New Year’s Anxiety

I don’t like New Year’s. There I said it.  Bah humbug on me.

I can’t quite put my finger on it.  There are many reasons, actually; perhaps that’s why I can’t choose just one.

It could be because, for years, it signaled the end of vacation.  One day left to recover from a whole week’s worth of revelry, never mind one night of staying up late.  But also, the start of a new cycle of anxiety.  First, back to school as a student after no routine, no work, no peer pressure.  Then, back to school as a teacher after no lessons to plan, papers to correct, or kids to sass me and throw my class off course.

I never even knew exactly what I dreaded.  And I guess that was precisely the point.  The unknown.  I was out of my groove and didn’t know what to expect upon jumping back into it.  That was what terrified me.

And then I had kids.  Little babies at home who depended on me and only me when Daddy went back to work after the holidays.  Where I’d been easy breezy and in control with him home, the thought of doing the same things without him under the same roof made my muscles clench.  Not because I couldn’t or hadn’t before or wouldn’t now, but because of the unknown.  What if something happened I couldn’t handle?

On December 31st, I shovel enough calories to counteract the headache-inducing powers of the bubbly I’m sipping and learn just how out-of-touch I am and how sad the state of popular music is by the broadcast performances.  I eat and sip and flip channels to force myself awake till the magic hour when all I’d like to do is curl up and go to sleep.  And for all that build-up, all that empty effort, all that’s left after a sweet kiss with my hubby – is a void.

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Outside my house, barely lit by the moon.  Lack of light fits the theme. Taken December 30.

The absence of a year past, the new one not yet started.  The hole where merry holidays once were.  A cold, dark, silent winter stretching before me.  Exhaustion.  Let-down.  The unknown.

 

 To say I ponder the absolute unknow-ability of an entire upcoming year in one night would be false.  At least not consciously.  But perhaps that’s part of why I hate New Years.  Each year, with December 31st, I’ve closed an expected chapter in that point of my life.  I’ve made it through the holidays, with all the tradition and routine that comes with.  I’ve made it to the end of the calendar year.  Even if I’ve not completed all the to-dos, I can rip that page out of my proverbial planner because that time has passed.

To what? Is the question.

To a person with anxiety, a new beginning, a new chapter is not a fresh start.  It is a worrisome reworking of the same fears and uncertainties that plague her at the outset of any unfamiliar venture.

When these same feelings return at the end of each holiday break, I wonder if I’ve ever grown up or grown past the fears I had as younger versions of myself.  I haven’t taught for ten years – why should I still fear returning to work!?  Well, I do and I don’t.  A nightmare classroom doesn’t await me.  But as one of the highest stress times of my life, that scenario is my psyche’s go-to when it fantasizes fear.  And in that all too familiar low after the holidays, it’s easy to build the set for the familiar script.

Now, both consciously and subconsciously, I get to ponder what I want from this portion of my life.  I get to question my worth as a mother, why naptime may be the favorite part of my day, why I don’t get down on the floor and play blocks anymore.  Why I swear, why I say things I judge fictional mothers for saying, things that make me sure I’m killing their spirit but utter anyway.  I get to think about how much I want to write, and what, and how I don’t have time for that.  I get to choose how to mete out my volunteer time and what I feel I have to do, not what makes my soul sing because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  I get to think about how the days fly but are often filled with crap.

This has been a New Year’s tradition for so long, it’s hard to separate out what is holiday ennui and true anxiety.  I’m beginning to think the anxiety is the one sure thing that isn’t going to change from year to year.

First Day of School

These last few weeks of summer, my own personal atmosphere is experiencing an unsettled weather pattern.

I still don’t feel like I’ve reclaimed my house after my dear friend’s family vacated it. The hole they left is yet unplugged. As are some of the items misplaced by little hands (from both families) and those shoved into disused corners by my and my husband’s as we prepped for their arrival.

The grains of beach sand are quickly slipping through my fingers as time marches on toward the first day of school.

Anxious as a student, who then stupidly served as a teacher for several years, this time of year always winds me up. There are the residual effects of that: feeling as if I need to fit.every.last.experience.in. before the all-consuming task of education took over. (I used to punish myself on one-week school vacations as well; attacking a back-log of to-do lists from the previous semester/s/years) This year, however, there is the added ennui of two big first days of school in the life of my children and in mine as a parent.

My youngest starts kindergarten; my oldest starts middle school.

In perhaps my subconscious’ grandest scheme of self-preservation (um, denial), I hadn’t thought it was a big deal until my mother pointed out that my babies are growing up. Seriously, it hadn’t even occurred to me that I should be freaked out until she mentioned that. Now, as I think about the combination lock I haven’t bought my oldest, the seemingly huge backpack on the little frame of my youngest, my insides are positively vibrating. When I think of the two new student orientations I need to attend next week, I want to vomit.

If I was anxious as a student, now I’ll be hit three-fold. Three little pieces of my heart will be tromping onto the school bus this time two weeks from now.

And what was once met with jubilation – the thought of a six-hour unencumbered stretch – now is also part of this quivering mass of anxiety.

What now?

There will be no one on whom to blame countless hours of Caillou-watching. There will be no warm body that needs snuggling on the couch. There will no one keeping me from doing the things I’ve always dreamed of doing.

Into this void, will rush all my hopes and dreams. All the plans paused in various states of being. Mixed with the lonely ache of missing my now three school-aged children, will be the uncomfortable mania of not knowing where to start, what to do, how to function.

I told my husband I wanted to take some time when they started school to get back to center; that it’s been a long time since I’ve been in the land of the living. He said, you never really left, Jen.

It feels like it’s been a long, twisted, disconnected dream – that I can’t even say started with my first days of motherhood. The more I traverse what seem to be ‘normal’ days, the more I realize that the upside down, inside out period I keep waiting to come out of – is actually life.

So the fact that I’ll now be the boss of six unassigned, unencumbered hours of each of my days is a little frightening. Overwhelming, at least.

It’s time to choose what really matters; accountable to no one and for every one of my actions; to work for what I want even when it scares the hell out of me.

It’s an auspicious day for momma, too.

from An Overdue Adventure

from An Overdue Adventure

2013 in review

Stoked with what the annual report for Chopping Potatoes reveals, especially when I see how much it’s grown since 2012.  Thank you so much for your support!

 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Weeds

The mosquitoes actually held off long enough the other night for me to do some weeding in our vegetable garden.  In that time shortly before the gloaming, when the heat of the day was finally fading as the sun dipped between the trees and the wind rose up to fill its space, I loosened the earth all around my feet, gently extricating snap pea tendrils from crab grass claws.  There were weeds with plump, red stalks that looked like they would ooze moisture if I snapped them.  There were delicate rounded leaves with lacy white flowers.  They were under and around and throughout – an integral part of my garden – perhaps more numerous than the plants that were supposed to be there.

At times, I had to stand back and survey the leafy patch below me.  Bent over in the worst possible posture for my back, it was hard to distinguish the plants from the weeds.  At eye level, all the leaves blended into one range of green.  It was hard to tell where the clover ended and the pea leaves began.  The heart-shaped leaves of the green beans melded with tall stalks of pointed leaves.  There were even imposter marigolds with tiny yellow buds.

It almost scares me, the uncanny ability of nature to so closely mimic ‘actual’ plants with its weeds and then to germinate them right next to the others so they have the best possible chance at survival by blending.  Think about it, the first weeds a gardener pulls – even if it’s in the five-second walk to her driveway – is the tall spindly one sticking out like a sore thumb.  These others are stealth, imposters of the best kind – or most insidious depending on whose side one takes.

It’s no wonder, then, that I have a hard time distinguishing my bad habits from productive practices; destructive behaviors from healthy ways of being.  The roots of the less desirable plants of my life are invasive, wrapping themselves around my more likeable attributes and behaviors, making themselves almost impossible to extricate – or at least harder to distinguish or even notice.  Without stepping back to take stock, my life is one solid plane of green, weeds and all; the different shades and shapes indistinguishable.

Making the rounds at our local farmers’ market, I stopped to talk with a woman who had woven some beautiful baskets (who also happens to know a thing or two about gardening; she harvests worms for composting).  One skinny, oblong one with a graceful arch of a handle caught my daughter’s eye.  The woman directed my attention to a small ceramic plaque stitched to its front.  ‘Weeds’, it said.  She told me of the Native American tradition of placing their worries in a basket such as this to put them away; make them go away.  I joked how you could also take weeds as a literal worry as a gardener.

But as the day went on, I marveled at how symbolic that little basket and the word etched on its front were.  If I don’t take the time to stuff those weeds into a receptacle of some sort, they will crowd out the good in my life.  The weeds of worry, perfectionism, over-catastrophizing, unrealistic expectations, not prioritizing, not slowing down enough to come to a gentle stop rather than a screeching halt.  I need to cultivate my garden in such a slow, gentle way that I see the weeds as they pop up and handle them one by one, rather than waiting to turn the earth over and start over because they’ve taken over.

I think I need a bigger basket . . .

I think I need a bigger basket . . .

Gratidão

There are many things for which to be thankful:

The kickass song by a local ska group* for which this blog entry is titled.

Education – without which I wouldn’t be annoyed that I have to shift around the above two sentences so they don’t end in a preposition.

A Facebook meme that focuses on something positive and productive for once – albeit every single day of this month.

The light of a skylight encircling me and my laptop as I write.

The tenuous hold we have on this earth.

The tenacious grip of a frail relative determined to hold on.

(Oops, broke that rule about prepositions)

Humor and its ability to help us carry on.

(Despite conventions 😉 )

A full-on arms-and-legs-wrapped around hug from a toddler.

A gentle hug from my first whose head now nestles into my midsection she’s so tall.

The shy smile of my middle daughter whose quiet strength is not to be taken for granted.

Love – strong, old and new, ever changing, enduring.

The wistful look of an elderly woman – reminding me of the immense gifts right under my nose.

Remembrance, reminders, traditions that connect the present and the past and put us in better mind for the future.

* The Agents

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