Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Anxiety and the Anti-Hero

Thank goodness this month has 31 days or there's no way I'd get a whole SECOND post in. I have a lot of catch-up: Mother's Day, a visit from my parents, the fully finished backyard, our new couch that is like a cloud but better, the finished game room, the kids' last day of school, Maggie being perfect, and the cats being cats, but I feel called to talk about why I think I'm living so much more in the moment of our every day. I'm writing less, which does make me sad, but sleeping more. Loving more. Being more. There is so much about this year that is and has been extraordinarily HARD. On every front--personal, professional, marital, parental, physical, emotional--all of the fronts that there are and all of them have had their moments of hard. And yet, I have never felt better, more grounded, more loved, more loving.

And this is really all thanks to antidepressants. There's no other way to put it. It's better living through chemistry and I feel compelled to tell you about it.
As I've written before, I never thought I had anxiety. Not because I thought of having anxiety as bad or weak or somehow less, but simply because I wasn't anxious. I wasn't a worrier. New things excited me. Long to do lists made me ready to seize the day. Plans were my favorite and last minute changes in plans were my second favorite. I was an under-worrier about the kids and if I've learned anything it's that perhaps I should have worried a little more. I always saw the best case scenario and felt confident I could handle the worst case if it presented itself so there was no need to worry about it in advance.

I also slept horribly. I obsessed on things that happened years ago that made me sad that I couldn't fix but would catch my brain in unending thought-loops anyway. When I felt like things were slipping I was an absolute asshole to the person I love most. I could feel myself get tight and mean when there was a lot to do and I felt like I was the only one shouldering the responsibility to do it. Now that I pay attention, I can feel my heartrate rising in those moments. My patience thinner, my irritation higher, and my ability to handle the situation made a million times worse by KNOWING there was no reason to feel or act that way but being unable to stop. This isn't me, I'd think. Does it matter? said the person who bore the brunt of it all, if it's who you're being?

No, I finally realized, it didn't matter. In the words of my personal Poet Laureate, it's me, hi, I'm the problem, it's me.

Therapy changed my life in helping me get over some things that were hurting me long past the time period they deserved and helped me better love my beloved. It helped with anxiety, but I remained unaware (or unwilling to be aware) of how much my anxiety was still affecting me. I thought I was on a sufficient dose of anti-depressant and I cruised along, better in so many ways, but still working way too hard to NOT do what I could now see and feel were destructive things. When we moved to Dallas, we had a mental health crisis with one of the kids and found a psychiatrist who helped so much. It finally occured to me that perhaps I didn't have to be stuck in a position of being able to see a problem, moderate it, apologize for it, but not actually STOP it. It hadn't occurred to me before that something could help me do that.

An increase in dosage and several months later and the change has been genuinely life-altering. As my doctor said, it's not supposed to be that hard to act in a way that is consistent with who you are. It's not supposed to take teeth-gritting effort to NOT get in your own way. I am the most me I've been in a very long time and it has affected every area of my personal life.

For one, I sleep. I sleep so well. Rather than delay what I know will be a frustrating 1-8 hours spent trying to sleep by staying up late reading or writing or watching another episode of whatever show we're on, I EMBRACE bed. I go to bed FIRST. Bed is my favorite. On the weekends if I'm lounging on our outdoor couch in the screened-in porch and I feel my breath slow and my eyes get heavy, I nap. I nap even though I'm not pregnant or super sick. I have never done that--never been able to do that--in my entire life. For the first time in at least 30 years I'm getting 8 hours of sleep at night and you guys, it is incredible.

We moved - TWICE! - and traveled a lot and I have been exactly the person I want to be in the lead up to every one of those events. I have been able to be the person who I AM. I have handled the lists, the packing, the logistics in the way that is true to me- embraced them, handled them, planned them, and executed them with a steady heartrate and minimal yelling. Now if I yell at anyone, it's on purpose. It turns out then I can use my words, when I can say, hey, tomorrow is going to be stressful and I can feel my anxiety about it, please help me manage it by not making me feel like everything is dependent on me, magic happens. My partner can partner me. Rather than alienating myself through my own behavior, I can now be embraced, loved, supported. And being loved makes me more lovable. It's the best of feedback loops and the polar opposite of where I often found myself before.

This transformation of self has been well timed, since the last year has also been the year I've needed to feel the most... complete and whole with myself and my little family. We left our friends and social circle in Fort Worth and moved to a new city full of preexisting social circles with multiple kids big enough to make their own friends completely free of any connection to me. I lateraled into an office where I'd never worked and had few connections. We moved into a rental house with no connections and then a street with tight preexisting connections and we are outside of all of them. People have been wonderful and we're slowly growing ties here, but there's no doubt I have not had a year of adult life with fewer parties or casual get-togethers, and while that would normally send my extroverted FOMO-filled self spiraling, it's been... okay. Our kids are older and full people in their own right. They're fun and funny and we adore them. We've done more together in the last year than we have since they were tiny and it's been so nice. Landon will only live with us for three more years and I'm so grateful for the peace I've felt when it's just the five of us.

This August will mark 22 years that James and I have been together and I honestly don't think I've ever liked him more. I've never loved him more either - he's the best partner I could possibly imagine and has taken up the mantle in running our family more seamlessly than I would have imagined, but I also just LIKE him so much. I get so excited when I see him, when we get to be together, when it's just us hanging out in our fluffy chairs in our room, or cuddling on our now much bigger couch, or watching our kids play in the pool. He's my favorite and he's more my favorite than I thought anyone or anything could ever be. I used to think our first year of dating, or our first year of marriage, were our greatest years ever, but I think this one might just top them. I'm a much better wife and he's able trust me in a way he sometimes couldn't before and we're a million times better for it.

I think we're all on a life-long journey to figure ourselves out. At 40, with thousands of blog posts written and thousands more nights spent spiraling in my own mind, I feel like I'm just now getting to see who I really am, and I like her an awful lot. Thanks for reading along.

Sunday, May 14, 2023


As usual, all intentions towards blogging fell by the wayside and here we are, two weeks later, with me at the kitchen table, watching Hamilton on Disney+ with the girls, wondering what all we've done over the past two weeks.
I know last Saturday I went out to our beautiful new patio (or cattio, as we call it, since Milo has adopted it as his own personal palace) in the morning when the boys were at a swim meet and the girls were sleeping. I had my laptop, fresh cup of tea, and a Milo, but somehow my laptop immediately went on the ground and I started re-reading a book (the finale of Kresley Cole's Arcana series which she FINALLY finished; I flew through it and then had to re-read it twice to make sure I didn't miss anything and while I loved it I also still can't decide how I feel about it) and then an hour went by and the lazy portion of my day was over. No regrets, but this is why I never get to write anymore.
The final pieces of the pool, patio, and landscaping are coming together. It's rained every day for the last million days, so some final projects have been delayed (like the string lights that need to be hung, our pool shelf chairs that couldn't be delivered in the pouring rain this week), but I love it so much.
The kids are outside ALL THE TIME. They're playing soccer and putt putt and jumping in the pool and I'm realizing we missed having a pool and backyard for the last year even more than I thought. And I thought we missed it A LOT.
We eat dinner on the patio every night, the fan keeping the increasing temperatures tolerable, and the kids play and giggle in the pool and on the turf after dinner while James and I chat in the bug-free safety of the screened in porch. There's something deeply grounding about being in fresh air.
In other finishing touches, I got a new (faux) tree for our entryway and Landon named him Peter and I feel like he's really happy here.
This is my favorite little part of our new home (besides the cattio). I adore that console, I love the piece of art I bought from a Spanish artist before we ever knew we'd move to Dallas, I love the little brass butterfly that was my Grandma Jo's, I love the books and faux orchid I can't kill and the picture of my favorite humans and the glass bowl we got as a wedding gift from my dearest family friends that was the first and still only thing I've ever gotten from Tiffany in that gorgeous blue box. Every bit of this makes me happy.
I've realized that all my pictures are generally of Cora because she's the only one still tied to our schedule and phones while her big siblings gallivant about East Dallas with their friends. So here's Cora at Landon and James's swim meet last Sunday:
I told her and Claire they couldn't have any electronics, so it was old fashioned coloring and bracelet making. I'd show the picture of Claire who did not at all initially appreciate this gift of a cord-free day I was giving her, but I don't think she'd appreciate it and she did come around and spend a big chunk of the swim meet drawing cute animals with Cora and making up stories about them.
Also on Sunday, Cora participated in the White Rock Games with some friends from her school. They were the "Hot Cheetos" team and Cora was VERY EXCITED to get to run against her peers. She really, really likes to run.
It was a HUGE event, I had no idea, and after many rounds, she ultimately came out with the silver medal for the 50 yard dash against at least 100 other kids. It was awesome and she was so excited.
And, crazy story, the 3rd grade girl who won the gold medal turned out to be the daughter of the couple who hosted me when I attended The University of Chicago Law School Admitted Students Weekend in April 2005. I kept watching him in the stands cheering for his running and thinking, I know that guy.... But I've met so many people in the last year- through work and networking and having three children in three new schools- that I couldn't get a lock on why I knew him. Finally, I just yelled out the name I thought it might be- a call back from 18 years ago, when I was newly engaged and he was newly married, and his head turned and he said, "Rebecca?".

It's nice to know I look enough of the same. It was great to catch up - he's now GC of a pretty big company and has 3 girls, one of whom Cora is now dreaming of racing again. Life is a complex tapestry and I love when old threads pop back up again.

(That picture isn't relevant, Maggie just really likes our new law chairs and looks forward to sunning herself in style all summer.)

As I mentioned I have almost no pictures of Claire or Landon, but I did save this text because it is the PERFECT encapsulation of life with an almost-teenager who has a phone. I need an auto response for "I'm at work" and "Text your dad." But I also get tons of "I love you" memes and gifs and random, deep updates into her day and life and if texts about chips are the price I pay for the good stuff, I'll take it.
(Takis are a neon orange spicy chip that I find disgusting and my kids adore; I buy them for birthday parties and that's about it.)

My beloved Bonnie came by last weekend to style me for more of Spring. Her album of outfits is my fashion Bible every morning as I pick out something to wear.

A film student at SMU had asked to feature her in a film project, so this visit involved the film student, a bunch of equipment, and her assitant Ayron and my house, closet, and clothes were so honored ot be part of the project. Bonnie is amazing and I'm so proud of the business she has built based on her talent and enthusiasm for fashion and making women feel amazing.

I'm sharing this video in spite of the fact that I CLEARLY had no idea I'd be on film just because I'm so proud of Bonnie and I love how her work makes me feel at my work.
(Those Sarah Flint Perfect Emma shoes are the workhorses of my closet. One of my best investments ever.) In other highlights, I JUST LEARNED, literally on Friday, that our fridge- this fridge that came with this house we bought seven months ago and is one of the great loves of my life, has a secret interior water dispenser!
I've been walking over to the sink every time I want to fill my glass after getting ice from the freezer. Seven months! Even worse, my husband and children figured this out two months ago and no one told me. In their defense, they "thought I already knew because I always know everything."
It's now Sunday and I'm doing my favorite thing, which is spending time alone downstairs before anyone else wakes up, drinking tea, petting the pets, and savoring this space and home where we are slowly growing roots.

Happiest Mother's Day to all my mama readers. To mother is a verb and it is expressed in so very many ways. I plan to celebrate by watching James and Landon assemble the last of our outdoor furniture, making everyone join me in a family bike ride, finally getting to see the card Cora has been laboring in secret over for the past week, opening a present I know James bought because he told me not to check the credit card app, and eating a delicious dinner he is going to cook while I sip champagne by the pool and watch my ducklings swim. I can't wait for everyone else to wake up so we can get started!