mostly clear eating guidelines (there are some things, especially on Flex, that don't seem particularly clear to me!), support structures, accountability weigh ins, and reasonable expectations.
Enter Flylady. This took me a while to find, actually. If you ask a typical person (no matter how disorganized they are) about housecleaning, most people would say that cleaning the house is easy, it's just that they don't have time for it. (Which, of course, as a Stay at Home Mom, always makes me feel worse, since if there's anything I seem to have in abundance, it's time. I don't, really, but I always feel like I should. And certainly other people feel like I should. If you're a Stay at Home Mom, you know how it goes, and if you're not, I can't possibly explain to you the condescending attitude, the contempt, and the disregard that I have to put up with from time to time by COMPLETE STRANGERS.)
I didn't find Flylady until one of my friends gave me the word CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome). I found that extremely funny - not to mention extremely accurate - and started using it immediately. A week or so later, when I used it, talking to someone else, they asked me if I did Flylady. I said no, and moved on. But then, I was curious. What the hell was Flylady?
Flylady, like Weight Watchers, is a tool. It's a way to get things into shape that have been out of shape. And a way to do it gradually, to set reasonable expectations, and certainly, actual methodology on how to go about doing it. (That's one of the things I like about weight watchers and flylady. Specific. Instructions. Anyone can tell you "set goals, set up a plan" but that's such empty advice and it really doesn't help if you have no idea what a reasonable goal is, or how to get there.)
The FLY part of Flylady stands for Finally Loving Yourself. This is a goal and a thought I can really get behind. Housewives are SHEs (Sidetracked Home Executives). And cleaning your home is "blessing your family."
So, the surprising thing is: Having started the process towards working on those two items that I could change, the other things have changed as well.
My husband and I are closer now than we were at this point last year; back to being silly-crazy in love with each other. (I don't think we ever came close to falling out of love with each other, but it's sometimes harder to express love for others when you're so damned busy hating on yourself that you really begin to question why a rational human being could love you. And if that's the case, then what the hell are you doing with this whacko who can't possibly see what a worthless lump you are?)
And strangely enough - without very much help from me - Darcy has come into her own. I've assisted when I can with outings to see other kids her own age, and by providing workbooks and more educational computer programs and television. But I don't think those things did it all. I guess she was just ready to start talking mostly in English. She still reverts into her nonsense language when she's upset, or if she wants something but she doesn't know what it's called. (As a note: when she doesn't know what something is, she describes it by color. "I want the brown..." "The brown what?" This could be anything from a gold cloisonnes butterfly on my desk - I guess gold is close to brown, and if you don't know what color gold is... to a chocolate ice cream bar.)
All things considered: I'm pretty FLY, (for a white guy).
Post Script: Almost forgot about the weigh in thing. Which in a way, is good. I'm up .2 pounds this week, but I forgot about it because I'm not really all that upset about it. I was a little ticked last night, but 1) this week is my ovulation week, which seems to always be a week that I either gain or maintain and 2) .2 pounds really isn't that much of a gain. Mostly, I think I was ticked about it last night because I was so close to my 35 pounds that I thought for sure I'd get it this week. Now I won't. But probably, I'll get it next week. I'm now .6 away from it instead of .4, but I don't think losing .6 pounds by next week is impossible,