Old Habits Die Hard…

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m an avid reader.  I know, big shock, right? My husband refers to reading as my “habit” – saying it in a way that clearly implies he feels I could benefit from a 5-step program and a sponsor.  I found this amusing as hell, images of me locking myself in the bathroom so I could just get a quick fix… well, okay, he may have a small point.

Anyway, moving on.  I read a lot, and I’m not all that picky about what I will read.  I have my favorites, and I’ve got some preconceived notions about certain genres you’d be hard pressed to change my mind about.  But overall, I’m a pretty open-minded reader.

Usually, I’ll have four or five books going at a time so I can flip back and forth depending on my mood.  Take right now, for example. I’m in the middle of three different books on my Kindle, two hard copies from the library, one I bought from the used bookstore Tuesday, and two audiobooks.  And not one of them is the same genre.  For the sake of honesty, two of them are Stephen King books, but one is nonfiction, so they don’t count.  Which is irrelevant anyway. The pile of books I'm currently reading that dominates my nightstand.

The point of me telling you this is so you don’t roll your eyes when I tell you that I’ve become kind of a self-help book junkie.

Don’t get me wrong.  If the first chapter of a book tells me that my road to inner peace is paved with affirmations, I’m out.

I don’t need to waste my time reading books that are going to tell me all about the power of positive thinking.  We all know, on some basic level, that negative self-talk can be a buzzkill at best, and deadly at worst.  But we also know, or at least, I  know, that people who walk around all day shitting sunshine and happiness without fail are creepy and unsettling.  There has to be some bad in there to balance it all out.  Otherwise, how could you genuinely appreciate all of the good?

Over the last couple of years, I have become somewhat of a connoisseur of self-help books.  From the ones that don’t really seem to have any intention of actually helping the reader, to the ones that scream “You are amazing and your imperfections are amazing, and you eat that second brownie because all of that amazingness deserves to be rewarded!” at you.  Actually, I’m convinced some of these books are actually designed to give you new, different problems, so you have to go buy new, different books.

See, it goes something like this:

I am going to love myself for who I am, warts and all.  I do deserve that brownie because I am amazing.  I am my best friend, and I don’t judge myself!

Then, two months later, after your doctor has told you that you’ve gained 17lbs, and you are putting yourself at risk of diabetes if you don’t stop eating brownies every time you feel the need to remind yourself how much you love yourself, you re-evaluate, and pick a different book.

God, I need to stop eating my feelings!  I’m going to start confronting my problems, and being the stronger, more assertive me!  I will no longer suppress my feelings with food, I am going to say it like it is from this moment forward!

Then, two months later, you may have lost a few pounds because you are no longer eating your feelings, but you’ve probably also lost some relationships along the way too.  Because nobody likes it when they’re merrily going about their own lives, and you suddenly show up with the most dominating opinion in the room.  About them.   Without any acknowledgment of your own issues.  Because you are too busy telling them what their issues are.  So, another book gets picked up.

Why am I so determined to self-sabotage?  Why do I drive everyone away?  I need to look at what motivates me!  Forget feelings, I need to focus on my actions!  It’s time to start doing more things for me! 

So.  First, you filled yourself with love in the form of brownies. Then, you swallowed your feelings in order to tell everyone else what their feelings were. Then, you decided the best way to prevent yourself from sabotaging yourself was to only focus on yourself.  Annnd you’re likely back to square one.  It’s baffling!  The cycle just goes around and around. A million variations of the same damn dance.

It’s like one of those walking escalators they have at Disney World and overcrowded airports. You get on it, and you’re going and it’s all good, and then you step off and the whole world feels disorienting for a second because your brain forgot what it’s like to stand still and just be there.

That’s what depression feels like, to me, anyway.  Like I forgot to show up and exist.  I could see all of the people moving around, going about their lives, but they were all too separate from me for me to reach.  And once I finally caught up to them all, nothing would come into focus.  It’s a bizarre and unsettling feeling, especially in the context of my life.  Which brings me back to all the self-help books.

Sometimes, I’ll read one, and think to myself Holy shit!  That’s amazing!  It’s so simple, why didn’t I think of that?  And other times, I’ll read something and think to myself Do people really buy into this BS?  Because really, it’s all about what connects to your life, and your experiences.  The things that feel relevant to me could very well seem trite and ridiculous to you.  Which left me to wonder about a lot.  Is there a point to reading these books?  Yes, I think there definitely can be.

Honestly, sometimes it’s just to know that someone else’s head may be a bit more screwed up than my own.  But more than that, they serve as a reminder that there is no solution.  There’s no big answer.  No giant computer is going to tell me that 42 is what I’m looking for so I should just sit down, shut up, and be happy with it.

I want to explore the ideas more.  The main, consistent themes that pop up in these books.  I’d like to play a few games of comparison with them.  What is the difference between self-care and self-preservation, and at what point does it make you selfish?  When is it perfectly reasonable to be angry?  How angry is considered reasonable?  Where is the line between working on myself, and focusing on other people?  Does the hamster really need a second ball to run around in?  Oops.  Not that last one.  Bit of a slip up there.  We’ll talk about Jerry on another day.

The point is, there’s no universal system here.  No one-size-fits-all psychobabble found in a pretty package.  Hell, maybe you’re a perfectly adjusted person with no reason to feel anything but complete contentment and satisfaction with your life.  If that’s true, well… honestly, though, that’s just a bit weird.

For the most part, we all have our hang-ups.  We all have the things about ourselves that we’d like to fix, or change, or maybe just dust off and bring out to show around a bit.  And why isn’t that okay?

My husband and I got into an argument the other night about something inane, and in a moment of genuine frustration, he said “God!  You’re just so self-destructive!”  I sat there for a minute and just blinked at that.  Because, well, he’s not wrong.  I mean, he was wrong right then.  At that point, I was being self-righteous, which is totally a different thing.  But in my life, I have been known to be self-destructive.  And I sat there thinking, why?  I mean, what the hell is the point of it?

If you’re hanging on here for the answer, you’re going to be disappointed.  Because the truth is, I have no freaking idea why I do some of the stupid shit I do.  But I am becoming more aware of it as it’s happening.  And that counts for something in my book, because it’s a hell of a lot more than it used to be.

All these books have gotten my head circling around a lot lately, about the contradictory messages we are all fed by the world about ourselves.  Love yourself, but be skinny!  Don’t compare yourself, but be better than that kid!  Be frugal, but make sure you’ve got the latest phone with all the newest tricks!  It’s a joke.  Well, actually, it’s not.  It’s a terrifying reality.  We are living in a world full of push and pull, and there’s no resting time given.  There’s no time allotted to make up our own minds about our own feelings and that’s not okay.

Every day when I lay down for bed, I run through a list of all the things I didn’t do that day but wanted to, and I discard every excuse I gave myself for why I didn’t do those things.  Because in retrospect, in my mind, no excuse is good enough.   It doesn’t matter that I had severe cramps and wanted to crawl out of my skin and hide somewhere dark and quiet with a bottle of wine and a bowl of chocolate.  I should have taken a few extra minutes to talk to Mason about the story I was 99% certain he had completely made up.  Or, who cares that I only got a solid three hours of sleep and felt like my eyes were going to fall out of my head, I should have made a real meal for my family.  Not. Good. Enough.  That’s what it always boils down to.

When does this shit stop?

Probably never.  I don’t know that I’ll ever fully be rid of the running dialogue in my mind, the one that gets so much worse when the world is quiet.  But the only way to find out is to keep trying.  So, that’s what I’ll do.  And in the meantime, I’m going to start tearing these books apart so I can find the candy centers.

Or is that Tootsie Pops?  Damn, I could use a brownie.

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I Wrote That Song…

So once again I’ve been slacking on my blogger duties – but I promise I have a really good (non-wedding) reason!

Before we get to that though, and update on the Monsters!

I have an IEP meeting scheduled for Kaleb next Thursday.  It’s time to try, once again, to get the dreaded harness removed.  I think he’s ready.  The bus driver thinks he’s ready.  The teacher thinks he’s ready.  Heck, Kaleb has been saying he’s ready for months.  He’s been earning points every day since October for wearing the thing without complaint – to show to the school and the transportation department that he’s ready.  Unfortunately, it’s like Kaleb has some sort of Spidey-Sense and every time something big is coming up he basically starts to sabotage himself without even realizing it.  Twice in the last week I had to pick him up from school.  Both times because he didn’t want to ride the bus.  Both times because he didn’t want to wear the harness.  Both times ended up in a meltdown and a parent pick-up.

Well, doesn’t that just look great.  Now his teacher and I are both concerned – if this shows up as a problem in the meeting, they aren’t going to get rid of the harness.  And if they don’t get rid of it now, odds are he will be wearing it until at least next October.  They won’t hold another meeting until school is letting out (to discuss next year’s classroom situation), and they most likely won’t agree to get rid of it next year without a few months of “show us he doesn’t need it” proof – again.

So, his teacher and I have both explained as many times in as many ways as we can – it’s vital for him to ride that bus twice a day every day without complaint if he wants the stupid thing gone.  He did it yesterday (though he was more excited because that earned him enough points to get out of the negative he buried himself in the day before), so fingers crossed he can go 6 more days.  Hopefully by day 7 it will be a thing of the past.

He’s had a rough few days.  We don’t really know what the issue is – maybe he’s just not sleeping well (he was sleepwalking Sunday night), who knows.  It could just be one of those things.  He had a massive growth spurt two weeks ago – I mean, HUGE.  The kid grew about three inches in a matter of days.  One day his jeans fit him just fine, the next day they’re three inches above his ankles and I’m having to go buy new clothes.  Of course, as tall as he is, he’s absurdly skinny.  It’s absurd because the kid is a walking garbage pail.  He consumes more milk on a given day than anyone I’ve ever met.  He would literally eat and eat and eat all day long if we let him – except for dinner.  For some ridiculous reason I can’t understand, nine times out of ten both of my kids will refuse to eat dinner – regardless of what it is.  It could be their favorite food on the planet, and nope.  They don’t want it.  I could give them the same food for breakfast or lunch and they’d eat without complaint.  So we had to cut out the late afternoon snacks, and nobody gets milk within an hour of dinner time.  Still, nothing.  Other days they’ll eat like they’re starving and ask for seconds.  I don’t get it.

The talking stick is brilliant.  And wonderful.  And annoying as hell.  It actually works – Kaleb will actually sit at the dinner table and wait quietly for his turn to talk.  Although, his version of sitting quietly is actually waving the stick in the air in a bid to get in the next word – effectively irritating the person who is talking, but he does keep his lips together.  We’ve actually had a few almost peaceful dinners!  No meltdowns, nobody crawling under the table, nobody shrieking or crying, nobody throwing food or plates, it’s been awesome.  Except for the fact that Kaleb doesn’t get the full concept yet – he understands he can’t talk unless he’s holding the stick, but he doesn’t quite grasp that other people will hold the stick and talk as well, and his job then is to listen.  The “be a good listener” cards I made him were basically a waste of my time and index cards.  So, we’ll keep on trying.

Mason.  Cars.

I’m not sure what else there is to say.  He lines them up in every corner, every wall, every doorway in the house.  They don’t work just right.  He screams, he cries, he throws them, he goes into a full on meltdown for ten minutes.  He goes back, he tries again.  They don’t line up just right.  He screams, he cries, he throws them, he goes into a full on meltdown for ten minutes.  Rinse and Repeat.  I swear I’m going to take a video of this the next time it happens.  He continuously shoves a taxi underneath the pocket door, which we then cannot get out, nor can we open or close the door.  Daddy believes this to be something he’s doing on purpose to keep us from closing the door at night, and I’m beginning to think he might be right.

Otherwise, things are the same with him.  He loves the new Nick Jr show Wallykazam!, it’s bordering on obsession.  Every single time Bobgoblin comes on the kid laughs like it’s the funniest thing he’s ever seen.  Seriously.  I’m surprised he hasn’t pulled a stomach muscle laughing that hard.  Every day he comes home from school and the first words out of his mouth are “I get Wally.  I get Wallykam.  I get milk and cereal and Wally.”  I go through the whole “You need to ask for things” routine.  He rephrases – well, he sticks a “please” in at the end, and sometimes he throws a “May I” in for good measure.  Then he’ll tell me what episode, “Wally in the rain” – okay the picnic episode.  “Wally in the castle” – okay that ones easy.  “Wally and the B” – ummm oh, right, B for bath.  The bath episode.  It’s like a guessing game, and I’m pretty sure I’m the only one that understands the code.  It reminds me of Kaleb’s Dora days (which are thankfully long gone).  He will then run around the house screaming “Bobgoblin!”  in his most Bobgoblin-y voice, laughing and shrieking and laughing some more.  It’s actually a really cute show, and it’s definitely helping him with letter and word recognition.  Yesterday he told me “B is for Beautiful!”  which is on the show, so I said yes it is and moved on.  Five minutes later he said “B is for Beautiful Bus!”  Well.  That is not on the show!  He actually associated a letter with a word!  I was ecstatic.

from Nick Jr.

Now, for my news!

A few years ago (okay closer to ten, but who’s counting), I couldn’t sleep one night, and had this idea running around in my head that wouldn’t drop.  So I booted up my computer, typed up a few (or twenty) pages, and promptly went to bed.  I played with it on and off for a few more months then forgot about it.  Then my computer got struck by lightning (no, I’m not kidding.  I’ve fried at least three computers that way.  How was I supposed to know a power strip isn’t a surge protector?) a few years later.  Daddy, who even way back in the day was finding ways to ‘Desiree-proof’ electronics, pulled my hard drive and rescued all my junk.  When sorting through said junk, I found that file.  I opened it, read it, kicked myself for not finishing it, because it had been so long since I’d looked at it, I was really interested in knowing how it ended.

So, I played with it for a few more months, got bored, frustrated, busy, whatever.  I forgot about it again.  Fast forward three years.  I’m pregnant with Mason, out of jigsaw puzzles, total insomniac, and I’m bored out of my mind.  I open the file up again, kick myself again, and get to work.  I finished it about a month later, and was pretty pleased with myself.  I spent some time sending out queries and what-not, but that’s just simply an arduous process, and there’s only so much rejection a girl can take in such a short span of time.  So, I got on CreateSpace (through Amazon), made a (terrible) cover, had it proofed, and poof!  It’s up for sale!

Then I left the website and haven’t touched the thing since.

Enter Wedding-Mania.  I’m losing my mind.  I’m stressed, obsessed, and completely drowning in details.  I need a distraction.  I don’t want to play with the book I’ve got entered in the ABNA contest, because I know I’ll find something wrong with it and I will lament and beat myself up over it for weeks.  I’m looking for relief, not more stress.  So, I pull this old book up again.  I look at the cover art (and cringe), and then it hits me – the Kindle came out shortly after I put that up.  Whole different format, whole different platform, whole different reach.  So, after I spazzed out because I couldn’t find the file (thank God Daddy is a brilliant computer geek, cause I was seriously freaking out until he found it for me), I opened it up again.  I went through and reformatted it.  In the process, realized it should really be updated, so then I spent two weeks updating everything from dialog to technology.  I spent hours in my favorite photoshop wannabe making a less cringe-worthy cover.  And Wham-Bam-Thank-You-Ma’am – I’ve got a book for sale, both in paperback and on the Kindle!  I’m really excited about this.  It’s actually a pretty good book (if I do say so myself).  Once again, I’d been away from it for so long that when I went back and re-read it, it was like reading a new book.  So, I’m hoping I can get some people to at least check it out, throw out a couple reviews, and maybe, just maybe it’ll go somewhere!

In the meantime, I’ve got some other ideas floating around and I’m knee deep in research for them.  Oh, and the laundry has to get switched over, sheets have to be changed, the floors need vacuuming, and the matchbox cars need to be gathered again before they cause someone serious injury.  So, there’s my excuse.  I haven’t been writing here because I’ve been writing there.  And I’m pretty damn proud of it too.

On the off chance that anyone actually reads this anymore and wants to check it out, here’s the link: